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The Healing Medicine of Trees ~ Willow ~

Wednesday, July 08, 2020 4:31 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

The Healing Medicine of Trees ~ Willow ~
By Susun Weed


 

WILLOW is an ogam: Sail or Salle, meaning “the color of death.” (That is, the wood is white, like bones.) The early Americans carved willow trees on gravestones because the willow rises up from the earth, then bends her branches back down to it. Willow, like elder, symbolizes a gateway between the worlds.


Everyone knows and loves the willow; it is a common tree throughout moist, temperate regions. The weeping willow comes to mind first for many people; pussy willow is rarely far behind.


Probably every one of the 400 species of willow has been used as medicine. For example, herbalist Ellen Evert Hopman cites Daniel Moerman who recorded Native Americans using S. nigra (black willow) as an anaphrodisiac; S. caprea (goat willow) as a specific against whooping cough; S. amygdaloides (peachleaf willow) as a sacred herb in the sun dance ceremony; S. arbusculoides (little tree willow) as an Eskimo/Inuit wound healer and soother of sore eyes; S. fuscescens (Alaskan bog willow) as a cure for mouth sores and an analgesic; S. Babylonica (weeping willow) as we do and as a “wind” tonic; S. candida (silver willow) as a reliever of fainting and trembling; S. discolor (pussy willow) as a stomachic; S. fragilis (crack willow) as a styptic, S. cordata (heartleaf willow) as a way to increase appetite; and S. purpurea (purple osier), S. gooddingii, and S. caroliniana (coastal willow) as an ally for rapidly cooling off the feverish.


Willow is anodyne, diaphoretic, digestive, sedative, astringent, tonic, and anti-rheumatic.


To the botanist, willow is Salix. The active compound is salicin. When extracted into vinegar (acetic acid), the compound acetisalicylic acid is formed. Thus, willow has long been used as a muscle relaxer, pain killer, inflammation cooler, and fever reducer. It is generally the inner bark of white willow (Salix alba) that is used medicinally, but I have it on good authority that the inner bark, the leaf buds, or even, in an emergency, the mature leaves, can be used successfully.


For ease of use, put up some willow in vinegar or one-hundred-proof vodka. A dose (the equivalent of two aspirin) is a tablespoonful of the vinegar or a dropperful of the tincture. If using the dried plant, steep four tablespoons of inner bark in a quart of cold water overnight, then bring the whole thing to a boil. Cool and take a cup at a time.


Willow is one of the original Bach flower essences. He suggests using it when there is bitterness and resentment. Willow is and was the wood of choice for the Druids’ harps. Willow is said to “speak the truth.”


Willows always grow near water; so the sight of them signals water to the primitive parts of our brains. The wood of the weeping willow is so wet that, even when well dried, it hardly burns at all; rather it seeks up a choking and awful-smelling cloud of thick yellow smoke.


Did you know that willows are unisexual? Male trees have yellow staminate flowers. Female trees have seeds surrounded by light, fluffy, whitish down. The seeds blow about in the wind and collect along the roadsides in great numbers.


Willow is cultivated for use in making baskets and wicker furniture. In previous times, willow withies were used to create wattle walls, wattle fences, and coracle boats. Willow can be coppiced or pollarded to produce long, thin, straight rods that are flexible and easy to work with. An ancient Celtic house found in Ireland required five miles of willow rods in its construction. Willow is also used to make cricket bats and various useful hoops.


Willow produces a rooting hormone that allows it to root when merely stuck into the ground. Willow tea helps other plants form roots as well.
Willow is from the same root (wicce, to bend) as wicker and wicked and wicca. The early Greeks believed that nine wild orgiastic Muses lived in the willow tree. A willow wand is used magically for working moon charms and for casting spells to entice creative visions.


A Japanese folk tale tells of a man who so revered a willow tree that it became a real woman, whom he married and had a child by. When the villagers cut down the willow – ironically, to build a temple to Quan Yin – the wife dies. Trees are our natural places of worship.


Green Blessings...

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