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Herbal remedies for your star sign: part 2

Since mankind’s earliest history, plants have been venerated for not only their food value and medicinal properties but also their supposed magical powers. Various mythologies from diverse cultures have associated flowers, herbs and trees with divine miracles, and cults of worship were established around certain plants and their deities.

The oldest religions were nature religions as early man attempted to appease the destructive forces of nature and propitiate the benign aspects by ritual offerings, hoping to encourage fertility in their flocks and herds and to produce bountiful harvests. Various mythologies sprang up to explain the origins of certain plants, and poetry and myth are full of colourful references that provide us with some of the popular beliefs and conceptions about plants in these times.

Some herbs were believed to be given by the gods to favoured heroes who passed them on to mankind to heal wounds and avert disaster. Other herbs were thought to be divine because they were created through metamorphosis from a god or mortal. Greek and Roman mythologies abound with such legends.

The Celts also revered plants, from the sacred mistletoe of the Druids to the secret Alphabet of Trees used by the Ollave, or master poet, to transmit bardic traditions to apprentice bards. The Celts believed the change of seasons was a most powerful time and many festivals are still celebrated in the Northern Hemisphere the night before the beginning of February, May, August and November.

August 1 on the Celtic calendar celebrated Lughnasad (Christian Lammas) — the beginning of their autumn under the sign of Leo — which was the old festival celebrating the coming of spring.

Leo

On the astrological body, Leo governs the spine, heart and circulation. As the long spine of the lion is Leo’s weak point, they often suffer from muscular back pain. Weak circulation and high blood pressure could all take their toll on the Leo heart. With the Sun as their ruling planet, Leos are usually blessed with boundless energy and tend to over-exert themselves, so they should learn to take it easy and rest now and then. Though most Leos hate to waste time resting, some are like the lazy lion after a good meal. Herbs to help Leo keep fit and healthy are bay leaves, borage, and chamomile.

SWEET BAY OR LAUREL (Sun in Leo)

Great in stews and casseroles and essential in marinades for soused herring, bay rum was once popular as an after-shave by old-time barbers, and physicians once used bayberry oil to relieve joint pain and engorged arteries. Known as the Plant of Good Angels by country folk, it was said to hold witches “at bay” and the withering of a laurel tree was considered a bad omen.

The Greek legend associated with the laurel has Daphne being pursued by Apollo and calling on the gods to save her, whereupon she was transformed into the laurel tree. Thereafter considered the divine tree of Apollo (a solar deity), its leaves were used to crown poets and victors. This practice continues today in the granting of the Baccalaureate to academics — gaining your laurels indeed!

BORAGE (Jupiter in Leo)

A herb not much in use today except in Pimm’s No. 1, borage was once used by herbalists as a tonic for the heart and circulation, and a compress of borage leaves was said to relieve congested veins after long hours of standing.

Mediaeval literature advises that chewing the leaves or drinking wine with floating borage leaves “maketh the mind glad” and “maketh a man merry and joyful”. Borage was known as the Herb of Gladness because of its power to uplift, refresh and give strength of heart, courage and joyfulness. High in potassium and calcium, borage is a blood purifier and diuretic and stimulates the heart and adrenal glands. It’s a wonder this cheery herb has fallen so much out of fashion.

CHAMOMILE (ruled by the Sun)

Although not a culinary herb, chamomile is well known as a beauty aid. An excellent rinse to keep fair hair soft and shiny, a compress of damp flowers is also wonderfully rejuvenating for tired skin and eyes.

My Slovenian mother-in-law would brew a pot of camomila whenever anyone felt twitchy or agitated, and my children were given sips to soothe them when irritable from teething or upset tummies. Good-quality teabags are just as effective and much more convenient as eye pads, but we miss out on the benefits of inhaling the perfume released by the crushed flowers.

Seventeenth century gardeners built banks of chamomile to sit on and simply walking on a chamomile lawn and smelling the sweet odour was said to have a calming effect. I’ve even heard of athletes putting chamomile flowers in their shoes to take away tiredness. The health benefits are not exclusive to humans, as gardeners say planting chamomile cures a sick garden by drawing potassium, sulphur and calcium to the surface.

There are no nasty superstitions attached to this golden-eyed flower, dedicated to the Sun God by ancient Egyptians and used for countless centuries throughout Europe. An account of a Camomile Witch, however, is mentioned by the Austrian herbalist Abbe Kuenzle, which says she gave movement back to paralysed limbs by massaging with chamomile oil, boiled chamomile flowers in wine to cure severe fluid retention, and cured eye ailments by seeping the flowers in warm milk. Because of its mild sedative effect, it can safely be given to the very young and very old for frayed nerves or digestive upsets. A word of caution, though: always use in weak solution and in moderation, as even this benign little plant can be toxic if taken in excess.

Virgo

On the astrological body, Virgo refers to the area that governs the abdomen, intestine and nervous system. Ruled by Mercury, Virgoans might appear cool and reserved on the surface, but inwardly they are often tense and anxious. Because they are such perfectionists, highly strung Virgos tend to worry about themselves and everyone else, but being in the natural health sign they always seem to know what is best for health. They need to live a natural life with plenty of fresh air, and relax with quiet, earth-based hobbies such as pottery or gardening. Apart from a sensitive nervous system, Virgo often suffers from ailments of the digestive system. Herbs to aid the delicate Virgo are fennel, savory, and valerian.

FENNEL (ruled by Mercury)

Fennel — or the large bulb known as finocchio by Italians — is a favourite addition to antipasto dishes, dipped in olive oil and eaten raw and crunchy, or cooked and eaten hot or cold as an accompaniment to fish or chicken.

This aromatic herb has always been regarded as one of the best remedies to aid digestion as the seeds are excellent for expelling gas from the stomach and intestine. It’s also calming to the nerves — the ideal herb for the Virgo. Fennel was much used by midwives in the nursery to bathe the eyes of newborn babies and to stimulate milk flow in the mothers. It’s also recommended for those attempting to lose weight.

The Greek legend associated with fennel is that of Prometheus (foresight) and Epimetheus (hindsight), the two brothers who stole the divine fire from the forge of Hephaestus and concealed it in a hollow fennel stalk to bring fire as a gift to mankind.

SAVORY (ruled by Mercury)

Savory is a lemon-scented, slightly pungent herb with a peppery flavour, used in sausage meat and stuffings and cooked with beans and rabbit. Known as isope to the ancient Greeks, this is the herb mentioned in the Old Testament as the purifying herb hyssop, according to some sources. The Romanies use savory leaves to rub on bee stings to take away the pain and itching.

VALERIAN (ruled by Mercury)

Grown for generations as a medicinal herb known as all-heal, valerian was once used to treat epilepsy. It is now known to be a powerful muscle relaxant and nervine with sedative, anti-spasmodic and anti-convulsive properties, used to assist with Parkinson’s disease. Not only does this herb calm the nerves and induce sleep, it is also of great benefit to the general nervous system. Valerian can be bought in tablet form without fear of side-effects — good news for the delicate Virgo.

Libra

The Libra area of the astrological body covers the kidneys, lumbar region, skin and nerves. Ruled by Venus, Librans need beauty and harmony in their lives and, as it’s the sign of balance, keeping everything fair and even can at times cause them indecision and anxiety. Librans hate to hurt anyone and will procrastinate about making unpleasant decisions.

Librans do everything with great enthusiasm, which often leaves them (and everyone else) exhausted. They should rest more, but you’d probably need to tie them down! As they mature, Librans may suffer lower back pain (from over-enthusiastic activity) or from kidney problems and nervous skin irritations. Drink plenty of fresh, cool water, Libra, and use the herbs dandelion, violet and yarrow to keep your system in balance.

DANDELION (Jupiter in Libra)

Though rather bitter, dandelion leaves can be eaten fresh in salad. The roots can be roasted and ground into coffee, while the flowers have long been used by country people to make dandelion wine.

Colourfully called “pee the bed” — or pis en lit by the French — the dandelion is one of nature’s best diuretics and taking it in any form is beneficial. This weed is rich in minerals that tone the nervous system and cleanse the kidneys and gall bladder. The vitamins A and C prevent skin rashes, while the fat-emulsifying choline content helps fight cholesterol deposits. It is also of great benefit to arthritis sufferers because of its alkaline reaction in the body.

The Romany gypsies squeeze the milky sap onto warts, which turn black and fall off, leaving the skin unblemished. I can personally vouch for this old cure, for it worked on my own son’s stubborn wart when all the prescription medications failed.

VIOLET (ruled by Venus)

This pretty, sweet-scented flower is much loved by confectioners to colour and flavour lozenges, while the petals are crystallised in cake decorations. The violet blossom is also made into a pleasant cough syrup. However, the dark-green leaves of this pretty flower have potent antiseptic properties still remembered by some country people.

Herbalists once made an infusion of the leaves, which, when strained and applied to affected areas, was said to banish cancerous growths. The strained liquid was also believed to purge the body of poisons, help diseases of the lungs and ease bladder pains. Folklore it may be, but perhaps some valuable medicinal information is hidden in this shy “shrinking violet”.

YARROW (ruled by Venus)

Another medicinal herb not much in use apart from in beauty preparations for oily skin and hair, yarrow probably fell out of favour because of allergic reactions in people sensitive to the ragweed and goldenrod family. Yarrow has, however, many health benefits as it has astringent, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties due to the tannin and salicylic acid it contains, which is well illustrated in the legend attached to the plant.

This ancient plant — botanical name Achillea millefolium — was named to honour the Greek hero Achilles, who used yarrow to staunch and cure the wounds of Telephus, son of Hercules, after the Trojan Wars. Hopefully, Libra, you’ll never be in a position to require this treatment!

Scorpio

On the astrological Body, Scorpio is the area concerned with the urinary tract and reproductive organs. Ruled by Mars, magnetic Scorpios are mysterious and contradictory. They love secrets but are often in conflict with their deeply moral selves and the passionate side of their nature. Long-lived and with long memories, they might harbour slights for years, waiting for revenge, yet Scorpios make loyal and lifelong friends. With Mars as a ruling planet, those born under the sign of the Scorpio generally have strong constitutions but must guard against excess in any form leading to problems of their vulnerable area of urinary tract and reproductive organs. Herbs to help these delicate areas are basil, tarragon and nettle.

BASIL (ruled by Mars in Scorpio)

A favourite herb in Mediterranean dishes such as pesto, and wonderful fresh or dried in tomato dishes, basil has a long history of culinary use. According to traditional folk medicine, basil has many medicinal properties, having been used effectively as a sedative, laxative, expectorant and against gastric spasms.

Like its human counterpart, the stories surrounding basil are contradictory in nature. In Italy, the herb is said to evoke sympathy and compassion, yet history records Romans trampling the ground and uttering curses when planting basil. In other parts of Europe, basil is a sign of devotion between lovers, yet mediaeval herbalists associate the herb with snakes, scorpions and other poisonous insects, and used the leaves to draw out poison under the Law of Similars — “Like draws out like”.

TARRAGON (ruled by Mars)

A favourite in French cuisine, this spiky aromatic herb gives a wonderful piquancy to egg and fish dishes, to tarragon vinegar and to the celebrated sauce tartare. The French call tarragon estragon — little dragon — while the botanical name is Artemisia dracunculus, meaning Artemis’s dragon. Mediaeval herbalists used this herb to treat “women’s disorders”. How very Scorpio!

Tarragon is a carminative, meaning warmth-giving herb, and is of the wormwood and southernwood family of plants used in the making of the Italian vermouth and the French absinthe — very warming indeed!

Nettles (ruled by Mars)

Another “weed” with a long tradition in folk medicine, nettle leaves, steamed or fresh, are regularly eaten by country people as a blood purifier, a diuretic and to ward off colds and flu. Being extremely alkaline, which helps dissolve uric acid, nettle tea helps problems of the urinary tract and eases rheumatic pain. It is rich in iron and vitamins A and C and was said to heal sores and abscesses.

One old country saying that seems very applicable to the Scorpio woman was: “If they’d eat nettles in March and mugwort in May, so many young maidens wouldn’t go to the clay.” Thank goodness Scorpio can now buy ready-made dried herbs and teas from healthfood stores!

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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