Daily challenges, especially 30 day challenges, always make the month go quite quick for me. Logging my month day by day, week by week, by the time week two finishes up I look back and am surprised at how much (or sometimes little!) I’ve gotten done. It always serves to put me in check sinceI can often beat myself up for not getting enough done.
This week’s herbs were a lot of fun to draw. I already gravitate toward drawing hawthorn and motherwort when left to my own devices - the pointy leaves are great for attempting to understand how light falls on flat shapes.
Here are days 8-14 of the Herbal Alphabet Challenge!
The species I’ve drawn for this week is actually not typically the one used for medicinal purposes, but it’s the one that’s more fun to draw for me. Some species of hawthorn are used to aid in digestion, while others are used for cardiovascular health. Some superstitions suggest that bringing hawthorn into the house will soon bring death, which caused this plant to be a bit taboo in some areas of Britain, although it can be used as decoration outside of homes, particularly during May Day celebrations. It is said that fairies live within hawthorn trees, and they must be asked permission before taking a bloom or cutting a tree down.
I love the lore behind this lovely tree. I’d love to learn more!
Here’s where y’all are about to see my true nerdiness show through. This plant is part of the reason I started this challenge, inspired by Red Dead Redemption 2 and the plants you can discover strewn along the landscape. For me, learning about plants makes me feel like I possess a magical super power and each time I go hiking and see a pant I recognize, it sparkles and glows like a collectible in a video game. Sharing that magic with others lights me up.
Admittedly, I don’t know much about this plant except that it seems to have been used traditionally for ritual and ceremonial purposes by certain Native American tribes. It’s been used by the Iroquois to treat aches and sores, and it seems to also have some use for respiratory ailments. It also has a number of side effects and contraindications and could be poisonous. If anyone else has more information or experience with this plant please do let me know!
When I was at Bryce Canyon in 2017, I was surprised to find an abundance of juniper. Its berries are used in flavoring and as the main ingredient in gin. It can also be used to reduce inflammation, muscle soreness, and respiratory issues when used in vapor rub, similar to how many use eucalyptus. Juniper can also be used as incense and in a variety of magical rites including protection spells.
This plant, native to the Pacific islands, is traditionally crushed into water and consumed either before a meal or during a social ceremony. It can be used to relieve muscle tension and promote sleepiness. It has a potential for psychoactive effects, depending on how much is consumed and how much food has been taken in. Otherwise, it is calming and relaxing.
It is very pungent in flavor, so many westerners mix it with juice or tea to cover the taste. It has been linked to liver toxicity and other adverse effects, but has also been consumed by Pacific cultures for centuries with little reported adversity. This plant is meant to be respected, consumed thoughtfully and intentionally, rather than using it as a nightly sleep aid.
You’ve probably seen linden trees around your city, as they’re often planted for decorative purposes. Linden’s actions are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and astringent. All parts of the plant can be used to treat a range of ailments from colds and infection to anxiety and vomiting.
I remember the first time I saw motherwort, hiking around the Mississippi River in summer. I came into a clearing speckled with motherwort and echinacea and was stunned. This plant has a presence. Effective for stress and anxiety, it can also be used to relieve symptoms of PMS. There are lots of contraindications though when used during pregnancy, so caution should be used. If motherwort were a major arcana card in the tarot, I’d associate her with The Empress. She is calm, collected, and understands that all will be revealed in time.
Nettles are helpful to the kidneys, GI tract, and can increase lactation. An infusion or tea is a nice, refreshing, nutritive treat in the summer. Nettle stalks have been historically braided and used as cord or rope. A rich source of vitamin C and A, they can be used in place of any greens.