Healing Flowers

With an astonishing array of colors, scents and forms, many flowers also contain a wealth of healing compounds with measurable effects on the body and mind. Here are nine of the most widely used and studied.


| May/June 2008



Chamomile

Flowers come in an astonishing array of colors, scents and forms—botanists estimate there are more than 240,000 types of flowering plants in the world. Although we primarily appreciate flowers for their uplifting effects on the spirit and psyche, many flowers also contain a wealth of healing compounds with measurable effects on the body and mind.

The pigments that provide flowers with their bright colors, the molecules that give them their unique scents, and even the compounds that help repel predators are some of the many elements that have been identified as having healing properties. The flowers listed here are some of the most widely used and studied in herbal medicine.

Cheerful Calendula

Used since Roman times, calendula (Calendula officinalis) has a centuries-old reputation as a wound healer. The bright yellow and orange blossoms contain volatile oils, tannins and resins that calm inflammation; speed healing; and have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.

In recent studies, calendula has been proven to help heal venous leg ulcers, which are notoriously slow-healing wounds caused by poor circulation. Calendula often is a primary ingredient in herbal salves for skin rashes, diaper rash, minor cuts and burns, and chapped lips. A strong tea made from calendula blossoms makes an excellent footbath for athlete’s foot, a facial wash for acne, an eyewash for conjunctivitis, a mouth rinse for aphthous ulcers (canker sores) or a vaginal wash for yeast infections.

Help Your Heart with Hawthorn

European doctors and herbalists have long been savvy to the heart-healthy benefits of hawthorn (Crataegus spp.); they’ve been prescribing hawthorn since the late 1800s for angina, heart rhythm disturbances and mild congestive heart failure. The abundant clusters of pink and white spring flowers of the hawthorn shrub are packed with compounds that improve cardiovascular blood flow, strengthen the contraction of the heart muscle, lower blood pressure and calm palpitations.

Numerous clinical studies in Germany have shown that hawthorn improves symptoms of heart failure such as shortness of breath, fatigue and fluid retention. Many herbalists recommend hawthorn tea as a tonic to maintain heart health, particularly for people older than 40 and those who have a family history of cardiovascular disease.





elderberry, echinacea, bee hive

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