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Hypericum

St John's Wort (Hypericum triquetrifolium) פרע מסולסל
For most of the year, Hypericum looks like a dried-up, reddish-brown and brittle bundle of shrivelled tendrils that resemble a fragile nervous system. It will remain dead-looking for many months, the only hint for its liveliness are the round fruit from which the next generation will come. Suddenly it comes to life in late spring and early summer, first with tiny leaves, elegantly and tightly organized alongside all sides of its branches; then tiny golden buds, and by the time the Summer Solstice rolls in, the yellow flowers have already began to open.

A look from above on these tiny bushes reveals a cross-like pattern (as pictured above), which is what inspired the crusaders to relate it to Christianity. St. John the Baptist was Jesus cousin, and six months older than him. Therefore, it is befitting to relate this healing plant that blooms six months prior to Christmas (Jesus' birthday, which occurs shortly after the Winter Solstice), specifically to St. John, who was also a healer.

The plant pictured above and which is in bloom at the moment is Hypericum triquetrifolium, native to Israel; while the species commonly used in herbal medicine is Hypericum perforatum, and is considered the most potent medicinally. The small yellow flowers of both plants present with the unique signature of turning the oil they're steeped into a blood-red liquid. This alone makes it a signature for healing wounds. Additionally, the H. perforatum also appears to be punctured with tiny holes in its leaves, as if it was pricked by a thousand needles.  These tiny dots are in fact clear, see-through glands that cover the leaves of this species, and through which the light can pass making them appear like holes. The holey appearance again relates it to punctures and wounds; but more importantly makes it a protective plants against evil spells such as those practiced in Voodoo; as well as more metaphorically speaking against punctures in one's psyche, phantasms, etc. As does the cross-like pattern of its branches. Not only in Christianity, but also magically in other cultures and traditions, the cross is considered a protective and sacred shape. In fact the name for Hypericum comes from Greek and means "Above the Icon", which alludes to this use of this special plant from time immemorial.

The magic of hypericum does not stop there. It is also known for being strongly connected to the fairy realm, a realm of invisible beings that have a history of revealing plant medicine to the Herbalists, Wise Women and Shamans. Those who go searching for it need to be extra cautious about getting lost in their foraging expeditions, especially of this plant, in order to not get lost. There are species of Hypericum that are native to North America, but they are not considered medicinally effective. The European plant (H. perforatum), which immigrated along with the European invaders of North America, has become naturalized and recognized by the First Nation healers as well. It is also told that the European "Little People" told the First Nations "Little People" about the healing properties of Hypericum, and that is how the First Nations learned about it.
St John's Wort (Hypericum triquetrifolium) פרע מסולסל
A few curious facts about hypericum: it favours disturbed soils such as abandoned fields and cows' pastures, and is considered an invasive species in North America. Farmers consider it to be a real pest, especially because there is a serious health hazard to livestock from over-consumption of the plant: they will develop phototoxicity and get burns from the sun as a result. This is especially prevalent among livestock with white or other lightly coloured coats. For humans there is no such danger, especially because even when taken as medicine the dose is way too low for any phytotoxicity to develop.

To summarize the uses of hypericum: In herbal medicine, the whole plant may be brewed as tea or prepared into a tincture, which is considered to be the most effective way to receive the maximum benefit of the plant. Additionally, the fresh flowers are used to prepare an oil infusion. The oil infusion can be used as is or further processed into a balm (simply prepared by adding melted beeswax to the oil infusion), in order to treat skin conditions such as cuts, wounds as well as eczema, atopic dermatitis, and for pain relief (especially joint pain, rheumatism, etc). The tincture, decoction and tea can be used to treat depression and nerve pain, solar-plexus pain as well as digestive issues such as indigestion, inflammation of the digestive tract, heartburn, etc.

As a wound healer it also has a reputation of preventing inflammation and infection in wounds, including tetanus. There are even case studies of it curing tetanus that has already set in!
"Hypericum has been used in homeopathy and herbalism externally as a soothing anti-inflammatory for fresh, bleeding wounds, sores, burns (in all degrees), bed-sores, chaps, folliculitis, abrasions and injuries from work or cleaning agents, bumps, boils, furuncles, dry and wet eczemas and insect-stings. It is also useful as a cosmetic skin-care cream fro scaly, dry or unclean skin and very effective as a massage oil for muscle spasm (remember the tetanus), cramps, stiffness, ache, overuse, sprains, bruises, articular ache and back ache, rheumatism, gout, sciatica, neuralgia and poor circulation to the extremities. The oil can also be massaged into the gums for inflammation and atrophy".  (Matthew Wood, "The Book of Herbal Wisdom", 1997, pp. 312-313)

Although mild in aroma (once steeped in oil it develops a subtle scent reminiscent of helicrysum) and inconspicuous in appearance, it is a potent medicine! Be sure to use this with medical supervision, especially if taking other antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications. As overdosing may occur from the interaction of conventional psychiatric drugs and this particular plant, and could cause what is called Serotonin Syndrom.

Hypericum in homeopathy (an extremely diluted remedy) is mostly known for its use for pain caused by nerve damage, and can be found in many health food stores that sell homeopathic remedies, as well home remedy kits - which is fine to use for treating an acute condition such as nerve pain.  But it has many other holistic influences, so it is always best to use these remedies with the guidance and supervision of a trained homeopathy practitioner who will know exactly how to adjust your remedy and dosage.

Happy Summer Solstice!



Happy Summer Solstice!

Scents that mean summer to me: Splitting watermelons and slicing fresh rhubarb; tomato plants and heirloom tomatoes carrying that tomato-leaf scent in their still-green parts; suntan lotion mingled with poolside chlorine, vanilla and banana flavoured ice cream bars (the cheaper the better), night blooming flowers (Cestrum nocturnum, honeysuckle and jasmine), cut flowers with intoxicating aroma filling the house - white and pink peonies, peppery white and yellow freesias, but tuberose after dark being the queen of them all.  Dewy gardenias and frangipannis, reminiscent of happy days by the beach - and of course, endless amounts of salty sea breeze.


When summer start hinting about getting serious at all, I bring out some of the bottles that are waiting patiently 10 months out of the year, making their debut with much needed TLC:

Cooling off with hydrating fruits: 
Citrus are famous for their cooling, refreshing qualities in the summertime. But they are not the only fruit-based scents that I reach for in the summer. Figs, cantaloupes and mango seem to be making an appearance in my olfactory fruit-bowl.

Philosykos
There is nothing like green figs, and when you can't have them - the longing for them makes the heart even fonder. Philosykos makes me feel as if I'm sitting under a fig tree by a cool brook in the Galilee, and picking ripe green figs, their milky sap dripping off their stems (and that's the part you want to avoid, but is represented by a green coconutty note).

Un Jardin Apres la Mousson
This singular perfume is simultaneously cool and refreshing yet at the same time juicey and sweet. I love the contrast between cantaloupe and the cool vetiver, fresh ginger and coriander.

Eau d'Orange Verte
To a classic eau de cologne frehsness, there is a hint of green mango added (in the new formulation, which isn't as bad as I feared). I still stick to my

Orcas
There is no scent that screams "West Coast" more than Orcas. I dreamed it while vacationing in Tofino and fine tuned it when spending an entire summer at SunsetBeach. Its main citrus component is lime - a surprisingly coconutty citrus note. Paired with seaweed and rosemary and smoothed out by violets

Tropical Island Vacation: 
Unless you count my dreams (and daydreaming) - I never did go on a tropical island vacation. But this fantasy is an inevitable part of my summer enjoyment, which includes spending as much time at the beach as possible. 
 Terra Cotta Eau de Sous le Vent
Supposedly a tan enhancer, I wear this for the scent alone. It's like a beach vacation in a bottle. And even if mine usually happen 10 minutes away at the beach down the hill, and go for only a few hours at a time - it creates an illusion that I actually went away somewhere exotic.

Azuree de Soleil Body Oil 
Who said you can't be sophisticated at the beach? This European suntan lotion inspired scent is much more than that. It's very light yet has depth. The white florals are toned down, and unusual resinous notes and subtle musk are what make it so charming.

Vanille Banane 
Just like the banana ice cream bars we'd have at the beach as kids. The flavour is fake, but oh so charming. Banana esters rule! 

Tamya
Plumeria tucked behind the ear, yellow sarong, flip flops and a spritz of this subtle beach scent - frangipanni, ylang ylang, cedar and soft musk and hint of vanilla make it a feel like an authentic tropical getaway. Cassis and yuzu add a fruity lift, reminiscent of ripe mango.

Midsummer Night: It is not surprising that on summer evenings I tend to reach to white florals. Tuberose, gardenia and jasmine perfumes are at forefront of my evening summer wardrobe.

Opium Fleur de Shanghai is a more subdued, easy to wear spicy-oriental with magnolia as an added twist to the original rich formula. There is still plenty of spice and resinous goodness (myrrh especially), but it can be worn with dignity even in heat and humidity.

Songes
Ylang ylang, frangipani and jasmine over a soft ambery base. Songes is the roundest, most pampering of all the Annick Goutal perfumes, with no sharp edges or heady floralcy which prevents me to be able to fully connect to the rest.

Moon Breath
Soft, smooth yet meditative, I love wearing this incensey white-floral in an evening while enjoying the potted star jasmine and burning a good incense on my balcony on those rare balmy summer nights we get here maybe twice a year if we're lucky...

GiGi
Luscious gardenia soliflore, that makes me feel like I have the real flower pinned to my hair. It's heady and rounded, distinctively gardenia and makes me feel happy.

What about you? What scents do you crack open when the summer arrives?

Read my previous years Summer Lists: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.

And now - off to the beach! 

Happy Summer Solstice


Summer Solstice, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Hope you all enjoyed the first day of summer and longest one in the year. I spent most of it chasing the sun in the Sunshine Coast and waiting for the tides to clash at Skookumchuk Rapids.
Memorable scents of the day: salty ocean air with wafts of wild roses and resinous conifers.

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