Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Shepherd’s Purse - Calming, Comforting, Soothing

Herbal Remedies from the Judean Hills
ילקוט רועים – Shepherd’s Purse – Capsella Bursa-Pastoris

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Calming, Comforting, Soothing ‘Mother Heart’ Herb
I happily discovered the petite, gentle, lacy, shepherd’s purse growing in the same spot in my garden in front of our house for the second year in a row. One morning, shepherd’s purse surprisingly greeted me with its typical little, sweet, white four-petaled flowers. I treasure the quiet, modest reassuring strengths of shepherd’s purse, also called ‘Mother Heart,’ due to its tiny heart-shaped pods. “When you eat shepherd’s purse, you become calm. To calm restless, impatient feelings, shepherd’s purse is best of all. They say that if children eat shepherd’s purse, it will cure violent crying tantrums…” (Masanobu Fukuoka). Just as shepherd’s purse is the best plant for arresting excessive female bleeding, it seems as if it also helps the ‘female heart’ from overflowing with the excessive emotion of spiritual bleeding. I have once heard that a spiritual reason for uterine hemorrhage is not having dealt properly with a difficult relationship with one’s mother. Thus, in healing uterine hemorrhage, shepherd’s purse also soothes the negative emotions associated with a difficult mother/daughter relationship. When I sit in my garden with tearful eyes, facing my sweet, little shepherd’s purse, I feel comforted by its soothing motherly spirit. As the wind brushes its lacy leaves against my cheeks, I am once again a little girl sitting in my mother’s lap.

Shepherd’s Purse Stops Excessive Bleeding
Shepherd’s Purse is most renowned for treating abnormally heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia), and for shortening bleeding after childbirth. It has a strengthening effect on the uterus and has been used to stop heavy menstrual bleeding due to uterine fibroids, endometriosis, birth-control devices such as IUDs, post hysterectomy surgeries and even peri-menopausal bleeding. This is especially vital for religious couples, who abstain from physical contact seven days after vaginal bleeding has stopped. With the help of shepherd’s purse, the niddah separation period between husband and wife may be shortened for several days, and in some cases even weeks. The herb’s ability to stop bleeding can be attributed not only to its emmenagogue and hemostatic properties but especially to a plant protein that acts like the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin stimulates contractions of the smooth muscles that support and surround blood vessels, especially those in the womb. Oxytocin also helps to stop bleeding after abortion or delivery. Chemical analyses done on shepherd’s purse have shown that it contains substances able to accelerate the coagulation of the blood. Its energetics are drying and cooling. The herb has a long history of being used to help the womb return to normal size after childbirth. Externally, shepherd’s purse has been used to speed up the healing of minor wounds, cuts and scrapes.

The Separation of Birthing Blood
ספר ויקרא פרק יב פסוק ב דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר אִשָּׁה כִּי תַזְרִיעַ וְיָלְדָה זָכָר וְטָמְאָה שִׁבְעַת יָמִים כִּימֵי נִדַּת דְּוֹתָהּ תִּטְמָא:...(ה) וְאִם נְקֵבָה תֵלֵד וְטָמְאָה שְׁבֻעַיִם כְּנִדָּתָהּ...
“Speak to the children of Israel, saying: If a woman conceives and gives birth to a male, she shall be impure for seven days; as [in] the days of her menstrual flow, she shall be impure. If she gives birth to a female, she shall be impure for two weeks, like her menstruation [period]…” (Vayikra 12:2,5).

When a woman delivers naturally, she enters a state of niddah. This begins from the first sign of blood or from when she feels that delivery is imminent. According to the Torah, the niddah state lasts for seven days after giving birth to a son, and in the case of the birth of a girl, she needs to wait two weeks after childbirth to immerse in a mikvah. Kli Yakar explains the reason why the birth of a girl causes a double impurity period as follows: The original cause of the impurity of the blood of niddah was caused by the first woman, Chava, when she ate from the fruit. Since it was a woman who began the process of bringing impurity into the world, by eating from the forbidden fruit, all women need extra purification. Therefore, when a woman gives birth to a girl she needs a twofold seven-day purification process: one seven-day purification period for herself and one for her daughter (Kli Yakar, Vayikra 12:2). Practically speaking, giving birth to a son or a daughter makes no difference, since, women generally experience bleeding for several weeks after childbirth, and most birthing mothers are unable to count ‘seven clean days’ and immerse in the mikvah until about six weeks after birth.

Shepherd’s Purse for Stopping Hemorrhages of All Kinds
Shepherd’s purse is not only useful for shortening the bleeding of birthing mothers. When dried it yields a tea which is considered by herbalists to be one of the best specifics for stopping hemorrhages of all kinds – of the stomach, the lungs, urinary bleeding, and especially bleeding from the kidneys. Shepherd’s purse was the principal herb in the blue ‘Electric Fluid’ used by Count Matthei to control hemorrhage. Inserting the juice on cotton wool in the nose stops nose bleeding. During World War I, shepherd’s purse was used by soldiers to stop bleeding when other means were not available and inventories of conventional medicine had run out. Shepherd’s purse is mainly used in Chinese herbal medicine to “cool the blood,” and as a treatment for dysentery, high blood pressure and excessive bleeding after birth. It is also known to invigorate blood circulation. According to Culpepper “A good ointment may be made of shepherd’s purse for all kinds of wounds, especially wounds in the head.”

Versatile Uses of Shepherd’s Purse
Shepherd’s Purse is so called from the resemblance of the flat seed-pouches of the plant to an old-fashioned common leather purse. To support wellness, the whole plant in flower is used (except the roots) usually in the form of a tea or infusion. Either fresh or dried works, but fresh is preferred as the dry material soon loses its medicinal properties. Shepherd’s purse has been used as a medicinal herb since ancient times and mentioned as an astringent agent in many medieval medical books. Therefore, it treats hemorrhoids, varicose veins and diarrhea. Its stimulant and diuretic properties cause it to help heal kidney complaints and dropsy. Pedanius Dioscorides (1st century AD) and Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) describe the seeds of shepherd’s purse as an important laxative that stimulates bowel movements and as an aphrodisiac. It contains vitamins A, B, C and K. Shepherd’s purse tea is an herbal remedy for  sore throat, and a natural treatment for urinary tract infection (UTI). It is also useful where uric acid, insoluble phosphates or carbonates produce irritation of the urinary tract. Some herbalists recommend shepherd’s purse as a natural treatment of cystitis, and ailments of the digestive system. Moreover, it is considered to enhance and improve eyesight and vision. This may be due to its high concentrations of potassium and vitamin C, nutrients that are essential in maintaining a healthy iris. Shepherd’s purse is used in soil reclamation as it will absorb excessive salts from the soil, and may be planted for that purpose.

A Bird Favorite and a Mosquito Repellent
Small birds are fond of the seeds of Shepherd’s Purse: chaffinches and other wild birds may often be observed feeding on them, and they are a valuable food for all caged birds.
When poultry have fed freely on the whole green plant in the early spring, it has been noticed that the egg yolks become dark in color and stronger in flavor.

In contrast, the seeds are toxic to mosquito larvae. Since it was thought to drive away mosquitoes, shepherd’s purse was called “life protect plant” in China. Indeed, the seeds (when placed in water) act as a sort of “fly-paper” for mosquitoes, reputedly attracting and trapping them. They also secrete a substance toxic to mosquito larvae and are therefore used as insecticides. A kilogram of seeds is capable of killing 10 million mosquito larvae (Allardice.P. A – Z of Companion Planting. Angus & Robertson 1993).

Culinary Uses
Shepherd’s purse, which is very high in vitamin C, has been used as food for hundreds of years. It is one of the wild greens appearing earliest in the spring. Before the flower stalks appear, the leaves can be added to salads or cooked as greens. When the seeds are ripe, they have a fiery bite that can be utilized as a ‘wild pepper’ or as a substitute for mustard seeds. When the plant flowers, the larger basal leaves tend to die off, leaving only the smaller leaves clasping the stem. They’re still edible, but they get tougher, develop more flavor, and become labor-intensive to collect. Shepherd’s purse is an essential ingredient in the traditional Japanese Nanakusa-Gayu (Seven-Herb Rice Soup).

Hands On
“This plant is a remarkable instance of the truth of an observation which there is too frequently room to make, namely, that Providence has made the most useful things most common, and for that reason we neglect them: few plants possess greater virtues than this, and yet it is utterly disregarded.” – Culpeper’s Herbal, 17th century

Shepherd’s Purse Tea to Arrest Spot Bleeding
2 parts Shepherd’s purse
2 parts Nettle leaf
1 part Raspberry leaf

1. Use 4-6 tablespoons of herb mixture per quart of water.
2. Boil water and pour over herbs.
3. Cover tightly and steep 10-20 minutes. Strain.
4. Drink a cup at a time, every half hour until bleeding subsides.

If you start to bleed during pregnancy, make this tea immediately. You must also notify your midwife and/or physician.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Rockrose – A Carefree Evergreen with Spring Petals

Herbal Remedies from the Judean Hills
לטם שעיר – Rockrose – Cistus Creticus or Incanus L.

Rockrose – A Carefree Evergreen with Spring Petals of White and Pink
Rockroses grace the bare land here in Bat Ayin around Pesach time. Large drifts of pink and white ephemeral flowers fill our borders and meadows. Of the two varieties, pink and white, the white petals have butter yellow centers and are smaller than the pink. These evergreen shrubs grow in the poor, rocky, chalky, dry soil of the low scrublands. They are very common in the Mediterranean including the mountains of the land of Israel. With their low maintenance needs and rough, gray leaves, rockroses are great edging plants. They grow in the back of my flower garden towering over the pansies, snapdragons and daisy bushes. While there are plenty of whites, I don’t see any of the pink rockroses in my garden yet, although they’re supposed to be most prolific bloomers. I hope not all the prior year’s pink rockroses transmuted into white. Hailing back from Biblical times, rockroses are also mentioned in the Mishna, where the Rabbis discuss whether or not the laws of the Sabbatical year apply to them (Mishna Shevi’it, Chapter 7, Mishna 6). Although rockroses are very adaptable, they are not for everyone. Mediterranean natives, they can only be grown where winters are mild. Usually each flower lasts only until mid-afternoon before gently falling to the ground. The bush is part of the rockrose charm. Blooming for only a few weeks each spring, the shrub’s characteristics as a carefree evergreen is endearing too. Yet, when the few weeks of early spring finally arrive and the melding of the millions of pastel flowers becomes a daily experience, we truly appreciate the rockrose. On a mature rockrose there are so many flowers, it is hard to see the bush.

Of the Choice Products of the Land
From biblical time, the rockrose has been popular as a perfume and aromatic. When Yosef’s brothers decided to sell him as a slave, they grabbed the opportunity to have Yosef sent down to Egypt with a company of spice selling Arabs:
ספר בראשית פרק לז (כה) וַיֵּשְׁבוּ לֶאֱכָל לֶחֶם וַיִּשְׂאוּ עֵינֵיהֶם וַיִּרְאוּ וְהִנֵּה אֹרְחַת יִשְׁמְעֵאלִים בָּאָה מִגִּלְעָד וּגְמַלֵּיהֶם נֹשְׂאִים נְכֹאת וּצְרִי וָלֹט הוֹלְכִים לְהוֹרִיד מִצְרָיְמָה:
“They sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and saw, and behold, a company of Yishmaelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery, balm and labdanum, going to bring it down to Egypt” (Bereishit 37:25).

All the plants mentioned here served both as remedies and for embalming the dead (Da’at Mikra). One of the aromatics mentioned in our Torah verse is לֹט/lot, which Targum Onkelus translates as לטום/lotum – the Hebrew word for rockrose, or more specifically, for the resin – labdanum – produced from it. Although it is generally challenging to identify most plants mentioned in the Bible, the majority of commentaries and botanists have little doubt that the biblical לֹט/lot refers to rockrose. Thus, לֹּטֶם/lotem – labdanum mentioned in the Mishna is identified with לֹט/lot in Scripture (Bereishit 37:25). “There are those who identify it with the native bush with big nice flowers in the colors of white-yellowish or pink. It grows mainly in the mountains of the Land of Israel (Cistus)” (Kehati, Mishna Shevi’it, Chapter 7, Mishna 6). לֹט/Lot – labdanum is a perfume produced from plants of the rockrose (Rabbi Ya’acov, Fliks, The Plant World of Scripture, p. 272-273). The very same labdanum that accompanied Yosef down to Egypt is what Ya’acov intuitively chose to give as “a gift to the man” – second in charge to Pharaoh, who was no other than Yosef in disguise.

ספר בראשית פרק מג (יא) וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲבִיהֶם אִם כֵּן אֵפוֹא זֹאת עֲשׂוּ קְחוּ מִזִּמְרַת הָאָרֶץ בִּכְלֵיכֶם וְהוֹרִידוּ לָאִישׁ מִנְחָה מְעַט צֳרִי וּמְעַט דְּבַשׁ נְכֹאת וָלֹט בָּטְנִים וּשְׁקֵדִים:
“Their father Israel said to them, ‘If it must be so now, do this; take the choicest fruits of the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, a little (date) honey, gum, labdanum, (pistachio) nuts and almonds’” (Bereishit 43:11).

Rashi explains thatזִּמְרַת הָאָרֶץ /Zimrat Ha’aretz refers to “that which is praised in the Land, about which people sing praise when it comes into existence.”  Despite the severe famine, which gripped the land of Israel at the time, Ya’acov had various choice products on hand to send to Egypt. These choice products represent the bounty of the land of Israel, similar to the Seven Species through which the Land of Israel is praised. Nevertheless, in contrast to the Seven Fruits of the Land, these crops can survive even in drought years, since they require relatively small quantities of rain. Balm, gum and labdanum are products of the sap dripping from the bark and leaves of various plants. Pistachio and almond trees flower early, fruiting before olive, grapes and pomegranate trees have even blossomed. Therefore, they do not present the worrisome agricultural problems that could lure people away to serve other gods (Noga Reuveni). It is interesting that the ‘Choice Products of the Land’ include three kinds of produce: 1. צֳרִי נְכֹאת וָלֹט/tzori, n’chot v’lot – ‘balm, gum and labdanum’ – plants used for their perfume. 2. דְּבַשׁ/devash – ‘honey’ – liquid foods. 3. בָּטְנִים וּשְׁקֵדִים/botnim u’shekdim – ‘pistachios and almonds’ – solids (Da’at Mikra). Perhaps these choice products of the land allude respectively to the three garments of the soul: Thought, speech and action. The צֳרִי נְכֹאת וָלֹט/tzori, n’chot v’lot – balm, gum and labdanum that may represent the aspect of thought, reminded Yosef about his connection to Israel, as they were identical with the merchandise carried by the caravan that brought him down to Egypt from Israel.

Uniting Together to Become Vessels for the Sefirot from the Upper Land
The choice products of the land that Ya’acov sent to Yosef were called “Zimrat Ha’aretz” – the strengths and praise of Hashem because they were drawn from the upper world and had the power to transform ‘din’ (judgement) into ‘rachamim’ (mercy). These species, including rockrose, moreover, represent the unity of the sefirot. Before Israel went down into the Egyptian exile, they needed to be completely united. Through the power of this unity, Israel would survive the exile and emerge as a complete nation during the Exodus. When the sefirot are united in the Infinite (Ein Sof) good influences are drawn down from the upper worlds into the lower world. Of all the sefirot there are two sefirot who unite and connect the rest of the sefirot: Tiferet and Yesod. Ya’acov, who represents the sefirah of Tiferet, draws down the influences of the upper worlds to Yosef. Yosef, the embodiment of Yesod, then divides these influences into the lower world. This is the secret of Ya’acov’s Zimrat Ha’aretz-gift, which he sent to Yosef (Maor V’Shemesh, Parashat Miketz). The Zimrat Ha’aretz were the embodiment of the sefirot, which must be united. When the brothers sold Yosef into slavery, the sefirot went down into exile. This is symbolized by the fact that the Zimrat Ha’aretz accompanied Yosef down to Egypt. Ya’acov sent Yosef the gift of Zimrat Ha’aretz with the brothers because he understood that it was time to rectify the blemish in the unity of the sefirot caused by the sale of Yosef. By bringing the Zimrat Ha’aretz to Yosef, the brothers became vessels for the sefirot from the upper land that united them all together.

Rockrose Perfumery
The rockrose bush likes warmth and light and grows to a meter, giving off an aromatically resinous odor. Its leaves store plenty of oil, which partly evaporates in the heat. The essential oil thus extracted is appreciated in aromatherapy. In addition, rockrose exudes a highly aromatic gum or resin, called labdanum, which has been used in incense since ancient times and is now a valuable ingredient of various perfumes. Owing to the pleasant balsamic, aroma when burned, it was employed by the ancients for fumigating purposes. The rich, complex and tenacious scent is described as sweet, woody, dry, musk, or leather like. The main reason why labdanum is much valued in perfumery today is because of the resemblance of its scent to ambergris, which has been banned from use in many countries, since it is produced from the sperm of the whale – an endangered species. Today, the sticky tar like labdanum resin is used in place of Ambergris. With a sweet, musky odor, labdanum oil is often blended with Citrus Oils, Clary Sage, Oakmoss, Pine, Juniper, Calamus, Lavender, Tonka, Sandalwood, and Vetiver.

Gleaning Rockrose Resin
Rockrose is useful in food, perfumes and detergents. In ancient times, the sticky resin contained in its leaves was scraped from the fur of goats and sheep that had grazed on the rockrose shrubs. It was collected by the shepherds and sold to coastal traders. The false beards worn by the pharaohs of ancient Egypt were actually the labdanum soaked hair of these goats. The resin was also collected from the branches by means of a leather instrument somewhat like a rake drawn over the branches and leaves. Then the resin was scraped off the leather.

Medicinal Properties of Rockrose
The Labdanum resin of rockrose is an expectorant, emmenagogue, diuretic and stimulant.  Due to its expectorant properties, it has been used as a remedy for colds, cough with phlegm, bronchitis and leucorrhoea. Its emmenagogue properties treat inner bleeding and menstrual problems. Labdanum has also been applied in plasters against catarrh, diarrhea, hair loss, skin soars, heartburn and rheumatism. I learned from a Jewish woman who lived with Bedouins that the water in which rockrose petals have been soaked can alleviate hoarseness. Prof. Claus Peter Siegers of the University in Lübeck proved that rockrose detoxifies the body and eliminates toxic heavy metals deriving from cigarette smoke, dental fillings and environmental pollution. Dr. Vinzenz Nowak discovered that a cup of rockrose tea a day is also beneficial for the immune system. Further, Dr. Frank Petereit stated in his dissertation at the University of Münster that rockrose treats fungal infections like intestinal and vaginal mycosis. Since rockrose tea supports a healthy bacterial flora, it also combats other harmful microorganisms that cause gastritis. In addition, Petereit discovered that rockrose relieves various forms of inflammation. For inflammation of the gums, just rinse your mouth daily with rockrose tea for several minutes. It is also recommended to drink two or three cups of its tea. According to Professor Stefan Ludwig of The Institute of Molecular Virology in Münster, concentrated rockrose decoction also has a very strong antiviral effect on influenza viruses.

Rockrose for Beauty
Although the delicate pink blossoms are suitable for beauty care – internally and externally, rockrose was also thought to heal warriors wounded in battle, as it prevents bleeding, when applied to the skin. Since ancient times, rockrose was given both of these tasks: healing and beautifying. The entire plant has been used medicinally but labdanum in particular was renowned in the entire Mediterranean region as a cosmetic and aid for skin and hair problems. The plant’s anti-aging properties extend to its effect on the skin. The same polyphenols, that support our inner terrain, also encourage radiant, healthy complexions by boosting cellular rejuvenation. Dab your skin with concentrated rockrose tea twice a day, for a significantly cleaner and healthier complexion. According to studies by Professor Weißling in Altenberge as well as a practical study by Dr. Reiner Wöbling in Bad Rothenfelde, it can cure even acne and neurodermatitis in just four weeks. The secret of these astonishing versatile effects of the rockrose herb is the particularly high level of vitamin P.

Rockrose Treats Internal Numbness as well as Panic and Anxiety
Rockrose is a medicinal herb for body, mind and soul. It may be a remedy for those who suffer from coldness and feelings of internal numbness. Comparable to the rockrose bloom, which is lightly creased, something delicate and very beautiful seems to have dried up or been destroyed in these people – often in relation to un-mastered experiences and emotions. The oil can produce relief: just put three to five drops of rockrose oil into an aroma lamp and breathe away the negative experiences. When added to massage oils, it can support lymphatic drainage. In Bach-flower remedies, rockrose is the chief ingredient in rescue remedy as it treats panic, stress, extreme fright or fear, and anxiety; and promotes calmness and relaxation.

Hands on Rock Rose Flower Essence
Flower essences are made from the healing vibration of the sun-steeped flower, which captures the energy imprint of the flower. Flower essences act as catalysts for change at a deep emotional level. They work by the principle of resonance in the subtle body where imbalance starts. Their action is energetic, not biochemical. All plants have a unique vibrational energy pattern, and the flower is the pinnacle of this energy. Rockrose is the chief flower in Dr. Bach’s well-known rescue remedy, the emergency remedy for terror or fright that may cause a person to feel frozen and unable to move or think clearly. It even helps when there is no hope.

Rockrose Rescue Remedy
1. On a clear sunny day without clouds, take a clear glass bowl almost full of good water.
2. Pick enough rock rose petals to sprinkle on top of the water until the water surface is covered. Don’t push the leaves under.
3. Leave the bowl to steep for four hours in a sunny place.
4. Let the bowl rest outside uncovered in an open field or in a place where it won’t get shade.
Make sure people won’t pass by and cause shadows.
5. With a wooden spoon or stick flip off the petals. (Don't use metal or your fingers). 
5. Pour the liquid into a clean jar with a little teaspoon of alcohol to preserve it. This is your mother tincture.
6. Take four drops of the mother tincture and place in a water bottle.
7. Fill the bottle with water and a few drops of alcohol. This is your rescue remedy.
8. Use four drops of rescue remedy under the tongue or in a glass of water. It won’t harm to drink rescue remedy every day for prevention.

Rescue remedy is good against trauma, anxiety, shock and fear.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Hyssop – The Humble Herb of Freedom

Herbal Remedies from the Judean Hills
אֵזוֹב – Hyssop – Hyssopus Officinalis

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Hyssop – The Humble Herb of Freedom
During the month of Nissan – the month of our liberation – we emerge from all kinds of slavery. The humble hyssop that grows out of the hard bedrock symbolizes this redemption process. When the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, we were instructed to dip the hyssop in the blood of the Pesach sacrifice and sprinkle it on our doorposts as a sign for Hashem to pass over us during the first-born plague of the Egyptians:

ספר שמות פרק יב פסוק כב וּלְקַחְתֶּם אֲגֻדַּת אֵזוֹב וּטְבַלְתֶּם בַּדָּם אֲשֶׁר בַּסַּף וְהִגַּעְתֶּם אֶל הַמַּשְׁקוֹף וְאֶל שְׁתֵּי הַמְּזוּזֹת מִן הַדָּם אֲשֶׁר בַּסָּף וְאַתֶּם לֹא תֵצְאוּ אִישׁ מִפֶּתַח בֵּיתוֹ עַד בֹּקֶר:
“You shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side-posts with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall go out of the entrance of his house until the morning” (Shemot 12:22).

Perhaps hyssop was chosen to accompany us out of exile due to its humble nature- it reflects the rock-bottom level of the Israelites prior to the Exodus. The low maintenance hyssop grows all over Israel between rocks and terraces. It is a perennial shrub, tolerant to a wide range of weather and drought conditions, preferring white, grayish dirt. Its easy growth has drawn people to the hyssop herb since Biblical times. When the Torah described King Solomon’s wisdom, it used hyssop as an example of the lowest kind of plant that King Solomon’s knowledge encompassed.

ספר מלכים א פרק ה פסוק יג וַיְדַבֵּר עַל הָעֵצִים מִן הָאֶרֶז אֲשֶׁר בַּלְּבָנוֹן וְעַד הָאֵזוֹב אֲשֶׁר יֹצֵא בַּקִּיר...
“He spoke of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Levanon to the hyssop that emerges from the wall…” (I Melachim 5:13).

There was no way we could have taken ourselves out of the Egyptian slavery, where we were “bare and naked” (Yechezkiel 16:7). By teaching us total surrender to the power of the Almighty, the lowly hyssop propelled us up from our lowermost point to the greatest spiritual heights. The spirit of the humble hyssop helps us to internalize that there is still no way we can accomplish anything except through Hashem’s blessing. This attitude merits redemption because Hashem does kindness to the lowly and raises up the poor (Tehillim 113:7).

Herb of Purification
“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow”
(Tehillim 51:7).

In the Torah, hyssop is used in ritual purification from the spiritual sickness of tzara’at (Vayikra chapter 14), and from the impurity of death (Bamidbar chapter 19). Due to its antimicrobial and anti-viral properties, hyssop is known for its cleansing effect through topical and internal preparations, as well as through inhalation. The stalks were burned and the smoke inhaled to clear the respiratory passages. Hyssop is one of the most ancient of ritual herbs. It has been used for millennia for cleansing and consecration. In the Middle Ages, the presence of hyssop was thought to repel plague and bring purity to the home. It was also used to repel insects. The Romans prepared an herbal wine containing hyssop. In ancient Greece, the physicians Galen and Hippocrates valued hyssop for inflammations of the throat and chest, such as pleurisy and other bronchial complaints. The herb is especially useful in helping the immune system to combat respiratory infections and colds. Hyssop, taken in warm infusions, acts as an expectorant and helps expel phlegm and break up congestion in the lungs. It is also a beneficial herb for treatment of the virus, Herpes simplex. An infusion may also be used to relieve the distress of asthma. Hyssop is a diaphoretic, and acts to promote perspiration. It will help to reduce fever and eliminate toxins through the skin. Hyssop also acts as a carminative and digestive aid, relieving flatulence and relaxing the digestive system. This versatile herb is also a nervine, which calms anxiety. It is possible that the Hebrew word for hyssop – אֵזוֹב/Ezov is connected to the root ע-ז-ב – leave, exchanging the alef with the ayin. To cleanse and purify is indeed to take leave of what we don’t want. I find it fascinating that hyssop is used as a purifier both in the Torah and in folk medicine. In the Torah, for spiritual cleansing, to purify the impurity of the spiritual disease of tzara’at arising from arrogance, from the impurity of death and to purify Israel from the impure, necromantic Egypt.  In folk medicine, hyssop is a cleansing herb that eliminates toxins and viruses.

Hyssop Purges Negative Emotions and Helps Us Manifest Our Higher Self
In most traditions, hyssop is a cleansing herb that purifies and sanctifies spaces for rituals. It is more purifying than strictly protective. Dried hyssop may be infused in floor washes or scattered around the home. I hang a bunch in our home for the beneficial effect and great smell! Hyssop is used to clear away sins, regrets and worries that are blocking our spiritual progress. When we open our wild hearts to humble, rugged, ageless hyssop, it helps us to improve strength, stamina, energy, attitude, and outlook. It also generates compassion. Hyssop calms the internal struggle of conflicting realities, while increasing self-acceptance and the overcoming of unworthiness. It fortifies our resolve to walk our path, supports the courage needed to follow our heart’s desire and builds endurance needed for self-discovery. Hyssop expands lung energy by releasing guilt. Add hyssop oil to water and spread the mixture in a room to uplift or transmute the dense thought forms vibrating in the space. Rubbing hyssop oil on the shoulders helps release tension caused by carrying emotional burdens. Hyssop oil used on the lung and large intestine meridians releases mucus congestion in the lung and bronchial tubes and purges grief held within the subtle body’s energy.  Hyssop facilitates the purging of old beliefs that no longer serve us and our spiritual growth. It clears the resonance of realities long outgrown and opens the energy to manifest our higher self (Based on Deborah Eidson, Vibrational Healing: Revealing the Essence of Healing through Aromatherapy p. 131).  

Hands On:
Harvest hyssop when the herb reaches is maximum height. Frequent cuttings from the tops of mature plants will keep the foliage tender for use in salads, soups, or teas. Used sparingly in culinary preparations, hyssop's tender shoots are a digestive aid, especially with greasy meats. When harvesting the herb for medicinal purposes, use the flowering tops. Gather the herb on a sunny, spring day after the dew has dried. Hang the branches to dry in a warm, airy room out of direct sunlight. Remove leaves and flowers from the stems and store in clearly labeled, tightly sealed, dark-glass containers.

Hyssop Tea (Infusion)
Place 3 tablespoons of dried, or twice as much fresh, hyssop leaf and blossom in a warm glass container. Bring 2.5 cups of fresh, nonchlorinated water to the boiling point, and add it to the herbs. Cover and infuse the tea for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain and drink warm. The prepared tea will store for about two days if kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Hyssop tea may be enjoyed by the cupful up to three times a day. Combine hyssop with white horehound for additional expectorant action to relieve cough. For sore throats, a warm infusion of hyssop combined with sage (Salvia officinalis) is a home remedy recommended by herbalists.

Hyssop Tincture
Combine four ounces of finely cut fresh or powdered dry herb with one pint of brandy, gin, or vodka, in a glass container. The alcohol should be enough to cover the plant parts. Place the mixture away from light for about two weeks, shaking several times each day. Strain and store in a tightly-capped, dark glass bottle. A standard dose is 1-2 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Homemade Za’atar Mixture
1 cup fresh picked hyssop leaves
4 tablespoons sesame seed
½ a teaspoon sumac
1 tsp sea salt

1. Pick hyssop leaves when young and fresh.
2. Dry hyssop leaves by hanging them upside down for a few days.
3. Remove the stalks and grind the hyssop leaves in a coffee grinder.
4. Mix with toasted sesame seeds and a little sea-salt.
5. Optionally add a little sumac spice)
Now you have your Za’atar ready to mix with olive oil and served as a dip for whole-wheat bread, grains and vegetables.

Link to other articles about hyssop http://rebbetzinchanabracha.blogspot.co.il/search?q=hyssop

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Was Horehound One of the Bitter Herbs for the Pesach Seder?

Herbal Remedies from the Judean Hills
מַרִבִּיוֹן – White Horehound – Marrubium Vulgare

Printable Version
Was Horehound One of the Bitter Herbs for the Pesach Seder?
At the edge of my garden, under the grapevine, grows a little white horehound with its small pale flowers and grey-green leaves covered with white, felted hairs, which give it a woolly appearance. I don’t need much of this herb, as it’s the most bitter plant I’ve ever tasted. Most herbalists believe that its Latin name Marrubium derives from the Hebrew מַרוֹבּ/Marrob, which means (bitter juice). Its major active constituent, marrubiin, is an expectorant that gives horehound its bitter taste, stimulating the flow of saliva and gastric juices and improving digestion. Herbalists believe that this plant was one of the five bitter herbs traditionally eaten during the Pesach Seder. In the commentary of Mishna Pesachim 2:6, Rabbi Natan adds in his explanation of the third bitter herb בַתַּמְכָא /Tamcha  listed in the Mishna “and some say marubio” which is marrubium vulgare which is horehound. Tamcha was also defined as marubio by many of the Rishonim or early authorities such as rashi: תמכתא - מרוביי"א. It is difficult to imagine how the inedible leaves of horehound could ever be ingested raw like lettuce. I tend to trust Jo Ann Gardner’s assessment that horehound is not among the original bitter herbs for Pesach (Bitter Herbs: A New Look at the Plants of the Bible,” The Herb Companion, April/May 1990). Its name may suggest a breed of gray dog, but that’s misleading. ‘Hore-’ means hoary (gray or white in Old English), but ‘-hound’ is not canine. Ancient herbalists used it as an antidote for the bite of a mad dog, “for sheep or shepherd bitten by a wood-dog’s venom’d tooth.” (Beaumont and Fletcher's Faithful Shepherdess). Rambam calls it העשב לכלבים/Ha’esev L’kelavim – ‘The Weed for the Hounds,’ because dogs like to pee on it. He classifies it as a warming and drying herb used to clear the lungs. Horehound is an important herb in Israeli and Arabic folk medicine. Due to its vulnerary properties, it is a remedy for open, inflamed soars. It also treats eye infections, intestinal worms, anemia and heart conditions.

Superior Cough & Cold Remedy
Horehound is cultivated in the corners of cottage gardens for making tea and candy to treat respiratory ailments, coughs and colds. Due to its expectorant, and anti-spasmodic properties, white horehound has been used since ancient times as a remedy for upper respiratory ailments including whooping coughasthmatuberculosisbronchitis, and swollen breathing passages. It is excellent for treating a non-productive cough, as it combines the action of relaxing the smooth muscles of the bronchus while expelling mucus. “Syrup made of the fresh green leaves and sugar is a most singular remedy against the cough and wheezing of the lungs … and doth wonderfully and above credit ease such as have been long sick of any consumption of the lung” (Gerard c. 1545–1612). Culpepper also recommends it warmly in syrup “as an excellent help to evacuate tough phlegm and cold rheum from the lungs of aged persons, especially those who are asthmatic and short winded.” Horehound syrup has been popular for treating children’s coughs and croup for centuries. For an ordinary cold, a simple infusion is generally sufficient in itself. You can make tea from it by pouring boiling water on the fresh or dried leaves. Two or three teaspoonfuls of expressed horehound juice may also be given for severe colds. Horehound preparations are considered one of the most popular expectorants and tonics for chronic cough and asthma. The leaves are used in liqueurs, and ales, and are made into expectorant and antiseptic cough drops. They are also brewed and made into Horehound Ale, an appetizing and healthful beverage, much drunk in Norfolk and other country districts. Horehound is sometimes combined with Mullein, Hyssop, Rue, Liquorice root and Marshmallow root.

Additional Medicinal Properties of Horehound
Digestion: Horehound affects not only the meridian of the lung but also of the liver and spleen. Therefore, it treats digestive problems, including indigestionbloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, loss of appetite as well as hepatitis and other liver and gallbladder ailments. The bitter action stimulates the flow and secretion of bile from the gall-bladder, aiding digestion and acting as a liver tonic and laxative.

Female Remedy: As an emmenagogue, women use white horehound for painful menstrual periods. The father of medicine, the Greek physician, Hippocrates (c. 460 – c. 370 BC) mentioned it in a work on infertility in women. In the sixteenth century, Pietro Mattioli prescribed a horehound salve to increase nursing mothers’ milk. The Navajo tribe give mothers horehound root before and after childbirth.

Vermifuge: Horehound destroys intestinal worms. Its tea was used internally and externally for parasitic worms. The powdered leaves have also been employed as a vermifuge.  According to Columella, horehound is a serviceable remedy against cankerworm in trees. If it be put into fresh milk and set in a place pestered with flies, it will speedily kill them all.

Poison Antidote: Taken in large doses, horehound acts as a gentle purgative. Gerard recommends it to ‘those that have drunk poyson or have been bitten of serpents.’

Spiritual Properties of Horehound
Horehound increases concentration and focus while heightening intuition. Drinking its infusion (tea) clears the mind and strengthens mental powers. It helps to integrate the mind and body into the realm of the spiritual while keeping distraction at bay. As an oil, horehound is used in spiritual healing to restore lost energy. Horehound is also known for providing spiritual protection. It may keep off wild animals and packs of dogs. Although it has a curious, musky smell, which is diminished by drying, horehound can be made into a tea, which is added to floor wash to protect the home. It is supposed to be an excellent herb to use in blessing the home. Horehound flavored candy has been used to give blessings upon first-time guests.

Hands On:
Horehound lozenges are popular to treat coughs and colds. The best way to make candied horehound is to boil down the fresh leaves of the plant until the juice is extracted. Then add sugar before boiling it again, until it becomes a thick consistency. Pour into a baking pan.

Horehound Candy
½ cup fresh or ¼ cup dried horehound
3 cups boiling water
4 ½ cups brown sugar
½ teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)

1. Boil the horehound leaves in the water for a half hour.
2. Strain and add the brown sugar.
3. Place into a cast iron pan or granite kettle with the remaining ingredients.
4. Boil until, when dripped into cold water, mixture will become brittle.
5. Pour onto a well-greased cookie sheet. When the candy is cool enough to hold its shape, mark it into squares. Alternatively, pour into a silicon baking-dish that has small candy-sized shapes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

עולש – Chicory – Cichorium Intybus

Herbal Remedies from the Judean Hills
עולש – Chicory – Cichorium Intybus
Printable Version

Is Romaine Lettuce Really the Best Choice of Bitter Herb for the Seder?
I prefer doing my ‘spring-cleaning’ before Chanukah, and only remove the Halachic required chametz before Pesach so I can enjoy the awakening of nature at this most beautiful time of the year. While everyone is at the peak of spring-cleaning, I’m researching bitter herbs for the Pesach Seder. The Torah directs us to eat the Pesach sacrifice with matzah and bitter herbs – (מְרֹרִים/merorim):

ספר שמות פרק יב פסוק ח וְאָכְלוּ אֶת־הַבָּשָׂר בַּלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה צְלִי־אֵשׁ וּמַצּוֹת עַל־מְרֹרִים יֹאכְלֻהוּ: אַל־תֹּאכְלוּ מִמֶּנּוּ נָא וּבָשֵׁל מְבֻשָּׁל בַּמָּיִם כִּי אִם־צְלִי־אֵשׁ רֹאשׁוֹ עַל־כְּרָעָיו וְעַל־קִרְבּוֹ:
“They shall eat the meat that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs…” (Shemot 12:8).

Even when we are unable to partake in the Pascal lamb, we are still obligated to eat matzah and bitter herbs during the Seder. There is no lack of bitter herbs cultivated or growing wild in Israel at this time of year. Many different greens more bitter than lettuce grow in my garden, including swiss chard, horehound and chicory. I usually bring a selection to the Seder table in addition to the traditional lettuce and horseradish. I was never fully satisfied with using lettuce and horseradish to fulfill the requirement of eating bitter herbs on Pesach. If the purpose of eating bitter herbs is to re-experience the bitter Egyptian exile, why not eat any of the various herbs, which are much bitterer than lettuce? The Mishna deals with the question of what qualifies as maror and lists the following five vegetables that may be used as maror during the Seder in order of preference: חֲזֶרֶת /chazeret, עֻלְשִׁין/ulshin, בַתַּמְכָא/tamcha, בַחַרְחֲבִינָא/charchavina and מָּרוֹר/maror (Pesachim 2:6). Because the Mishnah does not provide the identities of the vegetables, the Gemara provides further detail. Although in Modern Hebrew, the first on the list, חֲזֶרֶת/chazeret means horseradish, according to the Talmud and commentaries including Rashi it refers to חסא/chassa – lettuce. “What does chassa [symbolize]? That the Merciful One had pity upon us…” (Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 39a). חסא/chassa has popularly been identified with  romaine lettuce, however, it is not for sure that this was the kind referred to in the Talmud. Wild or prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola) is a bitter vegetable that best fits all descriptions of chazeret in the Talmud. It neither looks nor tastes like the lettuce sold in the supermarkets today but has a central stalk with loose, prickly dark green leaves. This lettuce is bitter, especially as it ages, and when its stalk is cut, it oozes a considerable amount of white, bitter sap according to the specification of the Talmud: “Others say: Every bitter herb contains an acrid sap and its leaves are faded... R. Huna said, ‘The halacha is according to the ‘Others.’” (Ibid.).

Why Use Horseradish for Maror?
How did the custom arise to eat horseradish for maror at the Seder? While בַתַּמְכָא/tamcha, the third item mentioned in the Mishna as qualifying for maror, is often translated in rabbinic literature as horseradish, this is disputed, because it is unlikely that horseradish existed in the Middle East in the Talmudic times. Rav Tzvi Ashkenazi (1660-1718) explains that horseradish came to be used for maror in Ashkenaz either because lettuce was not available in cold climates or because those dwelling far from Israel lost the ability to identify the correct species of lettuce. There are several problems with the custom to use horseradish for maror as one must fulfill the obligation to eat maror with either the leaves or the stem of the plant (Shulchan Aruch OC 473:5). Ironically, the reason horseradish was available in the colder northern climates was precisely because it is a root and not a leafy plant. Furthermore, horseradish is sharp – חריף/charif rather than bitter. Rav Tzvi Ashkenazi writes, “Those who are not careful about keeping mitzvot do not fulfill their obligation to eat the required amount of maror because horseradish is too sharp, while those who try to be meticulous about keeping mitzvot eat the requisite amount and thereby endanger their health” (Shu”t Chacham Tzvi 119). The ultimate legitimization of horseradish use occurred in 1822 when Rav Moshe Sofer wrote that horseradish may indeed be preferable to lettuce, because it is difficult to clean the lettuce of bugs (Chatam Sofer OC:132; cited in Mishnah Berurah 473:42). Others preferred horseradish to lettuce because there are various types of lettuce, and today we are unsure which type(s) the Mishnah was referring to. Whereas horseradish are indeed one of the five bitter herbs mentioned in the Mishnah, there are doubts as to whether the various types of lettuce available today meet the criteria of the ‘lettuce’ referred to in the Mishnah (Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, Ezrat Torah Luach). In our time, we have the privilege to live in the Land of Israel where various kinds of bitter greens grow in abundance around Pesach time. Does that mean that we no longer need horseradish to enhance our Seder? Personally, I feel that horseradish serves a nostalgic reminder of our Ashkenazi ancestors who lived in exile, from which we have fortunately been redeemed. Eating horseradish at the Seder helps us shed some tears for all the numerous exiles we have endured throughout the generations, what can be more cathartic than that?

Chicory – One of the Bitter Herbs Mentioned in the Mishna?
In the Mishna’s list of bitter herbs qualifying for maror at the Seder, chicory – עולש/olesh ranks second. Although we can’t be 100% sure of the identity of any of the five herbs mentioned, most commentaries explain עֻלְשִׁין/ulshin to refer to either endive or chicory. According to Rambam בַתַּמְכָא/tamcha – the third herb mentioned may also refer to “wild chicory.” The Talmudic definition of maror as plants whose common features are “bitterness, possessing [a milk like] sap, with [leaves] and a [green] grayish appearance” (Pesachim 39a), applies beautifully to chicory. Thus, the second item on the Mishna’s list, ulshin, is nearly universally understood to refer to Cichorium endiva – endives, or Cichorium intybus – chicory which are closely related. Belgian endive is the same species as chicory and is used for maror by some people. Chicory is a woody, herbaceous plant that has been used for hundreds of years as an herbal remedy with a wealth of health benefits. These include its ability to ease digestive problems, prevent heartburn, reduce arthritis pain, detoxify the liver and gallbladder, prevent bacterial infections, boost the immune system, prevent cancer, reduce anxiety, treat kidney disorders and reduce the chances of heart disease. It is a great source of vitamins and minerals, including zinc, magnesium, manganese, calcium, iron-folic acid, and potassium, as well as vitamin A, B6, C, E, and K. All these properties and more make this small plant is a powerful addition to any diet. The leaves are used in a similar way as spinach and eaten as a spring tonic in many cultures. The root is often ground into a powder and used as a coffee substitute. 

Letting Go of Control and Removing Blockages with Chicory
The energy of chicory is considered mothering teaching us to attain proper balance to prevent becoming overprotective and energetically smother those we love. According to Bach’s flower remedies, the negative chicory state mirrors our neediness and control-taking through emotional manipulation manifesting in expressions such as,  “I’ll love you more if you…” or “how can you do this to me after everything I’ve done for you.”  On the bright side, the beautiful, bright blue chicory flower helps us let go of our fear-driven controlling behaviors so that we can receive and embrace what we need for our soul’s evolution. It can shift our perspective to an awareness that supports recognition of what’s holding us back and what needs to go in order to pursue the positive. Chicory activates the hidden strength buried deep within us. When we are connected with this awareness we can do anything, and with very little materials or necessities. Perhaps this is why the character trait of frugality (lack of wastefulness). Chicory, when used as an incense is a great cleanser to purify. It is also believed that chicory promotes a positive outlook, removes obstacles and blockages. How appropriate for emerging from the Egyptian slavery.

Medicinal Properties of Chicory
For at least 5,000 years, people have cultivated chicory for its medicinal benefits. According to the ‘doctrine of signatures’ (a renaissance theory that a plant’s appearance indicates its healing properties) the milky sap of chicory demonstrated its efficacy in regulating milk flow in nursing mothers. It has been prescribed for both promoting or diminishing the milk flow if it were too abundant. The blue of the blossoms and their tendency to close as if in sleep at noon (in England) suggested the plant’s use in treating inflamed eyes. The poultice of the bruised leaves treats swellings. Laboratory research has shown root extracts to be antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and slightly sedative. They also slow and weaken the pulse and lower blood sugar. Leaf extracts have similar, though weaker, effects. Root extracts are diuretic and laxative, and treat fevers and jaundice. The second-century physician Galen called chicory a “friend of the liver,” and contemporary research has shown that it can increase the flow of bile, which could be helpful in treating gallstones.

Digestive Aid
One of the most common reasons for adding chicory to a diet is to improve various functions of the digestive system. Chicory contains prebiotic which is a beneficial bacteria that aids the digestive system. It also contains inulin, which in addition to reducing LDL cholesterol, promoting weight-loss and treating constipation, is used to combat a number of intestinal and digestive concerns, including acid reflux disease, indigestion, and heartburn because it actively reduces the acidity of the body’s systems. Thus, chicory can help digest the heavy Pesach meal eaten late on an almost empty stomach. What a wonderful addition to the Seder table!

Culinary Uses
Today, with sweeter, cultivated greens available, wild chicory is seldom seen in the kitchen. Nevertheless, wild-food enthusiasts who know how to prepare it enjoy its lively flavor in several forms. The young basal leaves taste almost identical to dandelion greens, they are good in salad or cooked as a potherb. Older and tougher leaves are apt to be bitter, but simmering them with several changes of water will decrease their bitterness. When cooked, the roots taste like parsnips, but they are almost too skinny to bother with. Instead of boiling them, however, you can scrub them and roast them slowly until brittle and dark brown inside.

Hands On
Chicory is a bitter, versatile leaf that can be eaten raw in salads, baked, stir-fried or braised.
To preserve its precious enzymes I mainly use it raw in salads.

Simple Chicory Carrot Salad 
Sweet orange or red vegetable complement the bitter cleansing taste of chicory.

2 cups grated carrot, or thinly sliced red pepper, or a mixture of both
1 cup finely chopped chicory
½ cup slivered almonds
Olive oil, lemon, sea-salt, freshly ground pepper and garlic to taste
A dash of cinnamon

1. Soak and check the chicory for bugs
2. Drain and dry
3. Grate the carrots
4. Mix carrots and chicory leaves and coat with olive oil
5. Add almonds and spices and mix well
6. Squeeze lemon juice on the salad and mix again.

Chicory Coffee
Chicory-based coffee rather than regular coffee can significantly improve the balance of blood and plasma in the body, which reduces the chances of cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, chicory root is considered a tonic for PMS. It is quite simple to make your own chicory coffee. You can use the wild variety, or the root of the endive, however, the best variety for this is Chicorium Intybus Sativum. Chicory yields a beverage that tastes much like coffee without containing caffeine.

1. Harvest the chicory roots, if you want to use the wild variety, look for a tall plant with a beautiful blue flower.
2. Wash and peel the roots so that they are perfectly clean.
3. Cut the roots in small even pieces. They have to be roughly the same width, so they roast evenly.
4. Toast the minced roots in a shallow pan, or a baking sheet at 350 degree Fahrenheit.
5. Grind the roasted pieces in a good burr grinder, according to your preferred brewing method, (fine grind for espresso, coarse for French press).
6. Brew as is, or mixed with real coffee.

Shortcut method:
Pour boiling water on ½ to ¾ teaspoons of dried Chicory root, steep for 10 minutes, then strain. Combines well with cinnamon & dandelion root.