Spring Flowers - Chinese Medicine Chicago

Spring Flowers 2018

This spring felt like it was a long time coming with our really cold weather in March.

Now that we have some plants and trees blooming, I’m feeling extra grateful for the beautiful spring flowers. I really have a sense of awe for these amazing gifts from nature. Not only are they good to look at and smell great, but they also have amazing medicinal qualities.

If you subscribe to my newsletter, you will have seen a few flowers mentioned in recent months. This must be my subconscious longing for spring!

Lately, I have really been digging on rose. I started getting more and more into it while I was trying to find aromatherapy scents that were safe for my cats (a lot of popular smells can be toxic for them). At first, I thought it was an ‘old lady scent’, but have quickly grown to love it. It can be overpowering, so use it sparingly in the diffuser and maybe add a base nose from another scent.

Anyways, I was starting to notice rose everywhere. It’s in so many skin care products like soaps, lotions, and serums. It’s also in teas and sweets, like Martha Stewarts rose water frosting. And of course, Chinese Medicine has been using it for thousands of years.

The nutritional value of the rose plant really shines when you talk about the rosehips, this is the fruit that forms after the petals have dropped, they are a good source of vitamin C as well as vitamin E, magnesium and calcium. Some cultures also consider the rose an aphrodisiac and stress buster.

In Chinese Herbal Medicine we use the bud of the flower, Flos Rosae Rugosae, called Mei Gui Hua.

It looks like something you might find in a potpourri mix, a small and tight flower bud that is 1 to 3 cm in size. It is sweet, slightly bitter and warm. It enters the liver and spleen channels and is in the category of Herbs that Regulate Qi. It moves the qi and harmonizes the blood and is used in formulas for irregular menstruation and liver stomach disharmony, with symptoms like constriction in the chest, belching and poor appetite.

Another form of rose used is the partially opened flower of the chinese tea rose, Flos et Fructus Rosae Chinensis, Yue Ji Hua. It is in the category of Herbs that Invigorate Blood, is sweet and warm, and enters the liver. It is also used for regulating the menses, but can also reduce swellings and abdominal pain.

So you see, there is some overlap in these two forms of roses and I think the average person would be hard pressed to tell the difference between them visually. Botanicals can get tricky and you need a professional and experienced eye to identify the plant and its’ parts.

I have started to use rose in many forms around the house, including the aromatherapy diffuser.

I also mix a flower tea with rose petals, lavender buds, and chamomile that is very calming and good for digestion. I also put them in my melt and pour soaps and soak rose petals in jojoba oil for a couple weeks and use as an amazing facial serum.

As you can see, there is a wide range of uses for the rose—food, medicine, cosmetics, scents. As always, if you are using Chinese Herbal formulas, do so under the care of a trained and licensed professional.

Another flower that is popular in herbal medicine is the Lily, it’s especially associated with Easter.

In our neck of the woods, you see a lot of Lilies popping up in June and July in everybody’s yards. But did you know that in Asia the bulb is used for food and medicine? The bulb almost looks like a cross between a large head of garlic and a layered onion. It has a mild perfumy flavor and is a little sweet. You can use it in stir fries and other kinds of dishes.

For medicine, the bulb is separated and dried. It’s considered a very ‘yin’ herb and its white color can help you to remember that it can treat the lungs, which is the metal element and the color white.

It’s great for that dry cough where your chest feels hot and parched with no phlegm moving and a sore dry throat. It also helps treat heart symptoms like insomnia, restlessness, and irritability. So it’s very calming, cooling, and moistening.

A word of caution for you cat people. The Lily is very poisonous for them! This includes the pollen, leaves, stems, sap and flower petals. Please don’t keep them in your house and use caution if you have them in the yard.

Hou Po

And last but not least, one of my favorite herbs, that is not really a flower, but the bark from the tree that has beautiful flowers, is called Hou Po (Cortex Magnoliae officinalis), which is actually just bark from the magnolia tree. It addresses issues in the lung, large intestine, stomach and spleen. It’s warm and aromatic and helps to transform and dissolve dampness.

The number one thing this herb treats is abdominal bloating, feeling full, loss of appetite, poor digestion, constipation, and a feeling of something stuck in the throat. So basically, an icky stomach! Hou Po can also help with wheezing and coughing, chest congestion and excess phlegm, so it’s perfect for that lingering cold and flu.

In most cases, you should not be taking a single herb by itself.

That’s the reason why Chinese Medicine has so many herbal formulas, so that you can get multiple benefits, better results, and less side effects. So, if you want to try herbs to help your digestion or a lingering cold, see a professional to get checked out before you start buying stuff on Amazon.

Jennifer Fockler
Acupuncturist Chicago
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