Celebrating Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice celebrated throughout many different cultures brings celebrations of change, love, the growth of the new growing season, and the hope that abundant harvests will follow with all their abundance. It is a time to release the old, plant new seeds, and celebrate in the new changes coming ahead with bountiful abundance of nourishment, growth, and love.

This year has brought upon me a great celebration of change, growth, love, and passion. This year I embarked on a journey of entrepreneurship, something I have been wanting to do for a long time. I finally found the passion I was looking for to take the next step with herbal medicine. Herbs have recently within the last couple years taken me on my own spiritual and healing journey to reconnect and align my body, mind, and spirit with my true self. The one I have been neglecting listening to for a long time. Being a entrepreneur is a challenge for some in self discipline and even I have days I struggle with this freedom. On the other hand it has allowed me to live the life I want as well as the life I need when it comes to living with Cystic Fibrosis. It has given me the extra time to take care of my health, provided flexability in creating my own schedule around doctor's appointments, and allows me to learn constantly which I really enjoy. It allows me to use both sides of my brain, the creative side and the scientific logic side which for me is the perfect combination for me to work in. I have worked most of my life working full time and running around to help make someone else's dreams come true while mine sit on the sidelines. Not to mention the stress of my job slowly taking my health and life along with it. It was time to make a huge life change and so I did. One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to get out of our own way, let the divine take the reigns, and trust that everything will turn out alright. Owning and running your own business is not easy, you learn something new everyday, and it is full of challenges, opportunities, failures, and successes along the way. With all signs of nervousness aside, I decided to take the plunge and started a herbal company with my sister Caroline called the Green Witch Apothecary. It has been a rocky road full of tiny hills and currently large mountains to overcome, but we have been enjoying it to the at most. We have made several herbal products and started selling them in our local farmer's markets. Each market, we learn something new, gain new insights, meet new networks of people, and build new clients. Our profits keep growing and our passion for our herbal plant allies and mother earth grows deeper. Our mission is to help educate the community and future generations of the medicinal plants that are all around us, how they can be used, the health benefits they provide; so as to reconnect humanity with nature and create that traditional bond and relationship we and our ancestors have always had and used to heal naturally.

We have started holding different workshops to spread this knowledge to the community, and this last week we celebrated the beautiful Summer Solstice. We had a scared plant tea ceremony and meditation where we sampled and taught about Tropical Blue Vervain. This herb is a sacred herb that has been used all over the world in herbal medicine for a variety of ailments. I wanted to also share this knowledge with my CF subscribers, and give some fun facts and folklore about the Summer Solstice and the health benefits of Blue Vervain, and why Summer Solstice is very important to herbal medicine.

SUMMER SOLSTICE:

The Summer Solstice is also known as Litha, it is the most powerful day for the sun god making it the longest day of the year astrologically. In the northern hemisphere it falls on June 21st or 22nd and in the southern hemisphere it falls on December 20 through 22. As the light reaches its peak and the sun begins to enter into Cancer, and we reach the moment when the sun begins to wane and the sun’s rays are closest to directly overhead, from now on the nights grow longer and the days grow shorter. In Hawaii, summer solstice brings “Lahaina Noon” which is translated to “Cruel sun” a term used locally to identify the exact time usually 12:15-12:45pm when those locations between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn receive the direct rays as the apparent path of the sun passes overhead before and after summer solstice. Hawaii is the only US state to experience this and at that exact moment objects that stand straight up cast no shadow. In ancient times, Hawaiians called this event 'kau ka lā i ka lolo' meaning "the sun rests on the brains.” Humans may have observed the summer solstice as early as the Stone Age and many cultures today still celebrate the day with feasts, bonfires, picnics, and songs.Traditionally, people would stay up all night on Midsummer’s Eve to welcome the sunrise with bonfires on hill tops or sacred places to bring forth the coming of the growing season and a rich harvest in the fall. Magic was also thought to be the strongest during the Summer Solstice and therefore, bonfires were lit to represent the reflection of the sun at its peak strength. It was thought to be a great importance brought to strengthen the sun, dispel evil spirits, lead maidens to their future husbands, and banish demons. Many cultures would throw herbs in the fire and take torches from the fire to bless homes, animals, and farms. The coals from the fire were scattered onto fields as an offering for a good harvest. Herbs and plants were also harvested during Summer Solstice by many cultures with great importance as this was the time that the herbs were at their highest strength and their medicinal properties the strongest. The Celtics, used Oak wood for their bonfires because the Celtic name for Oak is “Duir” which means doorway. It was thought to be the doorway to entering into the second, waning part of the year when burned during this time. They would decorate the trees with colored cloths and harvest Mistletoe which was highly revered by the Druids often gathered for it's high potency in power and magic. Flowers were also thought to be at their peak, attracting pollinators galore which meant honey was also being produced during this time and many enjoyed the divine Solar Drink ‘Mead’ as they celebrated Summer Solstice. Another reason why the MidSummer full moon is known as the “Honey Moon”. The Vikings and Romans used Summer solstice to gather for important meetings, In Greece it was the mark of a new year, and in ancient Chinese cultures the Summer solstice, represented Yin, the feminine force and festivities were held to celebrate Earth femininity.


Litha Celebration Correspondences:


Animals: Butterfly, Bee, Wren, Robin, Snake

Colors: Gold, Red, Orange, Blue, Green, and Yellow

Foods: All early summer fruits and veggies, ale and mead, honey cake, red wine, strawberries, sun tea, herbal teas, elderberry wine.

Herbs: Vervain, Mugwort, Chamomile, Rose, Honeysuckle, Lily, Oak, Lavender, Ivy, Yarrow, Fern, Elder, Wild Thyme, Daisy, Carnation, St. John’s Wort

Magic: Growth and healing spells, empowerment spells, and love magick were all good at this time.

Gems: Amber, Tigers eye, Jade, Emerald

Incense: Sage, Cedar, Frankincense, Lemon, Myrrh, Pine, Rose, and Lavender.

Solar System: Sun

Element: Fire

Deities: Aine, Freya, Flora, Habondia, Lugh, Greenman,Oak King, Bast, Brigit, Hathor.

Gods and Goddess: Amaterasu (Shinto), Aten (Egypt), Apollo (Greek), Hestia (Greek), Huitzilopochtli (Aztec), Juno (Roman), Sulis Minerva (Celtic, Roman), Sunna or Sol (Germanic), Horus (Egyptian).

Faerie Folklore: At Summer Solstice the phenomenon of the “Trooping of the Fairies” would begin.

Tropical Blue Vervain:

(Stachytarpheta cayennensis or S. jamaicensis)

Hawaiian Names: Haua’e (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis) Ha’uoi and owi (Stachytarpheta urticifolia)

Common HI Name: Cayenne Vervain, for it’s long thin flower stocks which resembles that of the cayenne pepper.

Other Common Names Used: Enchanter’s Plant, Herb- of-the-Cross, Simpler’s Joy, Indaian Hyssop, Porterweed, Brazilian Tea, Snakeweed, Juno’s Tears, Nettleleaf

Tropical Blue Vervain gets it's Genus name from the Greek words “Stachys” meaning spike and “Tarphys” meaning thick. Tropical Blue Vervain is found throughout the tropics in Asia, Hawaii, the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean, and parts of Africa. It is usually found along roadsides or in disturbed terrain at lower elevations where it grows well. It is an invasive plant in Hawaii and most other places. The plants have woody stems and can grow up to 6 feet tall, the flower stalks can grow up to 12-18 inches, with small tubular flowers, and can range in color from white to purple. It is a great landscaping plant and attracts several species of pollinators, including bees and butterflies. It is a very hardy plant and can thrive on lava flows that have little soil and lots of sunshine.

Gender: Female

Elements: Water and Earth

Planet: Venus

Deities: Isis,Venus, Jupiter, Thor, Juno

Power: Protection, Love, Purification, Peace, Money, Youth, Chastity, Healing, Sleep

Parts Used: Leaves and Flowers

Harvest: Best picked during midsummer June/July before flowering to get the peak of its medicinal properties.

Preparations: Infusion of tea: Pour one cup of boiling water on 1-3 teaspoons of dried herb and let steep for 10-15 minutes. This can be drunk up to 3 times a day. Tincture: Take 2-4ml of tincture up to 3 times a day.

Medicinal Properties: Antispasmodic, Anti-fungal, Neuroprotective, Diuretic, AntiViral and Antibacterial, Anti- inflammatory internally and externally, Anti-parasitic, Analgesic (relieves pain), Calms nerves, Mild Sedative, Stimulates digestion, Protects liver and gastric tract, Antihistamine, Diaphoretic (induce sweating to reduce fever), Emmenogauge (female reproductive health), Promotes milk flow, Vulnerary (topical wound healing), Reduces acid,

Antiulcerous, Anti-diarrheal, Mildly laxative, Lowers Blood pressure, Dilates blood vessels, Gastrotonic, Vasodilator. The Hawaiian’s have used Vervain as a tea to assist with staphylococcus infections and as a vulnerary to help heal wounds, burns, and insect bites.

Culinary Uses: All parts of the herb can be used dried or fresh to make a tea and a foaming drink similar to a Porter kind of beer. The flowers are edible and has a mushroom like taste which can be used raw as a spice on salads. The long flower spikes can be used for flavoring like a Bay leaf in soups and other yummy dishes. The roots and seeds of the plant must be cooked as they can be toxic if eaten raw. The root of the plant in certain regions are boiled as a vegetable and seeds can be roasted and then ground. It is often called ‘ Porterweed’ as the leaves of the plant can be used to make a frothy drink that tastes like Porters.

Constituents: Bitter, Glycosides called verbenalin, essential oil, mucilage, tannin

Folklore: Blue Vervain was thought to be a sacred plant all over the world and used quite often. The Greeks and Romans wouldbless their temples and altars with this herb. The Christian’s, called Blue Vervain, the‘Herb of the Cross’ as it states Vervain was pressed into Christ’s wounds to stop thebleeding from the cross. In Egyptian mythology, when Isis, the goddess of fertility,grieved for her murdered brother-husband, Osiris, vervain grew from her tears.

During the Middle Ages, healing herbs were most often called ‘simples.’ Vervain was known as ‘Simpler’s Joy’, as it was used so frequently for so many conditions.

Druids, called it 'Enchanter’s herb’ and it was used in many magic spells.The Native American Indians,used vervain for many ailments and called it, Indain Hyssop. Other Species of Vervains (Verbena hastata, Verbena Officinalis) may have other uses.

I hope to bring the CF community more insight and knowledge on other wonderful sacred medicinal plants as we create these workshops and continue are teachings of herbal plant medicine. For me, Blue Vervain has been a great nervine and assists me in relaxing my whole body and allowing me to fall asleep on those nights that my brain won't shut off. It also assists as a antispasmodic and mild relaxant to smooth and skeletal muscle which helps the tissues in my lungs to relax when I have that annoying cough when it rains out that won't settle long enough for me to relax and fall asleep. This herb also has helped me as a diuretic to release excess toxins and water from my body when I been sitting all day on the computer and my ankles swell. As allows I recommend you consult with your doctor or a natropathic doctor before trying any herbal supplements since we all take several different types of pharmaceuticals for CF and most of the herbs used traditionally have not been approved or tested by the FDA, so proceed with your own judgement and caution. Overall, Blue Vervain is a safe medicinal herb when used in small quantities. As always, I love hearing from you about your thoughts on herbal medicines and CF, if you have tried Blue Vervain, or if you had some amazing Summer solstice celebrations? Please share your comments below.

Aloha and Mahalo,

~Karen

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