As we are still in the month of August - Lúnasa here in Ireland - I thought it would be appropriate to wish you all the blessings of the first harvest and post some details about the Irish herbal remedies and folklore of the plants seen in my painting of Áirmid.
Please note that I am not a herbalist so do not attempt to use any of the cures mentioned!
The information below has come from several sources including talking with local people who have 'cures'.
- A good reference book is "Irish Wild Plants - myths, legends and folklore"
by Niall Mac Coitir, Collins Press 2006.
- Zoe Devlin's website is invaluable - http://www.wildflowersofireland.net
- I have only recently discovered Roy Vickery's fascinating site but know that I will be visiting it often - http://www.plant-lore.com
I now have large art cards of Áirmid and the other Ever-Living Ones for sale - please contact me at email@example.com if you are interested in buying.
Áirmid's mythology and my painting of her father, the Irish god of healing. Dían Cécht, can be seen in the Gallery.
Used to stop nosebleeds and as a cure for coughs, colds and fevers.
Yarrow was used in love divination when 10 sprigs were plucked and the tenth thrown over the shoulder at Samhain. The remaining nine sprigs were placed under the pillow to give dreams of a future spouse. Also nine leaves were placed in a cloth and tied around the neck to bring good luck at fairs and on journeys.
Powdered leaves of honeysuckle were thought to prevent fevers and were also used as a cure for toothache, whooping cough, inflammation of the mouth and thrush.
Also known as woodbine it was used to protect against evil spirits and when drunk would cure effects of the 'evil eye'.
Used to aid the healing of burns and scalds as well as staunching bleeding and reducing inflammation. Ivy also cured pains, coughs, colds and bronchitis as well as relieving the pain of corns.
Nine ivy leaves of ivy placed under the pillow would give dreams of a future partner.
Used to cure jaundice, colds and earache .
Wild garlic was taken as a preventative for infections and was thought to cleanse the blood. It was used to clean wounds of infection as well as curing coughs and colds.
Used to ease digestive problems and heart complaints. In conjunction with St. John's Wort it was used as a sleeping draught.
7 DOG ROSE:
The hips of the Dog Rose were used in jam making to provide vitamin C during the winter. It was believed that if a new born didn't pass urine a handful of briars was burnt under the child would cure the problem.
Lus an Bhainne
Milkwort, known as Fairy Soap, was taken in the belief that it encouraged the flow of milk in new mothers and was a cure for warts.
Used as a cure for scurvy and a jaundice treatment.
Used to cure fevers and colds was well as to ease pain and kidney problems.
Meadowsweet, when placed under the bed of the afflicted, was believed to have the power to cure wasting sickness which was brought on by the fairy folk.
The scent of Meadowsweet was given to the flower by the goddess Aíne.
Used to cure heart problems, colds and fevers as well as being used as a salve on the skin to ease swellings and burns.
Foxglove was believed to cure childhood fits if it was collected at Midsummer then boiled in water from three boundaries and drunk.
A drink made from the leaves would counteract fairy strokes in adults whilst a fairy changeling could be detected by placing two drops on the babies' tongue then three in each ear. The child was then placed on a shovel which was swung out towards the front door three times whilst saying "if you are a fairy away with you!"
If the baby was a changeling it would die, if not it would recover.
Lus na meall Muire
Used as a poultice to cure sores, bruises, ulcers and sprains.
Mallow stems, known as Hocus Fiáin was used to strike people in order to protect them from illness. The stems were later burnt in bonfire at Midsummer.
13 YELLOW FLAG:
Yellow flag was used to cure jaundice and sore lips. In Kerry a cure for rheumatism was to heat the flags then put them in a hut where water would be thrown onto them. Those who had rheumatism stood for a few minutes in the rising vapour then went into a tub of cold water.
It was believed that a fairy changeling when banished into a river or lake would become a yellow flag. On Cape Clear bunches of the flowers were placed in fishing boats to bring good luck and a large catch.
14 GOLDEN ROD:
Used to relieve heart complaints, stomach upsets and kidney problems.
In folklore it was understood to be used by fairies in a similar way to Ragwort.
Poppy was used as pain relief particularly for toothache and neuralgia.
16 SHEPHERD'S PURSE:
Lus na fola or Lus an sparáin
Used by women to stop excessive menstrual flow.
A sedative used to calm nerves.
Although not a native plant, vervain was used to protect cattle from the fairies on May Eve
by tying a spring to the tail or horn of the livestock.
19 PURPLE LOOSESTRIFE:
Collected at Midsummer it was used to heal wounds and cure diarrhoea and dysentery.
Used as a spring tonic and to cure jaundice.
Used as a protection against illness in a similar way to mallow, to treat lung inflammation
and in the making of soap used to wash wool.
Used to relieve liver complaints and as a tonic.
Used to heal burns, as an eye lotion and a cure for chilblains and ringworm.
Used to cure jaundice, kidney inflammation, tooth ache and eye complaints.
Scarlet pimpernel was understood to possess magical properties giving the power of second sight
and the ability to understand the speech of birds and animals.
25 ST. JOHN'S WORT:
Used a a cure for depression and insanity as well as to staunch bleeding.
Provided protection especially when harvested at noon on a bright day near the full moon or on Midsummers' day before sunrise. Its effectiveness could be increased by passing the leaves through the smoke of a bonfire.
Used as a cure for coughs and throat ailments.
Bainne Bó Bleachtáin
Used to help insomniacs and as a cure for palsy.
Cowslips were believed to protect the milk yield of cows from the fairies at Bealtaine when rubbed
on the udders.
Used to cure those who had suffered a stroke.
Used as a poultice to cure headaches, tumours and boils.
Seamsóg or Samhadh bó
Used as cleanser and blood tonic and to heal sores, bruises and boils.
Used to aid insomnia and as a cure for burns, jaundice and tuberculosis.
Associated with Bealtaine when it was gathered by children before dusk and placed in posies over
doors and on windowsills to protect against the faeries.
32 MARSH MARIGOLD:
Lus buí Bealtaine
Flowers used in an infusion to cure fits and boiled in soup for heart ailments.
Its juice which is caustic was used to remove warts. Similarly to primrose, marigold was linked
to May Eve when the flowers were used as a protection for the home and the well.
Made into a poultice to treat sprains, inflammations and mumps.
Chickweed is one of the healing herbs used in Dían Cécht's 'porridge' which is the oldest known
Irish medical remedy which was used to cure sore throats and colds.
34 LESSER CELANDINE:
The roots of the lesser celandine, known as 'pilewort', was used in the treatment of haemorrhoids.
It was also known as 'scurvywort' as its leaves contained vitamin C.
35 HART'S TONGUE FERN:
Creamh na muice fia
Used in an ointment on burns, scalds, stings, warts and dog bites.
In general fern seeds were considered to be lucky if carried.
36 WATER CRESS:
Used as a remedy for coughs and colds, to cure rheumatism and to ease labour pains.
It was also known as the "hair of the well or stream".
37 MAIDEN HAIR FERN:
Used as a tea but not as a cure.
38 WATER AVENS:
Used as a cure for diarrhoea and stomach ache.
39 BOG BEAN:
Used as a tonic to cleanse the blood and as a poultice to reduce swellings and inflammation.
Also used to ease symptoms of a cold.
Used as a tea to cleanse the blood. Nettle stings were thought to to relieve rheumatism and poor circulation.
It was believed that taking three meals of nettles in May and drinking the juice of nettles gathered at Bealtaine would guard against illness for a year.
Used as a cure for an upset stomach.
42 LADY'S MANTLE:
Used for kidney problems and to treat burns and scalds but also known to aid women who wanted to
conceive a child.
Known as the 'mother of herbs' it was used as a cure for epilepsy, to restore menstrual flow and
ease delivery in childbirth. The beliefs attached to mugwort were similar to those of St. John's wort
as it was also used as protection at Bealtaine.
Used as a poultice to ease cuts, sores and burns as well as placing the head of the plant over an ulcer
to heal it. Known as the 'fairy steed' because it was believed that fairies rode upon ragwort especially
Used as a diuretic and a cure for liver problems, jaundice, diabetes, tuberculosis and consumption.
Dandelion was also known as Bearnán Bhríde, 'indented one of Bride' because it was the first flower
to appear after Imbolg. It was believed that the juice of a dandelion would remove warts if rubbed
on them for nine days.
46 SELF HEAL:
Used to cure sore throats, fevers, tuberculosis and the effects of a stroke.
Used as a cure for nettle stings, liver complaints, coughs and colds.
Oats were a component of Dían Cécht's porridge used to cure colds and sore throats.
Rushes had many everyday uses including thatching and were used all over Ireland to make Brigid's Crosses
at Imbolg. The ashes of burnt rushes were used to cure ringworm and when mixed with lard and applied
as an ointment they also cured shingles.
It was believed that the only cure for the effects of standing upon féar gorta, hungry grass,
was drink the juice from nine rushes which had grown by a holy well.
50 ARUM LILY:
Known also a Lords and Ladies, the plant is poisonous but its roots were used as a cure for worms.
51 WOOD SAGE:
Used to ease rheumatism.
Used to calm coughs and ease aches and strains.
Drunk as a tea to cure asthma, sore throats and to soothe a dry cough.
Used as a cure for headaches as a hot poultice to ease toothache and to heal wounds caused by iron.
White clover was a cure for coughs and liver ailments whilst red clover cured coughs, bee stings and
an infusion of its flowers was thought to cure cancer.
Finding a four-leafed clover was believed to be lucky and was associated with obtaining the second sight. Rubbing a mixture of clover and whiskey over the eyes cured 'fairy blindness'.
56 WILD THYME:
Used to ease respiratory ailments and as protection against infection.
Used as a remedy for measles, indigestion, stomach ache and colds.
Mint was used in love charms and as protection against bad luck.
Lus na Stalóg
Used as a cure for bladder ailments.
Used as a diuretic, a cure for jaundice and as a pain reliever.
Bilberries were gathered at the start of August and associated with the festival of Lughnasadh.
On Knochfeerina Co. They were laid, together with flowers upon the stone which was believed to be the entrance to the palace of Donn in the Otherworld.
Used to cure diarrhoea, swellings and sore feet.
Standing under an arch of brambles gave the power to curse another.