White Flowers
Posted on June 29th, 2009

Still getting the hang of blogging, and now I’ve got some stored up I’ll publish a few in a row. Today’s blog is about the plants blooming right now, and my next one will be about local herbs that are blood movers.

I’ve been watching flower colors this year, wondering if different colors represent the pollinators of different seasons. But so far, it seems that at least white flowers go through all the seasons.
Back in May we had a few white-flowered trees – the famous Dogwoods (Cornus florida) of course, and the beautiful off-white umbels of Black Haw (Viburnum prunifolium), truly a stronger antispasmodic than the closely related Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus), with an action deeper in the body.

Then came the cherry blossoms, not the much-photographed flowers of Tokyo and Washington DC fame, but the Wild Cherry (Prunus serotina) with bottle-brush bundles of small white flowers that lined the highways and streets. I often wait for a windstorm then check to see if some of the fragile cherry limbs have come down to make medicine with. The bark is one of the best cough suppressors, but usually used after flower because of the potential for cyanide-like compounds in the bark during flowering time. Wild Cherry can make a great cough syrup or tincture.

But now we have the Elder blossoms (Sambucus canadensis), still blooming after weeks open. Elder is blooming all over my land, especially where there’s partial shade over a stream. Look for a small tree/shrub with big umbels of cream-colored flowers with a peculiar smell.

Although the berries are used most often as an anti-viral, I use the Elder flowers when I want a more drying effect, for example as an added herb during a sinus infection or drippy allergy noses. Made as a hot tea, it makes a great sweating herb for low-grade fevers. Drink a hot tea of Elder flowers, Yarrow flowers and Peppermint while sitting in a hot bath. When you’ve had enough and start getting woozy, get out and go lie in bed on some towels and you’ll probably fall fast asleep. Nine times out of ten, you’ll wake up with no fever whatsoever.

In the woods, we have more white flowers – Wild Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) and Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa, syn. Actea racemosa). Black Cohosh is one of the most popular herbs in modern herbal medicine and is the subject of a future article, but for now lets think about it as an anti-spasmodic, nervine, and hormone balancer.

Hydrangea is an under-rated and under-used herb that is excellent as an anti-inflammatory for the urinary tract. I most often use it combined with Stone Root (Collinsonia canadensis) and Gravel Root (Eupatorium purpureum) for kidney stones. But it can also be used for chronic irritation of the urinary tract, which could make it seem like one has a constant urinary tract infection. Hydrangea root, by itself or combined with the other herbs, could be a useful herb for just such a situation, even if it’s Interstitial Cystitis.

So that’s all the white flowers I can see from my window, so I’ll end here for now. In a month we’ll talk about some of the red flowers. But look for my next blog on blood movers.

Be Well,

CoreyPine Shane
Director, Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine

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