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Heather flowers are a traditional remedy in Swedish herbal medicine. Heathers are native to Ireland, Scotland, Scandinavia, Russia, and northern North America.
Branches are used as broom straw and the leaves flavor beer and tea. The bark can be used for tanning, and the flowers yield nectar for honeybees.
Heather contains many antimicrobial compounds. Even honey made from heather flowers has been shown to have high antibacterial activity compared to many other types of honey.
Heather Flowers as an Herb in Medicinal Uses
The medicinal parts of Heather are the complete herb with leaves, the flowers, and the growing shoots of the plant. They are collected and dried when the plant is in bloom, as well as the fresh aerial parts.
Heather tops were infused and used as a tonic to treat consumption, coughs, nerves, depression and heart complaints. Heather tea, liniments and ointments were used to help treat arthritis and rheumatism.
In 1543 one writer guaranteed that heather plants could ease insect bites. Another used the plant in drug form to heal snake bites, eye infections, infections of the spleen and to prevent stones forming in the internal organs.
Nicolas Alexandre, a Benedictine monk, believed that boiling the stems and drinking the brew for 30 days could dissolve kidney stones. He also stated that the patient should bathe in the heather water.
Around the time of WWI, heather was used as a household remedy for all kinds of illnesses and complaints. It was recommended to nursing mothers to help them produce more milk.
Medicinal herbalists still use heather to treat cystitis and to use as a diuretic and anti-microbial.
In certain mountainous regions of Europe, heather continues to be used to make a liniment for arthritis and rheumatism. A hot poultice made from the flowers is still a traditional remedy for chilblains.Chillblains are one of the mildest forms of cold injury, with symptoms of recurrent, localized itching, swelling and painful erythema. Sometimes blistering and ulceration upon exposure to cold and dampness may occur. Chillblains occur mainly on the fingers, oes, ears and face, but may involve other areas of the body. This condition should not be confused with frostbite.
Heather flowers come into bloom at the start of August. The sight of the flowers en masse is as refreshing to the eye as they are to the tongue in a cup of ‘moorland tea’.
A tea made of Heather blossoms is used to suppress coughing, and as an aid for sleeplessness. A stronger infusion is used to treat urinary tract infections.
In folk medicine, the herb is used for laryngitis and pharyngitis, severe hoarseness including loss of voice, chronic bronchitis and inflammation of the gallbladder.
Externally, the infusion is used as a gargle or mouth wash several times a day.
Culinary Uses of Heather Flower
Heather Tea: Unless otherwise prescribed, boiling water is poured over 1 to 2 grams of finely chopped heather and after ten minutes strained. Heather tea is taken 3 times per day. Heather tea is not recommended for prolonged use, due to the high tannin content of the leaves that may damage the liver and alimentary canal.
Heather Ale Recipe
- 1 gallon (4.5 litres) heather tops
- 2 pounds (1 kg) malt extract
- 1 and 1/2 pound (700 g) sugar
- 3 gallons (13.5 l) water
- 1 ounce (30 g) yeast
Cut the heather tops with scissors when in full bloom, but not overblown, and boil them in 1 gallon (4.5 l) of the water for nearly an hour. Strain on to the malt extract and sugar through a jelly bag and stir until dissolved. Add remaining water and, when lukewarm, add the dried yeast.
Other culinary uses not generally recommended.
Heather Flower Folklore
- White heather is the luckiest heather and protects against violent assault, especially rape.
- Purple heather is a symbol of unbridled passion and its consequences.
- Sleeping on a pillow stuffed with this magic herb can bring dreams foretelling good fortune.
- Burned outside with fern, it brings rain, and in Ireland, it has been used to conjure the spirits of the dead.
- Heather is both helpful to those who shape shift, as well as protective against harmful shifters.
No health hazards or side effects are known in conjunction with the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages.
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