Sunday, April 24, 2011

Folklore of the Hedgerow. Part Ten.

Folklore of the Hedgerow. Part Ten.

Honeysuckle. Féithleann.

Other names for honeysuckle include Irish vine, woodbine, fairy trumpets, honeybind, trumpet flowers, goats leaf and sweet suckle.

The old name Woodbine describes the twisting, binding nature of the honeysuckle through the hedgerows.

It was believed that if honeysuckle grew around the entrance to the home it prevented a witch from entering. In other places it's believed that grown around the doors it will bring good luck. If it grows well in your garden, then you will be protected from evil. In Ireland honeysuckle was believed to have a power against bad spirits, and it was used in a drink to cure the effects of the evil eye.

Bringing the flowers into the house will bring money with them.

Honeysuckle has long been a symbol of fidelity and affection. Those who wear honeysuckle flowers are said to be able to dream of their true love. Its clinging nature in the language of flowers symbolises, 'we are united in love,' and emphasis's the bond of devotion and affection between two people. It was also believed that if the blooms were brought into the house then a wedding would follow within a year.

In the Victorian era there was a ban on young girls bringing honeysuckle into the home because the heady fragrance of the flowers was believed to cause dreams that were far too risqué for their sensibilities.

The wood has been used to make walking sticks because of its nature to grow around and entwine saplings. The dried flowers are used for adding to pot-pourri, herb pillows and floral waters. Also, scented cosmetics are made from the fresh flowers.

A less known fact about the honeysuckle family is that Lonicera tatarica Tatarian honeysuckle, a leggy bush honeysuckle with sweet scented pink flowers, is used as a substitute for catnip. The wood contains nepetalactone which is the active ingredient found in catnip.

Medicinal Use.

Culpeper stated that only the leaves of the honeysuckle were used medicinally to treat coughs, sore throats and for opening obstructions of the liver and spleen.

Gerard had the flowers steeped in oil down as being good to help warm and soothe the body that is very cold.

Matthew Robinson in his New Family Herbal shared Culpeper's view that honeysuckle leaves helped the spleen and liver. Matthew also advocated that the flowers are boiled in water and used as a poultice with a little oil added as a cure for hard swellings and impostumes (abscesses).

The leaves and flowers of the honeysuckle are rich in salicylic acid, so may be used to relieve headaches, colds, flu, fever, aches, pains, arthritis and rheumatism.

The leaves have anti-inflammatory properties and contain anti-biotics active against staphylococci and coli bacilli. Honeysuckle flowers and flower buds are used in various infusions and tinctures to treat coughs, catarrh, asthma, headaches and food poisoning.

Pounding together two plants, woodbine and maiden-hare, then boiling them in new milk along with oatmeal will cure dysentery when ingested three times daily.

Despite its lack of any real economic use honeysuckle was regarded as a ‘lower division of the wood’ in some versions of the old Irish brehon laws on trees and shrubs. It was also linked by some medieval scholars with the ancient Irish Ogham alphabet.

Please note that honeysuckle berries are highly toxic and should NEVER be used on any count.

Top image is of a staff with honeysuckle wrapped around it. You can see this and many more beautiful sticks at:

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