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Natural Awakenings Tucson

It’s Easy Being Green

Feb 28, 2020 06:47AM ● By J Garnett
There are 6.3 million Irish living in Ireland. There are over six times that number living here in the U.S., with the latest numbers showing just under 40 million people. Irish is the second largest ancestral background in the U.S. behind German, with just over 11 percent of the population. It’s not surprising then that St. Patrick’s Day is widely celebrated across the country.
   
Irish emigrants traversed the open sea by the hundreds of thousands during the rise of the New World. The failed Irish potato crop in 1846 was the primary reason that many fled their homeland. The country was stricken with famine. America held the promise of religious freedom, rich soil that could be planted and a vast amount of land, free for the taking. President Abraham Lincoln signed the first Homestead Act in 1862. The law allowed emigrants up to 160 acres of land for free, other than a small filing fee of $18. The applicants had to agree to live on and develop the land for five years before a deed was issued for ownership. Although it sounds too good to be true, the hard facts show that it took a lot of back-breaking work to fulfill the agreement. Who better to succeed than the diligent, hardworking Irish?
   
Each year on March 17, the U.S. turns a shade of green. The first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the U.S. can be traced back to the mid-18th century. It is believed to have started when Irish Catholics in the British army congregated and marched in the streets of Boston in honor of the country’s patron saint, Patrick. The holiday didn’t start out full of festivities and fun. It was a sad day in remembrance of the death of Patrick and to pay tribute to the man who brought Christianity to Ireland. Over the centuries, St. Patrick’s Day morphed into a celebration of Ireland’s rich history, culture, folklore and cuisine. The Irish brought many traditions to the U.S., including the practice of plant medicine.
   
Ireland is a land fabled to be rich with fairies and witches. In ancient times, the practice of healing others could be seen as witchcraft. Using natural herbs, spices and plants, village healers were revered and seen as working with fairies and Mother Nature to cure illness and disease. Irish homesteads usually had enormous gardens. One section of the garden was devoted to medicinal herbs and spices. These ingredients were used to help season foods and to also store away in a makeshift medicine cabinet as medicine. One flowered herb grows naturally throughout Ireland and didn’t need to be planted in a garden because of its abundance. Long standing healing traditions accompanied the Irish to America in the form of a shamrock.
   
The unofficial state flower of Ireland is the clover, or shamrock. Although all shamrocks are clover, not all clovers are shamrocks, but the differences are few, so the two are most often interchangeable. With her vast fields of green, Ireland is covered in clover. St. Patrick himself used the small, three-leafed herb as a teaching tool as he spread the new religion through the country. He used the clover as a metaphor while explaining the holy trinity of Christianity.
   
The clover is a tiny annual herb. Depending on the variety, the flowers can be red, white, yellow or purple. Most clover is edible and has been used to top salads or added to a stew. Be certain to research clover geographically; whereas the white clover in cold climates is fine to eat, in warmer climates the same white clover may become poisonous. Boiling the flower can increase its edibility. The clover is highly medicinal as well.
   
The red and white varieties of clover can be used as a blood purifier. Because of this, the red and white varieties can be steeped into tea as a treatment for liver or digestive tract issues. The white variety is also effective in fighting respiratory problems. The leaves and the flowers act as an expectorant and can be used to fight off lung spasms that are present with whooping cough. Generally, it is an anti-asthmatic agent.
   
Clover is loaded with phytoestrogens and is helpful with combating menopausal symptoms. It also helps to balance the hormonal glands in the body because of its high levels of proteins and vital minerals. It has also been used in treating breast and ovarian cancers.
   
Clover promotes an increase in lymph throughout the body, which builds the immune system and gives it a boost when the body is battling disease. Red clover is a blood thinner as well as a diuretic. This minimizes inflammation, cramps and muscle tension. Therapeutic levels of coumarins, the chemical compounds of anticoagulant agents, in red clover prevents plaque build- up in the arteries—making it a hero in the battle against heart disease. Rich in calcium and magnesium, clover is also effective for relaxing the central nervous system. As a poultice, red clover can be applied to the skin to treat eczema and other skin conditions.
   
The four-leaf clover, although simply a mutation from the original three-leaf clover, is said to bring luck. Luck, however, is not needed when using the herb as medicine. It’s natural and grows abundantly all over the world. It was the rich history of plant medicine in Ireland which shed light on the many benefits of the clover.

J. Garnet, M.Ed. is a writer, teacher, speaker and healer. Garnet’s passion is helping the public see that nature is medicine. Connect at 520-437-8855 or [email protected].
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