The month of May is a time when most Americans have finished dusting off the last signs of winter. It’s also a month to celebrate new growth and spring flowers. Mother’s Day is celebrated this month on May 12, so don’t forget one of the most important people in life—perhaps with some flowers.
With their bright colors and fragrant aromas, flowers are Mother Nature’s smile on humanity. Whether they’re wild flowers intricately woven in a meadow of beautiful patchwork, the product of weeks of careful nurturing or a single dandelion given by a child, flowers make people happy.
Some people suffer from hay fever and allergies, but still find the beauty of the delicate petals and bright cheerful colors and shapes, accepting the sneezing, congestion and watery eyes they can cause. There are some who willingly suffer through allergy symptoms just so that a beautiful floral arrangement can decorate a table, or sit, sing or dance in the midst of a garden or field of wildflowers. People love the beauty of flowers, consequences or not.
According to AboutFlowers.com, 33 percent of Americans will buy flowers or plants for their mother and women they admire this Mother’s Day. Flowers are a beautiful gift that says, “I love you”. They’re also colorful and bring cheer wherever they are displayed. Flowers can be worn as a corsage, tucked behind an ear or pressed into a book as a reminder of a special event.
More uncommon uses for flowers are incorporating them into natural medicine. Chromotherapy, or color therapy, and aromatherapy are two ways that flowers can be useful in a healthy lifestyle. Also seen infused into delectable menu items in restaurants or topping a salad at home, flowers are much more than a simple garnish; some can be eaten as a form of medicine.
Kate Smith, a color consultant in Lorton, Virginia, believes that the colors used to enhance or decorate a room “can have profound effects on the emotional well-being”. Color psychology is becoming more popular and recognized as a wonderful aid in mental health. Psychologists have shown that color can affect mood, motivation, creativity and relaxation. The color red is good for stimulating the appetite and helping with ease of conversation, whereas blues, greens and purples can curb the appetite. Yellow, and its many hues, can activate the metabolism. Deep greens can bring about focus and concentration—the perfect color for an office space—whereas olive greens can bring about a tranquil and calming feeling.
Colors can help with the way a space is perceived. Specific colored flowers can be used as an accessory in almost any room of a house. Splashes of color can have the same effect on mood as a painted room, so by putting certain colored floral arrangements in different areas of the home, mental health can be improved. Not only can the vibrant colors of flowers have a positive effect on the body, but the abounding fragrance and essence of flowers has an equally beneficial reaction.
Aromatherapy and essential oils are soaring to new heights as research continues to show that certain scents are beneficial for a wide array of illness and disease. Floral scents can stimulate healing. Roses can help bring about a soothing and uplifting mood. They’re also good for relieving stress and anxiety and can also lessen the feelings associated with hormonal imbalance. Like roses, lavender is commonly used to promote a sense of balance and calm. It’s good for people who suffer from insomnia. It relieves tension, eases depression, calms the nerves and diminishes the symptoms of headaches and migraines. Jasmine has an intoxicating aroma. It’s been used as an aphrodisiac as well as an antidepressant. It can boost confidence and help trigger the metabolism. The lotus flower and its sweet scent is good for easing anger and stimulating the appetite.
Probably the most uncommon benefit of some flowers is consuming them, either raw, straight from the plant or cooked in a variety of ways. Guests wouldn’t be all that surprised sitting at a dining room table with a beautiful arrangement of flowers adorning it, but would be shocked if the hostess reached over and plucked a flower from the vase and declared, “Dig in.”
Plants and trees can be medicine. It shouldn’t be that difficult to see that the flowers produced by plants and trees could also be used medicinally. Certainly, not all flowers are safe to eat, but those that are can have some wondrous medicinal value. As always, with any natural medicine or supplement, research is needed before consumption. Hibiscus flowers are often used for decorative purposes, or even made into a tea, but seldom seen being pulled from the plant and eaten. Researchers have shown that eating the roselle variety of hibiscus can aid in lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Although scientifically unproven, honeysuckle has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries for fighting inflammation. Nasturtium is often used as a garnish for many dishes, but are eaten for their savory, spicy taste. These colorful flowers are full of antioxidants which can help fight disease. The starflower, or borage, tastes sweet, like a combination of cucumber and honey, and has also been used in Chinese medicine to ease minor coughs and sore throats. The succulent, purslane, produces tiny yellow flowers which are full of essential vitamins and minerals, but are eaten more for their high levels of omega-3 fat. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, purslane provides more omega-3s than most any other vegetable of its kind.
On this upcoming Mother’s Day, remember that the beautiful arrangement of flowers that are given can offer much more than the message “I love you”. The vibrant colors can aid mental health, the aromas can combat headaches and the taste can lower high blood pressure.
Jeffrey Green, M.A., has taught grades K-12 as well as at the University of Arizona. Currently a freelance writer, Reiki Master and Animal Reiki Practitioner, Green enjoys educating the public on natural and holistic alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs.