Sunday, March 12, 2017


LILAC –Syringa Vulgaris, Syringa Persica, Syringa Alba

Also known as:  Goat’s Rue

Parts used: leaves, flowers, fruit

Systems/organs affected: skin, immune, nervous, kidneys

Properties:  febrifuge, tonic, anthelmintic, anti-periodic, aromatic, edible, emollient, slightly astringent, antifungal, antibacterial, antidepressant

          Lilac is a member of the Oleaceae (Olive) family.  There are around 25 species of this family.  It is native to South Eastern Europe and Asia but can be found all over the globe now as a naturalized plant.  It is fairly cold tolerant as well.  Lilac is a bush that can get between 5-15 feet in height. (The difference between a bush and a tree is that trees stem from one main trunk while bushes usually have several trunks branching from them).  It has deep green leaves, oval column like clusters of flowers and leathery capsuled fruit.  The flowers come in a variety of colors these days from purple to white and red to yellow.  The flowers are hermaphrodite and are pollinated by moths, bees and butterflies.  This plant thrives in most soils but is partial to well drained alkaline loamy type soil.  The purple variety is the most well-known (Syringa Vulgaris) and the most widely used for medicinal purposes.

One cannot help but be happy around this plant.  The smell evokes a sense of happiness and for some-stimulates memories long forgotten.  Lilacs were introduced to this region by pioneers in the 1800’s that were traveling from the East.  That is why you can find them out in the sticks where human life has long since moved away.  Syringa comes from the Greek term ‘Syrinx’ and means ‘hollow tube or pipe’.  While lilac branches are not hollow, apparently they are easy to hollow out and were often used to make flutes or reed pipes anciently.  In Greek mythology, Syringa was the name of a nymph that mesmerized Pan-the god of forests and fields, with her beauty.  He chased the nymph through the forest but lost track of her as she turned herself into a lilac bush with the assistance of some friends. (Talk about trying to get away from someone…that is the extreme).  At this point Pan realizes he was clutching reeds from his heart’s desire-the lovely Syrinx.  His sighs combined with the wind and created music within the reeds.  Hermes suggested that Pan take the reeds and make them into different lengths and bind them together into a pan flute, which they called Syrinx in honor of his lost nymph.

Lilac symbolizes young love, wisdom and remembrance.  Its scent is often used to increase one’s mental abilities, promote harmony and help to unlock long repressed emotions.

The flowers are edible but there are two schools of thought.  Some say the purple are sweet while the white ones are bitter, some say the opposite is true.  I suppose every person has their own feelings on the subject so you will have to leave it up to your own taste buds.  Consuming lilac blossoms is not new.  According to ancient art the blossoms were consumed in Pompeii (was near Naples), Rome and in Greece as well.  Flowers were used to enhance the flavor of food as well as decorating the plate.  The French used them in salads and drinks as did other European countries.  As it turns out, edible flowers do have nutritional value-especially in regards to color.  The organic pigments (carotenoids) within floral plants contain a rare form of lutein not found in other foods.  Consuming blossoms has been found to improve vision and overall eye health and to reducing one’s chances of getting cataracts and/or macular degeneration.  The flowers have also been used for syrups and candied for pastries.

The medicinal use of the oil (which doesn’t exist now) started in the 19th century.  It was used to help get rid of intestinal parasites and as a tonic to prevent disease from occurring (anti-periodic).  It was also used quite often for fevers but it worked erratically so people (and doctors) stopped using it and as such this plant became more of an ornamental and its medicinal uses were lost.  Lilac oil was also used topically for sunburns, skin rashes, scrapes and a host of other skin maladies.  Today it is only found as a fragrance oil and is used in an assortment of cosmetic and cleaning products.

The leaves have been used in infusions to stop the recurrence of malaria, which aside from its use as a vermifuge, was its most common application.  One can make a cold infused floral water as well for a refreshing summer beverage.  Some references said that eating the flowers may help with gastric issues too. 

Lilacs were also believed to bring good luck-although the white lilac was associated with death.  I suppose this was due to the fact that lilacs were often found growing in cemeteries and the flowers were used to surround the dead to mask the smell of decaying flesh.  Pale purple was considered a color of mourning while dark purple was associated with Lilith (in some cultures this name is in reference to a class of female demons), which means ‘night’ and was often used by voodoo practitioners for casting spells.  Lilac was also associated in folk tales with love.  It was believed that if one could consume one petal after another of the 5 petaled tiny flowers without getting them stuck in one’s throat that their love was true.  It was also thought that if a branch was brought into the home in the fall and was able to bloom by Christmas that one’s future marriage was to be a ‘good match’.

In Japan the Airu (Inao) use lilac wood for the stem of the chief as it doesn’t rot easily.  The Inao are a type of whittled wands that are set up on the east side of Ainu lodges and would hold the skulls of an assortment of animals.  These were considered offerings to the gods and were honored.  The stems were regularly cleaned too keep them from decay too as it was believed that if they rotted that the person whose lodge had the rotting poles would also decay and die soon.

Lilacs were also believed to act as a protective shield against invasive psychic energy (I am guessing they could be used similarly to sage in that regard to ward off or scare evil spirits).  Some aroma therapists refer to lilac as a ‘stealth spiritual warrior’.
          There are a host of ways this plant can be used.  One can make a cold infused oil or a steam infused one-either process takes a lot of time and patience.  Teas are most commonly employed but you can also make honey, wine, cordials, syrups, ice cream and jellies from lilacs. 

          Lilacs may trigger skin issues if one is sensitive.  The skin becomes red and itchy and may develop hives.  So when in doubt, don’t use it.  Always consult a physician before starting any herbal product or regimen.

As is customary with all my posts I am including some links below for you information and entertainment.  Stay strong and healthy!

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