Weeds of Wonder (Spurge)
This is the beginning of a new series of posts entitled Weeds of Wonder!
In one of my early posts, I said that healing was about a change of perspective...of creating awareness. I plan to use this series to bring you to an awareness of the beauty and value of the lowest of the low....the "weeds" that grow around us.
I often say, at the beginning of one of my herb walks, that there is no such thing as a weed...just ignorant people. I include myself among that group because, although I have come a long way in developing my awareness about the seemingly lowest of the plants that share our daily lives, there are still many out there that are yet to reveal their wonders to me.
I find that prospect exciting.
I have decided to start with Spurge because I have experienced a personal demonstration of its wonders...such that, the plant I used to step on without regard, and tear from my garden on mass with disdain, now receives a place of honour when I find it growing.
I am starting with Spurge because, of all the "weeds" it is certainly one of the lowest of the low. It is viewed in even lower esteem than Dandelion or Nettles, which do have quite a great deal of respect within the folk tradition.
Spurge belongs to the genus Euphorbiaceae, and I have seen estimates of between 2,008 - 2,420 different species. From that vast group it manifests itself as a source of drugs, a garden ornamental.....and as a weed.
The Spurge we are interested in is the Petty Spurge, which is of European origin and found in your garden, on paths, the cracks in pavement and in scruffy stony areas. It's sap or latex is toxic and has been traditionally used to remove warts and sunspots.
My Dad has a lot to answer for in developing my interest in plants during my early childhood. It was also he who sent me some notes on Spurge that started me experimenting.
For about 9 years I had been living with a metal splinter in, I believe, my right thumb (It has been gone for some time now...and healed so well, I can only trust on my questionable memory to get the story straight). The splinter had gone straight in, and was visible through the skin, but not easily accessible for removal. The problem with metal splinters is, unlike wooden ones, they do not eventually break down. In this case, a rather ugly collection of callous and wart-like growths, about the size of a five pence piece, developed, just above the splinter.
I had been talking to my Dad about Spurge, and pondering its uses. From the information he sent me it was evident that one of the traditional uses is the topical application of the toxic latex against warts. This puts it into the same group as Dandelion and Greater Celandine. Always willing to experience healing first hand I decided to give it a go. I took a fresh plant, and with its permission, broke it at the stem. The lovely white latex bubbled up into a little white drop, which I applied only to the affected skin of my thumb. There was no obvious reaction, so the next day I made a second application. This time my thumb started to get red and angry. I was scheduled to be leaving in a day or so for a survival course in the Tirol mountains in Austria. I did not want to have to contend with any extra problems, so I decided to hold off with any more applications until my return. However, the dye was cast.
I set out for my survival course, but in spite of no further applications of the Spurge latex, my finger began to swell. Eventually, It became quite painful and so I asked a couple of the organisers of the course if they had something in the first aid that I could use just to wrap around my thumb so it was not subjected to pressure or bumping (there was plenty of cool moss about that would have done the trick too).
By now my thumb was swollen to double its normal size. When they looked at it they both inhaled deeply and offered to get me down the mountain and to a hospital where it could be seen to. I thanked them but refused, opting to draw from my own herbal first aid kit as well as the surrounding herbs to get through the situation. After all, it was a survival course...and I wanted a crack at surviving, whatever was thrown at me.
When I went to bed that night my thumb was twice its normal size, swollen, extremely painful and full of puss...Here is an excellent example of the body reverting back to an acute expression to finally resolve a long standing condition.
When I woke the next morning I found the wound had opened in the night and drained, taking the splinter with it. Finally, the real healing process could begin.
Certainly, I used other herbs to bring the situation to a conclusion and to ward off infection in the process. But without a doubt it was Spurge that started me down the road to the end of a journey that had lasted 9 years.
The spurge worked to create a hot/acute situation in the body, that was necessary to bring the condition to a conclusion. The hot and parched environment often occupied by Spurge gives us an insight into its energetics as illustrated in this case. Furthermore, the white latex has a visual connection to the pus that formed in my wound as part of the necessary healing process.
I said in one of my earlier blogs that, for me, the working of The Doctrine of Signatures goes beyond the simple resemblance of a plant, or any of its parts, to a human body part as being indicative of its point of application with respect to disease of the human condition. I believe this doctrine is also active in the touch, taste, smell, feel and sound of plants. At another level, Spurge teaches us to even go beyond this understanding. On an emotional level this weed of wonder offers and example of humility, inner strength, patience, and hidden beauty. It is so unassuming...and yet, when we get to know Spurge more closely....to see where it grows and what it endures..this Cinderella of herbs....when we start to understand what it brings to us on so many levels....then we can never step out our front door and see it quite in the same light again!
Health and Happiness
The Green Man