The Twelve Days of a Green Christmas – Ninth Day


On the ninth day of Christmas my green friend gave to me…nine mystery plants…eight light bulbs…seven milkweed plants…a six pack of beer…five pairs of slippers…four chocolate bars…three holly trees…two vent fans…and a new doorbell!

This year my green friend gave me a “puzzle” for the ninth day of a green Christmas!  These were nine mystery plants that I was not familiar and were edible as well as medicinal. I was to research how I could consume them and what benefits they possess.  This was a pretty big assignment that I hoped to finish by the end of the day.

#1 – Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) – The reputation of hawthorn is well-founded. Studies have shown that the flavonoid content in the plant is responsible for improving the health of the heart muscle. Hawthorn is also a well-loved herb for those with irregular heartbeats. Some studies have even suggested that this tree has the ability to lower cholesterol levels and prevent fat from accumulating on the artery walls of the aorta and the liver. The tart berries, flowers and leaves have been used in clinical studies. I would probably prefer the berries because they are easy to add to my morning smoothies. A medicinal tea or tincture is also an option and I might also try a tea. It is well-documented that hawthorn is slow-acting, so you will want to commit to at least four to eight weeks of steady use before you begin to see changes.

Aronia berries Photo credit: istock

#2 – Aronia (Aronia melanocarpa) – Aronia is also known as black chokeberry. Commonly found between fields, this gangly bush spreads by suckers, sprouting new shoots around the base of the original plant and forming colonies. It produces a black berry that is often only appreciated by birds, but this shrub has a secret. Aronia berries are remarkably rich in antioxidants, compounds that play an important role in cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that a diet that includes aronia can reduce cholesterol levels and even speed recovery after a heart attack. The berries are tart, but gain a bit of sweetness after frost (or some time in the freezer).

#3 – Turmeric (Curcuma longa) – I buy this as a “tuber” or powdered herb and use it often but I have not grown it nor would I recognize it as a plant. Turmeric is a flowering plant in the ginger family, grows 3 to 5 feet high in the tropical regions of southern Asia. The spice is made from drying the plant’s root and grinding it into a fine powder.  Turmeric is best known for giving mustard its’ yellow color.  It is a good herb to support the digestive system as well as an anti-inflammatory herb.  I can personally attest to its’ anti-inflammatory benefits!

#4 – Yucca (Yucca schidigera) – Yucca root is well-known as an anti-inflammatory remedy for arthritic conditions. Studies support the anti-inflammatory properties of the plant’s active ingredients, steroidal saponins.

#5 – Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) – This beautiful member of the rose family has salicylates, also found in aspirin and other over-the-counter pain relievers. The combination of compounds within the plant render this a gentle alternative to aspirin. Meadowsweet is a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory, but it is best at carrying away uric acid and other waste that can collect around sore joints.

#6 – Nettle (Urtica dioica) – Nettles are high in protein. While growing, its chemical makeup allows the plant to process protein in the surrounding soil. In the human body, the same process occurs. In the case of joint issues, this is a benefit, as waste proteins that build up in our joints, such as uric acid in the case of gout, can cause pain and inflammation. Nettle has a long history of escorting this particular class of waste to the door by way of the kidneys. Steaming or drying nettle deactivates its stinging and can make it a delicious and nutritious part of the diet as food.

#7 – Burdock (Arctium lappa) – Burdock is an accepted remedy for arthritis and gout. Its benefits lie in what this delicious root can do for our livers. The root may be eaten as a root vegetable.

Mullein Photo Credit: Mother Earth Living

#8 – Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) – Part of the snapdragon family, mullein’s flowers are flat and open, unlike the irregular “dragon faces” of snapdragons. The leaves and flowers contain mucilage, which is soothing to irritated membranes, and saponins. Research has shown strong anti-inflammatory activity resulting from this herb. Leaf or flower teas have been widely used to treat chest colds, bronchitis and asthma.

Plantain Photo Credit: Mother Earth Living

#9 – Plantain (Plantago major) – Plantain is a well-known antidote to venoms and poisons, such as spider and snake bites. Its’ detoxifying, anti-inflammatory and astringent qualities make it helpful for alleviating symptoms of bug bites and stings, including itching, and it has also been used to prevent the spread of poison ivy on skin. Plantain’s cooling nature makes it excellent for burns and sunburns, and used as a poultice, it can assist in the removal of splinters and glass embedded in skin.

Since I am unfamiliar with all the mystery plants my green friend gave me today I will plant each of these plants in a pot that I can move to various locations in my yard until I can determine where they might like growing.  I also need to learn more about each individual plant to decide how I might incorporate it into my life.

If this is the first post you have read of my green rendition of the Twelve Days of a Christmas and you can’t figure out what the heck I am writing about or why I’m writing about the Twelve Days after Christmas, click here to read how this all began. I hope you join me tomorrow for the Tenth Day of a Green Christmas!


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