Monday, February 21, 2011

A Flower's Little Secret

The plant world is forever inspiring me with its ability to maximize opportunity. The fact that plants will climb a fence, reach toward the sun or scatter their seeds for optimal fertilization is often explained botanically and biologically, but, heavens, there seems to be something greater behind those abilities and aspirations than simple DNA.

The lovely flower Evening Primrose takes advantage of its opportunities in quite an efficient manner. Its buttery blossoms open each morning, enjoy the sunshine, then close up tight at night. Are they conserving energy? Do they have a secret? The reserve their beauty for daylight when they'll get the most bang for the buck--sunshine, fresh air, and visiting pollinators. But it's possible there's more to it than that.

Evening primrose has been appreciated for centuries mostly because Theophrastus, in about 350BC, lauded the plant for (basically) healing hangovers. He also said the plant gladdened the heart and would tame wild rough beasts (including, presumably, drunk humans).

Native American tribes used the stems and leaves to soothe inflamed tissues (both externally and internally). And recently, thanks to scientific inquiry, we have discovered that the seeds hold a very valuable oil that helps regulate hormonal cycles in women (hallelujah!), heals skin diseases such as eczema, treats anxiety (just like lemon balm), and acts like vitamin E.

How much more can this one little flower offer humanity? In part, it's a question of opportunity--how can we maximize our opportunity with this botanical specimen and "get all we can out of it"? Which of course is not a wholistic approach, at all. We should be grateful, accepting, and honoring of Mother Nature's gifts. And of course we are. But I ask you: do we, personally, really maximize our opportunities like we should? Aren't there myriad possibilities out there waiting for us to act on them, yet we ignore them out of fear, uncertainty, or anxiety?

Naturally, there is a fine line between optimizing our opportunities and exploiting that which gives us something. Evening primrose is not one to be exploited: we know that just by watching her flowers close up each evening. She's not about to let herself be exploited. But she does have something to teach us, and medicine to share with us, if we're respectful...and receptive.


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