Ancient Magnolia you truly are stunning, feminine and breathtaking.
At this time of year ( in late March and through April ) when the Magnolia trees are blooming, their huge flowers that can be as big as my face are reaching into the sky like white, pink and purple flames, stroking the air with beauty and dazzling my senses.
I have been sitting and watching some of the Magnolia trees that I know, and seen them developing their little furry pods that are then, over time, gently pushed open by the pink and white bud that is within, the hairy grey pods are then cast aside onto the earth. This to me is deeply sensual, feminine and delightful, like a baby being pushed from the womb out of the vulva and into the air. These furry pods then look like bats ears on the ground, which can be deeply confusing for many passers by.
Magnolia is Native to East and Southeast Asia, particularly China which makes sense to my eyes when I see the shape and unique beauty of the flowers. This is a hardy tree and is one of the oldest flowering trees going back 100 million years!
I think it is amazing that this beautiful being has survived and thrived all of the extreme weather conditions over so much time and grown to be so beautiful and strong. This to me is a great tree to remember at times that need perseverance and strength, the times when I’m feeling like I just cant grow through something with grace and beauty, I remember these strong hardy branches and breathtaking flowers.
I was first taught about this tree by a group of women who sent me to pick its blossom in the full moon. This was their traditional way to do it and it had been done like this for many many many moons, as this is when it scent is at its strongest and its feminine energy at its peak.
Barefoot I followed the track they set me on with bats swooping and an owl hooting in the night air and came out in an opening where Magnolia lifted its blossoms up to the moon, rising in a soft and clear fragrant smell. In a way I hardly dared touched the blossoms and yet all of me ached to. This little journey of gathering these blossoms under the moon felt deeply womanly and deeply ancient.
I was then taught a preparation using the gathered flowers and some of the bark; turning them into an oil for the womb and a potion to help calm anxiety.
Magnolia as Medicine-
The medicinal properties of Magnolia are many, for me some of the medicine just comes from looking at the magnificent blooms and spending time outside under their branches occasionally nibbling a petal here and there.
Chinese medicine has been using extract of Magnolia bark and flowers for many many years, as an agent that helps promote flow of Qi
(the circulating life force whose existence and properties are the basis of much Chinese philosophy and medicine)
and eliminates dampness from a persons middle and so treating stagnation and indigestion. By increasing the circulation of Qi it also helps coughing and asthma and also liver stagnation really anything that is stuck in its energy.
The main qualities that I know this tree for is its wonderful and potent calming ability by reducing tension and anxiety and improving our adaptation to stress through the endocrine system. Small doses of tincture made from Magnolia bark helps with anxiety and depression as it contains Honokiol which is often compared with Vallium but holds none of the negative side effects.
Magnolia is a gorgeous friend for women, it works well with cramping associated with monthly bleeds and will help to bring on a missing bleed. This beautiful tree also works with the woman going through the menopause working well at calming hot flashes, irritability, insomnia, depression, anxiety, loss of libido and vaginal dryness.
As I mentioned I love making a womb oil from the flowers and bark that is applied warm onto the skin. It is such a nourishing act that really helps to get things moving or calmed.
Magnolia as food
The flowers of Magnolia trees are edible and medicinal. They are thick and crunchy, tasting highly fragrant, soapy, spicy and floral. I will always remember being fed gently cooked Magnolia flowers that were stuffed with crushed pistachios and almonds and then drizzled with a rose petal syrup, it was heady and intoxicating and fit for a goddess.
I have eaten some beautifully wondrous Magnolia dishes, from divine creations involving puddings, roses, honeys, figs and nuts, and I have had some really dodgy ones that were bitter or flavourless. So it is worth experimenting and tasting the petals before diving in. Although just thrown into a salad is a lovely and easy way to have them.
I love to make honey with magnolia by infusing the petals in raw honey for 4 or more weeks. I then use this honey in teas, on bananas, stewed apples, smoothies or anything you can imagine having honey on 😉 I have put it all over my face and used it as an ingredient for face masks too which feels very decadent and exotic.
It is traditional in the UK to pickle Magnolia flowers and my dear friend Robin Harford has a good recipe for this on his website. I also have it in mind to ferment some this year as I found a Sandor Ellix Katz recipe for this and I will be making my usual magnolia vinegar to go with salad dressings. I haven’t yet tried to replicate my goddess meal but maybe this is the year to give it a go.
So enjoy the sensual goddess that is Magnolia, stick your face in her blooms, breathe in her scent, find her in a full moon and nibble on her petals; she is ancient and she is wise and much can be learnt from her.
This is definitely an herb that can be toxic in high doses so one must be careful. Avoid taking bark and tincture if pregnant, breast feeding, avoid giving to small children, elderly, those with respiratory conditions. Avoid taking with painkillers, sedatives. May cause vertigo in some.