It was a sunny winter’s day, I sat down on the soft forest floor enjoying the light coming through the gaps in the trees. A clump of young hazelnut shoots were lit up like stars in the night sky.

I let my pen write…

Tree medicine. Trees in the woods, autumn colors

Woods in Autumn, Young oaks and Moss covered stones

“Listening to oneself beyond the boundaries of what we call reality. Inner listening aligned with one’s true self, the natural one who is part of all and where all resides. Trees are our masters, don’t look any further you have found the guides you have been looking for all your life. They do not come in human form but are all embracing shadows of the truth. They will lead you at all times to your inner being, they will shine the light so that you see more clearly – they are part of you, yes, hazelnut, ash, oak, beech, pine, birch, hawthorn they are all part of you and they come from where you come from ».

Learning to be a herbalist, it was easier to look down and concentrate on the plants and herbs growing near the ground rather than look up and try and integrate the strength and energy that came from the trees towering above me. Although I loved trees I wasn’t ready to understand their medicine and feel their force. I had some more growing to do first. Little by little I began to look upwards and slowly one day alone in the woods, a pine tree (Pinus slyvestris) showed me a doorway.

Pine tree herbal medicine

Pine needles and branches dripping with rain

Supportive Pine

I had constructed so many invisible between myself and others that no-one had been able to pierce. Pine was the one that got through one day in the woods. It was so natural, no longing, no forcing, no thoughts about anything just pure being, pine and myself. Enveloped, I felt so supported, gently and lovingly held in this physical reality. For the first time I felt nurtured on all levels subtle, emotional and physical.

close up pine bark. Pine medicine

Pine bark dripping with resin

What is so great about tree allays is that once the connection has been made and communication has been established it is constant and always there. Unlike us fickle mortals, the ego does not interfere. The search for that feeling of being loved and supported was over. I had found it, it is what pine knows, does and exudes, it is always here, I just have to call on pine.

This subtle but very real relationship helped me understand the ‘soul’ of pine and how I can work with it in as a herbalist. I have always admired pine’s capacity to re-trigger tired adrenals, boosting them with energy to help them get back into action. Feeling pine hold and share its tender, supportive force energetically helped me understand this physical action in a deeper way. Pine’s force is nurturing, reinitiating the two fountains of energy from the adrenal glands that give us the physical motivation we need to function fully here on earth. Pine also bears the weight of the physical structure that holds us up. It has an anti-inflammatory action on rheumatic and arthritic conditions and a re-mineralizing action on the bones.

Dr Bach used pine for those people that are constantly putting themselves down, feeling guilty and never good enough. Pine’s nurturing energy can get through the self hate and help us feel loved and therefore love ourselves.

Wilhelm Pelikan’s reflection about pine being full of ‘etheric oils (essences) and balsamic resins, which are an intervention of a luminous and calorific process in the cold areas of the earth, where the pine originates from”, sums it up well. When feeling cold and in need of support, call on pine.

I tend to use pine as an essential oil. For depleted adrenals, a drop of the oil rubbed quite vigorously into the kidney area every morning for between 3-7 days is very effective. Three days is often enough to get things going again. We are not looking for pine to bear the job of the adrenals just to get them fully going again.

I used the Gemmotherapy preparations I make with the buds, glycerine or agave syrup and alcohol for joint disease, rheumatic inflammations and osteoporosis, Gemmotherapy has a powerful draining action. It doesn’t just detoxify, it transforms and eliminates.

Birches re-birthing powers

I befriended silver birch (Betula pendula)  on a one level of knowing many, many years ago when I was interested in runes and their meanings. The rune Berkana is the rune of the birch tree. Re-birth, renewal, regeneration, sanctuary, and motherhood are all part of its symbology.

It wasn’t until I started collecting birch sap many years later that I began to truly understand the symbolism behind the rune.

Alone amongst the white skinned birch trees, where the signs of spring were still only a pulsation from inside the earth. The birch responds to this pulsation by calling the sweet mineralized waters up through her slender, luminous trunk. The force with which it does this triggers the awakening of spring and we feel the seasonal re-birthing of life’s vital force.

The first sips of the sweet sap, straight from the tree renew the groggy body fluids of a static winter with the flowing waters of spring.

Birch like the pine prefers the colder regions of this planet. The resistant birch is very well adapted to the extreme conditions of Northern Europe. It supplies the Northern people’s daily needs such as housing, clothing, food and medicine and is also a link between the visible and invisible.

Birch pulls the liquids of the earth up through its trunk and pushes the celestial forces down to the earth. Birch opens the doorway that facilitates communication with our natural surroundings and nature’s spirits. Birch’s energy is very feminine and ‘watery’. Even the celestial energies that it helps earth are fluid, a form of water that is not wet.

The parallel between the subtle, energetic messages of birch and its traditional medicinal uses are very close. Its draining action echoes the movement of fluids.It brings movement back into stagnant articulations, moving and evacuating the accumulated uric acid crystals. This draining action purifies and detoxifies the organism, helping cure skin disorders and urinary infections.

One of the major constituents in birch is methyl salicylate, which alongside the draining and depurative action will ease muscular and rheumatism pain. Birch gets things moving and leaves way for renewal, cleansing and the transformation of matter and energy.

Birch tree medicine, birch rune,

Bottle collecting birch sap from tree

Birch sap is great medicine but difficult to preserve, it is at its best when drank straight form the tree. Not everyone is in a position to do this, however. It keeps for 3-4 days in a refrigerator before fermenting. Some companies in Europe pasteurize or freeze it for commercializing. Both these methods will change the inherent make-up of the sap. According to Dr Tétau (1) it contains among other things two glycosides that liberate methyl salicylate through enzymatic hydrolysis. This gives the sap its analgesic, anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties. The best way I have found to stabilize the sap is by making it into a tincture, which can be used alone or added to other tinctures or gemmotherapy preparations.

“I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree~
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.”
Robert Frost

Oak. Let your gentleness be your strength

And then there is oak (Quercus petraea). Oak took me a lot longer to get to know. I think maybe because my preconceived ideas about oak got in the way. Oak has taught me a lot about what ‘strength’ really is. Oak has taught me that true, authentic strength is soft and loving, expansive and gentle. Oak’s energy fills space with a tender, mellow all expansive, very reassuring resonance. I call on oak when I need to feel safe. When I am working with a toxic plant for example and I need to be sure that I won’t get myself into difficulty. I ask for the presence of oak to keep things within secure boundaries. Oak is like an age-old teacher, whose mere presence is enough.

Dr. Bach used oak for very strong people who fight against illness and adversity but never seem to get beyond their difficulties. This makes sense to me in relation to oak’s message about what strength really is. The ‘fighter’ often has this unrealistic view of true strength, that has rigidity and ‘pressure’ to it .Oak teaches and brings to the situation a calm gentleness of authentic strength coupled with a sense of timelessness. Oaks grow slowly and surely to become majestic keepers of the surrounding lands.

Medicinally oak has always been considered a powerful toning astringent due to its high tannin content. In Europe, however it is hardly used now internally. Its tannins are considered too strong for most purposes. External use of the bark as an antiseptic astringent such as wounds that are taking a long time to heal, anal fissures and hemorrhoids is a more common use. It is also used as a gargle for mouth ulcers and weak gums.

I use the buds in gemmotherapy preparations. They mirror the essential energy of the oak supporting the spirit and mental strength of the patient, especially in cases where the vital life force is dwindling. The buds stimulate both the physical and psychological aspects and help bring the person back to a place where healing can begin, a place of robust, calm, connectedness with the whole.

Herbal tree medicine, Oak healing

Looking up into huge oak tree through its branches

Hawthorn for the heart

I love connecting with the old hawthorn trees when I go back to the UK. They are so much part of the ancientness and magic of the land here. They take me back to a time before the madness of today’s world when the trees were worshipped for their wisdom.
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) stays relatively small. Its strength is definitely not in its size or majestic aspect. However it has a deep, inner, sacred strength, a mystical, wise, underground type of knowing.
Hawthorns often grow in communities, in hedges or glades The spirit of hawthorn reflects this sense of an ancient, healing and magical community. One that you don’t just walk into willy-nilly, a community that demands a form of initiation to enter.
Hawthorns are the guardians of other realms. Some may refer to as fairy realms and I see as sacred, knowing realms. In Europe, up to the 19th century hawthorn went more or less unnoticed, mentioned occasionally for the odd banal property linked to its astringency.
Its physicality echoes an ability to ‘close’ things off. Entrance is difficult, the wood is hard and gnarled with spiky thorns. The density of its branches and leaves make a great protection against the wind and the intrusion of animals and humans.
At the same time hawthorn has the ability to encourage life. It provides a secure home for many birds and insects and in the month of May it lights up the hedges with its abundance of white flowers. Here in France these pure white flowers that seem to appear from nowhere and just as quickly disappear have always been a symbol of innocence and virginity linked to wedding ceremonies and the Virgin Mary. I see them as a symbol of the magic and underworld that hawthorn is linked to. These flowers that seem like foreigners to this forbidding tree covered with thorns represent the purity of the real knowing that is hidden deep down in its roots. They bloom once a year at springtime to remind us that things are not always as they seem and that in the depths of our souls, the light of our being is buried. In the darkness of the forest live the spirits of nature.
Hawthorn seems to be a doorkeeper for the two worlds, and lives in both simultaneously.
Hawthorn’s main use today is in relation to our rhythmic system. It supports the heart, physically, energetically and spiritually. Physically, it is restorative to the heart, often referred to in France as the “valerian of the heart”. A powerful cardio-tonic, it is used to regularize circulation of the blood by acting simultaneously on the cardiac muscle and the vessels by the intermediary of the nervous system.
It is also used to dilate the coronary arteries helping with the dissolution of arterial deposits without raising blood pressure or increasing the beat.
I was confused when I first began to study hawthorn. Most of the books in English referred to the use of the berries and in French they always spoke about the flowers.
I decided to make tinctures in springtime from the flowers and in autumn from the berries and often I blended the two. Since then however I have discovered that it is the flowers that act on the heart’s rhythm and blood pressure and the berries on the actual heart muscle. I now tend to keep the tinctures separate.
As a tree essence I find it useful when working on ‘closed’ and ‘damaged’ hearts, as it seems to help soften the heart. it can be used to create safe space around you for love, trust and forgiveness to develop. Forgiveness of the self being a major aspect.
Hawthorn for the heart, herbal medicine

Hawthorn berries in the rain in the woods


Connecting with trees, feeling and listening to their messages has helped me to create a more stable structure around my work with plants. They were the missing element. Their size, woodiness, age and vibration give a scale to the plant world. Trees live alongside us, they are a common feature of our lives. Many of us forget to  communicate with them and therefore miss the lessons of some of the best teachers we have on this earth. Once the connection has been made, my soul recognizes the tree that has always been part of me and welcomes it home.

Thank-you trees for knocking on the door of my heart.

If you are interested in deepening your relationship with trees and plants check out our Intuitive Plant Communication Class :


References: (1) Dr Tetau was a French homeopath who developed the work of Dr Pol Henry on tree buds, naming it gemmotherapy.

Bibliography: Traité de gemmothérapie by Phillipe Andrianne

Le Bouleau by Bernard Bertrand

Précis de phytothérapie by Christian Escriva


Photo of hawthorn barrier, thank to Davina Wynne Jones of herbs for healing, England.