One of my favorite celestial bodies is the Moon. Also known as Luna, la Lune, Луна, Φεγγάρι, Mond, Maan, to translate into just a few different languages, the Moon is our Earth’s only natural satellite, and has scientifically confirmed influence on the ocean tides, and unconfirmed influence on the psyches of humans.
Wikipedia is full of all sorts of interesting snippets of wisdom regarding the moon and its darkside, and if you have time to browse it, I fully recommend it!
Being an astrological Moon Child, I have been drawn to lunar associations ever since I was a gothic, jaded, and moody teen. When I entered college, and disposed of my gothic persona, I became drawn to the cosmic, ethereal forces of the moon. Since I lived 20 ft from a tidal bay, I was able to witness the effects of the moon on the tides two times each day. I commuted to school on bicycle, and I had to ride up a long, steep hill each day on my way to class. I noticed that on the mornings when it was high tide AND a full moon, it was infinitely more difficult to ride up that hill—almost as if the gravitational pull of the tide and moon was pulling my bicycle backwards towards the murky, muddy depths of the water—reaching for my soul and attempting to suck me into a death of cold, deep mud.
Even now, as a down-to earth, practical, and grown-up adult, I am still drawn to all things lunar. Whenever I see the fingernail-sliver of the waxing or waning crescent moon, I still draw my breath and admire in wonder. I’ve even hooked my moon child 5-year old into my lunar fixations. When she sees the sliver of crescent moon in the night sky, she delights in chanting “Mommy’s favorite moo—oon, Mommy’s favorite moo—oon,” like a mantra of a sing-song know-it-all.
Last night, after we’d been happily spending our evening in the warm waters of the therapy pool while the local chapter of the A&FCP&D rehearsed in our playroom, my daughters and I had the fortune of watching the lunar eclipse. Due to a bit of overcast clouds, when the eclipse reached its apex, the moon seemed to vanish completely into the night sky.
Thoughts of ancient times danced through my head~~what would our local ancient natives have thought as they witnessed the disappearance of the moon? What did the Vikings think was happening? The ancient Greeks? Some of these questions are addressed in myths and folklore surrounding eclipses. But the thoughts of my 5 year old were equally mythological. As the sky became dark and the place where the moon was hidden covered with thin clouds, my daughter began a slight wimper, “Come back, Earth, come back Earth…the Earth is going to disappear with the Moon…I don’t want to disappear! Mama, make the Moon come back!”
I was thoroughly fascinated. A child is essentially operating on primal emotion and instinct for many years before society eventually kills those instincts off. I was witnessing her own primal reaction to the eclipse and was able to observe how the mysteries of the unknown truly do trump all that science has to offer. Sometimes it’s just too cool to have these little beings around to remind us of that!
During my studies of herbal medicine, I’ve discovered a wealth of myths and folklore surrounding the cosmos, plants, and healing. Many herbs are presumed to be under the influence of the moon, and so, today’s lunar herb of the day is Ashwaganda.
Ashwaganda, or Winter Cherry
Latin Name: Withania somnifera
Ashwaganda is a member of the nightshade family, however it lacks the poisonous constituents found in other nightshades such as Datura and Belladonna. Typically found and cultivated in India, Ashwaganda is generally prescribed to overworked, overstressed and often hypertensive people. Ashwaganda is India's native answer to Ginseng and it is currently being applied in Ayurvedic medicine to treat hypertension and stress related ailments. It is also prescribed for male infertility and is said to increase libido. In Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwaganda is said to be a rejuvenative herb, and is considered an adaptogen—meaning that it helps the body to adapt to stress and change and restores balance to the body’s physiological functions. It is also used to help treat memory loss associated with aging. A double-blind study found that ashwaganda prevented stress-related ulcers and vitamin C deficiency, and increased energy and endurance when under stress. It is well established for its effectiveness in dysmenorrhoea. It is said to produce an estrogen-like effect that enhances the repair of the endometrial tissue and stops bleeding. It is also useful in internal bleeding, hemorrhoids and also hemorrhagic dysentery.
The plant is rich in potent alkaloids, including withamosine, visamine, cuscohygrine, anahygrine, tropine, pseudotropine, anaferine, isopelletierine, and withaferin A. The plant contains a large number of novel compounds known as withanolides.
Eastern and Western herbal medicine use the dried root. Most notably, the dry, cut root. Berries of this plant are mildly toxic to the stomach and gastrointestinal tract, however, the berries are used as a rennet substitute for the making of cheese.
Tea decoction from the root, liquid herbal extract, herbal capsules (non-standardized) Dried crushed or powdered roots can be applied to food or directly consumed.
Botanical safety guidelines in the US and Germany have suggested that Ashwaganda may be a mild abortifacient and it is not recommended for pregnant women.