by Kiva Rose
Common Name: Peach
Botanical Name: Prunus persica
Energetics: Cooling, moistening
Taste: Sweet, aromatic, bitter
Primary Organ System Affinities: Upper GI, uterus, nervous system
Specific Indications: dryness, heat, irritability and tension in sensitive, emotionally brittle individuals with a tendency towards inflammatory conditions and hyperimmune conditions such as allergies.
First, 10 Quick Reasons to Love Peach!
1. It soothes nausea (especially if accompanied by a red tipped tongue or symptoms of heat) better than any other herb I've ever used, including Ginger.
2. It's safe during pregnancy, and can not just calm morning sickness but also seems to moderate some hormonal symptoms like anxiety and restless moodiness, as well as adding tone to the reproductive organs, especially the uterus.
3. It's a supreme digestive tonic for those with signs of dryness and heat. Where there's diarrhea, churning stomach and short transit time, Peach is wonderful. It can help increase appetite while soothing irritation, much like it's close relative Cherry.
4. Peach can also help calm hyperimmune responses, including allergic reactions and some autoimmune conditions associated with heat. I specifically use it with venomous insects that result in a very red or hot site. In truth, it's quite effective on any external inflammation (much like Rose) and in this way is very versatile.
5. As a relaxant nervine, it has the capacity to be very helpful in cases of insomnia and anxiety typified by tension, dryness and some level of burnout. For some people, it can act as nearly an outright sedative, but for others it's just gently calming. It seems to really depend on what the person needs. It was one of Tommie Bass's favorite nervines.
6. It makes a great addition to alterative and bitters blends, especially those including Burdock. By helping to relax tension, increase moisture, modulate digestion and calm the immune system, Peach helps the body to effectively eliminate waste products while restoring full health.
7. Peach is a very useful soothing, demulcent diuretic that can be used in UTIs or urethral irritation due to constitutional dryness or dehydration.
8. Adding a small amount of Ginger (a diffusive), speeds up its action, warms it a bit and makes it taste even yummier.
9. It's yummy. It makes almost every formula taste better.
10. You can use it year round. Bark anytime, flowers and leaves in spring, leaves all spring and summer. Pits in fruit season. Very convenient.
And Now, An Ode to Peach
Although Peaches are closely related to Cherries, Apples and Roses, each of the Rosaceae species has its own very unique feel and personality. Peach has a feeling of longing and wistfulness, of hot southern nostalgia that smells like perfume and whiskey and fairies masquerading as fireflies and glow-worms on a summer night.
I often use Peach tincture when I find my fists unconsciously clenched or notice that I have built up tension manifesting as feeling overheated, parch-mouthed and overtly irritated. It makes a soothing, cooling nervine is such cases and won't aggravate dryness. There's something deeply restorative about Peach that I can't perfectly describe, something that helps to heal hurt caused by grief or loss, or anger that stems from a deep wound. It works very well with it's cousin Rose for these uses, especially if there's any depression or sexual component involved. Where Hawthorn seems to work better for the raging grief caused by rejection or acute loss, Peach is often most specific where there's some level of obsession or chronic focus on something lost or long awaited for, and that obsession manifests as ongoing irritation, tension leading to burnout and consuming sadness. That's not say that Peach doesn't make a fabulous general nervine, it certainly does. Peach leaf tea is a traditional Southern/Appalachian remedy for hysteria, anxiousness and nervousness. It's quite safe and is particularly helpful for children, pregnant women and those of sensitive or delicate constitutions. It's cooling, slightly moistening, relaxing and deeply restorative for burned out people still in the process of burning themselves out. This includes many peri or currently menopausal women with hot flashes, irritation, emotional lability and general hot-temperedness.
This is also a lovely remedy for all kinds of bothersome belly troubles, especially those accompanied by a sense of heat, flushed skin, a red tongue and nausea. In cases where there is less heat Ginger is a lovely warming addition. Nausea caused by pregnancy, menopause and other hormonal issues is especially responsive to Peach. In the same energetic vein, it's also very cooling and soothing for hyperimmune/allergic responses and quite useful in the treatment of venomous insect stings/bites, allergic reactions and raging red infections of all kinds. It is espcially magical in the treatment of assassin bug bites, which usually cause extreme itching and pain for up to 48 hours. Using Peach bark tincture internally and externally on the bite site, the discomfort can be reduced to the duration of a mere hour or two, and very mild at that. Great stuff!
Depending on the part of the plant you're using, Peach tastes sweet, aromatic and slightly bitter in varying proportions. It is cool energetically and somewhat moistening. Most parts of the plant are good for medicine and more or less interchangeable. I have used the leaves, twigs, flowers and pits all of which are delightful. Of the parts I've used, the pits are the strongest, but I prefer the twigs and bark for most things. However, all bits are very useful and will serve you well (and be very very tasty). I tend to save my leaves for teas and infusions for the most part, and although I find a normal beverage tea made with Peach leaf to be fine, I only make my Peach infusions in cold water.
One of my favorite tincture formulas for burnout/nervous exhaustion is 3 parts Milky Oats, 2 part Peach, 1 part Rose flower, 1/2 part fresh Ginger root and 1/4 part dried Nettle Seed. This is a nice smooth recipe to enhance mood, relax tension, calm the belly and cool excess heat. I do tend to work with it as a simple in most cases though, it is such a multi-dimensional and complex plant that it works very well on its own.
Did I mention it tastes nice? Really really nice.
A Special Bit About Peach Pits & Prussic Acid
I love the pits, and I try to save several quart jars worth from organic Peaches we processed each season. I let them dry for a few days in the shade, picked out the best looking ones, then deposited them into the jars before covering with brandy or vodka.
There's a lot of weird hype around prussic acid in the Rose family and some interesting rituals around the processing of said plants. I suggest you do your research if you're worried about it. My personal assessment tends to be that it would require fermentation in water to create trouble with normal medicinal use of Peach, Rose, Cherry or any of my other favorite rose family members. As usual, I'm a little on the laid back side and when it comes to Peach pits I haven't had any trouble at all yet. Some people say to only let the pits macerate for a week before straining but I've often let mine sit for months. I figure as long as the tincture has that sweet, aromatic flavor it's fine. If the flavor was to become markedly bitter or unpleasant I'd probably reassess, but my method has worked good so far. Some people also say that you should never ever use a cracked or broken pit in your tincture and while I'm sure this is good general wisdom, I have been known to throw in a few cracked pits when I'm running short and haven't had any trouble.
The bark and flower tincture is aromatic and yummy, the leaf tea is subtle but sweet and wonderful and the pit tincture is something akin to heaven itself. The flavor is remarkable and intense. It seems to me that the pits tend to contain the strongest medicine of the plant and should be respected for that. I use smaller doses of my pit tincture than of bark, and definitely less than of Peach leaf tea (which I like to guzzle copious amounts of). I've never had or seen any adverse effects from its use but then I've never used more than a few drops at a time either.
Cautions & Contradictions: Chinese medicine considers Peach pit to be a blood mover, and therefore unwise to use during pregnancy. However, I have never had any issue with it whatsoever when used in small doses where appropriate. Traditionally though, it seems most common to use leaf or bark during pregnancy in the US so that's what I tend to do as well. Also, this is an herb for HOT conditions, if a colder type person seems to need its medicine, be sure to warm it up with something like Ginger.
Preparation & Dosage: To used Peach as medicine, you can gather any combination of leaves, flowers, twigs, bark and pits. To make the tincture, I just cover a jar full of fresh plant matter with brandy. I definitely prefer a brandy tincture with this plant for taste and also simply because it seems to work the best. Any preparation of the plant tends to be most useful in small doses, and it doesn't really improve with large doses. I use two to twelve drops of tincture, or a generous pinch of the leaf in tea.
Harvesting Notes: For a long time I gathered all my Peach leaves from a particular tree that grows next to the aquecia that runs through a friend's backyard. It only gets water when the aquecia is running, the rest of the year it seems to thrive in its dry, sunny location with no added water. The tree rarely bears fruit, thanks to the late frosts common to the middle range of the mountains in New Mexico. When it does, it's covered in masses of medium sized, firm but juicy and incredibly tasty Peaches!
The leaves, flowers and bark of this tree have always been exquisite - sweet, aromatic and strong. I was really excited when I found out another friend had multiple Peach trees in her back yard! I was sure I'd hit the jackpot, and would now have enough leaves for the summer's tea and all my friend's tea too. So I gathered up a big basket full and took them home to dry.
They dried to a nice fresh shade of green and I happily stowed them away in glass jars. Not long after, scooped up a few leaves and made myself a cup of tea with this new batch. After letting them steep for about five minutes, I figured the brew would be good and strong. I took a nice sip. Not so much. It was nice, but with only a hint of the taste pleasure from previous Peach tea drinks.
Grawr said I. What's wrong with these Peach leaves? In the end, after making several cups of tea and comparing them and much tasting, I decided there was nothing wrong with them. They had the appropriate flavor, but were just very mild. So that batch has been relegated to the "beverage" pile, and the leaves from the original tree put in the "premium" pile.
I don't really know what makes the difference between the trees - variety, soil, age, water or what. The only way to tell a great tree from a mediocre one is by checking it out sensorily (like so many things). So, what I would consider a premium tree would be one that one you gather the leaves off the tree, you can smell the sweet, slightly almondy/peachy aroma if you hold the leaves up to your face. The leaf itself will taste slightly bitter and astringent, but more along the lines of sweet and peachy with a hint of mucilage. The tea will be strong tasting without being overwhelming, full of flavor with a sweet, peachy/almondy taste. It should only be bitter if left too long to steep (optimal is about 3-5 minutes it seems, more than 10 minutes is too long).
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