Our summer post from Kiva Rose Hardin is here! Her beautifully written articles marry the personal with the scientific, lore with experience, offering untamed and fresh insight. Herbalist, wildcrafter, artist, and storyteller, Kiva Rose lives in a canyon botanical sanctuary within the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. She is also the co-director of the HerbFolk Gathering, held each September in the mountain Southwest, coeditor of Plant Healer Magazine, and publisher of the historical novel, The Medicine Bear as well as The Plant Healer's Path by Jesse Wolf Hardin, and maintains an herbal blog, The Medicine Woman’s Roots.
When someone mentions peach, it’s usually the sweet, juicy fruit of Georgia that comes to mind, not the medicinal properties of the leaf, bark, and flower. Despite that, peach has a long and storied history of therapeutic use the world over, including through portions of the United States. In North America, Appalachian herbalist Phyllis Light has helped to bring this wonderful remedy back to the broader herbal community through her teaching and writing. I grew up in the deep South and knew a little of its usefulness as a young girl since it’s a traditional herb there, but learned a great deal more from Phyllis when I became a practicing herbalist.
Being a member of the Rose family, peach shares many cooling, soothing properties with the rose, including its gentle nature and sweetly aromatic taste. It’s safe even for children, the elderly, and pregnant women, and is incredibly good at what it does. Here I’ll be discussing the elixir in some details, but a wonderful tasting tea can be made with the dried leaves as well. If you have more than one peach tree to choose from, it’s worthwhile to do a scratch and sniff test by gently scratching the bark of a small twig and sniffing. The tree that smells the strongest also tends to offer the best fruits to use for relaxing and cooling.
Peach is the perfect herb to explore during the long, hot days of summer. It helps to soothe the irritability that often comes with extended periods of heat, as well as ease the irregular digestion that can go with it. Here in New Mexico where summers can be exceedingly hot and dry, some people develop a dry throat in response to the climate, and I have found that the Peach Elixir works very well to soothe it. It works similarly on respiratory function aggravated by heat, and I always keep it on hand for my daughter who finds both it and our local chokecherry, Prunus serotina, in easing her breathing issues during the hot months. Friends who are a part of the local Latino community think of peach leaf as an overall summer tonic, and given how many heat induced discomforts it can alleviate, I’m inclined to agree with them.
Peach has another property worth noting: it can be applied topically as tincture, elixir, or poultice and taken internally to reduce the irritation of being stung by a bee, wasp, or other venomous insect. Take half to one mL (that’s approximately half to one dropperful from a one ounce tincture bottle) of the elixir as soon as you’re stung or bitten and then again if the sting/bite gets worse or in fifteen minutes if there are any symptoms. For those with allergies to stings, this is NOT a replacement for an epi-pen, but is great for the average person with a normal response to insect stings and bites.
Sweet Peach Leaf Elixir
Ingredients & Tools
For your elixir, it’s helpful to have on hand:
A glass pint jar that seals well
Fresh peach leaves and/or flowers and twigs (the more aromatic the better, and either feral or domestic varieties will work)
About a pint of high quality brandy (the better the brandy, the better your elixir will taste)
1/3 pint of raw honey (preferably local, and of a lighter wildflower type since darker honeys can muffle the peach taste a bit)
A good stirring spoon
Step by Step Instructions
First, fill your jar all the way to the top with peach leaves or flowers/twigs. You don’t have to pack them in, but push them down a bit to minimize the air space in the jar.
Now, pour the honey in slowly, stirring as necessary, until the plant matter is well coated.
Next, fill to the top with brandy, again stirring as necessary to remove air bubbles and fill the jar evenly.
Now cover the jar with a tight fitting lid, and shake carefully to finish the mixing process.
Let macerate in a cool, dark place for four to six weeks or as long as you can stand to wait.
When straining, reserve liquid.
Bottle and store in a cool, dry place away from sunlight until needed.
Organic rose petals compliment the properties of peach, and they taste amazing together!
Cinnamon warms and spices up peach, making it more appropriate year round.
Apple bark combines well with Peach specifically for occasional digestive discomfort.
Chamomile flowers amplify the digestion soothing properties of peach, and they taste lovely together.
Chokecherry, Prunus serotina works very well with peach.
I’ll have another article specifically on therapeuticc uses of peach, including case studies, in the August issue of the free Plant Healer Newsletter that you can sign up for at http://planthealer.org.
Peach remedies can be hard to find, but they available online in elixir form from King’s Road Apothecary and my own shop, The Bramble & The Rose, and will also be sold at the Healer’s Market at this September’s HerbFolk Gathering conference near Flagstaff, Arizona.