Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wild Wednesdays (New Feature!)

Today I’m answering my first nature question. This one comes from Jen Daiker and is actually a few questions rolled into one:

Q: In my novel there are fairies that have the power of healing. I was wondering if there were any plants that helped with that. Also I'd love to know some of the brightest colored flowers around. And lastly, what plants make wonderful soothing ingredients in teas?

A: First, if you haven’t already, you should choose an Earth biome in particular to model your imaginary world after. That way, you will be focused on your world building, with plants, animals, landscape, and weather. Websites like Blue Planet Biomes and World Biomes will help you choose. They also have general plants and animals listed by specific area. The beauty of fantasy is once you’ve established certain characteristics of your world you can add bits of both your imaginary plant/animal creations as well as real plants and animals.

As to bright flowers, again it is specific to location and biome (then there’s the option of creating imaginary ones too). The Flower Expert has a great encyclopedia of wildflowers with pictures right there. Gardening Launch Pad has a list of site-specific wildflower encyclopedias. If your world is more a North American, wooded landscape, my favorites are lady’s slipper (pictured here), bleeding hearts, wild roses, columbines, penstemons, buttercups, marsh marigold, bistort, rock jasmine, potentillas, crocus, iris, bluebell, California poppy, and star of Bethlehem.

To answer your last question, I DO know of some plants that can be turned into calming (also called nervine) teas! In fact, the lady’s slipper (Cypridedium spp.) pictured is one, and a strong one at that. Here’s a great article on it. The majority of nervine herbs are good tranquilizers, with a neural vasodilator effect, but their strength depends on the dosage of course. Some of the stronger ones besides lady's slipper include St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum), lavender flowers (Lavandula angustifolia & L. officinalis), lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), catnip (Nepeta cataria), valerian root (Valeriana officinalis), motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), purple passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Roman chamomile flowers (Chamaemelum nobile) and ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare). Any number of these plants can be dried and used in teas.

Some nervines are less tranquilizing and give only a slight calming effect. These include rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), maidenhair tree leaves (Ginkgo biloba), white pine needles (Pinus strobus), northern prickly ash berries (Zanthoxylum americanum) and clove buds (Syzygium aromaticum).

Mild tranquilizers (more in the middle of the nervines) are spearmint (Mentha spicata), wild mint (Mentha arvensis), peppermint (Mentha piperita), hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), wild oat (Avena sativa), kava roots or rhizomes (Piper methysticum), thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa). Some mushrooms can have a calming effect too. The only two I know of are Reishi (Ganoderma spp.) and Maitake (Grifola frondosa), both from China, but there might be more out there.


An interesting thing about all of these herbs is that they can have an opposite effect on some people (or fairies, in your case). Kind of like how with some people Benadryl can make them hyper? The same is true for nervines—they can have a stimulating effect instead! Besides calming plants, you might want to look for ones that make you soporific, or sleepy, since they sometimes are used for both calming and sleep. Annie’s Remedies has a great list of these (though the list is very similar to the one I just gave). Again, you can always make up your own plants here as well! The sky’s the limit.

I hope that helps, Jen, and good luck with your wonderful story!

If you, my lovely readers, have any other nature-related questions you’d like me to answer, feel free to email them to jackee(dot)alston(at)gmail(dot)com. I’ll post them on Wednesdays as I get them.
Have a wild Wednesday!

30 comments:

  1. This is a great new feature, Jackee! I'm impressed with the concept and development. Your answers are great, and I will certainly think of some nature-related questions for you.
    I love the new look of your blog, too, but I have trouble reading some of the print (not enough contrast).

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  2. What a fun idea! Wow, I learned a lot here from your first Wild Wed!

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  3. hi miss jackee! wow i feel like im sittin in the middle of a chinese medicine shop. ha ha. all those big long names. yikes! how could you know soooo much about that stuff. youre pretty smart for sure.
    ...hugs from lenny

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  4. Great answer! That was really interesting :)

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  5. Wow this is awesome! Thanks for doing this because I kind of wondered about a couple of these things anyway!

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  6. Jackee I love this feature and I feel so special having the privlege to be the first question you took on!!!

    This will be so super helpful!!! PS I think you'll be seeing the lady slipper in my novel! It's a perfect name for a plant in a historical fantasy novel don't you think?!

    THANKS AGAIN!

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  7. Back in the day before most vegetables became genetically modified hybrids, lettuce used to be used as a sedative. These days all the power it had to put people to sleep has been bred out of it or genetically modified.

    I like this feature on nature, Jackee. Great stuff.

    Jai

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  8. How interesting! I'm impressed that you know so much about nature. I look forward to reading more!

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  9. Wonderful new feature! Such great ideas for worldbuilding! I love the idea of choosing a biome first, to get you off to a good start.

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  10. An interesting, informative post...Hope you have a happy, wild Wednesday!

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  11. Hope your Wednesday is Wild and Beautiful. Great information.

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  12. How wonderful to know that kind of information-- wish I did! I don't know half of what grows around my yard:))

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  13. That is such cool information. This feature is such a great idea!

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  14. I'm such a fan of herb teas especially chamomile and mint - so thank you for such a wealth of information on these beautiful herbs and plants! Thank you!

    And thank you for introducing me to the word Biome and what it means! Amazing! The Blue Planet and World Biomes sites are so good I've bookmarked them to peruse at greater length and to just be amazed at the diversity of our earth!

    Thank you Jackee!!! What a fabulous idea for Wednesday!!!

    Take care
    x

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  15. These are awesome information; I'm learning a lot. Such a great feature -- I'm definitely looking forward to more of it. :)

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  16. What a good idea. Between you and Lydia Kang, I will have no medical or nature question unanswered.

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  17. It's so cool that you know all this stuff! Now I know where to come for this type of information.

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  18. Okay, this is going to be one of my favorite specialty posts! Soooo cool! I love botany and herbs and plants...they show up in my writing all the time.
    Funny how Jai mentioned lettuce, I just researched wild lettuce and used it to knock out the love interest in my recent WIP.
    I'm gonna ask a million questions.
    I'll start with one of my favorites...poppy. The're so beautiful! Can people use poppies that grow in their flower gardens as sedatives?

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  19. I LOVE this new feature and I'll be putting it on my calendar to check back every week. How awesome of you to do this! My work is similar to yours and I learned a great deal with this post. Well done!

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  20. Great information, Jackee! I really love your new feature - I'm sure I'll be sending you a question before long.

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  21. what a wonderful feature!

    i've been turning to herbs little by little over the last 7 years and haven't learned as much in that time as i did from your post! nice work!

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  22. Oh, interesting! I like playing with essential oils. Eucalyptus and lavendar are two of my faves.

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  23. I got the package of goodies Jackee!!! They were awesome and cheered me up a ton today! So thanks!!

    BTW I have a sweet little something (blog award) over at my blog today!

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  24. What a great new feature! I'm so impressed with your nature knowledge, Jackee. Now I know where to come if I ever have a nature question. :) Great post!

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  25. Awesome! I hadn't thought of world-building as a "biome" before - obviously an error in my thinking! Thanks for all the great info! :)

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  26. Cool post! I love learning stuff like this :)

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  27. That was super, Jackee! I had no idea there were so many calming plants. I knew about a few of them, but wow...

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  28. This was fascinating, and a blog post that I didn't expect. I used to read a lot about plants, but they didn't work their way into my writing as I hoped they would.

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