Monday, May 28, 2018

Gathering Happiness

It's been raining here for DAYS! Not that I'm complaining. It's been wonderful to sit outside under the carport roof and watch the rain gather in the lane and drift lazily past like our own private river. The plants, of course, love it and the neighbors' mimosa tree is fit to burst with luscious, fluffy, pink blossoms. If you've never seen Albizia julibrissin in bloom, get thee to a Google search. It looks like something from Fairy, a tree that would have encircled Lothlorien or Tir na nOg. The little flowers remind me of Red from "Fraggle Rock" :



In Chinese medicine, Mimosa flowers are called He Huan Hua which translates to "full happiness flowers." They are used for its uplifting, energizing, and "anti-depressant" properties. The Chinese herbalists have known about Mimosa's calming and mood improving wonders for centuries. As usual, Westerners are just now learning about this amazing plant.

Our neighbors' tree drapes over our courtyard and over the back lane. No one lives in the house (at least, we're relatively sure no one does. They occasionally wander out back to cut the grass.) and no one gives the gorgeous tree a second glance except for me. She spreads her limbs wide, shading our cafe table and chairs from most of the hot summer sun. Her blossoms explode throughout the day: new ones appearing where old ones dried up and fell or from the bare stems that I create when I harvest the flowers for my tincture making.

Tinctures are simple infusions of herbs - leaves, roots, bark, and/or flowers - steeped in alcohol. The alcohol extracts the useful properties of the herb and preserves it so the herbalist can use it for years after extraction. When I first considered making my own mimosa tincture, I searched for a good, clear recipe and found this one on Hearth Side Healing's website. It's simple, concise, and gives a wonderful history into the use of mimosa. The instructions for making the tincture are my paraphrase from the original website.

The first to appear on the mimosa's branches are the leaves; little fern like protrusions that open with the sun and close up when it begins to get dark. Then you begin to see the buds. You wait and wait and suddenly - POP! - there's no end to the blossoms! And the fragrance is intoxicating. It's a faint, sweet floral aroma that catches you a bit off guard. You wonder where it came from; you sniff the air and then see the hot pink tendrils swaying gently in the breeze. The tree hums with honey and bumble bees and other tiny, winged insects all getting drunk on the nectar. I've even found several little inch worms in my harvest that I've had to carefully relocate back to the tree from my kitchen counters.

My first introduction to mimosa flowers was at my great aunt's house when I was a little girl. There was a lake hidden behind her house, down a winding dirt path, through pine trees and kudzu. Suddenly the path opened and there was a pavilion, some picnic tables, and a small lake. All around this lake were these magical trees filled with pink, fuzzy flowers. We picked tons of them, rubbing them against our faces and breathing in their fragrance. We were always sad by how fast they wilted, shriveling from their glory to grungy brown clumps of musty smelling botanical cast-offs. Now I know how to preserve that magical essence; not so much the fragrance but the sweetness of the blossoms in a tincture that tastes of late spring all year long.

Homemade Mimosa Tincture
(original recipe found on Hearth Side Healing)

First you need mimosa blossoms! Get out to your local mimosa tree and carefully pluck a basketful of blossoms. Talk to her, tell her why you need the flowers and ask her permission to harvest. She'll gently sway with the breeze and let you. Trees are giving with their medicine wisdom.

Once you've got enough, you'll want to give each one of them a little twist, spinning the fronds quickly in order to get rid of any dew that may still be collected on the little fuzzies and any tiny bugs that may be nestled into the fronds. I'll be honest with you: you won't get them all but don't get all squeamish. They'll crawl out and you can smoosh them or send them back outside.

Spread them out in one layer either on screens, drying racks, or baking sheets. Let them dry for a couple of hours or, if you must wait until the next day to gather more to fill your jars, let them sit, uncovered, over night.


While those blossoms are drying, gather some good, clean and dry jars, a bottle of brandy, and some honey (local if you can get it).

Once the blossoms have dried for at least 3-4 hours, put them into your jars. Don't pack them too tightly, just let them settle down into the jars. Give them a little shake, add more until they fill it comfortably.

Fill the jar half way with honey then fill it the rest of the way with the brandy. Give it a careful stir to get the honey and brandy mingling, screw on the lid, and put the jar or jars into a cool, dark place for about a month. Check on the jars each week, giving them a little shake to make sure everything gets good and mixed. After about four weeks (you can always leave them in their longer), you're going to strain out the botanical material and bottle up your tincture into clean jars. I like to put mine in 1oz dropper bottles. It makes it easier to use but I always have an over-abundance that stays in the jars until I can decant it all into the smaller containers.

Spread your blossoms out to dry.




Fill up your jars! Enjoy the fragrance between your fingers.

Pour in that runny honey. No one will judge you if you let some drip into your mouth.

Now add the brandy (same thing goes for non-judgement here too...)

Stir carefully. Don't want to slosh any of the goodness out.

No need to watch it! It's going to take a month or more to steep.

Fill it up to the top and place in a nice, cool, dark place and let chemistry do it's thing!

To use: put 3-5 dropperfuls straight under your tongue and enjoy the tingling of the brandy and the sweet, floral flavor of the steeped blossoms in honey. I love the put the same amount in a cup of tea, using it as a mild sweetener. Another nice way to enjoy the tincture is to brew some hibiscus tea. While the tea is brewing, fill a glass half way with ice and seltzer water. Pour the hibiscus tea into the iced seltzer and add the 5 dropperfuls of mimosa to the drink. Mmmm...refreshing!

As soon as I'm able to decant this into smaller jars, I'll give you an update of the process, the droppers, and the delicious flavor! If you've got some mimosas growing near you, give this a try! It's simple and it really does help bring on a sense of peace, calm, and well-being. I keep a co-worker well supplied in it and she swears it helps her get through some tough days. I love the subtle way it makes me loosen up and feel a general sense of well-being. 

Not all herbs work for all people; don't look for some miraculous, instant healing. Herbs work synergistically with your body. They go in and help heal. They don't mask symptoms like modern pharmaceuticals. Healing takes time. For every year you've dealt with an illness, you need 3 months plus one months per year of herbal treatment. It's a slow, deliberate process but it can help. Of course if you're on any medication, especially anti-depressants, speak to your health-care provider and/or a local herbalist for information on any medicinal contraindications regarding Albizia julibrissin.

If you try this, let me know how it turns out! Of course you can purchase Albizia tincture from most herb shops, but it's always more special when you can gather and produce your own healing elixir. Hands on healing is best. When you're involved in your healing journey, the well-being you receive is much deeper and more holistic.

Namaste, ya'll!

6 comments:

  1. Yes. The process of creating your own tincture, brewing your tea, even researching the method, are all part of the healing process. I think I'm miles away from a mimos tree. But, you've got me curious to see one in person some day, and try that tincture. Your description is so lovely.

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    1. Thanks, Mary. There's something very profound about being a part of your own healing process. It's something that is lost to modern medicine. When we can hold our healing in our own hands and fashion it with the wisdom of others, our healing is deeper somehow. If you ever come to Savannah in May, I'll show you all the Mimosas you could possibly want to see!

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  2. It's been raining so much where we are too. I'm surprised I haven't seen Noah with his ark out on the water. That tincture process with the mimosa is so cool and the flowers are so pretty.

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    1. I Know! And we're expecting more here tonight and tomorrow. Thank you so much, Ellen. I've enjoyed the learning process of harvesting and crafting my own medicine.

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  3. This looks wonderful :3

    I miss mimosa trees. I haven't noticed them at all out here.

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