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East Mountain Ash lovingly known as Rowan Tree

AKA: Sorbus aucuparia, LE family: Rosaceae (Rose), Eastern Mountain Ash Tree, The Rowan Tree, The Lady of the Mountain, caorunn (pronounced choroon, the 'ch' as in loch), ancient Ogham script was named Luis, flying rowan, wild ash, mountain ash, fid na ndruad (meaning 'wizards' tree').

Propagation/Description: The Eastern Mountain Ash Tree or the Rowan Tree are native to the UK so very winter hardy. It has brightly colored fruits that can be found throughout Britain but tends to grow more in the northern and western regions. They grow from small to medium-sized trees or shrubs and usually live between 80 and 150 years. They reach an average height of 20 to 40 feet and the crown can be 13 to 20 feet in diameter. Their leaves are shaped like a feather and grow opposite to each other in groups of 5-8 pairs. The berries have often been confused with the Hawthorn or the highly toxic Guelder Rose. They love semi-shady locations but not too shady as that will cause it not to flower. The best time to plant is fall between October to the end of November. Dig a hole 1.5 times the size of the root ball. If soil is clayish or sandy mix in high quality planting soil to promote humus build up. Young rowans especially need watering for the first few months to years. Their root systems are mostly shallow and prolonged drought can be problematic.

Folklore/History: In the Scottish Highlands it was believed to be a reliable antidote to witchcraft by planting near their houses and cow herds. It was common practice to use a switch from the Rowan (eastern mountain ash tree) to herd cattle thus protecting them from evil influences. It is also one of the trees associated with Saint Brighid, the Celtic patroness of the arts, healing, smithing, spinning, and weaving. Spindles and spinning wheels were traditionally made of Rowan in Scotland and Ireland. Rowan trees planted near stone circles in Scotland were especially powerful. Scottish Fairies were said to hold their celebrations within stone circles protected by Rowan trees. Modern interpretations of the Celtic Ogham place Rowan, called Luis, as the sacred tree of February. They are still a sacred tree in the Celtic culture and still worshipped or revered in Celtic communities worldwide today. The berries were used and still are to make preserves and alcoholic drinks. In Norse mythology and culture, Rowans were dedicated to Thor, represented fertility, and marked sacred places and courts. In the British Isles, it was denoted as a tree of the Goddess or a Faerie tree by virtue of its white flowers. The same was true of the hawthorn and elder. On the Isle of Man people wore crosses made from rowan twigs, without the use of a knife. They fastened them to cattle or hung inside over the lintel on May Eve each year. From Scotland to Cornwall similar equal-armed rowan crosses bound with red thread were sewn into the lining of coats or carried in pockets. These themes of protection crop up again and again. People carried pieces of the tree to ward off witchcraft.

Medicinal: It is Aperient (relieves constipation), astringent (to treat diarrhea), a gargle for sore throats, coffee substitute, has been studied for use of cancer treatment, Depurative (blood cleanser/detoxifier), diuretic,Dyspepsia (upset stomach not a result of ulcers), Emmenagogue (stimulates blood flow in the pelvic and uterus), has been treated to treat gall-bladder issues, has been used to treat hemorrhoids (piles), it has also been used to treat Strangury (blockage or irritation at the base of the bladder resulting in pain and the painful urge to urinate), and to treat pneumonia in animals, It is considered an intoxicant by some and produces high amounts of Cyanide (prussic acid when combined with water) but contained within the seeds. (Please remove the seeds from the fruit if you are going to make a consumable with them.) The root/wood contains high levels of cellulose (keeps the plant stay stiff and strong), lignin (makes the plant strong and rigid), hemicellulose (strengthen the body’s cell walls), pentosans (slows dehydration), and nutritional fat (monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids). The bark contains tannins (antioxidant properties, which have been found to lower total cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and stimulate the immune system. They also have antibacterial properties that, among other things, fight tooth decay). The Rowan berries contain high levels of natural sugars, malic acid (helps to clear away dead skin cells when applied to the skin), potassium, nitrogen, natural pectin, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) and tannins.

Spiritual: Rowan is primarily associated with Celtic culture so we will stay focused on that. It has continuously been tied to the great Irish goddess Brighid, protection, travel, divination. Red is seen as a protective color; this is what attributes protection to the Rowan Tree. The goddess, Hebe who lost her chalice of youth enlisted an eagle to go on a journey to retrieve it. The eagle fought to return it to her and wherever it dropped a feather or blood is where a rowan tree would grow. The tree is used with vibrational medicine due to the belief that it can tune our bodies into nature. It can broaden and open our perspective and make room for a wider imagination.

Summary: The deep roots of this tree are abundant in cultures that have stood the test of time and refuse to die down. Despite our current culture of theistic dominance our ancestral traditions, beliefs and stories have endured. Both medicinally and spiritually this strikingly beautiful plant has been around for as long as mankind has been. Maybe even longer! Take a moment to soak in the peace it brings and the health it provides.


Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, 500 Herbs and Remedies for Common Ailments by Andrew Chevallier, FNIMH; Pages 271-272

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