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March 2018--Heliotrope


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Heliotropium arborescens
[hee-lee-oh-TROH-pee-um  ar-bo-RES-senz]
syn Heliotropium peruvianum) 

Family: Boraginaceae 

Names: garden heliotrope, cherry pie heliotrope, Cherry Pie, Fragrant Heliotrope, Heliotropo, Marine Heliotrope, Turnsole 

Description: Native to the Peruvian Andes, heliotrope grows 2 to 3 feet high; some varieties are a compact 10 inches. Tiny, star-shaped flowers of deep blue, purple, lavender, or white come in tightly packed spikes that develop into rounded, 2- to 4-inch-diameter clusters. Hairy and veined 1- to 3-inch leaves have a purplish cast.  

Cultivation: Common heliotrope is a tender perennial. It needs a rich soil, full sun and lots of water during hot weather. Pinch young plants two or three times to promote branching. The flower fragrance is most noticeable at sunrise and sunset and may be enhanced by giving plants the bare minimum of water. The plant may be grown as a pot plant. Heliotrope responds to regular fertilizer applications and is not tolerant of the slightest frost.  Heliotrope is propagated by seed or cuttings. Take cuttings from especially fragrant plants between late spring and early summer. Softwood cuttings root in about two weeks at low temperatures. Seed takes three to four weeks to germinate at 70 degrees and germination can be erratic. Do not allow the plants to get too big before transplanting.  In a pot in a northern garden, the plant is only hardy to about 40 o F. With its roots in open soil in a southern garden, temperatures at or below freezing will kill or damage leaves but not harm the roots. If you live where winter temperatures regularly fall (and hold) below 32oF, such as zone 9b and colder, treat heliotrope as you would an annual: Plant heliotrope outdoors after frost danger passes and let it die in the fall. In zones 10 and 11, treat it like any other perennial: Rejuvenate by cutting back old growth (but not as far as the woody stems) before growth begins in late winter or early spring.  An easy way to overwinter desirable varieties is to root cuttings in the fall. Use a soilless mix recommended for germinating seeds, and keep plants indoors in bright, indirect light; roots will develop within a month. Keep the plant going near a bright window or under fluorescent lights until spring. Set out when danger of frost has passed. Overwinter container plants by bringing them indoors when frost is likely. Give them moist air, direct sun, and cool nights (50o to 55oF).  Fertilize plants growing in containers every 2 weeks with a liquid fertilizer according to the label directions. Feed plants growing in the ground more sparingly. Use the same liquid fertilizer, but monthly, or mulch the plant with homemade or commercial compost once or twice a season. Excessively rich soil fosters leggy, less attractive growth and leaves plants more prone to pests.  Plants are rarely susceptible to insects or diseases, although spider mites may attack plants growing indoors. Control mites with sprays of water or insecticidal soap. Soggy soil, whether in the garden or indoors, will cause the leaves to brown and drop off. Still, the plant will recover quickly as soon as good drainage and aeration return.  

History: It was introduced into greenhouse culture in Europe in 1757 after travelers discovered it in Peru. It's sometimes listed and sold as H. peruvianum. By the nineteenth century, heliotrope was used extensively for bedding plants and as standards. It was nicknamed the "cherry pie plant" because its fragrance supposedly resembles the aroma of a freshly baked cherry pie. A few species are so fragrant that they are grown in Europe to make perfume.  

Constituents: Pyrrolizidine alkaloids, including heliotrine, retronecine and lasiocarpine 

Properties: Diuretic, cholagogue, emmenagogue, febrifuge 

Medicinal Uses: The plant is used to make a febrifugal tea. It has been used in folk medicine mainly externally to treat polyps, tumors, ulcers, warts and other skin ailments.  Very rarely employed internally as a diuretic.
Homeopathy: A homeopathic remedy is made from the whole fresh plant. It is used in the treatment of clergyman's sore throat and uterine displacement.  

Aromatherapy: There is a heliotrope absolute. 

Blends with cassie, mimosa, osmanthus, violet, peru balsam, tolu balsam

Used in perfume industry in Oriental and powdery bases

The absolute is occasionally produced in the south of France from the flowering tops of the plant by hot extraction with a fixed oil. Heliotrope absolute is a semi solid greenish brown or dark brown mass of strongly herbaceous, but also intensely sweet odor. Only upon dilution to about 1% or weaker, the odor seems to resemble that of heliotrope flowers. 

The perfume of the flowers is difficult to extract and is usually reproduced synthetically.  Place 1 lb of benzoated lard in a pan which is partly immersed in a bowl of boiling water.  To the melted fat, add a handful of flowers and let them remain for 24 hours, adding more hot water every so often.  Then remove the flowers, reheat the fat and water and add fresh flowers.  Repeat the process for 5 or 6 days.  When cold, the pomade is chopped up and placed in a large glass jar. 

Toxicity: All parts of the plant are highly toxic and dangerous when taken internally.  Prolonged use of heliotrope may cause severe liver damage. 

Ritual Uses:  Gender: Hot.  Planet: Sun.  Element: Fire.  Associated Deity: Apollo.  Parts Used: Flowers, leaves.  Basic Power: Claitvoyance, Exorcism.  Put under the pillow to induce prophetic dreams, especially to discover the thief wwhen you have been robbed.  Also used in exorcism incenses and healing sachets. 

Heliotrope Spell: Wrap a bloodstone in fresh heliotrope blossoms, and carry it to promote invisibility. 

Heliotrope Spell 2:  Anoint a bloodstone or heliotrope crystal gemstone with heliotrope oil and carry it with you to promote invisibility.

Create infused oil of heliotrope blossoms by placing the flowers in a stainless steel bowl and covering with oil (almond, sesame, etc).  Gently heat over simmering water, either in a true double boiler or in an improvised one.  Stir once in a while. Simmer gently for 30 minutes.  The oil should not be allowed to get too hot because if it smokes, bubbles or burns, an acrid fragrance will develop, spoiling the infusion.  Allow the oil to cool. Then all the botanical material must be strained out through multiple layers of cheesecloth or a fine non-metal strainer.  Strain twice, if necessary, or more.  If the plant material is not removed the oil may turn rancid.   

Fried Heliotrope Blossoms 
4 cups fresh heliotrope blossoms
3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp heliotrope water
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Wash heliotrope blossoms in cold running wat4er, and drain.  Melt butter in skillet, and gently ease in the blossoms (one or two at a time so as not to crush them.)  Sprinkle the lemon juice, parsley, salt, and pepper over the blossoms, and cook over low heat until blossoms are tender (about 10 minutes).  Drain cooked blossoms on paper towels.  Arrange blossoms on serving platter, and sprinkle with heliotrope water.  Serve immediately.  (A Feast of Flowers) 

Cosmetics from the Earth
, Roy Genders, Alfred van der Marck Editions, 1985; ISBN: 0-912383-20-8
The Element Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells
, Judika Illes, HarperElement, 2004: ISBN: 0-00-774987-2
A Feast of Flowers
, Francesca Tillona and Cynthia Strowbridge, Funk & Wagnalls, 1969
Herbal Remedies: Harmful and Beneficial Effects
, Professor S. Talalaj & Dr. A. S. Czechowicz, Hill of Content, 1989; ISBN: 0-85572-189-8
Magical Herbalism
, Scott Cunningham, Llewllyn Publications, 1982, ISBN: 0-87542-120-2
Plants for a Future Database  

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The Herb Growing & Marketing Network
Maureen Rogers, Director
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717-368-6360; FAX: 717-393-9261