VIII. The Indispensable Cooling Remedy.
It is always necessary to sedate heat and excitation and for this purpose no remedies surpass the rose family. Peach, a member of this clan, is particularly beneficial because it is cooling and moistening, a therapeutic action often needed since heat often causes dryness.
Prunus persica, Amygdalus persica. Peach.
Peach is a native of Persia and central Asia, but is widely cultivated in mild temperate climates throughout the world. It is an old European folk remedy. Upon its arrival in the New World it was eagerly adopted by the Indian people as a food and medicine. It was also used by the settlers, including the herbalist Samuel Thomson. Peach kernal, leaf, and twig contain fruit acids and cyanogens which are strongly cooling. Cyanide turns down the Kreb’s cycle in the mitochondria to prevent energy production which is why it is toxic in large doses.
Peach is a superlative remedy when heat or excitation is combined with dryness. The cooling, moistening properties of the fruit are also found in the leaves and twigs. The tongue is often elongated, flame-shaped, carmine red, and dry, usually free of secretion or slightly coated, corresponding to a hot, dry state. (When the tongue is flame-shaped, carmine, and wet think of rose or linden. When it is red and harshly dry, with cracks on the burnished surface, think of marshmallow for dryness causing heat).
Because of the sensitivity of tissues in a dry, hot state, peach is well suited to allergies and auto-immune disease, either directly as a curative or as an assistant. It is well indicated (like its cousins rose and almond) for people with sensitive skin and tissues. It often will control hives and rashes, showing here its affinity to allergic excess. Hildegard von Bingen (1992, 109) recommends it for “one who, in various illnesses, has any kind of spots on his body.” I have seen it soften skin that is dry, scaly, red, and irritated.
Peach acts on the scalp as well. “A gentleman of about fifty showed me his head, on which an abundant growth of hair was appearing, on a part which he said had been bald for years, from the use, for a short time, of a tincture of peach pits in brandy” (Cobb, 1846, 1:144).
Peach is slightly mucilaginous and drawing, so it has been used as a poultice to bring boils to a head and draw them out. Eva Graf, who used it in this fashion, also thought that it drew out toxins and old deposits of drugs or antibiotics, “from the bones.” Peach has been used for hot fevers with lack of sweat, abscess in the lungs, tuberculosis, irritation and great sensitivity of the stomach, so that even a glass of water causes pain hence in morning sickness. It is cooling in menopause. Peach is broadly applicable; Eva Graf knew an Indian medicine man in Idaho, Dr. Sundance, who used peach twig tea as his only remedy.
William Salmon (1692, 42, 52) spent his youth in South Carolina (which he calls the “West Indies”), where he picked up the use of peach leaves for colic or bellyache. “This is a specifick in a cholic beyond most other things and withal very safe,” he writes. “In the West-India’s (where Peach-Trees are plentiful) the disease is cured by taking three or four times syrup of peaches; or by taking a very strong decoction made of the bruised leaves of the peach-tree.” He made an “essence of peach leaf” which “purges well, and carries off the morbifick cause to a miracle; but it ought to be taken three, four, or five times, as the exigency of the disease requires.”
Because it is suited to delicate and sensitive skin, nerves, and constitution, peach is an excellent remedy for children. Sir John Hill (1740, 292) writes, “the flowers are to be used. A pint of water is to be poured, boiling hot, on a pound weight of peach-blossoms; when it has stood four and twenty hours, it is to be poured off through a sieve, without squeezing, and two pound of loaf-sugar is to be dissolved in it over the fire; this makes an excellent syrup for children. It purges gently, and somtimes will make them puke a little. They have so frequent occasion for this, that people who have children have continual use for it.” Hill does not give the uses for children clearly: peach is cooling and calming, good for excess stimulation, restlessness, insomnia, allergies, skin rashes, vomiting, constipation, worms, etc.
“In diseases of children we frequently find the stomach irritable, the nausea and vomiting being sometimes so persistent that the necessary medicines can not be taken. In such cases an infusion of the bark of the young limbs of the peach tree, given frequently in small doses, will almost invariably arrest it” (Scudder, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1864, 38; reprinted by Brinker, 1996).
The flowers, leaves, twigs, bark and unopened kernels are used but the seed or kernal is too poisonous due to the high content of cyanide. The fruit and its juice can also be used for cooling and moistening.
Taste: sour, bitter, sweet • cool, moist • slightly mucilaginous
Tissue State: irritation, atrophy
Constitution, Complexion, and Characteristic Symptoms
Fair skinned persons with tendencies to sunburn, irritation from mild heat, allergies,
auto-immune overactivity; heat and irritation of the skin and mucosa.
Mind, Senses, Nerves, Emotions, Personality
Nervousness, restlessness, insomnia; jangled nerves from bad news; overexcited children;
Insomnia (tea of the leaves or twigs before bed, but be prepared to go to sleep immediately
because its effect is immediate) (Susan Kramer).
“Tongue elongated and pointed with red edges” (Frederick Peterson, 1905, 49);
tongue elongated, pointed, carmine, and dry (Matthew Wood). Lips cherry red.
Upper respiratory allergies and irritation; eyes, nose, throat.
Cough with irritation and dryness of the throat and bronchial tubes; whooping cough,
chronic bronchitis, tuberculosis.
Irritation of the stomach and upper gastrointestinal tract.
Acute tenderness over the stomach; vomiting of nervous origin; especially during pregnancy;
cannot bear the sight or smell of food, even water.
Nervous, restless babies with inclination to vomit from the least taste or smell of food;
even a teaspoonful of water may be vomited up.
Debilitating diarrhea and dysentery; cholera infantum, cholera morbus; colic.
Gastritis, dyspepsia, diarrhea, dysentery; chronic.
Dyspepsia, gastralgia, and nausea.
Worms, with symptoms of heat and irritation.
Kidney and Bladder
Edema, probably caused by heat, irritation, and dryness of the kidneys.
Irritable bladder with extreme tenderness over the part; retention of urine, blood in the
Vomiting of pregnancy and reflex irritation.
Fever with heat and dryness.
Skin clammy, retaining water, during hot weather.
Has an affinity to the vata (ectomorphic) constitution; though not restricted to it.
Loss of color in hair, loss of hair (with sage).
Hives, rashes, allergic skin reactions (external).
Pain (“beat up a handful of the fresh leves, put them in a bag, and steam for fifeen minutes
and apply”) (Ralph Russell, 1911, 327).
Preparations, toxicity and dosage:
The bark is stronger than the leaves (Tommie Bass), although the latter can be used (Matthew Wood). Heat destroys the virtues. It has been prepared by cold infusion of the kernals, small twigs or bark of the young limbs of the present seasons growth (John Scudder). Also, a maceration may be made in brandy or alcohol to produce a tincture or extract. Sugar is added to make a syrup. Dose: 1-10 drops of the tincture or extract (John William Fyfe). The kernels are cleaned and dried for making a cold decoction (Kate Gilday) or cracked and macerated in brandy, 2 oz. to a pint (Leonard Tresher). After about 10 days the hydrocyanic acid starts to leak out so stop the process. Dose of the latter is 3-4 teaspoonfuls a day. John Heinerman uses the juice of the peach for similar application. Large amounts of cyanide are poisonous so large doses with the characteristic bitter taste and smell of cyanide should not be used.
Traditional, Maurice Messegue, Samuel Thomson, Constantine Rafinesque, Elisha Smith, O. Phelps Brown (12, 15), William Cook (15, 16), William Salmon (12), Daniel Cobb (17), Frederick Peterson (5), Horton Howard, Leonard Tresher, John Scudder (8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 19), John Heinerman (21), Kate Gilday, Eva Graf, Tommie Bass (2, 3, 4, 24), Phyllis Light (2, 3), Karyn Sanders (2), Matthew Wood (1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 21, 22, 23), Julia Graves (6), Sondra Boyd (2, 20), Jim MacDonald (25), Susan Kramer (3).
Selections from The Earthwise Herbal
By Matthew Wood M.Sc. (Herbal Medicine)
Registered Herbalist (AHG)
To be published by North Atlantic Books, in two volumes, 2008-9
"In a busy practice covering over twenty five years and tens of thousands of clients, a person learns what remedies are of invaluable service. I would like to share my selection herbs I choose and herbs that choose me."