Herb & Foraging Series Volume I: American Beautyberry

American Beautyberry

Here I begin writing a series in which I am extremely excited about: a guide to various flora and their uses in magick, medicine, and life in general. When I have found free time in the past few months I have been wandering through the local forest across from my dwelling. The first plant that caught my eye was a beautiful shrub that had clusters of small purple berries. My first thought was to avoid the shrub because I had no idea what it was and I assumed that the berries were poisonous. As I continued on my walk, however, my curiosity grew more and more.

Once home I decided to do some research. I had no idea what this plant was called; all I remembered is what it looked like. A quick Google search gave me the answer I sought. The beautiful shrub was called the American Beautyberry, very fitting in my opinion.  As I continued my research I found out that the American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) has a wide array of medicinal uses and a few culinary uses. The berries, although safe for human consumption, are almost flavorless and somewhat bitter, however, a jelly can be made from the berries that is quite delicious and great for digestive problems. Recipe below:

YOU WILL NEED:

1 ½ Quarts of washed beautyberries

2 Cups of water

1 envelope of Pectin

4 ½ Cups of Sugar

Sterilized Jars and Lids

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Wash and Clean 1 ½ quarts of beautyberries, making sure that there are no stems or leaves attached.
  2. Place the berries in a stainless steel pot and cover with 2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil.
  3. Boil for 20 minutes then strain and set aside the liquid.
  4. Bring 3 cups of the liquid to a boil and add the envelope of pectin and all of the sugar.
  5. Bring the mixture back to a boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and let stand until foam forms.
  7. Skim off foam and pour into sterilize jars and cap the jars.
  8. Viola, beautiful Beautyberry Jelly!

This jelly is both delicious and beneficial. I highly suggest making it!

The American Beautyberry is also a great insect repellent. The leaves contain chemicals such as borneal, callicarpenal, intermedeol, and spathulenol.  All of these chemicals aid in its insect repelling abilities.  For ages people have taken branches from the shrub and roughed up the leaves and places them under the harnesses of their horses and donkeys to keep the insects off of them.  You can also take a handful of leaves, scrunch them up, and rub them on your body to keep away the bugs.  It is crude but efficient.  A more practical and longer lasting method to extract the insect repelling chemicals is to create a cream or lotion from the leaves.  In order to do this you will need:

  • 1 pound of American Beautyberry leaves
  • 3/4 cup of grapeseed oil
  • 3 tablespoons melted beeswax

Instructions:

  1. Chop up all of the American Beautyberry leaves
  2. Slowly heat the grapeseed oil and add the leaves.  Let them steep in the oil for about 30 minutes.  DO NOT let the oil get to a frying temperature otherwise the chemicals in the leaves will be useless.
  3. Melt the beeswax in a double boiler
  4. While the wax is melting strain out the leaves from the oil and save the oil mixture.  Cool the oil.
  5. With a hand mixer, blender, or whisk slowly (I mean S-L-O-W-L-Y), add the oil to the beeswax to create a thick emulsion that resembles lotion.
  6. Viola!  You have all-natural insect repelling lotion.

This lotion should last for about three months if stored in a cool dark place.  To use it just apply to your skin before you adventure into the wilderness.  If you wanted to add a scent to it you could also add a few drops of various essential oils to the oil after you strain out the leaves.

I hope you all found this first installment of the Herb & Foraging Series both interesting and educational.  Feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions regarding this or future installments.

Blessed Be!

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