Gemmotherapy/Tree bud medicine

This is a vast topic, very old and yet very new at the same time. The object of this article is to dance around the subject a little to give you an idea of what it entails and hopefully spark an enthusiasm or at least a desire to go a little further.

I can’t remember how I first came about medicines made from tree buds but I do know for sure that right from the beginning they drew me in, I wanted to know more, how to make them, how to use them…they intrigued me and still do.

To begin with, the name ‘gemmotherapy’ often confuses people as it is often mistaken for therapy using crystals and stones; this is easy to understand as the root of the word

“gemma’ has several meanings in Latin, ‘precious stone’, ‘bud’ and the resin that is obtained from incising pine tree trunks.

The similarity between precious stones and buds is easily seen when one starts working with tree buds. One of the aspects of this medicine that I love is that it forces me out into the forest and hills before the end of winter, a close relationship of feeling and observation is necessary in order to ‘capture’ the moment when the buds are ‘just right’ for medicine making. This is a small ‘window’ in their cycle between the period where they are inert and the moment when the spring sap activates new life and there is an enormous surge of life giving energy coming up through the buds. In the inert stage that lasts throughout winter, just like precious stones, they are beautiful, closed and their energy is there but so deeply still that one could be excused for thinking that they were mineral and not plant.

This form of medicine is sometimes called phytoembryotherapy, named so in the 1960’s, Dr Pol Henry (1918-1988), a Belgium who took the work of his colleague Niehan’s who was researching the use of fresh embryonic cells from animals, one step further enlarging the method to the plant kingdom. He studied a series of buds and young shoots and developed an extraction method specifically for embryonic plant tissues.

Although tree buds were used in the middle ages mainly by alchemists and traditional herbal medicine has always spoken about poplar salve (Balm of Gilead) made from dried poplar buds, the practice of gemmotherapy is on the other hand a relatively new and little known about member of the herbalist’s tool box.

1012971_401700406645488_5940168289298786199_nPol Henry is commonly regarded as the founder of gemmotherapy, he was a homeopath who after publishing in 1959, ‘The conception and Practice of gemmotherapy’, created in 1963, with Dr Max Tetau and Othon André Julian, the Medical Society of Biotherapy’. He established a correspondence between nature’s evolution and immune reactions of patients. Based on the work of Henry and Tetau, gemmotherapy can be described as the use of developing, embryonic, plant tissues: fresh buds, young shoots, rootlets (although it is mainly the fresh tree buds that are used) macerated in a mix of water, alcohol and glycerine.

There are two main protocols for preparing bud extracts. It was the homeopath Max Tetau that during the 1970’s re-baptised phytoembryotherapy, gemmotherapy and brought the principles of this discipline closer to the theory and practice of homeopathy. He proposed, what is now considered the ‘classical’ form of preparation in the French pharmacopeia that are commercialised as 1D dilutions. The fresh bud is macerated in a blend of alcohol and glycerine in a 1/20th dilution of the equivalent dry weight of the buds. After 21 days of maceration, this mother tincture is filtered and diluted 1/10th in a blend of water, alcohol and glycerine (50, 30, 20). Although this preparatory method is inspired by homeopathy, it is not a homeopathic remedy, as its fabrication does not include sucussing.

A newer method, developed in Belgium again in 1995, uses a concentrated (non-diluted) preparation of 1/20th dilution with water, alcohol and glycerine – the arguments for this are that 1) it is simpler to make and 2) as there is no dilution, the amount of drops thus the amount of alcohol consumed is ten times less.

So why tree bud medicine? Buds contain the powerful energy of the future plant (a sole cell from a bud could in-vitro reconstitute the whole plant (and all its genetic information). Therapeutically, this implies that bud extracts will have a wider range of action than either the leaves, flowers or roots and that their action will be powerful, deep and fact acting. These embryonic tissues are ‘totipotent’; they are in a phase where their cells multiply rapidly. They contain more nucleic acid (genetic information) than other tissues and also contain minerals, oligo-elements, vitamins and growing factors such as auxines and gibberellins, enzymes and above all mineral sap. On a physical level, these intense and energy-filled buds trigger a revitalisation of sclerotic organs and stimulate rejuvenation, a precious help in chronic degenerative ailments. This powerful energy coming from the quickly developing buds also has a potent draining action on the organism thus transforming, eliminating and detoxifying. Different bud preparations have a draining action on specific organs, for example; Betula pubescens, Rosmarinus officinalis (young shoots), Juniperis communis (young shoots) on the liver. Betula pubescens (inner bark of the roots), juniperis communis (young shoots), Fraxinus excelsior (buds) on the kidneys etc.

This is not the place to go into detail about the healing properties of all the buds or shoots commonly prepared, suffice to say that apart from those mentioned above, other main spheres of action are articulatory suppleness, osteoporosis, circulatory problems, equilibrium of the female hormonal system, liver health, thyroid imbalances, allergies, nervous system disorders, pulmonary system, skin ailments and memory.

indexGemmotherapy preparations can also be beneficial on a much more subtle level, they contain a concentration of information and the essence of the tree. Trees capture not only the energies coming from the sky downwards (cosmic forces) but also those coming from below to above (telluric forces). They help anchor and bring life deeply down into the earth as well as having contact with the stars and the universe. In the bud there is a retained, build up of this life energy that is suddenly forced around the whole tree at the moment when the spring sap triggers new life with unbelievable vital force. This concentrated energy in the bud is what we are trying to capture when making tree bud medicine, it is the life giving, informational, potent, vital and vigorous expression of the whole tree, which can help increase the life force of human organisms. There is also movement, fundamental change, transformation in this medicine, the bud that represents the future leaf, a metamorphosis, a pulling towards the sunlight imparts this message to the human body as well as the emotional body that can be helped to become liberated from attachments, fears and sufferance’s. In the contracted bud lies the future tree. It is very important, in order to capture this physical and energetic information encapsulated in the bud, to harvest them at the right moment and fresh, it is recommended to make the medicine on the field (I take everything I need to put the buds straight into the maceration blend).

1902710_289447447870785_485734621_nThe above gives just a fleeting glimpse of what is a fascinating and potentially powerful tool for herbalists, I love trees and the feel that their medicine should have a central role in any herbal tool box, tree essences, essential oils from trees, herbal tree preparations and now tree bud medicine. What I find every exciting about tree bud medicine is the vital force triggered by the sap that contains the message of the whole tree on both physical and energetic levels. This idea of movement and life energy are for me two of the most important factors in healing, as disease is often a product of stagnation and a decline in terms of life force. Is this a herbal preparation we are going to hear more about in the future?


The Long Journey Home

So there was the constant running,

Years of it

Frightened…but not sure of what

Angry…but not sure with whom

I dwelled in the space

Where eternity lies

With the stars and dreamy nothingness

Of the other side

The here and now

Routine and cycles

Of life on earth

Terrified me… to the point of

Dragging my two young children

Across the globe

Just to be sure

That we could always hide

Or move on….from

That which reminded me I was alive

In a physical body

With an earthly life to lead

A life that had lost its sense

Somewhere along the way

Couldn’t find the place

Or the forgotten meaning

Searching I did

Whilst running wildly

Hunting for safety, love and a home

But a home can’t be found

Home is where the heart is

But as the heart was in shreds

The homeland was unrecognisable

From the start…

But run and search I did, in all the wrong places

In the drugs that made me feel

So connected…to the disconnected world of lost souls

In relationships that intensified the feelings of loneliness.

To India, where the reflection of self in the eyes of all,

Spun me around and shoved me back into the arms of what was not yet finished

To my horse and cart and the seeking of sense

in the windy lanes that the gypsies had trod.

Until with age and the turning of Saturn

I made the first tentative steps to stop running

And face the job of building

Something more stable

That had structure and form

That I could say was mine

And that maybe I would even belong

But life cannot be forced to

Supply stability

At the wave of a hand, the making of a decision

And so from running to illusion…I built sandcastles in the sand

I created a persona

That had many friends and an exciting life…in foreign lands

And the frightened me who ran away

Looking for a home, buried herself deeper within

Given up fleeing

Hiding now in the theatre piece of a life

that was animated and dynamic but

resting on a bedrock of dust and emptiness

Until the day I signed on the dotted line

I boarded the train

That would take me on the journey

Inwards…towards a reanimation of the lost soul

It was to be the most intense adventure of all my travels

Layer by layer, like an onionskin

I peeled slowly away, each hurt, illusion,

And out-dated survival technique

And slowly I could feel the breath coming back

To my aura, to my being, to my heart

Hesitatingly I looked in the mirror

And told myself I loved me!

Slowly I made sense of the past

And even the generations past

I performed symbolic acts

To heal the unconscious mind

I learnt to dance my dance

Sing my song and feel

Feelings were the key…

I stopped running from and faced them

What we resist persists

I let go, stopped barricading

And my body processed intelligently

Much more so than the mind (that likes to think its intelligent)

And gently as I learnt to believe in myself…and love myself

the outer illusions started to flake away

And deep in my innermost

A subtle process of going home began… yet unbeknown to me

And the universe helped the subconscious

As together they created situations that nudged me nearer

To the place where I had come from

To the place where I had fled from

Inner and outer intertwined

I was getting nearer to them both

Closer to home, back to the hearth

Feminine, masculine, the union of both

In my inward and outward lives

Harmoniously, magically, beautifully reflecting each other

I had stopped running and begun caring

For myself, for other, for the whole

And in an instant, twenty five years later

The two ends joined

I had arrived at the same place

But recognised it for the first time

I am going home!