Strawberry: Nature's Toothpaste
Strawberry, Fragaria vesca, a. k. a. Wild Strawberry, Woodland Strawberry
Nothing says summer like a ripening field of strawberries. The tingly scent of the freshly picked fruit can bring a smile to almost any child's face. It makes the herbalist smile, too, as this delicate woodland plant offers a wealth of healing in one sweet, tasty package.
Medicinal Properties and Actions of Strawberry
Wild Strawberry leaves are a storehouses of tannins - both condensed tannins and ellagitannins. These tannins have powerful astringent actions. They unclog pores and allow swollen tissue to breath. They also attack plaque on the tooth enamel with astonishing vigor. The condensed tannins are the compounds that collect catechins which are heralded of late as antioxidants.
Just a taste of the strawberry's fresh red fruit reveals its cooling and drying properties. A parched, swollen mouth feels instant refreshment after sampling a juicy strawberry. Wild strawberries are more condensed medicinally than the cultivated variety but both get the job done.
Strawberry has antimicrobial properties that are fairly mild. It is just the right balance for daily use in dental care. The microbial balance maintains a healthy level even with intensive care.
The nutritional value of Strawberry is fairly well known. Vitamins C and A exist in this herb in abundance. Iron is also an important mineral in both the fruit and the leaf.
Conditions Best Helped by Strawberry
Strawberry, like other astringents, are good for treating diarrhea. The antimicrobial properties of Strawberry leaf are strong enough to take care of plaque buildup on the teeth but not strong enough to trigger yeast infections like commercial antibiotics. Red, inflamed gums, loose teeth and stained teeth all respond to Strawberry's humble ministrations.
A cup of Wild Strawberry tea has enough tannins to successfully treat diarrhea. It's mild taste makes it easy to give to even small children without rejection. A little sweetener may be needed for fussier patients.
Fix a strong cup of Wild Strawberry Tea and then let it cool down to treat sunburn. Dip a soft rag or cotton swab in the cooled tea to soothe sunburned skin. Combine this herb with Calendula flower to increase its healing power.
- oily skin
- loose teeth
- swollen gums
List of Herb Name's Medicinal Actions
Astringent, anti-diarrhoeal, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and diuretic.
Strawberry leaf is usually dried to make tea or tooth powders. It only takes a few hours in a food dryer or overnight on a flat air-drying surface like a screen or newspaper to turn fresh leaf into teapot ready product. Powdering the leaf is simple with the use of a blender or food processer. Do not over dry this herb or it will loose its chlorophyll and flavor.
Although it is uncommon, Wild Strawberry can be made into tincture as well. This could be used to strengthen mouth rinses. The leaf may be processed with a 1:1 plant weight to solvent weight ratio. It is processed with about 50 percent water to 50 percent pure alcohol. The range is flexible with this plant so feel free to play around with what suits your needs best. Whiskey is a perfect alcohol with which to to process Wild Strawberry leaf since it is generally around 100 proof so it needs no watering down.
Gardening, Growing, and Gathering Strawberry
Strawberry plants are amazingly easy to grow given the right amount of sun. Wild Strawberries are even easier to grow than cultivated strawberries. Wild strawberries grow naturally in shady woodlands, scorched sand dunes or in the cracks of the driveway. These are North American natives that, although they do not have more than 10 years to live, pack a lot of action into their tiny lives.
Strawberries reproduce by runners that loop over the ground like loose stitches on a quilt hem. I brought four Wild Strawberry plants under the shade of my Sycamore trees five years ago when I tore out my front lawn and now their cheerful little faces are stopped only by the sidewalk.
Strawberry's shallow root system allows it a vast array of garden possibilities. Wild Strawberry grows just as happily in the sandy soil at the coast as it does in the shaded, loamy dirt of the forest. Cultivated Strawberry does best in well-drained soil that is heavily mulched. It does best at avoiding its many predators by growing in raised beds where the fruit can overhang a ledge or flowerpot. Cultivated varieties can be relied upon to produce fruit for only three years before they need to be replaced but attention to providing organic compost every fall can stretch their lifespans considerably.
Who doesn't know the familiar face of Strawberry? It has a basal rosette of finely toothed, three part palmately compound leaves with smooth texture. The stems are thin and the flowers are yellow to white depending on the variety. The berries are red when ripe with tiny seed embedded on the outer flesh of the fruit. The roots are shallow and multiply by above-ground runners.
Wild Strawberry is very easy to wild craft since it is unique in plant shape and flavor. There isn't anything in the area that is toxic that looks like Strawberry. It is safe for children to gather and sample once they learn to recognise Strawberry's distinctive leaf and berry. This plant rewards good with a delicate taste that brings children back for another mouthful.
Quick ID tips
Basal rosette of finely toothed, three part palmately compound leaves with smooth texture. The stems are thin and the flowers are yellow to white depending on the variety. The berries are red with tiny seed embedded on the outer flesh of the fruit. The roots are shallow and multiply by above-ground runners.
Fruit is sweet with tangy, distinctive strawberry taste. Leaves are bland with an astringent flavor.
Tangy, fruity scent - distinctive strawberry scent.
Using Strawberry to Care for Animals
Wild Strawberry is excellent food for animals both wild and domestic. We used the leftover fruits from batches of Wild Strawberry jam to feed my daughter's bearded dragon much to his delight. We let the chickens pick through the ground cover to eat the fruit that the sparrows left behind. In the spring, these early bloomers also provide pollen for our native bees.
Cultivated Strawberries provide essential supplies of vitamin C during the winter months for birds and lizards. These can easily be dried or frozen for later use. Some animals are picky about their food temperature or food size. Chickens often need their dried fruit to be crushed into bite sized pieces for easier consumption. Bearded dragons, for instance, will eat frozen food but only after it has been defrosted.
Strawberry leaves are good to add to the bath water for treating a dog with oily skin. Dogs don't find the smell overpowering and strawberry leaf is an excellent astringent that doesn't stain a bathtub. Strong strawberry leaf tea makes an excellent compress for animals with oozing hot spots or swollen paw pads. Try adding cooled tea in a bowl next to an animal's drinking water to help relieve his or her swollen gums and reduce the inflammation. If the animal doesn't like the flavor of the tea, try diluting it more. Do not replace an animal's drinking water with a liquid he or she might not like. The animal may simply chose not to drink at all. Dehydration is extremely dangerous, particularly for an animal who is already sick.
Recipes, Household Formulas, and Non-medicinal Uses of Strawberry
Wild Strawberry leaf tea makes a wonderful substitution for fans of Green Tea when caffeine is a problem. The mild flavor is delightfully refreshing and can fool all but the fussiest Green Tea connoisseur.
Strawberry is a perfect base for jams, jellies and chutneys. There aren't many canning cookbooks that don't have a few recipes for using strawberries. Wild Strawberries are smaller and seedier than cultivated strawberries so some straining or extra cooking time to thin the seed content and sweeten the dish may be needed.
Frozen strawberries are excellent in smoothies and milkshakes. To freeze strawberries, rinse the fruit and then place a thin layer of berries on a waxed paper coated cookie sheet. This prevents the berries from forming a solid mass of berries when they come out of the freezer. Rebag the frozen strawberries in labeled and dated freezer bags or containers up to 1 year. Berries are prone to freezer burn so watch the dates throughout the winter before using them.
Dried strawberries can be used to sweeten teas or hot cereals. Throw dried berries into trail mix or grainola or a extra kick of vitamin C. Try powdering dried strawberries to sprinkle on cakes or cookies for naturally sweet food coloring.
History, Folklore, and Magical Properties of Strawberry
Although strawberries have only relatively recently been cultivated in Europe and western cultures, beginning around 1300 C. E. in France, folk all around the world have used strawberries for a variety of purposes for centuries. In South America before the Europeans arrived, strawberries were traded. North-American First Nation tribes used strawberries as medicine, particularly as a women's medicine used to clear toxins and support fertility and child-rearing. In Asia, strawberry's detoxifying properties were also recognized as many as 2600 years B. C., at which time the Yellow Emperor used the leaves of the strawberry plant in a weak tea to detoxify and reduce the effects of aging. The Romans used Strawberries to lift the spirits and relieve bad breath as well as to treat a variety of digestive complaints.
Strawberry's popular reputation, however, solidified around fertility early on, and there it has remained. Strawberry shows up in European mythos as a fertility-inducing and love-producing fruit beloved of goddesses such as Venus, Aphrodite, Freja, and the Virgin Mary. It was said that the fruit of Strawberry, when shared with another, would produce love. In Bavarian folk tradition, Strawberries are gathered and hung in baskets on the horns of cattle to pay the local natures spirits in trade for many healthy calves and cows who produce an abundance of milk. It was said that if a pregnant woman carried Strawberry leaves in her pocket, they would relieve the pains of pregnancy. From inducing love to producing offspring, Strawberry has been recognized as a potent little herb.
It's no wonder, too, that Strawberry has enjoyed a solid standing amongst the fertility herbs of folklore and mythos. Strawberry is a member of the Rosaceae family, also known as the Rose family, known for their love-inducing properties.
Strawberry magic is the magic of dedication to fertility. Reproducing primarily through runners, Strawberry gives of herself until the young plants are well established. She is capable of sustaining those young plants, too, should the ground be immediately unsuitable for growth. I've seen young Strawberry plants bear fruit while hanging from mother plants in baskets or stretching across pavement. Strawberry teaches us the lesson of dedication to that which we long to produce no matter whether the conditions appear to be right.
Through her seeds, Strawberry amplifies this message of dedication. Strawberry seeds grow on the outside of the fruit and can germinate even when soil isn't present. Strawberry knows deep down that no matter what the present conditions appear to be, she has the power to succeed. Strawberry magic is the magic of success through inner vision that sustains until the outer world is ready to receive.
Success, as Strawberry teaches us, requires proper preparation of one's self. How could she sustain so many at once if she weren't properly prepared? Her habit of emerging early in spring to blossom and fruit at the very beginning of the season speaks to her preparation, so quickly does she shuck off her winter's sleep in exchange for early spring's fertile rush. People through the ages have recognized Strawberry's gentle detoxifying, antibacterial, and astringent properties; those same properties encourage us to gently prepare ourselves for the projects or fertile periods ahead. If strawberry has come into your life, perhaps it is time to clear away the husks of what came before to make room in your mind, body, and spirit for the new season that is dawning in your life.
Strawberry plants are perennials. Cultivated Strawberries live for around three to four years while wild Strawberries can live as long as ten years. If Strawberry has come to you around a specific project, you can expect it to be a project of neither particularly long nor short duration. Strawberry projects are often projects for a period of time or a stage of life. The nature of the Strawberry who has shown up in your life, cultivated or wild, particularly if it corresponds with the nature of your project, can give you some insight into both the intensity and duration of the work. Wild Strawberries tend to concentrate their energy and healing properties more intensely and in small fruits than their cultivated cousins. Thus, if your project has grown up or come to you through a wild, uncontrolled, undirected manner or source, you may be able to expect a longer duration of more concentrated energy and small-sized but intense fruits. Conversely, if your project has been carefully cultivated, you may enjoy large, abundant fruits for a shorter period.
In Astrology, Strawberry is considered a feminine plant and is governed by Venus. Strawberry's element is water.
Cautions for Strawberry
No known cautions exist for Strawberry. Avoid eating the fruit if there is a known or suspected allergy to Strawberries.