Common Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) is what most people think about when they think of primrose. I guess living on the high desert prairie of Wyoming, I think of the Prairie Evening Primrose (Oenothera albicaulis). There are differences between the two in regard to appearance: evening primrose produces a beautiful yellow flower, while the prairie primrose produces a lovely, delicate white flower. Personally, I like the white flower best.
Several weeks ago I was fortunate enough to harvest as much prairie primrose as I could carry. For some reason this year was an exceptional year for the prairie primrose. On our acreage prairie primrose was growing in abundance, and I knew exactly what to do with it: make a decoction!
Making a decoction:
I spent an entire afternoon harvesting prairie primrose. Harvesting entails pulling the entire plant out of the soil, root and all, because the root of the primrose contains a lot of therapeutic properties. I thanked each plant that I plucked from the earth. I thanked it for its beauty and for the medicine it contained.
After harvesting a large paper grocery bag of primrose, I gently washed each plant free of dirt, insects and dead vegetation. I then filled a large stainless steel pot with distilled water, placed several handfuls of evening primrose into the water, and turned the heat on the stove to low. The idea is to allow the plant material to gently warm, not boil or simmer, in the water. Warming the plant material in the pot of water is similar to people soaking in a warm bath tub to soak sore muscles out; however, with the plant material we want to soak the therapeutic properties out of the plant. This can take several hours, and the temptation to remove the lid off of the pot, to check the progress of the plants is great, but try to quell that temptation. I allow plant material to soak for at least three hours. I know the decoction is complete when the plant material is nearly devoid of color, the leaves and stems are no longer green and the white flowers are opaque.
Once the decoction is done allow it to cool. After the decoction is completely cool strain the liquid of all plant material. I use a fine weave cheese cloth to strain decoctions and infused oils. Store the liquid in glass jars (dark glass jars are preferable but clear glass jars work well too) and keep the jars of decoction in the refrigerator. If kept in a cold refrigerator a decoction can remain fresh and potent for approximately three months. I am considering the possibility of freezing a decoction to find out if this type of storage is effective, and it would be wonderful to have the prairie primrose decoction available well into the winter!
Prairie primrose decoction is a beautiful golden brown in color. It has a faint aroma of greens, similar to spinach. Prairie primrose decoction is also a bit slimy. I do not know how else to describe it?
Uses of Evening Primrose Decoction:
Evening primrose has many uses. I have used evening primrose carrier oil in many facial serums because it is known to help combat the signs of aging. It is also very soothing and moisturizing for the skin.
Primrose is also good for muscular aches, pains and to tone the muscles. It is excellent at easing the pain and discoloration of bruises. In fact, I used prairie primrose decoction this morning. We are currently painting our house, and as with most home-improvement projects, accidents happen. Today’s accident involved a ladder falling directly onto the joint of my hip. I knew a nasty bruise was going to develop, so I immediately went into the house, grabbed the prairie primrose decoction from the refrigerator, soaked a paper towel with it, and applied the compress to the injury. I kept the prairie primrose compress on the injury for approximately thirty minutes; however, with in just a few minutes the pain of the bruise was diminishing. The area did bruise, and it is a bit sore, but I know that I will not develop a big, black, ugly and painful bruise like I would if I hadn’t used the decoction.
Prairie primrose decoction is also excellent for insect bites. It is that time of year when we are plagued by biting and stinging insects. By applying a cold compress of prairie primrose to the bite the sting, burn, and itching of a bite goes away. The same is true when prairie primrose decoction is applied to a cut or scrape.
Evening primrose is known to have the following therapeutic properties:
Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, eases menstrual pain, anti-arthritic, diuretic, eases fever, anti-spasmodic, nerve tonic, mild astringent, hepatic (aids the liver), anti-scorbutic (prevents scurvy), eases pain of hemorrhoids, depurative (cleanses the blood), lowers blood pressure, and is uplifting.
If you don’t have access to evening primrose I encourage you to purchase evening primrose carrier oil. Evening primrose is a wonderful addition to any facial serum, massage blend, lotion, salve, or balm. When using evening primrose carrier oil for an aromatherapy blend I use it at a 20% dilution with another carrier oil. And of course, prairie evening primrose makes a lovely decoction!
✿´´¯`•.¸¸ Haly JensenHof, MA, RA ¸¸.•´¯`´✿
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