By Isabella @TheWandCarver
One of the first questions which pop up under ‘People also ask’ if you Google Buckthorn Tree is “Is Buckthorn good for anything?” . Really? I felt quite indignant! Aren’t all trees good for something, if not multiple things? Maybe having a Druid father makes me feel indignant over that question, however, should you be one of those who might ask this, let me very patiently explain just what the Buckthorn tree is good for… and hopefully the people who do ask that question routinely will find satisfying answers here 😊
The Buckthorn [Rhamnus cathartica] tree is native to countries from the central British Isles south to Morocco, and east to Kyrgyzstan. It is also native to Europe, northwest Africa and western Asia. Mature trees can grow to a height of 10m, with grey-brown bark and spiny branches. The leaf buds are conical and black brown in colour, and form on long stalks. Buckthorn is dioecious, meaning male and female flowers are found on different trees. Flowers are yellow green with four petals and are pollinated by insects. It is similar to alder buckthorn [Frangula alnus] but purging Buckthorn has opposite leaves and Alder Buckthorn has alternate leaves.
Purging Buckthorn is the main food plant of the brimstone butterfly whose caterpillars eat the leaves. Its flowers provide a source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects, while its dense growth makes it a valuable nesting site for birds. So, yes, it is good for something, our Buckthorn!
However, in many places it seems to take over wherever it lives. Not only in the UK but mostly in the US where the common Buckthorn lives [brought over by the English back during the Great Pilgrim Migration] is a bit of a nuisance. Whilst birds [and sometimes mice] do eat Buckthorn berries, it’s often because it’s the only available seed source. But Buckthorn berries are not a good food source for small birds. They’re low in protein and high in carbohydrates and produce a severe laxative effect in some animals. For smaller birds, the laxative effect can even be strong enough to result in death. Adding insult to injury, the excreting birds also end up distributing the Buckthorn seeds over long distances. And, that means more Buckthorn.
Now you might see why it is called “purging Buckthorn” sometimes…
Let us talk about magickal uses now!
Tess Whitehurst, in her book The Magic of Trees, calls the Buckthorn “a Taurus with an Aries rising” because it is a tree which is stubborn enough to see anything through. Sometimes, in magick, we really need that kind of tenacity!
It is said that if you wish to de-hoard your home but can’t get the energy up to do so, place a 50p coin [or a 50 cent piece in the US or anywhere else which uses 50 cent coins] at the base of a Buckthorn tree. Then, ask permission of the Buckthorn tree to snip a branch from it, doing so with love. Use this branch to purify the air in your home before starting the task of decluttering, moving through each room using an anti-clockwise sweeping motion. When finished, give the branch back to the earth by laying it on the ground. Start small… clear out one small space, such as a cupboard. Continue choosing one small space to clear as you feel more up to it until you have de-hoarded every place in your home. And, if it works as well as I think it should, you might well be motivated to clear your home much sooner than you first imagine!
Buckthorn is likewise a good ally in beginning any kind of endeavour, whether a new business, new job, or anything in which you feel you need extra “sticktoitness”. I would suggest doing the same ritual as above, only “sweeping” yourself with the branch. I would also snip off a small piece of the Buckthorn branch and use it as a talisman to help you keep motivated but still leave the largest piece of the branch to the earth outdoors as described above.
If beginning any kind of new project, whether for work or school, visit a Buckthorn tree at noon. Empower a crystal [one which has powers of success is best, such as Citrine] with your intention, holding it in bright sunlight if possible. Imagine yourself feeling joyful and successful in embarking upon this project, working faithfully until complete. Imagine your success and the honours it might bestow, and your satisfaction of a job well done. Empower the crystal with all the confident feelings you have and when you feel this is complete, bury the crystal at the base of the Buckthorn, then pour an entire bottle of red wine around the tree’s roots. Yes, you can use a cheap bottle 😊
According to Dioscorides, placing branches of Buckthorn around doors and windows drives away all evil sorceries committed toward you.
According to Scott Cunningham, it is wise to carry a piece of Buckthorn with you to all court and legal matters and as a general good luck generator.
Planetary: Saturn [Mars, according to Whitehurst]
Gender: Feminine [Masculine, according to Whitehurst]
Element[s]: Water [Earth, according to Whitehurst]
Powers: Protection, Exorcism, Wishes, Success, Legal Matters, Strength, Tenacity
Deity: Ran, of the Vanir
Other Names: Purging Buckthorn, Common Buckthorn
Sadly, my go-to for all things herbal/tree/spice related information, Nicholas Culpeper, has no writings of Buckthorn so no words of wisdom from him. However, I think you may have gotten the idea above that Buckthorn is an effective laxative.
Word of Caution: If you suffer from a bleeding disorder, Buckthorn berry can be dangerous, as it slows down blood clotting. Also, if you already are taking blood pressure medication or suffer from hypotension, this berry might not be a great choice. As always, you should speak with a medical professional before making any major changes to your diet.
That said, the berries of the Buckthorn are thought to be a preventative to many diseases and problems such as aging, anti-cancer, cholesterol, circulation, diabetes control, heart health, stomach problems, vision health and a vitamin C boost.
But please, do not just pluck the berries off from a tree and start eating them. In a case like this, once you have a thumb’s up from your GP, order a proper supplement from a reputable vitamins and supplements dealer.
Many thanks to all whom this way wander and warmest blessings x
Encyclopaedia of Magical Herbs, by Scott Cunningham
The Magic of Trees, by Tess Whitehurst