Bleeding Hearts and Their Medicinal Uses
There’s a wordless tune from some old Native American song from my childhood that sometimes haunts my memories – a one chance encounter humming in a barely whispered Hodge posh of unintelligible lyrics and music from the cracked lips of a sad elderly Pacific Northwest beggar at a farmer’s market. He was there peddling his bleeding heart plants harvested no doubt from the forest floor of a nearby wildlife preserve.
My grandmother had stopped at this market as we traveled to visit a gardening club member who had moved far away from our California home. She knew this plant well and had used it for years in a compress for treating youthful wounds and scrapes. All my child mind knew was that it indeed worked, because any pain was greatly alleviated within a few minutes of her gauzed potion. That concoction was a tincture made from the rhizome root and strained onto sterile gauze.
The ragged and weathered man sat on his hunches among his plants that were humbly spread out on a dirty blanket. At first, I watched in revulsion as my grandmother took off her new shoes and joined him on the blanket. She had been so fussy earlier in the morning about what dress and shoes she was going to wear, ever so conscious of her overall fashion statement when visiting this particular girlfriend that I was dumfounded to see her willingness to get down and dirty when it came to another dumb old plant. Mind you, I was only about ten years old and at that time constantly being drug around to flower shows, garden centers, nurseries and the like – well that just wasn’t for me.
She gently placed her hand on his forearm and talked of things I knew nothing about. It was a lot about rounded flowers and wings and the subtle differences between the pink, red, or white flower in terms of which was the indicator of the best for her purpose. He prattled about soothing nerves and drinking a brew that I instantly prayed she wouldn’t try out on me.
The plant that had caught her eye, the one that caused her to stop in her tracks, and spend extravagantly to buy all that the vender had — was the wild Pacific bleeding heart (Dicentra Formosa). It was one of her signature favorite plants and a plant that whenever and wherever I see it I am reminded both of her, all that she taught me about Native remedies, and of the biggest toothless smile I ever saw the day she bought every plant the old man had.
Carrying them to the car Grama Daisy explained to me that she didn’t need them and would give them as gifts to neighbors and friends. “Then why did you buy them?” I cautiously asked, not wanting to be rude and her reply was a smiling, “Sometimes when you see a heart bleeding you have to take the time to apply an invisible a bandage and hold a hand even if means your palm is lined with a few dollars.”
A Little Bleeding Heart Trivia
Bleeding Heart varieties are not just native to the United States, they are found native (and non-native) in many countries and in all kinds of colors. Here in the U.S. aside from the Pacific Bleeding Heart, there is also a native wild bleeding heart that originates in rocky terrain from the Appalachians from Pennsylvania southward. This variety, Dicentra eximia is also commonly known as the Fringed Bleeding-heart and sometimes regionally as Turkey Corn. Additionally, Bleeding Hearts are also native to parts of Asia and Africa.
If You’d Like To Know More About Bleeding Hearts!