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NAME: Rowan

GAELIC NAME:  Caorthann


LATIN NAME:  Sorbus aucuparia L.edulis


FAMILY:  Rosaceae

COMMON / FOLK NAMES:   Mountain Ash Sorb Apple Witchin Wiggin Tree Quicken

MEDICINAL PART: Bark and berries. (berries must be cooked before use)  

PLACE OF ORIGIN:  Britain and Ireland. Also Europe, North
Africa and Asia Minor.

HABITAT:  Prefers light, peaty soils with good drainage, not too dry, likes open unshaded areas with plenty of sunshine but not too hot.  Likes temperate zones.

DESCRIPTION: A hardy deciduous tree which produces a large number of berries in autumn.  Can be coppiced, new growth from planted twigs.  Can grow up to a height of 18 metres and can live to over a hundred years.  Leaves alternate and pinnately compound, 13-23 cm long, leaflets 2-6.5 cm long, serrate. Terminal buds, woolly, 13 mm long, lateral buds have several scales. Fruit (6-9 mm diam.) yellow to red, in showy clusters. 

FLOWERING PERIOD:  May to June produces sprays of white flowers.  First fruits appear in September and are ripe by October.


POLLINATION: Insects and Air


PROPAGATION:  Grown from seed, dispersed by birds.


ACTIVE CONSTITUENTS: Bitter essence, Prussic Acid, Carotene, Tannic Essence, Mineral, Organic Acid, Parasorbic Acid, Pectin, Provitamin A, Sorbic Acid, Sorbitol, Sugar, Vitamin C.


PROPERTIES: Diuretic Astringent Haemostatic Vulnerary Febrifuge Digestive Expectorant Demulcent Anti-Scorbutic Vaso-Dilator


USES: The hard pale brown wood of the rowan was used to make bows in the middle ages, also used for tool handles, bowls and plates and for general woodcraft.  The berries were used to make rowan jelly which was eaten with meat and helped prevent gout. 


The berries from the Rowan were processed for jams, pies, and bittersweet wines. They also made a tea to treat urinary tract problems, haemorhoids and diarrhea. The fresh juice of the berries is a mild laxative, and helps to soothe inflammed mucous membranes as a gargle. Containing high concentrations of Vitamin C, the berries were also ingested to cure scurvy - a Vitamin C deficiency disease. 

Even today, one of the sugars in the fruit is sometimes given intravenously to reduce pressure in an eyeball with glaucoma. 


Caution, however, must be taken when using the berries. They are reported to contain a cancer-causing compound, parasorbic acid. The poisonous elements are neutralized by cooking the berries though. 


The bark was also employed for several medicinal purposes. A decoction of the bark was considered a blood cleanser and was used to treat diarrhea, nausea, and upset stomach. 


The wood of European Mountain Ash is a tough, strong wood used in making tool handles, cart-wheels, planks, and beams. The Rowan was once a tree of ill repute in Northern Europe, where the Celtic Druids had venerated it. It was associated with witchcraft in 15th-16th century England where it was a symbol of paganism and the supernatural. 


TRADITIONAL LORE: The name aucuparia is derived from the latin word avis for bird, and capere to catch as the fruit attracts birds so much.


Medical properties


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POWERS Protection Anti-Fire Courage Virility Exorcism Mental Powers Healing





This tree is particularly good for all rituals associated with empowerment, it represents the male (yang) essence, call on the gods Dagda, and Lugh for courage and protection in difficult circumstances.  In times of strife and war the rowan is particularly good for protection and instilling courage.  To increase virility and male strength carry a small piece of rowan inscribed with ogham.

Used in all protection spells particularly from fire, or lightning.   In Ireland it was hung in the house to prevent fire charming, hung around the necks of hounds to increase their speed, and used to keep the dead from rising. It also had the power to protect people and animals from evil spirits.  The Irish Druids held it in particular esteem, for its physical healing as well as its magical properties.

Herb Gender :: Herb Powers

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Stories, Myths and Articles associated with Rowan

The Hostel of the Quicken Tree

Finn and the Phantoms

The Flight From Teamhair

The Green Champions

The House of the Quicken Trees


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