An Apple A Day… November 20, 2015

appleEvery American schoolchild has heard the legend of John Chapman-or Johnny Appleseed, as he came to be known–who, so the story goes, trekked through the frontier in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, planting apple orchards for the benefit of pioneer communities. As the trees grew, so, too, did legends surrounding Chapman, whose reported perpetual good health lent credibility to the considerable lore that already existed about the apple. Better than this, anyway.

Long before Europeans reached the New World, the apple had been associated with health, love, and happiness. “The apple is the most famous of all trees adorned by myth,” says Ellen Evert Hopman, an herbalist and author of Tree Medicine Tree Magic (Phoenix Publishing; 1992). Throughout Western Europe, apples were considered the fruit of wisdom, immortality, and love. The ancient Greeks believed that finding an apple branch that simultaneously bore fruit, flower, and bud would enable he who carried it to enter the “other world.” According to British legends, King Arthur was conveyed to the Island of Avalon-some times called “the island of apples”–after his final battle. In Celtic tradition, Avalon is also associated with the Summerland, a mythic place of immortality, Hopman points out. “At a time when few sweets were available, apples were considered a delicacy and few people could imagine anything more beautiful than a land covered with apples.”In matters of the heart, apples have been touted as tools for attracting a lover and ensuring his or her devotion. To seal your love, cut an apple in half crosswise to reveal the five-pointed star made by the seeds (according to Celtic and Native American traditions, the number five is reputed to be magical and anything with five points has enchanting powers) and share it with your true love or love to be. Applewood was turned into magic wands to be used for love magic while dried apple peels were carried in a
sachet, as their scent was said to attract love. “Holding an apple in your hand until it is warm and giving it to a desired partner was said to enable one to predict the outcome of a romance,” says Hopman. “If the apple was eaten, your love would be happily reciprocated.”Today there is plenty of evidence that eating apples helps keep the doctor away: They are rich in vitamins B and C, as well as magnesium, potassium, and phosphates. According to
Hopman, eating raw apples benefits the gums and liver and aids digestion. Likewise, she asserts that unpasteurized apple cider is an excellent tonic for the liver and kidneys, and that drinking one cup of it (be sure your supplier employs effective sanitation methods to prevent E. coli contamination) three to four times a day rids the body of excess uric acid. Hopman also maintains that, after completing a course of antibiotics, eating applesauce left unrefrigerated overnight will help patients to replenish intestinal flora quickly.

Emily Thacker, author of The Vinegar Book (Tresco Publishers; 1996) and a researcher of old-time folk remedies, asserts that a prescription passed on from generation to generation for optimum health was to rake small amounts of apple-cider vinegar each day. Containing more than 30 nutrients, a dozen minerals, and essential acids and enzymes, apple-cider vinegar was commonly used as a general preventive medicine, sore throat and cold stopper, digestive, memory booster, arthritic tonic, skin toner, and hair rinse. Here are some apple-cider vinegar recipes adapted from The Vinegar Book:

FOR HEALTHY SKIN AND HAIR: Make your own skin toner by diluting apple-cider vinegar with water. Fruit acids in the vinegar gently exfoliate the skin, restoring it to its natural pH level, which helps protect against dryness and bacterial infection. Or, apply it as a hair rinse–said to restore a healthy shine to hair, especially hair that’s been chemically treated.


Combine one teaspoon apple-cider vinegar with one teaspoon honey in a full glass of water and drink a half hour before meals. Also said to be excellent for aiding digestion, easing arthritis; and boosting memory.

TO SPEED THE HEALING OF A SORE THROAT: Sip a syrup made of 1/2 cup apple-cider vinegar, 1/2 cup water, one teaspoon cayenne pepper, and three tablespoons honey.

FOR TIRED FEET: Wriggle your toes in warm ankle-deep bath-water to which 1/2 cup apple-cider vinegar has been added.

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