"Natural Healing with Herbs for a Healthier You"

The world as we know it began with the apple. According to Genesis 3:6, Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, gave it to Adam and their eyes were opened. This fruit of knowledge is generally represented by the apple. Were it not for Eve’s transgression, mankind would never have been born. In the eyes of Christians, at least, our world began with the apple.

Malus pumila, the paradise apple has been symbolic of many things throughout history. The genus name Malus comes from the Latin root “mal” which means bad or evil. In the Garden of Eden it represents sin and knowledge. “…the apple of my eye” are the words used by Jehovah in the Old Testament of the Bible, to describe his favored people. The ‘apple’ of the eye is the pupil, the center. God said he kept the children of Israel in the apple of his eye as a way of saying to them that they were central and favored, that he watched over them even in their trials.

Cutting an apple cross-wise will reveal more symbolism. The shape revealed is a five-pointed star. This pentagram, though often mistaken for a satanic symbol, is actually a Christian symbol which represents the atonement. This five pointed star is also called the Star of Bethlehem, representing the star that appeared at the birth of Jesus Christ. The seeds within the star of the fruit represent the Resurrection and Immortality or Rebirth, as this is how the fruit continues its life. This one fruit symbolizes the Birth, Sin and Death of man, then the Birth of a Savior who will Atone and Resurrect him to Immortality and Eternal Life.

This symbolism was carried though to several ancient pagan cultures as well. The Scandinavians had their goddess, Iduna whose name meant ‘at-one-ness,’ very close to the word ‘atonement.’ According to legend, she tended the apple orchards at Asgard a land for the Immortals. To Asgard the other gods went each night to renew themselves. Their immortality depended on partaking of Iduna’s apples.

Like Asgard, Avalon was another place for the Immortals. It was believed that Celtic heros like King Arthur didn’t die but sailed through the mist to reach Avalon. Avalon was the “Apple Island”. The name came from the Welsh word “afal” or apple.

The Irish mythological heros were summoned to Emain Ablach, (Emain of the Apple Trees) or the Avalon equivalent, “Avallach”. This was done by an “other-worldly woman who brings the hero a silver-white blossomed apple branch from Emain…” Some believe these legends to be rooted in descriptions of druidic ceremonies.

In addition to being a fruit rich in symbolism, there is much plant lore assigned to the apple. Apple boughs hung above the door frame of a house are said to bless the couple that resides therein with added peace and love. Others have used the apple in a love spell that involves cutting the apple cross-wise and sharing it with the one that you love to increase the attraction. In Danish folklore, however, apples are believed to wither around adulterers.

Many American children have bobbed for apples on Halloween. This child’s game may have originated from and Irish Tradition, “La mas nbhal.” This was “the feast of the apple gathering” which took place on All Hallow Eve. There was a spicy cider and toast beverage in which apples were floated. “It was usual for each person who partook of the spicy beverage to take out an apple and eat it, wishing good luck to the company.” 

In England on Christmas Eve, there once was a popular custom called, “wassailing the orchard trees.” The farmer with his family and workers would honor the most productive trees in the orchard with cider and hot cakes while saying the following toast three times:

“Here’s to thee, old apple tree!”
Whence thou mays’t bud, and whence thou mays’t blow,
Hats full! Caps full! Bushel-bushel-bags full!
And my pockets full, too! Huzza!”

Still in practice by some as late as the early 1900’s, wassailing was believed to ensure that the best trees would continue to bear much fruit.

“Wassaile the trees, that they may beare,
You many a Plum and many a Peare,
For more or lesse fruits they will bring,
As you do give them Wassailing.”

No respectable folk or legend history of apples would be complete would be complete without mentioning Sir Isaac Newton or Johnny Appleseed. Around 1665 or 1666, Newton went to spend some time at his mother’s home away from London. While sitting in the shade of an apple tree he contemplated his many scientific interests. He saw an apple fall to the ground. This inspired him to make the connection of Galileo’s experiments with projectiles,  his knowledge of the moon’s orbit, and this fallen apple. The result was the Theory of Gravity.

Johnny Appleseed made no contribution to Physics, but he is a well loved American folk hero just the same. Born in 1774 as John Chapman, he developed a great love for apples. He dedicated his life to pomology, (the cultivation of apple trees.) He worked tirelessly, starting many nurseries throughout Indiana, Ohio, and all along the Allegeny River. His legendary nickname brings to mind a vision of a barefoot man with a sack of apple seeds slung over his shoulder throwing the pips out as he walked the countryside. However, being a gifted pomologist, John Chapman would have known that planting apple trees from their seed was not an effective way to spread his love for this fruit.

Legends, symbols, and myths aside, apples have a history traceable by archeologists and historians. To find the origin of the first apple tree, some point to Southwestern Asia between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. Others point to carbon dated seeds that were found in Antolia. These are believed to be from 6500 B.C. Still others have found fossilized imprints of apple seeds dating to the Neolithic period in England.

Wherever the true origin of the first apple trees may be found, one thing is certain, man has always been less than a pip’s throw away. Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man.” He remarked that everywhere man migrates he takes his orchard with him.
But perhaps he meant more. As another author has put it, “From a few natural crab apple species, the varieties of apples increased to thousands, very much like the diversity and richness of the cultures and civilizations all over the world.” The first apple trees were types of crab apple trees. These bear a small sour fruit. Through an unknown number of years, these sour little fruits were coaxed by man to be the plump and sweet fruit we know today.

Ancient Greeks were very familiar with the apple tree. Homer mentions apples in the Odyssey (circa 850 B.C.) By the 7th century B.C., apples were considered to be very valuable to the Greeks. To celebrate their wedding night, a couple was allowed to share only one apple. It has been suggested that in ancient Greece it was easy to catch a woman -if she could catch an apple. The man’s toss was the proposal, her catch was the acceptance. One of the most famous Greeks is Hippocrates. He lived around 400 B.C.  Considered the father of medicine, he was well acquainted with apples. He said, “Let your food be your medicine and let your medicine be your food.” His most favored prescriptions for his patients included apples, dates and barley mush.

It was the Romans however, that are credited with the perfection of the fruit and its spread throughout Europe. In order to have developed the fruit we know today, cross-breeding had to take place to bring out the sweetness. To preserve the new varieties of fruit they had developed, Roman pomologists employed the technique called “grafting”. Without grafting, trees planted from seeds or pips, as they are sometimes called, eventually revert back to their sour ancestors. Pliny the Elder, a Roman statesman, wrote “Historia naturales,” around 23 A.D. At that time he describes 37 different varieties of cultivated apples, and notes how farmers would auction the fruit on the trees.

When the Romans invaded Britian in 55 B.C., they found the locals drinking apple cider. This was most likely from a more tart variety of apple than the Roman people had been enjoying. Like their herbs and medicines, the Roman’s brought their sweet varieties of apples and orchards with them. During their occupation, officers were given lands to entice them to stay in England. Many accepted, and on those lands they planted orchards.

In 597 A.D., long after the Roman armies had left Britain, Christianity was reestablished in England. At this time, monks were predominantly responsible for planting orchards and tending them at their monasteries, along with their herb gardens. “Encyclopedia” (printed in 1470 A.D.) by Bartholomeus Angelicus, mentions the value of the apple tree as did many of the old Saxon manuscripts. “Malus the Appyll Tree… is gracious in syght and in taste and vertuous in medicyne…”

Fruit cultivation took a hit during the Black Death. This decline was reversed by Henry the VIII. In 1533, one of the king’s fruitiers named Richard Harris, imported apple trees from France. He worked to create new varieties with the trees from France. One of his missions was to reestablish orchards to supply England with trees and fruit.

When the colonists came to the New World, they brought with them a variety of apples. Cider production records from the year 1635 prove the value placed on the apple tree by the settlers. A Mr. Wolcott of Connecticut produced a record 500 hogshead of  cider that year. This is roughly the equivalent of 55,000 gallons. It takes about 36 apples to make one gallon of cider. Orchard owners must have enjoy considerable success.

America’s oldest apple tree is believed to have been the one planted by Peter Stuyvesant in 1647. He was the governor of “New Amsterdam” at the time he planted the tree in his Manhattan orchard. It was still bearing fruit 219 years later when it was run over by a derailed train in 1866.

Malus pumila known to many as the “Golden Delicious” apple was discovered in 1905. Anderson Mullins was tending his apple orchard at his farm in Clay County, West Virginia that year when he spotted a tree bearing the huge yellow fruit. It had spontaneously appeared from seed. Over the years he watched this tree as it continued to produce the sweet, plump fruit. Finally in 1913, he sent a sample to the Stark Brothers nursery in Missouri where he had bought his stock of apple tree seedlings. Although red apples ruled at the time, Paul Stark Sr. was soon converted. He later bought the rights to the tree and named it Golden Delicious. In 1972, the “Golden Delicious” apple was named the official state fruit of West Virginia and is grown all over the world today.

Apples have come a long way since their beginning. Between 7500 and 10,000 varieties are cultivated today. The leading producer is China, followed by the United States, Turkey, Poland, and Italy. New varieties have been developed that do well in warmer climates without the need of a two month dormant period. Growers are taking advantage of the seasons all over the world in order to supply fresh apples year round. It is no wonder that the apple is the most well known and well loved fruit in many nations of the world.
[Table of Contents] [History] [Location] [Chemical Constituents] [Medicinal Qualities] [Contra-Indications]
[Known Herbal Formulas] [Dosages & Applications] [Personal Experience] [Bibliography]
by Anna Lovett-Brown
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