When I hear the term 'healing quilt' my memory brings forward a snapshot of the handmade quilts my grandmother and mother made and wrapped me in on sick days. It also reminds me of the various charity quilts that are made for people suffering from various diseases from AIDS to infants born with alcoholism and face withdrawal the first days of their lives.
But, The Society for the Arts in Health Care offer a twist on the healing quilt in the 27 quilts that have traveled in The Healing Gardens Quilt exhibit from 2002 through 2005 and can be viewed at their website. Many other aspects of this website will intrigue you concerning art and healing, take some time to browse. You'll see a variety of 'healing' quilts featured there. The photo featured here is of the quilt made by Judy A. House, "Podophyllum Peltatum," 34" x 37."
The Podophyllum Peltatum that House used for her quilt may be more familiar to you by its other name: May apple. I remember seeing patches of this plant growing for miles along an overgrown Ohio fence row beneath stand of scrubby maples. Other regions may refer to it as Devil's apple, hog apple, Indian apple, umbrella plant, wild lemon and American mandrake. It is not a true mandrake.
The twenty-seven Healing Gardens quilts feature approximately twenty-four varieties of plants that are being scrutinized as sources for potential cancer fighting drugs. These Northern Virginia quilters including Jinny Beyer, Barbara Bockman, and Eileen Cavanagh, chose plants with names like Brucea Antidysenterica or Ochrosla Vitiensis or Catharanthus Roseus and recreated them on their individual quilts using all forms of quilting -- piecing and applique, hand and machine and embroidery.
The quilt speaks of natural healing, drugs found in nature, and plants yet to be explored for their medicinal uses. As a by product of these quilts, thoughts also follow the natural progression to the need to care for and nurture our environment so these plants are not lost and their healing properties forever closed to us.
It is astounding what a small percentage of plants man has actually explored. And yet, twenty-five percent of modern drugs used in the U.S. today derived from plants. Plant medicine is not new.
Animals and man have been using it for all times. Prehistoric cave drawings depict the use of plants.
Wikipedia reports: "There is evidence from the Shanidar Cave in Iraq that suggests Neanderthals living 60,000 years ago used medicinal plants. A body that was unearthed there had been buried with eight species of plants which are still widely used in ethnomedicine around the world."Animals have sought out plants for their health. Watch your house cat seek grass to cure fur balls and indigestion. Researchers from Ohio Weslyan University discovered that some birds chose nest materials that are rich in antimicrobials.
Only since industrialization have countries thumbed their noses at natural remedies. Thankfully hearty souls, such as these quilters, continue to demonstrate the potent cures that nature provides. Science is listening. I just hope it isn't too late and we haven't destroyed the plants that will save mankind.