Sunday, July 25, 2010

Centaury Flower Essence for the Caretaker Blues

Illustration © Copyright 2010 by Sheryl Karas
Codependent caregiving has been a theme in many of our spiritual counseling and healing sessions. Paul and I work with a lot of spiritually-aware people in our work but there's a sticking point that seems to be prevalent in our society: How to be loving, kind and compassionate without throwing yourself away? Learning about Centaury Flower Essence can give us part of the answer.

The plant Centaury (Centaurium erythraea or Centaurium umbellatum) is a native of Europe and North Africa and can be found in dry pastures and on chalky cliffs. Its form varies considerably depending on its circumstances but it tends to stand erect, about 3-12 inches in height. The leaves are pale green, smooth and shiny and the stems branch at the top into many sprigs with deep pink five-petaled star-like flowers.

Medicinally, this plant is famous as an aromatic bitter, being used in vermouth and other bitter apertifs and liqueurs. Internally it is used as digestive tonic, as a liver remedy and blood purifier. Externally, it is used to clean wounds and cool rashes. It is also used as an antidote to snakebite.

The greatest clue as to the use of this flower for emotional purposes, however, comes from the name itself. Centaury comes from the word centaur, a mythological half-man half-horse, and it is specifically associated with the most famous and powerful centaur of them all— Chiron the Wounded Healer. The Erythraea  genus was originally called Chironia. Chiron was famous for his skill with medicinal herbs and is said to have healed himself from a poisonous wound using the herb Centaury. Chiron was also known for his exceptional kindness and wisdom. Unfortunately, he was accidently injured by one of Hercules' poison arrows and lived in great agony until he volunteered to save Prometheus by taking on the punishment he was enduring. Prometheus was the hero who stole fire to help mankind. For that transgression he had been chained to a rock and was being horribly tortured by having his liver pecked out by an eagle every day. It would heal at night just in time for the bird to eat it again the next day. By volunteering to save Prometheus in this way Chiron was giving up his immortality, thus releasing himself eventually through death from the unending pain of living with the poison from Hercules' arrow. But imagine the cost! That's why Chiron is such an intense archetype.

Those who need Centaury allow themselves to be abused in their efforts to help others. They try too hard to please other people, neglect their own needs, and can't say "no" even if they wind up sacrificing themselves. People with this pattern are often unconsciously seeking validation outside themselves. Centaury helps them develop a deep sense of self-respect and inner strength so their desire to help others is tempered by the ability to say "no" when appropriate. Centaury flower essence helps people balance their love for others with love for themselves so their healing comes from a more grounded stable center of well-being.


Pete Kruse said...

I sometimes think that this essences goes against some of the properties of the Holly essence, which encourages love and generosity. Isn't generosity self-sacrificing, for example? I just find it hard to find the balance between these two. Any thoughts? Thanks for the article. Pete

Sheryl Karas said...

Try it and see what you think! My experience is that caregivers sacrifice way too much! There's a certain point where the sacrifice hurts the patient. You know the advice they give on airplanes to put your own air mask on first? You're no good to anyone else unless you do.