I was noticing recently how well the mums were thriving in the crisp fall weather and giving a last burst of color to my garden. The same day, I saw that our students had begun the process of harvesting the mums in the Daoist Traditions medicinal garden—the tall bundles of flowers tied up neatly with stalks of bamboo. Typically collected between September and November, when the flowers are in full bloom, the standard garden mum (Ju Hua, Chrysanthemum morifolium) can be cut and dried to be used medicinally throughout the year. This common perennial is as useful as it is beautiful.
In Chinese herbal medicine, the color of the flower affects its function. Generally, the yellow chrysanthemum flowers are better for dispelling wind-heat and are used for fever and headache; the white flowers are more beneficial for the Liver energy and brightening the eyes; and the “wild” chrysanthemum (Ye Ju Hua, Chrysanthemum indicum) is better for detoxifying.
Chrysanthemum flower as a medicinal herb was first mentioned in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (herbal classic of Shen Nong), the first text to classify Chinese medicinals approximately 2,000 years ago. Traditionally the flowers were prepared into a medicinal wine for long-term health benefits. Today, Ju Hua can be found in many patent medicines and products for everything from skin conditions to hypertension.
Try it at home. In a cup, add hot water to a small handful of Ju Hua. Cover and steep for five minutes. Besides being good for you, it is lovely to look at and has a pleasant flavor. Enjoy your tea along with the last glimpses of fall color in the garden!