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The old saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ could be more pertinent that we might have believed, recent research suggests that regular doses could play a significant role in anti-cancer diets, and is also shown to lower blood cholesterol levels, making apples an ideal preventative for heart and arterial disorders.

Dr Kutroff, a German Physician, cured many cases of dysentery with apples - the high pectin content soaks up toxins in the intestine, and apples have been found to be soothing in gastritic and ulcerative colitis conditions.

Freshly pressed apple juice has rather formidable bacterial powers and is useful for digestive complaints, including mild food poisoning and diarrhoea. Ripe apples tend to have a laxative effect, whilst unripe, and cooked apples have an astringent effect. Apple juice and tea is cooling.

The juice of apples can be used to bathe eyes to ease conjunctivitis, or applied to the face and neck to help tone and firm the skin - try adding a little lemon juice to some purreed apple and use as a face mask to moisturise and stimulate the skin. Mashed apple can also be used as a poultice or mask to treat skin problems.

A symbol of fruitfulness, prosperity and rejuvenation, the apple has enjoyed a magical reputation in many mythologies, and has a rich folklore history (far too rich for me to but touch on it in this short article) : In Wales apple blossom was laid on coffins just before burial to restore youth beyond the grave, and in many countries the orchards were special places, whose destruction or burning was sacrilegious. These orchards were inhabited by mysterious personages, such as Apple Tree Man, Lazy Lawrence, and Auld Goggie in Yorkshire who is said to guard the unripe apples.

Wassailing apple trees, usually on the Twelfth Night, is a long standing tradition in Britain, and similar customs exist all over Europe. Wassailers still perform the magical ceremonies in Taunton Cider’s orchard in Somerset, hanging the trees with sticks and firing through branches to frighten away ‘evil spirits disposed to lurk through winter orchards’. Libations of cider are poured on the roots and cider-soaked toast placed in the forks of branches to encourage benevolent spirits and a good crop.

The apple has a long history as an instrument for divination - the paring of an apple being dropped in water, or thrown over the left shoulder, to reveal the initial of a girl’s future husband. Named pips would be set on a stove, and if they popped or sizzled predicted a happy ending, but mere charring would see the love fade away. If one of the pips moved closer to the other, it would suggest that person was fonder of the other. In Cornwall Hallowe’en was ‘Allantide’ and each member of the family was given a large pippin, ‘Allan apple’, for luck. Girls would hide an Allan apple under their pillows to dream of future husbands. Cut across the middle, the apple will show off its pentacle shape created by the seed casing / core - perhaps this is one of the reasons why the apple became such a prominent symbol in the world of magic and witchcraft.

‘Johnny Appleseed’ was the American folk-hero John Chapman (1774-1847) who was responsible for distributing and planting apple pips throughout what was then the ‘Far West’ of the United States


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