Hiking in Zion National Park and while exploring various canyons near my home in Southern Utah, I often run into wild grapes (Vitis arizonica pictured left), a cousin of the wine grape (V. vinifera) and the concord grape (V. labrusa), which I have planted on my property. While grapevines produce an abundance of food in the form of grapes, raisins, wine, jelly, and juice, they are also one of mankind’s oldest sources of medicine.
Wine grapes are believed to be native to the Mediterranean area and have long been associated with a healthy diet and an abundant life. Moderate consumption of red wine is part of the Mediterranean diet, which is known to reduce the risk of chronic disease. Modern research suggests this is due to the antioxidants found in grapes, particularly in the skins and seeds.
Antioxidants in Grapes
Resveratrol is one of these antioxidant compounds, found in the highest quantity in red and concord grapes. Research suggests it can help lower high blood pressure, protect the brain during aging, reduce inflammation in arthritis, and perhaps even inhibit cancer.
Other antioxidants found in grapes include oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs). They are related to tannins, being considered condensed tannins, and are also found primarily in darker-colored grapes and grape seeds. OPCs also help reduce blood pressure, support the brain, and reduce cancer risk. Research suggests that they may also improve bone and joint health and protect the liver.
The Grape Cure
I’ve seen grape diets promoted as a cure for chronic and degenerative diseases and I believe they can be very beneficial in recovering from serious illness. The grape diet consists of living off of pure water, unsprayed seeded grapes, and a few grape leaves and tendrils. It is reported to alkalize the system, detoxify the body, and encourage tissue healing. It even helps balance blood sugar levels, in spite of the relatively high sugar content of grapes. The key here is that you need to use organically grown red or purple grapes with skins and seeds, so you get all the antioxidants; seedless green grapes from the grocery store aren’t going to cut it. Juliette de Bairacli Levy expressed her belief that this grape cure would help even “when the human body has become sick almost beyond reasonable hope of recovery” and I have every reason to believe she's correct.
Other Uses for Grapevine
Besides being used as a food (stuffed grape leaves) and in the making of pickles, grape leaves have also been used as medicine. They are mildly astringent and anti-inflammatory and have been used for heavy menstrual bleeding, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins.
Alchemists believed the grape to be of the highest order in the plant kingdom because of its ability to make wine. Red grape wine has often been used both as a medicine by itself and to deliver other herbal medicines (wine extracts or tinctures). It is associated with the blood, which red wine is supposed to warm and thin, improving blood flow. This makes sense considering the antioxidants it contains. So, a moderate amount of red wine or natural red or concord grape juice, taken daily, can greatly benefit circulation.
There are also reported health and medicinal uses for grape vinegar, grape seed oil, grape buds, the tartar left at the bottom of wine barrels, ashes from grapevines, and dried grapes or raisins. If you want to learn about these other uses for grape, look up grapes in Matthew Wood’s The Earthwise Herbal on old-world medicinal plants.
Vine Flower Essence
Vine is one of Bach’s original thirty-eight flower essences. It is made using the flowers of the grapevine and is a remedy for people who have a strong will, and have become pushy around other people to the point they become domineering or even outright tyrannical. These people are natural leaders with strong organizational abilities but are using their gifts to suppress and smother others, rather than lifting and helping them.
I see the signature for this personality in the way the wild grapes grow here in Southern Utah. Like their domestic cousins, they produce fairly tasty fruit, but they grow over the top of everything. You can see them covering and practically smothering bushes and small trees.
Just as the grapevine itself isn't bad, the person who needs vine flower essence isn't bad either. They are often highly gifted, but need to learn to use their abilities in a healthy way. These strong leaders need to learn to serve a higher purpose than their own will.
The clues to this higher purpose are suggested in the ways Jesus associated himself with the grapevine. He not only likened the red wine from grapes to the blood he would shed for mankind, but he also likened himself to the grapevine when he said, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” A branch needs to draw its strength from the main plant in order to bear good fruit and a person needs to connect with a higher source of love and light in order to bring good into the world.
A strong leader needs to serve from love, not from her or his own self-interest. The person who needs vine flower essence needs to learn to lead by drawing out the best in others rather than lording over them. He or she needs to lead as an act of service, rather than as a controlling dictator. You might say that their ego needs to be pruned like a good grapevine does, for them to be truly productive.
As you can see grapevine has many benefits beyond its value as a food. It is good medicine for both the body and the soul. Whether as a food or medicine I hope you'll be truly nourished by this good vine so you can also bring forth good fruit for the benefit of others.