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Rhododendron medicine: alchemizing hardship into beauty

Every year, the spring flowers call to me, one by one, as they open up their blooms, and express their creative unfolding to the world. They each have their unique blueprint, a signature expression, that contains within it a medicine for the world.

And every year, there is a flower that I find calls to me more than others. One I’m surprisingly allured by. Sometimes I’ve gone my whole life without really giving notice to certain flowers, and then suddenly I am ravenous for them.

This year, it happened with rhododendron. She has been seducing me and drawing me into her mysterious presence.

I’ve always like them ok, but have never been nearly so infatuated by them.

This past week, I made a point to visit the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden here in Portland.

I found an old, gnarled tree with bright red flowers, and curled up next to her. I’d never sat with this spirit before, so opened myself to whatever she wanted to share with me about her energy.

Here’s what I wrote down after my sit with her:

Rhododendron is an alchemist. She transforms the trials and hardship of life into beauty. She signifies how we are transformed and shaped by life, and through this process, alchemize these experiences into an exquisite medicine that we carry and bloom forth.

She represents the ancient wisdom and longevity of the earth. She has seen it all, and has continued to persevere in strength, knowing that every part of life can be felt as a sensual expression of the power of the earth. She connects the heart and the womb, bringing us into direct relationship with our heart's joy, from a grounded, sensual place: she allows us to dance the joy of being in a body, through our hearts.

She helps us cherish and celebrate life’s fullness, and the sensual nature of life in all that it offers us, when we allow ourselves to be softened, instead of hardened, by life’s challenges. Can we soften enough to receive?

She holds a primordial wisdom, and is the heartbeat of the earth, stretching out to touch us. Reaching out her loving arms to hold us through dark or heavy times, as a gesture of acknowledgment that this, too, can be alchemized into beauty.

She helps us acknowledge that beauty and celebration rarely come without hardship. And that when we accept these difficult teachers into our lives to transform us, we alchemize these experiences into medicine.

There is a dark, rich, wisdom to her that holds her blooms in poised caution: that we cannot hold the beauty of life without the acknowledgement of all it took to arrive at it. And if we choose, we can draw from the deep nourishment that the challenges bring to us, and alchemize them into beauty.

I then searched the internet for rhododendron flower essence meaning. Asia Suler describes this essence as good for caretakers, mothers, or those who feel overextended in caring for others. She helps bring in nourishment, care and compassion for ourselves into our hearts. A medicine to help strengthen inner resources.

Lotus Wei describes the essence for when you feel vulnerable, unprotected, or are being hard on yourself, as a way to bring more self compassion in. Rhododendron helps us take a softer and more gentle approach with ourselves.

From Petal Republic: “Rhododendron flowers carry a complex symbolic meaning of both warning and beauty in the language of flowers. It’s a symbol of appreciating your spouse through the hard times in Nepal, while Japan symbolizes hard work and success with these graceful blooms.”… Greek people primarily saw the flower as beautiful but dangerous. It came to symbolize dangers hidden behind beautiful outer appearances.”

In all of these reflections, it seems clear that this tree has wisdom for dark times. She understands hardship and warns against anything that doesn’t acknowledge this. But despite this, offers us care and compassion to weave this dark medicine into stunning beauty.

I made a rhododendron flower essence, and when I ingested this medicine, I immediately felt my heart open as my body dropped towards the earth, moving in serpentine motions. I haven't had a chance to sit with this medicine internally for too long, so I'm excited to explore it more!

Does anyone else have experience with or insights on Rhododendron medicine? I’d love to hear what she has expressed to you.

And if you'd like to purchase the essence for $15/oz, email me: and I'd be happy to introduce you and Rhododendron!


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