Dates come from a palm tree and palm trees interest me very much. It, like several other members of the plam family of plants, produce food that is incredibly building to vitality and health. Most interestingly, they seem to contain the hormones are bodies stop producing as we age. Can you say fountain of youth trees?
Chapter from “Thirty Plants That Can Save Your Life” by Dr. Douglas Schar
Chapter from “Thirty Plants That Can Save Your Life” by Dr. Douglas Schar
I would like to start our next plant off with an amazing fact, the date is mentioned in the Bible no less than 42 times, an amazing number of times to befit an amazing plant. And you thought it was just an ingredient in puddings and bars for Christmas. Well, this simplistic view of an incredible fruit is about to come to a close real fast. The plant and its sugary fruit has its start in ancient Mesopotamia. In fact, the word in Hebrew for date, tamar or tamarah is still used as a name for female children amongst the Jewish people. A coin issued in Palestine from the year 175 b.c. has a date palm tree on one side of it. The date palm grew in such vigor in what we now call modern Israel, accounts tells us that from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, essentially the Jordan Valley, was one huge date forest. The Holy Land was once a forest of date trees. Talk about the land of milk and honey. Imagine a forest filled with thousands of pounds of sugary dates!
Like with many of the most medicinal plants, the date palm is written into many cultural beliefs. Jews believe it to be the tree of knowledge spoken of in the Garden of Eden. The Greeks felt it was dedicated to Apollo, god of many things, beauty, youth, poetry, music, and wisdom. In Christianity the palm has become a symbol of martyrdom, the early Christians killed in the tiger pits were said to have had their souls carried to heaven on palm fronds, and Mary, mother of Jesus, was said to have been handed a palm frond by attending angels while Jesus was on the cross, then she in turn gave the frond to St. John. The Mohamedians believe that the palm was created by Mohammed. All of these religious references are used to explain something that still has no explanation, the magical health giving of the date palm tree and its sugary fruit.
In case you didn’t know, dates are produced by a palm tree, usually called a date palm. The trees are thought to be native to the cradle of civilization. The trees start bearing fruit at the ages of six or seven years, but don’t reach maturity until their thirtieth year. Once fully mature, a date palm will continue to produce for two centuries. Date palm trees have sexes, a good sized female capable of producing hundreds of pounds of dates. The date tree was quite literally the staff of life in the Near East, the fruit and other parts of the tree being used for survival purposes. it has a very extensive geographic range, from India through Western Asia and the Leavent to Parabia, Sinai, Egypt, and all of Northern Africa west to the Atlantic.
It is the earliest known of the palms, and though it grows in tropical countries, it only attains perfection in comparatively high latitudes. The date is both a cultivated plant and one that grows wild, the seeds contained in the fruit when dropped germinate and start a whole new orchard wherever they fall. In the Biblical days the Holy Land was filled with groves of dates, sometimes growing in forests like groves, other times in isolated clumps.
The date palm was so important in the cradle of civilisation, it made its way into ornament, both in utensil and architecture, from the time of the construction of Solomons Temple forward, the date palm’s structure has been used to ornament buildings in the way of the column. The columns that first held up the structure in Egyptian palaces and temples were modeled after the terminal bud or the top of the palm tree. The palm was significantly important in the lives of the ancient Near Easterners to have been carried into their building of buildings, which says a lot.
We know of the date used as fruit, but most of us not living around the tree are quite unaware of its other uses. There is a saying in Arabic, there are as many uses for the date palm as there are days in the year. Herodotus says that the ancient Arabians made bread, wine, and honey all from the date palm. The stones of the fruit are ground and roasted being made into date coffee, which is said to be a good substitute for ordinary coffee. People could quite literally survive on nothing but the date tree. By distillation of the fruits, a spirit called lagbi, or rajura-no-darn, is obtained. In Egypt, Arabia and Persia it forms the chief article of sustenance. During times of war the worst thing an enemy could do to a tribe was to destroy the male palm trees, thus ruining the possibility of fruit, which in essence was survival.
Moreover, the kernel of the date is ground up or soaked in water for several days and used as food for camels, cows, and goats. This date pit meal is said to be so nutritious for the animals it does them more good than the usual fare of wheat and barley. To boot, the same seeds are turned into fashion accessories for a dressy evening out. Live stock feed and fashion statement all in one.
Throughout the Middle East, the male date palms are tapped much the way we tap maple trees to make syrup. The juice that exudes from the palms is sweet and is drunk for refreshment in the desert. This juice is fermented into a highly intoxicating cocktail. Three or four quarts of sap can be obtained every day from a single tree for a few weeks. This spirit is left to ferment and forms Arrak. Strabo, Herodotus, and Pliny all credit the ancient Babylonians with thinking up the idea of this cocktail. In the Bible references are made to an alcoholic beverages stronger than wine, and this very well could be male date palm hooch. This liquor is said to be very diuretic, and cleansing to the body by washing out the organs.
Beyond the fact that every part of the tree finds its way into some sort of food, for man or beast, the fruit itself has been seen as a powerful body and health food since the time of the Bible, backward and forward. Being so high in sugar, this idea is easy to understand. The people that live with the tree and its sweet fruit have observed there is something more to it than a quick sugar fix. There is something contained in the date that has the power to restore health to those that are failing. The belief is that the date traps the power of the sun, and this trapped power is capable of healing. Now the Arabians are still in contact with the fruit on an intimate basis, and here you will find some of their thoughts on the plant beyond Christmas pudding:
- Purging and cleaning out the system
- To clear the enigmatic
- To regulate the urination
- To enhance fertility
- Relieve cough
- To form flesh on those that are wasting way
- The juice of boiled dates is given to invalids to restore their strength and vigor
- Green dates reputed as aphrodisiac and tonic
- Kernels of dates made into cataplasm used against ulcers of the genitals
Maimonides, an ancient physician to a sultan sometime in the 10th century, was very fond of the date for health. It seems the good old sultan had several hundred wives, and believed in visiting them all as often as his royal schedule could allow. Having to bed two hundred wives would, of course, be a rather taxing proposition, and the doctor’s recommendation for keeping all the parts in working order always started with dates as a base. Maimonides felt that something in the date gave force and vitality to those who ate them. He should know, his number one patient had a tough row to hoe if you will.
The date arrived in Europe early in history, shipped to the cold countries by the friendly Arab traders. The dates were making their way into European society some time before the time of Christ. The Greeks and Romans knew the fruit and though used in orgiastic pastry parties, the people in the know used the plant for health preservation. By the seventeenth century the date had been used in Europe for 1600 years, and the idea of dates as health giving was fairly developed. They were dubbed finger apples for reasons not worth mentioning.
“The drier sorts of dates,” as Dioscorides saith, “be good for those that spit blood, for such as have bad stomachs, and for those also that be troubled with the bloody flux.
“The best dates, called in Latin Caryota, are good for the roughness of the throat and lungs.
“There is made hereof both by the cunning Confectioners and Cookes, divers excellent cordiall, comfortable, and nourishing medicines, and that procure lust of the body very mightily.
“They do also refresh and restore such until strength as are entering into a consumption, or they strengthen the feebleness of the liver and spleen, being made into convenient broths, and physical medicines directed by a learned physician.
“The ashes of the date stones have a binding quality, and emplaftick facultie, they heal puffies in the eyes, Staphylomata, and falling away for the haire of the eye lids, being applied together with Spikenard: with wine it keepeth proud flesh from growing in wounds.”
I don’t know about you, but I really worry about my eye lid hairs falling out and after spending two decades sweating it out, will at last be able to get a good night’s sleep thanks to Gerard. The important mentions here are the ones that I have bolded for your pleasure, and should be taken note of.
At the risk of offending, which doesn’t bother me that much, I will point out that Gerard, like Maimonides, felt that dates procured bodily lust. The reason this is important to look at is that people that have strong bodies have healthy sex desires and people that don’t, don’t. The modern phenomena of being so stressed out that the thought of doing the deed doesn’t occur, is more and more common. The rough and tumble modern day takes so much out of the human body and mind that the sex desire goes right out the window. And dates will bring it back. Not that getting some loving on a regular basis is so critical, but the idea of keeping the body so strong that it wants to do it all the time is the point.
The ancients and not so ancients were all in agreement on one thing, dates procure bodily lust, or bodily vigor. The day to day strips this from us and as our doctor friends said in the Yellow Emperors Classic, we need a little more help than prayers to stay vital, and the date was one plant people ate to stay strong.
How did we lose track of what was common knowledge? That’s another book, but in the aim of making a tonic that can keep us fit as a fiddle, we will take note of dates. They, of course, are available at every grocery store, and unbeknownst to some, the pits contained in packets of sugar fruits stuck together, will easily sprout and produce a date palm tree. The palm is quite hardy, and if you live South of North Carolina, will probably bear fruit. They are not extensively grown outside of California, which is a pity, as in terms of a dooryard fruit tree, none cold be easier or more productive. Remember, one bearing age female can produce several hundred pounds of fruit. That’s enough for you and all yours.
Disclaimer: The author makes no guarantees as to the the curative effect of any herb or tonic on this website, and no visitor should attempt to use any of the information herein provided as treatment for any illness, weakness, or disease without first consulting a physician or health care provider. Pregnant women should always consult first with a health care professional before taking any treatment.