In the Bible, the oleander plant is referred to as "the desert rose". Perhaps the name given this remarkable plant was no coincidence. Those of you who have read Dan Brown's entertaining combination of fact and fiction, "The Davinci Code", or who otherwise know a bit about pagan and early Christian religion will know that the rose is one of the most powerful of all religious symbols in pagan and early Christian religion and literature. It stands quite literally for nothing less than the feminine half of God, or the Goddess as that entity was called. It was also a symbol for very powerful healing.
an excerpt from "History of the Oleander in America... By Way of Galveston":
The first Oleanders came to subtropical Galveston in 1841. Joseph Osterman, a prominent merchant, brought them aboard his sailing ship from Jamaica to his wife and to his sister-in-law, Mrs. Isadore Dyer. Mrs. Dyer found them easy to cultivate and gave them to her friends and neighbors. The familiar double pink variety that she grew has been named for her. (Picture on right) Soon these new plants were growing throughout the city.
As early as 1846, note was taken of the yards in Galveston with oleanders and roses in full bloom and the contribution they made to the beauty of the city. Oleanders flourished in these early days of the city and were able to withstand the subtropical weather, the alkaline soil, and the salt spray. Therefore, it was logical for oleanders to be chosen as one of the predominent plants to be used in the replanting of the city following the destruction of the 1900 hurricane and grade raising that covered the existing vegetation with sand.
Concerned ladies of the city soon organized the Women's Health Protective Association (WHPA) with the mission to beautify the island and improve the health conditions of the city. They planted along Broadway, the entrance to the city, and on 25th Street, the path to the beach front, and in a few years, oleanders made a spectacular display of blooms for citizens and visitors. Although the name of the WHPA was changed to the Women's Civic League, planting continued for many years up and down city streets, in parks, in yards, around public buildings and schools and soon the whole city became a garden of oleanders. As early as 1908, an editorial in the Galveston Tribune observed that the oleander was emblematic of Galveston and that people came from all over to see them. In 1910, The Galveston Daily News also reported that Galveston was known throughout the world as "The Oleander City" and in 1916, an article named it one of the most beautiful cities in the South.
Through the pollination of the two original Galveston Oleanders, 'Mrs. Isadore Dyer' and 'Ed Barr', many hybrids have occured throughout the century. Many of these were distributed all over the United States and, today, are growing everywhere the climate is amicable. Today, corals, yellows, reds, pinks and whites in singles and double forms are found in the warmer climates of America.
(To read the complete article go to http://oleander.org/history.html. And, for a marvelously detailed article about the world history of the oleander plant, go to http://oleander.org/fromwhence.html)
Medicinal use of the oleander plant dates back at least 3500 years. Historical records show that the Mesopotamians in the 15th century BC believed in the healing properties of oleander. The Babylonians used a mixture of oleander and licorice to treat hangovers. Roman soldiers also regularly took an oleander extract for hangovers. Pliny, the Elder of ancient Greece, wrote about the appearance and properties of oleander. Arab physicians first used oleander as a cancer treatment in the 8th century AD.
Centuries later, in the 1633 edition of "The Herbal, or General History of Plants", the author John Gerard says of oleander: "This tree being outwardly applied, as Galen saith, hath a digesting faculty; but if it be inwardly taken it is deadly and poisonsome, not only to men, but also to most kinds of beasts. The flowers and leaves kill dogs, asses, mules, and very many of other four footed beasts: but if men drink them in wine they are a remedy against the bitings of Serpents, and the rather if Rue be added. The weaker sort of cattle, as sheep and goats, if they drink the water wherein the leaves have been steeped, are sure to die."which indicates knowledge that the raw plant is poisonous, but that extracts of the plant were used medicinally. And, an oleander extract much like oleander soup is most likely the magic healing potion that led to the witchcraft accusation against Rebecca, the beautiful Jewish woman from the Holy Land, in Sir Walter Scott's "Ivanhoe".
In recent centuries, oleander has continued to be used in folk remedies and in commercial preparations in the Middle East, Russia, China and the South American rain forest. Currently, a Brazilian manufacturer is making and distributing an amazing supplement called OPC Extract worldwide, and the patent holder in South Africa, Marc Swanepoel, is making the supplement as well and using it, along with doctors and caregivers, with remarkable success against HIV and cancer.
Thanks to a Texas attorney and perhaps a bit of help from others like your humble author, a growing number of people around the world are now able to make their own oleander remedy. In the concluding installments, we will take a look at how effectively oleander is being used against cancer and HIV in South Africa, where you can obtain the patented oleander medicine as well as oleander extracts such as the one used in South Africa, and how to make your own oleander extract for only pennies.