The medicinal plant Mesembryanthemum crystallinum
also known as crystal midday flower, ice plant or soda plant belongs to the Aizoaceae family. The botanical name Aizoaceae is derived from the Greek "aizoon" (= to live forever), because many members of this family thrive even under extreme conditions. The midday flower is a one to two-year-old succulent plant with white to reddish flowers. The leaves are fleshy, slightly wavy at the edges, leaves and stems are covered with bubble cells that look like frozen dew - hence the name ice plant.
The midday flower has had a significant influence on life in Lanzarote. The "barilla", "cofe-cofe" or "escarcha", as the locals also call this plant, was exported to Europe for the production of soda (sodium carbonate). Soda is an auxiliary agent for the production of glass, bleaches, detergents, paints, and tannery products. The dried plants were burned and the resulting ashes mixed with water. This produced round lumps of "pastillas de barilla", which were also exported or used as soap for laundry. This stopped abruptly when soda could be produced chemically.
Originally from South Africa, the plant is often found on the salty soils of the Lanzarote coast. It also thrives magnificently on fallow arable land. In summer the plants dry out and the seed capsules break open. During times of famine these seeds enriched the "gofio" (the oldest traditional foodstuff of the Canary Islands) of the islanders. Even today, the locals still use the mineral-rich plant as a spinach-like vegetable or salad. However, it is no longer cultivated, as it leaves salty soil due to its high salt content, making the soil infertile for other plants.
Nurse Waltraud Marschke has rediscovered the midday flower as a medicinal plant. The therapeutic use of the midday flower began in 1994 on the Finca Lomos Altos. She used the midday flower as a fresh plant for pads, rubs and baths. The focus was on the treatment of skin changes from neurodermatitis, atopic eczema, allergic skin reactions and poorly healing wounds. The effect was astonishing: small children with neurodermatitis, plagued by severe itching, were able to fall asleep calmly and relaxed after the first bath and the wounds healed in the following 14 days.
Encouraged by these successes, Waltraud Marschke encouraged the pharmacy of the Herdecke Community Hospital to produce an ointment and a lotion from the extracts of Mesembryanthemum crystallinum L., which has since been used regularly by patients and staff of the Community Hospital in Herdecke and the Centro de Terapia Antroposófica on Lanzarote. Waltraud Marschke also convinced the researchers at Wala Heilmittel GmbH of the plant's effectiveness, who incorporated the extracts of the midday flower into the product line of Dr. Hauschka sun care products.
At the Centro de Terapia Antroposófica on Lanzarote, patients have been successfully treated with the ice plant since 1994. The experience of the effect after treatment with Mesembryanthemum cristallinum L is as follows:
Takes away itching, pain, swelling and redness
- The skin heals visibly and noticeably overnight, within a few days and weeks, depending on the severity of the disease.
Especially fast positive reactions to this treatment can be observed in infants, toddlers and children.
In adults it was shown that for some diseases, especially for weeping skin in combination with an oil dispersion bath cure or with volcanic healing earth, the treatment could be effective.
Often only the treatments with mesem ointment or mesem lotion are sufficient.
The midday flower is harvested around Easter on Lanzarote and processed in the Centro de Terapia Antroposófica by Waltraud Marschke and Dr. Andreas Portsteffen to a fresh plant extract "Mesembryanthemum cristallinum 75% pressed juice". The "Mesem ointment" and "Mesem lotion" are then produced in the pharmacy of the Herdecke Community Hospital.