Mimosa Tree: Fluffy Friend or Foe?

Gazing up through the fern-like leaves of the Mimosa tree

Plants don’t always looks or smell like the effect they’ll have on your body. Many beautiful and delicious smelling flowers are poisonous for humans (don’t overanalyze the potential poetic metaphor here). But in the case of Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin), the fluffy pink Dr. Seuss-like blooms and the gentle sweet smell are indeed indicative of the plant’s medicinal properties.

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Before going any further, please note that I am not a certified herbalist. I recommend consulting first with a trained herbalist near you before using this tree as medicine. I’ve found that most plant medicines can do different things in different bodies; they adapt and adjust. If after reading this article you decide to work on your own with Mimosa, please use small doses and monitor the effects carefully. 

A fallen flower

My grandparents have a beautiful Mimosa tree in their yard that grabs my attention during the month of July while in peak bloom. The tree aesthetically inspires a quality of gentleness and happiness, a perfect plant to mirror the character of my grandparents. A few summers ago, feeling especially drawn to the tree, I wondered about any healing benefits. A quick google search and conversation with herbalist friends confirmed that both the bark and flowers could be used as a medicine. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Mimosa is sometimes referred to as the “tree of happiness,” as it can be used for both depression and anxiety.

Before going any further with these glowing benefits, let’s talk about the potential problem of this plant: it’s non-native to this region. As with many such plants, that means it can disturb the ecosystem, spread quickly and thickly, and out-compete other vital plants. I’ve also heard that because it grows so quickly, the branches can be brittle and dangerously fall. Although I haven’t seen this personally, the roots may also cause damage to certain infrastructure.

The memorable Mimosa of the Moyer house

My grandparents have had their Mimosa tree since the 1970s and so far, they say, it hasn’t caused much of a problem. The worst aspect seems to be the little seedlings popping up in their garden. But that shouldn’t be too much harder than any other weed to pull out or hoe if you get it early. They say the birds and bees seem to like this tree as well. So, while I wouldn’t suggest planting new Mimosa trees, I think existing trees like this one are doing just fine where they are.

Mimosa seedling (among other weeds) in the veggie garden

The tree is there, beautiful, and thriving, so why not make use of it? Here are some tips for making a casual herbal tincture.

BASIC GUIDELINES FOR TINCTURING MIMOSA

  • Both flowers and bark are medicinal. You can create separate tinctures or a combined bark and flower tincture. Commonly and commercially I often see combined formulas which offer a range of mood-enhancing, uplifting, comforting, heart-hugging and heart-opening, and relaxing properties. Often indicated for short-term use rather than long-term, but not good to use simultaneously with prescribed anti-depressants.
  • Find a clean, small jar with a good lid and pack it as tightly as possible with your choice of fresh flowers and/or bark.
  • Slowly pour in the extracting fluid into the remaining spaces of the jar. Something like 80-proof to 190-proof vodka will work. Alcohol preserves the widest range of plant components, but there is also an option to use vinegar or vegetable glycerin (although they preserve fewer constituents).
  • Close the jar tightly, and leave in a dark place. Shake the jar at least every few days.
  • Let the jar stand for about a month, and then strain and re-bottle, ideally into a small 1-oz dropper bottle.
  • Dosage varies per person. Begin moderately with no more than a dropperful once a day and slowly increase to up to 4x a day. Make note of any effects you notice as you increase the dosage.
pictured: Pink Yarrow. This baby found me at a gardening job— it was growing as a “weed’ in some patio cracks. Rather than throw it away, I took it home to nurse it. It bloomed very recently, much to my delight. I am drawn to create a Flower Essence with it.
Victoria
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Victoria

Victoria is a gardener, forager, artist, and somatic facilitator interested in building lifestyles and communities that are symbiotic with Earth's biosphere and beyond.

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