"Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity." John Ruskin
Delicate and lacelike, edelweiss is a perennial alpine flower that blossoms from July to September and thrives at high altitudes and in craggy mountain environments. For hundreds of years, legends have venerated this small bloom as a potent love charm. These stories likely arose, at least in part, because of how difficult it can be to gather the blooms.
Often found growing in dangerous, hard-to-reach cracks and on the ledges of steep slopes, it was considered an act of courage to locate and collect the flowers, and only a deeply love-struck young man would dare demonstrate his affections by risking his life to collect edelweiss for his beloved. In traditional European Alpine festivals, men still adorn themselves with edelweiss blooms to demonstrate their bravery and strength.
Edelweiss is a combination of the German words edel, meaning noble, and weiss, meaning white. In Romania, it's known as the queen's flower, and in Switzerland it is regarded as a symbol of purity. Even more romantic, edelweiss is often referred to as cloud flowers or silver stars. Edelweiss has been the favored bloom of a number of kaisers, kings, emperors, and other royalty.
In towns and villages throughout the Alps, edelweiss tea, most often served with milk and honey, was used as a home remedy to treat diarrhea, dysentery, stomach discomfort, and even respiratory complaints. Rich in bioflavonoids, which strengthen blood vessel walls, edelweiss also contains naturally occurring compounds that absorb ultraviolet light. Such traits have given rise to research on edelweiss's ability to neutralize free radicals that contribute to skin aging. Modern applications of edelweiss extract can be found in skincare and beauty products, and it's become a popular ingredient in sun blocks and sunscreens.
Long a popular design in lacework in Alpine regions of Europe, edelweiss became known around the world in the mid 1960s, due to the popularity of the Rodgers & Hammerstein song 'Edelweiss' from the Academy Award winning film The Sound of Music. Though the song's lyrics speak of edelweiss's snow-white blossoms, this is misleading. What appear to be flower petals are actually modified leaves, covered in soft, silvery-white hair. The tiny blossoms, which cluster in the center of the star-like array of leaves, are actually a soft yellow.
Weleda Edelweiss SPF 15 Sun Lotion and Sun Cream (usa.weleda.com)
Athanor Edelweiss Cleansing Cream, Anti-Aging Serum, Peeling Mask, and Body Lotion (swissalpinecosmetics.com)
Lavera Almond Milk Shampoo with Edelweiss (lavera.co.uk)
Ice Elements Revive Edelweiss Night Recovery Serum (naturesynergy.com)
AlpenGel Original Swiss Formula Balm (bodyofgrace.com).
Edelweiss Extract (edelweissgrowers.com)