Plants as medicine or teachers?

MahoniaOne approach to receiving support from the plants is to use them as medicine, based on certain characteristic ways in which the plants are known for serving as medicine. An example of this is that St. Joan’s/John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) taken in tincture format is known to relieve SAD (seasonal affective disorder), may provide support in moving through grief, and may ease the physical pain of depression. This makes sense, given that St. Joan’s Wort is a summer solstice plant, living in very sunny locations and commonly blooming in mid – late June. The bright red tincture brings sunshine to dreary winter days. Through using St. Joan’s Wort in this way, we may experience healing and nourishment. St. Joan’s Wort has many other beautiful gifts to offer us, some that are characteristic and well-known, and others that may be revealed through work with the plant by a particular individual. In that regard, I’d like to share of another way, perhaps a deeper way, of working with the plants to support us in our experiences.

Often in the change of seasons, particularly from summer to fall and then winter, many of us have cold or flu-like experiences. One way to work with this experience is that as soon as symptoms present themselves, one may take a tincture that is known to be anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and/or anti-fungal. An example of this is Oregon Grape Root tincture. We may find that taking this tincture helps us to shorten or nearly altogether avoid the symptoms and experience of being sick. Or, we may have the experience that this does not help us, and we get fully ill. In the Wise Woman Tradition that I practice, the focus is on the unique individual, and the plants as teachers. Plants and herbs help us and support us in our experience, however herbs don’t treat disease. In fact, disease (dis-ease) doesn’t exist outside of the body. There is no one plant that can help everyone in dealing with a specific illness or experience. There are only herbs that help individuals. How can we know what plant can support us most in nourishing and healing us from a certain experience that we want to change? We may ask the plants. A simple practice is to breathe and ask with a plant or tree. If I feel Oregon Grape may protect me or support me in healing from a cold or flu that I’m experiencing, I may gently breathe seven breaths with Oregon Grape and ask “What do you have for me?” and receive what is given. The plant may offer to support me, or may direct me to another plant that may be more supportive to me. Give thanks to the plant. In addition to asking the plants for support when I am in need of support, I am nourished by and enjoy cultivating relationship with the plants and trees. Each year, I choose a plant or tree ally that I work with. I often breathe with my tree or plant ally every day, asking them for wisdom and guidance. These relationships have been deeply transformational for me, resulting in great growth, gratitude, possibility, prosperity and connection.

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