"Herbal medicine is people's medicine, a gift from Mama Earth to us."
The above quote by Susun Weed sums up for me what is so wonderful and magical about herbal medicine. Herbal medicine has always been the people's medicine. It is the oldest form of medicine, and still the primary form of medicine in many parts of the world. However, most people in the industrial world have forgotten how to use herbs for their own health. We have lost that sacred relationship with the green medicine in much the same way we have lost our relationship with the earth itself.
When I first discovered the healing power of herbs it was an awakening. I had grown up with the regular use of pharmaceuticals, and wild plants were not welcome in our yard. My step father all but declared war on the weeds, using concrete and herbicides to try to eliminate them. Such powerful plants are not easily defeated though. And many have truly marvelous gifts to share, if only we look upon them as allies, and not enemies.
Even as a child, though, I have been drawn to nature, and to the wild plants especially. I remember being entranced by the beauty of Queen Anne's Lace while waiting for the bus to school (not know the name of the plant, of course, or that it was in fact related to the carrots we ate at dinner). When I moved out on my own, it was not long before I had a nice little garden of flowers and vegetables. But it wasn't until I found myself working in a natural foods co-op in my early 20's that my eyes were opened to the healing power of herbs. I think it was because I was so completely oblivious to it, that it was such a revelation to me. "Are you telling me," I wanted to say, " that the weeds growing outside my door, the ones my step-dad would always be spraying poison on, are actually healing?" Amazing. Why didn't everyone know about this?
Well, that is another story for perhaps another post. The point is, we lost something incredibly powerful when we lost our connection to the healing plants. We lost a bit more of our self-reliance and our connection to the natural world. Since that great awakening, I have studied herbal medicine both formally and informally for nearly 15 years. I have grown herbs, wildcrafted them, make my own medicines, and have come to rely on them for my family's well being. I know how to identify medicinal herbs in the wild, and so I am able to use these medicines for free. This knowledge has empowered me to be less reliant on consumer medicine, and more importantly, it has allowed me to show my children that we can take care of ourselves.
Rainer and Alden grinding dried herbs for storage
What could be more simple and beautiful than harvesting our medicine from the earth? Using this hand harvested, handmade medicine has become so ubiquitous in my life that I hardly notice it anymore. Like cooking dinner with fresh vegetables, using herbal medicine is just a natural part of our lives. This is the way it used to be, the way it could be again, if we just take back that knowledge, the relationship with the plants. You don't have to be a professional herbalist to welcome them into your life. This was once common knowledge with nearly every family.
In the next series of posts, I plan to share with you some of the herbs and herbal medicines I have come to rely on in my daily life with my family. These are plants I would not do without, and many of them are easily found in the wild spaces around our homes. I invite you to get to know these herbs, as you see how they have become lovely friends for me and my family. And if you are an herbalist yourself, whether professional or not, please join me in sharing our most relied on herbal remedies. For only when we make it practical, are others truly inspired to bring the wild plants into their lives.
This series is called "People's Medicine".
So if you want to join in, just e-mail me a link to your post and I'll put all the links on my first post on Monday.
Happy Medicine Making.