There is so much information out there about what foods to eat or not to eat, about what and how to exercise, about what herbs and supplements to take or not. Social Media has only made the abundance of how to’s and advice even more overwhelming than it was before.
I can remember best when I focus on learning a skill rather than trying to learn from reading information on-line. And I’m especially drawn to herbal medicine because when I set out to learn something about plants, especially from the plants themselves, I always learn more tha n I expect at the outset.
The challenge is knowing where to start and then getting started. Here are some suggestions about where to begin!
1. Learn to identify one medicinal plant growing in your yard that you didn’t know before. Don’t have a yard? Find ne growing in the sidewalk or an empty lot. Or in a pot in the grocery store. Don’t over-think it. Just go with whatever you notice or are drawn to, one you’ve always meant to identify but haven’t gotten around to it. Read about it to find how it is used (Rosemary Gladstar teaches her apprentices to read about a new plant from at least three different sources).
2. Harvest and dry the parts that are used medicinally – or with another plant in your yard you already know but haven’t used yet as medicine. Gather some leaves and infuse them as tea. Dandelion greens are everywhere. Harvest the greens for a salad and make a spring tonic tincture of the roots!
3. Spend time with the plant you have chosen. Sit with it. Draw it. Be curious about its shape and structure, notice what you are drawn to about it and how it makes you feel. You don’t have to do anything and this isn’t about getting it right or not. It is about developing a practice of paying attention. The more we practice, the more we notice; the more we notice, the more we perceive and intuit about the world around us. I always experience something new when I give myself the time to just sit by a plant and have this conversation. Nothing to do. No place to go. Try it. The hardest thing is getting yourself to stop long enough to begin.
4. Once you have gotten to know this plant, go back to #1 and start again! Pick a different plant. Pick the same one. It doesn’t really matter. As any herbalist will tell you, the key to their healing power is the relationship you develop with them. That means taking the time to develop – and deepen – that relationship. As Rosemary Gladstar says in Numen:
“You go to the plant, you harvest the leaves or the flowers you go home and you dry those leaves or you make fresh tincture, when you become involved in the life force of this plant, you develop a relationship that goes so much deeper, so much deeper than taking a pill. It’s like being in relationship to a person. I’ve had lots of casual relationships. You have a cup of tea, you ask how they are doing, when you walk away, you think ‘Oh, what an interesting person.’ But when you spend a lot of time in deep relationship: you fight, you love, you have children, you begin to see the marvelous mechanism that this person is. All of their capabilities…. This is absolutely what happens in our relationship with plants.”
You just have to start. And once you have started, you just have to keep going.
5. Host a home screening of Numen!
Hard to get motivated alone? Looking for friends to share your journey?
Home screenings are simple. Invite some friends over. Each of you can bring your favorite tea! Print out one of the kitchen medicine hand-outs to share a practical skill to take home with you. Or organize a more formal discussion about healthcare in in your community and what you can do to start making it more resilient and more sustainable.
The changes needed to create greener and more sustainable healthcare aren’t going to come from above – and even if they are, they’re going to be too slow and take too long to make the difference that is needed. But household by household, we can bring control of our health back into our own hands and into the kitchens and gardens where it begins.