Thursday, December 9, 2010

finding a herbal ally

in an article* i recently read written by lady barbara, she spoke about finding her plant ally through illness. her ally was teasel and before she knew she needed it, she ran into the herb everywhere she looked. she gives this advice for finding a plant ally:

"Ask yourself, what plant has whispered to you all your life? Seemed to be standing there shining every time you looked down? What plant, when you first met it, just took your breath away even though you had no name for it and not a clue as to what to “use” it for?"

this is the plant you should be looking for! look around your landscape, not just the landscape at your house but the landscape you see regularly, perhaps on the route to work or school or shopping. is there a particular plant that you seem to notice over and over again? or is there a plant that has evaded you for years, no matter how hard you've tried to cultivate it that suddenly sprouts up where you least expect it? in droves?

in thinking which plant to select for my plant ally in the coming year, i thought about what barbara said and what susun has said about finding a plant ally and everything else i've read about plants coming to you when you need them.

7 or 8 years ago, i started a patch of nettles in my backyard in a small yard in town. when we moved here, i dug up some of them to transplant. the following spring, they came up but they weren't themselves anymore...they had no sting. i was unsure they were even nettles because of this and the plant just sort of went away.

every year i tried to grow nettles from seed again through broadcasting and starts in the greenhouse with no luck. i thought i saw him growing wild all around but when i'd try to sting myself, nothing. no nettles anywhere in sight on our property.

this spring, those seedling nettles started to take hold and grow finally.

then, one day i was tethering out the goats and stumbled upon a stand of nettles. a LARGE stand of him! i was so excited i just kept stinging myself over and over again. i harvested it and cooked up nettles for many meals until my partner complained about it. i walked our property and found several more areas where he was happily growing, as if he'd always been there and i'd just been too blind to see the edge of the fence row, in the pasture, at the edge of the tree line and right up through the center of the old barn that had burned down years ago.

when i went to a local conservation area to do some volunteer work, again, i ran into huge stands of nettles. it was everywhere, even in the parking lot! with permission and lots of quizzical looks, i harvested much to give to a friend and myself and even did a cooking demonstration for a local school's class field trip at the conservation's request.

so, i'm thinking nettles would be a good choice for me to latch on to for the next year. i have about a half gallon of it left that i've dried and that will help get me started.

and don't forget too, what susun weed says about finding an herbal ally:

"Choose a plant that grows very near to you ... no more than a one-minute walk from your door. You don't need to know the name of the plant, or anything about it. You will be sitting with your plant every day, so, if possible, choose one that grows in a quiet and lovely place ... in a pot on your balcony is just fine ... in a park is great ... so is an alley ... or a backyard. "

for anyone else wanting to join in on an herbal ally but still can't decide which herb, try thinking back to the past year and see if there's an herb that has suddenly popped up on your radar. or perhaps a plant you have been flirting with for years, always drawn to it but never knowing why. this is the time to discover just what that plant is trying to tell you. look around and see what you can find. even in the stark landscape of winter, i'm sure there is a plant out there just waiting for you to notice him.

and if he's not growing within walking distance, don't worry about it. order some seeds or a plant start through horizon herbs or thyme garden to plant over the winter for growing on your windowsill. then, once spring arrives, you can transplant him outside close by for more observation.

if you are pregnant or hope to be while you are on your herbal ally journey, susun weed wrote a great article about pregnancy herbal allies and those you might wish to avoid.

next time, i'll write about some tools that can be useful for studying your plant ally. in the meantime, listen to the plants and discover which one wants to talk to you.

want to see others who are joining in on this journey? here's a list of those that are participating:

sarah chose voilet
karisma chose tansy
christine chose nettles
stephany chose burdock
joyceann chose dandelion
piper chose rosemary

*"teasel - my plant ally" by barbara hall, volume 1 issue 1 of plant healer magazine. you can see a sample of the full issue here and read her monograph (as well as many other great herbalists' articles as well). 


Kella B said...

I thought for a moment on what you wrote and wondered if jasmine might be my ally. It is summer here and wherever i go the heady scent seems to follow me, it grows in nearly every front yard in my street and it tangles up my front stairs.

I have been using the essential oil to help me sleep.
Then I googled other uses and found out that a tea made from the flowers is a traditional remedy for heat stroke. I have been having trouble working lately(i'm a gardener) due to the heat. I feel like I have heat stroke everyday, nausea, headaches, shakiness, grumpiness. I am so excited. Maybe I have been "self medicating" just being drawn to something my body needs subconciously.

I'm going to go read that article.

Christine said...

When you first wrote about herbal ally I knew instantly mine was nettle. I wrote about why I chose nettle on my new blog for this study.

Stephany said...

There you are I've blogged about it and added your pretty button to my sidebar. I haven't gotten my journal done, yet but at least I have a few pictures picked out. :-)

Plantain said...

I am in, Kristine.

Yzzy Cronin said...


Shamanic Winds said...

Last year in the late Summertime when I was getting back to the 'basics' of my Spiritual Path in learning about Herbs -- like a flower that had blossomed and showed all its awesomeness during the hot and joyful weather of being outdoors loving the beauty, my 'Self' was beginning its transformation and the excitement in the air of learning about the plants and flowers was swirling like magick all around me, each new adventure like a growing petal revealing its essence.

I was drinking in all the nourishing qualities that surrounded me in our yard of the greeneries, but something was missing from my life. I could feel the branches of the trees reaching down to me and pushing me towards something deeper, something more tangible that would help me in learning about my new Journey along the way to self-taught Herbalism...I did not 'know' all these little new friends that have grown and changed their looks and appearances and personalities throughout the seasons of the years I had spent living at Home -- and they were like friends of mine that I wanted to get to know better.

The Autumn season fell upon me like a lone fallen tree in the middle of the woods -- the colors were fading and the leaves brown were falling to the ground, and the grass wasn't greener like on the other side of the fence. I felt a sense of 'emptiness' for a while, knowing that like a flower that dies after it has bloomed in the Fall, my Journey for finding out more on living Herbs was dying. Most all that were left unidentified were getting ready to rest for the long Winter's haul ahead -- and I had taken too long to work with them while I could, so I felt as if a part of me was dying, too.

My colors went to black-and-white as I spent my time outdoors walking amongst the Shadows. All was quiet after the last of the Harvest season but the wind blowing across the strewn leaves on the ground and the rains that fell in replenishing the Earth before the cold season ahead.

Figuring my life was on hold until next Spring, I walked out into the woods where I took our two dogs for a walk everyday -- and something bright jumped out to me, like the Sun shining through on a cloudy day. I saw small buds of yellow here, then there, and looked around, and they were everywhere! The weeds of Summer past were pushed up out of the ground about two feet, and their stagnant Yellow blossoms drew me to them instantly: but what were these precious plants that lifted my spirits in the moment?

Awesomely wonderful GOLDENROD!!! I was swarmed with them, like bees once again around their honey hives. It was one of those warmer and lazy Fall days, the sun was shining above me -- and here I was surrounded by the wholeness of a brand new plant that reached out to me in learning about it! I learned in appreciating the beauty it shed in the Fall before dying and coming back to life again the following Fall -- which gave me great hopes of researching it for a year-and-a-day before it returned in its yellowness in the Fall of 2011. I was on a great mission of taking in this wonderful new friend of Goldenrod when I ran across Kristine's blog here in having an Herbal Ally and taking on its challenges for the next year.

In gratitude of Goldenrod, I silently blessed the woods around me that contained the precious plant -- performed a small harvesting of a few big bunches of its blossoms, and made us an uplifting Apple Cider Goldenrod Vinegar to store and put away to add to our Winter salads.

When I first put the two teaspoons of the Goldenrod Vinegar on a Spring Mix salad during one of our cold, Winter days -- I knew then that Goldenrod was most certain to make my Self 'Whole' again, and here I am.....

)O( Shamanic Winds xo

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