Are you taking hawthorne tincture, nettle capsules, or dandelion tea? Have you ever wanted to meet these plants face to flower? It’s exhilarating to meet herbs growing wild and free where you can see who they are! (They’re Alive!). I lead Plant Walks in Seattle parks to unite you with the living beings that you might be popping every morning in capsule form. My last Plant Walk in Discovery Park was a success! and it strengthened my resolve to spread the gospel of plant recognition.
There are a number of reasons why learning about your local plants is a good idea. From a philosophical standpoint, I consider botanical literacy to be a basic life skill. Having a basic knowledge of the plants that you can eat and use as medicine and how to pick, prepare, and administer them is just being a good cub scout.
From an herbalist’s perspective, it really changes the way you think about herbal medicine when you know the plants you are using. Just to be able to conjure up an image of the plant- perhaps as it’s growing in its favorite habitat, in its particular fashion, or how its flower smells- these details are part of the healing. Plants are complicated polypharmacy, yes. They are a dizzying cocktail of potent chemicals. Most of our original medicines came from these compounds due to their profound effect upon our physiology. But the real power of herbal medicine lies in the fact that plants are alive! You can have a relationship with them. And I believe you already do. They have been responding to our needs and desires for millions of years, adapting to and with us. Plants and humans are friends! Just being in their company relaxes our nervous system and lowers our blood pressure. Being on familiar terms with the plants you take as medicine taps into these other mechanisms of healing that operate beyond the physical level.
It doesn’t take much to rekindle our millions-of-years-old direct relationship with plants- just noticing the plants around you is a great start. Spend some time with them. Being able to see a plant growing right in front of you, sucking up nutrients with its mysterious pumping mechanism, sending down sugars that it manufactured from solar energy, waving in the breeze (and all while smelling great!). This is all that it usually takes to change your mindset from regarding herbs as weak drugs to living, breathing partners in our lives on this earth. It’s easy to overlook their importance, but not only do plants provide us with food and medicine, every second of the day they are quietly completing the other half of our respiration.
Dare I say, our better half?
Now, to insert myself into this process, having a plant guide is crucial to learning your plants. It really helps to have someone who loves them point out their riveting beauty, distinctive botanical characteristics, and medicinal properties. On my plant walks we also discuss how to pick them, what part is used medicinally and proper dosing patterns, should you decide to gather and prepare you own herbal medicines. Or the cautious among you may just want to see me eat a bit of the plant before you go out there and try it on your own (perfectly reasonable).
If you are interested in attending a plant walk in Seattle in the future, send me an email at email@example.com. Classes are on-going throughout the spring and summer. I hope to see you out there!