Plants are a part of life. Humans cannot survive without them, even those of us who eschew vegetarian and natural lifestyles. Whether we like it or not, darn near all of us are herbalists in some fashion, in my opinion. Who among us hasn’t sought out orange juice to prevent illness or get over one, or a ginger candy to ease motion sickness, or enjoyed the soothing scent of lavender in the soap while washing up? It’s all herbalism, really, even when we’re not paying attention to it.
For me, herbalism is a conscious way of life. I was drawn to the energies and magical nature of the plant world as a small child. I longed to walk in the woods, to commune with the spirits of the forest and wild spaces, and to learn the secrets of the world of plants. I hated the work of gardening, where it seemed the plants were flattened and near lifeless compared to those who weren’t pampered or tended, although now I see the beauty in a well-tended garden, too. No one’s telling me to go out and weed it mid-allergy season in the heat of the day, either. That probably makes a difference in my perspective. A considerable difference.
I practice Magical Herbalism, Medicinal Herbalism, and Household Herbalism regularly. When a family member or friend is sick, I turn to herbs first. Herbs and plants help me care for my home and all who enter my space. Plants help me heal myself and those who come to me at deep levels, sometimes changing lives dramatically and sometimes working in quiet and unassuming ways. I’m thankful for the connection I have to the plant world. My gratitude to the Universe for letting me learn, practice, and share what I know with others for a living is boundless.
I use a variety of shamanic and other tools for recognizing the various energies each plant brings into the world. I have a strong relationship with some plants, often those who are most needed in my life. These, I honor in medicine pouches and with offerings and gratitude regularly. Other plants are more like acquaintances or friends with whom I have a good relationship but who aren’t close, working partners. Still, I take the time to get to know them well before I incorporate them into my workings.
Disease is a state of imbalance that causes pain in one form or another. Medicinal Herbalism treats this state with the intention of bringing balance and healing to the individual who suffers as well as to the causes that led to that suffering.
To care for my family and friends, I work with herbs as both energetic and physical medicines. I know that yarrow, for instance, is good at drawing down a fever so when my son has a fever, I offer him yarrow tea. Likewise, yarrow helps protect one’s boundaries, ensuring the drama or fiery passions of those around us don’t overrun our natural state. When a friend comes to me complaining of too much drama in her life, I may well suggest she try some yarrow flower essence.
The line between Magical Herbalism and Medicinal Herbalism is a little murky, in my world. Household herbalism owns a large swath of that territory. I use plants and the energies of herbs to care for hearth and home.
When I add lavender essential oil to my laundry, for instance, I’m invoking Lavender’s stress-relieving aspects for my family while also making use of His antiseptic and insect-repelling properties. I’m asking Lavender to help me ensure each of my family members will be protected from illness and troublesome entities when they dress each day. Magic and medicine are one in Household Herbalism.
I write and edit a variety of articles on Household, Medicinal, and Magical Herbalism for The Practical Herbalist. My partners and I also publish ebooks that are available on Amazon.com. You can find more information on them at Practical Herbalist Press.
I host a bi-weekly podcast called Real Herbalism Radio with my partners, Sue Sierralupé and Patrick Hunter, as well. We delve into a variety of herbal topics, discuss herbs in the news, and offer definitions and information particularly for beginners in our Herbal 101 segment.
I read a lot of books on plants and herbalism. Here are a few of my favorite authors and titles. If you choose to buy any from Amazon and use the link I’ve provided here, I’ll get a wee kick-back from the Amazon Affiliates program. I humbly thank you for that as it helps fund my herbal research habit considerably.
- James Greene: The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual
- Julie Brunton-Seal and Matthew Seal: Backyard Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies
- Matthew Wood: The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicines
- Mary Wulff-Tilford and Gregory L. Tilford: Herbs for Pets: The Natural Way to Enhance Your Pet’s Life
- Patricia Kaminski and Richard Katz: Flower Essence Repertory: A Comprehensive Guide to North American and English Flower Essences for Emotional and Spiritual Well-Being
- Kathi Keville and Mindy Greene: Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art
- Stephen Harrod Buhner: Sacred Plant Medicine: The Wisdom in Native American Herbalism
- Stephanie Rose Bird: A Healing Grove: African Tree Remedies and Rituals for the Body and Spirit
and Sticks, Stones, Roots & Bones: Hoodoo, Mojo & Conjuring with Herbs
- Catherine Yrondee: Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic: A Materia Magica of African-American Conjure