by Twiggy Dawn
There is nothing quite like growing your own herbal medicine, harvesting your own medicine and preparing your own medicine. There is nothing quite like the experience of being connected from the seed, all the way through the plant’s life. There is certainly nothing quite like using that medicine for your own health, your family’s health, and the health of your community. There is a certain sense of connection to your local ecology, a deep satisfaction and sense of place and purpose.
Being able to taste, touch, smell and just be with the herbs can be a very potent experience, though not all of us are able to have an herb garden, or wild-harvest our medicine. Many of us are too busy with work, children, or other responsibilities. Many of us lack the confidence, believing perhaps that we are a “brown thumb” or feeling unsure about correctly identifying plants. Many of us don’t even know where to start!
I believe that practitioners who dispense herbs should all have a direct connection to the plants that they dispense, they should be able to identify the plants, know what the fresh plant smells and tastes like, and to know what it feels like to sit in the presence of those plants. Unfortunately, the universities who train Herbalists and Naturopaths in Australia do not have herb gardens to teach their students how to work directly with the plants, nor do they teach foraging. It is up to the student to learn this for themselves and sometimes it can be hard to find teachers and mentors within certain communities.
I believe that non-practitioners should also have an ability to correctly identify medicinal plants: how wonderful would it be if the average everyday person knew how to staunch bleeding with a plant, know what plants to chew up and stick on a wound or a bite or sting? How wonderful would it be if everyone felt confident to use the plants around them to give to their children when they have a cold/flu or a tummy bug? Even dogs know to go outside and eat grass if they are needing to purge something out of their digestive system!
Imagine a world for a moment, where children are taught in school how to identify medicinal plants correctly, are taught how to grow, harvest, forage and make their own medicine. Imagine how much pressure that would take off the medical system and the pharmaceutical companies. Imagine how empowered those people would feel to have a connection to the medicine that is growing all around them and for them to have the ability to treat their own family members. Imagine if it were popular for us all to become herbily self-sufficient, and able to attend to our own minor injuries and upsets, only needing to approach practitioners for more serious concerns.
This all must start somewhere and sometimes it is the small steps that are the most profound and have the most impact. If you are reading this and feeling that you would like to learn more about growing, harvesting/wild harvesting and making your own medicine, then here are some simple and practical ideas.
Find your local community garden and start getting involved. Even community gardens with a food focus still generally grow medicinal plants. Community gardens are a great way to learn from others and share knowledge; to learn what grows well in your environment, and to gain access to seed banks and local plants. Community Gardens provide a solution for those unable to have a garden at home.
Look up “weed walks” or “plant foraging walks” in your local area to find out more about the plants growing wild in your local ecology.
Look for local grassroots, herbal educators- if you cannot find any in person there are some great courses and classes online which are about creating your own herb garden (look up Green Heart Herbals).
Find local Facebook groups discussing these topics. Type in the name of your local area then keywords such as “herbalism” “plant foraging walks” etc.
Go to your local plant nurseries and ask them what medicinal herbs they have- even the common culinary herbs are all medicinal.
If you do already have a garden, consider introducing one medicinal plant at a time. Really get to know that plant before introducing the next one- research it on the internet and in books.
If you do not have any local nurseries stocking medicinal plants then there are plenty to be found online through mail-order.
‘The biggest journeys begin with a single step!’ Who knows where the path may lead you? Most certainly it will at least lead you to a place where you feel more connected to yourself, the earth, and the plants. It will lead you to a place where you feel more empowered in your own health and able to prevent and treat minor issues before they become major ones. It could even lead you to making new friends- some human friends and some plant friends!