During the Sacred Warrior Herbalism courses, we engage our intuition and inner knowing about plant medicine. We often explore this through the lens of the doctrine of signatures, which states that plants resemble or communicate their healing qualities through shape, texture, color, the expression of their growth and more. We can also derive clues through taste: bitter, sweet, pungent, salty or sour. After a brief meditation practice we usually share an herbal infusion (medicinal tea). Without stating what it is, I’ll have everyone tune in and take a moment to journal what they’re feeling or what’s coming up. We do the same, along with mindful observation, with the plants we receive in our medicinal share. It’s amazing what we can uncover when we take a moment to listen to, and trust our instinct and intuition. We often bypass our inner knowing by looking things up in books or googling. Awakening our inner knowing is also part of our healing. This helps us relate to, and communicate more deeply with natural world.
The morning class had the homework of finding a tree or plant that called to them in nature and simply spending time to develop relationship. Sometimes meditating and journaling to see what came up while spending time in the plant’s presence. This is another wonderful way to work with the healing power of nature.
In our most recent class, we received some herbs famed as tonics for our nervous system. Everyone felt the calming, balancing effect Skullcap tincture and loved the Tulsi tea. Here’s a bit about each of the 5 plants we received from Sawmill Herb Farm:
ECHINACEA FLOWERS (Echinacea Purpurea)
During the evening course, everyone examined these flowers and commented that they must have something to do with protection given the spiny center of the head (which Echinacea happens to be named for). The word Echinacea comes from the Greek word, ekhinos meaning spiny or prickly like a sea urchin or hedgehog. Students also commented on how strongly the petals were attached and felt that the plant must have something to do with building strength within ourselves, which is also true. Echinacea is of course famous these days as potent ally for our immune system. The health benefits of echinacea include its ability to boost the immune system, prevent cancer, eliminate bacterial and viral infections, reduce inflammation, improve skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, protect respiratory health, speed healing and recovery times, manage allergies, boost oral health, and prevent recurrent infections. This valuable healer is native to the central region of the United States and has been important plant in Native American medicinal practices (which, of course is where we receive most of our native medicinal plant knowledge). HERE is a wonderful reference from Herbalist, Christopher Hobbs that talks about the different uses of Echinacea by Native American tribes and regions.
MILKY OATS (Avena Sativa)
Avena is famous for building and soothing the nervous system. Milky oats are the oat tops harvested when they are in their milky stage, during which the oat tops release a white, milky sap when squeezed. This occurs after the oat begins flowering and before the seed hardens and becomes the oat grain we know as oatmeal. Tincturing the milky oats while fresh best captures their potency, but they can also be dried and used as a nutritive infusion (medicinal tea) taken consistently over a period of time.
Here’s a great illustration of Avena’s use from herbalist, 7Song: “Some other nervine qualities of Avena are for anyone who feels they have plundered their nervous system reserves and now have a hard time focusing and have become rather snappy. It may also help folks who have difficulty falling asleep who when they lay down, their mind becomes a cacophonous enclave of disconnected swirling thoughts. This is different than a more pitta-type of insomnia where the person goes through a litany of all the things they should have done that day, or could have done better. (Or, for the true pitta ‘check’, telling people off in your mind)”
SKULLCAP (Scutellaria lateriflora)
This wonderful nervine very quickly and noticeably calms without making you feel drowsy or spaced out. Skullcap is especially effective for nervous people who develop tremors, palsies, nervous tics, bruxism, and muscle spasms. For people with ADHD it is indicated for irritability, repetitive movements, outbursts of anger, and oversensitivity to external influences. I often use Skullcap tincture before bed to help me sleep. This healing plant is in the mint family-the Lamiaceae which includes a number of other useful nervines including, Motherwort, Lemon balm, and Tulsi (which we also received in our share. These two work really nicely together). Skullcap is also useful general pain remedy, helpful for a wide range of problems such headaches, injuries, spasmodic pains such as cramps and general body pains.
More from 7song:
“… One other place I find skullcap helpful, is for people who have an emotional attachment to their injury. This is common. When the person thinks about how they sprained their ankle or got stung, there is an upsetting emotional quality to it. With this type of person you may see them blaming themselves for the injury (‘I knew I shouldn’t have run that trail’) Skullcap may help relieve the physical pain and some of the emotional pressure.”
TULSI/HOLY BASIL (Ocimum tenuiflorum): We shared Tulsi tea at the start of the evening class. Without knowing what it was, everyone described an energetic shift of balanced calm and simultaneous alertness. This makes sense as Tulsi is known to balance and harmonize all chakras. This sacred plant is believed to be the embodiment of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, love, and prosperity. With wide range of impressive health and psycho-spiritual benefits, Tulsi is an revered plant in Ayurvedic medicine and often referred to as “The Elixir of Life.” Studies have shown Tulsi to be a potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune system modulator and a promising treatment for conditions ranging from liver disease to arthritis, diabetes and cancer. Chinese Medicine classifies Tulsi as a Shen tonic: an herb that nourishes the spirit. Tulsi is famous for the restorative effect it has on the nervous system. It has the unique ability to reduce circulating stress hormones in the body, making it an ideal herb for today’s tendency toward hyper-stimulation.
MULLEIN FLOWERS (Verbascum)
Mullein is one of my most beloved plant medicines. As someone who grew up with severe asthma, allergies and a formerly fractured back, this has been an important medicine to have on hand. This dignified, yet gentle plant plant stands tall and grows straight up and down on rocky hills, cliffs, city streets, fields… reminding us to stand tall and breathe deeply. Mullein has been used medicinally since ancient times for the treatment of various inflammatory diseases, diarrhea, asthma, coughs and other lung-related ailments. Oil made from the flowers (usually using olive oil) is famously used to treat the pain and inflammation associated with earaches. Preparations of mullein can be ingested, applied topically, burned or even smoked as an expectorant. Mullein contains flavonoids, saponins, tannins, terpenoids, glycosides, carbohydrates, proteins, fats and oils. For more thoughts on Mullein, refer to the JUNE COURSE blog.
This, of course, is barely scratching the surface of these incredible healing plants. We’ll be receiving another 5 this week! Please share your experiences and healing practices. There’s so much we can learn from each other.