While we were in Costa Rica last month, Vanessa shared a Burdock root tea with us during our practice one morning. I was having trouble concentrating, and had not slept well the night before, so sitting there, flustered and frustrated, I found my mind wandering as I sipped the sweet and earthy tea. Then I was pulled back into my body with a physical sensation as the corners of my lips began to itch and swell. Though I do have mild allergies to some plants, I had taken an antihistamine already, and the reaction was unlike any of my normal allergic reactions.
When I asked my fellow herbalists if they had any thoughts or suggestions on what I should do, the response was that since Burdock is a cleansing ally, when we ingest it, things we’re clearing may show up on our skin. I chose to continue working with the plant, and to see how I emotionally reacted. Within a few hours, the swelling was gone, and I found that as I continued to drink the tea throughout the trip, every time I had a cup, my body would relax, my mind would calm, and my gut would settle. In this root, I found help in staying present, I found an ally.
The first element we are working with within our CSA Herbalism Course is earth. Vanessa went into detail about the herb share we received, and while we tasted different infusions and tinctures, without immediately being told what they were, I recognized a familiar reaction to a familiar friend. There was Burdock. And there was a settling, a grounding. Sweet, but sturdy.
The Saturday after class, I spent the day at home with my own plants and the roots we had been given. Washing, chopping, laying out some of the the Knotweed, Burdock, and Dandelion to dry, and putting some in jars with vodka or vinegar to make tinctures to store for future use.
When I first set about my work, my mind was in a cloud of topical thoughts passing quickly, like wind, cutting me off from my gut. Without realizing or considering what I was doing, I was moving through tasks, and though my physical body was chopping roots, my inner self was flowing through different states of anxiety. Day to day worries, concerns about the opinions of others, a fixation on my own inabilities. I felt blank and disconnected as I began to prepare a big pot of cinnamon and fresh Burdock root tea. Slicing through the last of the tuber, I sliced right through the tip of my left pointer finger.
I was so surprised and out of body, that I almost did not register what I had done. Then came blood, then came pain. A not-so-gentle reminder in mindfulness, in being present, in staying grounded regardless of our tasks. This harsh yank back into my physical self felt like a funny way of my body reminding me that it existed, and that the work I was doing was for its benefit as much as my emotional self’s. After cleaning and wrapping the cut, I went back to the roots – this time with intention and care.
Then followed a gentle reminder of grounding with the help of the tea. Kinder, and sweeter, but just as blunt. The giant brew lasted for over a week, and each time I drank it, I felt the same grounded feeling. I watched the cut on my finger heal, and I shared my familiar plant friend with my human friends.
Working with plants, deepening our relationship with the living world around us, is equally a lesson in how we should be treating the relationship with our own bodies. As busy humans, it’s so easy to live in our heads. This is a common frustration. It’s also easy to only remember these bodies we inhabit, these bodies that are us, when we experience physical pain or discomfort. The trick is to remember without that prick, which sometimes can come in the form of a sweet and sturdy tea.
By Natalia S.