Archive for the ‘Botanical Medicine’ Category

The Healing Terrain: Coming Home to Nature’s Medicine

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Now Available, Plant Healer’s Newest Book:

THE HEALING TERRAIN
Coming Home to Nature’s Medicine

by Jesse Wolf Hardin
with Kiva Rose, David Hoffman, Phyllis Light, Robin Rose Bennett, Juliet Blankespoor, & Dara Saville
Foreword by Judy Goldhaft (Planet Drum Foundation)

309 pages, 8.5×11” B&W Softcover – $29

Click here to Order: Healing Terrain Book

The Healing Terrain front cover 72dpi

“Rightfully at the core of all Natural Healing is nature, from the herbs it provides to the positive healthful examples it offers.  By deepening our conscious relationship with the land, we create the opportunities and conditions for increased sensual engagement and creature awareness, empowerment and self-authority, uninhibited pleasures and fun, and greater effectiveness at nearly everything we might try to do in life.”    –Jesse Wolf Hardin

I’m excited to announce the release of the third book in our healing trilogy, “The Healing Terrain,” written with my partner Jesse Wolf and our Plant Healer allies Phyllis Light, David Hoffman, Juliet Blankespoor, Robin Rose Bennett and Dara Saville.  I’ve watched for the past year as Wolf searched out the most amazing photographs and art, and placed them in the most visually pleasing ways, illustrating inspiring content about the art of wildcrafting and growing herbs, biorgional herbalism, plant natives and “invasives,” the healing powers of nature, becoming more native, rewilded and empowered as healers, and connecting with place.  Those of you who know my personal story, know how crucial my canyon home and its native medicinal plants have been to the healing of my body, mind and spirit.  Along with the other two titles in this trilogy (“The Plant Healer’s Path” and “The Enchanted Healer”), “The Healing Terrain” strives to provide insights and tools for your own deepening connection with the source of all medicine and healing: this living earth.

Judy Goldhaft and Peter Berg, directors of Planet Drum. ©2009 IWe’ve been blessed to have Forewords to our other books written by herbalists like Matthew Wood and Phyllis Light, but this time we reached out a little further, and are thankful to have one penned by Judy Goldhaft.  Judy and her life partner Peter Berg have been two of the greatest influences on what we have come to know as “bioregionalism”: the practice and art of living sustainably in place.  Back around the time the pioneering “Whole Earth Catalog” was featuring the first photo of our planet taken from outer space, San Francisco was coming alive with social and eco activism, and Judy was busy using dance and theater to raise consciousness and inspire change.  From her work with the Diggers to directing the wonderful Planet Drum Foundation, she has lived a life and done the work that makes her the perfect person to introduce our book.  Her complete Foreword follows, along with the table of contents.  Your order will be shipped direct from our printer, CreateSpace, sparing us storage and shipping.  Hope you love it!

Thank you.   –Kiva Rose

Ainu Snyder quote poster

Foreword to The Healing Terrain

by Judy Goldhaft

It’s always amazing to pick up a book and discover it is not the book you expected.  Jesse Wolf Hardin said he had put together a book about using plants in healing and healing the places plants live.  Sounded simple, interesting and very bioregional.  But the book is a deeper more inclusive investigation than Jesse’s brief description. The book is a journey for those who have forgotten how important place is, and a handbook for developing an awareness to relate to a place while becoming a more balanced and whole person.

girl and deer 72dpi

The Healing Terrain recognizes the importance of a life-place (bioregion) to our beings and our health. The book begins with a deep exhortation to the reader to discover his or her own place as the first step in healing oneself, becoming a healer or becoming a complete person. It challenges the reader to recognize their personal place and to refocus for a more meaningful life, and then provides the tools to do this.  There are lists throughout the book to help actualize practical manifestations of the abstract ideas, helping the reader travel beyond the philosophical discussions of place and rootedness to actually experiencing and delighting in their bioregion.

amazing-garden-flowers 72dpiThe word bioregion represents a deceptively simple idea. The concept realigns priorities so humans are contained within the place (bioregion) — not governing or exploiting it. This simple notion opens up the possibility that the whole interdependent ecosystem could become the basis for a society’s decisions. This deeper understanding of a bioregional outlook is reflected in the importance that “Rights of Nature” are being given in South America.  New social mores are emerging which are entwined with the natural world.

Living with the planet requires diversity, adaptability, creativity, and self-regulation. Within this book difficult questions are dissected, examined, and considered from a multitude of perspectives. There are bold in-depth discussions of the tangled questions about living with other species and the authors are fearless in considering all topics — including wildness, bodily functions and sex. The tone of the conversations is always balanced and inviting, never preachy or judgmental.

Man hugging Basil 72dpiThe voices in this book come from people who have been putting bioregional sensibilities in the center of their lives for years. The community presents a series of personal approaches to universal ideas. They are deeply rooted where they live and encourage you also to become aware of your bioregion, in a very deeply understanding way.  They provide guidelines to reconnecting to the earth and personal heightened awareness while welcoming diversity and recognizing how difficult it is to do this.  The two main voices balance and fulfill each other. Jesse Wolf speaks poetically yet in-depth about historic, social, scientific and political considerations and analysis; Kiva Rose weaves a fabric of personal experiences and direct observations that she shares openly with ingenuousness and heartfelt warmth. They provide different paths and explanations to access the information and heart of this work.  From the section “The Healing Roots of Home”:

“On a practical level, to live bioregionally is to acknowledge and participate in the ecosystem we are a part of, rooted – in a very literal sense – in the land that we live on. What this means will vary according to the needs of the land in a particular area, whether it is establishing trees or restoring the soil… or simply helping maintain the diversity that already exists with careful harvesting practices and a prayerful attitude towards the spirit of the land.”

House with Roots 72dpi

The book itself has been thoughtfully put together, its format a manifestation of the ideas being expressed. The pictures and quotations are intrinsic aspects of the book. Each reiterates the ideas and could be the subject for meditation or rumination. This collection of philosophizing, musings, experiences, graphics, epigrams, and quotations reinforce each other and produce a balanced whole. It doesn’t just encourage “a vital return to balance,” the book itself is a balance—of head and heart, scientific and experience, words and graphics — a truly accessible set of information on many levels.

The Healing Terrain is like a long love poem to a bioregion — water is treated as a lover, there is a love affair with the geology, plants are longtime companions, etc. Be prepared to fall in love.

Click here to Order: Healing Terrain Book

Elka gathering wild herbs and food in a misty S.W. forest.

Elka gathering wild herbs and food in a misty S.W. forest.

The Healing Terrain Contents

I.    Nexus: Grounds For Healing
Jesse Wolf: The Journey Home: The Call to Stay & The Call to Roam
II.    Rooting – Where We Are, & Where We Most Belong
Jesse Wolf: Tips For Cultivating Sense of Place
III.    Grounding – A Geology of Place
Kiva Rose: The Weedwife – Coming Home, Weedy Ways
IV.    Healing Waters – Sweet Medicine, Hydrotherapy & River Tales
Jesse Wolf: Creating an Organic Calendar
Kiva Rose: The Ripening Fruit – Living With The Seasons
V.    Bioregions – Defining, Being Defined By & Drawing FromStellaria 72dpi
Dara Saville: Place-Based Herbalism – Practicing at The Crossroads of The Southwest
Kiva Rose: The Healing Roots of Home – My Journey Into Bioregional Herbalism
VI.    The Landed Healer – Finding, Purchasing & Restoring Land
Jesse Wolf: 15 Tips For Wildlands Restoration
Jesse Wolf: Strategies For Land Protection
Kiva Rose: Reading The Leaves – Learning The Names & Ways of  Plants
VII.    Building a Relationship With a Plant
Juliet Blankespoor: Planning Your Healing Garden
Dara Saville: Gardening Natives –  Reflecting the Wildlands in Your Medicine Garden
Kiva Rose: Deep As Root & Song – Wildcrafting
VIII.    Plant Adventuring
Jesse Wolf: Herbaria: The Importance & Joy of Plant Collections
Kiva Rose: In The Pines – Pleasure & Healing From an Ancient Tree Ally
IX.    In Balance – Invasive Species, Natives, Healing & Wholeness
Jesse Wolf: Guidelines & Reminders
Robin Rose Bennett: The Terrain of Home – The Healing Land, Commitments of Love
Kiva Rose: Sustainable Wildcrafting & Foraging – Tending The Wildest Garden
X.    ReIndigination – The Necessity of Learning to Become Native Again
Phyllis Light: The Geography of Healing
XI.    An Ecology of Healing – Treating The Body As An Ecosystem, & The Ecosystem As A Body
David Hoffman: Deep Ecology, Deep Healing – Herbalism’s Place In The Living Whole
Kiva Rose: The Cartography of The Heart – Finding The Road Home
XII.    ReWilding – Unleashing The Wild Empowered Healer
Kiva Rose: Spiraling Deeper
XIII.    The Blooming – Growing, Thriving, Spreading Our Seeds

 

Shrooms & Ferns poster

Click here to Order: Healing Terrain Book

(Thank you for reposting and linking to this announcement!)

Plant Adventuring and Fall Wildcrafting – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Plant Adventuring and Fall Wildcrafting

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Anima Lifeways and Herbal School

I rouse early, as I almost always do, but this morning it was with designs on a trip outside this special canyon.  Opening my eyes to the sparkling river and clucking ravens, white barked cottonwoods and swaying pines, it requires a task or destination with mighty heavy draw to tempt my eyes and mind away from this place even for a short while.  Depending on the need, circumstance or season, it most likely means an inescapable shopping trip or dental visit, an invitation for me to speak at an event within a day’s driving distance of our sanctuary.  Or when it comes to a relaxing break from writing on the computers, it most likely means a plant gathering trip.

Here you see recent photos of our cabins, as taken from the river, looking through the arbor of cottonwood trees that I’ve grown and protected for the past 31 years.  Our new set of solar panels can be seen between the cabins, one of which is actually my old schoolbus-home covered over with untreated wood.

Our trips are are never just about plant gathering, of course, but about our family gathering together in order to take in the beauty and knowledge that experiences in new and wild places afford.

The flora of the arid Southwest are extraordinarily diverse yet easily impacted, and so as a personal conservation practice we never sell – and seldom trade – any of the gathered bounty… thus a relatively small amount of our time away is expended on the actually clipping or digging of needed medicines.  Far more of our hours apart from dear home and ongoing mission, are given to plant exploration, estimation, classification and deep appreciation, to energetic exchange and mutual recognition, communion and reunion, to what might in aggregate be more accurately referred to as plant encounters, excursions or adventures.

Due to the very nature of our purposeful work and ambitious mission, such adventures inevitably feel both a little mischievous and a mite truant, and therein undoubtedly lies a fair portion of the pleasure.  In spite of their often sudden and impromptu feel – dashing away between needy emails and essential deadlines – these are very much planned trips, talked about days or weeks in advance, with local medicinal plants researched, trail guides and maps poured over and promising areas circled, the days checked off with my partner Kiva cautioning me not to change my mind.  Before we go to bed the night before, she’s already filled the preferred green canvas daypack that I bought her, with the most relevant and trusted plant identification guides and botanical keys (research being an important adjunct to intuition, energetics and impressions), tools like her root-scooping hori-hori and small clippers, protective work gloves, a waterproofed map and compass or GPS.  Bags for plant storage, preferably porous burlap, are stacked by the door, with the camera on top so we can’t possibly forget it.   Youngsters are known for getting extra excited on the night before Christmas, but in our odd-otter daughter Rhiannon’s case it is anticipation of an upcoming plant trip that spurs her to spin and spin before going off to her treehouse to sleep.

Gathering the plants that Kiva needs for making medicine, is compelling enough.  But what excites us most is the exploring of new terrain and what feels like exotically different elevations, varied biota in places we’re visiting for the first time.  And for me especially – much more of an ally and aficionado of plants than an herbalist – a good part of the thrill is in coming across an interesting or unusual species that whether medicinal or not, I might never have laid eyes on before.  The overriding inspiration for this trip was the end of the growing season and the certain and soon emergence of Winter, a final chance this year for gathering most varieties of fresh plants, and an opportunity to gasp and giggle over the high country’s mad display of Fall color.

Everyone climbed into the jeep for the trip through the river crossings, a ten or fifteen minute bit of bouncing before being disgorged at the back gate of the Owl (Land) Rover for the remainder of the trip.  Our destination this time was alpine meadows and draw at 8 to 10,000 feet, the habitat of white skinned aspen and coal black bears, deep rooted osha and hearty lupine.  We had permission this time to do some gathering as well as exploring on a private inholding near what is called Hannagan’s Meadow, not very many miles over the New Mexico border and into the mountains of eastern Arizona.

It seemed as if a number of conditions had combined and concluded, such that the meadows area trails remained moist year round, with a soft and padded feel to the bare feet uncommon in this part of the country.

The brilliant crimson and gold colors of the oak and aspen leaf skylines, was found duplicated in miniature on the verdant forest bottom.

Loba and Rhiannon rested on the trail, after recently fending off colds with the help of Kiva’s elderberry elixir and herbal steams.

Carpeting long stretches of the trail were layers of bright Aspen leaves forming a mind spinning mosaic, their brilliant yellow hue not the result of new pigment but rather, the seasonal leaching out of green chlorophyll.  I take numerous photos of this arboreal art, always looking for more shots that can be used for feature illustrations and background layers for the Anima and Traditions In Western Herbalism websites, as well as for the new and full color Plant Healer Magazine.

Looking up, one sees a similar pattern of back-lit leaves, not waiting their turn to fall, but minute by minute sustained by their connection to the tree, delighting in their place in the sky.

…and this is how it must have looked to Kiva:

Stunning in their own way, were the predigous shelf mushrooms, nested in a matrix of lush moss.

These firm bodied mushrooms are a service to the ecosystem, as well as are incredibly beautiful to me.  Kiva is currently undergoing research to determine what uses this particular fungal species might have.

Their undersides are a wonderful, creamy, abalone white.

The greenest of the remaining annuals, was this species we have yet to have had tome to key out and identify.  Possibly a member of the wild pea family, it grew nearly 4′ high, with no leaf discoloration or die-back yet in spite of the frigid night time temperatures in November at 10,000 feet.

A few plants were actually still blooming, like this hearty wild strawberry…

…and this resilient yarrow, its flowers celebrating life and fecundity even as its leaves are rendered a dark honey brown by the turnover of the mountain Southwest’s distinct seasons.

It’s only at the end of the season, with the leaves of this plant starting to look a lot like the leaves on corn, that it becomes obvious why they named it Corn Lilly.

And here is what this Lilly’s seed pods look like, dry, opened, and having already discharged most of their contents for another generation on the mountain.

Winter’s can be heavy enough up here, that we saw many young trees either snapped in half or bent over by the weight of winds and snow.  This particular one especially caught my eye, having responded to being nearly broke in half by continuing its heroic skyward climb.

While I seldom feel accomplished enough to feel heroic, I share with this tree certain twists of character formed in response to wound and challenge, and continue a purposeful climb.  In our case, of course, the aim is not only to survive and taste the sun, but to consciously and effectively do all we can for this living earth, and help others to awaken and heal.

After Hannagan’s Meadow, we headed over to a favorite place for serious harvesting.

Developing a genuine relationship with landowners, and conserving or even helping to propagate resident species, is  great way to secure long term gathering rights.  Rural Western landowners are generally against federal environmental regulation, but are often enthusiastically supportive of private efforts to perpetuate the traditional healing herbs used by their pioneer forebears.

One exciting find on land we know about was the Sweet Root plant… and single sniff of the root makes clear why it’s called that!  It is known so far mostly for use with digestive upset, gut infections, and yeast infections.

Kiva and Loba always bring home some Whit Fir, rare at lower elevations, and a favorite of theirs for a flavorful and healthy tea.

And while it may sound silly to those of you living in forests of Blue and Engelman’s Spruce, it’s admittedly an extra big treat for me whenever I am high enough up the New Mexico/Arizona mountains to be able to bask among these luxurious and deliciously scented trees.

Note that these kinds of plant excursions earn the title of “adventures” for a reason — not just because of the excitement and surprises involved, but partly for the difficult dirt roads and challenging foot trails they afford, the sudden shifts in weather and vehicle breakdowns.  This fact led me to write an entire article of suggestions and guidelines for the upcoming first issue of our new Plant Healer Magazine… crucial for those just getting into herbal wildcrafting or other plant adventuring for the first time, and hopefully a helpful aid to longtime plant folks who could use an organized list of hints and tips to pass on to their herbal students.  While the Anima Blog and Medicine Woman’s Roots Blog will continue featuring announcements and stories, after December all of Kiva’s and my most in-depth, information filled articles will be appearing in the Plant Healer instead, with only excerpts appearing on these blogs.  For this reason alone, we strongly encourage anyone with an interest in herbalism and wildcrafting, plant conservation and activism, to subscribe to this art and photo filled journal of Western folk herbalism… with articles written by some of the leading voices in the herbal and healing community.

Plant Healer subscriptions will be available very soon.  To read the latest of Kiva’s always insightful pieces, my new wildcrafter’s hints and tips and a dozen other engaging articles by featured authors, please keep checking for subscription updates at the
Plant Healer Journal Website: www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

Herbal Conformism and the Illusion of Normalcy by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Herbal Conformism and the Illusion of Normalcy:

A Response to Charles W. Kane
from the ‘Freak-Show Field’

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Intro:
Charles W. Kane is an experienced clinical herbalist and self described “veteran of the war against terrorism.”  Unlike the majority of modern day herbalists, he would not be likely to describe our field as “alternative medicine”, and brings from a military and Western background a refreshing degree of old fashioned common sense and down-home candor.  We often refer to his book when looking for what is increasingly rare experience based information and competent materia medica.  That said, he is also someone whose pronouncements I occasionally find simultaneously disturbing and strangely enjoyable to disagree with.  A recent rant of his is titled “Image Herbal Medicine”, calling attention to various concerns that Kiva and I share, while featuring some assumptions and conclusions that surely call for a response.  It seems somewhat karmic (just kidding!) that such a response come not just from metropolitan, cappuccino swilling, politically correct crystal douser and Obama apologists, but from a long-haired cactus-hugging Gaian ecosopher who not only an animal middle name but also wears cowboy hats, stretches a mean barb wire fence, writes about Old West firearms and teaches personal defense.  The bulk of Kane’s article appears below in quotation marks.  Any blame or praise for the words between, falls fairly on me.

“This short essay may come across as snarky or even unpopular,” Mr. Kane starts.  And let me begin in turn by saying there’s no apology called for in either case.  Snarky can be insightful and incite-ful – and darkly entertaining – so long as we avoid the patronizing airs of elitism, are reasonably clever and truly right.  As for ideas being unpopular, in our screwed up society the writing or doing of what’s popular is one of the surest means of being wrong.

“Image herbal medicine or herbal medicine as a fashion statement is easily the most practiced form within the field today. The indicators that suggest an individual is image or fashion oriented are numerous:

1. Identity crisis: name changes to Root, Weed, or Green for example; middleclass whites (the majority of herbalists) wishing they were Hispanic, American Indian, or other “ethnic” races, as if some groups are more ‘connected’ to the plants/planet – a form of reverse racism really.”

Here, Kane has hit on an important issue regarding the lionization and adulation of particular ethnic groups, especially among guilt ridden herbalists and environmentalists… though a far more common and dangerous error in this society is imagining that we all, even EuroAmerican anglophones, are anything other than the descendants of land based peoples, heirs to our own traditions of natural healing and lifeways that were passed down from equally tribal, resilient, plant-wise folks whether whether they be Celts, Vikings or Visigoths.  That said, there is much to both learn from and respect in some of the ways of remaining indigenous peoples of Africa and Asia, Australia and the Americas, and little of honor and value to emulate in the current, modern, so called ‘civilized’ dominant cultural paradigm.

As for fledgeling herbalists changing their names to Root or Weed, it’s stereotypical enough that his observation earned some belly laughs.  Such names likely come closer to representing their characters, interests and allegiance of these plant loving people, however, just as nicknames like “Ace” or “Cowboy” might do a better job of describing certain rodeo regulars or U.S. Army tank crews than “John” or “Bob” like their parents picked.  Our ex New World Order neocon president goes by the respect demanding “George W. Bush”, but that alone wasn’t enough to win him any respect.  History shows that when people need help with their health problems, they cease to care if the person is referred to as Mike or Moss, as ‘Witch’ or even “Leonard Singh III, esq., Proctologist, PhD, DDT”  Just as it should be.

“2. Anti-establishment appearance/association: fits in at a rainbow gathering.”

That’s far too simplistic.  Not all anti-establishment types fit into Rainbow Gatherings, witness the radical Quakers with their archaic bonnets and men’s suspenders, the Michigan Militia and Wyoming Freemen in their cowboy boots and surplus camo fatigues, pissed off college professors wearing knitted vests that would have any Rainbow chuckling!  What is there to be preferred in pro-establishment business suits, blue collared polyester work shirts or corporate-logo baseball caps?  And what value would there be in dressing like everyone else, unless we were in a military uniform or 1950’s doo-wop band?  Most importantly, herbalists and village healers have never fully fit into or been embraced by the status quo.  As with shamans and medicine men, in earliest times the herb-wielding healer was often thought of as divinely mad or dangerously possessed, an affiliate of the unknown, agents of inexplicable powers who were sought out and rewarded when there was a personal or group needed but perhaps kept at a distance between.  As the language of science increasingly replaced that of magic, being conventional looking didn’t keep herbalists from being sidelined, trivialized and slandered.  Mr. Kane is and always will be an alternative practitioner, working outside of the accepted forms an protocols of the drug pushing, high-tech, high dollar medical industry.  He is as fringe as the jacket on David Hopper’s character in the cult film ‘Easy Rider’, if as uncomfortable with the fact as the beer chugging Jack Nicholson was in that same movie.

Herbal enthusiasts and healers are the alternative because we think outside of their box and hopefully outside of our own, because we look to nature for the knowledge, resources and examples we need, because we may see healing as a return to wholeness and vitality rather than a quick fix, as the treatment of causes and imbalances rather than the suppression of symptoms, with a goal not of living longer so much as living more authentic, healthy, vital, rich, meaningful, and purpose-full lives.  And we are alternative because we do not base our value on degrees or the letters after our names so much as on what we know, how willing we are to learn, and how effective we are in our practice.  Because we possibly do not require the approval of any segment of society, official or not, to believe in ourselves and our growing abilities, to act on what we know and assume a responsible role.

“3. Social orientation: anti-individual, group or collective oriented.”

No one is more of an individualist than myself, and I have always paid a high cost because of that.  I grew up individuating myself even if it took me rejecting ideas and ways of being that I’ve since found valuable.  While I teach groups of hundreds, I tend to quickly grow restless in a crowd larger than three!  And yet, we would at best be herb takers and not herbalists, if we only treated ourselves.  By its very definition, healing is other-oriented, a service to our collective kind whether that be an ecosystem, a community, a neighborhood or simply our own family.

“4. Politics: radical left, green socialism.”

There is predictably a majority of Progressives in the herbalism field, just as most environmental activists are Caucasian.  That is not an indictment of either herbalism or ecoactivism, however, but a questioning of and call for more diverse participation, for greater black and asian involvement in ecosystem restoration… with Republicans considering the treatment of more than their own cirrhosis, and contributing to the balance of more than their allopathic specialists’ bank accounts.

“5. ‘Spirituality’: gaia, plant spirit medicine, animism, Buddhism, or the “pick what feels good” self-styled path; anything non Judeo-Christian.”

I recognize that a certain shallow New Age, style oriented approach to herbalism has hurt the credibility and slowed the revival of herbalism in general, but not nearly so much as the slanderous statements released in industry and regulatory agency papers, nor any more than an internecine post such as Kane’s.

An understanding of the earth as a living totality whose health we depend on, can be found in nearly every religious tradition.  Recognition of a spirit or force in plants was characteristic of Christian mystics as well as Gnostics and alchemists, and new science is affording us a model and vocabulary for natural forces and healing processes are still nothing less than magical in their ways and ramifications.  How referencing the Greek word for Mother Earth – ‘Gaia’ – could discredit nature-inspired herbalism is beyond me, and it concerns me to imagine having a preponderance of Judeo-Christian practitioners could ensure the acceptance of and respect for the field of herbalism, when we should insist on being measured by intent and accomplishment, rather then prejudged and pre-approved due to any personal spiritual or philosophic bent.

“6. Modality crisis: embracing TCM, Ayurveda, Unani, or any other foreign system with the thought that they are more enlightened than western approaches, or equally common, the smorgasbord approach: cherry picking from an array of cultural approaches, ending up with a big pile of muddle.”

Eclecticism is indeed a pitfall on the path, leading us to select only what we like or find easy about an approach instead of facing the aspects that are more discomforting or challenging, creating a self-satisfying hybrid without the backbone of tradition, the test of experience, or the benefit of focus and devotion.  Still, even Mr. Kane’s system of Western Herbalism is a conglomerate, drawing from mix of different people’s ideas and approaches, an amalgam even if he were to try to resist all change and influence, and an evolving body of knowledge if not.  The Western world adopted the plants and adapted the healing techniques of the East, Greece was the meeting point of the two.  Roman medicine was highly informed by what they learned from North African healers.

“The catch-22 is when an individual matures to the point of dropping this exterior, moving on to adult life, herbal interest often gets dropped as well: this occurs to most in the field between the ages of 25 to 35. The ones that stay are often in a state of arrested development (75% of ‘older’ herbalists are still children).”

Actually, Mr. Kane is at least as concerned with exterior appearance as any cloak conscious pagan herbalist, and perhaps more so since he deemed it a topic worthy of writing an article.  His entire piece is given to describing how important he finds conventional appearance in the search for personal acceptance and professional credibility.  It matters a lot to him that he not look like a hippie, Democrat, Moslem or Mexican, nor be confused with flower-sniffing, plant communing herbalists whose look he believes undermine the practice.

But yes, most herbalists, plant lovers and nature nuts that I know are still childlike, stopping the most adult activities at the sight of an unnamed plant at the side of the road or trail, grinning and hopping up and down when they finally key it out, anxious to make others feel better, crestfallen when unable to do so.  The are delightfully free of the fear of being seen in public adoring another life form, free of concern over getting their knees dirty when a fragile sprout or shiny bug calls for close attention, inclined to act on their impulses and convictions, likely to foolishly but wondrously work to heed an inner calling or fulfill their dreams.

People trapped in what Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) might call premature adulthood, are stuck  with concealing their excitement over even the rarest of plants under a veneer of machismo or maturity, and worry needless if someone is watching when it comes time to crawl around for skullcap or jump into a swimming hole.

“If you look like you just steeped off the bus from the local primitive skills gathering, you will raise doubts in the minds of the people you are treating. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been thanked by patients, who appreciate my normality within an otherwise freak-show field.”

Looking like what the average, normal person considers to be a freak can be counterproductive if you want to be able to treat folks of all kinds, from all walks of life.  On the other hand, there is nothing about a conservative’s crew cut or doctor’s starched white doctor’s coat that universally communicates wisdom, let alone accessibility, a capacity for empathy, deep concern or human warmth.  And by being comfortable with their selves, their bodies, mortal processes and physical looks, healers help their clients to do the same.

Normal is too often the refuge of the fearful and average, the self doubting and those who are scarily well adjusted to situations and environments they should naturally be finding intolerable and unacceptable.  It is normal to obey every new law that is passed no matter how unconstitutional or intrusive, to pay thousands of dollars for health insurance without spending anything to learn how to care for ourselves and our loved ones or tend even the most simple to treat family ailments, to take steroids for allergies and antibiotics for nearly everything else.  It’s all too normal for practiced nurses to defer to book learned doctors, for health practitioners to ignore their instincts and observations and blindly employ the pharmaceutical-centric approach, and for herbalist to worry they can’t do any good unless they are certified and have an office.

What’s not normal, Charlie W. Kane, is someone like yourself caring so much about plants and natural healing at the same time you’re so concerned about appearing normal.  Just a little bit freaky, you have to admit.

From the Lion’s Mouth: Dancing a Weedy Revolution

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

From the Lion’s Mouth: Dancing A Weedy Revolution

by Kiva Rose Hardin  http://animacenter.org

Common Name: Dandelion

Botanical Name: Taraxacum spp.

Taste: Bitter, sweet

Energetics: Cool, dry

“It gives one a sudden start in going down a barren, stony street, to see upon a narrow strip of grass, just within the iron fence, the radiant dandelion, shining in the grass, like a spark dropped from the sun”

– Henry Ward Beeche

“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them”

–   A. A. Milne,  Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh

dandelionIf there’s a single personal symbol of hope for me, it’s that golden-faced flower that peeks out from under trash-strewn vacant lots, takes over carefully controlled lawns, bursts from sidewalk cracks and blooms even on land damaged by nuclear radiation and other environmental degradation. Yeah, you know, that weed people are always pulling up and cursing and dumping poison on. Yep, Dandelion. This much maligned wildflower when looked at honestly embodies profound possibility for change and incredible capacity for the regeneration of life in the most hostile of situations.

In many ways, Dandelion is the very definition of insistent wildness, of life that survives and thrives anywhere, anytime, anyhow. Perpetually persecuted, it still adapts to nearly any climate, seeds itself in concrete, rock crevices, chemical-laden yards, vacant lots, and even in a sprinkle of earth and rock tossed atop a slab of metal. Dandelion is persistence, joy in the face of adversity and bliss even while broken-hearted. Dandelion is also sunshine with teeth, for her very name is from the French Dent de lion, meaning teeth of the lion. The name refers to the typically jagged leaves as well as the  tenacious nature of the plant itself. This once revered medicine and food is now looked upon as a trouble-making misfit, a smiling badge of resistance that defies all attempts to shut down insistent life and nature’s bountiful diversity.

Not one to be swept aside by convention, Dandelion is a cheerful outlaw as she slowly but surely busts down walls and breaks up sidewalks. She reminds us of the wildness of the earth beneath our feet wherever she goes. Regardless of zoning laws, landscaping plans and subdivision “weed-free” regulations, this vibrant plant is likely to dance in on wish-blown seeds and settle right down, enriching the soil and offering you medicine, whether you asked for any or not. Dandelion is the activists’ emblem, a brilliant spokesperson for necessary action and groundbreaking revolution, no matter the consequences or cost. And like the best revolutionaries, she also shows us how to live fully and encourages us to indulge in a tango or two. The happiness inherent in her nature is imparted by her very presence as well as through nutritional and medicinal means.

The freshly picked flowers of Dandelion infused in olive oil, make a very effective rub for all sorts of aches and pains, from knotted muscles to injured joints. It’s especially helpful for those who feel saddened or depressed by the pain and need a little extra sunshine in their lives. The flowers also make a fabulous wine, and every Spring I’m sure to gather enough to make at least a few quarts of the wine and mead. I specially reserve one of those quarts for my special Southwest Sunset Melomel made with Dandelion flowers, Prickly Pear fruit juice and desert wildflower honey. The wine and mead are a wonderful cheering tonic for the long Winter days and the blues that often accompany them. Small doses of the flower tincture can also serve the same purpose.

A nomad with deep roots, this plant travels far on the white wings of her seeds but also sends her taproot down far wherever she settles, fully engaging with the land wherever she is and provides us with an excellent example of presence, focus and a life fully lived. The bittersweet roots are grounding in nature, restoring the proper circulation of fluids in the body and nourishing the kidneys and heart in the process. Dandelion leaves and roots are very effective diuretics and especially helpful for those with a constitutional tendency towards high blood pressure, gout, bloating, feelings of excessive heat, a sense of too-tight skin, water retention and scanty urination.

The roots tend to be more bitter and diuretic in the spring and more sweet and starchy come autumn frost, teaching us the value of living by the seasons and that a plant’s medicine changes through the year. The bitter taste of both root and leaf  can initially turn many people off, but this same unpleasant experience is part of Dandelion’s most important medicine. It increases the release of gastric juices throughout the digestive tract and improve digestion, especially if there’s symptoms of heat and acidic imbalances. The leaves make an excellent food-based digestive bitter and can be added to all manner of salads and cooked greens for their bitter bite and their high mineral content. They’re a great addition to pestos (as are the flowers), soups, pickled greens and even kraut! The roasted roots make a bittersweet but pleasant and hearty brew, well accompanied by cinnamon, nutmeg and a splash of cream.

Dandelion is also a primary medicine for almost anyone with hepatitis. The cooling, heat-draining nature of the herb is wonderful for relaxing and cooling an overworked, irritated and liver and accompanying hepatic functions. For the same reason, it can be very helpful in clearing up red, itchy rashes as well as many chronic skin issues such as eczema and acne that are rooted in an inflamed or stuck liver function. The bitter taste promotes the movement bile and prevents sludge and stones from from forming. However, care should be taken if there are already existent stones, as moving the bile in such a case could actually lodge a stone in a duct and cause further problems as well as pain.

The medicine of this wild and rampant weed is pervasive and wide-ranging, and lifetimes could be spent delving into her generosity. Children are naturally drawn to the bright spark of her flower and share the blossoming exuberance that accompanies her presence.  Every time I see a Dandelion, I smile, and am filled with the reminder of what a powerful teacher this plant is. Her courageous insistence to not only survive, but thrive in the face of hurt and hostility, has repeatedly given me renewed hope. I take her fierceness and fervent joy to heart, and close my eyes and make a wish every time I spread her seeds with my breath. We healers and earth people are all dandelions shattering concrete with delicate, yet infinitely strong roots. Every wild food, plant medicine & healing choice that takes us closer to wholeness is a revolutionary act and a step towards radical wellness on a planetary level.

Cautions & Contradictions: A generally very safe and food-like herb, Dandelion is still a strong diuretic and those with low blood pressure or already excessive urination should avoid its use. Additionally, avoid if you have active gallstones.

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Pic (c) 2009 Kiva Rose Hardin

Talking With Plants – by Kiva Rose – Part 2 (of 2): Plant Revelations & Miscommunications

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Talking With Plants
   
by Kiva Rose

Part 2 (of 2): Plant Revelations & Miscommunications

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That we take plant words in through our nose or our skin or our eyes or our tongue instead of our ears does not make their language less subtle. or sophisticated, or less filled with meaning.
-Stephen Buhner

The truth is that if we’re only listening for words – for language in human terms – then we’re barely listening at all! The world speaks to us in the ancient tongue of touch and color, texture and fragrance, through taste and breath and every part of our senses. Listening through our whole body teaches to be open to the world and each other in a whole new way and with a depth and subtlety that even the best words cannot begin to approach. All of nature communicates on this level, eternally engaged and intensely aware. We humans have pursued the allure of the linear mind and categorizable information and in the process, often abandoned the instinctual (and primary) intelligence of the body. Certainly both forms of learning are useful, but to underestimate the value of physical, tactile understanding is to undermine our relationship to the greater whole. The mind works best when integrated as a co-operative part of the body rather than designated the dictator of an artificial hierarchy of organs. Remembering and awakening the often submerged senses of the body requires patience and dedication for many of us, but the rewards are great. Knowing ourselves as living, vital parts of the natural world provides a visceral, bone-deep sense of self-knowledge and belonging in a larger family.

For those of us whose work is to facilitate healing with the help of the plants, speaking with them takes on a whole new level of significance and challenge. In the wordless language of the plants is also encoded the particular medicine that herb holds for human being. To discover and understand that language in a practical and thorough way is the work of a lifetime. Still, the common sense basics can be learned by any child. Most of know that bitter greens stimulate the release of gastric juices and encourage efficient action by the liver. In the same manner, many people are familiar with the use of common kitchen spices in food to increase circulation and digestion, or that just the scent of a flowering rose is enough to lift the spirits and invoke a sense of sensuality and relaxation. While these are simplistic examples, they are very much in keeping with the basis of how healers from many cultures speak with the plants every day.

The properties and personality of each herb is discernible through its taste, scent, appearance, fragrance, and even its habitat and relationship with surrounding flora and fauna. Dreams and intuition often play an important part the plant-healer relationship, but the foundation is built on a profoundly physical awareness of self and medicine. Learning when to use what herb for what person and when isn’t simply a process of memorizing information or hit and miss experimentation, but rather a complex and lyrical language revealed to those who cultivate a lifelong intimacy with the green world.

Besides what they may seem to impart about us or itself personally, on another level all plants – and indeed all elements of the natural world – are to one degree or another active transmitters of and conduits to the Anima… to the memories and intentions, knowings and implorings of the inspirited living earth.

-Jesse Wolf Hardin

Plants also speak to us through our intuitive and emotional senses. While we may be expecting or waiting for instruction in English, the plants impart to us through impressions and feelings. Depending on the species, its native ecology and our receptivity, the intensity and complexity of the communications may vary a great deal. Most often, they are subtle in nature and require our focus and attentiveness to be discernible. Understanding the real meaning of these impressions requires practice and discernment as well as an understanding of the contextual whole. We may think that we hear that a plant is good to eat and then find out different from a field guide or another person more familiar with the local flora. It’s imperative then, that we use all our senses and understandings to perceive what we’re really being told rather than risking the possibility of misinterpreting through narrow vision. The stronger our affinity and the more intensely we cultivate intimacy with the plant world, the more clearly we will recognize and make use of their gifts.

Plants tend to relate to each other and the world as tribes of species, and through the plant world as a whole rather than on the highly individuated basis humans are more familiar (and comfortable) with. The great benefit of this is that all plants are integrally connected to the ancient wisdom of their type, and of all flora and of the earth as a whole in an immediate and accessible way. When we’re able to reinstate our own natural connection to them, we also have greater access to the collective consciousness, with its vast store of information and ways of knowing.

Cherokee herbalist David Winston aptly illustrates both the dangers and benefits of listening to the plants on this intuitive level through the teaching stories he uses in his Talking Leaves class. In one case, a man who had just attended a workshop on communicating with plants was convinced that the plant he was sitting with was telling him that it was safe to eat as much of it as he wanted, and he was in the process of eating several leaves when David happened by. He recognized the plant as a strong neurotoxin and attempted to warn the enthusiastic forager, but the man insisted the plant had told him to go ahead, and paramedics had to be called later that night to save the man’s life from severe poisoning. In a contrasting case, David was working with a woman suffering from immanent kidney failure, he had tried many remedies with limited success and the woman continued to decline. One day he felt distinctly called to treat her with Stinging Nettle, not the leaves as he had tried before but a tincture made from the seeds. Remarkably, it appeared to have restored full kidney function to the woman as well as many other similar cases that followed. It is now a primary remedy for renal failure by a growing percentage of herbalists and has also been affirmed by certain scientific studies. What made the difference from one instance to the other was the level of discernment, and it can sometimes require years of practice and measuring the results before we trust our intuition as the primary or sole means of evaluation. What I recommend is listening with all of the senses from touch to instinct and intuition while also weighing in research and the advice of those most experienced with a particular plant.

And whether we are confident about this less tangible level of communication or not, it is important to remember that the plants speak to us from every direction, through the air we breathe, in the taste of the food we eat, on the scent of a spring breeze, through the feel of cotton or linen cloth and from all around us. From forest and desert, garden and field, meadow and river, the flowers and trees sing the song they have known since long before the first human stepped upon the earth and will likely continue long after we have been taken back into the dirt we sprang from. In their wild melody is the wisdom and healing of every age and place. In the soft mutter of seeds and the deep hum of trees is the language we were each born to understand. Run your fingers across the furrows of bark and root, and begin to listen.

————-finis——————-

This essay by Kiva Rose will be appearing along with an Interview with herbalist Susun Weed, in the upcoming issue of Susan Meeker Lowry’s wonderful home-published magazine Gaian Voices.  As a gift to our blog readers, she has offered to send a free copy to anyone requesting.  Please include $2.00 to cover postage.  If you know of a group or church where they could be distributed or sold, please contact Susan for quantities:
Susan Meeker-Lowry
132 Fish Street
Fryeburg, Maine 04037
or e-mail: info@gaianvoices.com

Talking With Plants – by Kiva Rose – Part 1 (of 2): Cultivating Intimacy with the More Than Human World

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Talking With Plants
   
by Kiva Rose

Part 1 (of 2): Cultivating Intimacy with the More Than Human World

willow-bloom-branch.jpg“In the stillness I looked inside and saw the wound laid down within all of us… The wound that comes from believing we are alone amid dead uncaring nature. And then I took a breath and began to share stories of a time when the world was young, when everyone knew that plants were intelligent and could speak to human beings…  A time when it was different.”
-Stephen Buhner

Down on our bellies on the grass, we take a flower’s view of the world. The huge blue sky, the ancient sheltering trees, the dance of the wind with every being and the rain drizzling down – iridescent drops spilling onto skin and petals and fingers and roots. From this perspective we’re children again, speaking in the primal wordless hum of ancestors and plants, animals and delighted babies. We’re here, in the truest sense of the word, in this moment and place, immersed in the fragrance and feeling, engaged in the timeless exchange of human being and earth.

Perhaps the simplest and most effective way to begin the process of communicating with the plants is simply to spend time with the individuals we feel called to. Seek them out in as natural a setting for them as possible. For a Wild Rose this may mean a green riverbank and for a Dandelion it may mean a sidewalk crack outside a gas station. Meeting it in its chosen habitat helps to provide a context for our experience and the building of the relationship. Remaining in a wordless, completely present state honors allows us to listen intently and to fully experience the gifts of the plant.

Many exercises, suggestions and books have addressed the subject of how best to spend focused time with the plants. What I practice and recommend is that we each find a meaningful way to consistently spend time with the living plant. This could be simply sitting with the plant for some, performing some kind of personally significant ceremony with the plant for others, or even sleeping outdoors with it for a few nights for some. Whatever we find that works for each of us, do it on a consistent basis. Just as with human relationships – while love may spark at first sight, the relationship depends on time invested and commitments made.

“It is only when we are aware of the earth and of the earth as poetry that we truly live.”
-Henry Beston

Close your eyes, and imagine this is your first day alive on earth. You’ve never before seen the brilliant green of the Summer field that rolls across the hills behind your house. Never tasted a flower petal in all its sweet complexity, or leaned so close to smell a blossom that you lifted your face away brushed with a fine dusting of brilliant yellow pollen.

Or, remember that every sensual act of touching, tasting, smelling, listening and feeling can be as intense, overwhelming and remarkable as sex, as life-changing as psychedelics and as heart opening as prayer.

Humans are masters at adaptation, taking in a change, switching gears and going with it. And yet, a pitfall of this valuable evolutionary tool is that we sometimes allow ourselves to take the everyday for granted, we assume that Sunflower will be there tomorrow and that next year the same pretty Sage plant will bloom in our gardens. We tell ourselves that any day – any day at all – we can stop and take a closer look at that tangle of tree roots by the front gate. If not today, tomorrow, or next month, or surely before the first snow obscures it from view.

Or maybe not. Maybe we come home from work and the city has removed the tree, or we die in a car wreck, or we suddenly have to move. Perhaps we just get busy, and forget for a while and suddenly it’s all different. The roots have died and broken off and that amazing tangle of tree, moss and earth is gone. This same ability to defer important things, from children to health to basic happiness, is what allows us to daily walk by profound beauty and integral miracle and say, “oh yeah, I’ve seen that before, I’ll take a closer look tomorrow.”

When we allow ourselves the eyes of children – the newness of the taste of sweet, sun-warmed Clover nectar in our mouthes for the very first time – then we are at last present enough to talk with the plants. A couple of Summers ago we visited a little canyon where Blackberries cover miles of creek bank our then seven year old daughter. Their dark green vines twisted down into every earthen crevice and fat black-purple jewels hung next to just opened white flowers. Rhiannon was so intensely excited that she was instantly on her knees, her hands clasped together and actually shivering with excitement. “Oh Mama, oh my goodness, I never ever thought I’d really get to see a real, amazingly alive Blackberry on the plant.” She gasped for a bit of breath, “Wow!  I can’t believe I’m really here, it’s better than a dream, and I never thought they’d be that FAT and that BIG and that beautiful dear dark color! Mama, I think they sing!” And then, in her bare feet and pink sun-dress, she proceeded to crawl in and out of the maze of canes, carefully picking pints of berries with nary a scratch on her bare little legs.

I try to approach every plant, every day with a similar awe-struck attitude. It reminds me of the feeling I had when I gave birth to Rhiannon, this shock and amazement and throat-tightening gratitude of holding this brilliant, precious being in my arms every day and being allowed to be in her presence every minute, every hour, every day. And no light eating, green growing being is any less a miracle than a human child.

meadowrue.jpg“Plants are exemplary communicants, warning us away from taking parts that might be unduly harmful to either them or us, and sometimes suggesting a specific medicinal use to the sensitized listener.  Still, what it communicates first and foremost is the essence of itself and its immediate kind, its expressive ‘plantness.‘  While we may truly be able to hear what a plant has to offer us, only the fruit says ‘take me, I am yours’.  And it can be enough to hear its song that says ‘I’m here, look at me. Quiet your words and still your fantasies long enough to truly and fully experience me’.”
-Jesse Wolf Hardin

Insulated as we often are within human-centric communities, it can be easy to forget that there is a way of seeing and feeling bigger than our own. This is never more evident than when we attempt to interpret the language of the natural world. Too often we hear exactly what we want to hear, or sometimes, just what we are most afraid to hear. In these cases, our perception is so heavily colored by our own expectations, emotional hangups and personal history that more often than not results in us mostly talking to ourselves rather than with the plants.

Plants are not humans, but they are no less sentient and complex beings for their differences from us. While not human or even animals, they are people in the sense that they are intelligent, adaptable, vibrantly living and deeply feeling. In our attempts to relate to them, we would be wise to acknowledge and respect their profound otherness. Our natural tendency in nature is to attempt to understand through the similarities between them and us, and indeed, we are all connected and related through an amazing variety of traits. And yet, each species has its own special gifts to contribute to the whole. We honor those gifts by noticing and appreciating the ways in which we are different as well as the similarities.

In the knowing of vine and tree, earth and stone we come closer to our selves, our own innate and authentic beings. And the better we know ourselves the less likely we are to project or anthropomorphize upon our fellow beings, and the more we appreciate the uniqueness of the plant as well as the threads that weave us all together. Time spent in communion with our allies allows us to nurture our understandings of both self and plant, teaching us the balance that is so integral and yet so fragile. From the plants and the earth, we remember how to be human beings in relationship with the world that is our larger and more comprehensive self.

(to be continued in part 2)

————————

This essay by Kiva Rose will be appearing along with an Interview with herbalist Susun Weed, in the upcoming issue of Susan Meeker Lowry’s wonderful home-published magazine Gaian Voices.  As a gift to our blog readers, she has offered to send a free copy to anyone requesting.  Please include $2.00 to cover postage.  If you know of a group or church where they could be distributed or sold, please contact Susan for quantities:
Susan Meeker-Lowry
132 Fish Street
Fryeburg, Maine 04037
or e-mail: info@gaianvoices.com

Wild Healing: The Medicine of Moonwort

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

mugwortbww.gifIt’s not even February yet, but you wouldn’t know it by the weather. It’s been unseasonably warm outside lately.  The ground is muddy, the sky clear and the plants responding by growing more rapidly each day. The vibrant moonworts (Artemisia ludoviciana and related spp to you plant people) are especially happy, and their silver green sprouts grace the ground everywhere I turn. Rubbed between gentle fingers, their leaves release the pungent aroma of wildness itself. In fact, this plant is one of the Canyon’s most intense and insistent inhabitants and one that I spend a great deal of time focusing on when leading plant walks during workshops and classes. Much can be learned of this special place and land through its flora and fauna, through the individual microcosms that make up the whole — and this particular herb is a unique and powerful expression of the Canyon.

More than any other single plant, the Artemisias attract the attention and affection of our guests here in the canyon. People who have otherwise never paid any attention to flora are enchanted by its soft touch and seductive fragrance. They catch themselves stroking its feathery leaves and brushing its small flowers against their faces. “What IS this?” they ask me in awed, eager voices as they continue sniffing and touching it. At first, I wondered why this specific plant attracted so much attention when there is such a diversity of flora here in the Gila, but I’ve finally come to understand that its vibrant and wild, fierce yet gentle personality is the medicine many of us need.

Although the moonworts are widespread and populate almost every part of N. America, they are especially prolific here in the Southwest, and the scent of sagebrush is certainly one of the signatures of mesas and steppes of the Wild West. So common here as to be practically invisible to many peoples’ eyes, they are easily one of the most prolific species of the canyon and surrounding areas. Their prevalence may allow us to pass them over more easily but actually makes them that much more important to us due to their sustainability and accessibility.

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Moonwort is often an indicator of disturbed soil, happily thriving where grazing and concurrent erosion has stripped away most plants. They help to heal the ground by preventing more dirt from being washed away and by providing essential nutrients to the often starved topsoil. They are stubborn and strong willed, often growing in the harsh light of direct sun without any signs of wilting or being burned. As long as they occasionally get some water to cool their roots, they’re happy just about anywhere. While many people consider them to be weeds, I feel a rush of gratitude every time I see a colony of Artemisias staking down the sand and providing a welcome surge of green in an otherwise barren landscape. They survive floods, droughts, grazing and even pavement in many cases, providing a powerful role model for us humans trying to adapt and heal in an increasingly unsure and changeable era.

What many people simply call sage, is actually our moonworts, who have been known for as long as people have used plants as an herb of prayer. Twisted into tight bundles and dried, they are commonly burned as a fragrant smudge during ceremony, prayer, the sweat lodge and other sacred uses. They clear the air and the mind with amazing efficiency and Wolf and I often sprinkle a pinch of crushed dried leaves on the woodstove during the day to take advantage of their refreshing effect.  I love these plants for their tenacious, healing touch on the land and on us humans. I don’t leave home without a fresh sprig tucked into my pocket or a bottle of the tincture in my bag.

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Often thought of as a dream herb, it can certainly provoke vivid (and sometimes disturbing) nights, but they are equally skilled at waking us up by providing a bitter tasting dose of medicine that both enlivens and relaxes the nervous system. I consider them to be one of our most important indigenous herbal remedies. For the gut, for the liver, for the nervous system, for wounds and damaged muscles and beyond. When I feel depressed or down, I chew a pinch of the flowers or leaves and the strong, bracing taste brings me back into myself and leaves me more grounded than ever. I’ve been working with moonwort for years, and I still feel as if I have barely skimmed the surface of its capacity for healing.

If you’d like to read more about the specifics of healing with this powerful and prolific plant, check out the Artemisia entry on The Medicine Woman Tradition site or search for Artemisia on the Medicine Woman’s Roots Herbal blog.

~Kiva Rose

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Photography and Artwork (c) 2009 Jesse Wolf Hardin & Kiva Rose