The short answer is we don’t know. Most of us don’t like that answer. We don't know how long Covid will continue to dominate our lives, if it will resurge with the new subvariant or quietly become endemic like flu. We don't know, given climate change, what the garden/growing season will be like either. And let’s not talk about the political and social incoherence.
So how can plant medicine be useful to us? In shifting sands, how do we even know how to protect and resource ourselves? For me, the answer is always go local, meaning my body, my local environment and whatever issues are in my face AND strengthening my nervous system, in whatever ways I can so that the variability, and instabilities take less of a toll on me and I can be more part of the solution. So what would that look like?
Each person is different but the basics of constitutional and condition apply and they are worth thinking about. So what am I talking about?
We are all born with genetics, a body type, a background and therefore we have tendencies. Herbs are very helpful in mediating or balancing all of that. For instance, I am tall and thin and tend to be very high wired and can lean a bit toward anxiety (regardless of what triggers me). I always bit my nails and had a nervous stomach even though I sleep well but I have a lot of crazy dreams and even nightmares. I'm sensitive emotionally.
Those are all things I can work with with my mind and heart BUT I really benefit from herbs that are calming and grounding and toning to my nervous system, like Valerian, Skullcap, St. Johnswort, Hawthorne, Passionflower, etc. These herbs are always good for me.
Rooty herbs like Dandelion and Burdock, Astragalus and Shatavari work well too as does Marshmallow because it is so moistening and my airy nature and outdoor life in sun and wind make me very dry. Licorice is moistening and it also helps my easily agitated stomach. These are just a few examples of herbs I use often.
In the summer when we farm herbs and grow flowers and vegetables I work the hardest of all year. I need herbs that are strengthening like Eleuthero, Ashwaganda, Astragalus, Saw Palmetto, Schizandra and He Shou Wu. I find these to augment my energy and support the extra physical demand while keeping me calm and happy.
Also, if it is very hot as our summers have been, I might use Peppermint, Spearmint, Hibiscus and Holy Basil.
After the heavier food of winter as the days lengthen and spring emerges, the classical Liver season in Chinese Medicine, I might take a spring tonic of Burdock, Yellow Dock, Artichoke, and/or Dandelion for a month, just to help my body relinquish and clear its accumulations. This often makes me feel lighter and brighter.
We often associate herbs with conditions but we can start to use them to balance our energy and our well-being as we change, the seasons change and our world goes on its wild way.
One can always check in with an herbalist or practitioner to refine the picture but it is often a great learning experience to just meet the herbs by trying them and seeing how they feel whether its with a tea blend or an extract.
I invite you to make some new friends in the herbal community.
We are grateful for the longer days, the birdsong and the emergence of Spring. May we all know a peaceful, abundant, adventure and health in 2022.
My name is Bonnie Bloom and I am a clinical herbalist. Plants give us clothing, shelter, food and medicine. They are an intrinsic part of our earth ecology, diverse and essential. They breathe our carbon dioxide and generously give us oxygen. Where would we be without them.