Plant Medicine: A New Remedy? Or Ancient Wisdom?
As I was following my curiosity about plants as medicine, I remembered my fellow pearl and soul sista, Bianca has a lovely stinging nettle tattoo on her arm. I asked her to remind me why she was inspired to have that drawn on her body for like - ya know - life. I remember enjoying the story when she first told me.
“Stinging nettle grows everywhere (like most weeds), especially all over grassy fields and farm land. I stung myself as a kid when visiting my family in Ireland. My grandad instructed me to grab the plant growing next to the nettles and rub it into the irritation. Immediately the sting was gone! It was so mind-blowing to me that the antidote grew right next to the nettles. This example of yin and yang stuck with me and spurred my interest in the world of herbal remedies.”
The plant next to the stinging nettle was dock leaf. (Which she also has a tattoo of on the opposite arm.)
I had a similar experience while working in the gardens of my new house last Summer. I was pulling up a plant, that I assumed was a weed, and it was staining my hand with yellow powder. I sensed that maybe I shouldn’t be pulling this up. After inquiring on a local homesteading site I discovered it was Jewelweed, a natural Poison Ivy remedy. I immediately discovered I also had quite a bit of Poison Ivy in my yard.
It is truly amazing how the natural world provides. And because we are part of this natural world, being born of the same earth as these plants we love, it makes sense that they would provide assistance in enhancing our health and lives.
High in minerals like calcium, iron, protein, and vitamin A, nettle is very nourishing and nutritive. Studies show that nettle can supply 90 to 100 percent of dietary vitamin A. Nettle is a wonderful ally for those suffering with seasonal allergies, as it has powerful antihistamine action. Perfect for the upcoming allergy season!
How to use nettle: Drink nettle as a tea; the best method is to make an overnight infusion by pouring boiling water over the dried leaves, covering it, and letting the tea steep overnight. Nettle can also be used as a tincture or a vinegar or purchased in capsule form and even as a food (fresh nettle is delicious in pestos and soups). Just make sure to process by blending or cooking to break down the stinging hairs!
Dandelion, considered by many to be one of the most bothersome weeds, is actually one of our most versatile and beneficial herbs! All parts of the plant can be used—the flowers make a lovely wine, the tender leaves can be picked and used in a salad, and the root may be boiled and enjoyed as a coffee substitute. The leaves and root possess a diuretic quality, and the root contains high levels of inulin and fiber. Inulin is a great prebiotic, feeding beneficial bacteria in the intestines and helping to populate beneficial bacteria in the gut. The root is prized for its cleansing properties as well. Given dandelion’s abundance and versatile uses, it’s a perfect plant for the beginning herbalist.
How to use dandelion: Experiment away and experience the whole plant. Try making wine, a salad, a decoction, a tincture, a vinegar, or an oxymel. An oxymel is a mixture of honey and vinegar and a great way to administer herbs that don't taste that great on their own.
Calendula is a beautiful flower as well as another powerhouse herb. Bright yellow and orange, Calendula flowers contain high concentrations of healing resins and flavonoids and have been shown to be antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and have wound-healing properties.
How to use calendula: Calendula really shines as a topical remedy and is an extremely common ingredient in herbal skin care products like balms and salves due to its amazing healing properties. Calendula oil is an effective, gentle remedy for acne, burns, scars, rashes, eczema and psoriasis, skin infections, sties, diaper rash, and is safe to use for babies and nursing mothers. Calendula prepared as a tea or added into medicinal broths can be healing internally as well, for issues like ulcers, stomach upset, colds, and viruses.
Elderberry is your go-to herb for immunity! Elderberry and elderflower are both wonderful remedies for colds, flu, fevers, viruses, and all acute respiratory issues. Elderberry has potent antiviral properties and is very high in bioflavonoids with an antioxidant ORAC value (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) twice that of blueberries. Taking elderberry at the first sign of a cold can boost the immune system and reduce the duration and severity. In one study, patients given elderberry extract four times a day for five days had full relief from influenza symptoms on average four days earlier than the placebo group. Elderflower can help to alleviate sinusitis, bronchitis, allergies, cold, flu, and fever.
How to use elderberry: Both elderberry and elderflower can be made into tasty, immune-boosting syrup, cough drops, gummies, and teas-—and is especially good for kids!
Chamomile is a quintessential soothing herb, often drank as a tea before bed to induce sleepiness or to quiet an upset stomach—a cup of chamomile tea is like a warm hug in a mug. But chamomile is so much more than a sleepy-time tea! It has also been used traditionally to treat fever, inflammation, muscle spasms, menstrual disorders, ulcers, rheumatic pain, and hemorrhoids.
How to use chamomile: Chamomile is often brewed as a tea, but it can be taken as a tincture, honey, or syrup and used externally, too. Topically, chamomile can be used to treat diaper rash, chickenpox, ear or eye infections, blocked tear ducts, conjunctivitis, and poison ivy.
Also known as Holy Basil, Tulsi is considered the queen of herbs, a goddess in Hindu culture and the #1 herb used in Ayurveda.
The Tulsi plant is kept in most homes in India, kept in a place of honor, the family gives the plant offerings and the plant gives its leaves for healing. It is a sacred tree. There’s an intimacy between the plant and the family - it becomes part of the family. It’s extraordinary healing powers work on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. And even on an ecological level, giving off something in its roots that promotes the growth of fungi, beneficial bacteria.
How to use Tulsi: Tulsi can also be brewed into a tea or made into a tincture as well. This tea or tincture brings our attention to the soul, slows us down, destresses, lets our soul catch up. It is natural memory enhancer, helps with depression and anxiety, anti-inflammatory and helps to stimulate milk production while breast feeding. Also, Mosquitos don’t go near Tulsi so it is perfect to plant around the perimeter of your yard.
What I really think is the most amazing thing about plant medicine is that these plants aren’t actually doing the healing, they are awakening within us our own ability to heal. They are assisting in supporting our own systems. We, like plants, have everything we need to heal ourselves within ourselves.