Sunday, July 13, 2014

Interesting theory, but...

There are several generally interesting and loosely held theories among herbalists.  One is the Doctrine of Signatures, in which plants resemble in some way the part of the body or organ for which they will be most helpful.  A quick example would be a walnut which, when cracked open resembles the brain and contains brain nourishing oil and nutrients.

Another theory has to do with the plants that show up of their own volition, seemingly seeking you out.  I attempted to find a name for this theory, but when one Googles, "when herbs show up on their own," it is all about drug testing, so that was no help at all.
I first heard about this during a conference over 20 years ago and truly wish I could remember the herbalist who gave the talk.  She had a serious disease and when poke weed grew ever closer to her door, she decided to try using it - with great success.

Over the years I've been involved in many discussions about how this works, if it works, etc.  Basically, we know plants have intelligence, but what other things influence the travel of herb plants?  Animals, birds, and weather are just a few.  I currently have poke weed trying to get IN my door, but at the same time raspberries, jewelweed, and poison ivy are fighting over the cellar window, so it's confusing.

In any case, there are hundreds of plants growing within 500 feet of my door.  Many I have invited or kidnapped, while even more wander in on their own.  Having been a field two decades ago, the native population isn't going anywhere either.

But here's the thing I notice; we are being inundated with relaxing, mood-elevating, nervine herbs.  Some were planted, some are wild, and most importantly they are all thriving.  The chamomile is a little of both, since a few plants were rescued from a construction site and have stretched and spread.
 The mimosa that sprouted in the middle of the back yard was a complete surprise.  The holy basil has resown itself, and the CA poppy was my own doing.  St Johns wort came up in two different places.
The passionflower started as a tiny sprig that I was sure had been too long ignored in the pot, and now it threatens to bully out several other cherished plants.  Motherwort lines one of the paths to my sister's house.
My generous neighbor has gone organic with oats and red clover.  I've never been able to grow borage since the bunnies seem to adore it.  This year Stephany Hoffelt talked about how the flower tincture is her go-to for alleviating sadness, and whammo!  My borage has sprawled all over the place as I gather the flowers daily.

This concerns me a little bit.  I'm really a pretty happy-go-lucky person.  Things have to be really bad or stressful to get to me.  In fact, as I dutifully dry or tincture these wonderful gifts, it is with a fair degree of certainty (and optimism) that I will not be using them, but instead they will go to others.
I know that because it is nearly impossible for me to stay awake past 11 pm, life is good, and I much prefer days that include a cat nap.  You can't just ignore good medicine, though.  Even if it is in smallish quantities, it must be harvested - just in case.

These kind of things would have been far more helpful when life was more like a roller-coaster.  Oh... I get it!  Maybe they are here for the younger folks living here!  Yes.  Let's go with that.


Reifyn said...

The only thing I hope your readers will consider is making sure they properly identify a plant before trying to use it, whether using this theory or no. Some herbs are very dangerous to certain people or everybody.
But I can imagine that mandrake root pulling itself up when we're asleep and walking over to plant themselves closer to the door. I like those things.

Tina Sams said...

I believe that's always the case any time you read anything about herbs - that they must be known and properly identified. That's something we work very hard on here at the magazine. Education is key.

Mrs. Mac said...

Last year I had two unknown plants sprout near my blueberry bushes .. they were rather pretty .. but flowered a little late in our short season. This year I planted tomatillo .. and low and behold, that is what wandered in my yard last summer ... I've never ever planted it .. must have been 'planted' by a bird dropping :)

Catherine Love said...

Very interesting, Tina.
I have a Mimosa that 'planted' itself in a large container on the front porch and is growing wildly. The plant that was growing there died for no apparent reason just before the Mimosa sprung up.
Lavender which normally grows slowly and often dies without warning is also thriving this season, as is the mugwort which is taller than I am and has reseeded with abandon.
I never tire of herbs- always something to teach us!

Candy said...

Hi Tina, your post has brought up something that is a stumbling block for me.
I was brought up in a cynical and science based household. I took up herbalism as I wanted to avoid chemicals and find natural remedies that worked because of what was naturally in the plants. However my classes and books often veer off into discussions of chakras, planetary alignments, plants "talking" to us etc.
I find this side of herbalism sticks in my throat, can't a plant work because of what it is made up of? Is its spiritual significance etc actually necessary?
I wish I could embrace this aspect of herbalism but it really makes me wary of possible quacks. Any advice please?

Tina Sams said...

Candy, I think there are just as many science based herbalists as there are of the more spiritual herbalists, but they don't seem to garner (or perhaps seek?) as much attention.
No matter how one approaches herbs, there is always a need to take what you want and leave the rest. My favorite herbalists have a solid base of science and physiology but still allow that there may be things about herbs and healing that don't fit the current rules or knowledge. That's me personally, though.
I do know exactly what you mean, however. Choose herbalists who speak clearly in a way that YOU understand and don't ask you to try to figure out what their vague inferences might mean. They are out there :-)

Laura said...

LOVE this! I love the froth of chamomile! :)

Jewell Sloan said...

My mother in law calls these herbs "volunteers" :)

Jewell Sloan said...

My mother in law calls these plants "volunteers" :)


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