The Lost Art of Embodied Herbalism: Bringing the Feminine back into Herbalism
As herbalism becomes increasingly about chemical constituents and actions, and the actual herb as a spirit being is not considered, we are losing connection with what herbs and plants are all about.
The herbs are being taken out of herbalism!
More and more I have disillusioned naturopathic and herbalist students coming to my workshops to learn how to connect with plants for this reason.
After all, do we look at ourselves and see if we have a high amount of tannins and so we must be good to dry up others? hahaha maybe we should!
So what is embodied herbalism?
Put simply, it is the art of directly experiencing a plant within us.
What we learn from books, from teachers, from other is knowledge.
What we learn through direct experience, through direct revelation, is wisdom. This can’t be forgotten, it is within our bodies as a deeply felt experience. When we have experienced the ‘being’ of a herb we are better equipped to recognise a person in a similar state of being and hence who would benefit from that herb.
Many of us will have experienced a herb vicariously through using it on others. That’s great! But it is a whole other level to experience it within yourself first. It is one of the pillars of developing a relationship with a plant.
And when we can get to this essential nature of a plant and match it to the person, we need very little herb to create change. Drop doses are often sufficient. Sustainable herbalism!
Embodied Herbalism is not a new thing.
My first experience was through plant alchemy as a budding herbalist 20 years ago. In alchemy we experience firsthand the plant within our beings, emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually, while going through an outer process of creating the spagyric or plant gold.
(A little note here: you can go through the physical process of alchemy – tincture, oil and salt making etc. in a purely chemical way, and many do just this. Just as many ancient alchemists, we can be amazing chemists and completely miss the mark (i.e. the gold doesn’t happen) because the inner work of alchemy hasn’t been done. We are the philosophers stone in alchemy, we are the catalyst for the gold to happen. It has little to do with the perfect chemistry, though this is definitely an aspect of it.)
Homeopathy is also built on embodied wisdom. Remedies are known for their actions through provings. A proving is where a group of people take the remedy into their own body and note carefully what occurs over a period of time. This is how Hahnemann discovered that Cinchona is good for malaria as it created malaria symptoms, thereby creating the science (direct experience) of homeopathy. As someone who has conducted a proving of a butterfly a number of years ago, I can personally tell you I know that remedy so well I can recognise a person in need of it a mile off!
Edward Bach is another well known person who directly experienced the effects of the flower essences he made, and they are still going strong almost 90 years later.
Herbalism in this day and age has been taken over by the patriarchy. The feminine is being removed.
We use plants rather than connect with them.
Think of how you relate to people.
Do you want to be used for your constituents, maybe your pretty hair or your strong muscles or your extra good night vision?
Sure maybe you don’t mind that, but do you also want to be known on a deeper level?
To be understood at the level of your soul?
To express your heart and be heard?
The feminine is the feeling, intuitive, knowing, trusting, and connected aspect of ourselves. Many herbalists are able to get to know a herb and then engage the feminine intuition into their practice, which is so awesome.
But what if we stripped it back further to having a direct connection and deeper relationship with every plant that we choose to use? Connection is key to the feminine way.
What if we came back to integrating our knowledge of herbs with our direct experience of herbs? Integrating the masculine with the feminine.
This may sound laborious, but when we develop a personal relationship with a plant, it can do way more than we will be told by the industry. Knowing 10-20 herbs really well, you can affect just as much change as knowing hundreds superficially. We can engage in the feminine art of trusting the process, that we will have exactly the plant we need at the moment we need it.
Plants are beings just like us! They can adapt to work as we need them. They are a lot like us, we have a few specialties in our life, a few things we’re really good at and excel at, but if we are really needed to do something else then we can do it. For example, I don’t enjoy cooking, its not a specialty of mine, but if I really have to do it, I can. There are people who would be much better at doing it than me, but I can do it if I have to. Herbs are no different. If we are choosing a herb from a deep knowing of its core essence, a deep knowing of who it is, not just what it does or what chemicals its made up of, then it can work on a whole range of other things you wouldn’t have expected.
We are not benefitting as brilliantly from the plants as we could be.
We aren’t allowing the plants to shine their light as they would love to.
Herbs are not static. They are evolving beings with a spirit. They are constantly adapting to new situations being created in the world and to the problems that humans have created. They are constantly evolving new ways of adapting and new ways of helping and healing. We can’t learn this from books!
So how do we practice embodied herbalism?
- Tune in to the plants that you are drawn to. Sit with them and listen.
- Develop relationships with them. (More on this in plant ally article).
- Less is more. Knowing a few plants really well is enough!
- Engage in the feminine art of trusting the process. Trust that the herbs you need for yourself or for your practice will come to you. You don’t need to know everything about every plant.
- Take a herb internally and go into your body and listen. What is happening? Where does it affect you? For many it is enough to hold the herb or sit with it.
The more connected you are with your body, the easier it will be to notice the effects of a plant on it. They may be subtle to begin with, but anyone can develop this skill with a little practice, focus and concentration.
Herbs want to help us.
From my own inner journeys, I learned that herbs in particular came into being as a response to the need for the healing of our planet and ourselves.
They have so much more to teach than what is already known.
As we evolve so are they evolving to help us and to heal the earth.
We won’t know this unless we connect in and ask!
Want to learn more?