What is the language of Herbalism?

Updated: Apr 25, 2019

What is the language of Herbalism? How do these beautiful plants that we love speak to us? What does the herbalist actually do?

The herbs we love to grow and grow to love, speak to us in so many different ways. The practice of herbalism brings the magic of plant medicine literally straight into to our fingertips and as herbalists, (and all of us are herbalists!) we work with the plants that we love as individuals and in individual ways.

There is no right or wrong way to be an herbalist, there is only your way.

Many of us blend tinctures, tonics and teas. Many of us receive the healing herbal support we crave by simply being in the garden, amending the soil and nurturing our seedlings into vibrant plants that we use to cook meals with that infuse our dinner tables with love. I still believe in my heart of hearts, that the most important supplement that we can ever use is a very healthy dose of vitamin L.

Some of us are writers and some of us are teachers. Some of us prefer to sit quietly in the garden and absorb the wisdom of the natural world. We are photographers, painters and poets. We bring our grandchildren into our gardens and tell them stories about how things grow.

None of us know any more than others…we just know different aspects of the same whole, and like the very plants themselves, we thrive with the sharing of the growing experience together.

An herbalist isn’t just one who supports healing with herbs. An herbalist is one who speaks and expresses themselves in whichever unique voice that the herbs themselves joyously ask them to. I’ve always been someone who loves the way that these amazing plants can support us in health and in life.

The herbalists language, when spoken and applied correctly, harms none.

Those of us who are herbal practitioners have laws telling us what we can and cannot do and I believe in following them. I’ve never chafed against that. Our language is historic, fluid and beautiful, and we don’t need the terminology of western medicine to express the many extraordinary ways that these plants can enhance our lives.

Lately, I find myself returning back to my roots of traditional folk herbalism. I really don’t like to buy my herbs in capsules, I like to make my own tinctures, tonics and teas, from whole plants with their sweet-smelling souls energetically intact. I no longer enjoy relying on exotic herbs from faraway lands, preferring instead to grow and harvest sustainably from my own forest and gardens. Like local honey, it’s my own personal belief that everything and anything you need to support your happiness and your health can be found growing very close to where you live. I want to interact with each plant and learn everything I can from their quiet wisdom.

Herbalism is a tradition that cannot be approached in the same way as medicine is practiced. We must practice safely always, but in my opinion, we must take care not to destroy what has always been a cultural tradition. We don’t need to mimic a medical practice. The fact that isolated supplements are so readily available in bright little bottles, blatantly using the language of pharmaceuticals, has brought us perilously close to the latter. I am saddened when these beautiful plants are simply used as a commodity rather than a tool for connection, education and empowerment. I’m deemed a strange one because I want empirical evidence for their effectiveness, but that’s not because I’m prescribing them to anyone, instead it is my desire to know how they support and how they can also harm, because I want to educate my clients well and I also want to protect this ancient and colorful tradition that has been practiced safely for centuries.

Take a deep dive into the history of herbalism and you will be completely and utterly fascinated. My personal vision is to keep people empowered around their life, health and to keep the conversation around herbal wellness safe and fun.

People ask me all of the time, “what’s the best way to learn about herbs?” For me the answer is simple. Choose only one or two. Plant them, a few varieties. Spend a season with them and harvest them. If they die, learn what killed them. Read all about them. Listen to them. Keep a journal, draw or paint them. Take pictures of them throughout their lifecycle. See what insects love them. Cook with them, make a tincture, a lotion or a tea. Make all three. After a summer of observing and learning from a lavender plant, you’ll really know quite a lot about lavender.

That’s my herbal love language. What’s yours?

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