What’s an Herbal Ally?
An “Evolutionary Herbalism” perspective…
“Herbs, as it is stated in many ancient practices, help to digest our food, aid subtle nourishment & support the vital life force. They are not to be used as a replacement for mindful living. Education as to how to prepare nourishing food, cooking with herbs and eating with gratitude is the basic place to begin a person’s education… Remember, eating fast food and taking St. John’s Wort for the ensuing depression due to nutritional & spiritual deficiencies does not work.”
~from Rosemary Gladstar Science & Art of Herbology
Plants simply cannot do their work alone. That’s why we call them allies; because herbs work with us to support our health & vitality. I like to say, “herbs will work as hard for us as we will”. As living beings, full of not only powerful plant chemicals but also spirit, our “herbal allies” support us along our wellness journey. So, the choices that we make can either synergize with or prevent our healing plants from working their magic.
That’s why an herbalist can’t (or won’t!) necessarily answer questions like “which herb(s) will…” detoxify me, make me lose weight, fix my eczema, cure my insomnia, etc. Herbs alone do not really do any of these things! Personal wellness begins with the foods that we eat, the relationships we cultivate, quality of hydration, and how we manage stress… When our daily choices are aligned with our goals, then you have an environment in which natural remedies can actually have an impact! It’s like opening the door for your herbs and welcoming them in to do their work.
St. John’s Wort Plant Uses: A personal story
Personally, I had a direct experience in the summer of 2019 that reminded me of just how true this really is. Mid-summer, when one would expect long, sunny days to inspire happiness, I experienced depression for the first time in my life. My mind felt like someone had shut the blinds, and I didn’t even care to open them.
At the same time, I had a lot going on personally. For months before that, my daily stress level every day hit 10/10 at some point. I was in over my head with work, family obligations, personal projects, etc. And then depression seemed to come as an internal solution, as odd as that sounds – suddenly, I felt so down that I couldn’t even feel the stress. It was as if my body decided it was better to feel nothing.
I had tried acute herbal remedies up until then, to relieve stress and physical tension on the spot, and they were very helpful for coping. But they didn’t rid me of the stress. How could they? Herbs can’t change your job or fix your family communication! But with my issue shifting away from an anxious tension to more of a state of depression, I needed a new plan. Of course, as an herbalist, I’ve long heard of and suggested St. John’s Wort as a tonic, or strengthener, for the nervous system. I knew it could be of help, but only if I also made choices to align with its power of “letting in the light”. So, while I started taking St. John’s Wort tincture throughout each day, I also cultivated the will to lighten up my life. I shifted my job and work schedule, and cleaned off my “plate” by saying no to everything that would spread me thin. I made more time for sleep, and prioritized alone time. I hydrated like crazy, and ate every ounce of farm-fresh veggies our CSA gave us. And, within just a few weeks, that internal darkness lifted.
Was it the power of St. John’s Wort or my will to change? Does it have to be either? I believe that my choices opened pathways within (physiologically & emotionally) for St. John’s Wort to lift my spirits and strengthen my nervous system. Herbs do not treat or cure illness, but they do support our bodies as they naturally seek balance and health, and our choices make all the difference in that healing process.