Archive for June, 2012
Herbs don’t work for everyone, for everything, all of the time.
Got your attention? 🙂
I know, I know – aren’t I suppose to be all non-stop herbal magic talk?
- Eyebright cured my need for glasses!
- Comfrey fixed my broken leg in one day!
It’s really easy to be caught up in the magic of working with plants and treat them as an almost magical cure all instead of a healing ally that might not be suited for all occasions. Hey, they are magic and powerful. But some plants work better with some folks and not others.
Yet there’s a more important point I’m thinking of. The old hammer story.
If all you know how to do is to hammer with nails, then every problem you encounter you’ll try to fix with a hammer and nails. Even though that is not always the best solution. I tend to think all healing arts can lapse pretty easily into thinking that way. You’ve studied it, practiced it and it works for you so it must be the one!
I tend to think that depending on the person and the condition you’re working on you can often need more than one different player on your healing team. In addition to working with herbs, I incorporate life coaching, meditation, acupuncture, massage and yoga into my own health (I consider health to be more than just physical but to include mental, emotional and spiritual aspects as well) maintenance routine. And in the past I’ve had Reiki, Polarity and other energy work as part of it too.
I love exploring different things not just by reading them or taking an occasional workshop (although I do those too) but experiencing them as client. I tend to find it exciting as you learn new things about yourself and your body by looking through the eyes of that practice and perhaps news ways to look at healing and health in general.
One of the things coming up this week is I have an appointment with an Ayurvedic health counselor. I know a little bit about it and have read a few introductory books and encountered it via yoga (hey and some odd bits in Bollywood movies, but let’s not go there.) Yet working with an actual trained practitioner in Ayurvedic medicine will be a brand new thing and very exciting. Who knows what I will learn and what better ways to take care of myself and improve my life might come from it. (And also a great excuse to finally delve into the book The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, which I’ll review after I read it.)
I strongly encourage everyone to, when you have the chance, try out a different healing practice you’ve never done before. It’s a great way to broaden your horizons as a healer or as a person. Who knows what healing tools you’ve been missing. I think that different healing arts modalities work really well together even if you might not think of them together and you can be surprised which ones you know, or haven’t thought of, work best for you.
But that’s just my insane .02
(Future one I’m checking out that I’ve never done include Tibetan, Craniosacral and Chiropractic….
Admittedly, I’m beginning to feel like Goldilocks in the quest for the just right book on tree medicine and spirituality. That said once more into the breech dear friends….
I just finished The Meaning of Trees: Botany, History, Healing, Lore by Fred Hageneder and enjoyed it it in many ways, but found it still not quite what I was hoping for.
The book drifts along the boundary between coffee table book and a reading book. It’s filled with big beautiful pictures of…. you guessed it TREES! The photos are generally magical and often invoked a deep yearning in me to be with the trees in the places shown. They aren’t ID style photos and generally couldn’t be used to ID the trees discussed in real life. But that is clearly not the intention of the author – instead they are meant to inspire that sense of magic embodied by our tree friends and not to stir up that intellectual labeling we so tend to do.
The book covers more than 50 trees (58 if you’re the sort that counts – which apparently I may actually be.) Which is fair coverage, but given it isn’t focused on a particular region means it isn’t remotely covering them all. (BTW, one thing that bemused me is that the book is alphabetical by the trees’ Latin names, but the table of contents only lists the common English names – not a problem just amusing.)
The chapters are structured in a very exact format with an introduction which covers very, basic botany followed by sections on:
- Practical Uses
- Natural Healing
- Culture, Myth and Symbol
And a sidebar in each with sections on:
- Divine Association
- Astrological Association
- Historical Spotlight
But not every tree has every section in the sidebar.
I actually found the section on Culture, Myth and Symbol often the most interesting segments of the text and they increased my urge to learn more about those aspects. I’ll certainly be reading other books more specifically on those topics in the future.
The natural healing parts varied tremendously. Some were brief and forgettable. Other offered more interesting notions but none of them are quite detailed enough though to be a real herbal reference. But instead just served to offer some tantalizing hints of things to be researched. But still I really wanted a lot more coverage on that front. (I did find the uses for Tree Essences very interesting.)
The sidebars were not quite effective for me. If I were to try to put my finger on it, I think the format was too constraining and it felt like he was trying force some things to fit that really didn’t seem like they did. But every now and then there would be something I loved – generally in Superstition like this:
“In 19th-century England and France, the finger and toe-nail clippings of a person who had a fever or who was suffering from a toothache were buried under an ash tree in the belief that this would cure their affliction.”
I’m not sure why but that just really struck me. Reading more about some of the differing superstitions and folk beliefs about trees would be amazing and fascinating in itself. I’ll definitely search for some of those.
Overall, a beautiful book to enhance one’s appreciation of trees. Not essential for herbalists but a nice adjunct if you are interested in the non-herbal aspects of trees as well. A good part of my budding tree library.
Now to continue that quest for that mythical perfect book on tree healing and spirituality….
As part of what I’m calling a Summer of Tree Love, I’m doing some special posts this summer, each dedicated to a particular tree.
I decided to start with Linden (Tilia spp.) which is one of my favorite trees. This particular one is a good friend of mine:
I walk by it every day to and from work. Each time I pause for a moment, put my hand gently on its trunk – connecting and grounding myself for a moment. During the spring the young leaves make a yummy addition to salad and I usually eat one leave on the way into work in the morning. Right now is an exciting time in Boston because the Lindens in my neighborhood are very close to flowering. A blessed time of the year in my view.
One the things that threw me off when I was first learning about Linden was the differing common names. In older herbal texts, as well as the UK, it is routinely called the Lime tree. It is also called in Basswood – and if you’re looking for the honey made from its flowers it will usually be under that name. Which brings us to another common US name, Bee Trees because it is tree much loved by bees since it is an abundant source of nectar.
Some of the traditional uses for Linden flower are:
- To sooth tension and irritability
- As a heart tonic
- Helps to reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure (especially when there is an emotional basis)
- As a nerve tonic
- For migraines
- Easing insomnia
- Relief to colds and flu by reducing nasal congestion
- Gargling with the tea to help with tonsillitis and inflammations of the mouth
Some external Uses:
- Apply a tea to help with skin inflammation
- Bath to help with itchy skin
- Tea (room temperature) as a face wash
- Tar is used for Eczema
I think that gives a hint why the German word for to sooth is lindern and the Linden tree is considered to represent mercy. And in Greek Mythology Philyra, a goddess of healing, was turned into a Linden Tree.
I’ve always found Linden trees to be soothing and calming in general and love to meditate under them. Some trees’ presence can be almost overwhelming in their power, but I find Linden comforting and gentle in its strength. And I often drink infusions of flowers when I’m finding a need to tap into that comforting and supportive nature.
I’ve recently learned that the flower essence is considered helpful for healing matters of the heart. And, in particular, it is supportive for people who find difficulty giving and receiving love and affection after painful experiences in the past. As well as being used to release emotional blockages in general. I think exploring that sounds like something on my agenda. And at just the right time to make some flower essences from the local trees.
So thank you Linden for all you do for us. (And for graciously being the first tree of this series.)
P.S. Now if only I could get the Kinks song Lola from appearing in my head as Linden. (La,la, Linden…)
References of Note:
Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier
A Modern Herbal by Maud Grieve
Meaning of Trees by Fred Hageneder
The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffmann
Indian Herbalogy of North America: The Definitive Guide to Native Medicinal Plants and Their Uses by Alma Hutchens
The Complete Floral Healer by Anne McIntyre
A Russian Herbal by Igor Vilevich Zevin, Nathaniel Altman and Lilia Vasilevna Zevin
There’s something magical in the air here in Boston.
No, I don’t mean Mission Magic! although that would be kind of awesome (and give me kudos for the obscure reference please!) – but something even more awesome:
That’s right, Herbstalk 2012 Boston’s first Herbal festival:
HERBSTALK: Saturday, June 9, 2012.
Arts at the Armory, 191 Highland Ave. in Somerville, MA
Classes run from 11am to 6pm
Herbal Marketplace open from 11am to 6pm.
Admission: $5 suggested donation. Open to everyone!
Children are welcome!
What’s Herbstalk about? Well, it’s about one day – more seriously…
HERBSTALK is a community event devoted to educating and inspiring people about the common and safe use of medicinal herbs. During our day-long herb fest there will be educational talks and workshops geared towards herbal beginners of all ages. All classes are given by local practicing or aspiring herbalists who are coming together in order to share their knowledge of the healing power of plants. We believe that herbal education empowers people to take their health into their own hands and builds a vital connection to the natural world and the plants that sustain us.
Our mission is to connect people with healing herbs. HERBSTALK envisions a world in which people of all backgrounds have an understanding of herbs that can be used to heal, feed and nurture us all.
HERBSTALK has become an evolving collective of herb-lovers composed of individuals, organizations, schools and businesses that want to help their community understand and embrace the healing powers of plants. Will you join us?
Hey I’d be going even if I wasn’t giving a talk there (check out my events page and yes I finally have an events page – which is only half way there since I have several things still to be scheduled this summer.)
If you’re in or near Boston next Saturday – I hope you go and enjoy.
Thanks to my good friend Steph for having the vision and magic to make Herbstalk happen! (Hi Steph!)
P.S. Sadly Miss Tickle from Mission Magic won’t be there.
I’m sure Steph did her best, but can you imagine what sort of speaking fee she must have wanted….Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )