Talking with Plants: An Aside
Using Energy Moving Herbs for Connection, Presence and Groundedness
In the last few years I’ve had various students, guests, blog-readers and the like confide in me that they’re unable to really “feel” the plants on an energetic level. That no matter how much they meditate, garden, guzzle tinctures or go to herb conferences, no matter how much they LOVE the plants, they can’t feel the effect of drop-dose tinctures, a bit of leaf or the presence of the plant.
There can be all kinds of reasons for this, but a primary one is certainly energy/chi blockage. Where someone is stuck outside of their body, or has so much ~stuff~ built up in them that they can barely taste their food or remember their kids names, let alone hear the quiet voice a weed outside their bedroom window. This stuff needs to be dealt with on its own, to be sure. Counseling, a really hot Sweat and/or good sex can all help. But what I’m talking about here is more of a physical approach with herbs, it won’t erase your phobias or put dinner on the table, but it may help you bring yourself into your body, the present moment and assist in the release of issues you’ve already been working on. Especially in issues like grief, anxiety or anger where the event that caused the feeling is long since past but we’re still in that place, reliving the occasion over and over because we’ve been unable to feel it fully, complete the cycle and let the emotions flow back out of us.
The loose category of herbs for this type of work is Chi/Qi regulators. They’re often (but not always) aromatic, tingly tasting plants like Sweet Clover, Lemon Balm, Lavender and Monarda. Bitter nervines like Skullcap and Motherwort often work as energy movers too. Part of the dynamic of these plants is that what moves one persons stuck energy may not be the right fit for the next person.
An example of this phenomenon is that for many years, Loba loved the plants. She petted them, sang to them and gave them them pet names when she could tell them apart. She loved herbal medicines but nervines simply didn’t work on her for the most part, huge doses of Valerian, Skullcap or Poppy barely affected her. And large, physiological doses were about the only thing that would work on anything in her body. She felt frustrated and deficient, locked out of a beautiful world of sensation and experience, separated from the plants. Loba has also always had difficulty staying grounded, even when she was happy and practicing familiar tasks, she’d get zoned out, lost and float right out of her body. Food and the river seemed to bring her back pretty well, but it often took time for the effect to kick in.
Then, one lovely August day, Darcey Blue came to visit, and gifted us with some of the bounty of her overflowing desert garden. Amongst the treasures was some lovingly harvested Holy Basil. I tinctured about half a pint of the fragrant, spicy plants and promptly forgot about the little jar at the back of my shelf. Sometime later, during one of my ongoing quests to find a special plant ally for Loba, I rediscovered the jar and presented her with an ounce of it.
Upon taking a few drops, she got very excited and her eyes became quite sparkly. Wow, she said, I feel SOOOO much better. And ever after, whenever she starts to come unglued, loses her focus or goes into an emotional tailspin, a few drops of Holy Basil will bring her back into her body and the present. And unexpected side effect of this was that she was suddenly able to notice subtle differences in the plants around her, able to feel their personalities quite distinctly and strangely susceptible to other herbs, especially nervines. Whereas she couldn’t even FEEL the effects of dropperfulls of Lavender, now a few drops relaxes her enough to help her sleep. And just this week, we discovered that fresh Sweet Basil tincture has a nearly identical effect to Holy Basil.
My understanding of what happened in this story, and what I’ve seen time and time again since, is that a particular plant can help push some stuck, stagnant energy out of the way so that the person can FEEL in a bigger, more intense way. Disrupted, disturbed energy can prevent us from feeling our connection to our bodies and our connection with our larger self, the earth. Moving this energy restores the natural flow and cycles of our being and allows the natural process of grounding to occur. When we’re grounded, we’re also reconnected to our senses, the plants and everything else. This allow our perception to broaden and deepen, as will our experience of life and living it.
Here’s a list of a few of my favorite energy moving herbs, and some of their subtleties. You’ll notice that many are mint family plants, who seem to have a tribal mission of energy movement in the world, and a deep desire to help us all shift, enjoy life and be in our bodies. Wake up and smell the mint!
You’ll also notice that many of the plants are those where the flowers and leaves are usually used, rather than root or bark herbs. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good start when looking to your own backyard or pantry for a plant to help you unstick yourself for your current rut.
Basil – A warming, tingly plant with a feeling of joy and groundedness. jim mcdonald talks about it as a specific for brain fog, and I think this is an aspect of the plant that really helps Loba with her chronic short term memory problems and sporadic fits of logistical confusion.
Lavender – Sweet and opening, this flower especially helps move stuck heart and liver energy. Comforting, reassuring and calming. I really like this one for people who’s energy is clogged because of fear, timidity or phobias.
Rosemary – A great warming, spicy plant for moving core energy and blood that’s deeply stuck, resulting in sluggish digestion, depression and feelings of general cold and malaise.
Lemon Balm – Uplifting, sweet and restorative, Lemon Balm is great for those who need just a little more light and play in their lives. Also wonderful for long term grief.
Chamomile – For those who’s energy is stuck in a way that really blocks their solar plexus, resulting in low self esteem, no self-confidence and no tolerance for pain. Deeply ingrained fear is often present here, resulting in varying levels of hysteria, hypochondria and self-obsession.
Sweet Clover – For energy stuck in the lymph, head and belly, resulting in physical lumps and hardnesses, low immune, cramping and severe pain in some cases. Don’t know enough about this one just yet.
Skullcap – Bitter, calming and deeply moving and restorative. For energy that’s fragmented and not flowing much at all, just trapped in pockets and vibrating like mad, resulting in trembling, exhaustion, insomnia, and limited digestion. Look for chronically acute fear, people running on adrenalin and so used to running they can’t bring themselves to stop.
Motherwort – Another bitter nervine, this one with a great ability to move stuck heart and womb energy where it’s built up and is causing palpitations, cramping, as well as temperature and mood irregularities,
Mint – Ah, that shivery, cool/warm feeling is the energy and blood moving, moving, moving. Helpful for stuck belly, lung and head energy where there’s congestion, depression, fogginess and no motivation to do much of anything.
Mugwort – Bitter, fragrant and powerful, this plant works amazingly on hot-headed people with deeply stuck liver energy resulting in anger, resentment, anxiety, insomnia and fits of unreasonable rage. It’s especially helpful for people who’s insecurities are triggering their anger, as it gives a gentle sense of security and empowerment.
Sage – For people who have been through the ringer, have deep nerve trauma and are starting to fall apart. Great for stuck energy in the nerves, belly and womb as well as the core. A very restorative remedy that moves and feeds the energy at the same time.
Monarda – Euphoric and calming, this one is great for uptight people with their energy all stuck above the neckline, though it also strongly moves energy in the womb and belly areas.
Rose – For the heart and womb, first and formost. For a deep sadness, loss of self-belief and purpose, and a fear of betrayal and being hurt. Good for grief, depression, fear, or anything else rooted in closing the energy off deeply, and holding it within.
Yarrow – Seems to move everything, a nice, tingly push for the whole system that especially helps regulate the heart, liver and womb energy.