The more I work with the plants, the more I become eternally grateful for what they give to us. They have an uncanny knack of being in exactly the right place and the right time when you need them. It’s hardly surprising that the Cherokee’s have this Creation belief:
“Each tree, shrub and herb, down even to the grasses, agreed to furnish a remedy for some one of the diseases named, and each said: “I shall appear to help man when he calls upon me in his need”.”
This could not be more true. As I get older, and hopefully a little wiser, I am learning to trust the plants implicitly. The depth of healing they can bring to a patient is often phenomenal and I am often full of awe. As I am becoming, in Stephen Buhner’s words “vegetalista” they appear, as if summoned on a whisper or a prayer in our lives, quietly but insistently making themselves obvious in subtle yet insistent silence.
It’s hard to explain this, certainly scientifically, without sounding bonkers. I spend a huge amount of time reading and researching, and yet I find that it is meditation that provides the clarity. When the plants present themselves they sometimes surprise me. I’ll say “Oh, it’s you!” and on reflection “Oh of course!!” as I realise the why.
Recently the forgotten herbs have started to make their presence felt. Humble weeds and meadow plants whose use has been lost to the passage of time. With climate change and overcrowding diseases are changing. My research area is Lyme disease. The tick bourne bacteria Borrelia, Bartonella, Babesia, Rickettsia, Erlichia, the viruses and molds. As the number of people infected becomes clearer, now that there is more ‘official’ recognition (a NICE pathway and 11 WHO medical categories for it), the plants appear too. A new John Hopkins lab study demonstrates the bactericidal power in vitro of Cryptolepis, black walnut, Japanese knotweed and co., herbs that Stephen Buhner and Julie McIntyre have been working with in over a decade of pioneering work with Lyme. The experience and trust coming before the laboratory proof provides vindication.
So Marsh Woundwort who found me four years ago is, I find, the closest thing I’ve known to an ‘anti-anaphylactic’ herb, quick acting and powerful in allergies and flares. In cases of Lyme and lupus flares and in chronic gut reactions I have watched her calm skin, gut, kidneys and tissues.
Now Mouse-Ear Hawkweed is calling. Before WWII he was a specific for brucellosis. A disease that mainly cattle had, that could be transmitted to humans, caused by the Brucella bacteria. Well it turns out now that Brucella and Bartonella are siblings on the tree of life. Well who’d have thought?
In Scotland, Japanese knotweed is an invasive species with a ‘bad boy’ reputation. A lot of resource goes into spraying poisons to kill it. Yet if people would take the time to dig it and dry it, I would buy every single rhizome. It is a herb par excellence for Lyme, killing Borrelia and alleviating the crippling joint pain that goes with it.
This morning, as I write, the sun is gently coming up on a new day. The meadow outside my window is in full bloom with hogweed, loosestrife, dock, nettle – a jumble of plants each one with a gift. As the countryside around me is slowly concreted over in the name of development, I watch their habitat disappear. And yet it is the weeds, determined to keep popping up – whatever obstacles we humans unthinkingly place in their path – that offer us healing now. And I am humbly grateful for their presence in our lives.
I recently read one of Stephen Harris Buhner’s essays and would like to include this quote that resonated:
“Plants are also highly responsive to the needs of their community. As I go into in depth in my book The Lost Language of Plants they sense when any member of their ecosystem is ill and begin producing the needed compounds. If other plants are ill, they send those compounds through mycelial networks to reach the plants who need them. If it is any of the multitude of animals in the region, they send out chemical cues through their stomata, letting those animals (who are far more attuned to their body wisdom than we are) know the location of the medicines they need.”
The full essay can be read at https://www.stephenharrodbuhner.com/articles/