Medicine of The Earth

Wintertime offers lots of down time here on the homestead. Don’t misconstrue this to mean that we aren’t busy! We have a small flock of ducks to care for and keep warm, we have a fire to constantly feed, firewood to process for next Winter, various propagation techniques to perform as weather allows, arranging seeds to plant this growing season, as well as getting a seed order together for plants we haven’t saved seed from, or don’t have, read a book, take a walk in the woods, or around the field… The list goes on and on!

One of the many things that keeps us busy during the slower months of Winter is making medicine. This is one of Schikoy’s favorite activities here on the homestead. Although we still make plenty of medicine during the Summer and the growing season — since many plants tend to be abundant and have higher concentrations of their active compounds and essential oils and such — we still save and dry and store plenty for Winter use. This is a great way to keep a bit of Summer here, while the warm weather has traveled elsewhere. The smell of dried mint when you open a jar for tea is like a gentle, yet power-packed waft of summer, and lavender-infused oils almost melt into your mind and sing you to sleep.

Some folks may ask something like “Well you’re talking about all these awesome plants, yeah, but where’s the medicine? How can these things help me?”. Well when we talk about medicine, we don’t mean the typical Western approach to medicine we see in hospitals and doctor’s offices. Western medicine tends to be a “one size fits all” approach, where if you have a certain set of symptoms, then therefore you must have a one of a number of certain ailments. This can’t possibly be the best way to treat sickness or un-health, since humans are all very different in their habits, ways and lifestyles, not to mention biological and chemical compositions. There sure can be a lot of mixups and “side effects” (which are actually just the true effects) when you prescribe more chemicals that may not be compatible to anyone, in a more or less willy nilly fashion. Now I’m not dismissing Western medicine in it’s entirety, so please don’t send the local hospital staff after me! Western medicine certainly has it’s benefits, especially in the field of trauma, and emergency situations, such as broken bones, or surgical procedures. However, as a means of keeping one healthy, drugs cannot be the best, or only way. Drugs keep one healthy enough to stay around, and to keep one coming back and paying the pharmaceutical companies (which are often in cahoots with other big chemical businesses, or agricultural chemical companies or oil giants) more, they rarely ever fix the issue or problem.

With herbal medicine, the key is knowing what plants can help and when, and listening to how these friends that we call plants can help. Now you don’t need to be a certified herbalist, or a backwoods survivalist to know these things. Start out small, start out introducing yourself to a few simple herbs, developing a good relationship and getting to know one another — remember these are living beings. Most everyone knows that chamomile is relaxing, that it can help calm you down and ease you up a bit, and help you sleep. There’s one already! Most plants that we see around us each and every day, plants that are “weeds” in the common vegetable or flower garden, are in truth, very powerful medicines in their own right. Take plantain for example, no, not the tropical banana-looking fruit, but the common broad leaf weed that is in all parts of the United States. This introduced weed has been welcomed by traditional and contemporary herbalists alike. The one you see in your lawn, or growing from a crack in the sidewalk, with the tall, seed bearing stem. This “weed” can be used for a myriad of purposes - from speeding up healing of cuts and scrapes, to easing the swelling and itching of bug bites, to use as an anti-inflammatory.

Point is, the Earth provides so many truly amazing gifts, not just food-bearing plants, that it really is quite hard not to be appreciative and genuinely grateful for these. These plants are the backbone of our relationship to this Earth, they communicate with us and other beings in ways that are indescribable. In fact, in some Native American languages, the word “plant” translates to “the ones who take care of us”. How much more accurate can it get? Plants are the whole reason we’re here. I mean, everything we depend on comes from plants in one way or another. Whether it’s the coffee you’re drinking in the morning, the sandwich or salad you ate for breakfast, or the fuel you’re using to come home from work, these are all products of plants, or products of something that relied on the sustenance of plants. How amazing is that!? Take a minute to thank your houseplants over there for purifying your house this Winter, and another minute to thank the trees for shading your place in the Summer, not to mention the beauty, the oxygen, and the wild life you enjoy!

Thanks plants, we love you!