5 Ways Plant Medicine is more than Essential Oils

With essential oils being a buzz-word in the “natural”, “chemical-free” and “healing” movement, it is easy to forget that Plant Medicine is more than essential oils. Essential oils are simply a drop, pun intended, in the world and magic or Plant Medicine. Here are 5 ways we can begin to get to know plants and their healing magic, for truly, it is an ongoing journey of learning.

 

The Whole Plant Itself – Select a plant or a herb you want to know better. Let’s pick lavender for my example here. You look at the plant – see how the leaves form, long narrow soft leaves extruding from a main stem. See how the leafy stems grow low towards the ground, and then long thin stems reach out to the sky to form a flower head. See how the flower is formed of tiny little buds clustered together, ending in a thin “spear”. This particular lavender I am describing, is classic to English lavender, or the Latin botanical name, Lavandula angustifolia or Lavandula officinalis.

 

 

Compare this to another “style” of lavender whose flower heads are shorter and thicker, with 3 petals at the top. This is usually a variety of French lavender, with botanical names of L. stoechas, L. dentata, or L. pedunculata (“butterfly” petals), , and comes in colours of purple or pink.

L. pedunculata, with pink flowers
L. stoechas

 

See how lavender grows, close to the ground, usually in a rounded shape.

 

Lavender tends to be grown in mediteranean conditions, so once established, will tolerate dry conditions. It is a hardy perennial (grows all year-round) and loves a cut back to remove spent flower heads.

So you can see, it is easy to grow lavender, they are easy to care for and there are many varieties to suit your needs. When you go to pick a bunch of lavender, and come back in a few weeks to find more flower heads, you see the Abundance of this healing plant.

Watch the bees hover about the flowering lavender, and you will see how it is a part of a bee-friendly garden.

Let’s look at the 5 ways we can use Lavender:

 

  1. The Flowers. You have picked a bunch of lavender flowers, and now is the fun of working out what to do with them! English lavender will keep well – these are the bunches you see in any herb display, and they hold their colour beautifully. L. spica tend to lose their colour and the shape of the flowers do not really lend to making herb sachets or pouches.

Hang bunches of lavender upside down to dry, so the stems stay straight. Then display them anywhere – in a vase, on a shelf, tied in a posy.

Strip the flower buds from the stem and make sleep pouches or pillows. Lavender is known for their calming and sedating properties, its gentle perfume serenades you to sleep. Add lavender buds to homemade bath salts – these look and smell beautiful as little gifts, or add sprigs of lavender when you are drawing a bath for a goddess-inspired immersion.

 

  1. Herbal teas or infusions. A small pinch of lavender buds, combine with chamomile, makes a lovely bedtime tisane to aid sleep. Add a whole lavender spear into a jug of fresh, chilled water with some slices of lemon for pretty, summer drink.
Here is a Relax or Sleep tisane I made as Christmas gifts a few years ago.

 

 

  1. Oil-infusions. Place some dried lavender flowers into a mason jar, and top with a light carrier oil, like sweet almond oil or light olive oil. Leave on a sunny window sill for a few weeks to infuse. It is important that the flowers are dry before infusing in oil, as water content can cause mold to grow. English lavender or L. angustifolia is best for this, as they dry well. We tend not to infuse the leaves of the lavender as there is greater water content in them and not enough volatile compounds (the stuff that makes essential oils). Strain the oil when ready, squeezing out excess oil. The spent flowers can then be used in a shower as a body scrub – add sugar or salt to create a simple body scrub that still smells of lovely lavender. The infused oil can be used as a massage oil, or to make creams or lotions (I use infused lavender oil, along with lavender hydrosol and lavender essential oil to create a “whole” lavender cream or lotion, as I believe the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts).
My window sill often have jars of infusing oils, and I try to infuse flowers that grow in my garden

 

  1. Flower Essences. Flower essences are made with the energetic properties of the plant and then “preserved” with alcohol. You can make them to the rhythm of the moon, calling in the New Moon for new beginnings, or the Full Moon for fulfillment of Intentions, and the dark of the moon for reducing symptoms. Tuning in to the healing and magical properties of Lavender, and combining them with the energies of the moon can create powerful essences, which are unique to the person creating them.
Preparing some flowers for a Lunar infusion

 

Floral infusion

 

  1. This is where we approach the herbal medicine aspect of Plant Medicine. Tinctures are usually alcohol-based, or water-and-alcohol-based products. Lavender flowers are macerated (infused) in alcohol or a mixture of alcohol and water. Lipophilic (oil-loving) volatile organic compounds (VOC) will infuse into the alcohol, while hydrophilic (water-loving) VOCs will infuse in the water. With a water-and-alcohol tincture, we are able to capture both hydrophilic and lipophilic VOCs to create a more holistic tincture. Dosage of tinctures is dependent on the condition one wishes to treat – note my use if the words “condition” and “treat”, so you would need to obtain more knowledge in this part of herbal medicine, or consult a herbalist.

 

So there we have 5 different ways we can experience the healing and magic of a plant, on top of learning to care and maintain the whole plant itself, and note that I did not even cover the essential oil (I will cover Lavender essential oil therapeutic properties another day). The journey to get to know a plant, and thus its plant magic, is an experiential one, and the best advice I ever received in learning plant medicine is to create a relationship with the plant, on all levels. And then there are many, many more plants to get to know and love in the world of plant magic and medicine. Happy journey-ing! 😊

Self-Care Series: Caring for Our Spirit with Rituals

 

This is part of my series about self-care - looking after all aspects of our self: our mind, body, emotions, heart and spirit/soul. In this series of blog articles, I’ll be talking about looking after our spirit, or our soul, and the first thing that I recommend in connecting with our spirit is rituals.

What rituals do you do on a daily basis, on a weekly basis, on a monthly basis? The things that are basically comforting for you, that you absolutely love, and absolutely need, to nourish yourself? For me it’s non-negotiable that I have a cup of coffee in the morning. A cup of coffee brewed from coffee grounds - no sugar, no milk. It is what I need to come into my body first thing in the morning, awaken into my body, my physical body, and prepare myself mentally and emotionally and psychologically for the rest of the day.

For some of you it might be your first shower in the morning. You absolutely need that, so that is non-negotiable. Your day just wouldn’t be right if you didn’t engage in that ritual. Think about the daily rituals that you just need to anchor yourself into the here and now.

And then there are the rituals that you do on an “as-needed” basis. I have a ritual that I use especially after working in the clinic - I use a sage stick or an incense stick to clear my auric field. Sometimes I miss it because I don’t need it, or it’s a day where I feel fully in the flow and my vibrations stay high. Some days I really need it because I feel like I’ve picked up a lot from clients or from my own issues, so I need to sage, and clear my energy field.

 

When I first started off in my healing journey I would need “sage” every day, after every client, it was absolutely non-negotiable. So, if you haven’t realised it by now, rituals come and go, and rituals adjust with you as you grow.

So maybe a few years from now, I don’t actually need my morning coffee (cue laughter), I will replace it with an herbal tea. Who knows? But what is important about rituals is that the rituals become a way to slow down, honour your body, honour yourself. And in honouring your body and yourself, you honour your journey, and you connect with your divine self, your soul. Traditionally, the idea of rituals stem from religious or spiritual practices where we connect with the Divine outside of us, and in doing so, we connect with the divine inside of us. So rituals primarily become a way to slow down and connect with the Divine both within and without.

The second important point of rituals is that they are something that you love to do. It connects with your loves, your heart, your soul. The focus is on you. This is especially important if you are the sort of person who gives and gives to other people. If this is you, the rituals that you want to incorporate into your life would be the rituals that are giving back to you, and it isjust for you. To help you cope, to help you function, to help you thrive, whichever it is, but it is about you, it is about connecting with you and self-love.

The third important thing about rituals in my experience, is that it helps us anchor our self, especially when we’re going through shifts. When we go through a consciousness shift, we question ourselves, we doubt ourselves, we wonder what on earth we are doing with our lives – all those questions swirling around in our heads!

Come back to your rituals. Come back to your anchors, the things that you do on a regular basis that remind you of you, that remind you of what you love. Coming back to the rituals and using rituals to anchor ourselves can help support us when we go through those moments of self-doubt, moments of shifts, moments of shedding our old selves. Because, ritual is about connecting with your divine self - with that eternal, unchanging spark within .

So how do you engage in rituals in your life? Are they daily? Weekly? Are they monthly like celebrating the full moon? Celebrating the changes in season like the equinox or the solstices? How do you incorporate rituals into your lives to help you connect with the divine you within?

I would love to hear how you incorporate rituals into your life. Comment here or come find me on my Facebook page, Rae of Light.