Herbalism is a way to deepen the connection to yourself and your environment. It is a tool for self-empowerment and wellness in relationship to your local landscape and herbscape. As we begin to develop relationships with herbs, we begin to pay attention to the places they grow and, often move from being a passive observer towards an active steward of the environment. As our circle of connection broadens through the plants, we may even become more connected to our community.
Localizing your herbalism is really interesting for building resilience in many ways:
Spiritually: As with everything, we must always begin from our inner landscape (permaculture Zone 00) and move outwards towards our outer landscape. As we connect with ourselves, it can be deeply nourishing to find plant allies that support those things we may need to focus on for nourishment, spiritual growth, wound healing, or personal development. Connecting with living plants rather than those already made into medicine or packaged and shipped to you can be a way to pick up on subtle plant energies. It teaches you to listen to what the plants have to tell you from within their context. This can be as much of a medicine as drinking the herb in tea. This can really be done when you’re wild harvesting, growing, or just observing local healing plants. Working with plants and observing them grow opens up reciprocal relationship. We begin to connect with the spirit of the plant in a deep way. We may begin to ask not only what can this plant do for me but, what can I do for this plant to support its wellness and thriving? What can I give back? How can we create together?
The environment in which a plant grows also reveals a lot about that plant and its healing properties – i.e. Yarrow grows in rough soils and harsh environments, thriving almost anywhere – making it a plant for resilient living, resilience building, perseverance and finding harmony in harsh moments. Tuning into these indicators means identifying those plants and herbs that can support your needs.
Communally: First, you can build community with your local herbs and landscape. Find those local plants that offer you the medicine you need and allow you to observe them throughout the year, perhaps offering them support during harsh weather or seasonal stress. Practicing and connecting with herbs in your local herbscape creates a moment to connect with your local community of other herbalists, healers, gardeners, etc. You build relationships by inquiring about an herb, connecting with others learning from the land, sharing plant medicine, resources, and healing moments with those around you. Perhaps you can offer insight to another or perhaps you harvested a bit too much calendula and want to share with a neighbor. Moments using local herbs steeped in place offer opportunities for connection and collective healing.
This can be done in place or even traveling. Wherever you find yourself, seek out the wisdom of plants that are a cornerstone of a place. You will begin to learn about a culture, a landscape, rituals, and beliefs in a way that opens up a deep relationship to a place and a community.
Socially: As you start to become more supportive of your local environment, you may begin to think about how herbs sourced elsewhere are coming to you. How were the people treated who grew and processed the medicine/herbs you’re buying? If you don’t grow or wild harvest yourself, could you begin to shift into your community and support a local herbalist or grower who embodies the values that heal our landscapes and our relationship to work, ethics, the environment and plants themselves?
Environmentally: As you start to think of where things come from in all parts of your life, wouldn’t it make sense to consider where your herbs are come from? What memories and energetics are herbs bringing with them from afar? Herbs carry stories from the soil they were grown in to the energy of the place or person who worked with them. Could the same locally grown herbs offer you something valuable due to their place based properties? Wouldn’t it make more sense to use the local herbs with similar energetics and healing properties than ordering from far away? What about how the plant was grown, harvested and packaged? Even if you buy local, there really is something about growing your own or wild harvesting. You can be sure about how responsibly it was grown, ensure you don’t over harvest, ensure the local landscape was treated well, ensure that you’re using herbs at their peak strength and in season. Moreover, perhaps you will even become more interested in learning about all the living beings in your local environment and supporting them. Again, if you cannot grow or wild harvest your own, find a local herbalist or grower who honors the local landscape to buy from. This comes with the added bonus of minimizing distance shipped, reducing packaging and building a personal connection!
Economically: The average person reaches for “medicine” for everyday ailments that costs money. Often these aren’t even natural remedies, but coming from a pill derived at some point from a plant. Why not find out about local plants that can support daily wellness and simple first aid? Finding out what plant allies and healing resources grow right outside the front door increases accessibility and breaks down knowledge barriers. Healing knowledge should be free and widespread for all. We can heal, nourish and thrive without spending a lot of money. We just need to know what our allies look like and how to work with them. Of course we also totally support amazing local herbalists and holistic practitioners but recognize their medicine may not be economically accessible for all. Yarrow Resilience Institute seeks to bring knowledge to more and more people and to support open source information for people to take power over their wellbeing without natural healing being a hobby or practice of privilege.
Working with plants is a lifelong journey of sharing, growing, and deepening awareness with oneself and the world around you. Working with local herbs is a step towards greater resilience on so many levels. Whether you are place based or moving around, remember the power of finding cornerstone healing plants and herbal medicines where you are to tap into the power of local healing. Tune into that new place, connect with them in nature, find a local herbalist/healer, sit with the plants, be curious, inquire all around you. This intention will open a web of connections and, soon you will find a network of learning, healing, and thriving all around you. The spirit of the plants is strong – they will speak to you anywhere, if you listen. Even if you must move on, the link is forged, the seed of a relationship is planted. And when you find yourself rooted in place, you will know how to deepen into place, signal to the plant spirits that you are here to stay, to sit and converse, to share, to learn, to heal and to thrive together.