Spring Equinox: Magical Plants for Healing, Balance and Immunity
Today brings the March vernal equinox, marking the official start of spring in the Northern Hemisphere: a time to celebrate the shifting balance of light and dark. The Spring Equinox, also known as Ostara, is a time of renewal and rebirth: the occasion to start your seedlings indoors, and, if you have a garden, get the soil ready for late spring plantings.
As well as seeding and nurturing plants, now is an important time to enhance your self-care for the days and weeks ahead through ritual, intention-setting and clearing your energy. Further, physical, mental and emotional health can be supplemented by healing herbs and plants to support your immunity, manage stress and boost your mood. This guide with illustrations by Paige Emery highlights some key gifts from nature to aid self-care and centre awareness, solidarity and spirit, helping us to find movement in stillness and strength in solitude.
Ashwagandha is an ancient medicinal herb. Revered for its adaptogenic properties, it relieves stress, anxiety and depression. Ashwagandha supports healthy nervous system function by helping the brain produce the neurotransmitter GABA, which promotes calmness. It has also been shown to stabilize cortisol levels; regulating this stress hormone boosts immune function and supports the adrenals. Ashwagandha can also be worked with magically for energy, strength and endurance. In powdered form, you can add to smoothies or baked goods!
People associate chocolate with love because it makes you feel so good! The power is in the actual raw cacao, which stimulates your brain cells to release dopamine and also helps release serotonin, a natural mood stabilizer helping reduce depression and anxiety. Cacao also is one of the best sources of magnesium, which calms the central nervous system and reduces stress levels. Magically, cacao is a powerful heart opener, helping to open the heart for cosmic connection and deeper love and connection with yourself and those around you. Chocolate bars containing 75% cacao or higher are best, or even better, get raw cacao and make some hot chocolate elixirs.
Chamomile is a wonderful herb for anxious times that cause trouble sleeping. A relaxant for the nervous system, chamomile reduces stress and anxiety for a good night’s rest. On top of that, chamomile reduces fever and boosts the immune system. In magic, chamomile can be used for love, protection and purification, in addition to promoting tranquility.
Cloves are amazing at treating colds, the flu and congestion, while also being natural mood-boosters. The active ingredient, eugenol, contains antibacterial and antiviral properties that boost the immune system and prevent or reduce infections. In magic, cloves are great for good luck and prosperity as well as healing. Clove oil is where you will get the best potency of eugenol, but you can also add clove to your hot drinks like chai or coffee.
Ginger is a powerful root which stimulates the immune system, helps break fever, aids an upset stomach and tackles inflammation. In magic, it can be used to help plans come to fruition quickly. Ginger is great made into a tonic with turmeric, apple cider vinegar, honey and chili, or in tea or in smoothies, and the peel is also edible!
Garlic is a very powerful immune-booster containing sulfur compounds that can clean up infections and kill a virus without harming the host cell. It aids the respiratory system and can also remove parasites. Studies have shown that garlic contains phytonutrients helpful for cleansing and regenerating. In magic, it can be used for protection and healing. You’ll get the most benefits if you consume garlic raw, which can be very painful so I suggest cutting or crushing it into tiny pieces and having it in a spoonful of honey.
This purple aromatic flowering plant serves as a relaxant and antidepressant. The scent of lavender is commonly used to alleviate stress and depression and to aid calmness and sleep. Lavender essential oil can be used in an oil diffuser, or rubbed at the base of the neck and under the nose. When making lavender infusions, the blooming flower is where the oil is most concentrated. Its magical properties help with love and mental clarity.
Oregano oil is a superstar immune booster with its strong antiviral, antiseptic, antimicrobial and anti-parasitic properties. It can also help with allergies, asthma and respiratory infections. Although oregano oil is one of the best things to take for the immune system, be sure to take in moderation as taking too much can have negative effects. Magically, oregano oil is used for with happiness, luck, health and letting go of a loved one.
Peppermint is a hybrid mint good for mood and the immune system. It reduces stress and anxiety and relaxes the muscles. This antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiviral plant is rich in compounds which can be used to treat fever, nausea, colds, the flu, bronchitis and asthma. Peppermint grows very easily and rapidly and is great in tea, or added to water as essential oil for inhalation to relieve chestiness. It can be used in magic for healing, purification, positive change and mental clarity.
This ancient medicine can help stabilize your mood and stimulate your immune system and has been used in India for centuries to treat breathing problems. Turmeric increases the immunomodulating capacity of the body. As well as boosting immunity, studies have shown it reduces depression and anxiety by positive regulation of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. The golden root has magical properties of protection and purification. Golden milk is a delicious way to enjoy turmeric. Whether it’s in your hot drink, smoothie or curry, make sure to add black pepper to increase the bioavailability of curcurim, the active compound in turmeric.
Nasturtiums are herbaceous flowering plants that grow plentifully and do wonders for immune health. They tackle colds, coughs, the flu, sore throats, bacterial and fungal infections and hayfever. The whole plant is edible, from its leaves to its flowers. This magical plant can help with the growth of spiritual strength and purity, as well as increasing creativity.
This fruit below the romantic petals has calming effects and eases the mind, while also containing high amounts of vitamin C, helping to fight the flu, colds and infection. Rosehips are great in tea or for placing as a magical offering when calling love and happiness into your life.
Lemon balm is an age-old medicinal herb that has been shown to reduce the stress hormone cortisol and calm the nervous system. Studies have shown it increases the neurotransmitter GABA, which helps elevate your mood. It can grow and spread rapidly when planted, and the leaves are wonderful in tea or culinary dishes. This uplifting herb provides magical help in drawing love and soothing emotional pain.
Paige Emery is a musician and artist with a daily practice of working with plants. She concocts experimental pop music and figurative oil paintings, and in her garden she works with the healing properties of the plants that she grows and forages. Finding magic in music, art and nature, her practice is devoted to sharing these gifts with others for communal healing.
Soji: A Meditation on Zen Cleaning: "In Japan, cleaning is called ‘Soji’ and valued as a way to cultivate our minds. In fact, Soji is beyond mere cleaning. Buddhist monks in a monastery put more time into practicing Soji than into practicing Zen meditation."
Hildegard's Healing Recipes: “Your food shall be your remedy.” Hildegard's medieval recipes for inspiration for your own healing practices.
Daily Practice Guide: The establishment of daily practice, a devotional rhythm in life through ritual and routine, is the bedrock of a magical practice. Dedicating yourself to such a practice can benefit your consciousness, health and general well-being.
No Future: The Tower by Johanna Hedva: “Crisis is perhaps the most generative thing of all—the forest fire necessary for new growth—for how many of us change unless we are forced to?”
Please consider supporting small presses and independent bookstores in their ingenuity and passion at all times, but especially in this current moment.