Spring Healing Herbs and Plants by Paige Emery
Spring Equinox Sale!
20 March brings the 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 essay 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.
Opening to Plants
What does healing with plants look like within a Western capitalist society? One that infiltrates the interior self and creates external barriers, disabling access to relationships with both the ecology of our bodies and the ecology of plants? To be receptive to plants, we have to soften these walls within ourselves. Through sensuous awareness, we can pave the way to forms of healing and communication we might not have previously been comfortable with.
Being in tune with our bodies, and the landscapes we inhabit, has been our prevalent mode of existence since the beginning of human time. But opening up to relationships with plants does not have to mean regression. It means finding new ways to coexist in these exponentially changing times. What does listening mean in an era of overstimulating noise? Exhale the noise, inhale sensing the cartography of internal landscape. Pause high-speed externalities and feel slowness, acquiescence to subtle sensing. Plants move at different time scales than we do, and so forms of healing with plant and body require a pace we are not accustomed to.
Building relationships with plants is an ongoing conversation; healing the body is a nonlinear continuation. This is a process devoid of hyperspecific prescriptions promising an on and off switch for symptoms.
Being able to learn from plants takes unlearning prior conditioning. Exhale over-intellectualised language, linear time, judging before knowing, and accepting hard truths before knowing for yourself.
Being receptive to plants takes embodied listening. Inhale and feel every one of your senses, feel the senses that you weren’t aware were there.
Offer attention to the reciprocal breath of life: we breathe in oxygen expelled from plants, they breathe in carbon dioxide expelled from our bodies. Dancing pulsations. Opening conduits to immanent medicines of a regenerative Earth does not take shape through a one-way transaction, but through intersubjective participation: a giving of our presence, our gratitude, caring for the plants and the land in order to receive.
Swallow this sense of rhythm, sit in this stillness with the plant and express that you are grateful for their presence and you are open and receptive to their healing and guidance. Meet them halfway so they can meet you.
Healing Plants for a Healing Spring
In Greek mythology, Menthe was a nymph and lover of Hades, who was turned into a plant by his jealous wife, resulting in a metamorphosed beauty. Mint is ruled by Mercury, and is used medicinally as a cleansing aid for digestion. Peppermint (mentha x piperita, a hybrid of watermint and spearmint) is rejuvenating for the mind, promoting a motivating mental alertness and combating mental fatigue.
Invigorating, sweeping away stagnancies so you can flow with clarity of mind.
Extending a prosperous life force, like the sprawling shoots he bursts through the soil, inflating words with strength.
Fresh aeration, wake up, your truest self is here to step into.
You have so much to say and do, feel the power of your words, the vitality permeating your body is a miracle.
Look alive, because you are. Remember how exciting it is to live and feel all that existence means.
Ritual: Inhale the scent of peppermint, rub some into your temples, drink mint tea. Take pen to paper without premeditation, allowing your subconscious to stream freely with Mercury at your pen. After your swirling thoughts are released, write down anything you feel compelled to communicate outside of yourself, whether to another person or the world. There is something inside that needs to be said. Shape the paper with words of power. Read this over and realise which words are energising, making you feel alive and driven. Focus on these and let them infuse your body with vivacity, blowing forth your motivation and communication throughout the day.
Violet is a watery, Venusian plant, aiding the heart and cleansing throughout the body’s systems. Tricolour violet (viola tricolor) is known as ‘heartsease’, and has an old tradition of being prescribed for an emotionally upset heart. Violet can also benefit the heart physically; sweet violet (viola orodata) can assist blood circulation, which is preventative of heart attacks and strokes. Her fluidity also relieves congestion, dissolves swollen lymph glands and cysts, and soothes the throat and coughs.
Something needs softening. What places are congested, hardened, lacking a coating of compassion?
Softening can ease the heart, mend what is aching or stream oneself open for memorable love. For love may come and go; receptiveness to its fluidity means it can always be present and graspable in endless forms.
Compassion carries an openness to all situations, whatever state you are in. Being intentional about fluidity erodes rigidness, so that redefinitions can take place.
Defense mechanisms can calcify through inflammation, fear of vulnerability, heartbreak-built walls, or the need to always be strong, like a rock.
Make malleable, depressurise.
Violet laughs in her flowers – to find play, subtle brightnesses, dissolving accumulated emotional barriers.
Laughing it off changes the internal structures of your body.
Ritual: Hold violets to your heart and ask what needs softening. Take a deep breath, and with the exhale, imagine this swelling area of your life becoming tender. Keep the petals and leaves in your pocket. When heartache or anger comes up, or when you just need some extra love, again with a gentle exhale, extend the softening. In the evening, put the violets in the far right corner of your room next to a bowl of water, offering a prayer of gratitude for the love in your life.
Rosemary (Salvia Rosmarinus)
Fiery rosemary can clear, circulate and protect. His memory-boosting effects have been used since Ancient Greece when students and scholars would place rosemary sprigs in their hair to study. More recent research has shown his ability to stimulate circulation in the head while protecting the mind from mental fatigue and forgetfulness. Delightful for infusing olive oil (but make sure the herb is completely dried, or infuse hot, in order to avoid botulism).
Firm stance to keep out stagnant energy, swailing to make space for pungent clarity. What is clarity, but the absence of distractions and illusions? Soft tendrils sweep away fog and its residue, fluttering outward to fire sparks of recollection. What blockages must be expunged in order to purify passageways for mental circulation? Active peace is space for holding memory, love, connections. There is a fire always waiting in the inner furnace beneath the navel, even when seemingly dormant But a clearing is needed, airways must be open to receive oxygen and light up the mind and the heart.
Ritual: Burn a sprig of dried rosemary. Exhale and imagine the internal clearing out of any stagnancies and negativities. Repeat until they are gone. Rub rosemary into your temples, inhale his uplifting aroma and gather your attention in between your eyebrows. Anchor your focus with the vigor of fire, which does not let distractions get in the way. Put a sprig of rosemary in your ear, you can remember what you need, you can be memorable in the way you want to be. This spark and brilliance is already inside you, pave a way for it to come through.
Chamomile (Matricaria Chamomilla)
In Ancient Egypt, chamomile was sacred to the Sun god Ra. The flowers are still planted on graves throughout Eastern Europe to ease the passing of souls to the next realm. Gentle chamomile is a nervine and a relaxant, bringing the nervous system to the parasympathetic state which calms the body. Many studies have shown how this cheerful flower is beneficial for dealing with both anxiety and depression. His calming effects extend throughout the body, as he can aid with digestion, inflammation and sleep.
The relieving warmth after a sigh, solar saturation tailing exhale
Liquescent melting and you evaporate into a cloud.
When you are a cloud, you can slip through what is holding you down
Here in this lightness you can be at peace.
Ritual: Make tea from chamomile flowers. First inhale the sunny aroma, then let the warm drink bathe the insides of your mouth for a moment before swallowing. Exhale a heavy, audible sigh. Do this three times. In your following exhale, feel the melting of your shoulders. Move through your body with exhales – melting your chest, your arms, your hands, your stomach, your pelvis, your legs, your feet, until your whole body is in such a relaxed state that you feel as light as a cloud. (This is especially kind to do before bed if you have trouble sleeping, for the anxieties you do not release from the day can follow you into slumber.)
Sage (Salvia Officinalis)
Sage, meaning ‘wise’, and salvia meaning ‘to heal’ or ‘to save’. Sage can both boost cognitive health and support areas of chronic illness (such as asthma, arthritis and colitis) with anti-inflammatory rosmarinic acid. Common sage can add warmth and comfort to any dish and is great for cleansing a space. Use it in substitute for white sage in the US, which is sacred to some Indigenous communities and at risk from being over-harvested.
Smooth blanket eases the mind so it can open up to signals waiting to be transmitted.
Gemini, eager for intellectual connections.
Aging is a process of wisdom, absorption with slowness. Grace and grounding in steady reaching.
What does it mean to be soft when it’s hard to get by?
Art of attention, space for reflection. Jupiter, accumulation of wisdom requiring only a currency of presence and time.
Be within the process, memories are retained when they are made memorable.
Time goes by quickly, so what do you want to spend more time with?
It is ok to be while becoming.
Ritual: Burn dried common sage and wave the smoke to encompass every part of your body, asking it to cleanse out any blockages in your mind and body. Steep the soft leaves in a tea and call upon wisdom and emotional strength as you slowly sip, breathing into the space between your eyebrows.
Well known for love and beauty throughout the ages, roses have been called the ‘Queen of Flowers’ since the second century and were used by Cleopatra in beauty balms and seductive room adornments. Rose therapeutically promotes love and beauty as well, her aroma uplifting the mood and her anti-aging effects boosting skin health for a glowing complexion.
Although her satiny touch and luscious aroma is well known for emanating romantic love, this is a focus on rose specifically for self-love. Internal love is prima materia to receiving and giving it. Love for another – whether a lover, a crush, a best friend – is to see a cherished person in a way that is nonjudgmental and forgiving of their flaws, to set time aside when they need care, to see beauty in their unassuming subtleties, to see their strengths when they feel weak, to believe in where they can go before they are there, to communicate and identify areas of harm, propelled from a perspective adoration. Take a mirror to this love and turn it in on yourself with Aphrodite’s hand. If held inside were the person cherished, how would you treat yourself, talk to yourself, react to yourself? To gift self-love is to indulge in a sublime sweetness that requires no external validation, honouring the sacredness within. This devotion needs to come first, for it opens up the heart to so many forms of love you may not have realised you were capable of.
Ritual: Hold rose in your hand and put it on your heart. Put your other hand on top, look in the mirror and say, with brutal honesty, “I love you,” Do this three times, the first thing in the morning, every morning.
Aestheticise the mundane in your sanctuary with Taurus. Indulge in a bath sensualised with rose petals. Sprinkle rose in tea, chocolate, pancakes, make them opulent. Place roses in the far right corner of your bedroom, write a love letter to yourself with a pen of Eros, telling all the unique things you love about yourself and are proud of.
Known as the ‘rustic oracle’ in the language of flowers, dandelion is a humbly beneficial plant that should not be weeded away. Medicinally, he is revered for cleansing and protecting the liver, an organ with critical roles that include regulating energy, hormones, and chemical levels in the blood. Dandelion also does wonders for the earth, as he helps facilitate healthy soil and promotes nutrient availability to the neighboring plants. Stop the toxic weed killers, and instead put dandelion leaves and flowers in a salad, the flowers and roots in a tea.
Humbly resilient, tough leaves guard delicate flowers.
Making the most of the crevices, shining attention to the spots so easily overlooked. Showing up in these spaces that we might not want to acknowledge, cleansing out the toxins sluggishly weighing the liver to push forward emotional resilience. (In Chinese medicine, liver problems represent blocked emotions).
Shine a light on any toxicities you might be gazing over, and with acknowledgement they can be purified. This can build emotional resilience, strength from softness, protection from preventative awareness.
Resilience of fitting with available spaces, enchanting the unassuming places.
Sprawling ribbons, singing to the sun, swaying with spirits because the extra strength you need doesn’t have to come from yourself alone.
Ritual: Hold a dandelion head and focus on intentions of growth. Ask your spirit guides for extra strength and inspiration to propel you forward. As you blow the wisping seeds, visualise your intentions coming into being.
Clover (Trifolium Repens)
The Celtic Druids saw clover as a bearer of good luck, his three leaves a symbol of earth, sky and water, long before he became Ireland’s national flower. Hildegard of Bingen prescribed him as an eye wash, to take fogginess out of the eyes. Native Americans have long used him for coughs, colds and fevers. Clover is also an eco-friendly alternative to grass lawns, and environmentally beneficial as a cover crop.
Ritual: Acquire a green candle (white will also do) and cleanse it. Rub oil into the top (olive oil will do) to create an adhesive surface, then press clover pieces into the oil while focusing on an intention you want to come true. Light the candle while visualising your intention as a vivid reality.
Paige Emery is a multidisciplinary artist exploring the ecological body and its interaction with the Earth. An embodied gardener and environmental activist, she has a daily practice of working with plants. Her most recent project is a guerilla community garden she started in her neighborhood breaking down barriers between housed/unhoused and humans/nonhumans through mutualistic worlding and intentional seeding. She currently inhabits Tongva Land in Los Angeles, California.
Spring Cleaning Tarot Spread by adrienne maree brown: Ask the cards for guidance on how to work in harmony with the enlivening energies of spring.
Hildegard's Healing Recipes: “Your food shall be your remedy.” Hildegard's medieval recipes for inspiration for your own healing practices.
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."
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.
Magical Plants for Healing, Balance and Immunity: 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.
Spring Equinox Sale!
Until 31 April 2021, you can get 25% off every item across our website, including K Allado-McDowell's Pharmako-AI, the first book to be co-created with the emergent AI; the Atlas of Anomalous AI; Huw Lemmey and Hildegard of Bingen's mutant of speculative fiction Unknown Language; Spells: 21st-Century Occult Poetry; Nisha Ramayya’s acclaimed debut States of the Body Produced by Love; The White Paper, a guide to the magic of technology and our rapidly evolving systems of governance; and Ursula K. Le Guin’s evergreen The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, introduced by Donna Haraway. Also the iconic Ignota tote, in both its CULTURE IS NOT YOUR FRIEND and LEAVE HUSBAND, PRACTICE WITCHCRAFT editions.