Our next door neighbor was a lovely British girl, a few years older than myself. We quickly became fast friends. She was married and ready to see her family grow. Regardless of their trying, she had been unable to conceive for a year or so. Concerned, she went to the doctor and was prescribed a tea made of Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla xanthochlora) twice daily for one month. We went together to the local pharmacy. The wall at the back was lined with amber glass jars with silver lids. Each contained some sort of dried plant matter. It was like nothing I had ever seen, but maybe something you might see in Diagon Alley from the world of Harry Potter. The tea was placed in a little brown paper bag, with the prescription stapled to the top. I remember being so intrigued, watching as she drank it and laughing as she said it “tastes like a barn smells”. There was a happy ending, though. She conceived that same year; a beautiful baby girl.
Up to this time, I had lived in a culture so far removed from natural medicine that I only vaguely knew that people drank peppermint tea when they had stomachaches. I had tried it once, but thought it was terrible. However, I had been desperate to try anything to help my chronic stomach pain which I had been dealing with for quite sometime. Perhaps this new found medicine could help me? I quietly placed that thought aside.
Somehow, through a friend of a friend, we came in contact with a local herbalist, Joan. When I met her, I knew instantly this grandmother who loved pink, lace, Jesus and her husband, would be safe to become vulnerable with.
She offered me marshmallow, valerian, slippery elm, aloe, licorice root, and peppermint; some were teas, some were capsules.
I was so desperate at that point that no amount of skepticism was going to keep me from doing exactly what she said.
I felt these plant medicines working inside me almost immediately.
I had to understand them; what their qualities and gifts were.
After the birth of my children I learn of blood purifiers and builders in the form of beetroot, chlorophyll, and chlorella. Hormone imbalances invited the meeting of red raspberry and blue cohosh. Thyroid imbalances brought kelp and other seaweeds to the plate.
The list continued to expand.
I have been blessed in raising my family using these medicines in the form of teas, salves, poultices, foods and supplements. When my children were young, plant helpers felt like my friends who were there to help. I am grateful for having peppermint, yarrow, and catmint for fevers, garlic and capsaicin for parasites, as well as mullein and garlic for earaches.
I learned the ethics of wild-tending, and now when I encounter these helpful beings, I remove what I need with gratitude in my heart. I continue to be amazed at these beings’ abilities to recover, restore, and flourish.
I remember the day I first met Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) in the forest. It was so beautiful. As I continue to spend time in forests across the US, I have the opportunity to meet more members of the medicinal more-than-human world, and have the chance to show gratitude. It is now my turn to feed the relationships that started so many years ago in that herbal shop in Austria