Medicinal Plants – A sensory Saturday in July

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On July 30, our 2022 cohort of plant students met at the farm in Grey Count. We each took some time to greet each other and share a little gratitude, a centering practice that helps create a bit of shared understanding before we work together. Then off for a sit with a plant on the land. Last month, we had each taken turns planting a seedling – Purple Coneflower or St Johns Wort or Sage to name a few. This practice of sitting with the plants is a foreshadow of some of the more reflective practices that come up in the Spirit of Plants weekend.

After some individual time sitting and observing, we got back together as a group and heard some introductory remarks about plant medicine. It was exciting to think that many of herbal traditions have a plant energetics component and also work with each individual person and their unique constitution. The depth of treatment that is possible is reliant upon folks learning about the individual plants, the individual person and the specifics of the condition that needs treating – so cool and complex!

What better way to move forward than to learn using our individual senses? That’s what we did next – most of the day was split in two workshops – one about the Tasting Wheel and one looking at individual constitutions and energetics in plant tinctures.

Using the outdoor classroom, and remaining curious while smelling and tasting and feeling the reaction of plants in our bodies, we spent hours with herbal teas, some fresh plants from the garden and some alcohol based tinctures – the key here is moderation! Like a sampling of many fine cheeses or wines, we just tried a little bit and then got some great group discussions on how each person liked/disliked, felt a cooling or warming effect, a drying or moistening sensation and we each got a chance to use our own “Laboratory of Self”.

After the second afternoon rotation, we still had time to make a herbal formulation. Using some guidelines around creating a blend that has a key herb, supporting herbs, balancing herbs and catalysts, we were all ready to harvest plants in small groups and make a fresh digestive tincture – woo hoo!

Some of the beautiful plants featured in our formula included Motherwort, Yarrow, Bergamot (Monarda), Catnip and Anise Hyssop, which we then chopped (garbled!) and covered with alcohol and we’ll let those steep for a month before straining.

In the final parts of our evening, for those who stayed, we had a delicious shared potluck dinner, followed by some sweet plant cocktail and mocktail making. With everything from cedar infused whiskey, to strawberry sumac shrub to simple Thyme sodas – the evening was a great success! We even got a lucky visit from some farm kittens who showed up and delighted us all.

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