Greetings, Friends –
Last Sunday we hosted a Backyard Apothecary workshop at the farm. This topic is so important, transformational, and where my true passion lies. I love learning how to utilize, partner and engage with plants to support my own wellness and love supporting others on their wellness journey, too. It feels great to thrive and it feels even better when we can thrive together.
Backyard Apothecary is all about knowing how to take care of your Self with the support of plants that live outside your door, in your community, or even on the world wide web. Yes, “backyard” can refer to what is out your door, however, it is less about plants and more about reclaiming the power of You. Here “backyard” refers to our Self – a vehicle that is our own individual responsibility for which to care.
While it is easy to expect someone else to diagnose our physical ailments (besides, some professionals have gone to school for many years to study about wellness and how to care for patients), it is not fair for someone else to be expected to diagnose the root cause of our physical ailment in a short appointment. Most ailments are caused by spiritual or emotional stress that our body’s have not yet processed or let go in a healthy way. There are many statistics that point to chronic stress or trauma as the root to most ailments, however, typically this stress is not addressed – the physical ailment is instead. When we individually take responsibility to look at our emotions, our stressors, our thoughts that stick around and bother us, we can begin to increase our own awareness of what thoughts serve our being well and what thoughts don’t. Thus, Backyard Apothecary is not just a deep study of plants but also (and more importantly) the study of our own emotional landscape.
With this perspective, Backyard Apothecary reinforces first accessing information about yourself (your constitution) so that you can better understand how your own body operates and what it needs to be in balance. After gaining an awareness of what your body needs to be in balance, one can then navigate the specific plants that offer this support. Because we are all individual in the way we express our selves and our emotions, the way in which our physical ailments surface can be fairly unique. This is a very different way of approaching wellness than the one-size-fits-all pharmaceutical that is typically prescribed to treat physical conditions. Plant medicine is best for every day use to support the body’s balance while pharmaceuticals are best used for emergencies.
So, if you would like to redefine your relationship with Self Care, here are some phenomenal resources to begin understanding your constitution:
- Rosealee de la Forêt’s Free Online, “What’s The Best Herb for You?” e-course. You can also purchase or check out her book from your local library, “Alchemy of Herbs” to access her ‘Discover Your Own Constitution Quiz’. This straightforward quiz is based on Chinese Medicine principles of balance and the four energetics that help us maintain our balance: hot/cold and dry/damp.
- To delve even deeper into understanding your constitution, check out, “Healing With Whole Foods, ” by Paul Pitchford. This reference book provides extensive context on how Chinese and Western Medicines can integrate to support our individual wellness needs. It is my family’s go-to reference book for all things physical health-related.
Once you have an understanding of your basic constitution, you can then begin seeking out plants that reinforce the opposite quality to help bring your body back into balance. For example, my general constitution is Cold & Dry. My extremities are generally cold, I’m usually wearing layers in a room while others around me think it’s plenty warm, and my skin is typically on the drier side (these are just a few physical characteristics that help me identify my constitution). Therefore, it is best for me to seek out plants that have Hot (ie, cayenne, rosemary, turmeric, horseradish, ginger, black pepper, +) & Damp (chickweed, violet, evening primrose, slippery elm, +) energetics. Rosealee’s e-course and book provide nice overviews of easily-accessed, culinary plants and includes their energetics. This is not typical of most plant identification and herbal medicine books, so look carefully. “The Backyard Herbal Apothecary,” by Devon Young & “The Herbal Apothecary,” by JJ Pursell are two additional examples of books that include information on plant energetics. This is so important for helping us select plants that are most suited for our individual needs.
When we think about creating an apothecary, it is likely to conjure up a visual of an herbalist’s shelves filled with potions, tinctures, and teas. This visual does not include – but should – what most of us already have in our kitchen. Spices! You already have an apothecary in your home! And are not far from taking a small step into transformational self-care practices when you learn how these spices and herbs serve your body. Rosealee’s book & free online resources also contain straightforward recipes to incorporate into your daily life. Food can be medicine and eating can be a self-care practice you enjoy multiple times every day.
There are many resources within yourself and just outside your door that can support your wellness journey. I wish you the best as you navigate your individual intricacies and I wish you joy in discovering the many gifts that plants have to offer. Every plant has a gift and there is a respectful practice to determine if this gift is appropriate for you to experience (Robin Kimmerer’s, “The Honorable Harvest”).
P.S. Tell everyone, including Burton Cummings, to get out of Your Backyard. It’s all yours.