I'm back after a few hectic days. Recently I've had several successes using herbs for healing. I've dabbled in herbs for many years now, but until recently most (not all) of my experiences were along the lines of "Well, that might have helped... I think that worked..." That's not good enough for me, if someone is putting their health in my hands. I need to KNOW they work.
Thinking back over the times they have and have not worked dramatically, I noticed a pattern. Generally speaking, the herbs that work for me are those I've been personally introduced to, mostly by my herbal mentor, Jennifer Tucker. Inspired by my recent successes, I went to visit her last week to be introduced and reintroduced to some more. At some point, sometimes after a single introduction, sometimes after more than one, the herb sort of "crystallizes" in me. I can recognize it at a distance and I have a feel for its personality and a sense of at least one way it can be used. I understand it -- not all of it, but an aspect of it.
It is like getting to know a friend. When someone is no longer an acquaintance but a real friend, you know that person -- again, not all of him, but some important essence of him.
Who are you more likely to help: your friends, or a total stranger? Your friends, of course. The same is true for herbs. The ones that are my friends are much more likely to help me. Just knowing an herb from books is not enough. It would be like expecting a celebrity to be friendly and helpful to you because you've read so much about her and seen all her movies.
Sometimes, of course, we do help strangers. Herbs you look up in books do work sometimes. But I am not that kind of herbalist. I use herbs that I grow or gather myself, or are gathered by a friend. I don't want to live in an anonymous world. I best learn about an herb by hearing stories about: not "This herb is used for X, Y, and Z," but anecdotes about how someone has used it before, the person she used it on, etc. I especially like Matthew Wood's stories and descriptions of the personality and signature of the plant.
A rational explanation for my success only with plants that are my friends is: obviously, I know them better so I know when to use them. True, but there is more to it than that. I believe that the same herb for the same condition works better after it has become my friend than before. I think it works better only after it has given me its friendship and permission to use it.
I was ecstatic after my walk with Jennifer last week, because I made some new friends and deepened some existing friendships. We repeatedly found St. John's Wort, which I had been acquainted with before, but this time I felt that crystallization, that connection, and now it is my friend. A number of others too: Figwort, Wild Bergamot, Self-Heal, White Vervain. I feel more whole the more new friends I meet; each connects me to lost aspects of myself and to the richness of being that is our birthright, that we all sense and long for. We lament its loss and strive toward wholeness. It is natural to me then, for plants to help recover it.