Herbal medicine making is a powerful practice rich with intention, connection, and healing. In our modern world, the potency of plant medicine is often overlooked. Yet when we trace its roots, we see that Mother Earth’s remedies are long honored across many traditions and cultures.
Medicine making is ritual. While it varies in practice and lineage, the heart of the relationship lies between the plant and the maker. As in any ritual, it begins with intention. Purpose. The meaning that gives the medicine power. Summoning intention requires an authenticity, a raw honesty of the heart. So we pause, and ask our intuition, not intellect, to seed this intention. Creating from this place of mindfulness guides us on the why and how to harvest certain plants, and tunes us into the subtle energetics within each plant.
From intention, we listen and connect. It was said that in Ancient India, the sages discovered the powers of plants through direct perception, meditating with the herb until the seer became the seen and there was embodied understanding as one. Plants have a subtle and innate way of communicating with us. We see this in the signature of plants, how certain flora resemble parts of the human body and hold a power to heal that specific part. Botanists speak of walnuts benefiting brain function, carrots aiding eyesight, and broccoli supporting the lungs to name a few. By simply sitting with plants, we begin to attune to their inherent nature. Whether it is conscious or not, we start to sense their purpose and healing power. It is this intention and resonance that guides us towards which plants to seek or harvest.
The ritual of medicine making is carried out with honor and respect. Extending gratitude to the plants for their service to one’s health is good practice. Plants hold Prana, this bountiful life force energy that fuels our existence and wellbeing. The foods we eat, the herbs we ingest, all possess Prana and in turn, offer their energy for our nourishment. Honoring this exchange creates harmony and health on the subtle layers of our being. When harvesting a plant, it is custom to do so with respect. We do not pillage all its bounty or take from the Grandparents. Many medicine makers harvest only a small percentage of the herb they find growing in the wild, and never do they take from the Grandmother or the bush that appears most fruitful. It is the plant of vitality and abundance that holds the strongest ability to continue the cycles of regeneration and renewal. As an act of gratitude, medicine makers will leave an offering – be it tobacco, a strand of hair, or another token of thanks. The simple act of gratitude and respect feeds the strength of the medicine.
When it comes to the act of brewing up a remedy, presence is potent. The medicine itself can manifest in many forms, be it tea or tincture, elixirs, salves…how it takes shape depends on the purpose and intended treatment. As a medicine woman, I find it powerful to clear space before creating. Taking a moment to reinstate the intention reigns in one’s presence and relationship with the plant. Even for creations that brew over weeks or months, such as tinctures, it serves both you and the medicine to be aware of how you are directing your energy and emotions. Churning tinctures in a fit of rage can draw heat and intensity into the formula. Creating a salve with love, kindness, and joy invites those abundant and juicy qualities into its healing.
The rest of the medicine making ritual falls in the hands of patience and trust. These are qualities at the heart of relationship. Ritual is relationship. And so we find the ritual of medicine making, its potency and power, dwell in the heart and the relationship between maker and plant. There are no fix-it guarantees on a jar of tea. Just a trust in the harmonious exchange and an understanding that each is helping serve each other’s purpose in this lifetime.
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