Sep 102007

Using Energy Moving Herbs for Connection, Presence and Groundedness

mugwortbluesky.jpgIn the last few years I’ve had various students, guests, blog-readers and the like confide in me that they’re unable to really “feel” the plants on an energetic level. That no matter how much they meditate, garden, guzzle tinctures or go to herb conferences, no matter how much they LOVE the plants, they can’t feel the effect of drop-dose tinctures, a bit of leaf or the presence of the plant.

There can be all kinds of reasons for this, but a primary one is certainly energy/chi blockage. Where someone is stuck outside of their body, or has so much ~stuff~ built up in them that they can barely taste their food or remember their kids names, let alone hear the quiet voice a weed outside their bedroom window. This stuff needs to be dealt with on its own, to be sure. Counseling, a really hot Sweat and/or good sex can all help. But what I’m talking about here is more of a physical approach with herbs, it won’t erase your phobias or put dinner on the table, but it may help you bring yourself into your body, the present moment and assist in the release of issues you’ve already been working on. Especially in issues like grief, anxiety or anger where the event that caused the feeling is long since past but we’re still in that place, reliving the occasion over and over because we’ve been unable to feel it fully, complete the cycle and let the emotions flow back out of us.

The loose category of herbs for this type of work is Chi/Qi regulators. They’re often (but not always) aromatic, tingly tasting plants like Sweet Clover, Lemon Balm, Lavender and Monarda. Bitter nervines like Skullcap and Motherwort often work as energy movers too. Part of the dynamic of these plants is that what moves one persons stuck energy may not be the right fit for the next person.

An example of this phenomenon is that for many years, Loba loved the plants. She petted them, sang to them and gave them them pet names when she could tell them apart. She loved herbal medicines but nervines simply didn’t work on her for the most part, huge doses of Valerian, Skullcap or Poppy barely affected her. And large, physiological doses were about the only thing that would work on anything in her body. She felt frustrated and deficient, locked out of a beautiful world of sensation and experience, separated from the plants. Loba has also always had difficulty staying grounded, even when she was happy and practicing familiar tasks, she’d get zoned out, lost and float right out of her body. Food and the river seemed to bring her back pretty well, but it often took time for the effect to kick in.

Then, one lovely August day, Darcey Blue came to visit, and gifted us with some of the bounty of her overflowing desert garden. Amongst the treasures was some lovingly harvested Holy Basil. I tinctured about half a pint of the fragrant, spicy plants and promptly forgot about the little jar at the back of my shelf. Sometime later, during one of my ongoing quests to find a special plant ally for Loba, I rediscovered the jar and presented her with an ounce of it.

Upon taking a few drops, she got very excited and her eyes became quite sparkly. Wow, she said, I feel SOOOO much better. And ever after, whenever she starts to come unglued, loses her focus or goes into an emotional tailspin, a few drops of Holy Basil will bring her back into her body and the present. And unexpected side effect of this was that she was suddenly able to notice subtle differences in the plants around her, able to feel their personalities quite distinctly and strangely susceptible to other herbs, especially nervines. Whereas she couldn’t even FEEL the effects of dropperfulls of Lavender, now a few drops relaxes her enough to help her sleep. And just this week, we discovered that fresh Sweet Basil tincture has a nearly identical effect to Holy Basil.

My understanding of what happened in this story, and what I’ve seen time and time again since, is that a particular plant can help push some stuck, stagnant energy out of the way so that the person can FEEL in a bigger, more intense way. Disrupted, disturbed energy can prevent us from feeling our connection to our bodies and our connection with our larger self, the earth. Moving this energy restores the natural flow and cycles of our being and allows the natural process of grounding to occur. When we’re grounded, we’re also reconnected to our senses, the plants and everything else. This allow our perception to broaden and deepen, as will our experience of life and living it.

Here’s a list of a few of my favorite energy moving herbs, and some of their subtleties. You’ll notice that many are mint family plants, who seem to have a tribal mission of energy movement in the world, and a deep desire to help us all shift, enjoy life and be in our bodies. Wake up and smell the mint!

You’ll also notice that many of the plants are those where the flowers and leaves are usually used, rather than root or bark herbs. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good start when looking to your own backyard or pantry for a plant to help you unstick yourself for your current rut.

Basil – A warming, tingly plant with a feeling of joy and groundedness. jim mcdonald talks about it as a specific for brain fog, and I think this is an aspect of the plant that really helps Loba with her chronic short term memory problems and sporadic fits of logistical confusion.

Lavender – Sweet and opening, this flower especially helps move stuck heart and liver energy. Comforting, reassuring and calming. I really like this one for people who’s energy is clogged because of fear, timidity or phobias.

Rosemary – A great warming, spicy plant for moving core energy and blood that’s deeply stuck, resulting in sluggish digestion, depression and feelings of general cold and malaise.

Lemon Balm – Uplifting, sweet and restorative, Lemon Balm is great for those who need just a little more light and play in their lives. Also wonderful for long term grief.

Chamomile – For those who’s energy is stuck in a way that really blocks their solar plexus, resulting in low self esteem, no self-confidence and no tolerance for pain. Deeply ingrained fear is often present here, resulting in varying levels of hysteria, hypochondria and self-obsession.

Sweet Clover – For energy stuck in the lymph, head and belly, resulting in physical lumps and hardnesses, low immune, cramping and severe pain in some cases. Don’t know enough about this one just yet.

Skullcap – Bitter, calming and deeply moving and restorative. For energy that’s fragmented and not flowing much at all, just trapped in pockets and vibrating like mad, resulting in trembling, exhaustion, insomnia, and limited digestion. Look for chronically acute fear, people running on adrenalin and so used to running they can’t bring themselves to stop.

Motherwort – Another bitter nervine, this one with a great ability to move stuck heart and womb energy where it’s built up and is causing palpitations, cramping, as well as temperature and mood irregularities,

Mint – Ah, that shivery, cool/warm feeling is the energy and blood moving, moving, moving. Helpful for stuck belly, lung and head energy where there’s congestion, depression, fogginess and no motivation to do much of anything.

Mugwort – Bitter, fragrant and powerful, this plant works amazingly on hot-headed people with deeply stuck liver energy resulting in anger, resentment, anxiety, insomnia and fits of unreasonable rage. It’s especially helpful for people who’s insecurities are triggering their anger, as it gives a gentle sense of security and empowerment.

Sage – For people who have been through the ringer, have deep nerve trauma and are starting to fall apart. Great for stuck energy in the nerves, belly and womb as well as the core. A very restorative remedy that moves and feeds the energy at the same time.

Monarda – Euphoric and calming, this one is great for uptight people with their energy all stuck above the neckline, though it also strongly moves energy in the womb and belly areas.

Rose – For the heart and womb, first and formost. For a deep sadness, loss of self-belief and purpose, and a fear of betrayal and being hurt. Good for grief, depression, fear, or anything else rooted in closing the energy off deeply, and holding it within.

Yarrow – Seems to move everything, a nice, tingly push for the whole system that especially helps regulate the heart, liver and womb energy.

  7 Responses to “Talking with Plants: An Aside”

  1. Great points and info! For me I sometimes just have to get out there with the plants in their natural setting (like you mentioned in the above post)I guess since I have been doing that for so long, it is my natural way of connecting. Rosemary has also had this effect for me, it also helped me with feelings of anxiety related to taking tests in college, when I kept it with me in my pocket I got straight A grades, no joke, before I was having problems recalling anything I learned, even failed a few quizzes (I had a lack of confidence as well) Rosemary helped me with all of that, helped to clear my head, get the blocking feelings out of the way so I could focus. The rosemary plant bordered the school grounds, I would sit with it before test time and take some with me. I spent a year doing this. Getting grounded daily with the plant really changed my outlook, I feel really close to rosemary! Helping people find the ally they need to become more connected is awesome! I will share this info!

  2. What a neat story about Loba. I once had a gorgeous bunch of basil that begged for tincturing, but I couldn’t find any good scientific reason to make it, so I didn’t and I lost my chance. I try to get better with following my intuition but I’m still hopelessly mental sometimes.
    For me, becoming sensitive to plants is just a natural process. Sometimes we put so much pressure on ourselves to experience things exactly like someone else does, say, a seasoned herbalist, that we miss our own experience. (yeah, I’ve been one of those too).
    We have to learn to love our own experiences, and not expect them to be just like someone else’s. I’ve always been way too sensitive, so something like feeling the effects of a drop of tincture would be easier for me than a lot of people, yet I’m never quite satisfied with myself, in general. I’m always wishing to be the master and not the student. Silly stuff. But understandable. So hard to learn when you’re scrutinizing yourself. Afraid to be….well…inexperienced.
    Kiva, your quote from the newest post from Stephen Buhner made my heard jump a bit with resonance. So very true. Sums up all this pretty well. It takes so long just to be able to get back to the plants….

  3. I went through a “dry spell” of being feeling-less for several years, actually. It was my way of self-control, to prove that I had what it takes to survive. It was something I needed to do to prove my sanity, but the result was that I still felt things intensely, but blocked the awareness. The end result was a lack of connection to my feelings that seemed like numbness and often led to a lack of self-control, more so than before I began to deny them. I always felt attracted to the fragrance of aromatic herbs, but as the years passed their fragrance was less and less effective. Also, the practice of denying my feelings began to have a physically draining and damaging effect on my entire body. Opening my awareness has been a complex and difficult process that has required much more than the use of herbs, as you mentioned above. However, this process has led to a rewarding sense of self-knowledge, confidence, restoration, and a much more meaningful connection to the plants. I have begun to ingest the plants that used to sooth me with their very presence and aroma, and I not only feel them, but I am Aware of feeling them. O, what a blessed difference it makes! Now, I am much more deeply moved by the fragrance. I have connected to Lemon Verbena, and I am beginning to fall in love with Lavender all over again. I have not tried to understand what it all means, at this time, simply to enjoy it. It feels like being a child all over again, but happily so.

    I do so very much appreciate your wise, deeply insightful, and intelligent writings. Thank you so very much for all that you contribute to the store of herbal knowledge!

  4. Hi Kiva,

    This article has been very helpful to me on several levels. Thank you.

    Can you explain what you mean when you say that someone seems to go out of her body? What does this feel like? How does this manifest? When someone is doing an activity, what happens if she goes out?


  5. Hmm, I posted here earlier, but it disappeared. Did I offend in any way? I’m sorry if I did, I meant no disrespect.

    I really appreciated this article. I found the information about the different plant allies very helpful, as well as the understanding about the ways in which our energies can get blocked or out of kilter, and why this renders us less sensitive.

    I am sincerely interested in learning about healing and applying what I learn to helping myself and others. This is why I am asking about what exactly is meant when you say that someone is out of her body. Does this mean being too much in one’s head, or thinking a lot about past or future events and not about the present? Or is there an even more distancing phenomenon going on? I am curious about how I could develop an awareness of whether I am out or in at any given point. I can see that this would be important to a fulfilling life.

    Thank you very much for all you do,

    • It didn’t disappear, Sophia, I just hadn’t approved it yet, as I have to approve each comment individually to avoid being spam dumped. I wasn’t home yesterday, and had no opportunity to look through blog comments.

      I am referring to someone not being present in their body, which usually manifests as a lack of awareness of where there body is (not just clumsiness, but actually not noticing where they’re putting their hands or feet or elbows etc.,), not noticing when they’re hungry or other bodily needs (or noticing only when it becomes overwhelming. They may be in their heads, or just may not really be present in their head or the rest of themselves. They can have a hard time paying attention to what’s going on around them, and many have a preoccupation with the “spiritual” often as a way of either justifying or getting further away from their bodies. Many of these people have no idea they’re doing that, but are attached to being “butterfly-like” and detached from the earthier aspects of life.

      People who are “in their bodies” tend to be very present, aware, and often at least somewhat creature like, in that they occupy their bodies fully similarly to how animals do.

  6. Thanks, that helps me to understand. I think I am pretty much earthier and in my body more often than not.

    Anyway, after reading and digesting this article, I thought about how I seem to get energy stuck in my solar plexus that is sort of a fluttering anxious feeling that I have a hard time moving out and expressing. The other day, when I felt into this energy, I reached for the Motherwort tincture and took 3 drops on the tongue. Bam! I just stood right up and felt the energy move from the solar plexus up to and out my throat and mouth, and I threw my head back and ROARED for quite a while! It wasn’t anger, it was pure life force, Leonurus woke up my inner lion! Somewhere along the line I internalized the message that nice ladies don’t shout and roar and show how much they love being alive, I guess. Then I noticed how this newly released energy wanted me to get up and dance and DO things, not just sit around and read all afternoon. Well, that’s something to chew on, because I know that because I tend toward study and work that keeps me at a desk, I regard my desires for action as somewhat of a nuisance sometimes! And now I see the link between suppression of life and the formation of anxiety. No, nobody came and locked me up for my expression. Of course, I was a half mile offshore 🙂

    So the next day, while visiting a clump of red mangrove, the feeling came to me to get out of my boat and stand in the water along with the roots and branches. While I can’t say that I hear the plant as a distinct voice yet, I felt like I was somehow guided to take this next step to sharing experience. And I haven’t felt the blockage in my belly again, but now I have an ally for when it gets stuck again.

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