My Love Affair with Plants

May 10, 2010
It began innocently enough – a houseplant here, a garden flower there, until quite recently, when my obsession with plants became a full-blown love affair. I began to wonder, what is it about plants that makes me feel so good? My home is filled with an ever-expanding collection of houseplants and my table always feels bare without some fresh cut flowers. When Spring arrives, my fire escape becomes my garden. As a city dweller, it’s particularly important to remember the role that nature plays in our life and that the relationship we have with plants is powerful for both our physical and mental well-being.

When I saw the movie Avatar I was struck by the palpable connection between the Na’vi characters and their natural environment. Though this was a fictional film, I recognized in it the portrayal of how we, as humans, used to be more connected to our environment. As society has modernized, we have drifted further and further away from our bond with nature and I wonder, what price are we paying for this disconnect? Indigenous peoples living around the world still communicate intimately with nature. In fact, to quote Stephen Harrod Buhner in his book, The Secret Teachings of Plants, “All ancient and indigenous peoples insist their knowledge of plant medicines comes from the plants themselves and not through trial-and-error experimentation. Less well known is that these plant teachings are at the basis of many of the modern discoveries in both medicine and in plant foods.”

Human DNA is nearly identical to that of plants. Though we may feel separate, we are intrinsically interconnected with and dependent upon our organic environment. The importance of plants goes beyond their ability to provide food and oxygen, or to satisfy our need for beauty, they are the very essence of what we are made of and when properly understood, can be powerful tools for healing.

My own journey of self-healing for the past two years has been profoundly affected by plants – in all of their glorious parts: flowers, leaves and roots. When struggling with fibromyalgia, St. John’s Wort and Stinging Nettle (aptly named because the fresh herb can sting when you pick it!) helped me to sleep again and relieve my physical pain and frayed nerves. In fact, St. John’s Wort is known as the sunshine herb for the natural mood boost it provides. (Note: Be sure to check with your health care professional before using St. John’s Wort, especially if you are taking any medication.) I could have bought into all of the prescription drugs that were pushed my way along with their laundry list of side effects, but common sense told me that was not the way I wanted to go. Call me crazy, but I’ll choose Mother Nature over Lyrica any day.

If I had to choose one plant to recommend for its healing properties, it would have to be Stinging Nettle. Nettle is an incredibly easy plant to obtain and to use. Making a nettle infusion is as simple as boiling water. It is rich with chlorophyll, iron, copper, calcium and a host of other nutrients, making it a nutritional powerhouse and a great option if you only have time for one addition to your repertoire. Forget calcium supplements, nettle is loaded with calcium and because it is a food is easily assimilated. Nettle is good for almost every part of your body, and has too many benefits to list here.

To read more about both nettle and St. John’s Wort, here is an article by expert herbalist Susun Weed. I was fortunate to spend a day recently harvesting herbs with Susun at her home in the Catskill Mountains. It was a breath of fresh air leaving the city and spending some quality time in nature.

As I sit here writing, I am surrounded by my houseplants and breathing in the fresh oxygen that they so generously give to me every day. Just looking at them makes me feel calm and reminds me to be grateful for the tremendous gift that nature provides in the form of plants.

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