What Heals Us: Plant Medicine

20200410_094522Those who know me well, know that I can be an unapologetic skeptic, a cynic. That I don’t believe and trust easily, at face value. They also might know that, subsequent to a near-fatal accident just over a decade ago, I listened closely to advice from those who had been in my shoes: research and seek o20200513_091650ut hands-on bodyworkers and natural remedies, and find the healing there – instead of allopathic physicians and Western pharma. Those words couldn’t ring truer than when my orthopedic surgeon’s predictions about my recovery were way off; no less than sensing how I might become addicted to Fentanyl patches and other drugs if I didn’t quickly wean myself off all meds. I was being my stubborn self, pushing against the headwinds of professional, medical advice. Intuitively, I knew there was a better way. I turned to meditation, yoga, Reiki. I read about neuroscience and how we can learn to master our brain. I was learning about the power of foods, about our guts, about the microbiome. I was starting out, on a roll.

20200513_091128Fast forward to my life in Bali – where, in Ubud, I began to develop a deep appreciation for the traditional healing remedies of this island Hindus’ ancestors and their descendants. From hands-on healers to massage specialists and spiritual guides, from concoctions made of seeds, nuts or salt to potions whipped up from the leaves, flowers and bark of trees, I was paying attention and soaking it all up by osmosis. Someone came down with dengue? Take papaya leaf juice. Someone had kidney troubles? Nibble on cat’s whiskers. Other conditions? Juice from sambiloto leaves. A burn? Aloe vera. Mosquitos? Lemongrass. Natural repellent. Incense. Boost your immunity? Turmeric. Ginger. Leafy 20200514_085219vegetables. Yoga inversions. Other pains or blockages? Epsom salt. Activated charcoal. Sit in the sun, cover yourself in sand. The list and learning just grew. Mother nature had all the answers, if I only stopped to listen and learn. I hadn’t stepped into a pharmacy in years.

Then, a couple of years ago, I moved down to a beach town. As I wizened up, softened down and continued my path of tuning in to elders or those better informed and practiced than myself, my doubt began to wane even more. I was hungry to learn more about the healing power sourced from the earth’s core and soil.

20190915_092429When I first heard the phrase “plant medicine” I sat up and listened. I already believed in the potency of plants. But if I could hone in, unearth even more natural ways of healing – all the while still staving off Western, commercialized, chemical medications and treatments, I wanted in.

These were oils. Essential oils. But what did I know? I knew only about the power of Thieves. So my journey started there. Soon enough, I moved on – to lavender. I was sold.

Lavender: I knew it only as a pretty aromatic flower; a beautiful sight, fields of thickly billowing purple-covered stalks. But lavender as medicine? Indeed. Medicine, essential medicine. Selected, diluted and bottled up as oil. I fell in love with lavender: It calmed my nerves during turbulence, and it soothed my skin when my sandal strap rubbed and chafed until it bled.

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The other oils stayed back for awhile, bottled up, waiting their turn. I sniffed them out, one at a time. Eucalyptus. Startled my nostrils, then nudged me into breathing deeply. Purification. My laundry (now washed in chemical-free soap or sodium bicarbonate) smelled fresh without the smelly chemical additives. Digize. My tummy relaxed. Pepp20200519_102216-001ermint. I squirted drops into water. Basil heightened the flavours of a salad. Panaway. Muscle aches, joints and fascia soothed. Endoflex. Flashes toned down.

Stress Away. Nerves and tension soothed. Frankincense. My nose was calm and content – unlike all the times I fled through Duty Free, accosted by the chemically-induced sticky sweet scent of perfumes. My body was getting more relief. My sheets and clothes were clean – without toxins permeating seeping into my body. Only good, nat20200519_102404ural stuff was entering my body. That made sense. So much so that I started to notice that I’d left these bottled oils everywhere; near my yoga mat, in the kitchen, by the sink, on the washing machine. Lemon followed me everywhere.

Then, one morning three weeks ago, I woke up with a hideous rash around my navel that looked nothing I’d seen before, anywhere on my body. My belly button was: 20200429_115043Red. Swollen. Crusty. Itchy. It was weird. Terribly uncomfortable. I stared at it for a long while.

You’re testing me, COVID19,” I thought. “Forget it, virus.”

I would find my way. I didn’t need to crumple, to fear, to run to a doctor, a clinic, a pharmacy. I hadn’t come this far to turn my20200324_070757 back on the real virtues and power of plant-based medicine. I had a hunch that my body’s manifestation pointed to something gone awry. I just had to deepen my trust, and seek the solution.

So I turned to my personal pharmacopoeia: First off, Thieves. Not quite right. With some guidance, I leaned into the one I trusted most, my first love: Lavender. With natural antibiotic properties, an exquisite scent, a healing oil of the highest caliber. Voila. Gone. Thank you, mother nature, for ahhhhhh…. I am healed.

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