I hope you are all enjoying the increasing daylight and the mild weather! This time of the year my mailbox overflows with gardening catalogs and I start to dream about all the plants I want to add to my garden. Late winter is the perfect time to plan a new plot, window box, landscaping or accents.
While you’re at it, why not make some of those new additions medicinal plants? Here are some places I like to get medicinal herbs:
- Horizon Herbs – a huge variety of medicinal, organic, at-risk seeds, root stock and plants. horizonherbs.com
- Jung Seed co. – a Wisconsin seed and plant company with a large variety of annuals, including at-risk woodland plants like black cohosh, wild ginger and bloodroot. jungseed.com
- United Plant Savers – check out this fabulous organization dedicated to preserving at-risk plants. Members receive bi-yearly deals on live rootstock or plants that are endangered, like American gingseng, lady slipper, blue cohosh, butterfly weed and more. United Plant Savers’ mission is to protect native medicinal plants of the United States and Canada and their native habitat while ensuring an abundant renewable supply of medicinal plants for generations to come. unitedplantsavers.org
There are many greenhouses that carry medicinal herbs (not labeled as such!), ones to look for are Lady’s mantle, monarda or bee balm, mallow, echinacea, solomon seal, wormwood, violet, black cohosh, ballon flower, lung wort and of course the culinary herbs. Creeping thyme, catnip and lemon balm are my favorites for the garden.
All this talk about gardening makes me consider how gardening is important to herbalists and herbalism as a discipline. Many herbalists are gardeners or wildcrafters, who deeply understand the ways of wild and/or cultivated plants. Since herbalists cover a vast scope of practice, from Chinese medicine, naturopathy, folk herbalism, plant researchers, midwives, bioregionalists, permaculturists and so on, it is natural that herbalists engage with gardening and plants in different ways.
Some of the early Western religious figures, physicians, philosophers were quite often botanists and herbalists (as were multitudes of lay men and women). Often their connection to the earth and plants flavored their lives work. Hildegard von Bingen, the multidisciplinary German nun of the 1100’s, was an herbalist and healer who added a bit of ‘greenness’ to her spiritual, musical, and scholarly work. Wikipedia say of this; ”…‘greenness’ is an earthly expression of the heavenly in an integrity that overcomes dualisms. This ‘greenness’ or power of life appears frequently in Hildegard’s works.” Goethe called the upright gesture of plants the “spiritual staff”, which “might be seen as a vessel for holding and organizing cosmic energy and transmuting it into more earthy energy” (Jill Stansbury).
As modern herbalists, we can make our own individual connection to plants as simply as observing the wildlife in our yard, enjoying a bouquet of flowers, or as complexly as spending years cultivating expansive garden beds or studying botany. Many insight can be had from observing plants as they grow, and a bit of appreciation can go a long way.