How to meet a herb

I took a small group of people on a ‘herb walk’ this week, and invited them to pick some leaves or flowers from any of the plants that ‘spoke’ to them. It’s a common complaint that, when you read a book, you find that all the herbs have a long list of uses, and you end up no wiser than before. What will work best for you?
Really, books are not the answer. You need to go out and ‘meet’ the plants on their own ground, see where they grow, whether they are vigorous or unassuming, what else grows nearby, what insects and birds feed on them. And then you need to sit down with them, one at a time, and really get to know them.
So we each chose one of the herbs we’d picked. Looking closely, feeling, touching, smelling, and finally tasting. And not just a quick taste, but moving the plant around in your mouth, allowing the taste to develop, and noticing how you feel in other parts of your body. How you feel emotionally; what images or thoughts arise. It’s always a surprise and a delight, to find how much you already know about what the plant has to offer you, if you simply tune in to your own responses.
Yarrow was the favourite, chosen by several people. It’s in its element right now, with its spearlike stems and sparkling white flowers. Limeflowers were popular too – I wrote about them two weeks ago. But I’m not going to go into the properties of any of them here. Try it for yourself, before you look at the books. What you read will have far more meaning, because you’ve already begun to get to know the herb. And the next time you meet it, you won’t need to be introduced.

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