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Learning from the plants

 Rosemary Gladstar at the 2014 MidAtlantic Women's Herbal Conference. Photo Carol J Gilmore
Rosemary Gladstar at the 2014 MidAtlantic Women’s Herbal Conference. Photo Carol J Gilmore

I cannot remember the first time I met Rosemary Gladstar, or heard her speak.  For certain it happened when I attended the New England Women’s Herbal Conference, some August long ago. At that time, the world of herbs felt like a haven to my young heart and fed my love of natural medicine. I remember camping in the central meadow of the conference. A garden of tents sheltered plant-loving women, some snoring loudly, others giggling and drinking herbal cordials, some with babies cooing or little ones chasing fireflies in the dark. I quickly learned that herbal conferences have little to do with sleep and more to do with breaking down my barriers, opening the heart and tempting life purpose to manifest.

On one of those sleepless nights, I had a dream about Rosemary, obviously after I had finally succumbed to exhaustion. The dream was potent, and remains a sweet reminder of the magnanimous nature of this amazing woman. In the dream, all was finally quiet in the meadow.  The women slept. The children slept.  Everyone had entered a hypnotic restorative rest, much needed after three days of learning and revelry.  Like a moonlit goddess, or a maybe a firefly fairy, Rosemary came gliding amongst the tents, sprinkling good dreams, blessings and golden dust over every sleeper. The love emanating from her filled my heart with joy; I felt lucky to be awake, even though I wasn’t. Or was I?

Now, many years later, she is preparing to celebrate the 30th Annual New England WHC, and I am preparing to host the 7th MidAtlantic Women’s Herbal Conference. Rosemary will be the keynote speaker at my conference, and my daughter and I will be one of 800 attendees at hers.

Recently, I had the pleasure of hosting her on the online forum for women, GingerJuice, where she shared her age-old wisdom about women’s health. Focusing on the nervous system and the state of angst which so many women wrestle with, she offered gentle advice, not to be found in any books, except maybe her own. I have been an herbalist for over two decades, and in one hour she taught me things I had never heard before.  

Here is a glimpse of what she shared, edited by me: 

The nature of plants, in their very essence, is to restore one’s nervous system.  Simply sitting and communing with a plant for five minutes can start the grounding and healing process for someone who is struggling with nervous stress or exhaustion.  Always try a cup of chamomile tea to help calm a worried, over-active mind. Chamomile is often overlooked and forgotten, but is an ally for high anxiety with a nervous stomach. As a gentle slow tonic, it will not make you sleepy, but instead helps you feel graced. 

If you are overwhelmed and over-tired, the worst thing you can do is turn to stimulants like caffeine, or sugar.  

These things deplete the adrenals, when what is truly needed are restorative plants, especially those high in calcium, protein and B vitamins. Chamomile, skullcap, valerian, milky green oats, and mucilaginous herbs can all be soothing and strengthening to the frayed nervous system.  Mucilaginous plants are usually used by herbalists to calm a fiery digestive tract, or inflamed skin condition.  Rosemary states that the same properties that soothe epithelial tissues, also soothe an inflamed nervous system.  Is that rooted in science? Maybe, maybe not.  It is rooted however, in an ancient plant wisdom that wise healers draw on intuitively. 

Herbs have a way of embracing us, especially when we open our hearts to them.

Simply spending time with plants, live, growing them, tending to them, or being near them, can melt away feelings of irritability and overwhelm, and begin healing, a little at a time.

A magic lies within nature and can be found easily when out of doors, away from concrete and things man-made.

Here, a fresh perspective helps us remember how small we are, and that many of our worries and fears are simply temporary, often more a habit than a helpful way of being. 

If plants could speak, and some say they can, they might share with us the secrets of being true allies for one another. They might sing to us about open hearts and generous spirits. They might comfort us the way a gentle grandmother soothes a worried child.

And perhaps we might then know that we are both very grand and incredibly small and that everything is just as it should be.

Listen to Rosemary’s entire one hour class, Herbs for Women, plus have access to herbal teachings from other renowned teachers on GingerJuice. $18 for a one month subscription. 

Register for the 30th New England Women’s Herbal Conference.

Register for the 7th MidAtlantic Women’s Herbal Conference – early registration discount until August 1.

Learn more about Rosemary Gladstar, her homestudy course, travel with her or buy her books. 


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