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Nervine Plants to Support us in Times of Stress

As we approach the beginning of winter, here in the northern latitudes, I want to pause and honor one of the brightest lights in the herbal community, Rosemary Gladstar. It is her birthday weekend, and doesn’t it make sense that this radiant being has become a guiding light to so many who are finding their way along the plant path? She has touched, and transformed, the lives of countless people… and plants.

I cannot remember the first time I met Rosemary 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 the 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, 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 was not. Or was I?

Recently, I had the pleasure of hosting her on BotanicWise where she shared age-old wisdom about plants to nourish the nervous system. Focusing on the nervines, plants that assist us when we feel angst and tension, 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 learned before.

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

Herbs for stress

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. 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, growing them, tending to them, can melt away feelings of irritability and overwhelm. They can help us begin to heal, 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… That many of our worries and fears are simply temporary, often more a habit than a helpful way of being.

If plants could speak, 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 connected.

Happy birthday Rosemary ❤

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