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  • Writer's pictureAmy

In Favor of Local Plant Medicine


While I’m fascinated by growing all types of plants, and feel especially proud when I get a good harvest of an exotic species, I feel most connected to the locals. 

Local can mean a variety of different things to different people. Here on the east coast of the US, the local plants are going to be very different than those on the west coast, let alone what you might find on a different continent.

This year I have run across a number of articles and sources which keep circling back to the same idea: a person’s connection to the land is deeply rooted, and the medicine works in more profound ways when we tap into our ancestral linage. 

As a white woman with lines tracing back to Germanic and French ancestry, I find myself feeling particularly left out of the ceremony and ritual that other cultures have been able to continue throughout history. My family did not pass down this type of knowledge.

I am an orphan, in some ways. 

There is no cultural wisdom or knowledge I can easily trace back to my descendants in Europe. I have no true roots here in America, and although I am an eighth generation Washingtonian (DC), I often feel that white guilt when thinking back on what occurred with my people while they carved out their space on someone else’s land. 

I notice other folks who adopt the spiritual practices of indigenous cultures, and while I find myself gravitating toward the beauty, respect, and medicine in those ceremonies, I do not believe this is the right avenue for many of us. Yes, cultural appropriation is real, even when we have good intentions. It is not my place to assimilate to another culture, particularly one which Europeans/ Americans have raped of their history, language, practices, land. 

While I (and many others) grapple with finding my place and a desire to reconnect myself to the land on a spiritual level, I look to the plants outside my door for help.

The plant medicine where you live is powerful. And I don’t honestly care if it’s invasive or native. 

I am an invasive. 

My people came here and transplanted themselves in a foreign place, spread like crazy, and assimilated (while forcing others out) to the area. Would it not, therefore, make sense to utilize many of those plants that came with us? 

And now that we are quite ‘established’ here, the plants know us. We should know the plants. 

Why are we not using more local medicine- native or invasive? The same constituents and herbal actions found in many ‘exotic’ species from exotic places can be found in the everyday ‘weed’ in America. Why do we feel the need to exclude what is abundant here in search of something better across the world? 

Perhaps we should leave those gifts to those who inhabit those spaces. 

I can’t walk outside of any place, even in the scraggly green patches of life clawing their way out of cement sidewalks and parking lots, without seeing plenty of medicine: Yarrow, Mullein, Chicory, Plantain, Chickweed, Dandelion. Even with the abuse they have suffered as forgotten allies, they continue to offer their services here. 

We often forget to listen to the plants. Over the past few years I have been blown away by the plant allies which have chosen to ‘show up’ on our property. Typically, they coincide with an issue I happen to be experiencing or will end up needing shortly thereafter. Why is this? How is this possible? I don’t really know. I can’t explain it in worldly terms, but in my heart and as I am able to connect more deeply with plants, I know this is their way of communicating with me and offering their services. 

You don’t get this experience from a plant grown, harvested, and shipped across oceans. 

You want to do some deep work on healing your body and spirit? Go outside and open your eyes. Sit in the stillness. Pay attention. Let the plants call to you. Notice who shows up. 

Don’t get me wrong- I still use Rhodiola, Ashwagandha, and Schisandra. And you can still resonate with plants that are not indigenous to your area or your heritage. But there is something about the plants you grew up with. You have been infused with their spirit throughout your life. Rekindle those relationships and feel the power they cultivate within you. Their medicine is good medicine. Don’t overlook the simplicity of common weeds in favor of ones a world away. 

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