Bringing The Healing Power of Plants Into Your Life
with Maggie Eliana, journeying into herbalism.
Have you ever felt drawn to a particular plant?
For me, it’s the deadnettle. It was one of the first plants I connected with on my herbal journey and has been making timely reappearances ever since, gently reminding me to take a moment for reflection. It also feels symbolic of particular times and people in my life. Discretely camouflaged amongst the brutish stinging nettles, the delicate little deadnettle has sweet tasting flowers and no pesky stingers. The deadnettle is easily misjudged but this unassuming herb can be used internally and externally as herbal medicine and in beauty products.
Plants have been used throughout all of human history as a way of healing the body inside and out. The earliest known reference to using plants as medicine is from 3000 B.C. in Chinai. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates, hailed as the father of modern medicine is often quoted, “Let food be thy medicine.”ii During the same time, the Greeks were also using plant-based ingredients such as olive oil to cleanse and moisturise their hair and bodiesiii. Cleopatra is even claimed to have used this traditional beauty treatmentiv. However, in these early times, the healing powers of plants were not well understood. So much of the history is shrouded in folklore with mystical overtones. This led to fear and distrust among many, and so the practices were shunned and demonised as witchcraft, leaving the ancient practices seemingly lost to modernity. Nevertheless the fascination in and refinement of this art has been silently simmering in the hearth of many homes and is finally reemerging in mainstream health and wellness. Nutrition, health, and beauty have become arenas for plants to show off their wondrous and varying abilities.
Understanding the particular natures of plants, how they interact with our bodies, as well as the process of gathering and preparing them, are ways of feeling more connected to ourselves and to the world around us. We have come a long way and now have the benefits of science to back up many of the claimed virtues. People are learning that they can care for themselves cheaply and easily with things that are readily available in their gardens and local markets. Pinterest, Instagram, and an array of lifestyle blogs have inspired a movement surrounding a natural, back-to-basics, do-it-yourself aesthetic. Homemade skincare and beauty products as well as healthcare recipes are more readily available than ever before. Plants are receiving a shining moment in the health and wellness movement. The value of plants that was so treasured centuries ago is now being understood in deeper ways.
We all have the ability to use plants as healers and helpers in daily life. There are many simple ways to bring the benefits of plants into your home without going out
of your way or spending more - you probably have many of these remedies your kitchen now. These everyday staples have healing properties for both inside your body and out. Lemon juice, cinnamon, turmeric, and even oatmeal can all be used as skincare ingredients. You can even clean your home with basic pantry staples such as vinegar and citrus fruits.
The secret to bringing plants more easily into your life is to have a few basic go-to’s on hand. You will have what you need at your fingertips when you’re feeling sluggish, notice a cold coming, or have a stubborn blackhead. Everyone has different needs so if, for example, you are more prone to stress or anxiety, you may want to have more chamomile and less coffee. Or if you have oily skin, it is helpful to know to use plants with astringent properties, such as the juice of lemons or tomatoes. Having a basic knowledge of everyday plants and how they work can greatly improve your lifestyle and wellbeing.
This list of five plants commonly found in your home will help give you the foundations for bringing the power of plants into your daily life. And stay tuned for future posts featuring more ideas and recipes!
1. Turmeric has been used for centuries as a cooking spice and as a beauty treatment for a surprising number of uses. This humble root has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It can give your immune system a boost and can remedy the common cold as well as ease joint pain. And while the bright orange hue may be misleading, the powder can be used as a tooth whitener, a skin brightener, and a skin exfoliator.
2. Rosemary is for remembrance, as the old saying goes. Rosemary is used to support brain function, memory and information recall. It is anti-inflammatory and immune boosting, while also demonstrating antibacterial abilities. Perfect as a hair rinse, it can also be used topically to treat infections and internally to aid digestion.
3. Lavender has been a steadfast favourite in herbal healing. It’s alluring scent makes it easy to see why, however this pretty shrub also has many healing properties. Scientific evidence has supported its soothing and healing benefits, as well as its antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Lovely brewed as a tea or baked into biscuits, it can also be used in homemade healing ointments, as a soothing facial steam, or in a relaxing soak to soothe sore muscles.
4. Garlic has been shown to act as a powerful antibiotic, antifungal, antimicrobial and antioxidant. It can be used to ward off colds, as well as heal minor infections. It supports heart and cholesterol health and helps regulate
blood pressure. It can also be popped whole into your garden soil as an organic bug repellent. Although rather pungent in aroma, it also makes an excellent facemask ingredient, as it removes spot-causing bacteria and tightens your pores.
5. Stinging Nettles seem like a plant to avoid, but those stingers are protecting the nettle and its powerful properties. High in iron and vitamins nettles are incredibly nutritious, especially for those who are anemic. Nettles are a diuretic, meaning they cleanse your system by expelling through the bladder while supporting kidney function. Nettles can also be beneficial for menstruation and pregnancy. They act as an antihistamine in aid of allergy sufferers, and their astringency also makes for a great hair rinse and facial toner.
About the Author
Plant lover. Animal lover. Maker of lotions and potions.
An American ex-pat with Northern roots, Maggie has been studying plants and making potions since before she could say ‘calendula’. She took a brief detour to study people, receiving an MSc in sociology, before returning to her roots, so to speak.
Now, she is beginning a homesteading journey while crafting beauty recipes and working towards a degree in herbal medicine.