The Language of Plants - Herbalism 101
On the more mysterious side of herbalism, plants have their own language and their own special way of being here—existing with us on planet Earth. For anyone who is on a path of deeper connection with the plant kingdom or has been in a relationship with plants and herbs for a long time, it can feel very much like a devoted relationship one may have with a family member or partner. It ebbs and flows, needs tending to, and can feel unsettling at times. A relationship is a constant exchange of energy between ourselves and the other.
A long time ago, when stories and oral traditions were the internet superhighway, those devoted to plants and their use in healing work did not necessarily say hello to a medicinal herb in the garden and then go inside to one’s reference library to read all about it in order to increase their knowledge of that plant. These herbalists of yore had only themselves, the plants, and the cosmos. Talk about an excellent teacher and classroom! When we take away the layers of tools we have, we are left with only ourselves and the plants. This kind of self-reliance offers an opportunity that can be realized through deep listening, observation, and non-judgment of one’s interpretations.
Some cultures throughout time continued this way of learning—by being with the natural world entirely as their teacher. The way plants show themselves through their colors, shapes, textures, scents, and locations are within our perception and can be understood more fully through the mind’s eye. These appearances are subtle, yet they reflect the profound marks of a plant’s capabilities within its environment and potentially within human bodies.
One ancient practice of using plants for their beneficial capacities through direct observation is called The Doctrine of Signatures. Here I will demonstrate a few signatures that can be incorporated when working with plants, particularly a plant that may be new to you.
Possibly one of the easiest ways to read a plant is through its color. Let’s take a plant like lavender (Lavandula spp.) from the Lamiaceae family as an example. How do you see it? This soft yet magnetic shade exists somewhere between violet and blue. Of what does the color make you think? What are other things in our natural world that are close in color? The sky, other flowers, water? Things inside yourself?
Blue and violet, as colors in the visible color spectrum, have a higher frequency (vibration) and a shorter wavelength. Making an example of this draws a connection between the energy centers of the human body and where this energy travels in us. For those who are familiar with the ancient chakral model, blue, violet, and magenta represent the throat, third eye, and crown chakras. It’s within this beautiful variation of color that lavender exists. Lavender is ascending in its color, reaching up and out of the body. These energy centers are where communication, listening, music, vision, insight, channeling, lightness, openness, and connection to the divine are held, exercised, and balanced.
Lavender has an affinity for the nervous system. It soothes headaches, eases tension held in the tissues, and can be restorative (Culpeper, 1975). Lavender also helps to bring clarity by way of gently cleansing and clearing stuck energy all throughout the body. It can aid in the area of communication by offering articulation of thought, speech, and insightful listening (Bennett, 2014). This beautiful and multifaceted plant ally is used in many hair care products—and while this was likely not an intentional reason for formulation, it can possibly provide a direct link to the decorating and activation of one’s crown chakra; so might lavender flowers or essential oils in a facial cream or a massage oil for the temples. I hope this information will help you connect more intuitively to lavender and other plants by understanding where they may assist in your body through observation of color.
Read the full piece by author Rachael Fae Coleman on Herbal Academy