Herbalists read the land. Traditional herbalists teach that the herbs we need volunteer in our back yards. In general, herbs growing closest to our homes are for more daily use, while those growing in more distant places are to be used less frequently.
Phyllis Light grew up in the folk herbalism tradition. She taught me to pay attention when a given plant suddenly appears more plentiful, for that plant’s healing remedies will probably be needed during the coming season. Such abundance is a signal to harvest that herb in preparation for future use.
After moving to Harmony Farm over 30 years ago, I delighted in identifying the plants growing on our property and learning about their uses. I found a few Skullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia) plants growing at some distance from my house, at an edge of the stream and in a few spots around the pond. I tincture some from time to time and use the tincture when I need a nervine that will be calming while also relaxing muscles. When I travel, I usually take a little with me in case I experience difficulty sleeping.
I think of Skullcap as being slightly shy. Her small blue flowers don’t grab one’s attention, and it’s easy to walk by without noticing her.
Skullcap recently surprised me. I suddenly spotted a big patch in the middle of a trail where I take my daily walk – an unusual spot for Skullcap to grow.
Once she had my attention, Skullcap kept me focused on her. I began noticing plants growing in quite a few places along my daily walking route. Each day I discovered more. As I also stopped finding Skullcap in her usual spots, I realized that she was behaving in an unusual manner.
On a recent walk in the woods, I stared at yet another Skullcap growing smack in the middle of my trail and suddenly remembered Phyllis’s teaching. “Aha” I exclaimed while bowing my head, “I get it! Thank you for being persistent.”
Suspecting that we will need Skullcap during the months ahead, I returned later with a basket in one hand and scissors in the other. After snipping sprigs from quite a few plants, I hung some to dry in the attic and made tincture form the rest.
Reflecting on this experience, I wonder, “Could Earth be sending messages about stressful times to come … about the Great Turning? Could Earth be offering Skullcap as a way to stay centered and calm during this time of change?”
I have no idea whether I, or we, will need Skullcap in the season ahead. Yet with bottles of her sitting on my shelf, I feel better prepared for whatever the future may bring.