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The Biophilia Hypothesis

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So, this morning I was applying a medicinal yarrow salve to a minor scrape that I had received the night before in no-contact sparring (or not quite so “no-contact” as the case may be!) As I applied the salve, the earthy scent of yarrow filled my senses and I felt drawn back in time to a memory with this plant: sunshine warming my shoulders as I harvested this wonderful yet diminutive flower, the minor discomfort of small twigs digging into my knees as I knelt, the spicy, herby aroma of the yarrow as I selected my clippings, the low droning buzz of bumblebees.  It was like I had preserved this healing moment and was able to savor it for a later time – when I needed a little physical healing and maybe even a little emotional healing after a seemingly endless winter – to feel that warm kiss of summer. 

I have never felt that way when opening a tube of Neosporin!

One of the most enjoyable aspects of learning about herbalism and my journey in the study of plant medicine is the increased contentedness to the natural world.  In fact, as I struggled to find a word to describe this feeling, I came across what is known as the Biophilia Hypothesis – a concept and a book by Edward O. Wilson, which surmises that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other life forms.  This contentedness manifests itself in three key areas of our intelligence:

Cognitive:  how integrated we feel to nature and life. 

Affective:  our sense of caring for nature (and even how nature cares for us).   

Behavioral: in which we demonstrate our commitment to protect nature. 

One of the things I truly love about herbalism and plant medicine is feeling this greater shared connection with nature, which brings so much joy and beauty to my life.  This connection and deeper appreciation of these plants extends into medicine making.  What a feeling it is to be able to browse through my humble home apothecary and mix just the right tea blend that I know will help ease my daughter’s cramps.  Knowing exactly where everything in that tea blend came from, where and when I harvested it, and that it is natural, in the truest meaning of the word – brings such a sense of empowerment. 

cool and shady beneath these young trees

This feeling of empowerment as it relates to our health is so often lost these days in our pharmaceutical-focused health care system where we are often the passive recipients of a symptom suppressorWhen a pill is prescribed to stifle a symptom, many times this practice actually neglects addressing the underlying issue that caused the symptom in the first place.  With herbalism and holistic healing, the practice is truly one of healing the whole self, not just a knee-jerk reaction of trying to control symptoms.  Using plants as the medicine they were meant to be opens a whole new door of awareness and connection to nature and healing that has become more and more lacking in our modern culture.

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What would it mean for us and as a society if instead of turning to a pill and a quick fix every time we perceived something as “wrong” if we looked towards ourselves and our environment? How would our lives be if we began to make changes in our lifestyle choices and began to heal ourselves from the inside out?  By no means am I suggesting that there is no place for modern medicine.  We are fortunate that we have cures and vaccines and new breakthroughs ever day.  There is obviously a necessary place for modern medical intervention.  But when we are bombarded by pharmaceutical ads and a society that makes us feel like something that is perfectly normal is a new kind of “condition,” and that the new normal is to be “on something,” there is a greater underlying issue.  The idea of holistic wellness empowers us to be the architects of our own health and calls upon ourselves to be accountable for our health. At the very least, it permits us to be graciously present in the moment.

When I make my stinging nettle tea this afternoon, I will be mindful as I gently crumble the leaves into my tea ball.  I will pause and recall the marshy patch where I harvested this nettle last spring when frog song filled the air. I will even remember fondly the mosquitoes that whined around my head as I took my clippings.  This simple cup of tea truly becomes a gift of physical and emotional nourishment. This small moment in the day, this tiny meditation is not only a way to pay respect to myself as I nurture my own body and healing, but to the earth as well. 

Stengle Terra Rose – a vintage dish set and awesome thrift store find!

I encourage everyone to pause and take a few moments today to appreciate and respect the natural world all around us.

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