What is Healing Magic with The Plants?
Many of us herbalists got started with plant-based living and medicine because we were searching for some kind of healing. For some of us, it was easier to translate what The Plants do into the system of modern medicine or science. That’s a language most of us are taught through our school experience, and it’s the dominant language used by the healers of our culture, the doctors and nurses and therapists. It’s not the only language, but it’s not a bad one at all. In fact, when we take the time to get to know the properties and affects a specific plant can have on our bodies, we’re growing our relationship with that plant. Learning about the chemistry or properties of a plant offers you the opportunity to see how that plant’s magic works in a way that’s really relatable for a lot of us.
Whether you refer to molecules or to herbal actions, you’re describing how a plant performs it’s magic in the human landscape. So much of magical practice is about imagination. So much of Healing is about changing how we imagine ourselves to be. The connection between magic and healing is a strong one, as is the connection between medical science and healing…or magic and medical science, really. When you think about it, the ability of a doctor to open someone’s chest, fix a blockage in their heart, then close it all back up and give that person another fifty years of life is magic, even though today we’d call it pretty commonplace.
It all comes down to how you want to look at what The Plants can do. Even if the language of science and modern medicine is not your native language, it makes a lot of sense to get to know your new plant-partner through the structure that language provides. The question to ask is, How?
How do I Translate Medical Uses of a Plant into Magical Ones?
Plant medicines are powerful, and they can help a body make some pretty huge changes, for better or for worse. Understanding how the medical properties of a plant might translate into the macrocosm of your life takes a new map, one that requires a little bit of imagination to understand.
First off, when you’re learning about a plant’s properties, think about how they work within the human body as a guide for how they might work in a magical project. For instance, a plant, like Chili Pepper, that heats your body up so much you can break a sweat can help you heat-up a project you may be working on or a relationship you may be building. Chili Pepper works specifically on the circulatory system, mildly thinning the blood and helping it flow more easily. At the same time, it encourages the pores of the skin, our primary boundary between the outside world and the interior of our bodies, to open and allow wastes and fluid to escape in the form of sweat. If you draw on Chili Pepper’s Medicine for it, that project you’re working on might see an increased flow of activity and nourishment, like the increase in blood flow in the body. Or, you might find boundaries that had prevented that relationship from becoming closer begin to open a little, allowing whatever past hurts may have been stored up inside to drain away so you can take it to the next level.
The key is in seeing how the action of the plant affects the world into which it’s being placed – the actions or changes or transformations your body experiences when you take that plant in show you how including that plant in whatever you’re working on can help change or transform or move the working. You can look at it from a chemistry perspective, too.
How Can Chemistry Reveal the Magic of a Plant?
Chemistry is all about looking super, super closely at how stuff moves, when you get right down to it. Chemists identify substances, which can be as tiny as molecules or atoms, and then describe what happens when those substances encounter a variety of environments and conditions. In plants, we call those substances constituents and the Chemist a Phytochemist.
A Phytochemist looks at how plant constituents move within the plant and also how they move, react, or transform within the human body (or any number of other environments, but we’re keeping it rather simple here). They use the languages of math and science to describe those actions, reactions, and ultimately the transformations that take place when the plant is introduced to the human body. In short, they use math and science to describe the magic of the plant’s medicine.
What it boils down to, then, is a close look at how the plant’s native qualities move or change the human body that can be translated into the language of Healing Magic or Plant Magics, too. Let’s take Rosmarinic Acid in Sage as an example.
In Sage, rosmarinic acid helps prevent bacterial infection. It’s part of the plant’s self-defense, and when we use sage to fend off a sore throat we’re using the rosmarinic acid in the sage to help us fend off bacterial infection as well. Phytochemists describe the action of rosmarinic acid on specific bacteria, like staphylococcus that causes staph infection, as one that transforms the bacteria such that it cannot feed itself and is thus weakened. In the human body, rosmarinic acid breaks down the bacteria’s defenses enough to allow the body’s natural defenses, the white blood cells for instance, to destroy and eliminate it.
If you’re working on a new creative project, for instance, and you want to ensure that you don’t get crushed by the comments of others, you could use a bit of Sage to help you build a solid defense against criticism. In your magical working, the rosmarnic acid of Sage shows you that Sage can help you weaken that which might try to take away your creativity and excitement for the work, which are like the resources bacteria feeds on in the body. If you choose to use Sage Magic in this way, you’re also making a magical statement that you know you have what it takes to eliminate the threat if you can get just a little help from Sage; you’re not a victim of the criticism but rather you’re looking for a bit of help from your team. The chemistry of Sage shows us how we can work with Sage on a magical level just as we might work with it on a physical level.
You can get as heady and intellectual as you want with all of this. That’s part of the beauty of studying chemistry, biology, and the more scientific or medicinal aspects of herbalism. With those studies in mind, you can create some amazing and transformative medicines to help yourself and others release suffering and live better. Having the language of magic and imagination can help you deepen that healing for yourself and for others just like the language of science can help you deepen your relationship with the plants. That, right there, is very practical magic.
More Medical Properties and Chemistry to Explore
- Tea with The Plants: Get to Know That Herb Better
- Yarrow for Emotional Healing
- Cineole in Herbs
- Nettle Chemistry by Sue Sierralupe
- Tulsi as an Adaptogen by Sue Sierralupe
Search the Herbal Nerd Society’s Phytochemisty articles for more Medical Properties and Chemistry articles.