Me and plants go way back. My best friends have always been ladybugs, crickets, flowers, roots and leaves, and my homiest homes: gardens, forests, rivers, and oceans. We’re so tight that I even create art that reveals their spirit essence for all to see. So when a Medicinal Herbalist training course with local Miami Herbalists, Julia Onnie-Hay (and a handful of very awesome, supporting, local practicing herbalists) popped up, I jumped in with both feet!
Herbalism is an oral tradition, passed from generation to generation through daily hands-on experience. Living in symbiosis with the plant medicines produced a wealth of knowledge for the health of the individual, the family and the community unit. The knowledge still lives and breathes through dedicated plant lovers and medicinal herbalists. There are some great books on the subject of herbalism, but nothing beats direct contact and a whole-body kinesthetic learning experience! I am so very grateful that this knowledge is being shared in my local community. My hope is that this series of articles enriches and inspires the global plant-loving community.
Before the advent of the Magic City Herbalist Certification Course, I was getting acquainted with a few medicinal herbs on my own. They include:
- Olive Leaf
- Moringa Seed, flower & leaf
- Spanish Needle
- Pig Weed
As well as some medicinal bee products:
- Bee pollen
- Bee propolis
I enjoy a full wild crafting relationship with three of these herbs. I consider plants as living, breathing, conscious beings. They consider me the same. It’s a symbiotic relationship. They don’t grow for me or for you, as that is not their purpose. Their purpose is to exist and to be plants. They just happen to also love sharing their healing powers and their life with other living beings like you and me. Unlike humans, plants fully understand their immortality and don’t mind leaving the Earth for a bit, especially if they can help a fellow inhabitant of Earth in the healing process. They know they exist in the Infinite Now. (They’re doing their best to help us wake up to this reality too). Here’s a quote from the book, Love Without End by Glenda Green, which explains in part how the relationship works from a scientific and an esoteric point of view:
“Some people can perceive adamantine [Higgs-boson] particles with the naked eye. It’s an ancient perception that most people have allowed to go dormant. That is what people mean when they see auras, or glowing radiance around things. But like smell, the ability to see adamantine particles was once strong in everyone. Thousands of years ago it was a survival sense pertaining to the selection of food and medicine, as well as friend and foe. Animals still use it today. It is by this sense that a bird knows a poison seed from an herb which can rid him of lice. Upon approaching a benevolent seed which the bird needs, the adamantine particles will glow. In the presence of a harmful situation they will dim.
. . .
Life is love in action. It brings light into areas of positive potential and dimness or even darkness into areas of negative potential! Anyone can recultivate this sense with practice and patience.”
So, what are adamantine [Higgs-boson] particles? The name adamantine is derived from the word adamant, and describes the ultimate, basic, un-bustable nature of these particles. In the scientific world, this tiniest of sub-atomic particles is called the Higgs-boson particle. All other particles have mass, but this particle not only has mass, but also creates and propels mass. The famous Large Hadron particle collider at CERN in Switzerland was built specifically to prove the theory of these particles’ existence and study how they work.
Here’s Mr. Higgs’ explanation given in a BBC radio interview in a succinct 2 minutes:
An aside: Let me make it quite clear that I don’t expect you to accept any of what I write or site as truth. Please use your own discernment in regard to this, and everything you encounter in life. Furthermore, I am a total novice. I’m learning, I’m happy to share this learning journey with you, and I’m sharing all this with you just because it’s so much fun!
Now, with that basic understanding of the adamantine/Higgs-boson particles from two viewpoints, you have an idea of my personal approach medicinal herbalism. With that in mind, let’s move into exploring a common medicinal weed found in South Florida lawns, gardens, empty lots, and sidewalk cracks (and my first homework assignment): Phyllanthus niruri (latin).
P. niruri has some pretty impressive street cred, so it has different names in different hoods:
- Chanca piedra (Spanish. Meaning: stone breaker)
- Seed ‘pon Back (English. Meaning: the seed is on the back of the plant)
- Bhumyamalaki (Sanskrit- Ayurveda. Meaning: amalaki of the Earth; its cousin looks just like it, but lives in the water)
Upon researching Phyllanthus niruri, I found that any kind of information on this plant was scanty, vague, and inconsistent across sources. However, the strongest sources were from Ayurvedic medicine practitioners and researchers. At the time of my discovery that there was so little information available to me in the interwebs, I felt disappointment and frustration. But I quickly realized that this too was perfect (along with everything in the Universe of course!).
As a practitioner of healing arts and a self-propelled student of Eastern medicine practices, I have a deep experiential understanding that all physical ailments have origins in a spiritual, mental or emotional imbalance. When I attempt to heal from a point of linear logic, or if I try to treat only the physical symptoms, the healing in incomplete. However, when I practice healing arts from my heart and the Universal One-ness first and let the linear logic be a support, the healing is total and complete.
The same is true of learning to heal with medicinal herbs. I must explore from my heart first and let the information from the One Great Spirit in us all inform what society agrees is hard scientific fact (which in reality is quite soft and bendy!).
What follows are my experiences and findings. Some are esoteric. Some are physical observances. Some are the result of research. All are simply my experience. I encourage you to cultivate your own special, unique, nourishing relationship with this and any medicinal herb that calls to you.
P.niruri is a power house herb! It balances the stomach, genito-urinary system, liver, kidney and spleen. It is especially famous for breaking up kidney stones so they can be passed with more ease and comfort. This stone breaking fame is one theory for its Spanish name Chanca piedra (stone breaker). Another theory is that its roots are so strong, they break rocks. However, I’ve seen all roots do that, so I’m pretty sure the name fame belongs to P. niruri’s kidney stone busting abilities.
According to AllAyurveda.com, the uses of Phyllanthus niruri are:
+ It prevents from [sic] jaundice, diabetes, dyspepsia, ulcers, sores, swellings, ophthalmia and chronic dysentry.
+ Whole plant is useful for the treatment of some forms of gonorrhoea, dropsy, menorrhagia and other genitor –urinary affections of a similar type.
+ A poultice of the leaves mixed with salt cures itch and other skin affections.
+ It is bitter, astringent, cold, anti inflammatory, hepatoprotective and useful in liver disorders, cough, asthma, jaundice, spleen disorders.
+ Phyllanthus may help decrease the amount of hepatitis B virus found in the blood stream.
According to research by Pankaj Oudhia:
Its root, leaves, fruits, milky juice, and whole plants are used as medicine. According to Ayurvedic system of medicine it is considered acrid, cooling , [sic]alexipharmic and useful in thirst, bronchitis, leprosy, anemia, urinary discharge, anuria, biliousness, asthma, for hiccups, and as a diuretic. According to Unani system of medicine herb [sic] is stomachic and good for sores and useful in chronic dysentery. Fruits useful for tubercular ulcers, wounds, sores, scabies and ring worm (Agharkar 1991; Krishnamurty 1993). The fresh root is believed to be an excellent remedy for jaundice. A poultice of the leaves with salt cures scabby affection and without salt applied on bruise and wounds. The milky juice is a good application to offensive sores. The bark yields a bitter principle phyllanthin. The infusion of the root and leaves is a good tonic and diuretic when taken cold in repeated doses. In different parts of India, specially, in Chhattisgarh state, there is a rich traditional medicinal tradition [sic] concerning this weed (Caius 1986; Oudhia and Tiwari 2001). In many parts of India, it is commonly used for the treatment of snake bite. The active compounds phyllanthin and hypophyllanthin have been isolated from leaves. Recently, lignansniranthin, nirtetralin, and phyltetralin have been isolated from leaves. (Rastogi and Mehrotra, 1991) It is a major component of many popular liver tonics in India including Liv.-52. Fresh juice and powder of dried plant are used most frequently in Ayurvedic preparations (Sastry and Kavatherkar, 1991). The plant is used as a fish poison. In many parts of India specially in deserts, the roots mixed with Commiphora mukul are given to camels to cure indigestion. The decoction of leaves and stem are used for dyeing cotton black. (Singh et al. 1996).
I found this explanation of uses in the Ayurvedic tradition quite exciting, as it gives great preparation suggestions. However, there were large gaping holes of information. It’s great that they offered methods of preparation, but how much is to be administered, and with the appearance of which symptoms? Well, I quickly realized that all that information comes with a carefully cultivated relationship with the plant. Since I wanted to know whatever could be known through direct interaction with the medicine, I decided to begin in my backyard.
I rose in the morning and sat in silence with a small patch of Phyllanthus niruri. I found that this sacred medicine plant has a condensed, bright white aura with little diffusion. Its energy arcs create strong, compact circular patterns with an upward motion. While in meditation with this plant I inquired where it would heal and balance me, and it immediately introduced a cooling sensation to my stomach and spleen, then it cooled my liver and gall bladder. When I held a small piece of the plant under my tongue, a slight numbing and energetically clearing sensation spread in my mouth, but stayed fairly localized. I chewed slowly and accepted this small piece of Phyllanthus niruri into my body. It was very bitter, strong, fragrant and bright.
As I sat in meditation with Phyllanthus niruri on the second morning, I started out in physical contact with the plant. After a few moments in meditation, I opened my eyes for some unknown reason, and found that my hand was about two inches from the leaves. Before seeing this I was absolutely sure I was still in full contact with the plant; I felt the touch of the leaves on my skin even when there was no physical contact.
After two consecutive mornings communing with the medicinal herb in this way – meditation, holding under the tongue, then chewing and swallowing on an empty stomach – I experienced the beginnings of pre-menstrual symptoms. A light cramping sensation in the uterus and tenderness in the breasts pervaded the second day of raw consumption. Since these symptoms arrived well outside of my natural cycle’s progression, I decided consuming Phyllanthus niruri was not the best route for my body to reach balance in the stomach, spleen, liver and gallbladder.
I have great respect for the strength of this and all plant medicines. By the third day, I knew that full consumption of Phyllanthus niruri is not the most beneficial way for me to interact with this sacred medicine. Instead, I decided to commune with P. niruri as a plant essence, which is very similar to a flower essence. The only difference is, the whole plant is submerged, including roots, in a glass jar of room temperature water. I then shared my Yoga sadhana (daily yoga practice) with the essence and imbibed the essence with reverence to close my practice. The energy I received from the Phyllanthus niruri essence was Earthing, clear and bright.
During my deep and focused exploration of Phyllanthus niruri, a dear friend crossed paths with me, and she confided in me about a skin condition she was in the process of healing. She had been experiencing a rash-like texture with no itching and no heat. I suggested she take the P.niruri I had just dried, pulverize it, and add water or mix it into a simple oatmeal mask, then apply it to a small area first. After that test, she applied to the whole affected area topically. She reported back after two uses that she mixed it with oatmeal and it dried her skin. We concluded together that since her skin is in a unique imbalance of heat influenced by dampness, this cooling plant was neutral and the oatmeal dried her skin.
I had the sweet pleasure of drying the beautiful plants I wild crafted from my backyard. I sang mantra to the plant as an offering to honor its life, existence, and generous healing abilities. Perhaps in the future it will help me, my friends, and family bring balance and gracious healing into our lives.
This experience I shared with you is only the glorious beginning! I will happily continue to cultivate a life-long, symbiotic relationship with Phyllanthus niruri. See you next month with my personal discoveries on my journey in medicinal herbalism.
Wild crafted: [definition] foraged from a wild, or otherwise not directly human-cultivated, source
Heat and Dampness are Traditional Chinese Medicine terms to describe imbalance. According to the Article “Treating Skin Conditions with Traditional Chinese Medicine” by Kathleen Rushall, “The term ‘heat’ refers to distress in the body which can be cased by overwork, emotional stress (such as jealousy or anger), and/or over-activated hormones. The insufficient flushing of waste and toxins from the body, as well as water retention, and a humid or moist environment can cause ‘dampness’ in a person.”