Herbalism Weekend One: Plant Identification

This past weekend was one of the most inspiring weekends I have ever experienced. For the first time ever I saw mother nature in a completely different way. The only word I can think of to draw it all together is "PURPOSE." There is a reason for every living and growing thing on this planet. All those weeds we rip out of our yards and the sidewalks? Well, technically yes they are weeds... but they are not pests. Many of them are not only medicinal, but edible as well. We spent two long full days studying plant identification, a very complex field. I learned so much but only walked away with a small portion of things I'll actually remember, because it requires so much practice, reading, and observation to really understand the world of plants and be able to say, "oh, well, it's a monocot, it's definitely regular, and it's got 4 petals, it must be _____!" But, just like everything in life, there are exceptions. And that's why this work is so intriguing, plants can fool you.

Day one we woke up early and drove down to Roxborough State Park in Colorado, about an hour south of Denver. There, we planned to do a short 15 minute hike. The joke is, "How do you know an herbalist? It takes them 3.5 hours to do a 15 minute hike." And it was true. I had no idea how much natural medicinal life grows right here under our noses. My favorite thing I'd like to share from day one is the wonderful world of yarrow, and one way to use it. Yarrow has multiple uses. It is that beatiful gentle tall white flowering plant, part of the Aster family, that you see all over Colorado, including the city. It has so many uses for illnesses, but one of the coolest is that it can be used as a spit poultice. In short, if you have a cut, you chew up the leaves of the yarrow plant until sufficiently gooey with your own saliva, and you then put it over your wound and it will dry, allowing for plenty of oxygen to get through to heal your injury. You can call it "nature's band-aid." Explore it, it's amazing.

Day two we met at Cheesman Park where we had spent the previous afternoon learning about flower essences and honey infusions. Day two was the urban walk. The intention behind the walk was to stop and notice what grows medicinally directly in the city. We spent hours walking around Denver's Capitol Hill finding everything from yarrow, to mallow, to spearmint, to the Tilia tree, to Lamb's Quarter. Althought day one was definitely informative, day two was incredible because at the end of it I went home and spent about an hour walking around my property trying to look at plants in a different way. And what did I find? I have my own Lamb's Quarter (similar to spinach and edible), as well as a huge lavendar plant, and some other species that I intend on identifiying this week. I highly recommend purchasing a book, Plants of the Rocky Mountains, or something of that sort, and just taking some time to look at plants in a different way. Is that really a pesty dandellion? Or will be it good for my liver, something I can potentially use?

All plant life has a purpose, a lot of plants of medicinal interally and externally, others are poisonous and can kill you, but those have an intention for being on this earth as well. This was only weekend one, and what I've shared with you is such a tiny portion of things I learned. My desire behind all of this is to incorporate herbs on all levels. In my own personal life, in massage, nutrition, for the healing of others. It is such an eye opening and therapeutic study!

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Lamb's Quarter that I found in my garden! It is edible and delicious, but stay away from the one's that have been sprayed!


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