By Nicole Lauzon, Assistant Annuals/Vegetable/Herb Manager
If you are reading this, you already know and have a sense that plants are intrinsically beautiful and pleasing. They can bring vitality and calm elegance to any space, indoors or out. They have the ability to offer comfort, soothe the soul and bring joy to those that care for them and for whom they care for. Plants, however, have so much more to offer than just aesthetic beauty and mutual carbon dioxide/oxygen gas exchange. They are living beings (like you and me) and in order to appreciate and respect them fully, we must step back, open our minds and hearts and take a more wholistic and complete view. Plants are beautiful healers who heal beautifully. Many of the annuals and perennials that are sold here at Churchill’s have ‘hidden’ talents of being able to heal the body on many levels. Lemon Balm (melissa officinalis), a perennial, for example, has affinities for the nervous and digestive systems, the heart and the immune and fever mechanisms. It also can gently uplift the mood and spirit. Calendula (calendula officinalis), the re-seeding annual, is a potent lymphatic remedy as well as an external and internal wound healer (think IBS and leaky gut). Energetically, it is gently warming to the body, like herbal sunshine, which is characterized by its sun-shaped and colored flowers. The list goes on and on!
In each post to follow, I would like to highlight one plant, flower or herb and share its talents and offerings from a wholistic, often eclectic, herbalism perspective. But what’s even more important than sharing what a plant is ‘good for’, is sharing Who that being really is and it’s raison d’etre. Through knowledge and teachings of different traditions, my intention is to pique curiosity, awareness, and appreciation of the truly wholistic, multi-faceted and deep nature of plants, far surpassing just their pretty faces.
Thus, without further ado, I present to you:
Common name: Rosemary
Parts used: Leaves
Distribution: Originating in the Mediterranean, now widely distributed throughout Europe and North America.
Rosemary is such a common and widely used plant that it is, paradoxically, often times over-looked when thinking about plants with therapeutic benefits. Like many plants of the Lamiaceae (Mint) family, Rosemary is full of volatile essential oils that give it its characteristic pungent aroma and savory taste. These oils also give it the majority of its medicinal traits. Plants that have a pungent taste are more often than not warming and stimulating.
Take a moment now, to think about those first, truly warm days of spring. Feel those gently warming rays of the sun hitting your face as you feel all the cold, damp stagnation of the winter melting away from your body. Your whole being begins to wake up and vigor and vitality return. This is the essence of Rosemary! She goes into those cold, damp and depressed places and gently warms, dries and wakes them up. There are special affinities for the heart and circulation, nervous system, Liver and gallbladder, and digestive systems-all systems which, when plagued by cold and sluggish states, lead to a depressed functionality and potential disease.
Going a bit deeper, (and this is where it gets interesting) we will find that the Herbalists and medical astrologers and alchemists of the Renaissance also recognized the intimate relationship of Rosemary to the warming Sun and thus named the Sun as this herbs ruling planet (this type of astrology is distinctly different than your average Sunday paper stuff). According to them, the Sun represents the heart (physically and esoterically) and circulation and its energy, as we have said, is warming and drying. With its natural tendency as a circulatory stimulant, this denotation as a ‘solar remedy’ makes perfect sense. It’s warming pungency has an action on the whole solar plexus (clearly named after the Sun) area of the body, which corresponds to the upper torso and thus aids in digestion. But the solar plexus, in many traditions, has also been seen as the seat of our willpower and personal strength. Therefore, the ‘Inner Sunshine’ of Rosemary has this beautiful ability to strengthen our sense of self-of who we are and what we want to make of life. She shines a light on the heart’s true desires and volatilizes them up into the mind to become a reality. This volatilization is a signature of the Air element at work.
One of Rosemary’s claim to fame is as a nootropic, that is something that enhances one’s cognitive function, short-term memory, clarity and mental performance. (instead of relying on shots of caffeine and Red Bull, students might be better off just taking a bottle of rosemary oil to school to smell and rub on their temples for that cognitive boost…just a thought…). Coming back to that element of air, which naturally rises, the essences of this herb rise up into the brain and nervous system. It’s action, once again, is stimulating, and in this case, means that it (re)activates the nerves and gives them a boost if their function is depressed. It’s particularly useful in degradative nerve disorders like Alzheimers and nerve damage due to diabetes.
Thus we can see that on one level, Rosemary gives us enhanced cognitive brain function with increased short-term memory, the deeper level is that she gives us, through the relationship with the Sun and Air, the ability to “Remember [long term] who we are, to be strong in who we are, and then have the strength and courage to embody and become that in our daily lives.” -Sajah Popam
Disclaimer: This article is intended for information only and is not meant to be used to diagnose or cure any disease. Please do not use herbal products unless consulting a qualified practitioner or doctor.
Nicole is the Assistant Annuals/Vegetable/Herb Manager here at Churchill’s. She has 10+ years experience in organic farming and is also a Certified Essential Oil coach. Nicole is currently studying clinical, vitalist herbalism at The School of Evolutionary Herbalism.