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  • Penny Livingston

Regenerative Herbalism

Regenerative Herbalism: Healing the Planet Healing Ourselves.



When I look to my indigenous roots as a European American, I want to honor my ancestors, healers and teachers who came before me, who risked their lives and died preserving this valuable knowledge of healing and plant medicine. So much of it was lost and burned during the inquisition mainly, but many other assaults have diminished our capacity to connect directly with the plants. Western Industrialized culture has lost its way in regard to listening and talking to the natural world. The important thing to remember is that much of this information has been lost but is not gone. It is being remembered and relocated and a strong lineage is being held for the medicines of the Earth to be remembered and revived. Medicinal plants are an archive for ancient knowledge. This knowledge has been passed down from our ancestors through stories and lore, myths and symbols. The plants themselves are telling this story as we learn to listen to them. They are vast alchemical libraries. There are also alchemical libraries dating back to early Egyptian civilization that were kept secret and held under lock and key for many generations to keep the knowledge from being stolen or destroyed.


I have been blessed to apprentice in Germany with a beautiful alchemist and medicine woman Susanne Fischer Rizzi. https://susanne-fischer-rizzi.de/173/startseite-e She had unlimited access to one of the most complete alchemical libraries in the world. It was a few years of synchronicity that allowed me to travel to Germany to study with her and complete her Masters apprenticeship.


Susanne Fischer Rizzi


There are different energy qualities in all different types of plants and gardens.


Gardeners are drawn to different types of gardening. Some are drawn to annual vegetables, some to orcharding with fruit and nut trees, some are interested solely in production and market gardening, some for native restoration and creating healthy ecosystems, some for homesteading which involves multiple skills and knowledge. Permaculturists fall into many of these categories.


Some are drawn to aesthetic beauty specifically without considering the function of plants and just love the beauty of a well designed garden.


And….. There are people drawn to working with medicine plants.

What is Regenerative Herbalism?


Regenerative herbalism is a holistic ethical and ecological approach to cultivation, harvesting and processing medicinal plants.


It’s about knowing each plant in a deep way. Cultivating, tending, caring for and learning the deep secrets each plant holds.


Start with one plant and get to know it.

Regenerative Herbalism is a concept I’m developing to articulate the deep relationships humans have with the medicinal plant world. This not only includes the ethics of harvesting and the skilled uses of various plants, but also how to cultivate medicinal plants to take the strain off of the native environment.


I have been integrating medicinal plants in the understory of “food forests” in temperate and tropical climates and have found them to be very effective in rounding out any agroforestry projects.


I'm finding that all plants have a function and in regenerative herbalism its about learning how to interact more deeply with the plants in your garden.

Not all herbal practices are regenerative. If any of you have been on the east side of the Sierra Nevada to witness how decimated the populations of White Sage, Salvia apiana, are as a result of people overharvesting and or not harvesting at the right time of the year to help the plant thrive.


From the customer or buyer’s point of view, often essential oils, skin care products and such are cut with other oils and ingredients even though the label says they are “pure”.


It’s Cultural


Regenerative Herbalism acknowledges the various disciplines from around the world, including: Ayurveda, Hermetic and Taoist traditions, plus Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) indigenous practices, biodynamic and astrological influences. We strive to also explore the special secrets, legends and lore of the plants as well. We recognize the value medicinal plants have in any ecosystem.


This aspect could also be known as Planetary Herbalism.


It’s Ecological


Cultivation: Learn what the plant likes.


Growing medicine plants helps take strain off of the wild populations.


Medicine gardens are sanctuaries for birds, butterflies and other pollinators and elemental beings. They are often filled with aromatic oils and other constituents that heal not only people, but also animals, microbes, fungi and basically all of creation.

Medicine gardens purify and heal the soil.


Building soil involves good soil nutrient management so growing plants in well developed soil with good minerals, nutrients and soil biology is important.


This is also a way we, as humans, can be good stewards of our Mother Garden.

Many medicine plants fix nitrogen. For example Ceanothus a California Native blood purifier and is a native non-leguminous nitrogen fixer in its native habitat.


Medicinal plants create a healing energetic in the garden. They are healers and strive to create balance as much as they can.

Native wild crafting vs. cultivation


Generally, It’s been said that the best quality of medicine is found in plants growing in their native environment. Due to the degradation of the environment and overharvesting of valuable herbs in the wild, in my view, it’s best to grow your own.

Native Medicine plants are powerful, especially if they are “endemic” to a region, meaning they don’t grow anywhere else. In these times it may be best to leave those populations alone unless they are in great quantity and your harvesting regime is regenerative and is helping to maintain and even increase populations. In Regenerative Herbalism, the growing of medicine plants involve the holistic approach to cultivation so the soil nutrients, the elementals, minerals, the growing process and the experience of the plant itself is cultivated with love and respect for all of creation.

It’s Ethical


Regenerative Herbalism takes into consideration growing the plants for the benefit of all of creation.


Ask permission

  • Only harvest where plant is abundan

  • Give back: tend, prune, weed, water etc.


Right time of year for the regenerative cycle of the plant to help keep healthy populations of the plant.

Avoid roadsides or potentially polluted area: medicine plants are often dynamic accumulators.

It’s Political


As pharmaceutical companies are increasingly encroaching in the realm of biological patents and attempting to appropriate exclusive uses of plants and their constituents, it is critically important for communities all over the world to be educated and skilled in the use of medicinal plants. It is also important for local healers who hold this knowledge to be acknowledged, supported and honored. Also there is a tremendous loss of habitat in ecologies all over the world due to over harvesting of medicinal herbs in their wild, native environment. There is also loss of habitat for medicines due to environmental degradation, corporate extraction and over development. The knowledge of how to use our great healers and teachers of the plant world has been and continues to be lost due to colonialism, corporate capitalism and globalization.

It’s Delicious


Regenerative Herbalism includes food as medicine, what’s being called now “super foods. Herbs and spices often hold deep healing qualities, like Ginger and Turmeric, Rosemary, Oregano, Sage and Thyme, Basil, Parsley etc.


It’s Magical


Who follows you home?

What plants are coming up around your house? Who has come since you have moved to where you live now. Only people who have been living in one place for more than about 3 years can see this.


Medicine garden as a healing space

Medicine Gardens are sanctuaries for pollinators.


Apothecary gardens are living classrooms that hold the knowledge and heritage of


healing and nature connection.


What are the stories qualities, history and meaning that plants hold?


Healing dimension of medicine gardens or walking into our garden peoples pace slows down, eyes soften, and people find a peaceful energy.


People feel they can relax and let go.


People bring their children here and feel they need a sanctuary place to be in. This type of garden plays a really important role for people.

All that is needed to create heaven on earth exist in such a garden.

Engaging in the medicine garden involves Joy, Love, Prayer, and Song.


I’ve always had a “rule” with volunteers, work traders and my family that I don’t want anyone working in the garden that doesn’t want to be there. This is different from “being in a good space”.


One can be in a funky space and working in the garden can help heal that funk and pull people back into balance.



Herbalism as a Spiritual Journey


Healing involves connecting to the divine in some sense. That can be viewed many ways.

Learning to trust what comes forward when working with plants.


Intuition is engaged.

Deep nature connection starts to happen

Combining intuition and scholarly knowledge

Learning to listen deeply

Being of service to Humanity

Observation


Observe plant through the seasons, watch it bloom and go to seed.


How are the seeds spread?

Harmony: When something is out of balance, Mother Earth creates balance. Good gardeners try to facilitate that balance. In the process of interacting with the garden, one often experiences Synchonicity. Synchronicity is the language of nature. It is one way she speaks to us.

It’s like going to a party!


Often people get overwhelmed by the plant world. There are so many and so much to know! I like to say “It’s like going to a party” where you may not know many people. But then you meet someone and learn their name, where they are from, what family they come from, what they like, what their gifts are etc. It’s the same in the plant world. You can start with one plant and learn everything you can about it, and use it.


Give gratitude to the plants when harvesting for the gifts they are giving us.


Please join Dr. Anna O’Malley, Edward Willie and me for an in-depth journey into the herbal medicine world. In a collaboration with Natura: Institute for Ecology and Medicine, we are embarking on a journey to explore the physiology of the body and how the organs function and respond to various stresses and toxins that includes how and why these herbal treatments work.

The Spring Course will focus on Skin Care, Digestion and Detox.


The late Summer Course will focus on Herbal Respiratory Support and making our own herbal First Aid Kit.

This offering is sharing the gifts and knowledge of a medical primary care integrated physician, an alchemist/herbalist holding the lineage of the hermetic tradition from Europe and an indigenous Pomo/Wailaki herbalist. We are all open minded to all herbal traditions. The teachings will come in the form presentations, story telling and experiential practice.


What is Regenerative Herbalism and why is it different from other forms of herbalism? Spring is the time of new beginnings and the life force of the planet is emerging clean and new.


This spring we will focus on skin care and detoxing.


This series has limited enrollment so enroll soon!


Stay tuned for some of my favorite medicinal plants!

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