Ever since @herbsandloreapothecary posted last week about herbal self-study I have been reflecting on how I came to love and use herbs. When I was little our neighbor, Mrs. H, had an amazing perennial garden centered around a bicentennial tree. I developed a love for forget-me-nots, Virginia bluebells, and hosta from her. From my parents came a love of honeysuckles, pussy willows, hydrangeas, azaleas, and tomatoes. Developing a garden for birds, squirrels, rabbits, bees, hummingbirds, and other animal friends was always central to a garden’s magic.
But herbs came to me on their own. My entry herb was rosemary. I was enticed by the smell, the essential oil, all its uses, and the lore. My wedding bouquet was even red roses and rosemary. Once I discovered books about herbs, the love was sealed.
First, I found The Potted Herb by Abbie Zabar. The second was a Christmas 1994 present from my parents – The Encyclopedia of Herbs, Spices, and Flavorings: A Cook’s Compendium by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz. And, that was all it took.
I discovered ways to use rosemary in cooking, cleaning, body lotions, and so much more. Over the years new herbs have entered my life. And, so have new books such as Make Your Place by Raleigh Briggs. With each new herb I began to understand it and how to integrate it into my life.
What I have realized is that I only know one side of herbs, their energetic side. I’ve never really taken the time to stop and truly study them. To get to know them in a deep and rich way. To look closely at their structure – their petals, leaves, stems, roots, seeds, etc. To see their parts individually as well as part of a collective. To be able to distinguish them at a family level. To look with intention to understand.
I also believe it is important to continuously learn. Primarily because it is fun but also to keep my brain strong and young. Harvard Medical School, 12 ways to keep your brain young, (16 January 2018) suggests that challenging your brain with mental exercise stimulates new connections between nerve cells and builds up your brain.
Just like I exercise to keep my body healthy, strong, and fit, now it’s time to focus on exercising my brain. I am embarking on an herbal self-study and making it a priority just like physical fitness. Daily focus every day. My intention is to learn more about these herbs that I love. To learn all of their sides and develop a deep and rich understanding of them.
For the full Harvard Medical School article: visit Harvard Health Publishing.