There is a special place I’ve spent time at in Downeast Maine for many years. When I first arrived on the scene many moons ago, I noticed the pretty flowers and lush foliage. That was the extent of my introduction to plant beings in the vicinity at that time. For a detail-oriented lover of nature, it was enlightening in looking back at how much I missed, and realizing how my true nature as a child was much more connected. Fast forward to after Herbalism studies began, and visiting this coastal refuge north of Acadia was an entirely new experience. It was if sight was bestowed after a lifetime of blindness, because this time around, I actually saw for the first time these gracious plants were not “weeds.” I was within reach of herbal medicine that I could safely harvest and use at my discretion, without any shipping charges!
They say that whatever we are in need of, nature provides, particularly in plant medicine. My recent sabbatical at this family abode proved not just a welcome experience, but a life-changing one. I had set the intention for this immersive creative and herbalism experience as just that. Immediately upon arrival I discovered what I instinctively knew was going to be the case. There was an abundance of herbs surrounding the land of this historic home. Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) and Apple Mint (Mentha suaveolens) were on the property, both within 20 to 30 feet from the kitchen door. They had always been there all my many visits before. There was also Red Clover, Comfrey, Burdock, Evening Primrose, Yarrow, Tansy, Hemp Nettle, Horsetail, likely Meadowsweet and several other not-yet identified plant beings. Much was there to be admired, not necessarily to forage, harvest, or craft herbal remedies with.
Goldenrod was the first plant I identified. I brought my Peterson’s Eastern/Central States field guide with me and began looking in the yellow flower section of the book. It didn’t take long to confirm it was Canada Goldenrod. I placed my plant’s image on some plant ID sites for good measure. It felt like my child’s first school portrait, with many other parents ooh-ing and ahh-ing at my adorable little one. Upon confirming, and because of its abundance in number, I harvested a small percentage of the yellow wonders, leaving plenty behind for the bees, and a very large, agitated hornet. I felt a direct stewardship for wildcrafting, for the plants, as well as the many pollinators who benefit from them.
Laying the Goldenrod on a large, paper-covered work table, I took pause. Never before had I experienced such a reverence for a plant I, along with others, was to consume. It was if the golden beings were lying in repose. I offered a prayer of gratitude to God, then honored my plant friends for their priceless gift.
Studying Goldenrod’s many qualities, I was inspired to separate the leaves from the flowers, and then again the larger, lower leaves, from the smaller, upper leaves of the plant. It was instinctive. Nobody taught me to separate them. The idea to separate these parts may very well be contrary to many schools of thought, such as the casual ease of the Simplers Method in Herbalism preparations; however, I felt I needed options in this instance. The thought entered my mind and I acted upon it. It was an unspoken communication, between me, my new plant allies, and the walls of the circa 1850 barn we were occupying.
There is a mindfulness in every aspect of Herbalism. From grinding the herbs in a suribachi, or mortar and pestle; to making salve with various herbs and beeswax; to infusing the herbs in extra virgin olive oil on a sunny windowsill. Each time, time is to be honored. Nature’s simplicity is to be honored as well.
When I went to separate by hand, the leaves and the flowers from the stem, Goldenrod became my teacher, yet again. I just knew that the leaves would slide easily off the stem if I pulled downward. I had never touched the plant before, not even noticing the cheerful beauty previously, yet I knew that if I took my fingertips and pulled along the tiny stems of the flowers that every bud would slide right off. Better than any culinary gadget ever made, this plant showed what Divine Design truly is.
When the moon doesn’t wax or wane, and the sun doesn’t disappear below the horizon, and they each align in the right place, together, at the right time, we have the making of a stellar event. Here on earth, in America, we had a front row seat to the Great American Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017.
I remember where I was, who I was with, and exactly what I was doing during the midnight chime on the Millennium of 2000. For this other rare moment, I will also never forget, as I spent it with my plant friends, awakened. Just me, the moon, the sun, sky, and a posse of herbal peeps. In between looking through my camera phone lens to obscure harmful rays, I harvested some Apple Mint (Mentha suaveolens) from another nearby location. I had previously researched the cooling herb and had multiple plant identification discussions on several forums online. I had found myself a mint that calms and soothes…instantly. What an impression!
In Meditation and the Self-healing Arts we learn how things we’re adverse to usually are in our sphere to teach us, by bringing to our attention what we need to work on to self-heal. I was not necessarily adverse, but uninitiated, to all forms of real mint in the medicinal sense.
As a child, whenever I chewed mint gum on road trips I’d get a headache coupled with nausea. I came to equate mint with discomfort. What I didn’t understand was that the gum I was chewing was not mint in a natural state by any stretch of the imagination. This gentle mint, in its raw form, was exactly what I needed, even before I knew it myself.
During the eclipse, I gently selected some of the Apple Mint plants and placed them aside gently for safekeeping until the eclipse was over, momentarily, and we could gather together in the barn. The barn, a place of centuries of history, became our classroom, our sanctuary, in every sense of the word. From its plank flooring to its lofty, hand-hewn beams, it became a place of unity and oneness, the kind of spiritual magnificence that partners nicely with a cosmic event such as an eclipse.
Knowing it was a great component of a medicinal tea, I gleaned a few fresh Apple Mint leaves and promptly added them to water to infuse, or steep. It wasn’t long before that knowing was forefront again, as nature does indeed nurture. Apple Mint as a tea offered me, with my body constitution, a welcome respite, as well as providing a sense-sational olfactory experience.
Just me, the moon and the sun, and the wisdom of plants made for fast friends. It was a harvest moment only eclipsed by my profound joy, in having rediscovered my true nature as a wildcrafter and herbalist.
Disclaimer: The author is not a medical professional, nutritionist or dietician. Content on this website is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for medical treatment or diagnosis and is not monitored or evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration/FDA. Consult your health care provider if you are experiencing any symptoms and before using any herbal product. Whenever wildcrafting or foraging in the wild for herbs, be accompanied by an expert and always confirm plant identity with absolute certainty before using or consuming them. Any application of the material provided is at the reader’s discretion and is his or her sole responsibility.
The heart of Botaniscape™ and budding Herbalist/Wildcrafter, Lori McClellan sees the Art of Herbalism as her lifelong connection to Nature and wonder manifested most fully—another exciting medium and source of abundant joy. A Journalist, Author, Artist and Poet, creating as Loretta Boyer McClellan, her works as a writer of fiction, nonfiction and poetry; conscious PR, brand, graphic design, and communications; and as an Arts instructor, journalist and artist, “sized the canvas,” so to speak, for a fruitful life of expression, connection and inspiration. Author of The Nature of BEing: A Healing Journey, The Misthaven of Maine Series, and Dodging Raindrops: Poems and Prose of Beauty, Peace and Healing, Lori creates from a place of Oneness. Writing, meditating, painting, and her relationship with Nature and all beings, most tangibly through Herbalism, are her connection to the Infinite.