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  • Whitney Joy Dunlap

My View From the Weeds: Herbalism, 'Tis a Gift to Be Simple, 'Tis a Gift to Be Free

This post was originally published in HWBCO's monthly column, My View from the Weeds, for the Columbus Free Press, December 2019 Issue

The holidays are filled with the spirit of giving, often with the intention of bringing joy to loved ones. The aroma of cinnamon, clove and holiday spices are fragrant reminders of the pivotal way that herbs have implanted themselves into human lives. One cannot experience traditional holiday festivities without finding elements of herbalism at play. Boughs of holly, pine, fir and rosemary are very common adornments used in decorating for the month of December, all of which can be used medicinally. In remembering that these tools have more to offer than ambience, it provides a window to see a bounty of gift opportunities for family, community and the self.

Some wonderful herbal gift ideas are teas/tisanes, essential oil infused bath salts, or healing salves. The multitude of gifts found within herbalism are not just about the item given. Looking beyond the surface, they can be a greater invitation to help people find healing, vitality, connection to surrounding life, and a newfound mindfulness of the body. When giving gifts with the intention of healing, doorways for connection are opened.

Plant medicine is a vehicle that promotes reconnection to the earth. Herbalism ‘tis a gift to be simple. A renewed awareness to the present moment and reconnection with the land is born from the roots of natural medicine. A powerful gift is available by simply pausing outside in the crisp air and exploring kinship to the earth surrounding.

Herbalism ‘tis a gift to be free. An opportunity to be free from the burden of pain, suffering and illness. In reaching for plants, each individual can find freedom from the “pieces & parts” healthcare model. Whole plant medicine works synergistically in the body and is about treating the whole individual not just the part of them that is ailing. One of the keystones of herbalism is that it is the “people’s medicine”. Cultures around the world have been using plants for these purposes long before western medicine was available. Growing herbs and making natural remedies is extremely affordable, in comparison to the cost of pharmaceuticals and medical treatments. The ability to be free is within reach using plants that are widely accessible to everyone.

Herbal medicine, in fact, ‘tis a gift that keeps on giving. Using herbs to nourish and promote healing within the body is empowering. Learning to listen to what the body needs and finding ways to create that response with plants is a gift in itself. Each loved one has a unique set of health challenges; listening to what they need to find relief within their own body is a valuable conversation, and one that shows a different level of care than a traditional gift from Walmart. There is something deeply fulfilling about sharing a gift that will benefit someone’s personal growth and healing.

Interested in making herbal gifts for this holiday, but don’t know where to start? At the beginning of the month on December 7th, Sassafras Ohio (a non-profit organization devoted to preserving holistic health and botanical medicine) is hosting a holiday herbal gift making workshop. To register visit https://www.sassafrasohio.org/events-1/holiday-herbal-gift-making

Want to give the gift of herbalism back to the community? One of the central missions of the Herbalists Without Borders, Central Ohio chapter (HWBCO) is to share holistic healing with underserved communities. Over the past few months, the organization has been collecting needed self-care items to assemble blessing bags for those in need. Local businesses and individuals donated items such as socks, toothbrushes, bars of soap and feminine hygiene products. Join other volunteers this month in putting together care packages at the next chapter meeting on Sunday, December 22nd. The blessing bags will be distributed at Food Not Bombs events, local homeless shelters and community resource centers.  

By plugging into HWBCO, new volunteers can bring food and healthcare justice to Columbus residents, across income levels. To learn more visit www.hwbco.org/. With steady, directed community action and impassioned volunteers, herbalism is a gift that can be shared throughout the year with those who need it.

Herbalists Without Borders - Chapter Meeting and Creating Blessing Bags Sunday, December 22nd 5:00 PM – 06:30 PM 757 Garden Rd, Columbus, OH 43214, USA

Please RSVP here:https://www.hwbco.org/events/blessing-bags-chapter-meeting

Whitney Joy Dunlap is a budding herbalist, plant enthusiast, green activist and freelance artist, living in Columbus, Ohio. Her latest passion is plant identification and exploring edible and medicinal weeds. View her botanical blog on these topics at www.theplanetarygypsy.com. Follow her on Instagram @planetarygypsy or email her at theplanetarygypsy@gmail.com.

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We are the Central Ohio chapter of the international non-profit, Herbalists Without Borders. We work to make people's medicine (herbalism) and food justice accessible to all. 

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