Plants have an amazing way about them. Some calm, some nourish, and others are alive with fighting energy. I think of these as our warrior plants, particularly sharing antimicrobial actions.
In the Self-Heal School pre-clinic, we get to know an herbal ally in depth each month: Growing the plant, making and tasting different preparations, reading historically and scientifically, meditating with it, and so on. This is a perfect way to connect with the herbs on a deeper level, and I’ve been able to do that with some warrior plants too.
Here are just a few of my favorites. They are all antimicrobial and warming in nature.
Angelica Angelica archangelica
Angelica has been historically valued for its angelic protection. Legend says an Archangel revealed angelica’s healing properties for the plague in a monk’s dream. It’s also a traditional remedy of Northern Europe and significant to the Sami of the Far North.
We use its roots as a warming, stimulating tonic. It helps warm a stiff, weakened body, offering antimicrobial and digestive support among other benefits (not for use during pregnancy). I have angelica in my garden, and its leaves look like little mittens you could slip on your hands to keep them warm.
Eucalyptus Eucalyptus globulus
Eucalyptus is one of the most powerful natural antiseptics. While there are a number of species, the leaves and essential oil (EO) of species like the globulus are commonly used in medicinal herbalism.
The leaves have traditionally been used in tea to support the respiratory system and topically to treat wounds and other ailments. One of the best ways to use the EO is in diffusers and vaporizers, inhaling it with steam. Whenever I smell eucalyptus I’m reminded of Vicks VapoRub (about 1 % eucalyptus oil), which I’d use as a kid when I was congested. Just smelling the oil has an opening, clearing action (EO is not recommended for younger children).
I love walking through eucalyptus tree groves for mind clearing too!
Juniper Juniperus communis L.
The Juniper is a fairy tale tree; it’s the title and subject of a 1812 story by the Brothers Grimm.
We use the dried berry to support urinary function, digestion, and for antimicrobial benefits. Its diuretic action creates a kind of flushing-out for inflammations of the genitourinary tract (not recommended for those with kidney disease, pregnant, nor for long term use).
When diffusing the EO of juniper, you can imagine being in a woody forest. One of the earliest incense of Mediterranean witches, juniper is also hung at the door or carried to protect against evil. Juniper is also used as a flavoring in gin.
Yerba mansa Anemopsis californica
Yerba mansa is a beautiful flowering plant native to the Pacific West of North America. Its root is used in herbal preparations to warm the body, supporting the respiratory system including dispeling mucus and easing throat problems, helping digestion, and offering antimicrobial benefits. It's known as bear root or apache beads and has a rich history of traditional use by Native Americans.
This is a favorite to blend in formulas, especially with other respiratory support herbs as the weather cools!
Getting to know herbal allies is a wonderful way to create your own personal connection to nature. Remember safety considerations for any herb you might try!
In peace, Sally
Opening photo by Dusan Sarac. Other photos: Angelica in my garden and dried juniper berries.