If we are to work with wild plants for medicine, we must first study their external forms so we can learn to correctly identify them. Once a plant has been positively identified, it can be harvested and made into medicine. After we’ve made the medicine, we need to understand the medicinal activity of the plant so we can correctly administer it for the ailments we wish to heal.
I thought it might be useful for herbalists to have a list of name changes to medicinal plants that I learned as I was writing Pacific Northwest Medicinal Plants: Identify, Harvest, and Use 120 Wild Herbs for Health and Wellness. Below you will find a short writeup on Plant Names excerpted from my book followed by a list of name changes and family reordering as well as some tips to pronouncing latin names.
Yarrow, the thousand-leaved herb of Achilles, you are an arrow of love that flies straight to my heart, a knife that cuts to the bone, and a sword of light that dispels illusion from my consciousness. Yarrow, pare away all excess and unnecessary cruft, bring me to a place of centering where the lies of my lower self will have no hold or sway. Help me rise above darkness to center and align with the clear light of universal consciousness.
Imagine you are walking through the forest as various aromas ride upon the damp air. The heavy smell of the wet, fecund earth rises to your nostrils, and cutting through all of this, you perceive the sweet, resinous smell of black cottonwood buds. Their pleasant odor brings a smile to your face. The buds are swelling—spring is on its way!
If one believes that there is an underlying force or energy that gives shape and form to the universe, it is easy to see that there would be correlations between things that have been shaped by similar permutations of this universal force. This force creates patterns that are found throughout nature in forms that include the Golden Ratio, the Golden Rectangle, Fibonacci Sequence patterns, Overbeck Jets, and Toroids.
Merging with the Plant—There are certain challenges inherent in this work. At some point, we will all come up against that part of ourselves that questions the reality of our own experience, but in order to do this work we must accept that there are many layers to reality other than that which can be measured and experienced with the senses on which we normally rely. We must also come to terms with the fact that intelligence exists outside of the human psyche.
The forest is a great repository of wisdom that remains alive and intact. It is here in the wild places that we can remember how to live in harmony with each other, the planet, and ourselves. The “teachings” of the forest don’t always come in words but alter us on an energetic level and allow us to receive the imprint of life that is our birthright as children of this creation. Here we can remember who we are and remember our connection to the center and source of all being. From this place and the journey that leads to and from it, we can birth and nurture the gifts that we have been entrusted to share with the world.
I am sitting in a room with a male forest being. He is brown with strips of bark hanging from his clothes. He looks at me with a glimmer in his eye, "You know Cascara is good for stubborn blockages."
"Yes, I know"
"No, I mean stubborn blockages." As he emphasizes "blockages" I understand that he means mental, spiritual, and emotional blockages.
A familiar cough that comes when my heart unable to receive arising as I put first drops in my mouth; the taste, a wave of bitterness with white-capped apple skin sweetness. The medicine washes down through my chest smoothly pushing cough aside, dissipating and erasing its energy. Memories of a family, friends of my family, with two boys younger than me who tortured animals and a father who had to leave because he was abusive.