by Cai Dodds
In this piece I write about my experience with plant medicine this year and defining my relationship with them.
"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” - Hippocrates
In my free time I've been trying to implement foraging into my life regularly. Both me, fellow going local going green team mate Tim and another house mate are doing a course on wild medicine together and try to forage together. From reading Intuitive Herbalism Tim suggested that I was getting intuitive relationships with plants from foraging processing and using these plants for medicine. I thought about this and said,
I would like to get to know somebody before asking them for help, why should it be different for plants?
This has been interesting for me while doing my course, because we are trying medicine during the course to establish their use, but I'm struggling with this during class time because it is new plants that I'm working with, so new relationships I need to establish first.
I'm an advocate for plant medicine, not only because I think the pharmaceutical industry has played a huge part in environmental problems, but because I believe plants have something to teach us.
I chat for many hours about some deeply passionate topics, one of which is our lack of ancestral knowledge in Britain.
Where are the indigenous on this island?
Where are our elders to guide us in hard times?
From recent explorative discussions we hypothesised that the only surviving indigenous on our island are plants, they hold ancestral knowledge and they are our elders. This might sound crazy, but it is commonly recognised in cultures older than ours. There has been and still are people who use plants to guide them when facing ill health. They say plants have spirits which guide us. We have called some of these plants Entheogens.
Entheogen - a chemical substance used in a religious, shamanic or spiritual context that may be synthesised or obtained from natural species.
Last year I was reading an online magazine called Rewild yourself!, which is where I first came across the identifying of Entheogens, but for me my experience with them began before then, I had heard of "drugs" being used by mainly hippies or tribal people to hallucinate, but for me my association with altered states had been around addiction, violence and crime. After my unfortunate loss of my mum six years ago from heroin, I was sure I didn't want to take drugs. For two years I did not smoke, drink alcohol or take any "drugs", I even stopped drinking caffeine.
It wasn't until a good friend of mine asked me to make some beer with him that I stopped my straight edge life. It was the relationship with the process of making the alcohol with my friend which helped me create a new association with drinking. It was our beer, we drunk it with friends and I had a lovely experience that was different to the drinking culture I previously knew, in bars and clubs or people living with addiction.
Since I had already brewed beer, when I came across kombucha, caffeine was next on my list of " drugs" I began to redefine. I decided to look into the health benefits and decided it was OK if I was making it. I've now tried making black and green tea kombucha, even redbush kombucha. I tried brewing it with herbal tea and honey which worked for a while but I need to do more experimenting. I recommend reading Sacred and herbal healing beers, which I should have a proper read of soon seeing there is so much fruit about and I want to make more local produce.
For me I felt like I had opened the door to a new way of relating to anything I put in my body when I began looking in a friends book Wild Fermentation and was amazed,
Last winter solstice was when I was reminded about respecting the use of these plants.
A few months before the solstice I had the opportunity to pick wild mushrooms, the kind that make you giggle and see funny things that most people usually don't see day to day. For the solstice I had been invited to a friends leaving party at a farm nearby, and I thought it would be a great time to eat the mushrooms I had harvested. Not really knowing how many to have I put a big handful in my mouth and off I rode to the party. After arriving somewhat early and feeling a bit bored I had a few drinks, and decided the mushrooms must have been too old to have any effect. I began to get the feeling I wasn't just a bit drunk when dancing. I could see Aztec like art and geometric shapes in the corner of my eyes and I knew I was entering an altered state - a euphoric state. A friend was playing his drum kit outside with a guitarist and I danced for ages, it felt like a trance. I felt the suffering of humanity and the planet shift from my shoulders. I felt like there was a new beginning happening and we where part of it.
I went to sit by the fire outside and looked up at the stars. The sky was clear but the stars were spinning. I looked down at the fire, seeing the beauty in the embers and flames. After some time I went for a wee in the bushes then vomited (which I think meant my body was ready to purge everything out). I went to find someone to look after me knowing I was feeling scared and needed some support. Friends offered me orange juice which I have since learnt helps reduce the effects of mushrooms. In the end I went to lay down in a friends van, the friend keeping me company until I had returned to a stable self. The next day I felt very tired but knew that was probably the most profound experience I have had and possibly ever will have.
In reflection on my experiences, I remind myself that I need to have respect with my relationships with myself, my environment, friends, the food I eat and the medicine I take.
Recently I've been writing a diary. I don't usually write a diary - this is homework given to me by my herbalist teachers that I'm doing my wild medicine course with. I started writing at the beginning of June after learning about aromatic plants and how they are used in medicine. Since then I have gathered a large bunch of Mugwart and hung it above my bed because this plant is known to aid people in their sleep while dreaming, helping us work through hidden emotions we have in our awake state. I have found that I can remember my dreams better now I have brought Mugwart into my room. I have made this plant an ally which guides me and I trust this plant like a friend.
Im dreaming for a future with plants.