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An Exploration of Root Medicine

When you lose all sense of self,

The bonds of a thousand chains will vanish,

Lose yourself completely, 

Return to the root of the root

of your own soul. 

~Rumi

 

We invite you to join us this month in exploring root medicine. We look to explore the roots of our own soul, the foundation from which we are built, but also in exploring the root medicine that is synonymous with this time in the wheel of the year. 

The “root” is both physical and metaphorical, and it is from which we begin our journey of healing, and to which we return. The root grounds us, connects us with that which came before us. It is our literal tie to the earth from which we have come and continue to walk upon, and is our lifeline to the natural world. 

The root is also that which we must identify any source of dis-ease, for ailments of the physical and emotional body do not happen in a silo, but instead are very much connected. In order to ensure true healing, we must seek out the original source from which cascading symptoms descend. It is truly that simple. 

It is also the root that we must deeply nourish and give intentional attention to. Similar to a tree that cannot grow tall and withstand storms without a strong root system, we too must tend to our own foundation. It is for this reason that herbalism always begins with green, deeply nourishing plants that fill us with the vitamins and minerals we need to thrive. In our natural world, we are also reminded each year to return to our root, and to take the time to infuse our roots with loving self care.

It is in the autumn where we can observe the plants shift their energy away from external production (production of buds, leaves, and fruit), and intentionally allow their energy to flow back into their root. They allow themselves a period of rest, connecting closely back to the soil of the earth, which allows them to again grow strong yet again with the renewing energy of the spring. 

 

Nourishment of the Root

Holistic healing occurs through the modality of understanding the ways in which the mind, body, and spirit all are interconnected and impact each other. Our root can be thought of as the source from which our life force stems. When we keep our root healthy, we feel more of a sense of balance. We feel grounded and less chaotic, our minds are quieter, and we are not as susceptible to disease, especially that which is caused by external factors beyond our control. 

In today’s culture, we often are lacking physical nourishment. We often live a hurried lifestyle, rushing or even skipping meals, or opting for fast-food or processed foods that are lacking in the vitamins and minerals our bodies need. Additionally, we may experience lifestyles that contribute to a gap in physical nourishment, such as one where we spend most of the day sedentary, or on the other hand, are perhaps consistently running to the next meeting.

Herbs, particularly wild green weeds and roots (which we will delve into deeper below), can be incredibly supportive allies to help bring physical nourishment back into our bodies. And this can be done in a way that is not overly complex – simply drinking overnight herbal infusions (or tea that you allow to steep overnight) of green, “weedy” nourishing herbs such as nettle or oat straw, or nourishing roots such as burdock or dandelion, throughout our day can help flood our body (and subsequently our physical root), with the vitamins and minerals it craves. 

 

Photo by Omar Ram on Unsplash

“Remember the body

Of your community

Breath in the people

Who sewed you whole 

It is you who became yourself

But those before you 

Are a part of your fabric”

~ Honor the roots – Rupi Kaur 

Additionally, as Nature turns inward with the falling leaves of autumn, it is also a time to not only deeply nourish our root, but to be introspective about our roots as well. 

Like the networks of aspen trees, our roots can often be intricately intertwined. This can be familial roots, as well as roots that extend into our community and the land upon which we live. 

When we explore the concept of nourishing our roots, we might also examine how nourishing the network of roots can also return back to us. This may come in the form of exploring our role in the foundation and fabric of our community – how might we continue to infuse love and intention into the community that supports us? Where might we be able to extend the gifts or talents we have been given to help strengthen our bonds among neighbors? What roots may benefit from additional care and support that may not be offered equally, and how might we use our own forms of abundance to uplift and center people experiencing this in our community so that we may all thrive together? 

Photo by John Peters on Unsplash

Additionally, our roots may be on our mind as we enter the holiday season. This time of year often comes with a lot of joy – we reflect with nostalgia on old memories, and feel the excitement of creating new ones. As we participate in these moments, how might we reflect on where nourishment of our root has shaped who we are? 

We also recognize, with deep love, that the holidays may also bring up the need for a different type of root nourishment. Perhaps these events bring an opposite experience, and bring up feelings of anxiety or strain. If this is resonate, firstly, take a deep breath (breath is a beautiful form of root nourishment and revitalization of the chi in our bodies!) and remember that there are tools at your disposal for spiritual and emotional support, including those of plant allies.

It is important to note that in this situation, your attention and intentional energy may be better directed toward nourishing your root in the form of self care, allowing yourself grace, and calling upon the support of your extended network. 

Photo by AMAL BEN SAAD on Unsplash

 

Root Medicine 

As the colors change, and the leaves begin to fall, the autumn is a time in which it is prime to harvest and work with root medicine. 

As we explored in our Energetics of Autumn post, the energy of this time moves inward, and downward. In Nature, we observe this in the way that plants direct their energy away from external growth, start to turn brown, and die away. While it may seem as thought the plant has completely succumbed to death, for perennial plants, this is not at all the case. Instead, the plant infuses its root with all of its life force, and the roots grow large and take up more space in the ground. The medicine of the plant moves away from the leaves and flowers and is sequestered in the root, and harvesting these in the autumn when they are the largest and most full ensures peak potency of the root’s medicinal properties. 

 

So why work with herbal roots? 

In addition to being incredibly nourishing to our physical bodies, we can work with herbal roots for the energetic healing they offer as well. When we work with the roots, whether in teas, tinctures, or as food, we are also infused with incredibly grounding energy. Herbal roots help to calm an overactive mind, and shift us away from the external, fast-paced, and hyper-productive energy of the preceding summer months. Herbal roots are incredible supports for helping our mind and bodies lean into the quiet, darker months that lie ahead of us, helping us to tap into creativity, and reminding us of our own empowerment as our own healers of ourselves. 

Working with roots, especially in the autumn, also help us align with the concept of letting go. Typically, when we dig up a root, offering deep gratitude as we do so, we recognize that this will be the end of the life of this particular plant, physically speaking. However, by consuming the root, or making medicine of it, the life cycle of the plant lives on as we allow it to nourish us, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In autumn we explore the concept of death being sacred, and not something to be feared. Additionally it does not mean the end, but perhaps the beginning. Working with roots can help us explore this cycle in our journey, and how we might cut back that which no longer serves us, which in turn allows us to progress forward with more strength and clarity. 

 

Forms of root medicine that you may want to start your journey with include such herbs as : 

Each of these have medicines to offer in multiple forms – this may be in the form of a tea (though note that some herbal roots may work better as a decoction versus a simple herbal infusion), tincture, or even in herbal syrups. We encourage you to explore these options, and find joy in how they bring you nourishment! 

Eating in Season

Photo by Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu on Unsplash

The fall and winter are traditionally the times of year when root plants are more abundant, they are hearty, they store for longer, and are able to withstand the changing temperatures. They also help us root down and ground into our bodies when we eat them offering yet another way for us to tap into the essences of the root this time of year.

One of our favorite ways for doing this, in addition to eating seasonally available foods like apples, carrots, potatoes, and others, is to begin adding fire cider to our daily regime. This spicy tonic is great for both the digestion and the immune system and includes many medicinal root plants such as horseradish, garlic, onions, and ginger. You can use in your soups and stews, are take it the way we prefer, diluted into a small amount of water and drank quickly like a shot.

Thank you for getting your hands dirty with us as we explore what lies beneath the soil in this month’s post. We extend deep gratitude to you all, dear readers, and thank you all for being part of our network of roots. It is because of you all that we stand tall!