Intimate Herbalism: Plants as a gateway for connection and intimacy
Playing with healing herbs can teach you new ways to interact with your body, with yourself, with others, and with the earth and its more-than-human species. It’s a slow, deep process that unfolds over time. For herbalists and plant lovers, the medicine of plants is multifaceted—and it includes connection and intimacy.
In these last few years, it’s become clear to many folks that the solution to many of our ills is connection. This includes connection with kin, connection with friends, family, and lovers, and connection with the land. From a body-based perspective, connection with self leads to body literacy and a more intimate understanding of your body’s needs and its cycles. Intimacy, on the other hand, provides you with a relational context that offers nourishment and nurturance.
Both connection and intimacy are core elements of sexual and reproductive wellness. Medicinal herbs support your capacity for connection and intimacy by teaching you about interconnectedness and relationship-building through joyful plant-human interaction, in lush gardens as well as in the wild—and in cozy, warm kitchens and homes and community spaces.
Plant medicine as a gateway for connection
Connection and interdependence is well demonstrated by healing plants both in their natural habitat—think of companion planting or the mycorrhizal networks that connect individual plants together!—and in the way they interact with your body and mind when you ingest them. They teach us that nothing exists in isolation and that everything is connected.
This is an important lesson to keep in mind when dealing with health imbalances, especially those that affect the sexual and reproductive system, hormonal cycles, and fertility.
Medicinal plants teach us about connection when they display synergy together—like blending oat straw with uva-ursi to increase the latter’s benefits for urinary health, or when they display synergy with even other substances, such as blue cohosh increasing the effectiveness of ovulatory stimulants.
And then there’s also the synergy that takes place between you and the plant as you work with it, and as it slowly changes you in some ways—be it through heightened vitality or the relief of a specific symptom, or even the way that certain herbs appeal to you more than others.
Plant medicine and your capacity for intimacy
Building relationship with healing herbs takes time and ongoing care, much like intimacy with self and people. Getting to know a plant intimately over the seasons and over the years can fill your heart in a way that’s similar to finding a new friend or lover.
In this era of over-consumption, it can be tempting to ingest many herbs without going deep with any one herb in particular. But there’s something to be gained in going deeper. This is especially useful when you’re wanting to address the root cause of a health imbalance with herbs, like low sperm count or pelvic pain.
Building your capacity for intimacy through herbal medicine can take the form of focusing on a single herb for a definite period, be it one week, two months, or even one year.
Intimate herbalism blends together the practice of herbal medicine with body literacy, cycles, fertility, community care, and relationship with the more-than-human world. Beneficial herbs in intimate herbalism include nervines (milky oats, passionflower), adaptogens (ashwagandha, reishi, maca), liver tonics (dandelion, schisandra), lymphatics (cleavers, calendula), and a few more herbs and medicinal mushrooms that support sexual and reproductive wellness through varied channels. This also includes circulatory stimulants (cacao, rosemary) as well as aphrodisiacs like damiana.
The practice of intimate herbalism rests on a foundation of connection, intimacy, and community care through herbs. This includes the regenerative growing of herbs and sourcing of herbs, as well as a focus on herbal preparations that are slow, yummy, and pleasure-forward. This could be long, sensual herbal baths, or nut mylks blended with adaptogenic herbal powders, or soft, sweet and gooey medicinal mushroom marshmallows.
Intimate herbalism invites you to slow down and savor, to interact with blooms and seaweed and fungi and soil, and to pay attention to how the remedies are shifting how your body feels and what it wants. At its core, it’s an invitation to welcome more connection and intimacy in your life through the special magic of plants.
Check out Marie White’s workshop at PRC on Intimate Herbalism.