04 October, 2012

Plant Medicine and Food Allergies

As I discussed in my previous blog entry, I am learning about creating healing relationships with plants, and increasing plant medicine in my life (and my clients' lives).

I recently discussed the concept of Food Allergies with Howard Charing, during one of his lectures, and he gave a little bit of his philosophy on GMOs and the folly of messing around with plants and ecosystems. As that is a rather big topic to cover in just one blog entry, I will save it for a future article. However, he did highlight an interesting idea regarding food allergies: Howard stated that both genetic disorders (like Celiac Disease) and acquired food allergies point to a possible lesson from the specific plant.

"What is that plant trying to teach you? Why is it such a difficult lesson to learn? What function does that plant have in your life? What are you ignoring? Why are you afraid of working with that plant?"

Whoa! Tough medicine indeed!

A quick Google search shows that food allergies are everywhere, and are increasing at an exponential rate (not accounted for by population growth and better testing in labs). People can be born with food allergies, or become allergic to specific foods at a later time (sometimes after puberty, or a physical trauma, such as a car accident, pregnancy, etc.). In fact, 17 of the top 20 food allergens are plants!

What does this say about humanity's interaction with the Plant World? Sadly, not very good things (search for Monsanto, GMOs, pesticides, "The Happening" movie, etc.)...

To keep this light, and focused on self-healing, I decided to think about three plants that I interact with on a daily basis, and who give powerful medicine to the American public: coffee, tea, and wheat.

How many times have you heard, "Coffee is too strong for my stomach, but I need it anway!" or "I'm not complete without my iced coffee/tea in the morning!" or even "Pizza is my comfort food!"...? We've all said or heard something similar to this, especially if we grew up in the States. The magic surrounding these plants can lift someone out of a funk, or energize, or even create community among strangers (Starbucks, anyone?).

  1. Coffee: Ahh, the smell of freshly roasting coffee can stimulate the senses of just about anyone, whether you like the taste or not! I can think of a million different memes surrounding the necessity and evils of coffee, and most of my friends post them to Facebook daily :) America has created a very large and very specific type of "magic" around the abilities of coffee, and this "thought-form"* is unlike any other culture's. But what about the shamanic plant medicine of Coffee? What is the nature of the relationship it has with humans? What about your own relationship with coffee?
  2. Tea: Camellia Sinensis- the Latin name for one of my favorite plant medicines. This plant has been held sacred for years, in numerous cultures, and contains all four elements (air = steam, fire = heat, water = brew, earth = leaves). It takes time, patience, and focus to brew a perfect cup of tea, which are all lessons in and of themselves. However, the previous lessons are lost when the tea becomes over-sugared and over-processed, and just like another soft drink at McDonald's.
  3. Wheat: Comfort. That is the first word I think of, when I think of the smell of freshly baked bread, and in the States, almost all of our stereotypical "comfort foods" are made with wheat flour. But what happens to that loving comfort medicine when the wheat flour is over-modified, over-glutinous, and fried? How can the medicine hope to heal us then?
There are countless debates and worries about the genetic modification of food, and the chemical changes that occur during certain types of cooking, and I've always looked at those from a health perspective. But what about shamanically?

If a plant is offering a part of itself in relationship with humans, then that is the most perfect gift of healing. It can be difficult for the healing to take place if the plant has been modified or changed in a drastic way...

What plants are healing to you? And what plants do you have difficulty with? If you are learning how to interact with the world in a more shamanic way, then why not ask the plant itself?

*Though-form- This is a type of "created archetype" that is shared by a community, culture, age group, etc. The archetype gathers enough symbolism that eventually, it's presence/energy becomes part of the common knowledge of a society.

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