The Regenerative Power of Native Plants

Bioregional herbalism originates from the concept that a truly wholistic style of regenerative medicine needs to draw on accessible natural resources within an individual’s local area.

This means that the herbs you take do not make extra stress of resources in terms of manufacture and transportation. Many traditional herbal educators and practitioners believe that any health imbalance is best treated within the same environment where the illness originated.

Bioregional herbalism is ecological herbalism at its core. I consider this an essential element in supporting the paradigm shift towards a regenerative future.

This is a novel notion since we are used to seeing national and even international studies recommending a specific herb as the cure-all for a specific disease, even if that herb grows best only in a narrow corner of the globe. Bioregional herbalism encourages people to learn which herbal healing resources grow naturally in their specific area and to draw on those resources.

One example of this, if you had a fungal infection popular herbalism you may decide to reach for Tea Tree Oil that comes from Australia. What resources does it take to bottle that herb and transport it to me? Now wisdom tells us that the people who lived on this continent had all the medicines they needed, so that leads me to look for an antifungal herb in my backyard. Consider Red Cedar ‘Thuja plicata’ and make a strong infusion, a fresh extract or oil with minimal impact on the planet.

Plant medicines vary by region, but the ethical core principle remains the same. Regeneration begins at home, growing from the identical rich soil we spring from. Using herbs from close to home is a tradition honoured by curanderas and vegetalistas, ancient shamans and modern medicine women. Traditional herbalists have long known that the medicine we need the most is the ones that grow very near to us.

Know your Bioregion

We all know which city, county and country we live in, but many of us are disconnected from a true sense of place, lacking any concept of the bioregion in which we live. We need to remind ourselves that the government does not define bioregions. Each bioregion is a specific life zone defined by its watershed and indicator species, and by their relationships to each other. A bioregion may be defined by its wildflowers and the soil life, Bioregions are created and transformed by the creative transformative power of the elements. Bioregions flow along the lines of rivers and stream, land formations, migration routes and weather patterns.

Bioregional herbalism accepts you to intermingle with your ecosystem in a more meaningful way as well as safeguard natural resources. As herbal practices continue to gain popularity, many manufacturing companies are mass-producing herbal preparations without sensitivity to the impact of harvesting large numbers of plants from one area. The herbal supplements available at mainstream retailers like Wal-Mart are more likely to be produced without sensitivity to whether a plant species in a specific area is stressed from a year of too little rain. They may harvest wild plants without consideration as to whether the stand of plants will be able to re-seed for another year. One example of this, the demand for echinacea has already wiped out many wild habitats of this plant.

Bioregional Herbalism: Tapping to the Wild Intelligence of Nature

Herbalism has the potential to help people – but not if we are cutting down the rainforest for remedies and shipping exotic “herb-flavour-of-the-month-as-seen-on-TV” using fossil fuels from across the planet.

The beauty of plants is that countless species plants have similar medical actions in the body. Rather than relying on a tropical herb that indigenous people rely upon in South America, we have an herb growing in the cracks of the sidewalk here that often does the same thing.

Bioregional herbalism is all about – finding your medicine and foods close to home, either by cultivating it or ethically wildcrafting it. Ethics of foraging, different forms of cultivation, and what we actually need (and how it grows right here). Be a medicinal locavore, too!

Is There Such a Thing as Plant Intelligence

The automatic assumption that plants are victims incapable of learning how to cope with new conditions, is an insult and runs contrary to the new evidence. 

The “new botany” is making similar claims about plant intelligence that plants are capable of solving problems and learning from past experiences. 

Consider what plants can do that a deer can’t? They can regenerate when 90 percent of their bodies have been eaten away. They can have sex at long distances and communicate with approximately 20 more senses than an animal has. Those are very pragmatic arguments. Personally I believe they’re valuable just because they’re there. We tend to judge plants not as autonomous organisms but in terms of what they can do for us. But they’re astonishing in their own right and deserve to be given the same ethical status as other creatures.

Wild Intelligence of Plants

When we forage from the land, ingesting and integrating plants and creating plant medicines picked right from the Earth, we become our landscape on the cellular level. The same cells that are vibrating with the plant’s life force now become integrated into the core essence of our body on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. The plant’s wisdom embodies us physically as its molecules transform into the matrix of our cells, blood, and muscles. Emotionally we aligned with the clarity and joy of being alive. Spiritually our receptivity opens to the miracle of life unfolding, in the present moment. This energy is channelled through us from the plant’s life-giving nature.  Wild native plants can support us to experience interbeingness even amidst the pressure and pace of an industrial growth agenda, we have lost our instinctual knowing and a deep sense of interconnection – and with this, our sense of ‘place’ and purpose. The brilliant connectedness of the plant acts through us in all of our thought, decisions and actions. Our daily relationships are built in large part by the foundation of what we are ingesting. When we eat from the Earth directly, we gain the intelligence of nature that enters our bodies in a pure and whole state.  Every animal on planet Earth consumes locally-grown organic foods and medicines, wild and fresh foods and medicines unaltered by heat or refinements the majority of wild animals are living in accordance with nature’s cycles experience and optimal state of health and well-being through their lifetime.

Working to Preserve Our Wild, Local and Native Species (United Plant Savers UpS)

If you desire to become a more responsible participant in maintaining the environment and in shaping your own health, try to locate a herbal educator, wildcrafter and/or herbal grower in your area. Many of these herbal experts also offer classes, teaching students about how to recognize and work with the plants within their bioregion. For the benefit of the plant communities, wild animals, harvesters, farmers, consumers, manufacturers, retailers and practitioners, we offer this list of wild medicinal plants that we feel are currently most sensitive to the impact of human activities. The intent of UpS is to assure the increasing abundance of the medicinal plants, which are currently in decline due to expanding popularity and shrinking habitat and range. UpS is not asking for a moratorium on the use of these herbs. Rather, we are initiating programs designed to preserve these important wild medicinal plants.

“At-Risk” List

  • American Ginseng – Panax quinquefolius

  • Bloodroot – Sanguinaria canadensis

  • Black Cohosh – Actaea racemosa L.
  • Blue Cohosh – Caulophyllum thalictroides
  • Echinacea – Echinacea spp.
  • Eyebright – Euphrasia spp.
  • False Unicorn Root – Chamaelirium luteum
  • Goldenseal – Hydrastis Canadensis

  • Lady’s Slipper Orchid – Cypripedium spp.

  • Lomatium – Lomatium dissectum
  • Osha – Ligusticum porteri, L. spp.
  • Peyote – Lophophora williamsii
  • Sandalwood – Santalum spp. (Hawaii only)
  • Slippery Elm – Ulmus rubra
  • Sundew – Drosera spp.
  • Trillium, Beth Root – Trillium spp.
  • True Unicorn – Aletris farinosa
  • Venus’ Fly Trap – Dionaea muscipula
  • Virginina Snakeroot – Aristolochia serpentaria
  • Wild Yam – Dioscorea villosa, D. spp.

“To Watch” List

  • Arnica – Arnica spp.
  • Butterfly Weed – Asclepias tuberosa
  • Cascara Sagrada – Frangula purshiana (Rhamnus)
  • Chaparro – Casatela emoryi
  • Elephant Tree – Bursera microphylla
  • Gentian – Gentiana spp.
  • Goldthread – Coptis spp.
  • Kava Kava – Piper methysticum (Hawaii only)
  • Lobelia – Lobelia spp.
  • Maidenhair Fern – Adiantum pendatum
  • Mayapple – Podophyllum peltatum
  • Oregon Grape – Mahonia spp.
  • Partridge Berry – Mitchella repens
  • Pink Root – Spigelia marilandica
  • Pipsissewa – Chimaphila umbellata
  • Ramps – Allium tricoccum (recently added)
  • Spikenard – Aralia racemosa, A. californica
  • Stone Root – Collinsonia canadensis
  • Stream Orchid – Epipactis gigantea
  • Turkey Corn – Dicentra canadensis
  • White Sage – Salvia apiana
  • Wild Indigo – Baptisia tinctoria
  • Yerba Mansa – Anemopsis californica

Bioregional Herbalism Regenerative Practices and understanding Energetic Herbalism – the language of the plant world can help us create an abundant, prosperous and beautiful world. The shift in consciousness occurs by being with these plants on a daily or regular basis. Becoming aware of who they are being truly curious about their beingness and the gifts they offer to the world around them – their bioregion that they are fully interconnected to with.   Wishing you a most amazing spring season!  Green Blessing, Shantree