Some of us grow up with plant medicines in our homes, and some of us grow up without. Much like many aspects of our multifaceted Indigenous cultures, the methods for harvest, preparation, and sharing have been integral for our people’s survival for countless generations.
I found myself drawn to the plant medicines. From a young age, I was following around the Elders who knew about the qualities of plants and their power. I learned what I could remember and lost what I couldn’t. In my mid 20’s, I began to take working with the medicines more seriously and my knowledge grew. The teacher I sat with had her own ways of harvest, preparation and sharing, while other members of our communities had their own. Spending time with various practitioners brought me to the conclusion that there are many ways to be, many ways to conduct ones-self, and I had to find my own. Better yet, I had to find the way to be that suited the gift, suited the spirits that held space for my gift and allowed me to practice the medicine.
Some people say, ‘go ahead and sell your goods. You worked for it. You paid for the supplies and the world revolves around money, anyway.’ Other people stray from this perspective and express that doing right by the gift means we are careful, we take only what is needed, we never charge money or demand payment, we walk softly with our gift and we don’t advertise or teach people who are not bound by blood to the land.
I tried a few things; felt my wrist get slapped, and even tested the direction I felt I was supposed to be going in. It took a few years, but the result of following the words of our dear Elders is proving the most powerful. It has been a process of trial and error, and even some elimination.
There are very few prescriptions in our Coast Salish culture. The practices, the stories, and the approaches, however, are long held traditions for our people and we recognize that we must remain humble and not challenge or change the very ways that have sustained our families since time before memory. The trouble may not be though, that we are challenging the ‘ways’ on purpose, but that we have not been taught how to go about being in relationship with either the plants or the traditional and modern practitioners of medicine plants. In working with plant medicines, I have encountered many personality types, many approaches, and many results.
The list below is an offering of knowledge for you to consider, as we grow in our understanding together as needy, susceptible, and fragile beings.
Non-Prescriptive suggestions and considerations when looking to consult a practitioner for plant medicines:
– Understand that modern medicine has prepared us for treating symptoms, and traditional plant medicines require us to observe our habits, our health history, and our state of mind; be patient and faithful when utilizing plant medicines for our wellbeing.
– Consider the amount of time a practitioner has spent developing the connections and knowledge needed in order to make successful medicine from plants.
– Understand what your health is worth, and observe your body and spirit responding to the medicine so you can sense the value of the medicine.
– Consider the investments the practitioner makes in order to provide clean, strong medicines to others.
-Understand that plant medicines are our ancient ancestors, and the emotional aspects of our wellbeing that are directly connected to our physical health will become apparent, and it is then our choice to heal beyond the physical indicators of disease.
– Consider that when we don’t heal the emotional aspects of our wellbeing when we have been called on to do so, the call will come back again and again until it is answered.
– Understand that contraindications are real and can be fatal, and there will be plants that you cannot take due to the medications you’re on from your family Dr. or specialist. Research and precaution saves lives.
– Consider that anything given the title “cleanser” will bring you some kind of discomfort.
– Consider how plant uses vary and trust the practitioner; they may have a unique and sacred relationship with a specific plant that allows for different results from plant to plant and person to person.
-Consider that following a practitioner’s advice for how to get best results will help you get best results.
– Understand that the more gratitude and faith you approach medicines with, the greater the power of their response to you and your needs will be.
You are born of men and women who have been utilizing plant medicines for many generations. Your blood and your body remembers; your body speaks the same language as these medicines.
I wish to express my gratitude for all those who have helped to reinforce my faith in the medicines.
I wish to thank those ancestors who held tight the values and practices of the medicines for future generations.
And I wish to encourage you to find the connections and the power that lies within the plants, for you, and for those who will follow in your footsteps.
Yalh Yexw Kw’as Hoy Telh Welep
Images by Red Works Photography