Plants To Know + Ways To Love Them

A n    I n t r o d u c t i o n    T o
T h e    W i l d    P l a n t s    O f 

Northern California 

a  n  d      c  a  m  p       n  a  v  a  r  r  o

Each year in late Spring, we gather together within the embrace of the forest to remember our Hearts, to remember one another, to remember the Old Ways. The waters that flow through this land feed the salmon which in turn feed the forest which in turn nourish our Spirits so that we may do the work that each of us came here to do. We gather on the Moon of the ripening thimble berries; the time of year when the Lemon Balm and Mugwort grow in thick stands along the path and the Horsetail gazes soft upon us in its feathery way. The tips of the Redwoods are still a paler shade of green, rich with vitamin C and still singing of the newness of Spring. All of the Tiger Lilies except for those farthest from our camp, are still in repose, their buds nodding, waiting humbly for the moment of blooming. What a blessing it is to be here in their home. These plants, along with the mushrooms and birds, the lizards and spiders and banana slugs, this is their forest—this is their home—and we are but visitors in this most magnificent ecosystem. So let us tread lightly, and thank our hosts graciously. In the paragraphs that follow, you'll find ways to do just that. We are many and even though plucking a single leaf or flower here and there may seem as though it will have no impact, if each of us – twelve hundred in all – did just that, the forest would certainly feel it. At present we are welcome guests and the forest rejoices with us as we honor it in prayer, let us continue in this good way, leaving the land richer for our presence upon our departure.

P l a n t s    T o    K n o w

a brief introduction to the magic and medicine of some of 
the wild species that make their home on this Sacred Land

V i o l e t

Viola spp.
Part Used // Leaves + Flowers
Preferred Form // Tea . Oil . Vinegar

Violet tops the list of our favorite Spring edibles. The leaves are pleasingly succulent and satisfying eaten raw and the flowers are mellow but fragrant with a subtle sweetness to them. Wildcrafted Violet leaves + flowers are two of the star ingredients in our Healing Breast Oil. Used externally, this blossoming beauty helps to keep the lymph flowing smoothly, relieves tenderness and swelling, helps to prevent and resolve lumps, bumps, and other growths, and increases the suppleness and resilience of the skin of the breasts and nipples. 

Also called Heartsease, due to both the shape of its leaves and its affinity for gladdening a heavy heart, Violets help to bring a subtle brightness back to the world during bouts of ennui. Enjoy leaves and flowers eaten fresh on the trail or added to salads. The Leaves can also be made into a truly unique pesto with an incredibly unique and indescribably delicious demulcent quality. They're particularly rich in vitamins A and C and help to keep digestion and elimination regular with their nourishing mucilage.

W o o d
B e t o n y

Stachys betonica
Part Used // Leaf + Flower
Preferred Form // Tea . Tincture . Talisman

Wood Betony is a common name which refers to both Stachys and Pedicularis species which is convenient because their uses and indications are similar, but confusing – because their uses and indications are similar. Here we are referring to Stachys betonica which is a powerful nervine, useful for anxiety and insomnia particularly when you feel ungrounded.Herbalist and witch, Sean Wood recommends using Wood Betony for anchoring the Spirit in the body. For this purpose it combines well with Hawthorn Berries as either a tincture taken in drop doses or as a talisman carried on the body. Wood Betony can be used for nerve pain and muscle tension both internally as a tea or tincture and externally as an oil. Saint John's Wort seems as though it would pair well with the herb to this end, particularly for specific topical applications.

Image via Erin Rivera Merriman // Active Culture Family

M u g w o r t

Artemisia vulgaris
Part Used // Leaves
Preferred Form // Tea . Tincture . Smudge

Intensely bitter and oh so potent in her wisdom, this iconic plant is one of the first that many recall when recounting their time at Camp Navarro. She thrives along the rocky creek bed and inspires a sense of reverence and respect in all who pass her by. As a physical medicine, Mugwort is warming and stimulating to the digestive tract. She is often included as a component in bitters formulas used to stimulate appetite and increase assimilation. Antimicrobial as well, she can be used externally as a wash for wounds, infections, and fungus. Infused in oil, she can be applied to the aforementioned afflictions, used for joint pain and muscle tension, or placed over the womb or brow as a sacred anointing oil and wisdom remedy. Mugwort embodies the archetype of the wise old crone – a woman who knows much and carries many Winters in her memory, but who doles this knowledge out only to those who have proven they are pure of heart and mind. Mugwort in commonly bundled and burned in order to clear and cleanse spaces and for this is works well. It also has a quality of thinning the veil – revealing that which is just beneath the surface of our awareness, but obscured by the material realm. Place her leaves beneath your pillow or hang her around your bed to invoke vivid dreams rich with meaning and medicine.

L e m o n
B a l m

Melissa officinalis
Part Used // Leaf + Flower
Preferred Form // Tea . Tincture

If Mugwort embodies the archetype of the wiley and wise old crone then Lemon Balm is the teenage girl who just wants to soak up the sun and stay up late into the night, talking about everything and nothing. Lemon Balm is a warming, relaxing, and pleasant tasting nervine in the mint family. A favorite herb for brooding anxiety and depression, this very safe perennial herb can be taken as a tincture or drunk daily as a tea. It is also useful in fevers and when working with viruses. It increases the resilience of the immune system and warms the body in order to fight infection. It is a useful antispasmodic, particularly when the discomfort is related to digestion or menstruation. At times, it has been known to act as an emmenagogue, meaning it brings on delayed menses, and so it is not recommended for pregnant women.

R o s e

Rosa spp.
Part Used // Flowers . Leaves . Thorns
Preferred Form // Tea . Elixir . Oil . You Name It!

The Rose is one of the most ancient botanical medicines known to humans. Used for everything from menstrual complaints to liver congestion, this flower inspires not only poetry + romance but superior health! Above all else, its blossom aids us in recalling the sweetness of life. Rose is Queen of the flowers--unabashed in her beauty + uniqueness. However, it is the powerful protection provided by the thorns of the plant that allow for this expression of fullness without fear or apology. Rose Petal Elixir helps one to embody this same courage and to live as the most sincere + vulnerable version of themselves, trusting that they are always protected. Use an infusion of her leaves and petals as an astringent wash to soothe and heal sunburns or sip as a cooling tea to gently move stuck liver qi, nourish intestinal flora, and tonify the digestive tract. We also can't recommend the Rose Petal Elixir enough -- it is such a simple yet profound medicine for softening into and embracing your life and yourself.

H i m a l a y a n
B l a c k b e r r y

Rubus armeniacus
Part Used // Berry + Leaf + Flower
Preferred Form // Water Infusion . Vinegar . Food

Ripening in late Summer, these succulent and sweet berries have come to characterize and dominate the landscape of the Pacific Northwest. When ripe they are divine eaten straight from the bush but can also be made into wines, jams, pies, cordials, and ice creams. In addition to their edible berries, the leaves and flowers are useful medicines and forms of nourishment as well. A member of the Rose family, blackberry flowers are cooling and astringent, useful as a wash for low-grade large area burns such as those from the Summer Sun. The flowers + berries combined can act as a powerful medicine for the heart, strengthening both the physical heart through the potent antioxidants called anthocyanins which are concentrated in the dark pigment of the berries along with the softening and opening quality of the flowers. The leaves are mineral rich and powerfully astringent. They can be used interchangeably with (the less prolific) Raspberry leaves as a mineral rich water or vinegar infusion.

W i l d
O a t

Avena spp.
Part Used // Oats In Milky Stage . Above Ground Parts
Preferred Form // Tincture . Nourishing Water Infusion

Soothing and trophorestorative to the adrenals and nervous system, Milky oats tincture is a seriously precious ally of our time and happens to be incredibly abundant in Northern California. Harvested in its milky state, Wild Oats are a supreme medicine for fortifying a depleted nervous system after long term exposure to chronic stress -- think moving, break ups, starting a new business. Milky Oats is one of the most important herbs to consider when working with folks recovering from addiction as well. For this, they pair well with passionflower. The whole plant is highly nutritive and extremely mineral rich. It can be enjoyed daily as a nourishing infusion to reconnect with solidity, steadiness, and a slower pace of life. For increasing fertility it pairs well as an infusion with Red Clover Blossoms + Blackberry or Raspberry leaves. For a real Dreamtime treat, take two dropperfuls of tincture of milky oats • rose • passionflower • skullcap before bedtime.

H o r s e t a i l

Equisetum spp.
Part Used // Fertile Feathery Above Ground Shoots
Preferred Form // Vinegar . Water Infusion . Hair Rinse

Horsetail is a mineral rich herb, particularly useful for strengthening the teeth, hair, nails, and connective tissue. It acts as a diuretic and can be helpful for infections or irritations of the urinary tract, particularly when paired with soothing and antimicrobial herbs such as cornsilk, usnea, plantain, and mallow. Because of its high silica content it can be used to scrub pots and pans and polish stones. For this reason, another common name of Horsetail is Bottlebrush. Horsetail is a mineral concentrator, meaning that it draws minerals up from deep within the earth to make them available as nourishment to the other plants in its vicinity as well as concentrating those minerals within its own tissues. As a mineral-rich tonic, combine with Blackberry or Raspberry Leaves and Nettle as either a tea or an infused vinegar. Enjoy daily and watch your nervous system rejoice!

Note // do not gather from areas where there may be environmental toxins or where you know mining has taken place. As a mineral concentrator, Horsetail also cleanses the soil and water of impurities that can then be passed on if ingested.

W i l d
L e t t u c e

Lactuca virosa
Part Used // Above Ground Parts
Preferred Form // Tincture

Rich in the milky white substance, plant chemists call sesquiterpene lactones, Wild Lettuce is a premier herb for working with pain as well as the insomnia with which it is often concurrent. For this, combine it with California Poppy – a match made in heaven. For detailed instructions on making a potent tincture of this unique plant, visit herbalist 7Song's website.

P o i s o n
O a k

Toxicodendron diversilobum

A prolific plant well worthwhile getting to know, so that you may avoid having too intimate an encounter with her. Poison Oak is a protector plant, growing where the soil has been compacted or disturbed – often by humans. She powerfully holds her ground in order to hold space for her more delicate brothers and sisters to take root and thrive. Avoid touching, handling, or traipsing through Poison Oak if at all possible. If you are spending time in an area where you're having close contact with her, wash your clothes immediately afterward and shower using soap and cool water. Poison Oak teaches us the value of respecting wild places and moving mindfully through the world. Also worth noting – Poison Oak is a skilled shapeshifter and capable of subtly changing her appearance in order to more closely resemble the plants by whom she is surrounded.

R e d w o o d
Sequoia sempervirens
Part Used // Leaves
Preferred Form // Elixir . Oil . Bath

The Redwoods connect us to the ancestors who walked and loved and tended this Land. Like the Stones, they are the record keepers who have watched the changing seasons for centuries. By connecting to an honoring the Redwoods, we have the opportunity to make relationship with both the ancestors native to this land as well as the ancestors within each of our bloodlines. Redwood leaves can be infused in oil and used as a warming and relaxing treatment for the entire body or massaged into specific areas of tension or stagnation. It is particularly potent, rubbed over the womb for connecting back through time and space to the lineage of women from whom we came. It can also be used for painful or arthritic joins. Redwood can be drunk as a tea, infused in honey, or made into an elixir and enjoyed as part of a slow meditation to reconnect with the real pace of life on Earth.

Redwood Elixir connects us with the timelessness of Life on Earth. It re-sets our inner clock to the ancient rhythm of the forest & the trees. "Old As Time, Old As Time," is the refrain heard in the gentle rustle of Redwood boughs. The medicine of this tree has a profound ability to heal long-held and inherited grief, particularly as it relates to loss of home, loss of place, loss of way of life. It is a valuable remedy for connecting with one's own ancestral roots as well as finding communion and harmony with the Spirits of the Land where one lives. The greatest gift offered by the Redwood is sense of ancient support, one which exists beyond time or space. It's effect is at once grounding & enlivening, making it a choice companion for meditation and tasks that require both careful focus and relaxed attention. We recommend a single drop of Redwood Elixir, taken directly in the mouth in order to savor the flavor of the forest. 

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A n d    W a y s    T o    L o v e    T h em

suggested practices for cultivating intimacy with
the wisdom and potency of the plants and the place

S i t    S i l e n t l y

By sitting with plants, we entrain our own hearts and nervous systems with theirs. This brings our nervous systems into a parasympathetic state and positively effects countless other physiological markers in our bodies. Sometimes the most potent medicine a plant has to offer is simply its presence. By partaking of this gift, rather than harvesting their leaves, the flowers, their roots, or seeds, we honor them as wise and wild beings unto themselves and not simply as medicine growing only for our benefit.

S o w    S e e d s

If you notice that the seeds of a native medicinal species have matured, spread them just beyond the plant's range or carry them somewhere else on the property that seems similar in its sun exposure and soil composition and disperse them there. By doing so, we help the plants to increase both their range and their population.

M a k e    A    F l o w e r    E s s e n c e

If you feel truly called to work with a plant that you meet on the Land, experiment with making a flower essence by gently weighing the flower down with a stone or twig until it is submerged in a bowl of water. Allow this flower to remain intact with the green and root from which it is growing and leave it in the bowl of water for at least a few hours. You can then dilute this water and use it as a flower essence to contact and integrate the wisdom teachings of this particular plant. For detailed instructions on making flower essences in this way, click here.

S h a r e    P r a y e r s

Prayer is a powerful gift, a unequaled force. Whatever this word means to you – do it. Get naked in prayer, sing songs of love in prayer, offer your hair, your harvest, your heartfelt longing. Pray for the plants, for the Land, for the Salmon. There is no wrong way, just begin.

M o o n t i m e    O f f e r i n g s

One of the most powerful gifts we have to offer is that of our menstrual blood.  Traditionally mixed with seeds before they were planted, diluted and added as a nourishing amendment to the soil, and generally used for protective magic, Moon Blood is one of the most powerful substances on Earth and a profound way to honor a plant or a place.  The origin of the word bless is to hallow with blood.  By collecting, diluting, and offering your menstrual blood to a specific plant, stand of plants, or even to a place as a whole you are planting a powerful seed of connection and cultivating a deeply reciprocal relationship with that place.  This is an offering to take great care when making.  We recommend reserving it for plants and places with whom you feel a true kinship as it can often bind and bond you powerfully.

W a t e r ,
A l w a y s

So simple, we often forget the incredible necessity and beauty of simply offering water to our plant companions.  Carry a jug with you and water those who look thirsty as you go.  Make a daily or weekly pilgrimage to a plant or place you love and offer water you have taken time to pray with, or have set out beneath the Moon or Sun in a simple ceremony of blessing.

T e n d    T h e    W i l d

If you notice that a plant or tree has a dead limb, seeds longing to be spread, or could otherwise use the help of your human hands, make it your duty to be in service.  As beings that can move about and bring things to and from our plant friends, be as an ally to them in whatever way you feel called.  Bring them stones you sense they might like to have near, create space around them if there is debris blocking the light which feeds them.  Listen to them as you would a friend, and ask how you can help.

Other species which make their home in Northern

California and on the Land of Camp Navarro

  • Solomon's Plume
  • Manzanita
  • Trillium
  • Usnea
  • Ox Eye Daisy
  • Wood Sorrel
  • Self Heal
  • Thimble Berry
  • Strawberry
  • Bay
  • Alder
  • Coltsfoot
  • Oak
  • Willow
  • Coyote Bush
  • Dock
  • Penny Royal
  • Honeysuckle

Who else have you met that you'd like
to add to this list? Have personal practices of honoring plants + places you'd like to share?Let us know in the comments below . . .

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