A flower floats in a bowl of spring water under the sun. The drops of the resulting water contain the energetic signature of the flower; a bit of its essence and spirit. A few drops of this medicine, taken with sacred intent and combined with inner work, can create powerful transformations in the body and spirit, both inner and outer. This is potent medicine, spirit medicine, medicine to work with the soul. It is a gentle medicine, a medicine based in energy rather than matter. It is plant spirit medicine, medicine that can help move us to new places and ways of understanding. Yet, when we think of the word “medicine” today, what often comes to mind are various pills–little white and yellow tablets in bottles, created by some unknown process in some faraway place. Many of them have extremely harsh side effects; they are so potent that they work quickly (which gets someone back on their feet and back to work) but these medicines lack connection and spirit. Just as our bodies need the medicines (most of which I covered last week) or spirits also need medicine–to release the non-tangible things (hurt, sadness, grief, trauma) and to help strengthen our spirits in these difficult times. And so in today’s post, we explore the medicine of the spirit through plant and flower essences.
Medicine of the Spirit
Flower essences are energetic creations. As I shared a few weeks ago, developing spirit relationships with the plants has many forms, and one of them can be through working with flower and plant essences. This is the medicine of spirit, and for spirit, and so your individual connection to the plant deeply matters. In order to talk about plant or flower essences, I think it is important to develop individualized medicine and medicinal knowledge from plant spirits works based on connection. There are books and websites that tell you about the different flower essences; e.g. that Aspen is good for anxiety, particularly about unknown things, or that Crab Apple flower essences help you move beyond your imperfections. And these will likely work well as they are established knowledge that has been worked with by many people. Using these kinds of resources are a great place for you to start, but I would suggest that you not end there–take it a step further. Working with the plant on both of these levels allows you to really understand and acknowledge the plant. Medicine of the spirit works differently than medicine of the body.
Creating a Healing Plant Flower Essence or Plant Essence
For some plants, you might want to work exclusively with the energy of the plant, rather than the physical body of the plant. This is because the plant may be poisonous to ingest (such as Thuja Occidentalis, the Eastern White Cedar) but you still want to work with its potent healing spirit. Or, can also be because it has a very low population at present (such as Indian Ghost Pipe); creating a flower essence allows you to not damage the plant as part of the harvest. Or it can simply be that you want to work more with the spirit and energy of the plant, rather than the physical body. Flower essences work on the same principles that cell salts, homeopathy, and reiki work on, that is, they work on subtle energy. You can make flower essences any time of year flowers are blooming; you can make conifer essences all times of year. Given this time of year, you might want to try a witch hazel flower essence if you have any blooming around you!
Supplies. Once you are ready to proceed, you will need the following materials:
- A bowl of your choosing
- Freshwater (preferably rain or spring water, non-chlorinated if at all possible)
- A strainer(depending on approach)
- A small knife (depending on approach)
- Moonlight or sunlight
- Amber dropper bottle or jar for storage
- Amber dropper bottle for use
- Alcohol (vodka or brandy, 80 proof) for preservation. Brandy tastes better, so it is usually my choice for flower essences.
Honoring and permission. Be in a good frame of mind as you start. You may want to establish a sacred grove before creating the plant. Make an offering to the plant and then sit with the plant to make sure the plant is willing to help you create the essence. Listen for any messages that the plant wants to share.
Moonlight and sunlight. You can make a plant or flower essence in both moonlight or sunlight. The choice of which depends in part on the work you want to do with the plant. The energy of the sun is protective, it is outward facing, it is energizing, and it is potent. Use this for any healing work where you seek to strengthen, build, move forward, or start something new. The energy of the moon is receptive; it is inward facing, it is calming, and it is subtle. Use the moonlight for any healing work where you seek to remove old wounds, where you are doing shadow work on yourself, or where you seek to bring things in. You can also use a combination of sun and moonlight–leave your flower/plant essence out during the day and then during the evening for a full 24-hour cycle to create balance.
Plant matter: You will need a very small amount of plant matter for your flower essence. Use flowers if they are available (which means you may need to wait till the plant is flowering) or leaves/seeds if they are not. Seeds and flowers both contain the potent energy of the plants. Don’t use commercially grown flowers (like roses from the grocery store) or from greenhouses; nearly all of these are sprayed with poisons that will be infused into your water. Instead, use wild populations or those you grow yourself or that are at friends/family’s houses where spraying doesn’t happen. Grow your own on a windowsill if necessary!
Choose your approach and make your Essence. There are two approaches to making flower essences, involving cutting or not cutting plants. Both with their drawbacks and strengths.
- Cut plants approach: Go to your plant, and cut a small amount of plant matter or several flowers for creating the essence. Floats the flowers/plants in the bowl in the sunlight or moonlight for 3-4 hours or up to 24 for the sun/moon balance approach. When you are finished, remove the plant matter and complete the essence (see below).
- Whole plants approach: Go to your plant and dip a small amount of plant matter or plant flowers into the bowl. If you can set the bowl on the ground or hang it somehow to keep the plant matter submerged, this is ideal. If not, hold the bowl there as long as you can (at least 15-20 min) and allow the essence of the flowers or plants to infuse into the water.
Creating the “Mother Essence.” Once you have your essence, fill your jar halfway with your plant water. Now, fill the rest with alcohol. You have created a “mother” plant essence; this will last you a long time and be preserved indefinitely). Take 7 drops of your mother essence and put it in the second jar, and fill it with pure water. This is our finished flower essence, and you can take it as often as you like and use it for various purposes (ritual, meditation, medicinal, etc). You will also have plenty to offer others if you feel the need. If you have any leftover “mother” water, consider using it in a sacred manner.
Plant and Flower Essence List
Here are a few plant and flower essences that I have used and developed (these come primarily from my own understanding and what has been taught to me as an herbalist and permaculturist):
- Eastern White Cedar (Thuja Occidentalis): Getting past deep trauma and grief, getting past inner darkness, bringing light into a darkened soul
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): Bringing clarity and insight; focusing the mind
- Indian Ghost Pipe (Monotropa Uniflora): Offering distance and perspective on current or past situations; offering distance from pain, breaking through addictions
- Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis): Bringing the flow of awen/creativity into your life; cultivating creative practices
- Goldenrod (Soladago spp.): Bringing in power and joy into your life; bringing forth the harvest
Using Plant and Flower Essences
Once you’ve created your flower essence, you are now free to use it. But how do you use it? The most standard way to use a flower essence is to take four drops from your dropper bottle four times daily. You might do this while in ceremony or meditation, or when taking a quiet moment. If you aren’t sure you are going to be able to do this, if you carry a water bottle, add the drops to the water bottle and drink it throughout the day. Or, add them to a glass of water at meals. The point is to get the essence into you however you can (and for some of us, taking something regularly, much less 4x a day, is not something that comes easily!)
I’ve found there are other ways of using the essences, however, and they lend their own magic. One I really like is to take any leftover “mother” water and bottle it up in a spray bottle (or split it and bottle it up in several spray bottles); I use cobolt glass bottles for this purpose. Then I can spritz myself with it when I want the energy of that plant, or spritz a room with it.
I also like to add three drops of my flower water to any ritual bowls of water as a way to infuse the ritual with the energy of that plant.
Finally, especially for cleansing floral waters, you might add a few drops to your bathtub when you are taking a bath.
This concludes my post for this week–and one way, of many, to use plants for medicine of the spirit. Blessings upon your spirit medicine journey!