In Sensory Herbalism there is a focus on how we as humans can restore our own health by interacting with the plants themselves through energetic doses and through the growing and harvesting of them. Sensory Herbalism has a strong focus on creativity, placing great emphasis on connection to nature or spirit through storytelling, drawing and poetry. It asks you to draw on the power of intention as you grow, craft and take herbal medicines. It is an approach developed to create and strengthen a mutually beneficial relationship between herbs and humans.
As well as focusing on plants, Sensory Herbalism is also all about understanding how the elemental forces—wind, fire, earth, water and spirit—pervade all of life and are expressed in varying degrees in plants, in the seasons and in people as holistic organisms.
Even systems within the body have affinity for one or more of the elements. Sensory Herbalism associates each of these body systems with water, fire, air, earth, or spirit. This helps to understand the energy and function of each system, as well as why disease arises in these regions and what it could mean.
Sensory Herbalism follows a seasonal journey that differs from the practice of Western Herbal Medicine in focusing on how plants experience the seasons, rather than on how we as people experience the seasons.
Modern Western Herbal Medicine uses often large doses of herbs to push the body into a perceived place that it “needs to go”, whereas in Sensory Herbalism sensory drop doses gently encourage a shift toward health.
Sensory Herbalism draws on ideas and theories from many medical models of the past as well as from modern medicine and research. It draws on Western allopathic medicine, Western astrology and Chinese and Ayurvedic medical models. It is, however, unique in its techniques for understanding and getting to know plants themselves and also in its detailed understanding of how the elements affect the body, emotions, seasons and the plants themselves.
In Sensory Herbalism, it’s important to begin by getting to grips with the idea of “meeting” a plant or herb. This provides a foundation of confidence for an elemental journey through the cycle of the year, working with herbs as they appear. The word “sensory” is used to describe the way we work with the plant’s nature and the way it could interact with us, bringing us food, medicine and deeper messages about how we might protect ourselves and the planet.
Other tools of Sensory Herbalism include intuition, interpretation, characterization and plant dream creation. These connect us with the plants and allow us to understand their language, ultimately enabling us to take lessons from nature and use plants to reshape our social norms.
As you explore Sensory Herbalism further, you will connect the elements of water, fire, air, earth and spirit to the seasons and look at how these elements are expressed by the plants themselves, as well as in the human body—physically, emotionally and spiritually. Sensory Herbalism follows the elements on their dance through the year. Water, fire, air and earth correspond to each of the four seasons, and to specific parts of the plants. Spirit or ether, the fifth element, exerts influence throughout the year. Spirit informs our ritual practices with plant medicines, and drives our connectivity.
Sensory Herbalism is designed to aid people on their journey to health. It is a unique style of healing that encompasses many art forms. There is a strong focus on physical movement, meditation, art and ritual in the practice, but it is always centred around the herbs. Practising Sensory Herbalism will open up your intuition and as you start to interpret colours, forms, tastes and scents, you will open your heart to nature—and nature will extend life in all its beauty back to you.
This article was featured in the Summer 2019 Cygnus Review.