Naren Udgan was born and raised in the Ordos region of Inner Mongolia, and spent her early years living with her grandmother, a highly respected midwife, healer, and herbalist in the region. Naren founded the Tolin Center for Healing & Tengrism Studies to introduce people to Mongolian shamanism, or Tengrism, and to encourage shared knowledge and dialogue between shamans from all over the world, as well as to connect myriad healing traditions and practices. Naren does shamanic healing, reiki energy healing, and chakra healing, and is a certified ayurvedic nutritionist and detox specialist.Read More
I cannot remember the first time I met Rosemary Gladstar, or heard her speak. For certain it happened when I attended the New England Women’s Herbal Conference, some August long ago. At that time, the world of herbs felt like a haven to my young heart and fed my love of natural medicine. I remember camping in the central meadow of the conference. A garden of tents sheltered plant-loving women, some snoring loudly, others giggling and drinking herbal cordials, some with babies cooing or little ones chasing fireflies in the dark. I quickly learned that herbal conferences have little to do with sleep and more to do with breaking down my barriers, opening the heart and tempting life purpose to manifest.
On one of those sleepless nights, I had a dream about Rosemary, obviously after I had finally succumbed to exhaustion. The dream was potent, and remains a sweet reminder of the magnanimous nature of this amazing woman. In the dream, all was finally quiet in the meadow. The women slept. The children slept. Everyone had entered a hypnotic restorative rest, much needed after three days of learning and revelry. Like a moonlit goddess, or a maybe a firefly fairy, Rosemary came gliding amongst the tents, sprinkling good dreams, blessings and golden dust over every sleeper. The love emanating from her filled my heart with joy; I felt lucky to be awake, even though I wasn’t. Or was I?
Now, many years later, she is preparing to celebrate the 30th Annual New England WHC, and I am preparing to host the 7th MidAtlantic Women’s Herbal Conference. Rosemary will be the keynote speaker at my conference, and my daughter and I will be one of 800 attendees at hers.
Recently, I had the pleasure of hosting her on the online forum for women, GingerJuice, where she shared her age-old wisdom about women’s health. Focusing on the nervous system and the state of angst which so many women wrestle with, she offered gentle advice, not to be found in any books, except maybe her own. I have been an herbalist for over two decades, and in one hour she taught me things I had never heard before.
Here is a glimpse of what she shared, edited by me:
The nature of plants, in their very essence, is to restore one's nervous system. Simply sitting and communing with a plant for five minutes can start the grounding and healing process for someone who is struggling with nervous stress or exhaustion. Always try a cup of chamomile tea to help calm a worried, over-active mind. Chamomile is often overlooked and forgotten, but is an ally for high anxiety with a nervous stomach. As a gentle slow tonic, it will not make you sleepy, but instead helps you feel graced.
If you are overwhelmed and over-tired, the worst thing you can do is turn to stimulants like caffeine, or sugar.
These things deplete the adrenals, when what is truly needed are restorative plants, especially those high in calcium, protein and B vitamins. Chamomile, skullcap, valerian, milky green oats, and mucilaginous herbs can all be soothing and strengthening to the frayed nervous system. Mucilaginous plants are usually used by herbalists to calm a fiery digestive tract, or inflamed skin condition. Rosemary states that the same properties that soothe epithelial tissues, also soothe an inflamed nervous system. Is that rooted in science? Maybe, maybe not. It is rooted however, in an ancient plant wisdom that wise healers draw on intuitively.
Herbs have a way of embracing us, especially when we open our hearts to them.
Simply spending time with plants, live, growing them, tending to them, or being near them, can melt away feelings of irritability and overwhelm, and begin healing, a little at a time.
A magic lies within nature and can be found easily when out of doors, away from concrete and things man-made.
Here, a fresh perspective helps us remember how small we are, and that many of our worries and fears are simply temporary, often more a habit than a helpful way of being.
If plants could speak, and some say they can, they might share with us the secrets of being true allies for one another. They might sing to us about open hearts and generous spirits. They might comfort us the way a gentle grandmother soothes a worried child.
And perhaps we might then know that we are both very grand and incredibly small and that everything is just as it should be.
Listen to Rosemary's entire one hour class, Herbs for Women, plus have access to herbal teachings from other renowned teachers on GingerJuice. $18 for a one month subscription.
I remember the first time I went on an “herb walk.” This event coincided with my first herbal conference, one of the most healing and transformative events in my life. The herb walk held a kind of magic too. For one, we progressed through the wooded lane at an infinitesimally slow pace. While I was a fiend for exercise that made me sweat, something about moving slowly through nature captivated me. My eyes opened to the details of the plants and I greedily absorbed all I could about identification and how these plants were traditionally used for medicine. The idea of making my own medicine from plants, or even buying some that an herbalist had made, was new to me. And intriguing.
A new sort of world opened to me. And it felt like coming home. I never looked back or stopped to wonder why. Something about the herbal world felt so deeply familiar to me, as if these plants were long-lost relatives. And the people who studied them felt just the same.
Two decades later, I am pausing to look back and wonder what exactly happened in that moment. In my work as a natural health practitioner, I have observed over and over two distinct human longings: 1. for a sense of belonging and 2. for a sense of life purpose. I marvel how my early plant crush grew into a passion and then settled into a life-long love affair. Whenever I feel I am losing my sense of self, perhaps from too much time on the internet or too much stress in my work, it is the plants that bring me back. The plants and prayer. And yoga. And laughter.
I can see the trail clearly, now that it is behind me. I went on an herb walk and fell in love with plant medicine. I voraciously learned all I could on my own. Then, when that didn’t satiate me, I studied at David Winston's and Center for Herbal Studies. After two years and two giant notebooks full of notes, I developed an herbal dispensary in my clinic and worked many long hours helping others find their healing path. Some years later, at the New England Women’s Herbal Conference, hanging out with Rosemary Gladstar I had the epiphany to start a “granddaughter” conference in the MidAtlantic region. At first my incentive was purely selfish. I had a new baby daughter and the ten hour drive to the nearest conference just wasn't feasible anymore. Why not just bring the entire conference to my backyard, literally? Then I could just waltz out my back door and, viola! It would be so simple!
I hadn’t really counted on the amount of work and stress it takes to host a conference, especially when you have no clue how to go about it. But it seemed as if the plants a plan. So many women have described similar experiences to the one I had on that first herb walk. Each year as I hold space for these women to grow, learn and connect, I am filled with a stronger and stronger feeling of home, as if the plants and I are working together to create a beautiful cup to hold the amazing spirits of the women who attend.
And now I get it. Truly the plant world teaches us, or maybe I should say reminds us, about community. About staying connected. About how community is essential to healing. That was what I bumped into on that first fateful herb walk: healing. And the miracle of that healing is how it stretched far and wide to touch those in my community who needed it. I am truly grateful to be a conduit for that magic.
Does your heart long for something deep inside that you can’t quite hear? Take a walk. A slow walk. Be quiet. Listen to the stillness and the sounds of nature. Leave your cell phone behind. Go barefoot if you can. And if you are walking with someone you love, hold hands.
Want to deepen your relationship with plants? Click here to learn more about GingerJuice! Our online community is actively working to create support and inspiration for women who love to use plants as medicine.