Talking About “Love in Action” In Celebration of Earth Day
Plants can teach about love? How’s that? Anyone who is not an herbalist, botanist, gardener, or houseplant addict might find that to be a very strange assertion.
But plants can teach about love. Which is what I want to talk to you about today.
Plants Are Our Allies
I see all life as part of a spiritual ecosystem. If you are spiritually minded, you may already view plants as the ultimate allies of human beings. After all, plants have the ability to detect gravity, light, magnetic fields, and more.
“If you define intelligence as the capacity to solve problems, plants have a lot to teach us. Not only are they ‘smart’ in how they grow, adapt, and thrive, they do it without neurons. Intelligence isn’t only about having a brain.” ~Professor Stefano Mancuso, as quoted in Wired.
Back to Eden
I fell in love with plants in general and herbal medicine in particular in 1976, after reading Jethro Kloss’s 1939 book, Back to Eden.
More than anything, that book opened my eyes to a hidden beauty within nature and plants. I learned from it that plants can teach about love.
Here, inside them, is God’s hidden humble self, providing us with beauty (both to look at as well as smell), food, shelter, and medicine.
Nature’s Patron Saint
St. Francis of Assisi wrote a beautiful poem towards the end of his life, “Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon.”
St. Francis became so intimate with the wonders of creation that he embraced them as “Brother” and “Sister.” That is, members of his own family. As one verse reads:
“Praised be You my Lord, through our Sister,
who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Praise be You, my Lord, through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial.”
Weeds Are Smarter and More Able-Bodied Than We Think
When you think of “weeds,” your first thought probably isn’t, “Wow! these plants are brilliant!” They learn how to outmaneuver every biochemist who has attempted to eradicate them with chemicals!” (as the many hundreds of herbicide-resistant weeds worldwide are able to do.)
Plants sense and respond to many environmental signals, assessing them to competitively optimize acquisition of resources. Plants are typically self-organizing.
Plants can see and even smell. Plants don’t see pictures like humans. But they do see colors, directions, and intensities. Their “sight” may be superior to ours. They are able to see things that we can’t, including UV light and far red light, which we humans can’t see at all.
“I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.” ― Frank Lloyd Wright
As Dr. Andrew Weil once explained: “Human beings and plants have co-evolved for millions of years, so it makes perfect sense that our complex bodies would be adapted to absorb needed, beneficial compounds from complex plants and ignore the rest.”
Amen to that!
The vital properties and organized structures of cells within plants result from the connections between their molecular constituents.
Enormous numbers of molecular connections integrate into an emergent, organized order characterized as living. The plant gathers and continually updates diverse information about its surroundings, combines this with internal information about its internal state (simple reasoning) and makes decisions that reconcile its well-being with its environment.’
“Weeds” Or Exceptional Medicine?
The humble herbs of our world are perhaps the greatest example of God’s love.
Many so-called “weeds” contain exceptional medicinal value. Their medicinal properties are directly related to the environment they grow and thrive in.
Think of dandelions. These plants can teach us about love and so much more. This herb, with its yolk-yellow flowers, offers us healing and nourishment. In spite of the millions of dollars we spend on trying to rid our world of them, they grow abundantly. Indeed, my favorite mug reads: “Celebrate dandelions; if you can’t beat’em, eat’em.”
Nettles are another wonderful nourishing “weed.” They are also among my favorite nutritional greens.
Many weeds, it turns out, have a special gift for sucking up specific chemicals, either as a quirk of their biology or as a way to make themselves poisonous and avoid being eaten.
When these plants are sown on contaminated ground, they absorb the contaminants into their tissues, gradually reducing the amount in the soil, which helps make it safe for humans.
Phyto-remediation has become one of the newest and most promising fields of soil rejuvenation. Similar methods use mushrooms (myco-remediation).
The basic method works like this: Find out what toxins lurk in your patch of ground. Come up with a regimen of plants appropriate for the climate that hyper-accumulate those particular toxins. Sow those plants and use them to bring the eco system back to health.
Being in Nature, aka “Forest Bathing,” Deeply Healing
“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” ~Gautama Buddha
Just being in nature is healing. Buddha left his palace at a very young age to seek liberation in the woods. He advised his disciples to go into nature and meditate in order to reach a higher state of consciousness.
‘Forest bathing’ known as shinrin yoku in Japan is spending time in a forest or other green space to reap the health benefits.
Being outside and in greenspaces, as I’ve written about before, has wide-ranging health benefits. In fact, over a hundred observational studies and 40 interventional studies have shown that some trees emit invisible chemicals known as phytoncides. These phytoncides can reduce human stress hormones like cortisol, lower blood pressure, and improve immunity.
Plants: The Humble Face of Our Creator
Plants can teach about love in so many ways. In fact, the humble herbs of our world are perhaps the greatest example of God’s humble love.
The Bible is filled with references to healing plants. The three wise men brought two to Jesus’ parents as a gift as his birth: frankincense and myrrh.
“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed: to you it shall be for food.” (Genesis 1:29)
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalms 51:7.)
“Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices.” (Song of Solomon 4:14)
St. John of the Cross taught monks an exercise. He told them to sit and contemplate where there was a view of open sky, hills, trees, fields, and growing plants and asked them to call on the beauty of these things to praise God.
St. John further tells us there are many people who think they are praying when they are not, and there are many others who think they are not praying when they actually are.
Plants Can Teach About Love in Action
For me, healing is an amalgamation of the mystical art of medicine that engages the heart, together with the scientific aspect of medicine, which engages the mind.
The mind must follow the heart, which is centered in pure Love and seeks Truth in every instance.
When we embrace herbal medicine and become more heart-centered, we open our minds and allow ourselves to truly heal.
 Trewavas A. The foundations of plant intelligence. Interface Focus. 2017 Jun 6;7(3):20160098. doi: 10.1098/rsfs.2016.0098. Epub 2017 Apr 21.
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 Trewavas A. Green plants as intelligent organisms. Trends Plant Sci. 2005 Sep;10(9):413-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tplants.2005.07.005. PMID: 16054860.
 Kaller, Brian, Resilience, originally published by Restoring Mayberry, August 11, 2014, Using plants to clean contaminated soil, https://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-08-11/using-plants-to-clean-contaminated-soil/
 Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett, Andy Jones, The health benefits of the great outdoors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of greenspace exposure and health outcomes, Environmental Research, Volume 166, 2018, Pages 628-637, ISSN 0013-9351, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2018.06.030. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935118303323)