According to Sufi legend, the Prophet Sulaymãn was the first to learn the healing properties of flowers and herbs while he was at prayer one day, and a flower sprang up and greeted him. Sulaymãn returned the greeting and asked the flower what it wanted. It replied that it was a healer. Sulaymãn noted this and, seeing his interest, other flowers grew around him and told him their healing secrets too, until he knew the cure for all diseases.
Flowers heal, it is said, because they possess dhat. This is the spirit of God and the essence of every flower that ever was, is, or can be. Shamans say the same: that every plant is all plants, so that lavender is not just a lavender, but all lavenders; and since all lavenders are not just a member of their species, but part of the entire plant kingdom, they are not just one flower either, but carry the potency and spirit of all plants.
This shamanic concept also illustrates the magical “Law of Similarity” referred to by Sir James Frazer in his book The Golden Bough, which states that “like attracts like.” Thus, the effect of a plant is not just limited to its species; if it looks like another plant of a different species, it will act in a similar way, and if it looks like a human body part or organ, that is what it will heal.
Other shamanic concepts in the story of Sulaymãn are that plants which grow locally will cure local diseases, and they will tell you what ailments they are used for if you ask them directly. The shamanic practice for doing so is called journeying. It is a form of active meditation, where you take your attention into your body and allow it to reveal itself as a form of conscious energy or spirit. You can then ask which herbs or plants it most needs in order to heal itself, and how these should be used–as a tea, the ingredient for an herbal bath, or an aromatherapy oil to be used in a burner, for example.
Having identified the herb, you can then look for it in nature or find it at a herbalist’s shop and gather a quantity for yourself.
Spend a little time with it when you do, imagining it to be a real spiritual being and entering into dialog with it so you can explore its medicinal qualities. You might then wish to look up this plant in an herbal encyclopaedia to cross-check the information you have received with the guidance provided by others who also know this plant. You may be surprised at how accurate you are. But, then again, why should this be so surprising? At some time in the distant past, before there were “scientists” and “medical procedures,” the spirit of the plant must have communicated its purpose to someone in order to be included in an encyclopaedia at all.
Two very good plants to begin with, if you wish to restore your body and build your strength, are echinacea and uña de gato (cat’s claw), both of which are powerful immune system healers. The immune system is what gives the body energy and helps it fight off and prevent disease. These plants should therefore be The Lost Book of Herbal considered in any regime to empower the body.
In aromatherapy, oil of amber, extracted from the resin of the pine tree Picea succinfera, is also recommended as a balancer of the body’s energies, and for this reason it is known to Sufis as the King of Scents. A drop of amber applied to the third eye will be absorbed by the body and stimulate the pineal gland, which activates and harmonizes many of the body’s functions and leads to increased well-being.
Harmonizing the Emotional Self
The heart sees the Giver of the secret – Rumi
Balanced emotions allow our souls to flower. When we are calm and tranquil, we can moderate the “heat” of our passions to achieve emotional equilibrium. We are then able to avoid the sudden traumas that cause us pain and distract us from the path, so that life’s ups and downs have less impact on us.
There are particular herbs that help with this. The shamans of the Amazon use a plant called chiric sanango, for example. As well as its physical effects of warming up the body and bringing comfort from the cold, it offers more psychological and emotional healing, also to do with hot and cold, in that it “warms up” a cold heart and “cools” a heart that is inflamed with jealousy or rage. In other words, it helps people open their hearts to love so they discover a more sensitive and compassionate part of themselves.
Chiric sanango can sometimes be found in specialist herbal shops or on the Internet, but failing that, mint can be used instead, as it is also a balancer of the body’s physical and emotional heat and promotes the flow of love. For these reasons it is associated with the planet Venus, which was named after the Roman goddess of love.
A good plant to combine with mint is lemon balm, which is famous in Arabian herbal magic for creating feelings of love and wholeness. The chronicler Pliny remarked that its powers of healing were so great that, rubbed on a sword that had inflicted a wound, it would staunch the flow of blood in an injured person without even the need for physical contact. Recent research at Northumbria University in the UK has also proven its beneficial effects in increasing feelings of calm and well-being. It is a great relaxant and a perfect aid to exercises in meditation and forgiveness.