Notes for a group herb study

Sharing collective, experiential knowledge.

  1. Check the chosen herb for the session in a couple of herb books for any contraindications (reasons when a herb shouldn’t be taken by someone). It’s better to avoid reading any more about the herb at this point though, so that experiences/sensations aren’t anticipated when you drink it, in light of what you might have read. It can be useful to remind everyone, and especially people who might be new to exploring herbs, to follow their intuition as well in their decision to take the herb or not. This might allow someone who feels it would be ok to try a small amount (even though they have a health issue or constitution where that particular herb isn’t recommended) to try some. Or just decide this herb isn’t for them. And it can help in terms of privacy, where someone might choose not to take the herb but doesn’t necessarily want to disclose a health issue or a pregnancy to people.
  2. Make two separate brews, of the fresh plant and the dried if possible. While they are infusing look at the fresh plant if possible, and draw it. It’s a good chance to really notice the detail and see if you have any feeling from or immediate sense of or response to the plant.
  3. Drink some of the fresh tea and then the dried. It can be useful to drink and observe for a defined/ agreed period of time in silence. Possible points of observation; colour, smell, taste, sensation in the mouth (tongue, palette, gums etc). Is it drying, cooling? etc. Texture (clear, milky, creamy, viscous etc?). Any immediate sensation in the body; pulse rate, movement of energy, sensations at particular points/places in the body (does it stimulate digestion, clear sinuses, relax the body etc). Emotional responses, associations, what is the character of the plant. If the plant was a kind of person, who would they feel like? It can be good to drink it hot and try a bit cold and see if there is any significant difference. A useful practise is for everyone to write down some notes during the drinking which can then be read out/referred to afterwards. It can help really reveal the common experiences without everyone’s experiences morphing and being influenced by suggestion. (Although of course it can be really useful when someone shares an experience that you only realise you had as well because they name it.) Notice if anyone really liked the herb or really disliked it?
  4. Once immediate personal experiences have been shared, it can be useful to share knowledge or experience people might already have of the plant, then turn to cross referencing herb books and online herbal resources to learn about where it grows, conditions it likes to grow in, its medicinal uses, folklore etc… It can be good if everyone who feels OK with it reads out what they have found in the books/online resources they chose, it helps everyone get a wider knowledge of the plant based on all the sources available.
  5. It can be interesting to notice if there is anything else that feels significant in relation to that particular herb study, who has turned up, what is the weather like, are there other extraneous things that are going on or that happen during the course of the herb study that feel significant in any way?
  6. Option to burn the herb. Noticing anything about how it burns (if it burns) and what the sensation of the smoke is.

(PS If a group meets regularly it could be useful to start spaces by checking in about the previous herb study; did anyone have any more thoughts after the space, any particular dreams after drinking the previous herb? Did anyone carry on taking more time with the herb since then and have any more realisations?)