published: September 2019
There’s No Such Thing As A Weed: How to teach kids about herbs
One hundred fifty plus years ago children normally learned about herbs from their mothers, who gathered the family’s medicine, prepared the herbs, and made sure there was enough of a supply to treat most anything the family required during the year. It was a natural part of life. Now it seems extraordinary, different for most families in this country. There is a fear of the natural world, in a way. A mistrust of plants. A reliance on doctors and the medical profession. In order to heal the Earth we need to begin to trust her again, to learn to trust and respect the plants, the trees, the ground that supports our existence.
I am by no means an expert on teaching children about herbs. My kids were 5 and 12 when I began herb school. I loved when they began to identify medicinal herbs, even while driving along the highway. And now as a grandmother I am delighted when any of my grandchildren show an interest in herbs. My eight-year-old granddaughter Lila inspired this article. She’s had a natural trust of herbal medicine from a very early age. As I sit and write this article in Vermont, where she lives, the night before I am to return home, I think of our week here. We spent some time, Lila and I, exploring her lush and green yard, any square yard of which would be ample area for an herb walk. We photographed each herb, talked about it a bit, discussing how to use it. Some she already knew. “That’s nettles—it stings me; that’s echinacea—I don’t like it, it makes my tongue feel funny; that’s motherwort—it’s for grumpiness.”
Lila is also into crafts. Like her other grandmother, and her aunt, she likes to create anything in just about any medium. I thought it would be fun for her to make a book about the herbs in her yard. A photo, a simple description in her own words, perhaps a line drawing to color in. She can put it together as a book, and in the process get to know these plants intimately. There’s something about spending time with the plants. It gets in. In studying plant spirit medicine, we sat with the plants, drew the plants, and did a journey with each one to get to know its medicine, and hear what it uniquely had to share with us. Next year I’ll come visit and I never know how it will go. She could be nearer to becoming a teenager and have no use for such adventures with her grandmother. But somewhere inside her will be the connection she once formed. She may forget, but the plants won’t, and they’ll remind her.
If we want to save our beloved planet, we must teach the children the connections we have, and provide them the space to fall in love with the natural world. What we are in love with, we won’t destroy.
Dorje Root, RH (AHG) is an herbalist and natural healer, also working with Plant Spirit Medicine, Intuitive Energy Healing and ‘The Journey’ cellular healing. For an appointment call 719-937-7786 or visit www.rootsofhealing.com.