Anger Is A Seed

Anger is a seed.
As is grows, it rips through our insides, taking root in vulnerable places.
Where do you experience your anger?
For me, I feel it like a jittery bug inside, stemming from my chest. It wants to cover my body and mind in it’s poison.

Photo from Corinna Dross’s Portable Fortitude Card Deck

As an herbalist, when I am asked what I suggest for anger, I never quite know how to give the small, conversational answer. My knowledge base is in Western Herbalism and Vitalism. But I am also a social worker. So, when someone wants to work with anger, I start with the seed.

Think of how strong an emotional response it is. Anger is an important vital sign. In other words, it takes a lot of energy to be mad. I like to visualize both the anger seed and the vitality seed growing side by side. Anger grows into fire, which can show up as heat conditions in the body, most commonly in your digestion, liver and skin. I wonder if vitality growing, in this case, is why we can  “live off of hate”.

To battle fire with fire, I would pull out all the ammo. Start with cooling herbs that calm the nervous system, ease digestion, and cleanse the liver. Vervain and Dandelion Root are special enough to meet all three criteria.

Vervain  (Verbena officianalis) an herb that is often known in the Asheville neck of the woods for helping those that judge ourselves too harshly and thusly also judge others. This cooling, pungent bitter is indicated specifically for dispelling fears, clearing out old patterns of behavior and aiding in new encoding. I like to think of it like petting an agitated cat.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalus) is a commonly talked about herb. I will add to this dialogue by saying that there is a power in weeds that as humans we need to be humbled by. They understand rocky places, the parts inside of ourselves where we believe nothing can grow…dandelion takes root and heals. As much as we can physiologically understand the properties of dandelion, it’s energetics are inexplicably helpful. As a flower essence, Dandelion is used for physical problems with your liver or gallbladder, or for experiencing old anger and rage turner either inward, outward, or both.

Dandelion Flower picture from

Marshmallow Root (Althaea officinalis) is an often under appreciated herb in western herbalism. I came to fall in love with it’s mildy nutty flavor and soothing nature while in Colorado living at 7200 ft. Or as I liked to call it, a dehydration field day where even biscuits couldn’t rise. It helps your body to absorb water and other nutrients in part by healing the gut lining and allowing maximum hydration. However, it also has a nervine action to it. Although slight, this makes it a key player in formulas that effect digestion and nerves. If you are “too upset to eat” or your stomach matches your emotions, try making a cold infusion of Marshmallow Root (cut and sifted works best).

We couldn’t talk about an emotional response without mentioning the heart. Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), intuitively comes to mind. It is bitter so it will influence the liver to work more effectively and cleansing out excess hormones. It is also known for possessing a nurturing energetic quality to the heart.

An extra herb in your formula that is going to relax the nerve cells seems critical here. Whether you are building an everyday formula or for acute situations, you want one that addresses the individual’s nervous system picture. For a burnt out person, try Milky Oats (Avena sativa). For a grief stricken picture try Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha) (and read my article on the Dark magic of grief). For a person who wants to fight try Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata). For the person who wants to leave their body, try Kava Kava Root (Piper methysticum).  For the irritated person, a vulnerary herb comes to mind. Perhaps Marshmallow Root (mentioned above) or a Violet leaf (Viola).

Incorporating daily herbs into what we eat can be a great way to take our medicine. Grinding up Milk Thistle seeds and adding it to your food is a great way to boost your liver’s functioning. For someone experiencing the Fight response on the regular, I would suggest 2 Tablespoons daily.

If you experience out-of-body anger include herbs that are grounding and nutritive. The Doctrine of Signatures suggests roots and rhizomes as grounding medicine. Anenome (Anenome quinquefolia) an inconspicuous small white flower in the Appalachian mountains ( in drop doses) is known for bringing people down from extreme highs.

Getting the energy moving and out is also a powerful part of the process. Never underestimate the power of a good long walk. Keep moving until you are coming back into yourself. Or write it out, with out judgement, and then throw out or bury the piece of paper. Do any rituals that you find helpful to letting go.

I wonder how age plays a difference in how we experience emotions. With a hoarse throat and a thin voice, screaming sometimes is the only thing that makes you feel heard. Taking the flowers of a nervine, perhaps Pedicularis and Lavender and infusing them in honey are a nurturing and sweet counteractive spell for the pain in a young one’s heart.

Anger is a seed. Our deepest emotions are often our most powerful teaching tools. I don’t believe we shouldn’t be angry. There is much injustice in this world, and anger is an understandable response. But it likes to linger in a damaging way. So, when it’s time to move forward, there are plants ready to help. What grows in it’s place is still unwritten.


The Dark Magic of Grief


Photo by Paul Kirtley of

Everyone talks about grieving in terms of a science of stages. There is also a period of dark magic. Of being connected to the cycles of the earth, to our own mortality, and to our life’s path. This is one of the many reasons herbal medicine can be so helpful during a time of loss. The plants nurture, in part, because they are connecting to the part of you that is connected to the whole.

Pick up a violet (Viola spp). Notice the heart shape of the leaf. Is it broken, torn, bruised? Does it still maintain it’s wholeness within that state? Place it into your mouth and chew. Visualize the fleshy stem sliding down your throat, past your tonsils, and stopping at your heart. In what ways is it speaking to you? Access the part of yourself that understands what it feels to be grounded. Feel your feet on the floor and then alternate between the sensation in your heart. Picture the leaf regaining it’s original form and healing your cells and your hurt. Let it travel farther down now into your stomach. If there is unease, notice how Violet has a mucilaginous texture. It coats the digestive tract and soothes cell walls. Take in all the Violet has to offer. Thank the plant for offering it’s gift of healing and continue to come back to this healing place as needed.

When I first moved to Asheville, I was living in a community house with 9 people in it. It was that time of year where heartbreak and lust were both very catching. All at once we had three heartbroken friends living under the same roof. At any given time you could hear the sounds of the riffs that were being made and repaired in their hearts. Tears staining cheeks. The downfall of romance was like our puppy being crate-trained. I quickly left, for a walk in the woods.

As I trailed, I thought about my friends. I collected every Violet heart leaf I could find. I made sure it was the ones that were ripped, torn, abused heart shapes of all sizes. The ones I normally would overlook for medicine. I took them home and made this syrup. The molasses providing vitamins, minerals and nourishment to those whose appetite was lost. The sweet and the bitter of this syrup matching that of the complexity of love. We can only hope to take in all that love has to offer, knowing that it won’t always leave us whole. And that, in truth, it usually will leave us. I served it up with almond milk and hugs that last a little too long.

Broken Hearts Violet Syrup


Yellow Dock

Broken Violet Leaves

Almond Milk (Or milk of your choice)

For instructions on how to make a medicinal syrup preparation go here:

With heartbreak, there is a loss accompanied with a lack of hope. That you won’t find the fleeting feelings again. Cherishing those attributes you never noticed while they were in the present. Like gifts we open too quickly.


photo found in the “la tres sainte trinosophie”

Grief also opens up the can of worms we know as boundaries. There is a formula of David Winston’s my health collective likes to use. It is a perfect example of synergy in a formula. Mimosa is for understanding your boundaries clearly, the Hawthorn is good for putting up those boundaries, and the Rose is for keeping yourself open while those boundaries are being tested and navigated. When passed around my Advanced Herbalism class at NAIMH, one very attuned student said that it made her feel like her heart was being held for her, so that she could let go of the holding and just feel safe. I have seen it work specifically during times where heartbreak,grief or emotions were taking over. It has also proven itself useful when working with unresolved PTSD and trauma.

The Heart of the Matter

Hawthorn (berry and flower) (1 part)

Mimosa (dried bark) (1 part)

Rose (preferably percolation of petals) (1/2 part)

1-3 Dropper-fulls 3 times per day or as needed (do not exceed 11 dropper-fulls per day)

*NOTE: a Dropper-full is when you squeeze the dropper of a tincture bottle one time. (Approx 30 drops) You do not have to make sure the entire dropper is full; one squeeze is the measured amount.

Death is a different kind of grief. There is an emptiness that tragedy digs as it’s special kind of hole. Our town, community, and world lost a dear friend recently to suicide. It has me thinking a lot about grief as a process. Hearing the many complexities of my friends words, all wishing with every part of them that their will was able to enact magic. Go back in time, extend the love that they feel, and ultimately, get her back. I don’t think herbs are meant to be used during a necessary process of healing such as this. However, they can help us handle it better. Navigate the hurt like the sailors in the dark storm that we are. Like a prayer in saddest of times we ask the plants. Give me courage of Osha roots, cleanse me with Sweet birch bark, Help me handle this harsh world with Milky Oats, and quiet my nerves with Lavender. Give me hope that we can learn to be good to each other. Better then good, to hold each other during times of grief no matter what emotions show up.

The discussion for herbalists and grief is ongoing. When I asked friends about their use of plants in this way, I got some wonderful suggestions including these two below.

1. Black Birch Ritual Bath: Cleanses the smell of death off of you. Add lavender for cleansing, quieting the rushing of tears and relaxing the nervous system.

2. Traditionally, Thyme was used for grief. Place around your house, drink in a tea, cook in food, or diffuse the essential oil (small amounts and use as directed!)

This article is also being posted in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. While this storm devastated a town I consider a part of my home, I have seen the healing that is stirring from the bay to the ocean. In all that we loose, we gain gratitude. Humbled, we proceed in a parade of solemn horns and a debris cacophony. On the other side, is strength.

 Do you have any ideas or experience using the suggestions above? Post in the comments and let’s continue the conversation.

Joining the Herbal Blogosphere

Hello Internet!

I am excited to share my herbal musings with you. I am currently coming back from a month long tour across the Northeast. My favorite new plant that I met was in the Botanical Gardens of Pittsburgh at Phipps Conservatory.

I introduce you to The Blackberry Lily.

Belamcanda chinensis at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh

Blackberry Lily
Belamcanda chinensis

Reliably beautiful, drought tolerant and tough perennial that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Stiff, sword-like leaves form upright clumps. In summer, orange flowers with red and yellow markings appear, followed by clusters of small, glossy black fruits reminiscent of blackberries. Plant in well-drained, average soil and part to full sun. To avoid self-sowing, remove seed heads.

May today bring you so much gratitude,

Stay Strong and Take Care,

Rae Swersey CH