3 Herbs to Speak Of

Just taking a rest from yard work, boss. Sitting here with a jar of water. Feeling curious.

Hey, where’s my glasses? Author photo

Thought it was weird I had three pairs of eye wear, plus binoculars. And earplugs. Peculiar. Could it be related to an increased need to see, and protect my ears? And what does it have to do with herbs?

I just discovered the third type of speedwell in my yard. Part of the snapdragon family. Some call it an invasive weed. I am reserving judgment until I get to know its personality and tone. It is hardy; it has persisted in spite of my efforts at eradication. It has multiplied with might the past couple of years.

It grows in hardened clay, of which I have plenty. A glacier came through and took all my topsoil. Well, actually, that was a bit before my time in this neighborhood.

This speedwell is 2" across at its widest.

In order to see this third variety of speedwell, you will need to walk slowly, pause often, and be willing to stoop. Speedwell, also called veronica, lives in Culpeper’s Complete Herbal from the seventeenth century. Hard to imagine this delicate beauty being ruled by Venus, and useful for wound care… “also against pestilential fevers.” Whoa, cool!

Things flourish when they find their niche. When the environment changes, species will fade out, searching for a more suitable spot. And for some reason, speedwell loves my yard of a sudden.

In fact, plants will move into an area that needs it. What the neighborhood requires as it seeks balance will blow in, take root and grow when we quit trying to train, control and poison it into compliance with some absurd human standard.

My yard produces the unplanned; I planted almost nothing. I can observe which types do well. If I want, I can plant similar items to be assured of success.

I also get to examine moods, habits and signatures of self-sown plants. Mullein, also a member of the snapdragon family, is a proud survivor at the outskirts of our most polluted air zones — freeways, industrial zones, garbage dumps. But my yard is clean, so why grow here? Mullein treats throat issues, notably infection and phlegm, and ear infections. Two majestic mullein anchor my yard, which is under construction. They have the authority to issue an invitation to pause and breathe deeply, maybe sing with the birds.

Great, or common, mullein. Pixabay CCO

Without risking my life, I attract and use plants that help heal my specific complaints. The self-heal(prunella vulgaris) that proliferated in my yard a few years back was also a tincture prescribed to me by my doctor. It provided support for the thyroid gland, which is located in the throat. The prunella has scaled back to one large patch now that my thyroid is working correctly.

Why the recurring theme of the throat? Ears and throat, to be accurate. And how might speedwell fit into the theme?

I looked it up in Nicholas Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, after finding that it does not rate mention in newer herbal references. It wasn’t even in the 1987 edition of Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs with a note to not use, and they have everything. Its secondary “virtue,” determined by the fact that it was mentioned second, is pectoral, meaning used for the chest, against coughs and “consumption.” Ah, another throat helper.

The message is clear to me, now that my eyes, ears and throat are open and healthy. My throat has been stopped up for a long time in one way or another — and my ears have been open to poison negativity for my entire life. Fear, anxiety, shame, hostility, insecurity; such casual damnation.

It is time to open my throat and tell the stories that become vulnerary for myself and others. And the herbs in my yard seem to agree.

Prunella vulgaris. Photo by author

Since I would not dream of telling you what is good for you, don’t go out and try to have the same conversations with the plants that I had. Go out humbly, and ask a question of the weeds in your yard. The messages may surprise you.

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