Why herbs, empathy and nature connection are acts of political resistance and need to be a core part of our self care


Thoreau quote- it's the marriageHello,

While chatting with a friend recently, I had one of those “it’s obvious to me, but isn’t to everyone” moments.  I was talking about how herbs, empathy and nature connection are both deeply needed and actually acts of political resistance.

“Wait just a second,” my friend interrupted, “how are herbs, empathy and nature connection acts of resistance?  You need to tell people about that.”

So that’s what I’m going to do, over the next few weeks I’m going to make my case for…

Why herbs, empathy and nature connection are acts of political resistance and need to be a core part of our self care

– especially if we’re trying to overthrow the many systems of injustice and build the world of peace that we all dream of.

Herbs, empathy and nature connection are each potent acts of resistance to the corporate capitalist world that we live in today.

But I’m not writing this just as a political appeal to you.  It’s exactly because of how personal and intimate herbs, empathy and nature connection are in our lives that makes them (highly needed) acts of personal autonomy and resistance to control.

son holding very large bear root claw (osha)One way to understand how these are acts of resistance is to consider what it means to be human.  When you consider how humans have developed over the millennia, we’ve spent most of our time outside in tightly knit social groups, using primarily herbal medicines as health care.  That’s nature connection, empathy and herbs in a nutshell.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, Brene Brown and other compassionate advocates really emphasize this point…

“We, humans, are hardwired for connection!”

In my opinion, connection is very close to food, water and shelter as a core a need.  Without it, our lives feel empty.

But what often gets missed when this is pointed out is the social, political and economic realities we live with today.  Our lives today have been engineered to reduce and remove connections.  Patriarchy, poverty, war, union busting, trauma, shame, these things all share one primary purpose… to remove connections.  Connections with each other, with the land, with our food, water and shelter, with our history (and herstory), the list goes on.

It’s not just that we’re hardwired for connection as human animals, it’s that it’s really hard to nourish those needs for connection while living in the modern world.

Surviving can be difficult, let alone thriving, when these various connection needs go unmet.  Without connection in our lives, we lose meaning, drive, our sense of belonging or purpose in our lives.

So how do you meet your needs for connection?

For me, the answer involves a combination of herbs, empathy and time with nature.

Herbs, like food, can connect you to a sense of place.  They feed and heal. Especially when you’re able to harvest some of your herbs ourselves, you can develop a very strong relationship with specific patches of herbs or pieces of land.  Even when it’s just dandelion or plantain from your yard or garden, you develop deep gratitude for the gifts that the Earth provides.

Empathy is what gives us the ability to connect with other people.  It’s your capacity to see things from someone else’s perspective and for them to see and appreciate your perspective.  It’s how we feel understood, valued and close with people.  It gives you a sense of belonging.  (it actually extends beyond human connections to include all living things, but we’ll get to that later)

And spending time in/with nature helps not only to sooth your mind, but opens you up to experiencing the larger reality of the livingness of the world we actually live in.  The Earth is alive, Nature is wise.  And they are driven by an impulse to restore balance, just like you and I.  With practice, you begin to feel a connection to the Web of Life in a very personal way

Using herbs, empathy and nature connection as tools for your healing and your self care allows you to be more fully human, to nourish your most core needs.  They feed your reserves and give you access to great creativity.

These three pieces give you a level of health sovereignty and collective resilience that roots your life and your justice work in communion with Nature.


We must survive these times, yes.  But we must also remember how to thrive and what it means to be be fully human, so that we can rediscover how to live in harmony with the entire Web of Life.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings about herbs, empathy or nature connection and their role in our healing and resistance work, please comment below.

I’ll explore the ideas further in the coming weeks.

Strength & wisdom,


PS.  In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be launching my new podcast, Herbalism As Activism – Stories of healing, justice, resistance and change.  I’ve already completed a handful of interviews, but if you know of someone using herbs in a cool activisty project, please put me in touch with the.  There are so many great stories to gather and share!

Herbalism As Activism logo - stories of - 500x242


4 Responses to Why herbs, empathy and nature connection are acts of political resistance and need to be a core part of our self care

  1. Silvia Di Blasio March 14, 2017 at 2:10 pm #

    I agree, and your post came at the right moment for me: “how are herbs, empathy and nature connection acts of resistance?”…herbs are by definition out of the system. No matter how much big pharma, Western medicine and all the corporations in the world have tried, herbs grow everywhere and for everyone. According to the UN, 80% of the world still uses herbalism as both preventive and responsive medicine. People like herbs in teas and salads and gardens…herbs grow in the most unlikely places, showing resilience against all odds (my best ally is a plantain plant growing in the middle of stones where all students throw anything in the Langley KNU campus); empathy is lacking in so many “revolutionary” fronts that makes me feel despair…people judging, pointing fingers and focusing on the differences instead of common ground. Empathy is an act of not only resistance but also courage, being able to stop judgement and embrace differences in the name of a common cause! And nature connections are what reminds us what we are…the best way when our resistance and work are dwindling and we doubt our life makes any difference at all is to go into nature and remember our place among all things…and how every single bug, worm and leaf makes a huge difference in an ecosystem, where all and everyone has a place and belongs…Hugs!

  2. Rashel March 15, 2017 at 6:59 am #

    I felt it years ago, deep down in my bones and deep in my heart, that foraging and learning plant medicines were a revolutionary act. I love that you’ve written a post about it being political, sometimes I get so caught up in how connected I am to plants that I forget those underlying sentiments of political resistance.

  3. Amanda Painter March 15, 2017 at 11:45 pm #

    I love it! You have a unique perspective to include empathy. I’ve always considered it to be an act defying the current system to use herbs and herbal medicine. The big pharmas and monsanto, etc. have a noose around our necks, and herbal healing is a way to slip through it. So much knowledge and wisdom and empowerment within the earth just waiting for us!


  1. Announcing: version 2.0 of Herbal Self Care for Radicals, Activists & Organizers v 2.0 - Living Medicine Project - March 20, 2017

    […] If you missed it, I highly recommend giving it a read.  Here’s the link again. […]

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes