Summertime is perhaps the best time to get started with herbal medicine. For one, it's when the plants we love are in their prime: they're easy to find, identify, and observe in their native environments. Another reason is that we're often most ready for the benefits of herbs during the summer months. It may seem that winter is when we need our plant allies, to support good health and keep us going in the dark days, but the process of building, nurturing and tonifying our physiologies takes time—best to start when we feel great, and the plants are all around us.
Herbalists mark time with the growing and blooming of the plants. As spring moves into summer, the dandelion flush, the blossoming of apples and cherries, and the ephemeral forest flowers lead into the bolting of mint and mugwort, the flowering of the rose, the tall spikes of motherwort, and the explosion of fragrance from the linden trees. All our leafy herbs, and some of our best flowers, are in their prime during the summer months, reliably filling the fields, the edges of our gardens, our terraces, our windowsills. In many ways, summer is these plants—as much as autumn is falling leaves and fresh-dug roots.
A wonderful quality of these herbs is that many of them love being around us—they are not always the herbs that grow above the tree line, or the hidden wild roots of the deep forest hollows. But they are wild still! Untamed, but enjoying our company, they have traveled with us and like visiting our gardens. As such, they remind us every day that we live on a planet teeming with life beyond our human experience: a planet where plant and mycorrhiza, bacterium and animal all intermingle. Sometimes this is hard for us to remember, as we travel from building to building, walk on pavement, and watch the river from bridges of steel and stone. The summer herbs are there no matter what: California poppy by the roadside, hop vines in the abandoned lot, oats escaping the field and growing down an embankment. The biosphere is inescapable, whether for country mice or city mice.
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