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Exploring Herbalism Through The Eyes Of A Black Woman

May 8, 2024

As a Black woman navigating the complexities of modern life, I’ve often found myself drawn to the ancient practice of herbalism. Herbalism, to me, is more than just a collection of remedies; it’s a profound connection to the earth, a rediscovery of ancestral wisdom, and a pathway to healing.

Herbalism is inherently rooted in African culture and dates back to slavery. Enslaved people brought with them a wealth of knowledge about natural methods of healing the human body with the Earth’s provisions. At its core, herbalism is about harnessing the power of plants for holistic well-being. It’s a practice that predates the sterile confines of modern medicine, rooted in the rich traditions of indigenous cultures around the world. For Black women, herbalism is a way to reclaim agency over our health in a world where our bodies have historically been exploited and marginalized.

“We really have to start thinking about our approach to health and wellness,” says viral Herbal Scientist Minyan Murphy on Tik Tok. “The way that western medicine is set up, it is doing way more bad than good for us.” Prior to the innovation and technology of western medicine, it was herbal medicine that helped cure sickness and disease. 

In a society that often overlooks the contributions of Black women, herbalism becomes a form of resistance—a way to assert our knowledge, wisdom, and autonomy. It’s about reclaiming the narratives of our bodies and communities, rejecting the notion that healing can only come from outside sources. Instead, herbalism teaches us to look inward, to listen to the whispers of our ancestors carried on the breeze, and to trust in the innate intelligence of the Earth.

For centuries, Black women have been the keepers of herbal knowledge, passing down remedies and rituals from generation to generation. In the face of adversity, we have turned to the healing properties of plants to soothe both body and soul. Whether it’s brewing a pot of chamomile tea to ease anxiety or applying aloe vera to soothe sun-kissed skin, herbalism is woven into the fabric of our daily lives.

But herbalism is more than just a collection of home remedies; it’s a way of seeing the world. It’s about recognizing the interconnectedness of all living things and understanding our place within the natural world. For Black women, herbalism offers a way to reconnect with our roots, both literal and metaphorical, and to honor the wisdom of those who came before us.

In a world that often seeks to erase our history and diminish our contributions, herbalism becomes a radical act of self-love and preservation. It’s a way to reclaim our bodies from systems that seek to control and exploit them, to assert our right to exist fully and unapologetically in the world.

As Black people, herbalism is our birthright—a legacy passed down through generations of resilient ancestors who found solace and strength in the embrace of the Earth. It’s a reminder that healing is not just a physical process but a spiritual one—a journey of self-discovery and empowerment that begins with a single seed planted in the soil of our souls.

Herbalism is more than just a collection of remedies; it’s a way of life—a philosophy that honors the interconnectedness of all living things and celebrates the wisdom of our ancestors. For Black women, herbalism is a source of strength, resilience, and empowerment—a pathway to healing that flows through us like the rivers that nourish the earth. As of late, there’s been a recent uptick in interest in herbal remedies, and we’ve created a list of natural remedies that have healing properties that you can readily incorporate into your own lifestyle.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa):

Healing Properties: Turmeric is renowned for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It contains curcumin, a compound with powerful medicinal properties, which can help reduce inflammation, improve brain function, and alleviate symptoms of arthritis. Turmeric has also been studied for its potential in preventing and treating various chronic diseases.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale):

Healing Properties: Ginger is well-known for its ability to aid digestion and alleviate nausea. It contains bioactive compounds such as gingerol, which have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Ginger has been used traditionally to relieve gastrointestinal discomfort, reduce muscle pain and soreness, and may even help lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Garlic (Allium sativum):

Healing Properties: Garlic has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. It contains sulfur compounds that have potent antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Garlic is believed to support immune function, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and promote heart health. It may also have anti-cancer properties and help improve circulation.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia):

Healing Properties: Lavender is prized for its soothing and calming properties. Its essential oil is commonly used in aromatherapy to promote relaxation and reduce stress and anxiety. Lavender also has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, making it useful for treating minor skin irritations, burns, and insect bites. Additionally, it may help improve sleep quality and alleviate headaches.

Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea):

Healing Properties: Echinacea is a popular herb known for its immune-boosting properties. It contains compounds that stimulate the activity of immune cells, helping the body fight off infections more effectively. Echinacea is often used to prevent and shorten the duration of the common cold and flu. It may also help reduce inflammation, promote wound healing, and support overall immune function.

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra):

Healing Properties: Elderberry is a dark purple berry rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. It is particularly known for its immune-boosting properties, making it a popular remedy for colds, flu, and other respiratory infections. Elderberry contains flavonoids that help reduce inflammation and support immune function, potentially shortening the duration and severity of illnesses. Additionally, elderberry has been studied for its potential to alleviate symptoms of allergies, promote heart health, and even aid in managing diabetes.

Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus):

Healing Properties: Okra, also known as lady’s fingers, is a nutritious vegetable with various health benefits. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, making it excellent for digestive health. Okra contains mucilage, a gel-like substance that helps lubricate the digestive tract and alleviate constipation. The soluble fiber in okra also helps regulate blood sugar levels and improve cholesterol levels, making it beneficial for individuals with diabetes and heart disease. Additionally, okra is rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C and flavonoids, which help reduce inflammation and promote overall health.