Are you a mint person, cool, kinda sweet and lifting spirits everywhere you go? Or maybe you’re a cinnamon girl, warm and spicy, and full of good taste.
Maybe it sounds silly, but spices and their medicinal sisters, herbs, seem to match well with certain personality types. I see this all the time in the clinic – someone walks in and almost right away, before they open their mouth, I’m picturing an herb or plant they need.
So, it got me thinking about something I learned in herb school called the Doctrine of Signatures. It simply means that plants sometimes have a ‘signature’ or identifying feature that tells us how to use them. Then I started wondering, “If this patient were a plant, what plant would they be?”
Since I’ve been teaching about herbs for stress lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the personality traits of different types of stressed out people. You’ve got the guy whose troubles always go to the stomach, or the teenager who’s pressured by exams and gets headaches several times a week, or the woman whose hair is falling out in clumps since her divorce. They’re each experiencing their own kind of stress response, and they each need a separate kind of herb or herbs.
You know those people who are always frazzled and on their last nerve? The ones that are forever tired and undernourished but zoom at 100 miles an hour through life. When my patient looks and acts like this, there’s a good chance they’re getting milky oat seed in their formula. Because oat is rich in calcium and magnesium, it’s like a warm, soothing compress for the nervous system. Think of how taking a bath in oatmeal (another soothing part of the oat plant) coats your skin with slimy goo, soothing itchy, irritated areas. In a way, Oat, or Avena sativa, does that with your frayed nerves.
In Ayurvedic medicine, this jittery personality type is referred to as having a Vata predominance or imbalance. [ Take a short Dosha test]. My friend, Dean Campbell, an Ayurvedic physician, explains that “Vata is said to rule movement, and is therefore closely connected to our nervous systems. When we are going through times of stress, it naturally puts pressure on Vata dosha, which makes it increase. When Vata is high, we experience more of it’s active, dry and rough qualities. We can calm high Vata dosha by doing a simple self-massage of warm oil to our body before a shower or bath. Our skin is our largest organ, and when we apply a thin coat of warm oil to it, we not only soothe our skin, we also give a tremendous calming support to our entire nervous system.”
How cool! High-strung, restless people have their own special herbs and oils and even have a ‘dosha’ to describe their style and body type.
Doesn’t it get you thinking, “Hmm, I wonder if there’s a plant out there to help with MY kind of stress?” Probably. Finding just the right match for you is a little piece of what we do at Four Winds. I think this is why my brother calls me the ‘herb nerd’….:)