Plant Spirit Medicine (The Secret Lives of Essential Oils)

Essential oils seem to be almost as popular now as they were in ancient Egypt and Rome. Our understanding of them continues to grow as we pursue their use. There are quite a few factors involved in the power that these tiny bottles of aromatics hold. One of which is the sheer amount of plant material that is involved in their production.

I think that the physical and even the emotional applications for oils are pretty well advertised these days. We’re using lavender for anxiety, peppermint for digestion, clove for its antimicrobial properties, and citronella to keep bugs away… we’re using frankincense and sandalwood in meditation and rose to heal our hearts. There are so many applications for these magical oils, it brings imagination and pleasure into the healing process.

One of the things that is really so special about essential oils is that they are quite literally the essence of the plant… but it’s not just one plant’s life force in that bottle, it’s hundreds— sometimes thousands. For instance, it takes about 16 pounds of lavender flowers to make just one ounce of lavender oil. That’s one, maybe two bottles. And lavender is probably the most popular essential oil out there, so imagine how many lavender flowers are needed to make all the bottles that we, as a collective, are buying.

Being aware of how many plant spirits live in just one little drop adds a level of reverence to the experience of using these medicines, or even just being in their presence. For me, it is an inspiration and an invitation to play with the human-plant dialogue. Often I will ask for the plant’s help and guidance and not even open the bottle because I realize that the spirit, which I hold in my hands, is so strong that it is affecting me energetically. And as we know, it’s all connected. The energetic influences the emotional, and the emotional influences the physical, and all combinations thereof.

There is very subtle magic in plants that can be imperceptible at times, but if we listen very closely, we can hear their voices. When their essences are distilled in such quantity, they speak louder, so we need much less of them than we may think. The plant people are very generous. They teach us, they heal us, and they teach us how to heal ourselves and others. I open these ideas for you to ponder, these very quiet mysteries of our co-existence with the plant kingdom, which can be witnessed when approached delicately and with care.

Something that you might try when you use an essential oil is to start a conversation with the plant spirits who inhabit the bottle. Hold the bottle in your hands as if it were the lamp and the essence, the genie. Your wish could humbly be for the plant’s assistance. Maybe you are using cedar wood for grounding and protection, or perhaps you are using helichrysum for pain. You could say to the spirit, as you cradle it gently in your palms, Dear Mother Cedar, will you please help to ground and protect me? or, Sister Helichrysum, will you please help to relieve my pain? And undoubtedly, they will say yes, because that’s just who they are. At this point, you might take one drop to apply for your chosen purpose.

I encourage you to play with the potential synergy of energetic and physical connection with essential oils. This practice of respecting and honoring the plant people can be profound and transformational. Let’s ask for what we need, and take no more. They would do that for us.