Invasive Plants.

This term will strike fear into any Naturalist, Gardener or Environmentalist. Many approach this concept with the same fervor that is raging on our border with Mexico over border crossings occurring there. I have known many a fine Naturalist and lover of plants to turn cold, hard and glassy-eyed at the mention of Garlic Mustard, Multiflora Rose or Japanese Knotweed.

These same people organize and participate in weekend rally’s to pull out and “fight back” against these plants that are deemed invasive. I watch them tear these plants out by the roots while cursing under their breath. After the organized rallies, I’ve even seen them erect signs over plastic bags full of torn up invasives that essentially say – let this death and destruction be a lesson to all who dare to crowd out our beloved native plants.

Somehow I felt this was out-of-place in the environmental community, which I count myself a part of. Having studied with a number of fine herbalists who feel that the plants that grow in your back yard grow for a reason, and usually because you particularly need what they have to offer, it made me particularly pleased to see at this years International Herbal Symposium, the concept presented of Invasive Plant Medicine(s), from a book of the same name from Acupunturist and Herbalist Timothy Lee Scott. I planned to attend some of his classes offered at the IHS, but made it to none, having fallen prey to the charms of  the other equally fascinating classes. So, I settled for speaking with the author personally on a break, and then buying his book,. Tim is a sweet, intelligent, and well-informed author who has studied with Stephen Harrod Buhner as well. I continue to be thrilled with their contributions to our health and understanding of plants, and feel this is an incredible concept to get out to the Naturalist/Gardener/Environmentalist (N/G/E) community.

Here is some of what I’ve learned in the past and present about the subject. Many of these plants were originally intentionally imported for a specific helpful function, and they thrived so well they began overtaking some of the “native” species. Hence the problem. However, what Mr. Lee details is how many of these maligned species are actually powerful herbal remedies for some of the pandemic diseases that have appeared around the same time as the plants. Plants appearing specifically to help the human race at just the right time. Again the concept of a plant growing naturally when and where needed. What if instead of over-harvesting some of our rarer plants for herbal medicine, we investigated harvesting these non-native invasive species for medicine and food? Accepting more of the gifts that plants offer us, perhaps it will help us as a society to give back and nourish the Green Kingdoms.  When something is healing you, you tend to want it to stick around and thrive, hopefully in concert with many other fine plant species. Look for what is growing outside your back (or front) door.  Maladies such as Lyme’s Disease that have spiraled out of control in the same areas where these invasive plants are spiraling out of control, have some relief for us in the form of herbal remedies of invasive plants.

He also points to a chemical industry that encourages environmentally minded people, who normally shun herbicides completely, to see invasive non native species as the exception and use these toxic chemicals as a hard choice solution. My feeling is that there is misleading advertising and publicizing by these mega-chemical companies to confuse the general public into buying RoundUp and other chemicals to toxify their environment and eventually themselves, ignoring the gifts of these invasive species.

People who have suffered long-term consequences with Lyme’s Disease, heavy metal toxicity, West Nile Disease, TB or the one of the numerous strains of Flu, will benefit by considering whether these plants can pick up where conventional medicine leaves off. There is convincing evidence and case histories showing tremendous relief and sometimes apparent resolution of disease, when used in the treatment of these diseases. There are other benefits, for example the potential of biomass fuel from Japanese Knotweed (also indicated in the treatment of Lyme’s disease) which is an extremely prolific plant considered a weed, a pest and an invasive alien. A solution to dependence on foreign oil?

This concept of seeing the benefit that comes from contact with different plants, learning from new forms of plant life that we were formerly unfamiliar with. Does this have a parallel in terms of our human condition, regarding tolerance, understanding and benefiting from each other’s vastly different experiences?