I am an herbalist and a dreamer. It has been thrilling to discover the ways in which the world of plants and the world of dreams intersect. I have trained myself and my students and clients to pay close attention to a plant that shows up in a dream. Plants that appear in dreams can be prescriptive, instructive or even direct transmitters of healing energy.
Our ancestors, the plants
From a perspective of evolution, we literally evolved not just out from apes, but also from plants.
Indigenous people know this. According to Hopi legend, plants were the original ancestors. Yet our plant ancestors were lonely and wanted some company on earth. They wished to hear laugher and other sounds of happiness. In this way, our plant ancestors created human beings by calling them forth into existence.
The language of plants is quiet and subtle, hard to hear over the roar of technological noise that bombards us in today’s modern world.
A major way that plants communicate with us is through dreams. Perhaps it is because in the sleeping state we are quiet and receptive to hearing their voices. When a plant shows up in a dream, it is important to listen to its message. Its presence in a dream may be symbolic but it may also be instructive or healing.
Prescriptive messages from plant dreams
Sometimes when a medicinal plant appears in our dream it is a signal for us to take this herbal remedy. Last fall I had a series of dreams about elderberry. Elderberry is a medicinal herb I know well. It grows where I live and I love to harvest the ripe blue berries in the fall to make elderberry cordial.
As an herb, elderberry is strongly anti-viral. It helps protect our cell walls against viral attack. That means it is a great remedy for preventing the common cold and a host of other common respiratory infections.
When I had my elderberry dreams last fall I noticed them with curiosity, but I did not heed the prescriptive advice of the dream. Due to my own blind spot, I didn’t take any elderberry cordial. I didn’t feel sick and it didn’t occur to me to take it.
A few days later I came down with a cold. The dream elderberries and the wisdom of my own body had detected the subtle signs of imbalance in my health and sent me advice. If I had started to take the elderberry cordial when I had the first elderberry dream, chances are I would have given my immune system the boost I needed to stave off the cold.
Plants and dreams know when we don’t
An herbal remedy can beckon you in your dream even if you don’t have a waking knowledge about the herb. A friend of mine from dream group once told the group that one morning she had simply awaken with a word in her mind. When she had this dream she had been struggling with chronic allergies & asthma and was getting sick a lot.
My friend is a woman of Chinese descent, and recognized the word to be in the Chinese language. As she did further research on this word, she discovered it was the name for a Chinese medicinal herb. After talking to her acupuncturist, she realized that this herb was the perfect remedy for her current respiratory condition. In this way, the wisdom of the plant, and possibly her own ancestors, guided her to the remedy that would help her regain her physical health.
Dream Teachings from Plants
In many traditional cultures, healers would receive healing knowledge in the dream state. In fact, nearby where I live in Northern California is a great tradition of Pomo dream healers. One of these dream healers was a Pomo medicine woman named Mable MacKay. During her childhood, Mable started receiving instruction from a spirit in her dreams. The dream spirit taught Mable how to heal with plants, ceremonies and songs.
As an herbalist, I pay close attention to the teachings I receive from plants in my dreams. Last January I had this dream:
I am standing with a friend and holding a mullein plant that we dug up. The root is exposed and it looks just like a spine. As I hold the plant, it starts to writhe and wiggle. It looks very human. I understand that the root of mullein is used to treat the spine because of its similarity to it.
Mullein (verbascum thapsus) is a plant with many different uses in herbal medicine. The leaves of mullein are an excellent tonic for the tissue of the respiratory tract. Mullein leaf tea or tincture can be useful for dry, irritated mucous membranes (that annoying tickle in the back of your throat) or a dry cough.
The flowers of mullein are used to help ear aches. The bright yellow flowers are infused into olive oil and used as ear drops. Mullein flowers oil work best for ear aches when combined with garlic oil.
The root of mullein is less commonly used and I have less personal experience with it. However, I do have an herbal colleague who uses mullein to help spinal alignment. In this way, mullein root can be like the herbal chiropractor. However, this use of mullein is not common and less likely to be found written about in herb books.
In herbal medicine there is something called the Doctrine of Signatures. This means a plant often looks like the particular body part that it is meant to treat. For example, red raspberries are womb-like in color and shape and red raspberry leaf is an excellent herbal tonic for the uterus.
My mullein dream was a good illustration of the Doctrine of Signatures. The mullein root looked clearly like a human spine. In addition, the plant spirit in the dream conveyed to me a knowing that the root would be useful to treat the spine.
This dream reinforces the folk knowledge about mullein root that was passed on to me by my friend. I will continue to experiment with mullein root and observe the results. I value this dream teaching enough to give it serious thought.
Plants Heal Us in Dreams
A few months ago I was experiencing a lot of tension and discomfort in the area of my stomach/solar plexus. Around the same time I had recently made a big batch of chamomile tincture for my herbal apothecary.
One night I had this dream:
I am lying down and someone has placed a chamomile flower over my solar plexus. It is there to help push the blocked energy out. There is anger stuck in my stomach and the chamomile is helping to move it. I also need to yell to release the tension stored in my solar plexus. I know also that chamomile would be a good thing for me to take.
In this dream, I received a direct healing from the chamomile. As it was positioned on my solar plexus, it was helping to move stuck energy. Also, the chamomile spirit was giving me a two part healing prescription. First was to do some deep belly yelling to release the stored tension in my stomach. Second was to start taking the chamomile tincture in waking life.
This time, I had the wisdom to heed the advice of this dream. I took some time to yell into my pillows that morning and it felt great. I could feel the released energy buzzing in my solar plexus.
I also began to take the chamomile tincture. Chamomile is a great herbal ally for both the nervous and digestive systems. It helps to release stress and tension in the body and has a particular affinity for relaxing tension stored in the solar plexus. I loved the flavor and the feeling it gave me. For at least a month it was my favorite herbal ally. I carried it around and felt comforted to have it with me.
In time, thanks to the healing and prescription from chamomile, my stomach began to feel better.
Research and consult first
Many plants are medicinal and also many plants can be poisonous. Please always do your research first before deciding to ingest a plant that comes to you in a dream. Make sure it is safe and non-toxic. I’d also recommend that you consult with an herbalist, who will have a deeper understanding of the herb, its healing properties and its proper dosage.
However, you don’t need to ingest a plant to receive its healing. I often recommend to my clients and students to spend time with the plants they dream about. If you dream of an oak tree, go outside and find an oak tree to sit and meditate with. You can also simply put a piece of the plant on your altar or carry a bit of it in a pouch or medicine bag that you wear on your body.
References: Mabel Mckay: Weaving the Dream, Greg Sarris, Berkeley: University of California, 1994