New England Aster with Dana O'Driscoll


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New England Aster (Symphyotrichum Novae-angliae) has so many gifts to offer! 

As a trophorestorative herb, we can work with it to strengthen lung health. In concert with other herbs, it can also help to soothe seasonal allergies. Our hearts sing to behold the brilliant splashes of purple and fuchsia with which New England Aster paints the autumn landscape, flowers that also provide a late-season food source to pollinators.

Join me as I discuss New England Aster with artist, permaculture designer, herbalist, and druid, Dana O’Driscoll. You’ll also receive Dana’s recipe for New England Aster Glycerite.


-- TIMESTAMPS -- 

  • 00:58 - Introduction
  • 03:21 - How chronic asthma led Dana to herbalism
  • 07:51 - The importance of embodied experience as we learn how to work with herbs
  • 08:37 - How New England Aster (Symphyotrichum Novae-angliae) can strengthen lung health and sooth seasonal allergies
  • 10:50 - The value of New England Aster to pollinators
  • 13:12 - The importance of observation and developing reciprocal relationships with plants
  • 15:51 - Dana shares tips for making New England Aster glycerite 
  • 20:24 - Glycerites vs. alcohol-based herbal tinctures
  • 20:57 - Dana’s recipe for New England Aster glycerite
  • 22:01 - The energetics of New England Aster
  • 23:30 - Dana’s book, Sacred Actions: Living the Wheel of the Year through Earth-Centered Sustainable Practices
  • 26:22 - Dana shares her Plant Spirit Oracle project
  • 27:51 - The relationship between creative practices and herbalism
  • 29:12 - How herbs taught Dana to think of medicine and healing in a broader sense


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Transcript of the New England Aster with Dana O'Driscoll Video

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Hello, and welcome to the Herbs with Rosalee Podcast, a show exploring how herbs heal as medicine, as food, and through nature connection. I'm your host Rosalee de la Forêt. I created this channel to share trusted herbal wisdom so that you can get the best results when relying on herbs for your health. I love offering up practical knowledge to help you dive deeper into the world of medicinal plants and seasonal living.

Each episode of the Herbs with Rosalee Podcast is shared on YouTube as well as your favorite podcast app. Recipes for each episode can be found above this transcript. Also, to get my best herbal tips, as well as fun bonuses, be sure to sign up for my weekly herbal newsletter at the bottom of this page. Okay. Grab your cup of tea and let's dive in.

Today's guest is Dana O'Driscoll. I absolutely loved our conversation as we dived into the heart of herbal medicine and how it's a vibrant living tradition. You'll also hear how Dana was able to heal her chronic asthma by working with plants. I know from my years of being a clinical practitioner that this isn't an uncommon experience; plants are so powerful. I also want to remind folks that, when working with plants for complex issues, like asthma, it's always best to work directly with a practitioner who can help you get the best results safely.

For those of you who don't already know Dana, she spent most of her childhood in the wooded hills of the Laurel Highland region of Pennsylvania, making mud pies, building brush cabins and eating berries. Thankfully, little has changed, and she can still be found searching out tasty mushrooms, gathering herbs, and playing her pan flute for the trees. As an artist, permaculture designer, herbalist, and druid, Dana weaves creative practices with her love of plants and the natural world. Dana's lifelong goal is to help envision an earth-honoring, care-filled future where humans can return into natural balance with the earth.

Dana is currently the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America, and also is a druid in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. Her book, Sacred Actions: Living the Wheel of the Year Through Earth-Centered Sustainable Practices was released by REDFeather in 2021. She also is the author and illustrator of The Plant Spirit Oracle, and The Tarot of Trees. Welcome to the Herbs with Rosalee Podcast, Dana.

Dana O'Driscoll:

Thank you.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I am so thrilled to have you here. I have to tell folks that this was a little bit of a last minute booking, because I recently found out about your book and then I really wanted to have you air over this time of Samhain. So, I'm so glad that you were able to fit us in and be here on the podcast. So, thanks again.

Dana O'Driscoll:

Absolutely. Thank you for inviting me.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Well, I'd love to start by hearing about how you found yourself on this beautiful plant path.

Dana O'Driscoll:

Absolutely. So, I've always loved plants. When I grew up as a child, my grandfather used to take me into the woods and teach me about different plants, but it really wasn't until I actually faced a serious health condition that I actually realized the power of plants and the power of plant healing.

I had gotten out of graduate school and I was teaching at my first job and I was in Southeast Michigan and I have always had chronic asthma, my entire life. And it was sort of getting worse and worse as I went along. And by the time I found myself in my first teaching job, I had literally been on four different daily medications, plus the fast-acting inhaler, plus the nebulizer. And it got to the point where when I would take these, my body would start to shake and I'd get really jittery.

I was having this several-hour-a-day reaction to these things, and I sort of sat down with myself and I'm like, "Okay, this is starting to get to the point where it's impacting my quality of life and what do I do?" And a friend of mine had just finished jim mcdonald's four season herbal intensive at that point, (it's now called lindera). And my friend was like, "Hey, I should introduce you to jim mcdonald and you should work with him, because he might be able to help you."

And I was like, "Hey, listen, at this point, I'm willing to try anything. I love plants." I was already a druid at that point. So, I was already thinking about my nature and spirituality and how those things tied. So, I got an appointment with jim and jim's like, "Hey, well, you want to take a hike or something? I know you're a druid."

So, we ended up hiking out to the stone circle and sitting, and I was telling him about my asthma and he's like, "I've been working with the aster family and there's all of this old knowledge and these old books, like King's Dispensary and so on. But we've lost a lot of this knowledge and there's a plant that I think might really help you with your asthma." And I was like, "Okay, I'm willing to try it." He's like, "But you're going to be a guinea pig, because the modern herbalism doesn't really use this plant." He was like, "It's New England aster."

And I was like, "I'll try anything, jim." And he's like, "Okay, great. I need some guinea pigs." So, he gave me a bottle of tincture and I started taking it. I had immediate relief. Within a week, I started dropping the asthma medicines. Within three months, I was completely off of all of them. And I had made some diet changes at the same time. I had reduced greatly my consumption of gluten.

So, between those two changes, I managed to get off of what I had thought would be lifetime medication for asthma. And of course, jim was absolutely through the moon and I was, too. And I'm like, "Well, I'm going to really start learning this plant." And we're going to talk about it tonight, which is part of why I want to talk about this plant, because I think it's an interesting story.

After that, I went to my doctor and she's like, "Okay, well I'll give you all these medications again." And I'm like, "No, I don't actually need them. I'm perfectly fine without them." It was this really crazy thing, because my doctor was like, "No, no, Dana, you're going to die without these." And I'm like, "No, really, I'm living without them."

And after that, I decided I was going to enroll in jim's four season herbal intensive course. Then, I took a whole bunch of other classes while I was still in Michigan and started my lifelong journey into herbalism. And that was like I want to say 12 or 13 years ago now. And when I came back here to Western Pennsylvania, there were very few people teaching herbalism.

So, I started doing some teaching and one of the plants I started working with people with was New England aster. So, I'm really grateful that we have this beautiful herbal community here in the United States, that we have people we can learn from. And we have alternatives, because my life, personally, has gotten so much better since I was able to manage everything with herbs. It's also deepened my relationship with plants and with plant spirits and all of those other things that I really care about. So, I think that's a good introduction to how I became a herbalist.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

That's a fabulous introduction. Yeah. I love that you were a successful guinea pig for jim and New England aster. I just have to acknowledge for a second, if people don't know, jim is one of my dearest friends, so I am somewhat biased, but how cool is that, that you have a consultation with an herbalist and he's like, "Let's go on a hike." So, that's awesome, as well.

There's something that I don't think about a lot, but as you were talking, I was just reminded, I had such a similar story in that I, throughout my teenage years, was on two different allergy medications myself. And it was horrible if I didn't take them, horrible when I did take them, it was this almost like a hate-hate situation in that. And plants are what helped me get rid... I haven't had allergy symptoms now in years, like two decades, really.

Dana O'Driscoll:

Yeah. I feel like that's a common story. When you talk about how people came in, it's often from your own embodied experience. And regardless of what science says, or anything else, or what allopathic medicine says, nobody can deny that experience, nobody can deny the fact that that radically changed for me and that radically changed for you. So, it's like, why wouldn't I want to use more plant medicine? I've already had an enormous change in my life for the better. So, yeah, I think that that's so important, those individual experiences.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah, absolutely. Like you said, that embodiment, because once we have that, there's just no forgetting it and it changes us forever. So, are you ready to dive deeper into New England aster?

Dana O'Driscoll:

Yes, please.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

All right, let's do it.

Dana O'Driscoll:

So, yeah, New England aster, that was sort of my first plant I really worked with as someone, as a patient, and then later as an herbalist. And I actually have my glycerite going here. And actually this has been about a month. I'm ready to pull this out, this weekend. So, just to talk a little bit about New England aster, it's a late-blooming, deep-purple aster, we're going to share some pictures as well, that primarily, most of the way that I've used it is on working with the lungs. It does have some other uses.

But I think, over time, with jim and his students and other people who started working with it, a lot of us understand it as like a trophorestorative for the lungs. So, it has both a sort of a fast acting, like I can literally use this in place of a fast-acting inhaler. So, if I'm having wheezing or difficulty, it immediately has effect. But I also, as you take it over time, it almost builds and bolsters your lungs, it sustains them, which I think is really useful.

So, if you're thinking about tightness of breath, and wheezing, seasonal allergies, it's really, really good for seasonal allergies, especially if you're combining it with something else, like goldenrod, or ragweed, or something like that.

I think the other thing it has is it's got a bit of a nervine kind of mellowing quality. So, if you think about some people who have asthma, or you get upset, and one of the things that you do is you start breathing deeply... that's one of the plants that can just like, "Okay, let's just calm." And so, those are some of the qualities that I think it really works well for.

And of course, now we're in the season, we've got all of this COVID and all of these lung conditions and it's a perfect plant to help support our lungs and strengthen them. And if we get sick in that way, support us there too.

Then, of course, you can combine it with other things. I use it a lot with pleurisy root or with elecampane, especially if you get a bronchitis or emphysema or some kind of damp, wet lung condition and it can be combined with herbal steams and all sorts of things. But it's just truly, truly a magnificent plant for those uses.

And I don't think that it's different than mullein or elecampane, or pleurisy, some of our other really good lung herbs in that it does have that long-term sustaining piece to it, I think.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Hmm. I was just thinking about how it has this long-term sustaining factor for so many pollinators, because right now it is one of the only plants in my garden that's blooming. I live in Zone Four, so we've already had our hard frost; so much of the garden has died back. There's a couple things still surviving through the frost but, by far, the most vibrant thing right now in the garden are these large clumps of New England aster.

I bought one little plant of New England aster maybe 10 years ago. And the person I bought it from was a local nursery. And she told me, "It likes to spread," but I don't think that she really gave the superlative nature of its spreading its full respect. And I lived in a different place and had a different garden. I moved a clump of that with me to this new garden. Actually, I had like three clumps. So, I just planted them around the garden. Now, I have huge stands of this beautiful plant.

And right now, it's blooming so vibrantly and the pollinators are all over it. We have our own hives. It's actually a friend of ours tends to them, but they're on the property. Then we have so many different bumblebees and native bees and they're all out there just feasting away. And it's such an important late food for these pollinators. So, just that long-term sustaining for our lungs, for the pollinators, all of it.

Dana O'Driscoll:

Yeah. I feel like, have you ever watched, I don't know if you look at the aster really closely, it has this way, when it's a bud, of opening up like this, which is how when I feel like I'm breathing out, and then whenever it starts dying off to go to seed, it curls in on itself in these beautiful spirals, every little leaf comes back in and it almost reminds me of exhaling and then it's like inhaling and it's just such an incredible plant when you take a jeweler's loupe and look at it really close, just magnificent.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I love that Dana. I know exactly what you're talking about, because I do spend a lot of time looking at New England aster. I'm understanding what you're describing, because I've seen it, but I really hadn't thought about it like that. And that is something I will never forget now, because when you hear things that you just know are a revealing of truth, there is definitely like a, "Oh yeah, I see that."

Dana O'Driscoll:

Just like that, just like the time we spend in deep observation of plants and even thinking about the doctrine of signatures, and just what can we learn just by seeing them or smelling them? Like New England aster, I know it so well, but every time I visit the plant, I feel like I learned something new, and there's that exchange and that communication happening.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. Yeah. So, I haven't worked with it a lot myself beyond admiration, but I have done little things here and there. I know that it's important to work with the medicine fresh. So, oftentimes it is as a tincture or as you mentioned a glycerite, which is the recipe that we have to share from you. Why don't you just talk about a little bit about that kind of medicine and maybe the importance of it being fresh?

Dana O'Driscoll:

So yeah, some of the experiments that a number of us have been doing with the New England aster do have to do with like, "Okay, well, can you make it into a tea? Can you freeze it?" Sort of all of the typical herbal treatments. And I think the general consensus, and this is certainly what I have found, is that you really do want to tincture it fresh. You either tincture it, you can make a vinegar, but I don't really think the vinegar tastes great, and you can make the glycerite. And I prefer the glycerite just for my daily use, because I go through it so often.

What I usually like to do is, once I have the glycerite, I'll just fill my water bottle up in the morning and put a few squirts in it, and then I'm getting it throughout the day, which for me is important for my condition. So yeah, one of those. Like I said, I just liked the glycerite, so I thought I would share that.

So, one of the things I did want to share about this plant, too, especially for people who would be using it daily or as a regular restorative is, I do think it's really important to develop a really specific relationship, if you can, with the plant. In that, we don't just walk up and cut it off and start harvesting it, right?

I like to build connection and gratitude. So, come to the plant throughout the season, if you're harvesting it wild or if you're growing in your garden, express your gratitude, sit with the plant, learn about the plant. I also like to make some kind of exchange or offering, in that maybe I could offer a pinch of herbs, but for plants, especially like that, like a native wild plant, gathering the seeds, sharing them with other people, spreading the seeds, to me, is a way of saying, "Thank you for the medicine that you're providing and thank you for allowing me to be healed."

So, as part of the harvest, and I think as part of the medicine of the plant, which is part of what I wrote in the recipe, I think it's important to find a way of building that reciprocal connection with it. Or, of course, getting it from an herbalist who has done that work, so that that medicine is even more potent. So yeah, go to your plant, get it when it's in full bloom, really sunny, bright day. New England... there's a number of purple asters here; I'm in Western Pennsylvania, I'm on the East Coast. So, if you are looking for it in the wild, you're going to want to look for that deep purple with that yellow orange center, and you're going to want it to have a really strong, aromatic smell. It's like a really, I don't know how you'd describe it, like a light... I don't know. Do you have a word for this smell?

Rosalee de la Forêt:

It's a tough one. Yeah.

Dana O'Driscoll:

I know, it's like so unique, like a slightly floral, but maybe richer undertone. I don't know. There's no English words to describe this smell. But you'll see, you'll get a really strong scent. And then often, just like St John's Wort, there's going to be a little bit of stickiness when it's a really good plant. Around here, we have a lighter-colored aster, which is actually like a forest aster, that's like a light purple, which is not the same, it doesn't work the same. So, I really want to stress, trying to find that stickiness and that aromatic... because I think a lot of the medicine is coming from that aromatic quality.

So, my general recipe is about two and a half cups to three cups of the flowering tops, and if you get a little bit of leaves, it's okay, but you're really going for those flowering tops. And you pick them, and then you take them and you can either use a quart Mason jar or you can use a pint if you want to just really press it in and push it all in.

Then, I add two cups of glycerite and a cup of water, or you could just do the folk method and pour a bunch of alcohol over there if you're doing a traditional tincture, but the two cups of vegetable glycerin to one cup of water seems to be a really good ratio. And I think that's going to end up where you want to be about 50:50, because you've also got the water from the plant.

So, this is going to start out like really deep purple, and then as you work with it, you're going to see the glycerin... Let me see if I can show this, because this one's done, so I was saving this one to show. The glycerin is eventually going to take on kind of this purplish brown and you're going to see that the flower heads are going to go less purple in there. Once they get to the point where they're sort of brown and they've lost their vibrancy, it usually takes about a month and then you're going to be ready. And of course, you want to shake it up every day and interact with it as you're making this medicine.

Then, once that's done, so probably tomorrow or this weekend sometime, I will go ahead and strain it and straining it really carefully to make sure I get all the plant matter out and then store your glycerite in a cool, dark place and use it at will. And of course, the glycerite, it has got about a year to a year and a half shelf life. I make this every year. So, as I said, I like the glycerite, because I put it in my tea and my water and it's a good way for me to take it. Despite the fact that I'm an herbalist, I'm not a great fan of the taste of alcohol. So, for something that I take every day, I have found this is good. And also, if you have children, this is really, really good for kids.

So yeah, fresh is important. One thing I want to mention is the aster has a tendency to go to seed really quickly, within sometimes five or six hours, within twelve hours. So, you want to harvest this and within a couple of hours, you want to prepare it so that you get that full vibrancy of it. And then, of course, if it goes to seed, you can try to make a tea or something. We've experimented with freezing it and making it a tea, but in the end, this is just the best preparation for it.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I love that you're mentioning experiments with it. Because as you mentioned in the first part is that this is a plant that's been worked with for a long time as medicine, but in modern times, a lot of us don't have this history, this really close history and use of it. So, it is something that we're bringing back and playing with it and seeing how best to use it. And that's something that I love about herbalism, there's hardly ever the one way to do things. And more than that, finding out what works for you and how your relationship with the plant develops, someone else might be like, "Oh, I love the alcohol extract. I only work with the tincture," because that's what works for them, but it is not necessarily what works for everyone. So, I love that you're continually finding your relationship with New England aster and that the glycerite works so well for you. And even found a way to incorporate into your life in a way that is a tradition, it's a meaningful tradition and also powerful medicine.

Dana O'Driscoll:

Yeah. And I think the other thing is that I used to do only alcohol-based tinctures. Then, I started working, as I started working with the public as an herbalist, a number of people are in AA and things like that. So, suddenly even a small amount of alcohol isn't appropriate for certain people. So, I always do one of both, but I always want to have some of this, because this is great medicine for a lot of people, a lot of people have seasonal allergies and asthma and I know I can give this to anyone without worrying about whether or not they can have alcohol or not. So, that's part of why I really like this particular version.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. Thank you for sharing that recipe and explaining it as well. This message is for the listeners, as you probably know by now, I love to share recipes when we talk about these plants. Recipes are a wonderful way for you to get involved and create your own experience with herbs because it's one thing to hear cool facts about a plant, but an entirely other thing to form your own relationship with this plant you're observing, tending and, of course, tasting. Dana has given us a super simple way to work with this New England aster that retains its fresh qualities without using alcohol. You'll definitely want to check out her recipe for New England aster glycerite. You can download your recipe card using the link above this transcript.

Is there anything else that you'd like to share about New England aster?

Dana O'Driscoll:

I mean, I could share, I guess, just thinking a little bit... I know we were going to talk a little about projects. There's always, to me, not only a physical characteristic of a plant, but also sort of an energetic one. So, we talked a little bit about that, that opening and that expansion. And I do find, energetically, this medicine allows for that. It sort of almost opens us up to possibilities.

Because sometimes, if your chest is tight in your clothing, and you feel like your throat is closed, or you're not able to take a full breath, if you think about what's happened in the world in the last two years, how we've all been holding our breaths, holding our breath and it's almost like when you're holding your breath, you're not able to do anything else, you're almost like in a place of constriction.

One of the things that I find that aster does is sort of allows for that, allows for that breath and allows for that expansion, and allows for that possibility to occur. So, if people are into more sort of the energetic qualities of plants, and maybe you want to work with it, you don't necessarily have to take it, you can just sit with it or put a drawing of it in your house or a photograph of it. Thinking about the energetic medicine of that plant in addition to the physical, I think can be useful. So, that's the other piece I'd like to share.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Wow. Thank you for sharing that. Well, speaking of projects, it's always fun to hear what herbalists have going on. Everyone has such unique ways of working with plants and bringing it forth into the world. So, what do you have going on these days?

Dana O'Driscoll:

Well, I wanted to share two possible things. So, of course, you had mentioned my book. This is Sacred Actions, and this is my new book; it came out in May. And I think that there's a lot of herbal philosophy and there's a lot of permaculture in the book and the whole philosophy, which has really aligned in my opinion with herbalism is like, how do we live every day in a sacred manner that honors the earth? So, I think a lot of people, in their minds, are like, "I love the land. I love the earth. I practice herbalism. Maybe I practice something like druidry," like I practice. And this book is really like, "Well, how do we do that? And how do we live every day and move through the wheel of the year doing so?" So, I kind of wanted to share that project, because it's really new and it's exciting to have it out in the world and know that that's how we connected.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). I want to add something about it as well. So, I was thrilled to find that you had written this book. I'd previously known of you through jim and your beautiful artistry. And then when I found that you had this book, I was really excited. And I was just reading the chapter on Samhain and I loved so much what you had to share then about connecting with sacred plants and the personal relationship there, which I think is absolutely integral to the world of herbalism, and really where herbs come to life for me, instead of them just being like a pharmacy, but instead like a deep connection.

One thing I just thought was interesting is in the Samhain chapter, you talk about incense this time of year and the practice of that, and making our own burning bundles or incense and smoke medicine. And that is actually one of the most common way that I've worked with New England aster is I always include it in my burning bundles.

As you say in the book, it's a flowering plant. It does have some aromatics. I don't know if it really brings a whole bunch to the bundles, because there's lots of herbs in there. But it's so pretty, so it has to go in and it is wonderful lung medicine. And I just thought that was like a fun crossover of for the chapter on Samhain and smoke medicine and you talking about New England aster today. So, I just wanted to share that.

And also, I'll share too, since we're talking about your book, it's such a great book for seeing the enchantment, and beauty, and magic out there through that personal experience, the practicalness and so much wonderful information on sustainability and just enrichment of our lives. So, if people are looking for a way to walk through the seasons of the year and really find practices that resonate with them, such a great book on so many levels for that. So, thank you for writing it. I'm so glad it's out in the world.

Dana O'Driscoll:

Took me forever to write. I'm so glad it's out in the world, too.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I know the feeling.

Dana O'Driscoll:

Right? Yeah. It's like these projects always have a mind of their own and take whatever time they're going to take. The other thing I wanted to share, actually, because New England aster shows up, is my Plant Spirit Oracle project. So, this is Plant Spirit Oracle. We try to do no plastic, so it has a nice little paper sleeve. See, I've got the ghost pipe on here. And actually, in this, it's a 47-card plant medicine deck of all sorts of things and there's the aster card.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

So beautiful.

Dana O'Driscoll:

Yeah. So, this was a project I spent five... There's burdock. Probably about five years painting, getting to know the various plants on my landscape, not only as an herbalist, but as an artist. And sort of thinking about how they might be used, for both spirit medicine and for physical medicine, as an accompanying book, which has recipes and divination and how to... If you wanted to learn more about how to work with plants on a spiritual level, or how to journey and get to learn directly from the spirit of the plant, this is I think something that people might be interested in. It was certainly fun to create. And there's all kinds of plants, like this is your St John's-wort. It's one of my favorites.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

That's lovely.

Dana O'Driscoll:

So yeah... Wild yam. So, if that might be something else that people that are really interested in herbs would be interested in, and I always find, because I am an artist, we're in my art studio right now... I always find that it's really interesting to think about the relationship between our creative practices and herbalism, and thinking about that sort of synthesis between how do we engage with plants in different ways? How do we make medicine? How do we create music or arts or maybe dance even that embodies that plant? Those are just so many different ways of building that connection. And I always love seeing other artists or other people who created things, or even they make tinctures and purchasing those from people and saying, "Well, how did they think about this plant?" Versus, how did I think about this plant? So, I did want to share that, because I think it's a fun project that people might enjoy also.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

A fun, beautiful project. Thank you so much for sharing.

Dana O'Driscoll:

I'm also inspired by jim mcdonald. I give him so much credit.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Me too. Absolutely.

Dana O'Driscoll:

His understanding of hawthorn totally made it into this book, but I totally acknowledged him.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Nice.

Well, Dana, that brings us to our last question, which is something I'm asking everybody in season two. And that question is, what's something you've learned or experienced in your herbal journey that surprised you?

Dana O'Driscoll:

Such a good question. I think that when I started my herbal journey, I saw it as an alternative to allopathic medicine in the sense that a plant could do 'X' thing. So, in some cases, like in the case of New England aster, yes, this plant totally replaced multiple asthma medication. So, that makes sense. But I think that one of the deeper lessons that I've learned over time actually comes from, pull it up again, the ghost pipe right here among many other plants.

That is that, if all that we think about is replacing one conventional medicine with a plant, which I think is a lot of ways that people who are new to herbalism think about it like, "Oh, I have this thing. Can a plant do that instead?" Right? And we see that a lot with elderberry, St John's wort, or a lot of the common plants that, echinacea, a lot of the common plants that people kind of go for and they're like, "Oh, maybe I'll take this."

And I think that, It's like a gateway way of thinking, it's a good introductory way of thinking, but plants can do so much more and offer us so many incredible benefits that are not at all... Like that have nothing to do with allopathic medicine. And I point here to ghost pipe as a really good example of that. Ghost pipe doesn't do anything that any conventionally-produced drug can do. It just doesn't. It offers distance and perspective. When I think about hawthorn, sure, hawthorn can obviously replace certain heart medications or treat hearts deeply. But hawthorn has a whole bunch of additional qualities. Sort of like what I was talking about with New England aster, that opening quality.

So, it's almost like plant knowledge requires and encourages us to think about what is medicine in a much more broad way, what is healing in a much more broad way. And the plants work on every level of us. So, they work on our physical bodies, which is where we're starting, they work on our emotional, our hearts, our emotions. They work on our minds. They work on our spirits. They work on our connections with the world and with others.

And as soon as we recognize that that is all plant medicine, every part of it, then I feel like we can really start to understand these plants and that every plant we work with, and some of them may not be good for our physical bodies. So, one of my favorite plants in the world is poison ivy, have it on me right now. There it is.

Poison ivy is not great for my physical body, but she is such a powerful teacher in terms of me paying attention, me not looking at my phone when I go into the woods, and me actually learning deep observation skills, and cultivating a sense of awareness, which is critical if I'm going to be a good herbalist. So, that's, I think, that is one of the most powerful lessons that I feel like I've learned as an herbalist and it keeps resonating, like every time you think you have a handle on something, then the plant's like, "All right, let's go deeper and let's learn another lesson." So, that idea of lifelong learning in all of these different dimensions.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

You shared that so beautifully. Thank you so much, Dana. That is really for me the heart of medicine and where this really comes to life. And obviously, if we have a problem and an herb fixes it, just kind of like A plus B equals C kind of thing. Obviously that can be really cool when we have a problem and we want it to be fixed. But it's such a surface level aspect of herbalism. And you just really shared that so beautifully in terms of how many deeper levels there are, unending, as you say, because the plants just are ready to keep bringing us deeper and deeper as we go throughout that path.

Dana O'Driscoll:

Yeah. We think about that, what do we really need in the world right now? Like the plants are ready to give it to us. We need reconnection with the land. We need humans to learn that this land sustains us and that this land provides everything to us. And if we can learn those lessons, which the plants are ready to teach us, then I think that we can really rise to some of the challenges that we're facing as a civilization and as a world. And how do we live differently? And how do we honor this land and find ways of being able to cohabitate in peace and balance? And to me, that starts with something like understanding that the plant has all of these different aspects and that really can fulfill many of those needs. So, sort of part of like the way I think about how do we maybe solve some of the challenges we face today and the plants seem to be a really good place to be for that.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

So true. Well, thank you so much, Dana, for being here. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and thanks for sharing New England aster with all of us.

Dana O'Driscoll:

Absolutely.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Thanks for watching. Don't forget to click the link above this transcript to get free access to Dana's New England aster glycerite. You can also visit Dana directly at thedruidsgarden.com. Before you go, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter below, so you'll be the first to get my new videos, including interviews like this. I'd also love to hear your thoughts about this interview and your relationship with New England aster. Leave your comments below. I deeply believe that this world needs more herbalists and plant-centered folks. I'm so glad you're here as part of this herbal community. Have a beautiful day.


Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Heal and co-author of the bestselling book Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine. She's a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and has taught thousands of students through her online courses. Read about how Rosalee went from having a terminal illness to being a bestselling author in her full story here.  



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