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Finding Healing in My Own Backyard: Chickweed

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I struggle often with the price of health in today’s world.

In a country where our soil is depleted, chemicals are all around us, and most of us no longer grow our own food, eating a healthy diet is undeniably expensive. If you cut out common allergens or choose a healing diet for a period of time, the price tag climbs even higher. Add to that care from natural practitioners not covered by insurance and herbs and supplements to promote healing, and you’ve soared out of most people’s price range.

I believe in these types of changes to diet and lifestyle because they have the power to truly restore balance and health in the body. But, I am troubled by the fact that this type of lifestyle is inaccessible for a large percentage of people simply because of the cost.

It also does not sit well with me that those who can choose this higher level of health are, by and large, wealthy white folks. While we eat our wild-caught salmon and organic arugula, a large percentage of the population has little option but to buy the products of industrialization – the chemical-laden, nutrient-deficient foods that our wealthy, white demographic made possible and popular.

In both the entrepreneurial world and the health coaching world, people like to remind you that you will find a way to pay for what’s really important to you. I think that’s true, but I also think that the monetary price tag on health has gotten out of control.

There is no doubt in my mind that we have dug ourselves into a hole. Our processed and highly pasteurized foods, in addition to our chemical exposure and violently stressful lifestyles, have left our bodies damaged and out of balance. The extreme dietary shifts, supplementation, and lifestyle changes are certainly necessary to restore health in many cases. But, the need and suffering may be greatest for those who have the least access to the solutions.

How We Can Make Health Accessible Again

After spending 6 years in an urban Mennonite community and connecting with many ordinary radicals, I’ve learned to look outside the box a little. Will you walk down this trail of thought with me for moment?

Even just 100 years ago, people in our country were much healthier (in terms of chronic illness) and spent far less on food than we do now. Of course, many people grew their own food, the pace of life was slower, and processed foods were less prominent. I am also sure that people were a lot more connected to creation around them – knowing which plants had a healing effect and which plants were edible. They spent more time working in the soil and being outside – both of which affect stress levels and the health of the microflora in our bodies.

When I think of it this way, I wonder…could healing be right in our backyards (or at least in a green space close-by)? I don’t expect that we will turn this ship around completely within a year or two, but we all need small, simple (and inexpensive) steps to take. Most people at any economic level can take the time to stop and notice the living world around them again. It costs us almost nothing to notice the plants that grow around us, to find out what they are, and even to investigate their healing properties.

There Are Gifts of Healing Waiting Right Outside Our Doors

Our family is in a season of tight budgets and limited resources, though I am well aware of our privilege in the midst of it all. The word to my heart during this time has been to work with what I already have. God has spoken to my heart to turn my eyes away from new things I want or could buy (consumerism) and inward and homeward to the many gifts surrounding me right where I am.

This discipline has helped me to turn my attention to my own backyard (quite literally!). I have started to make small steps to notice the plants and trees in our yard and neighborhood and to find out what gifts they have to offer us. I am also grateful to have friends who are good at plant identification and internet guides to help me along the way.

I have discovered several plants that have healing properties, and I feel this energy and excitement and hope welling up in me as I reconnect with creation and see that God is providing for us right under our noses. It brings tears to my eyes to think that there are answers to our prayers for healing that are growing around us all the time. Despite our neglect and indifference, they continue to grow and offer us their gifts.

Honestly, it feels a little like grace.

Money can buy wonderful foods and nourishing supplements, but I believe that God made this world in such a way that most of what we need is closer than we realize. Thousands of cultures were able to find what they needed from the plants and animals unique to their little place in the world.

Perhaps, there is still hope for us.

Our First Lesson in Backyard Healing

Chickweed
Chickweed

As one of our  first lessons in backyard healing, I had the chance to learn about chickweed. (I came across this series, which helps kids learn about herbs – I have not actually read the series yet, but I found it inspiring!) My husband was frustrated that a certain weed was taking over our lawn; but, it turns out this annoying plant was chickweed, which has many gifts to give us.

We learned that you can chew a little in your mouth to make a poultice and put it on stings to relieve the pain or on cuts to stop bleeding. It also has many internal medicinal effects, including relieving constipation, acting as an anti-histamine, and easing kidney complaints.

One of my favorite things has been hearing our 3-year-old say “I need some chickweed on it!” when he gets hurt.

We also found that it was quite tasty made into pesto sauce! So, the kids gathered it for me (after watching some YouTube videos to make sure we were identifying it correctly), and I made it into a tasty pesto, as recommended by the author of the Herb Fairies books (see my variation of this recipe below).

My vision for this series is that others would contribute their stories and recipes, too. I think we could start a movement of sorts – people reconnecting to the world around them and finding healing in their own backyards!

Have you discovered something growing near your house or in your neighborhood that is healing or delicious?  Post your story in the comments or email me to submit a guest post. I seriously can’t wait to hear about it!

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Chickweed Pesto
Author: 
Recipe type: Sauce
Cuisine: Local
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5-7 servings
 
Simple pesto sauce made from an easy-to-find herb.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup chickweed (washed well, any roots removed)
  • ⅓ cup almonds
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • ¼-1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • ⅓ cup parmesan cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. Blend all ingredients together in a blender or food processor.
  2. Serve over pasta, mix into salad dressing, or sautee with potatoes or stir fry.

 

My name is Candace McCallister. I am the founder of Sweet Water Offering, a holistic health enterprise to support women and families to heal naturally. My background is in biology, counseling, bodywork, and nutrition. My husband and I are helping to start an intentional Christian community in Little Rock, AR. We have three lively and beautiful children.

2 Comments

  • JesSay! Negron

    Thanks for this post. I agree that somehow living a healthy lifestyle has somehow moved to the ranks of the elite. At least as far as consumer markets go. There are options for better health and lifestyle that do not cost an arm and a leg. I’ve been employing some tactics from the permaculture world to create a food forest out of my lawn. The initial investment of time and energy has been vast but the cost is little. Most of the resources needed to create this have been cheep or free. So called waste has been turned into great soil and our community has pulled resources together to share with one another to make the possibilities of living sustainably very accessible. I have been continuing to use my home as a platform for building more community awareness around health, wellness, permaculture, yoga, sustainability and more with a focus on fun, fellowship and creativity. I host weekly gathering in several formats such as potlucks, volunteer events, and movie nights. This will continue to expand as we get the healing house more organized and build on what we have started. Check out our group page on facebook to learn more about what we are doing! https://www.facebook.com/groups/NickandMarysHealingHouse/

    • SweetWaterOffering

      I love hearing about the work you guys are doing! I would love to come and visit sometime. I’m really interested in learning more about permaculture, in particular. Could you recommend some of you favorite resources (websites are great, but I also love reading a book about these things). I am following your Facebook page. Thanks for taking the time to share your story.

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