Most of us are fascinated with rainbows, are we not? Thunder, lightning, swirling storms clean the air. When conditions are right a rainbow forms giving us a spectacular show of color that can simply be enchanting even magical. Of course legends abound about the significance of this phenomena perhaps a gift from the gods. Beautiful and majestic a rainbow feels like a gift.
In the field of nutrition and herbs rainbows have an interesting place. The rainbow is an arc of light whose colors are sunlight refracted by water molecules. When we look at the world of herbs, keeping with this theme, we see the same colors reflected in the edibles and medicinals in nature. We know from nutrition studies that each color in foods signifies a variety of nutrients but especially an array of anti- oxidants. From purple to red and all colors in between we have a compliment of substances that have the unique ability of scooping up harmful byproducts which leads to a healthier environment within our cells, our biology. Oxidants contribute to the aging process. Whether flowers, leaves or roots we see antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin A, C, E represented, sometimes in trace amounts sometimes in significant amounts. For example, dandelion leaves, 1 cup chopped, have 112% RDA of Vitamin A not to mention 19 mg of Vitamin C.
These leaves also have a wide variety of B vitamins and minerals. This compliment of nutrients is recognized by our biology and though dandelion may have an affinity for the liver, gallbladder and kidney systems it does contribute its nutrients and support to the whole body.
When we eat a variety of foods from the color spectrum we support foundational health and vitality. When we choose different herbs varying our choices the same thing happens: we ingest a variety of nutrients in various amounts that supports our biology. Homeostasis is maintained, synergy occurs in a holistic way. Holism, the third concept I wish to highlight, is a concept I will repeat over and over in that we are a part of the whole. The macrocosm, the universe, is in the microcosm, the individual, and all that that implies. A holistic approach to health means we choose those modalities that support us on a mind, body, spirit level.
In the not so distant past, herbalists chose some herbs for their effect on the psyche, to enhance romance and chase away the blues. With our mechanization of the herbal industry we take away some of the spirit, the energy of the plant that goes beyond the science. My teachers have taught me to give thanks for everything I pick, harvest and use, for my food and my medicine. It is said that when we acknowledge this plant kingdom in this way they can work more holistically within us. Holism is about relationship.
Homeostasis, synergy, holism, three broad concepts incredibly relevant in the understanding and application of herbs in our healing and in our kitchens.
My Native American elders often referred to the merging of cultures here in North America as the place of the rainbow people. Isn’t fitting that science is meeting the legends and confirming that when we eat a rainbow of colors we are supported on all levels of our being. As above so below, comes to mind.
Maybe rainbows are the gift of the gods.
Autumn is here. Many plant cycles of bloom have ended. Yet our eyes will feast on the vast array of colors in the natural world around us as autumn dazzles us with her dance. . I ask you to give thanks today for the food and medicines you need.
Enjoy your day. Judith