By Jann Garitty
On The Language of Plants: “The book seems to fulfill its mission in the plant world – it seems to hit home in people’s souls – that’s what I wanted and that’s my reward for writing the book. I have people emailing from far-reaching countries saying that the claims of the book hold true for their own new plant observations.” – Julia Graves
The writing of The Language of Plants:
highlighting a life-long research of the living world of plants
A dynamic approach to plant knowledge
Julia’s relief aid work in Haiti
About Julia Graves
“I used to explain to my surprised friends that I was training in a way of reading plants, even if I had never seen them before. Since then, I have indeed been able to practice on three continents and put my theory to the test.” –Julia Graves
Growing up, Julia Graves knew directly the experience of plants and nature. As a child, she simply absorbed herbal knowledge and didn’t intellectualize it. As a teenager, Julia encountered the Doctrine of Signatures, she read herb books, while at same time that she was studying science in school. She thought at the time that the Doctrine of Signatures was “ridiculous.” After some time, about age 18, she studied more deeply analogous systems, such as astrology and the elements, and her thinking and opinion shifted. She came to the realization that the Doctrine of Signatures was so much more. Julia became even more interested in the Doctrine after years in medical school, where she observed the similarities and analogies between human and plant tissues. For example, the human kidney is exactly like a cross-sectional slice of cucumber. The cucumber stores water in the fruit and the kidneys are the water organ in the body. As a teenager, Julia read the work of Wilhelm Pelikan in his volumes Heilpflanzenkunde. “Eventually,” Julia says, “this actually led to my demise as a medical student. It didn’t line up with what I was taught in school, and I quit medical school after four years.”
Julia is a practitioner who has been using plants for a very long time – “I use them everyday with anyone who comes across my path,” says Julia. She is constantly trying out plants and her knowledge of plants is gained from experience. Julia emphasizes the need for experiential learning of the plants and the study of botany, not just clinical experience. She says, “One should get dirt under their fingernails! In the past, herbalists had a whole lifetime of experience being with the plants, but now, people pick up information intellectually.”
Julia has studied botany, morphology and plant families since the age of 16. From the Pelikan book, she learned about plant families and the healing qualities of the various families. She knows the plant families and uses this knowledge in her practice. For example, when clients come and she sees they are not centered, she immediately thinks of the Composite family.
Julia says, “Working with healing plants since childhood, I became aware that they actually show you what they are good for - with visible signs. All one needs to understand plants is one's senses – one needs to look, taste, smell, observe. No clairvoyance or mystical skills are necessary. Just being in nature with a still, open mind and clear senses is enough. Paracelsus calls this 'reading the pages in the book of nature.' The only thing one needs to accept is that an analogy between outer and inner characteristics can be meaningful - as above, so below; as outside, so inside. Nature herself is not reductionistic, her language is holistic and artistic. It is easy to learn.”1
Julia has studied widely from classical texts and all traditions, including shamans in Africa, herb manuals as well as maintaining a practice. All of these experiences came together. She says, “Like the correspondence of colors, what do they mean? Red for example, all traditions have indications with red being associated with blood and with fire. It was like a light going off in my mind – wow – everyone on the planet says blood, red, stands for fire.” There are any number of plants with red flowers or berries that are remedies for the blood or the circulatory system. Some of these include Bloodroot, Barberry, Red Beet, Red Clover and Hawthorn berries. Scarlet Monkeyflower, an example of a flower essence, addresses the fire of anger, and “helps to integrate aggression—screaming red anger (the flower looks like a screaming mouth),” says Julia.
Julia has taught classes about flower essences for many years, first applying her synthesized knowledge much more to flower essences than to herbs. She began with teaching the “language of flowers,” and later she began to think more in terms of the “language of plants” to broaden her concepts to trees, roots, and fruits.
This same shift from flowers to full plant occurred again when she was writing her book. Julia says, “I had no intentions but then connections rose like a bubble from the ocean, I couldn’t type fast enough – my mind gave me example after example after example. I was synthesizing and bringing together from experience whatever my knowing.”
Writing The Language of Plants: highlighting a life-long research of the living world of plants
“All these thoughts were flying around in my mind. I taught three 3-hour classes on these topics, and I thought actually, this could be a book. While living with plants, growing plants, using Pelikan, my mind fermented. Since I was young, I’ve had a passion for languages; I always wanted to communicate with people. And I really wanted to communicate with nature and understand what she had to say. All of this came together and the book came out of it,” says Julia.
“Finding only bits of information scattered here and there, I set out to put all the pieces of knowledge from the various planetary traditions together. To my amazement, a clear and coherent system emerged: nature's own system, nature's own sign language.”1
For years, color and shape were primary to Julia’s teachings and so she began the writing of the book starting with “The Doctrine of Signatures in Practice.” This Part includes chapters on Color, Shapes, Smell, Taste, Sound, Touch and Understanding, the Elements and the Environment, the Planetary Signature, Organ and Physiological Signatures, Disease Signatures, Animal Signature and the Energetic Signature.
However, while writing, Julia recognized the need for an introduction to include chapters on History, the Doctrine of Signatures Today, What is a Signature?, Plants as Teachers, The Doctrine of Signature in Practice, and What is Not a Signature. Her intent was to show that the Doctrine of Signatures is scientific, and is a very precise code of meaning.
|“Fully illustrated, The Language of Plants reads like a story book. First of its kind, this comprehensive compilation of all known signatures includes an introduction to the history, an explanation of the “grammar rules,” detailed descriptions of what is a signature and what is not, etc. This book empowers the reader to look up the meaning of every characteristic of a plant, which pieces together the totality of its healing properties. It explains each of them, such as colour, shapes of the different parts, smells, tastes, and the environment it grows in, and includes examples from all cultures.”1
“My hope is that this book will spark a renaissance of true holistic relationships to plants, embracing nature as meaningful and alive. When a healer thus trained in reading nature finds the healing plant that is the exact energetic match to the energetic distortion of the ailing person, true holistic healing takes place in quantum leaps,” remarks Julia.1
A dynamic approach to plant knowledge
As a practitioner, Julia’s treatment approach varies for each unique situation. She may first think of an herbal or possibly a flower essence, or actually start immediately thinking about the gestalt, the pattern by asking, “What do I know that fits this pattern?” While in any one situation, she may use more than one form of a plant, i.e., herbal, flower essence, homeopathic, essential oil, she separates out the application of different classes of plant preparations rather than blending them all in one bottle. She has found that herbal tinctures in one bottle with flower essences tend to overpower the flower essence effect. Julia hasn't found that any kind of plant medicine antidotes another if used by the same person at the same time. An example of combining the different plant modalities would be homeopathic arnica for soft tissue injuries at the same time treating swelling and bruising using herbal liniments with oils and herbs, and Arnica flower essence orally.
Julia finds that all plant modalities combine well, when chosen correctly with intelligence; she uses inner logic to orchestrate it. She tries to see and feel how the energies mix or match, paying attention to the kind of rules as she teaches in her course about combining. Julia also cautions, “One doesn’t want to overwhelm the body because it is asking the life force to react. Using too much at once is like five people asking questions of someone all at the same time, and so the person can’t hear anymore. People are different in how much they can take, dependent on age, disease, ego, etc. All of that has to be taken into consideration.”
Julia has done a lot of body work and is able to sense energy and can see the chakras. She has observed a clear precise physiological impact from flower essences. Also, at a chronic, functional level, if energy is not flowing correctly and patterns are held in the skeleton, one can use flower essences topically. She teaches yoga teachers to use flower essences for stretching. Flower essences go into the energy body and impact emotional patterning and the energetic level of physiological functioning.
A healer who understands a plant as an energetic pattern, how it unfolds and holds itself, can look at a person and see what is held, and correct that. By testing the flower essences on people and watching the aura, she learned that flowers can recreate their own shape. Julia explains, “Such as Sunflower for father issues – Sunflower has a tall energy stem – as if Sunflower wants to recreate Sunflower to use for your spine, as if the father was standing behind the person and smiling. A healer can match these patterns, just as a craftsman with the correct tool, and the work gets done. When one can match the energy of the flower essence to the situation with precision, profound healing can occur, one can be completely reconfigured.”
Having previously worked as a psychotherapist, Julia can’t help but be struck by how much more quickly one can be helped with flower essences, “Why wait for talking therapy to show effects?” However, for deep trauma, these two modalities often work best in tandem, being synergistic. The flower essences will greatly speed up the therapeutic process, and often even undo knots that even skilfull therapy does not seem to effect.
Julia’s relief aid work in Haiti
Julia partly credits her experience at age 22 working in Africa for preparing her for doing relief aid work in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake which occurred in 2010. She had a grant in medical school to research midwifery in Africa. Julia was staying at a mission hospital for a half year and always helped out. There were a whole variety of experiences that helped shape her healing practice including seeing someone with snake venom in their eyes, AIDS, syphilis, extreme conditions that no one sees in the West. One such experience was seeing a violent acting man with tertiary syphilis, which she recognized again in Haiti with a man who was violent. She says that she would not have known to give the appropriate nosode in the second case had she not witnessed that condition in Africa.
Julia also lived in India for three years, where she made the acquaintance of Thupten Jinpa, an herbalist, native Haitian and Buddhist monk. He was at a different monastery and treated class mates. Julia worked with Jinpa treating child monks, who typically are quite neglected while living at monasteries. They took care of the “baby monks” under 10 years of age, and the teens. Julia encountered pneumonia but also other experiences not seen in the West. “These valuable experiences made me know what to do,” she said.
It was from her experiences in Africa and in India, and everything else she had done in her life, that enabled her to basically come up with the clinic process in Haiti on the spot. She asked everyone she knew for what was needed. At first, being there, overrun with sweat, mosquitoes, and everyone’s misery, she wondered if what she was doing was effective. But then, because they were operating in neighborhoods, unlike the Red Cross and other organizations, they quickly received feedback which helped build confidence that what they were doing was actually working.
In the relief aid work in Haiti, the organizers only take with them qualified practitioners with 3rd World experience. Julia says, “One must understand that the treatments are given in less than pristine and perfect conditions. One has to be a flexible, imaginative person to serve there. Procedures and protocols must be adhered to that were established, repeated and worked well in prior clinics conducted in Haiti.” Practitioners do not have the luxury of spending much time with any one person, only about 5 minutes per person and they have developed ways for working quickly. One technique is the use of pulse testing; it’s the fastest way of knowing if they have the right treatment for a patient. If more than one remedy is being considered and not known which would be best, they touch the remedy to the skin while feeling the pulse. If it’s the appropriate remedy, the pulse will even out. The practitioners must focus on the worst symptom a person has. As Julia says, “Only because another 200 people are outside waiting…”
Julia has found it difficult for the Haitian people to understand that a remedy can treat the totality of symptoms, because the people are already trained in the Western medical model, that there’s one treatment for every single condition. “It’s difficult to convey that we can treat the totality of energetic distortion all at once,” explains Julia.
Read more information about the study of plants, “The Twelve Windows of Plant Perception” written by Richard Katz and Patricia Kaminski.
About Julia Graves
Julia Graves teaches holistic healing internationally. Raised by an herbalist mother, she studied medicine at Kiel University and later Gestalt psychotherapy. While living at Findhorn community, in Northern America and India, Julia studied various traditional systems of healing. She integrates her spiritual experience of years of study at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery and solitary meditation retreat into her healing work. Julia developed her own line flower essences, the Lily Circle (www.greentarafloweressences.com). After the devastating earthquake to Haiti, she founded a mobile naturopathic clinic that has since offered free treatment to 12,000 people (www.haiti.citronica.com).
(1) "The Language of Plants – Opening the Eyes to Nature," by Julia Graves, article for Watkins magazine, Feb 2013