Updated: Jan 29
One of the many gifts, the good medicine, we receive from our plant relatives includes their ability to, literally, brighten and beautify our world. Whether considered a "weed" or a well-tended cultivar, it isn't just the chemical constituents within them that contain healing medicine.
Beauty is often a hotly-contested word, defined rather subjectively, and certainly falling into the "eye of the beholder" category. That doesn't stop us from trying to codify it, formalize it and dictate what it is. Packaging and marketing it into a pop-culture commodity; products, processes and more that promise "beauty" - a multi billion-dollar industry ($49.2 billion in 2019) playing to our innate desire for beautiful. All of it distorting what beauty is and somehow making it synonymous with not-quite-ours, never-satisfied "perfection."
Yet, at its core, beauty itself is medicine. As seen in human body beautification or the environment we find ourselves. Whether stark, minimal, profusely abundant, human created, or Creator made...the definition of touching beauty is a personal one. Regardless of the words you use to describe it, your heart, soul, body, mind and community all respond in positive ways when gazing at or hearing (yes, hearing) something beautiful.
Multiple studies have shown that our cognitive functioning and "reward" centers are stimulated by perceiving beauty, along with our emotional/nervous system by calming anxiety/fear receptors and upping dopamine and joy receptors. Heart, too... even though they're called "neuro receptors,” nerve receptors reside in our hearts as well; for both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system responses. And don't forget your "gut feelings." Even our gut/organs and digestive system receive and react with positive effect from beautiful things.
Beauty, beautiful, isn't complicated. Intricate, perhaps, but not complicated. For me, I love the shapes bodies make; the curve of a cheek. That spot where neck becomes trapezius and lengthens into the shoulder. I adore sunrise, and the songs the birds sing during dawn. Moonlight on snow. I also LOVE the lines of Art nouveau architecture; a sumptuous bouquet of peonies. A single orchid. A touching turn of phrase; a well told story; a poignant aphorism. My kids' belly laughs. The beadwork of my ancestors. More artists than I can name in here. A good lace. Amazing Grace and Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Mushrooms. And, of course, the visual beauty and songs the plants share.
Some of my favorite plants who share their beauty and their brains:
Echinacea (purple coneflower)
As you move through winter, and maybe the doldrums of the dark; or scroll through your web browsers and social media feeds, pause long enough and look around. What beauty do you see? Invite it in, seek it out, make the space; and then take a moment to sit with it. Be with it. Drink it in like it's the most brilliant cup of tea ever. Because, after all, it is. #beautyismedicine