Anger is a seed.
As is grows, it rips through our insides, taking root in vulnerable places.
Where do you experience your anger?
For me, I feel it like a jittery bug inside, stemming from my chest. It wants to cover my body and mind in it’s poison.
As an herbalist, when I am asked what I suggest for anger, I never quite know how to give the small, conversational answer. My knowledge base is in Western Herbalism and Vitalism. But I am also a social worker. So, when someone wants to work with anger, I start with the seed.
Think of how strong an emotional response it is. Anger is an important vital sign. In other words, it takes a lot of energy to be mad. I like to visualize both the anger seed and the vitality seed growing side by side. Anger grows into fire, which can show up as heat conditions in the body, most commonly in your digestion, liver and skin. I wonder if vitality growing, in this case, is why we can “live off of hate”.
To battle fire with fire, I would pull out all the ammo. Start with cooling herbs that calm the nervous system, ease digestion, and cleanse the liver. Vervain and Dandelion Root are special enough to meet all three criteria.
Vervain (Verbena officianalis) an herb that is often known in the Asheville neck of the woods for helping those that judge ourselves too harshly and thusly also judge others. This cooling, pungent bitter is indicated specifically for dispelling fears, clearing out old patterns of behavior and aiding in new encoding. I like to think of it like petting an agitated cat.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalus) is a commonly talked about herb. I will add to this dialogue by saying that there is a power in weeds that as humans we need to be humbled by. They understand rocky places, the parts inside of ourselves where we believe nothing can grow…dandelion takes root and heals. As much as we can physiologically understand the properties of dandelion, it’s energetics are inexplicably helpful. As a flower essence, Dandelion is used for physical problems with your liver or gallbladder, or for experiencing old anger and rage turner either inward, outward, or both.
Marshmallow Root (Althaea officinalis) is an often under appreciated herb in western herbalism. I came to fall in love with it’s mildy nutty flavor and soothing nature while in Colorado living at 7200 ft. Or as I liked to call it, a dehydration field day where even biscuits couldn’t rise. It helps your body to absorb water and other nutrients in part by healing the gut lining and allowing maximum hydration. However, it also has a nervine action to it. Although slight, this makes it a key player in formulas that effect digestion and nerves. If you are “too upset to eat” or your stomach matches your emotions, try making a cold infusion of Marshmallow Root (cut and sifted works best).
We couldn’t talk about an emotional response without mentioning the heart. Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), intuitively comes to mind. It is bitter so it will influence the liver to work more effectively and cleansing out excess hormones. It is also known for possessing a nurturing energetic quality to the heart.
An extra herb in your formula that is going to relax the nerve cells seems critical here. Whether you are building an everyday formula or for acute situations, you want one that addresses the individual’s nervous system picture. For a burnt out person, try Milky Oats (Avena sativa). For a grief stricken picture try Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha) (and read my article on the Dark magic of grief). For a person who wants to fight try Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata). For the person who wants to leave their body, try Kava Kava Root (Piper methysticum). For the irritated person, a vulnerary herb comes to mind. Perhaps Marshmallow Root (mentioned above) or a Violet leaf (Viola).
Incorporating daily herbs into what we eat can be a great way to take our medicine. Grinding up Milk Thistle seeds and adding it to your food is a great way to boost your liver’s functioning. For someone experiencing the Fight response on the regular, I would suggest 2 Tablespoons daily.
If you experience out-of-body anger include herbs that are grounding and nutritive. The Doctrine of Signatures suggests roots and rhizomes as grounding medicine. Anenome (Anenome quinquefolia) an inconspicuous small white flower in the Appalachian mountains ( in drop doses) is known for bringing people down from extreme highs.
Getting the energy moving and out is also a powerful part of the process. Never underestimate the power of a good long walk. Keep moving until you are coming back into yourself. Or write it out, with out judgement, and then throw out or bury the piece of paper. Do any rituals that you find helpful to letting go.
I wonder how age plays a difference in how we experience emotions. With a hoarse throat and a thin voice, screaming sometimes is the only thing that makes you feel heard. Taking the flowers of a nervine, perhaps Pedicularis and Lavender and infusing them in honey are a nurturing and sweet counteractive spell for the pain in a young one’s heart.
Anger is a seed. Our deepest emotions are often our most powerful teaching tools. I don’t believe we shouldn’t be angry. There is much injustice in this world, and anger is an understandable response. But it likes to linger in a damaging way. So, when it’s time to move forward, there are plants ready to help. What grows in it’s place is still unwritten.