Pride & Healing Series: The Flowers We Request


Happy Pride! This blog post serves as an accompaniment to our month-long LGBTQ2+ Pride month series that has been posted weekly to Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine’s Instagram page throughout the month of June. The series, The Flowers We Request: Pride & Healing, has been written by Brydie (they/them) and Sarah (she/her/ella). This series began with a brief examination of LGBTQ2+ history. The acronym, LGBTQIA+ has many variations, however this particular ordering stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit, with the plus symbol acknowledging the many other queer and trans identities that belong within. Examples of other identities include asexual, pansexual, genderqueer, non-binary, and intersex.

Starting with a historical reflection allows us to remember what historical events Pride came out of, and what intersecting systemic oppressions existed, and continue to exist, that led queer and trans people to resist, fight back, and organize for lasting change. The posts, as well as this article, will move through ways of healing, expressions of queer love, and finally toward queer and trans celebration, joy, and pride. Herbal recipes, an explanation of the uses of each herb and the ways it can be used to further queer and trans wellness, are outlined throughout the article.

Balm in Gilead Tea

Our first herbal recipe comes in the form of a healing tea. If you grew up Black and churched, you may know the African American spiritual, There Is a Balm in Gilead, whose lyrics serve as a sweet balm themselves. “There is a balm in Gilead/to make the wounded whole/there is a balm in Gilead/to heal the sin-sick soul.” Pride month may not immediately make you think of the spirituals, but I can’t help but wonder if Stonewall-era activists, Marsha P. Johnson or Stormé DeLarverie, grew up singing these very words. Black queer, transgender, and gender non-binary people led the resistance efforts in the face of police brutality against queer and transgender persons at the Stonewall Inn in 1969, which is now referred to as the Stonewall Riots. Learn more about the uprising at the Stonewall Inn.

This community action was a catalyst for the gay rights movement, and eventually, Pride. A Black trans-led movement, Stonewall was not only about queer and trans liberation, but also about confronting systemic racism, femmephobia, cissexism, and classism that work in tandem to become life limiting. The fight that began in the 1960s still remains and needs an even deeper intersectional and social justice analysis as Pride becomes a capitalist venture (see also this article and this one), and less about human rights. Tracing where we have been and where we need to go is crucial in continuing the work of our LGBTQIA2 (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and two-spirit) ancestors. We need wellness for this journey. A balm.

Our Balm in Gilead tea blend is a comforting blend that soothes the nervous system and supports emotional and somatic calm. Brew and sip in the evening. The name not only signifies the refusal of enslaved Africans to lose their spiritual core, but also Gilead, an ancient area of Palestine, and Palestinian medicinal plant knowledge. This serves as a reminder that our liberation and our healing are dependent on one another, and on our collective remembering.

Our first ingredient is lemon balm. The lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) we used for the brew was grown locally in Sarah’s garden where we live in Louisville, Kentucky. Lemon balm is used for easing anxiety, relieving stress, and supporting cognitive function and focus. A main outcome of trauma and societal stress is a loss of memory function and an increase in anxiety and depression. Lemon balm is a helpful herb for queer, trans, and otherwise marginalized persons who would benefit from its healing properties. Similarly, chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), our second ingredient, improves anxiety, aids in digestion, and reduces inflammation. 

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), our final tea ingredient, grown in Brydie’s garden and one of their favorite medicines, offers mild pain relief, especially related to migraines and menstruation. Feverfew works best for migraines if taken on a regular basis but offers some acute relief. Both the leaves and flowers of feverfew can be steeped for tea. Use caution before using feverfew if you are pregnant, on blood thinners, are heavily bleeding or allergic to ragweed. Consult a healthcare provider before using any new herbal medicines.

Our optional ingredient, that we particularly love, is locally sourced honey: honey, local to your area, boosts immunity, soothes allergies, and is used for its antioxidant properties. Agave nectar can be substituted for those following a vegan diet, or for those who may benefit from agave’s many health benefits, as it contains folate, vitamin k, as well as B6.

Healing Herbal Bath

In the book The Salt Eaters, Toni Cade Bambara’s character, who is a healer, asks, “Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well?” Often the healing journey is too heavy, especially for queer and trans folks, particularly those of color, who have been forced to carry more than their share of harm and the burden of changing the conditions of the harm being perpetrated against them. The burden of carrying both trauma and the hardship of repairing a society oriented against you, is a daily, heavy, reality for queer and trans people. Often legal victories, such as same gender marriage, cloud the reality of how far we have to go. Communal care and allied comradeship are antidotes to the ineffectual call of “self-care” which becomes just one more thing for the individual being harmed to have to carry.

Healing must be both an individual and communal process, but we can only carry so much. What can we, queer and trans folks, put down? If you are desiring to join in comradeship with the oppressed, what can you pick up to shift the weight of the load? Audre Lorde, a Black lesbian feminist, taught us that we can use our own erotic center as power. Placing down what no longer serves us, tapping into our powerful queer erotic core, and ritualizing individual and communal care can help us on the journey to wellness. In its many forms.

In this healing bath, the second of our recipes, we invite you to awaken the senses, tap into your erotic, and get ready to spiritually cleanse from all you have been carrying; heal, get your goods, and be well. You can view this bath as a ritualized first step in taking up the serious task of individual and community supported wellness. The ingredients in the bath blend are chosen for their cleansing, anti-inflammatory, soothing, stress relieving, and detoxifying properties. 

Coconut oil is used as a carrier oil for the essential oils and to moisturize the skin. Orange essential oil is anti-inflammatory, works as a mild pain reliever, it is antimicrobial, and helps to clear the skin of acne causing bacteria, and aids in lifting the symptoms caused from depression and anxiety. Precaution: some orange oils cause photosensitivity. Use caution when using citrus oils before going out into the sun. Lavender essential oil is calming, aids in relaxation and easing insomnia, helps to ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety, is anti-inflammatory, as well as antibacterial. Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, helps gently improve inflammation, aids sleep and soothes stress thanks to its high level of magnesium that is absorbed through the skin during an Epsom salt bath. The salt can also be beneficial as a gentle exfoliator used in moderation in the bath before it completely dissolves. Amethyst is a quartz that is radiantly purple. It shields from intoxication, and ushers in our higher selves. It promotes calm, tranquility, and relaxation, as well as clarity of thinking and comprehension. Amethyst is a path clearer, protecting us from becoming intoxicated by our own self-doubt, fear, and stuckness.





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