It has been several years now that we have been sharing about the correspondences between herbs and astrology. But where do these correspondences come from and how are they useful?!
The correspondences within astro-herbalism come from a branch of astrology called Medical Astrology which essentially uses astrological signatures to denote certain constitutional foundations and certain disease potentials. The system is linked to the Hermetic sciences and its 7 Hermetic Principles. Most notably, the second principle of correspondence which “embodies the truth that there is always correspondence between the laws and phenomena of various planes of Being & Life” (Kybalion, Three Initiates). In other words: as above, so below.
Generally, within this discipline the planets represent the energetic qualities being expressed and the zodiac signs represent the organ or system of the body that the planet is acting upon. Since each zodiac sign has a planetary ruler, the planets do also correspond to organ / body systems, however when just starting out it is easiest to only focus on the zodiac as the organs until you understand the deeper layers of correspondence.
To understand the pattern being expressed in either the herb or person, we look to the elemental balance of their overall constitution and the symptoms expressing. From here, we find a plant ally, or combination of plant allies that will support not only the clearing of symptoms but which actually addresses the root cause. For the most comprehensive diagnosis, the practitioner will work with the birth chart of their client.
The key to all this is truly to study the underlying patterns of elemental expressions that exist within all things. Everything consists of earth, air, fire and water. When we take the time to understand what it looks like when each element is expressed, we gain knowledge of their correspondences and can apply this to the transformation of disease into wellness.
Many who study alchemy say that the best school is nature. So if you are serious about this study, we suggest spending some time in nature meditating on / contemplating the elements and their millions of expressions. When studying the astrological correspondences within plants, we look to the doctrine of signatures which suggests that the plant looks like the body part, organ or disease it is suited for. It also applies to astrology though, in that the plant will embody planetary characteristics.
Let’s take lavender for example, who broadly corresponds to Mercury. Like Mercury, the archetype of the traveller that moves between worlds, lavender grows in many places all around the world and can thrive in a wide range of soil types. Mercury relates to the element air, which in a morphological sense is expressed as spacious, light, feathery, delicate and even fluffy. It is also expressed in smaller and more delicate forms, as well as tall, thin, spindly and angular shapes. The growth patterns of air type plants are generally more sporadic and scattered, and the flowers are often purple or indigo in colour!
Sound familiar? Lavender has a spacious growth pattern (lots of openness on the stalk), is tall, thin and has fluffy purple flowers!
Now we look at how lavender works on the human body. While Lavender has many herbal actions, it is primarily known for its sedative and antispasmodic actions. What do these directly correspond to? The nervous system. What planet is strongly associated with the nervous system? Mercury! We also see the elemental signature of air in the drying, astringent and cooling action of Lavender.
As illustrated in this example, we like to start with the habitat and morphology of the plant. Next we look at its actions on the human body.
Focus first on what symptoms are presenting and manifesting!
If there are no symptoms, you can use your chart as a guide to strengthen weak points that may cause problems during certain transits, etc. The chart can also give clues to the root cause of disease patterns and chronic issues. One really important thing to note as you explore the herbal actions and begin to experiment with herbs; is that each herb has many actions. Often we get really excited about finding what a herb is “good for” and just start taking it for those reasons, which can be super helpful. But it can also cause you some issues if you aren’t totally aware of everything that a herb does in the body.
Using Lavender as an example, if you have a super dry and airy constitution and you use a ton of Lavender to calm yourself; you may actually perpetuate some symptoms of dryness and coldness in your other organ systems. It is always a good practice to gather as much information as you can before you start taking herbs, and learning what they are doing in addition to your intended use.
This is why so many herbs have a specific list of indications, or personalities as we like to say. For example, if you need an antispasmodic herb; there’s at least 30 herbs with that action. So using your intuition and scientific investigation you can begin to understand what antispasmodics have the specific elemental associations that will be nourishing to your constitution.
If this practice is totally new to you, take a look at your chart and see what element(s) are dominant. Think about some herbs that have similar and different elemental balance. If your chart is fire heavy, what are some cooling herbs? If your chart is earth heavy, what are some moistening or warming herbs? Once you have done some musing on potential herbal allies, do a taste test of some brewed tea. What effects do you notice, are there differences and similarities between your chosen herbs? (Always make sure you have checked for contra-indications and safety!) We love starting herbal exploration with mint family herbs, as they are quite safe and offer a vast array of herbal actions and tastes.
To recap- start by identifying the astrological correspondences of plants. Maybe devote a journal to your findings. Then, you can begin to explore the correspondences between the body and astrology. Eventually, you can put it all together but this should take lots of time, study and practice.
Happy herbal exploring!