Tag Archives: herbalist

Mars, Hot Sauce & Medical Astrology

Here’s a little medical astrology confirmation experience story.  After several weeks of waiting for our peppers to ripen, and waiting to find the right window of time to do it  I finally got a fall batch of hot sauce made on Oct 30th. Eager to get it done, and not accounting for the intensity of some of the chilies I was using, I made it with my bare hands— all our garden chilies bleeding their fresh juice and rubbing fresh seeds against my skin. 

The intensity of the heat seemed to pick up after I was finished the project.  Even after scrubbing my hands with good soap, the lingering burn stayed with me all day.  I made efforts to avoid rubbing my eyes or touching other sensitive spots, forgetting occasionally and further spreading the burn.  I found brief sessions of relief when I plunged my hands into pots of cold rain water that afternoon while washing freshly harvested roots. Soon I found myself walking over to the rain barrel every 10 min or so to soak my hands in it and gain a bit of respite from the sting. But the burn would return a few minutes after removing them. 

Late that night as I lay in bed, unable to relax for the pain in my hands, I had a couple thoughts.  One was that it was interesting for me to experience such intense heat in my hands because in general, they are almost always cold.  So in a way, this was a welcome shift—if only it wasn’t so darn painful!  The other thought was about the quality of this relentless heat, and how it felt to me.  It not only burned, but it had an antsy feeling to it, like an impatience to find relief.  There was almost an anger, and a ferocity to it.  My next thought was “this feels like Mars!” It was then that I realized that this day was the very day that transiting Mars had begun its retrograde motion, which will continue until mid January 2023. 

For me, this was quite the epiphany because the current retrograde of Mars happens to hit me quite powerfully in my astrological chart.  Mars is retrograding (moving backwards from our perspective) through the sign of Gemini.  In my chart, Gemini sits in my first house, and thus it holds my rising, or my Ascendant point.  Almost right beside that point in my chart sits my natal Mars.  So this current Mars retrograde traverses over my Ascendant and also over my natal Mars.  This can easily trigger more Mars-associated experiences in my life during this time. 

Being a viewer of astrological transits, I knew of this upcoming influence, but I didn’t know just what it would look like.  In medical astrology, your first house dictates the parts of your physical body that may express themselves most strongly through your life.  Gemini governs the chest, shoulders, arms and… hands!  Mars relates to the fire of the body, and to temperature in general.  With a strong Mars placement in your chart, either heat or cold can be expressed more extremely in the physical body.  My hands, normally too cold and in need of better circulation, shifted to extreme burning as Mars retrograded over my Ascendant and my natal Mars in Gemini.  There it was.  As above, so below. 

Eventually, my thoughts that night took me into dream space, and when I awoke the next morning I was grateful to find that my hands felt back to normal again.  Mars is not only fiery but speedy too.  Mars in Gemini is like a fire burning up quickly with a burst of oxygen, and then just as quickly, dying back down again.

About 10 days later, I found that a few more of our chilies had ripened, and I also came across the last of the sweet red peppers being sold at a farm stand near my home.  I picked up a few of them to blend with my remaining chilies, deciding to make one more small batch of hot sauce (we do love our hot sauce around here!)  This time I was using fewer peppers, and I took care to avoid skin contact with them as much as possible.  I also didn’t take the time to separate out and save the different pepper seeds for next year’s gardens because I had already done that the last time.  This meant much less touching the seeds, thus much less heat.  In the end, the burn was there again, lingering for a couple hours but almost completely gone by bed time.  That night, as I felt the tiny tingly reminder in my hands, I reflected that this day was the full Moon.  This full Moon was intensified by an amazing total lunar eclipse.  The energy of the Mars retrograde was amplified by this event, because a full Moon will reflect and amplify everything around it.  How interesting, I thought, that I chose to work with this intense herb once again on this powerful day, and here I am with burning hands once again!

This is a clear, rudimentary example of the ways that we experience in our physical life the effects of cosmic movements and interactions.  Medical astrology is an ancient art that can help us to map and track these effects, giving us clues to the causes or factors involved in various states of health.  One of the first details we look at in an astrological chart is the sign in the first house–the “rising sign”.  This can begin to tell us the story of how we, as physical beings, engage with and adapt to the physical world.  Looking into a chart from a medical astrology perspective can be quite elucidating, offering helpful keys to the story of your health, which you may not find elsewhere.  It offers a holistic perspective that spans beyond your body, mind, emotions, family history and living environment out into the cosmic influences that formed a blueprint for who you are.  The chart can be a helpful reference point as we navigate life’s challenges, and look for the supports and strengths that are there with us at those times.  Medical astrology has a long history tied in with herbal medicine, and we can be directed to the particular herbs we choose to work with for health, based on the influences shown in the chart.

For me, Mars retrograde means not only hot hands for a day, but it also points to a chance to energize my communication (another Gemini characteristic).  This transit has perhaps been the fuel behind my impulse to share with you a bit about medical astrology— a tool that I use in my herbal practice whenever I have the opportunity, and one that I share with people when they express interest.

Letting the Wild Thrive

The word “thrive” has a sense of wildness to it.  An idea of energized wellness, well adapted to changing environments and outside influences, responding to life’s encounters with strength, agility, creativity and timeliness.  We tend to yearn for this type of well being.  This ease of adaptability.  Ease of unity with others, balanced with strong enough boundaries to keep ourselves safe and healthy.

To me, wild wellness speaks of relying on our innate intelligence and intuitive knowing to make the best decisions in all aspects of our lives, like what to eat and when, how to move our bodies, where to focus our awareness, when we are safe and when there is danger, when to seek support and when we’ve “got this” on our own.

We can learn a lot about wild wellness by paying attention to wild ecosystems of any size and in any place, from woodlands to beaches to backyards to urban alleyways…

We know that ecosystems thrive on the dynamic changes that continually occur on various levels, taking cues from and responding to all sorts of influences, like the ever changing habitation and visitation of insects, birds and animals, and the longer term life cycles of plants, trees, fungi and lichen that offer opportunities for growth and decay in different ways at different times.

Where there is disturbed or impoverished soil,  trees may not be growing, as the land is in the process of gathering nutrients and moisture to make the site suitable for them to live there again one day.  The earth will then use her wild intelligence to support that land with certain plants and their root systems along with the bacteria and mycorrhizae that surround them, all helping to bring more nourishment to the soil, while restoring and retaining moisture at the same time.  A good example of this type of plant is mullein (Verbascum thaspus) which thrives on poor, dry rocky or sandy sites for a few years following some sort of disturbance, followed afterwards by other plants that are able to grow in the soil that the mullein has prepared for them.  Mullein is also an important plant medicine for humans, helping to restore healthy tissue growth at sites of injury and irritation, bringing more fluids and nutrients to the tissues, and in turn, more soothing and healing.


Mullein (Verbascum thaspus)

Nowadays, as we well know, many ecosystems on the planet are working to adapt themselves to toxic loads.  As chemicals and heavy metals from ever-growing industry and ever increasing waste build up in the soil daily, they are carried from place to place in the hard-to-predict movements of water and air, affecting ecosystems that may even be some distance from the original source of the pollution.  Sadly, this means that sometimes even seemingly healthy forests and wild lands where balance and relative purity has been maintained throughout our lives are now taking up toxicity, weakening their native plants and trees, and bringing more potential for illness.  As trees are felled for industrial and/or large scale agricultural growth, and their vast root systems, so crucial for supporting nutrient sharing and immunity are depleted, ecosystem resilience seems to suffer all the more.

What we can observe however is that challenged ecosystems still employ the strength of the earth’s ancient wild intelligence to help them restore balance, clear away toxicity, rebuild nutrients and provide food and shelter for other life forms–in other words, to continue to thrive despite the challenges.  Fortunately for us as inhabitants of the earth, there are plants with enough intense resilience and strength to grow in disturbed and toxic ecosystems.  Plants that continue to oxygenate our air, while rendering benign organic matter out of harmful chemicals throughout their growth cycle, and at the same time, providing food and medicine for the earth and its surrounding life forms.

More and more we are seeing this as “invasive plants” show up at sites of toxic spills and industrial accidents, thriving when other species can’t.   The idea of allowing the growth of  “invasive” plants in toxic areas so that the earth’s natural phytoremediation process can occur is being taken more seriously as we increasingly recognize and integrate the idea that the earth’s intelligence is incomparably more sophisticated than that of humans at this point.   And not only are we finding this support for ecosystems from these plants, it turns out that many of our “invasive” wild plants are proving to be important medicines for a growing number of health challenges that have been linked to exposure to environmental toxicity.    We find in many of them medicinal properties that address health issues such as systemic infections from new super bugs,  various auto-immune issues and cancers.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

Here is a piece I wrote a few years ago about one of these important plant medicines, Japanese knotweed.

…And this one, by Michigan herbalist Jim McDonald that expounds on the medicinal and phytoremedial benefits of another “invasive” healing plant, Purple Loosestrife.

This study examined the wild plants that grew and  thrived while taking up numerous heavy metals and arsenic following a toxic mine spill near Seville, Spain.

…And here, a Boston University study on the ability of our fiercely invasive (and very nutritious) Garlic Mustard to speed up nutrient recycling in forest leaf litter, allowing trees and plants to take up nutrition at a faster rate, and thus helping to restore the overall health of the forest over time.

Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum)


As our environment changes, wild ecosystems shift, becoming habitable spaces for new species, and sometimes less habitable for those who have been living there.  While these changes seem disturbing, especially as we watch them happening at such an alarming rate, I believe it is important at this time to trust in the earth’s dynamic wild intelligence which is never static but relies on continual change and adaptation in order to thrive.

There is  potential for much more research in the area of phytoremediation and invasive plant medicine.  I would wholeheartedly encourage this type of study.  Even if lab research is not being widely supported enough at this time however, we can make our own observations, collect our own empirical data, do our own research, and share our findings with others.  I believe that doing this grassroots level work will prove to be invaluable for many of us as we come to rely increasingly on the resources directly around us to support our needs for health, and otherwise.

I have been focusing on this area, and intend to continue doing so as I watch these “invaders” enter our landscape while we encounter perplexing new illnesses whose treatment approaches are still uncertain.

As we come to recognize that our innate intelligence is not separate from that of the earth, I believe we will ignite our potential to thrive in ways we may not yet have imagined.

Click to access a_citizens_guide_to_phytoremediation.pdf

Click to access allison03.pdf

Click to access 20133323601.pdf


Scott, Timothy Lee.  Invasive Plant Medicine. Rochester Vermont: Healing Arts Press, 2010