Before capitalist exploitation of lands took a grip on the planet, people lived in general harmony with their environments. Plants of all sorts were cultivated, valued and revered. Culturally, all regions and religions are rooted in paganism, therefore, in some form of plant sciences, despite the distance we currently create for ourselves from these realities. Traditional, indigenous and folk knowledge systems are these days at risk of being obscured when in fact these are the very systems that can sustainably align people with the world they live in. Many health-related ailments found today are the result of lifestyles which have distanced people from respecting and understanding their environment, or the processes which connect us all. This is not to say that science and medical advancements are worthless in the face of natural solutions, but the natural sciences and knowledge which relates to our natural environment is worth re-sharing given the crisis moment we all experience.
This post is a small attempt to re-incorporate medicinal plant knowledge into our daily lives but also look at ways of resisting the commodification of sustainable and healthy ideas. Specifically, it will look at plants whose medicinal properties are linked to skin care regimens and products which can be easily incorporated into daily regimens. The medicinal properties of plants are not limited to leaves and greenery, but often to different plant parts including the seeds, barks, fruits. Ingested and applied, inhaled - plants are able to heal in a variety of ways. I want to begin with oils, and in particular sesame oil, which comes from a carefully protected and extremely therapeutic seed.
Not unlike most oils, sesame oil has great benefits for skin, hair and internal health found in traditional forms of eastern as well as Mediterranean medicine and cuisines. In Tibetan medicine, for instance, there is a form of massage known as Ku-nye that uses butter, olive oil, sesame oil and/or sandalwood oil, depending on the body's constitution. Sesame oil is one of the most commonly used products in Ayurveda. Daily applications and practices of abhyanga massages, for instance, are a way of using these oils nutritionally and routinely to improve one's skin. Other health benefits include:
I hope you enjoyed this piece!
-Shriya Malhotra, Guest Writer & Plant Science Enthusiast