Thursday, April 10, 2014

Iris Versicolor - From Stagnation to Circulation

Plant Teaching Thursday - Blue Iris, Iris versicolor, the rainbow bridge, Blue Flag. These are the many names of a
wonderful plant dear to my heart. The first time I learned about Iris my teacher James Snow commented on how it is indicated for the "Pilsbury Doughboy" type. I had a big chuckle and envisioned a large puffy white creature with a sailor cap walking into my office, sitting down in a cloud of flour, giggling to himself.

However, if we get to know the indications for this plant, we are more likely to see this puffy archetype collapse into our chair with a sigh and tell us about the nature of sadness as they reach into a bag of sweet candies or treats.

When working with Iris, I've noticed that it seems to work best for people with stagnation. This can be physical stagnation, creative stagnation, emotional stagnation, or psychic stagnation. Iris is cathartic, a blood cleanser, and has a powerful effect on the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and colon. It is commonly used when there are symptoms of toxicity or a slowing down of the organs of detoxification. A few things that can tip me off to using Iris is when there is constipation, edema, hypoglycemia, a dullness of spirit, and a lack of motivation. Other physical symptoms include skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, and what Matthew Wood describes as a "sugar glaze" on the skin. Especially on the cheeks. Matthew speaks about Iris as a deep cleanser and mentions in his, "Book of Herbal Wisdom" how the Creek Indians cultivated this plant alongside ponds presumably to help filter the water and keep the ponds clean. 

A few years ago when we opened our first Sky House Yoga location Silver Spring, we were lucky enough to have some Irises growing in the front yard. I have always admired their beauty yet never really had the chance to study their growing patterns. I was blown away when I noticed how the Iris flowers bloom!! They unfold in a very natural way, their petals extend out and fall open with such generosity. But the shocking part, was that AFTER they bloom, they start to pull their petals back inward, until the entire flower is absorbed back into the plant!!

I reflected on this and after much research on its use for melancholy and spirit sickness, it dawned on me that the plant is able to recycle its own creativity. If we see the flower as the final expression of a plants creative process then this makes great sense! I've since used Iris for artists who have experienced success in their lives and yet feel exhausted, depressed, or void of inspiration for the next project. Like they just don't have it "in them." I think that Iris can teach us how to share our work, bloom, and experience success, AND THEN bring those resources BACK IN to fuel the next expression. It can free us from the melancholy and nostalgia of living in the past and can get our energy moving again physically and mentally.

Iris is a strong medicine so you don't need very much. I recommend starting with 1 - 3 drops a day. If you really resonate with the plant, then try growing it! Watch how she beautifully displays and unfolds her petals, and then gathers them back up as she leaves the stage 

Here is a time lapse video of a brown-orange Iris doing her thing....

Want to dive into the study of herbs?  Join our upcoming Herbal Apprenticeship program starting May 1st. Learn how to identify plants, make medicines, and use herbal wisdom to enhance your life and connect you to the wisdom of the plant world.  Visit our Herbal Apprenticeship webpage for details:

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