The Medicine Wheel is an integral part of Indigenous culture, representing balance and connection, and its teachings comprise many layers of knowledge, including how plants promote health and healing.
Carrie Armstrong, a Cree entrepreneur and now author, presents her grandmother’s teachings related to the Medicine Wheel in Mother Earth Plants for Health and Beauty: Indigenous Plants, Traditions and Recipes.
The book features 26 edible and medicinal plants – including tobacco, sweetgrass, sage, and cedar – that can be gathered in nature, noting the healing properties and identifying features for each. The book also provides recipes for beauty and health products, such as lotions, bath bombs, and healing teas.
“I wanted to share the knowledge and showcase the beauty of the culture in a modern way, so people can appreciate the contributions they may not be aware of that were made by Indigenous people,” says Armstrong, who is based in Edmonton and is the founder of Mother Earth Essentials, a health and beauty company that creates products using these natural plants and teachings.
Armstrong had been doing many workshops about these Medicine Wheel teachings, imparting the knowledge of her grandmother to eager students, both Indigenous and settler. Putting those teachings into a book made sense to her. Basically, she says, “it comes back to the reason I started my business: honouring the teachings of my grandma.”
Armstrong, a first-time author, found the writing and editing process of the book to be long and daunting, but worth the effort.
“I found it extremely overwhelming at first,” she says. “I talked to my computer, which transcribed what I was saying, to organize my thoughts into sections. I had to do some research around the more scientific parts of the plants, because I have more traditional knowledge of the teachings of my grandma.
“Sometimes it was frustrating because I would think it was done, and I would send it to the editor who would send me back things to fix. I had to learn some patience.” In the end, she was satisfied with the extra effort and the final result.
The book is aimed at a broad readership. “Anyone interested in Indigenous culture, plant wisdom, saving money, and making their own products” is the targeted audience, according to Armstrong. “It seems like there is a real hunger for more information and more wisdom on Indigenous teachings.”
Mother Earth Plants for Health and Beauty is enhanced by full-colour photographs throughout and personal stories that emphasize the healing properties of the plants presented. Readers may also develop an appreciation for the beauty of Indigenous culture, as well as a deeper awareness of certain issues. For example, the lasting effects of residential school are addressed in the book, in both historical and personal terms.
Armstrong’s wishes for the book are heartfelt.
“Ultimately,” she says, “I would hope readers will take away some knowledge that will bring them some joy and appreciation and respect for the plants themselves and for Mother Earth.”