I’m reading William Morris’s excellent book Transformation: Healing Trauma with Acupuncture and Herbs. His breakdown of the three treasures and treatment methods for each is so clear, and really makes sense to me in terms of thinking about when to use flower and gem essences, when to use roots, and how to dose.
In Chinese medicine, our health rests on our store of the three treasures: Shen (spirit), Qi (vitality), and Jing (essence). [see here and here if interested for some other information about Jing.] But the interaction and balance between them is also important. At their root, the potential of the treasures is as follows: a flourishing spirit ensures you are living your truth and making decisions that enhance and contribute to your life’s good, if you have vitality (good Qi) it means you are able to enjoy physical pleasures and embodiment, and plentiful reserves of essence allow you to live a long and happy life, free of disease. The physicality of the three treasures also corresponds to the way that you treat them – Jing/essence is thick, sticky, black – it is the MOST YIN, the most earth — and therefore you treat it with large doses of roots, which are also often sticky and black, like fleeceflower root (He Shou Wu). The Qi/vitality is immaterial, but lies between Heaven and Earth – it is what animates the body, gives movement and force to the building blocks of essence, and therefore, says Morris, you treat it with the aerial parts of the plant that provide structure, the bark and branch. The Shen/spirit is the organizing principle of our individual self – as physically intangible as essence is form. As such, you treat spiritual depletion with the lightest parts of plants – their flowers – or their vibrations.
Here’s a simplification of the chart from Morris’ book:
________cosmos weight dose plant depth
SPIRIT stars light small flower/leaf superficial
VITALITY sun med. med. bark/branch middle
ESSENCE moon heavy large root deep
As someone who has always responded strongly to flower essences, this makes so much hundreds of sense to me. It also somewhat erases all of the ridicule I have received in the past for having a sensitive enough nature to find such things powerful – I think that those of us who dwell more in the realm of spirit, and whose maladies and strengths spring from that realm – may take a long time to come to an acceptance and understanding of this way of being, because we are often drowned out by the harsh materiality of embodiment – we often don’t live very much in our bodies, we find bodily experience fearful (often due to trauma), and also fear Western medicine’s enthusiastic approach to poking and prodding – and Western medicine usually cannot help us, because our maladies spring from these more intangible plains.
At the same time, fortifying the vitality and essence can help to root someone whose constitution tends too much towards spirit – you know those people who often seem very scattered, find it hard to hold their attention on one thing at a time, find it hard to concentrate, and to connect – they may not be suffering from a spiritual malady, but in fact a lack of rooting – too much emphasis on Shen/spirit. And in turn they (we!) are all the more susceptible to the exacerbation of this pattern, because they usually turn to the more subtle remedies, neglecting to nourish their essence and vitality, which is needed in order to provide the spirit with a grounded home.
I feel as though Nettle tea has been the missing link for me – I’ve been working on spirit and essence for awhile now, but have only just started to incorporate a regular regimen for Qi/vitality, and it’s making ALL the difference. I wonder if the principle of treating the Kidneys is true for treating the Treasures in general – that you cannot just treat one aspect of them, but rather must bring them all into balance…
Susun Weed’s Nettle Tea recipe (follow her page for daily doses of gold) is the simplest and best thing for feeling vital and strong of spirit (leaf and branch!):
I pour a quart of boiling water over an ounce of dried nettle (that’s about one full cup) in a canning jar, screw a tight lid on the jar, and let it steep for at least four hours.