The Great 8
Flor∙Essence is a hugely popular whole-body cleanse. The concentrated liquid formula is extracted from 8 medicinal and nutritive plants. Flora can isolate and name many important phytochemicals and antioxidants in Flor∙Essence that these herbs contain. And these days, we maximize the potential of the formula with state-of-the-art extraction equipment and high-performance liquid chromatography.
However, long before these techniques were possible, many generations of people have connected with these plants to create healing. Through very different means, folks have recognized the capacity of these plants to heal and knew how to work with them. For the “roots” of this restorative herbal combination, history points to the Ojibwe (variously written as Ojibwa or Ojibway) of the continent’s Great Lakes region.
Today we dive deeper into this origin story, the story from before nurse Rene Caisse and Doctor Charles Brusch experimented with the herbs. We would like to honour the culture that first recognized the potential of the 8 great herbs in Flor∙Essence, and to learn some indigenous herbal wisdom.
An Act of Sharing
Until the end of the nineteenth century, large-scale trade networks operated by canoe along riverways, enabling exchange of dried plants between distant areas, from the boreal forest to the bayou, in exchange for other goods. At the turn of the twentieth century, rail lines connected the great lakes and the Gulf of Mexico, and while canoe trade diminished, the herb trade expanded.
Almost all plant parts are used to prepare different remedies: roots, leaves, fruits, rhizomes, and whole plants, and to a lesser extent stem, bark, flowers, and young shoots. There is an Ojibwe belief that all plants possess the power to conjoin with other plants to form a “unified spirit” many times stronger than the spirit of a single plant.
Around this time, one Ojibwe healer who worked with plant medicine, called a medicine person, became aware of the power of this combination of herbs, roots, bark, and sea greens we know as Flor∙Essence. Upon meeting someone in need, the healer generously prepared this mixture as a tea, and shared the list of ingredients used in the remedy, explaining that it this herbal blend held immense healing powers.
The knowledge was then passed on from person to person until the recipe was entrusted to Flora and was dubbed Flor∙Essence.
Ojibwe Knowledge Holders
Unfortunately, the name of the medicine man who first shared this knowledge was lost, so understanding more about these origins has been challenging. Ojibwe Territory is a vast cultural area, with a language zone that extends in Canada from the province of Quebec, across Ontario and Manitoba to Saskatchewan, and from Michigan state through Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota in the United States.
Furthermore, Ojibwe customs and viewpoints are varied and heterogenous, so the traditions in one area may not apply to other communities or clans. However, Flor∙Essence first became well-known in the Georgian Bay area and nearby spots North of Lake Huron, which have been continuously inhabited by the Saugeen Ojibway Nation for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
In this case, we are incredibly fortunate that modern Knowledge Holders from the Nawash and Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation, collectively referred to as the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, have allowed their insights to be shared with researchers from Guelph University and reported in the Journal of Human Ecology.
During the research, the primary author participated in harvest-based activities over the course of half a year, including medicinal and food plant collecting. Now, we can better understand the framework of beliefs and customs that may have inspired the original act of sharing, and the use of these plants.
Listening to Indigenous Knowledge
Knowledge Holders from these communities report systems of indigenous knowledge and community based values that Western societies may view as “principles”. Several of these principles form a kind of code integral to the customs and traditions surrounding the gathering and use of plants.
These customs clearly uphold environmental sustainability; however, unlike scientific principles, are not only causal, they are also moral. Furthermore, they are holistic (rather than siloed), and acknowledge the interconnectedness of all living things. Some of these important principles include Sharing (as was evidenced by the generosity of the original sharer/healer), Thanks, Seasonality, and the concepts of Wasting and Needs.
5 principles for Wise Management of Wild Harvests
- Share – always share with others, share with people in need like they are our brothers.
- Thanks – consciously and actively express gratitude for anything harvested.
- Seasons – appropriate harvest season-based timing, attuned to underlying ecological cycles, and sustainability.
- Need – take only what you need, using good judgement and restraint, resisting greed.
- Waste – do not waste, use everything in some way as a way of expressing respect, acknowledging the unity of all living things.
These 5 cultural norms are aligned with 7 other principles adopted widely in Ojibwe territory: the seven grandfather’s teachings, which encourage us all to love and respect one another.
These two sets of principles include some of the most enduring traditional values of First Nations people.
Seven Grandfather Teachings
According to the teachings, the Creator gave the grandfathers the responsibility to guide the people. The seven grandfathers each bestowed a gift upon a newborn baby. These gifts were wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility, and truth. They knew that when the baby grew up, the child could then explain to the people how to use these gifts.
The baby served as a symbol to the people. It emphasized that very young people with pure hearts are already learning. Babies are still very connected to the spirit world, but the connection can be lost during adulthood. For this reason, it is important to start by educating and exposing those of a very young age to the right things. After receiving the teachings around these gifts, it is up to the people to try to follow the path of a good and healthy life.
The Seven Grandfather Principles
- To cherish knowledge is to know wisdom
- To know love is to know peace
- To honor all of creation is to have respect
- Bravery is to face the foe with integrity; (being complete or undivided)
- Honesty in facing a situation is to be brave
- Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of creation
- Truth is to know all these things
We can choose to be wise and cherish this knowledge, and I hope that we will.
Several of the knowledge holders died over the course of the interview period, but we can serve to carry this message to the young. We can embody the message by sharing it with love and respect for everything in creation including ourselves, while being honest about difficult challenges. Then, we in turn can learn from the children we teach.
As the teachings say, it is now up to us to follow the path of the good and healthy life.
Dana Green Remedios, RHN, RNCP, is a Vancouver-based educator and coach. She is a regular contributor to the FloraHealthy blog and can answer your questions in English, French, and Spanish as a Product Information Specialist at Flora.
Further reading and references:
Ojibwe community harvest principles
Human Ecology Indigenous Principles of Wild Harvest and Management: An Ojibway Community as a Case Study Chantel M. LaRiviere and Stephen S. Crawford, corresponding author https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3859892/
Traditional use of medicinal plants in the boreal forest of Canada: review and perspectives
Native American Perspectives on Health and Traditional Ecological Knowledge
Ojibwe resources websites
Importance of Métis Ways of Knowing in Healing Communities
This article explores spirituality as sources of strength for Métis Elders, the importance of ceremonies in Métis communities, and the challenges to maintaining spiritual practices that exist in communities.
Iseke, J. M. (2010). Importance of Métis ways of Knowing in Healing Communities. Canadian Journal of Native Education, 33(1), 83.
Authentic First People’s Voices and Storytelling
Reading these books with children can ensure that youth are Introduced to indigenous knowledge and perspectives in respectful ways http://www.fnesc.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/PUBLICATION-61460-FNESC-Authentic-Resources-Guide-2016-08-26.pdf