matthew wood

Herbal Guide: Matthew Wood


Matthew Wood has been a practicing herbalist since 1982.  Matthew is known for his engaging bardic style of writing, and prolific career as an author, preserving the history and medicine of western herbalism. His clinical practice incorporates the full spectrum of spiritual, emotional and physical effects of each plant. While Matthew believes in the virtue of many other healing modalities, he has always been inspired to learn, preserve, and practice the tradition of herbal medicine descending to us from our European, Anglo-American, and Native American heritage. 


Do you have a personal ritual with medicinal plants/trees/fungi/the power of the natural word? How does this help to heal yourself and others?

I was raised a Quaker and therefore ritual is foreign to me and hard for me to adopt.  But, there are some things I do.  I connect to the spiritual world of Nature through the sacred peace pipe and occasionally, the sweat lodge.  When I pick a wild plant I put down tobacco and ask permission and wait for an answer, and usually get one.  “Maybe, maybe not” is common.  “YES, YES, YES” is the best.  “No” is possible too.  


What tonic herb has consistently supported your health and vitality. How do you prepare and consume it?

Long term lower back pain has led me to depend on muscular and skeletal remedies, of which the most crucial for me is True Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum spp.)  It lubricates the tendons so that they reach the right tension.  Best for knees and lower back.  I use Canadian Hemlock tree oil (Tsuga canadensis) on my lower back.  


How do you gain access to the spirit realm of plants, was this something you worked to developed or inherently in you. If you feel called to share the plant that most helps with this portal of access we'd humbly love to know. 

Age ten I was in Quaker First Day school on Rib Mountain, near Wausau, WI.  This feeling emanated out of the teacher, Francis Hole, a soil scientist: “Nature is alive, Nature is alive.”  After that I knew the “World Soul” (Plato) was a real and living being.  This idea was enriched when I met an Anishinabe Ojibway teacher and learned about the “Seven Guideposts” on the spiritual path and the Seven Plants.  From another Ojibway elder I learned about the underworld, which is known as the beginning vision of the spirit world —— which is beyond the “World Soul.”  I learned my personal medicine animal/alter ego/animal self.  I made friends with several other medicine animals.  

I now know and use a range of medicine plants for their spiritual effects.  There are too many to list, but here is a formula I was given in dreamtime for peace pipe tobacco.  Strangely, it was from the faeries, not the Indian people: one part tobacco, one part rabbit tobacco, one part red willow.  The tobacco brings one to the other world, the rabbit tobacco turns the “tumblers” in the other world, and the red willow helps one grasp the lesson and bring it back to normal consciousness.

— BODY —

What is your favorite medicinal herb to incorporate into your food? How do you prepare it?

Either nettle or dandelion root teas!  


How do you most enjoy creating relationship with the natural world?

If a person doesn’t naturally dream or have visions, or doesn’t meet a mentor that can initiate one into knowledge of the Living Nature or World Soul, psilocybin mushroom is very good. Otherwise, tobacco is enough.  Even smoking a pipe with normal pipe tobacco!  But not cigarettes, they do something to them.   


What plant or element from the natural world has most put you in touch with your personal power?

When we dream of our medicine animal our dream self (spirit) gains eyes and ears in the spirit world.  The second I agreed to meet with the second Ojibway elder up north a “tube” snapped in my neck, just below the thyroid.  That is the boundary between the animal and the human worlds and is a sacred spot for communication animal to human.  It is called the “Way of the Turtle” by some people.  That is not the Ojibway name.  Over the next days the medicine man “smoked me.”  I felt him examine me through the smoke of his peace pipe.  Then I had a dream.  I was in the underworld and I met the Lord of the Underworld; his face was just a darkness.  He pointed to an anthropomorphic “Big Bad Wolf” leaning against an inner city lamp post with a grin on his face, arms crossed over his chest, standing on two feet.  “Heh, heh, heh,” he chuckled.  Then the Lord of the Underworld said, “and now we are going to make a link between you and the Wolf Being.”  "Wait, wait a second", I said.  I don’t want a link to some familiar animal in the underworld.  I’ve studied occultism and shamanism but this is going too far.  Too late.  I started to walk up.  Felt a band like sensation around my head.  It was a snake biting its tail with the jaws and the tail locked over my third eye.  I jolted awake.  The snake loosened it’s grip and flopped out the back of my head.  Hair almost standing on end I looked around to see if there was a snake on the mattress.  Nope.  It was a dream snake.  I felt freed of some ancient curse on the human race as a whole.  Oh yeah, that was when the human race was seduced by the serpent in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil — to become conscious, and egoic beings of free will were off from Creator and paradise. 


Seven Herbs, Plants as Teachers, 1987
Vitalism, The History of Herbalism, Homeopathy, and Flower Essences, originally title 'The Magical Staff', 1993
The Book of Herbal Wisdom, 1998
The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism, 2004
The Earthwise Herbal, Books 1 and 2, 2008, 2009
The Earthwise Herbal Repertory, 2016