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The Willow Journal

Optimizing Social Connection with Herbs

Optimizing Social Connection with Herbs

Written by Elliott Brinkley, Clinical Herbalist & Owner of Dancing Willow Herbs

While everyone exists somewhere on the spectrum from a social butterfly to content introvert, we all need some amount of social interaction. Research shows the tremendous value of positive community and personal connection for mental health, physical wellbeing & longevity. Post pandemic, many are feeling this more than ever. The long term isolation has left us feeling disconnected, and even a little awkward- like little birds learning how to fly into the social versions of ourselves again.

One of my core values is creating space for intentional relationships. The feeling of relating with someone, having meaningful conversations, and deeply connecting is something my spirit yearns for. And as an introvert at my core, I have had to learn which social situations will fill me up and which will leave me depleted. Big parties, surface level interactions, and acquaintances have never really been my thing. I like small groups, where my voice can be heard and conversations can be deep, expansive and heart-felt.

When I took over ownership of Dancing Willow Herbs, I felt very strongly that I wanted to cultivate herbal community. A space that feels safe, encouraging, inspiring and grounded for everyone involved. If you support us through working with our handcrafted herbal products, order online, come into the store, read our blog posts, follow us on social media or are reading this now- you are a part of this community.

Particularly, with our regular classes, we have felt enlivened to be able to get to know you all. This community is filled with people who are kind, grounded, passionate about plants, health/wellbeing and are eager to learn. It has also become evident that we were not the only people yearning for intentional relationships and community, we are pleased to see the ways everyone is responding and being filled up by the experiences. 

In my experience witnessing loved ones even more introverted than me, it is the sensitive ones that tend to lock themselves away while still deep down yearning for the sense of connection that seems to come to more extroverted folks so easily. Introversion is not an illness. How can we all learn to love the parts of ourselves that relish in alone time, the parts of us that want to hide away in our own worlds to revive and regenerate? How can we love these parts while also honoring our basic human need for social interaction with humans and the natural world?

This is a botanical love letter to someone in the midst of self imposed isolation. It is for someone who wants community, but experiences social anxiety, has trouble branching out or feels uncomfortable in community. I have introduced you to three of my favorite herbs for navigating social dynamics with ease and confidence.


For the sensitive person who is hard on themselves:


Words cannot fully encompass the magic of Rose. An essence so classic, so symbolic in our culture, Rose has different meaning to each person who chooses to examine their relationship with it. Personally, Rose draws me directly into my heart. When I work with this plant I feel deep love for myself, the natural world and others. As someone who gravitates toward moving in the world from this space of being in my heart with high levels of sensitivity, Rose has proven an incredible ally.

Rose allows me to feel the world, without becoming the world.

Rose is an invaluable relationship to develop for people who are empathic, highly sensitive, who are caretakers, healers, teachers or leaders. We need to establish appropriate energetic boundaries because if we don’t, we may feel drained and unable to do the work that we are truly here to do. Her thorns invoke protection- mental, emotional, and physical boundaries. Rose teaches us to speak up for ourselves, to say no, or to let go of relationships that are not feeding or celebrating our unfurling essence. Rose soothes a heart tinged with grief, or the loss of a love. Like a tender embrace, rose teaches us that even in the deepest wells of sadness, beauty rests somewhere on the other side

Rose shows us how to be open enough to use sensitivity as a tool, from the place of being whole within ourselves and only taking on what is truly ours.

Rose has the gift of bringing us into heart centered wholeness. Embracing the world with the slowness of a softened heart, Rose teaches us to fall in love with the beauty of our environment, our sensual experience, the people around us, and ourselves. Evident in the saying, “Stop and smell the roses”, we see rose’s offering to slow down and savor the pleasure that saturates our everyday experience.

From a social perspective, Rose helps us accept ourselves fully. More often than not, self imposed isolation is a mechanism we developed to keep ourselves safe. Maybe somewhere along the line you were hurt or shamed in a social setting and then decided that being in groups was not safe. This was the case for me, and is something that I am still working through. Because of these formative experiences, I sometimes find myself people pleasing in group dynamics. Not fully being myself or winding up in social situations to make everyone around me happy. The more that we can heal the wounded parts of ourselves, and accept ourselves fully for who we are- the sooner we can show up in social situations as our authentic selves. Rose helps us do this, while also helping us create boundaries around the social situations that fill our hearts and help us let go of the plans that aren’t worth our energy.

Favorite ways to work with Rose:

-Rose tea (cold infusion brings out more floral flavors)

-Rosewater sprayed in the air/on your face/incorporated into recipes

-Rose tincture in drop doses

-Wild rose flower essence


For the introvert who isolates in the forest:


I often ponder the irony that in this “age of connection”, we end up feeling disconnected. Eyes continuously reaching for a screen, whilst the initial grasses of spring sprout and birds flutter by. What we are all ultimately searching for is to feel like we belong, with tender parts of ourselves embraced and seen for their awe-inspiring beauty. The question I seek to pose here is, what if the place where we belong already exists? What if the natural world can be our village, our community, our solace? 

I feel that this, is largely the medicine of Violet. Violet teaches us of comfort in going within, and seeking community within the natural world. Violet promotes that feeling of belonging within us- especially finding our place on this Earth, within the environment and the elements of nature. Violet cultivates a sense of knowing that our community exists amongst forces greater than fellow humans. Violet draws us into the magic of nature, and the similar thread that runs through it all.

In order to show up in community, we must first know ourselves. Violet teaches us who we are at our core, and how showing up as this version of ourselves benefits the entire community. Violet gives us the confidence that our gifts are valuable to the collective- and need to be shared.

Violet helps us value introverted tendencies, while helping to cultivate a healthy sense of community in ways that are aligned with our inner tenderness.

Favorite ways to work with Violet:

-Violet flower essence

-Fresh Violets in spring in oil (used topically)

-Fresh Violets in spring eaten fresh


For the person who feels like they just can’t connect:


Damiana is medicine for embodiment. Whenever we are feeling disconnected from others- chances are, we are disconnected from ourselves. Damiana is popular for being an aphrodisiac. By bringing circulation to the pelvis, Damiana helps to drop us into our bodies and our connection with the Earthly plane. Damiana also brings blood flow to our periphery, promoting a state of outward disposition. This is why Damiana is my choice herb for introverts that feel overwhelmed or withdrawn before social gatherings. It helps us feel alive in the moment, in our bodies and therefore in the presence of others.

Damiana brings about an enchantment with the mundane. It helps us feel invigorated by a heartfelt conversation, and more willing to “go there” with others. Damiana helps us get out of our heads and into our bodies. This aromatic herb helps us get out of our own way when it comes to showing up as our full selves in social situations and beyond.

Especially when one is debating “to go or not to go”, Damiana helps unveil any resistance based on fear or lack of self worth. Damiana will help you make this decision based on what is aligned with your body, and your heart.   

Favorite ways to work with Damiana:

-Our delicious Damiana Cordials

-Damiana tea (on it’s own or with Rose)

-Our Lover’s Tea or Fire Tea

-Drop dose Damiana Tincture


May these plants offer you support for stepping into community as your authentic self. Unveil the parts of your identity that you have kept hidden, and branch out to find the people who are suited to the real you.

You deserve to have social engagements that light you up and leave you feeling uplifted, inspired and in your heart! Hopefully these plants will help guide you along the way.

A hug and love from your Willow community, 

Elliott & the team at Dancing Willow Herbs