How to Weed out Urban Despair with Plant Medicine

If our natural world is sick, WE will be as well, too. So what sorts of treatments do WE need to perform on ourselves and the natural world going forward?

Brian // February 16, 2021

In an interview last year with Anderson Cooper, the veteran BBC nature filmmaker Sir David Attenborough stated, “In the course of this particular pandemic that we’re going through, I think people are discovering that they need the natural world for their very sanity.” Stands to reason that WE will probably go crazier if it keeps dying out. I can only speculate about how many medicine plants we’ve already lost to a Brazilian cattle rancher’s rapaciousness or poor land management worldwide. No doctor would rip out someone’s bodily organ and throw it in the trash simply because s/he didn’t recognize a use for it. Yet here we are, doing it every day to ourselves. 🤦‍♂️

I’ve often maintained that everybody should grow a plant, whether it’s a flower or a tomato, for their own mental health. It’s what gave my life a purpose and direction it didn’t have beforehand. Yet not many people have access to a few acres of fallow land. And while yes, I firmly believe in the magic of houseplants, I also think we’ve got to get more people engaged with the plants that feed and clothe them, too. That’s why I’m paying more attention to vertical gardening, which builds upon the idea of connecting urban areas to nature. Eventually, it’s the way Medicine Box can potentially extend its own healing gestalt out onto the world at large.


I started my cultivation career as an indoor grower in downtown Oakland with $50,000 in unused credit cards, two partners, and a dream. I later moved towards organic solutions, thanks to the fine folk over at Vital Garden Supply in Nevada City and a NorCal culture that has led the way in organic farming, from “Amigo” Bob Cantisano (RIP) to UNFI, the largest organic food distributor in the country. However, no thanks to COVID, we’re seeing a lot of commercial real estate lying fallow throughout the United States. Certainly this abandoned property can be used to house humans, but they can also be used for urban agriculture.

There’s only so much arable land left, but the sky is pretty much the limit when it comes to vertical farms. Leasing out unused wall space for cultivation would create economic opportunity and encourage greater food security. It’s estimated that by the year 2050, WE will have to increase our food supply by 70%, to feed an urban citizenry that will constitute 70% of the earth’s population, so we’ll need to  think outside of the farm to provide for all of these people. Decentralizing the production of plants for food and medicine also makes for a far more resilient system as well. 

Of course, vertical farming will need plenty of light inputs, and I am particularly partial to LED indoor cultivation systems, which allow for extremely low energy consumption. Eventually, I foresee the plants we use for Medicine Box formulations grown in such a fashion. Re-utilizing space, providing economic opportunities and deepening the relationship between humans and nature touches on permaculture principle number eight: integrate, don’t segregate. Our species’ split from the natural world impacts quite heavily on its mental, physical and spiritual health. Medicine Box wants to repair those fractures, not just from its medicines, but through how they are made. Participating in the creation of our cure, we believe, improves our healing, and nourishes our ties to all life — including our own.

Plants have a lot to teach us. They can help us live longer, but they can also teach us how to accept our mortality as well. It’s why working with them and preserving them is so crucial. Of course, a lot has already been lost and WE are already starting to struggle with those effects of climate change that we cannot reverse. So how best to handle that which we can’t change, and fight for what we can? That’s for next week. Could be heavy, but at least the load will be manageable if all of us carry our share of it.




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