At the root of health

WITH a degree in agricultural economics, four kids and a White Gum Valley home, Phil Roberts doesn’t seem the sort of bloke to talk to plants – and wait for a reply.

But while suffering chronic fatigue about a decade ago, his life took an unexpected turn when he picked up Eliot Cowan’s book Plant Spirit Medicine during a trip to the US.

Mr Roberts underwent the shamanic treatment at Cowan’s Blue Deer Centre and once recovered became a PSM healer himself.

“I grew up with the attitude that plants are purely a resource for us, that we are superior. Eliot’s book opened up the possibility they are more … they are wise and have a lot to teach us,” says Mr Roberts.

PSM combines American and Mexican Indian shamanic practice and ancient Chinese medicine, to call on the healing power of plants.


• Phil Roberts

It differs from herbal medicine in the importance placed on having a relationship with the plants.

“Those with the strongest spirit are those that thrive in local conditions.” Mr Roberts says.

He doesn’t actually “hear” plants talking, but says he intuits their message through meditation and shamanic “dreaming”.

According to University of British Colombia’s Dr Suzanne Simard, who’s been researching the subject for 30 years, trees do indeed communicate.

Old trees, or “mother trees”, form fungal networks that support other trees, she says in an article on ABC Science.

Using radioisotopes to trace the movement of carbon, nitrogen and water between a fir and a birch tree, Dr Simard found they’d share resources if one was deprived of sunlight. In a forest all the trees are connected and a mother tree recognises its offspring, forming a larger network with them and making sure they have space to grow, she says.

While humans think they are the most important species, people need plants more than plants need people, Mr Roberts says.

“They can do just fine without us, but we rely on them for everything.”

Go to, call Phil on 9433 1292 or rock up to his talk at East Fremantle’s Glyde-In Tuesday February 14.


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