In the world around us, the element of Air is of course found in the air that we breathe, the atmosphere. The qualities of Air are that it is drying and moving.
Each element changes in relationship to those around it. Air can be hot or cold depending on how active the Fire element is. It has a cyclical relationship with Water in the journey of aspiration and condensation. It can dry out the Earth and carry it away – an example of this is desertification).
In your body, the Air element is represented by your breath. It is the gaseous exchange in your lungs that keeps you alive. So it follows that the element of Air governs the respiratory system (upper and lower) and it also governs the skin – which is always in touch with the element of Air.
The Air element is linked to the LEAVES of a plant. In my tradition the Air element is linked to Autumn when the winds come, the seed pods dry, and the leaves too – before being blown from the trees.
The elements can cause us problems when they are out of balance with the others. Too much or too little can cause symptoms. Unchecked dryness causes dry coughs, dry skin, constipation, and even joint pain (when the joint ceases to be properly lubricated). There can be issues with the sinuses, and dryness creates tension in the tissues. Traditionally, excessive Air is also linked with anxiety.
HERBS OF AIR
The Air element governs the leaves of a plant, the part of the plant where gaseous exchange occurs. Plants that have a high volatile oil content, which we experience as a strong aroma, also have a key link to the Air element as the essential oils they contain are so light that they float into the air, up our noses, and are picked up there by our cranial nerve.
Medicinal plants related to Air, then, can also be those with strong scents like lavender, lemon balm, roses, and orange blossom. All these plants are favoured for the essential oils and their medicine is mainly in the aromatic part of the plant. As well as being used in perfumes and cookery for sheer pleasure, each of these plants is also very calming and useful to reduce anxiety and improve the quality of sleep (where it is elusive due to worrying).
If you recognise that the Air element could be out of balance within you, try carrying essential oils of calming florals like rose, lavender, or lemon balm. Simply pop a few drops on a tissue and smell it when you are feeling worried. Many herbal tea blends with names like ‘Calm’ or ‘Relax’ will contain herbs with these Air qualities so try to include some in your daily regime where you can, particularly before bed if sleeping is a problem.