Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) is a relative of the busy Lizzie and is known by a wide variety of common names, including Indian balsam, jumping jack and policeman's helmet. It is a tall, robust, annual producing clusters of purplish pink (or rarely white) helmet-shaped flowers. These are followed by seed pods that open explosively when ripe, shooting their seeds up to 7m (22ft) away. Each plant can produce up to 800 seeds.
Though seen here in the West as an invasive weed to the people eastern Siberia it is seen as a blessing: For a time I lived in the Karakol Valley at the foot of the sacred mountain of Uch-Enmek in the Altai Mountains. Amongst the many things the shamanic people there taught me was how to extract the natural essence out of the plant and produce a liquid extract with the same qualities as Echinacea. One teaspoon in tea every morning gives immune-enhancing effects, stimulating the body's non-specific immune system and warding off infections. The Altai people put their longevity down to this balsam extract = a natural and pure Elixir of Life, gift of Mother Earth.
Uch” in the Altai language means “three.” “Enmek” in Altai signifies the (woman’s spirit in man) vulnerable, yet energetically important spot on the crown of a newborn child’s head. In the Karakol Valley are signs of the sacred trinity everywhere: the synthesis of science, philosophy and religion; Buddhism, Christianity and Islam; the father, the son and the Holy Spirit; height, breadth and length; the sun the air and water; birth, life and death. Uch Enmek is a celestial portal on the planet Earth, through which Earth holds an invisible connection with the cosmos. Such Sacred Places as this need to be protected as much as possible from extraneous thoughts and actions, so as not to distort the information received here. The ancient culture and philosophy of the Altai speaks of this, and the cultures of the indigenous communities here are wholly focused on protecting this place of planetary importance.
“The seekers will find,
the listeners will hear,
the see-ers will see,
the defilers will disappear.”
Danil Mamyev is the director of the Tengri School for Spiritual Ecology in the Ongudai region of the Altai Mountains in Siberian Russia.