The Moon affects plants as much as the sun. The Moon pulls water. Plants love water. Water defines the relationship between plants and the moon.
The ancients named each month after a Moon the changes or activities it evoked. Living with rhythms of the Moon, as our ancestors lived allows a profound understanding of the relationship between celestial and terrestrial events. To begin to understand this complex relationship, a careful study of the new moons and full moons and the germination, leaf development, bloom of flowers and going to seeds of plants will lay down a good foundation for understanding when to pick plants for their medicine.
Personally, the longer I am working with plants, the more I understand that each type of plants have their own unique needs for growing, gathering, medicine making and the medicine they offer and I am always so careful with generalization as there are so many variables to consider. So please take these as guidelines, not rules and watch, smell and taste your plants with each turning of the Moon, and let your inner knowing become your guide to gathering plants by the Moon.
That being said, here are some guidelines:
Plants always seem busy with the work of transformation and seem to move onto their stage of growth with each full moon. Often, they too unsettled to gather for medicine during a full moon.
The full moon also pulls water in the aerial parts of the plants, leaves, flowers, fruit. If I am drying these parts of the plants for later use or making fresh plant tinctures (or any other fresh plant medicine) I prefer as little water in the plant when I gather it.
Otherwise, follow the direction of the moon when gathering your plants. Because the energy of aerial parts of a plant are moving towards fullness, pick these parts when the moon is waxing.
The energy of roots is descending and roots enjoy the darkness, gather roots are the moon waning and during the darkest nights.
Also, it is important that the roots of perennial herbs are very different in the spring and the fall. What the plant is doing with the medicine and the nutrients the during each season is quite different, and therefore their chemical make-up shifts. For an ethical ecological point of view, particularly when wildcrafting, gathering roots in the fall after the plant has gone to seed is always the best choice.
Traditionally to enhance a plants moon energy, whether the plant is ruled by the moon or not, harvest it on a Monday. Monday is the moons day.
There are different systems for the time of day to harvest plants in relation to the planets and luminaires. Let’s keep it simple. European folk herbalists generally gathered plants ruled by the Moon at noon.
When the Moon is in Cancer, is a particularly potent time to gather plants ruled by the Moon as this is the sign that is ruled by the Moon.
Please note, where the plant is growing on the plant, the environmental conditions the plant is growing in and you respect for the plant and your intention for the medicine are also profoundly important!