Podcast 032: Vacation Is Mandatory & Jiaogulan

Katja this week reflects on a bit of wisdom surrounding downtime, and on the ways in which stress management can sometimes be the most difficult of our fundamental pillars of health, or the one that gets sacrificed first. Ryn shares his love of jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum), a particularly excellent adaptogen for the dry and tense people in your life.

Herbs discussed this week include our Wedding Tea blend – wood betony, tulsi, rose, spearmint, & violet – along with jiaogulan, goji, & kelp (which is our current #herboftheweek on Instagram & Facebook!).


Our book Herbal Medicine for Beginners is available now on Amazon!
Herbal Medicine for Beginners by Katja Swift & Ryn Midura

Our theme music is “Wings” by Nicolai Heidlas.


Episode Transcript

Katja (00:14):
Hi. I’m Katja.

Ryn (00:14):
And I’m Ryn.

Katja (00:14):
And we’re here at the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ryn (00:21):
And on the internet everywhere, thanks to the power of the podcast. Well what we want to say today is actually, please, pardon this interruption in your regularly scheduled accessible herbalism program.

Katja (00:33):
Yes. If you’ve been following the pod for a while, you know that we are in the middle of a series on accessible herbalism. And we are going to get back to that in just a moment, but first we have to take a break.

Ryn (00:46):
Yeah. We got to tell you, we’re exhausted. Since COVID our workload has actually grown exponentially because lots of folks are suddenly finding themselves with some time, and not able to go out, and so looking for other forms of edificatio. And many of y’all have found us and that’s wonderful and we love it. But it has led the small operation that we have to be a little bit overburdened. So we’re pretty tired.

Katja (01:12):
We’re really tired. We have been working seven days a week for, well actually for a few years now. But then with all the crazy, that is 2020, and frankly, 2019…

Ryn (01:26):
2019, 2018…

Katja (01:27):
We just really need a break. And the thing is here that I think we are not the only ones who are exhausted. Our society really doesn’t make space for people to just say, Hey, I’m exhausted and I need to take a break. So we want to model that behavior. And we want to invite you to acknowledge for yourself that maybe you’re tired and need a break too.

Ryn (01:51):
We can’t exactly take a vacation right now. And that’s a pretty common thing for everybody right now. Even for people who could, many of them might be parents, and so vacation doesn’t quite have the same sheen to it.

Katja (02:03):
Yeah. You kind of never get a vacation from being a parent.

Ryn (02:07):
But there is this cultural idea that our society has that it’s kind of all or nothing. That if you’re going to relax, if you’re going to take time to relax, you have to literally have nothing else to be doing. And, you know, I definitely fall into that.

Katja (02:22):
Yes, that would be me too.

Ryn (02:23):
Yeah. But it’s healthy to cultivate a kind of reality where we can have a little bit of space, even within a busy time, to still allow some relaxation to happen.

Katja (02:34):
Yeah. So the way that we’re going to do that over the next few weeks is that we’re going to try and postpone a few things that can be postponed. And so, new episodes of this podcast is one of those things. Now don’t worry. We will be back to the complete accessible herbalism series. And then actually we have lots of new topics. And we’re going to get back to all of that at the end of August. And in the meantime, we’ve chosen a few of our favorite past episodes that we think are really meaningful for the place that we’re all in right now, to share with you as replays. And I know that a lot of you have been with us for a long time and have like heard every single episode. But sometimes it’s nice to just hear something again, especially when it’s really relevant to what’s happening.

Ryn (03:24):
Yeah. And of course, we’re still going to be creating new content for our online learning courses and supporting our students and trying to get some writing finished and all the other stuff that we’re up to. But over the next few weeks, we’re going to prioritize a little bit of time each day to get outside, to meditate, to play with this poor dog.

Katja (03:45):
You know, also I finally went kayaking yesterday for the very first time this whole summer. And it was immediate. I just relaxed so much. I was actually only out for 45 minutes, but my whole worldview shifted and I really need that. I have been getting kind of cranky, ya’ll.

Ryn (04:06):
Yeah. I mean, again, in our culture, the way we live, all of us here, we’re often told or we get the message that we have to be calm. We have to be happy. We have to provide good customer service. But then we don’t really line that requirement we make on each other up with the tools that are needed to make that happen, especially time to rest.

Katja (04:27):
So sort of for this next month, we invite you to look at your life, and see if there are any things that you might be able to put off or a postpone or just leave undone for a little while. And if your first reaction to that is, Oh, I could never do that. There’s absolutely nothing in my day that doesn’t have to be done. Then let me tell you, that is exactly the feeling that’s been driving us into seven day workweeks for the last literally several years. So we feel you, if that is your response, but we also hope that you can take another look and maybe let something go. It could just be the housework, because right now we’re all pretty much just staying home. So nobody but you is going to know if you vacuumed or not. You could just not, it would be okay.

Ryn (05:16):
Yeah. I don’t know, whatever you possibly can find to just work in an hour for yourself most days, everyday, every day this month. Everyday.

Katja (05:25):
That’s a big… everyday?

Ryn (05:27):

Katja (05:29):
Okay. Everyday. Yes. Everyday.

Ryn (05:32):
This is how this works, yeah.

Katja (05:32):

Ryn (05:33):
It’s a hard time. It’s a hard time for everyone. And I don’t think that the fall is going to be a whole lot easier, honestly. So I think taking a little bit of time right now to just let ourselves regroup a little, even if it’s just to take 20 minutes to meditate in the morning. Whatever it might be, anything that helps us find some calm, that can be really helpful. And of course we could all think to ourselves about Europe, if you don’t happen to already live there. And you know, I don’t know what that’s like this year, but in previous years, August is basically vacation for everyone.

Katja (06:01):
That’s true. Like all of Europe just sort of takes vacation except, well, maybe not all of Europe because there’s the people who work in the restaurants.

Ryn (06:08):
The tourism industry.

Katja (06:10):
Exactly. I don’t know how they get their vacation, but I do know that culturally, a lot of people in Europe do take like the whole month of August off. And I wonder what our lives in this country would be like if we had some kind of cultural expectation that you need a month off.

Ryn (06:28):
Yeah. And like we said, we’re not going to leave you with nothing. We’re going to do some replays on the podcast feed right here. And today we’re going to lead you off with an episode we made back in June, 2018 about how vacation is mandatory.

Katja (06:46):
And also, I’m kind of remembering about when we came up with the idea of mandatory vacation. And I think that it’s just kind of staring me in the face that this is a challenge that is hard for us, that we have struggled with.

Ryn (07:04):
Yeah. If you’ve been a long time follower, you might remember that episode. You might remember one we did a little while back where it was just like seven minutes long and it was basically us saying, it’s okay to take a break. Look, we’re going to do it. So, this is a struggle for us. It’s something that we kind of keep needing to spiral or circle back around to. But we’re still trying and we hope that it can help you feel inspired to get some rest too. So yeah, so that’s the first part of this episode we’re going to replay for you. There’s also a bit in here about jiaogulan, which is a nice adaptogen for people who are burnt out. So that feels relevant also. A quick little note. Since making that episode about jiaogulan, we actually were able to grow some. Well, mostly you were able to grow some. I sort of watched.

Katja (07:54):
You know, it took a while to take off. I think this is either the second or third year.

Ryn (08:02):
Yeah. It wasn’t strong.

Katja (08:02):
I think it’s the second year with our jiaogulan. And it took a while for it to get strong enough, but this year it is actually literally climbing the wall. And so that’s very exciting.

Ryn (08:17):
Yeah. I think we might even harvest them and dry some.

Katja (08:20):
Yeah. I think we’re going to be able to.

Ryn (08:22):
We’ll see how it comes out.

Katja (08:22):
It’s pretty exciting.

Ryn (08:24):
Yeah. All right. So without further ado here’s a replay of episode 32.

Katja (08:31):
Vacation, it turns out, is mandatory. Well, today is actually Thursday, June 14th because we’re prerecording because we’re going to be teaching all day tomorrow. And the other thing that today is, is our fourth wedding anniversary.

Ryn (08:48):
Yes, it is. Happy we got married day, lady bird.

Katja (08:53):
You too, babe. So, we’ve been together for a number of years that I was trying to figure out and math is hard.

Ryn (09:02):
Before that, eight or seven or…

Katja (09:06):

Ryn (09:06):

Katja (09:08):
It’s 2018.

Ryn (09:09):
Right now? oh, man.

Katja (09:10):
Yeah. So it’s got to be like at least 10.

Ryn (09:12):
Yeah. Oh yeah. Something like that.

Katja (09:15):
Anyway, eventually we decided to get married, and that was four years ago today.

Ryn (09:20):
It was pretty great.

Katja (09:21):
It was really great. And also our wedding cake was really, really great. Like seriously.

Ryn (09:28):
That was, yeah. I mean, it was fancy.

Katja (09:31):
It was a really good cake. It was gluten free and paleo.

Ryn (09:36):
And it had flowers on it.

Katja (09:38):
And they were real

Ryn (09:39):
Like violet’s, and other flowers that we consumed.

Katja (09:44):
Johnny jump ups. There were some calendula on it. It was super fun. What do you herbalists put on a cake? Flowers

Ryn (09:50):
Flowers. Yeah. It was awesome. Now that we’ve got our obligatory cake reference out of the podcast.

Relaxed & Happy Wedding Tea

Katja (09:58):
There’s several more, in fact, because cake. Anyway at our wedding, we served wedding tea. It’s not like some official thing. It was just our wedding tea. And I’m going to tell you what it is. Don’t worry. We also gave bags of wedding tea to all of our guests, along with antique tea cups and saucers that my mom and I spent the year before the wedding gathering from thrift shops. And we thought that was really fun. And it was particularly fun to have this huge table with all these really beautiful antique teacups that had come out of people’s grandmother’s china cabinets or whatever, and had ended up in thrift shops. And they were just all so beautiful and it was really, really fun.

Ryn (10:46):
Yeah. And then everybody got to pick one that they liked.

Katja (10:48):
Yeah. And then they had a bag of loose leaf tea that we blended. And they had a beautiful teacup. And it was very fun. And so our wedding tea was wood betony, and I mean Stachys officinalis there, and tulsi and rose and spearmint and violet. Basically in equal parts, maybe a smidge more of the betony and tulsi than the others, but basically equal parts. And that was really delicious, but also it was a really great combination for getting relaxed and happy. It’s appropriate at a wedding. And that actually is what I want to talk about today. That was all just a big setup, but I really want to talk about.

Ryn (11:33):
Relaxed and happy, yeah. Well, I should hope so.

Katja (11:37):
So, recently we were listening to DeRay McKesson and Brittany Packnett on Pod Save the People, which we totally recommend, and we reviewed on iTunes.

Ryn (11:47):
Since you are a podcast human, you may wish to check this one out also.

Katja (11:51):
Yeah. You might like it. And Brittany was talking about a mentor of hers who had taught her that quarterly vacations are mandatory. And when I heard that it was like, Whoa, stop the presses. And I almost had to pull over. And it was like, Whoa. Yeah, quarterly vacations are mandatory. And so I was driving, so when I got home, I like rushed into Ryn. And I was like, we need to schedule quarterly vacations right now.

Ryn (12:28):
Yeah. You were all fired up about it.

Katja (12:29):
He did not disagree. So we did.

Ryn (12:31):
It’s like, great idea. Let’s do it immediately.

Katja (12:35):
Let’s do that now.

Ryn (12:35):
And we did. Yeah, it was good.

Ryn (12:36):
So we just went on one of them for our anniversary.

Ryn (12:39):
This was, you know, a 24 hour vacation.

Katja (12:44):
It was a 24 hour vacation. Yeah.

Ryn (12:45):
Pretty good.

Katja (12:46):
And so I want to talk about why vacation is mandatory. But before I do that, I just want you to know that I’m going to talk about cost effectiveness and how to make this happen in real lives. So while I’m talking about why this really actually is important, I don’t want you to be sitting there thinking: well, that’s great, but I’m never going to be able to fit a vacation into my life. Don’t worry. I have ideas for that. So first let’s talk about why this is mandatory and I mean really, really mandatory. I don’t even understand why this is such a revolutionary thought. But it just was. It fell on me like a ton of things that are brilliant. Like, I don’t know, but it’s so true. So we talk a lot about holistic herbalism. And just for review, what that means for us is that we’re not saying to people: Oh, here’s an herb that will fix all of your problems. So just be happy. Instead, although that would be awesome if that were possible, but instead we’re looking at what’s going on for a person and also for ourselves through the lens of what you’re eating and how you’re moving your body or not, and how you’re sleeping or not, and what your stress levels and stress management is like. And then we approach each of those things in multiple ways, including with herbs, so that we can bring all the aspects of the parts of your health that you can control into a healthier place. Like you can’t necessarily control the genes that you have or whatever. But there’s a lot of things that you can control. And so we really build off of that. And so well, okay, it’s pretty hard. But it’s pretty easy to just say, I’ll stop eating cake. It doesn’t require any special equipment or whatever. It’s maybe not fun, but it’s totally a thing that you can decide to do without any special training. And it’s pretty manageable also to say, I’ll start eating vegetables more often, or I’ll eat good quality protein and fat every day, or I’ll snack on fruit instead of chips or whatever. Those things take resources, but they’re not like huge things. So, even though emotionally, it can be a really huge thing, normally it’s like basically something that can be achieved. So that’s where we really often start because it’s accessible. But these other things like movement and stress management and sleep, sometimes they can be a little bit more involved. And I feel like stress management is often the most difficult, because people can’t always just up and quit their jobs, or move away from their noisy neighbors, or just decide that for today they’re going to ignore institutionalized racism or whatever. Like a lot of the stress in our lives is not really optional. So when we’re looking at ways to help people manage their stress levels, it’s just not as easy as step away from the cake. Although I will say that this whole Schisandra thing, a hundred days of Schisandra project that I’m kind of in the middle of, is really working out, because I haven’t had cake in a really long time. And I even thought about making one the other day. And then I was like, eh, I’ll just eat cherries and tuna, not together. That would have been weird.

Ryn (16:21):
Thank you for clarifying. We were all worried for a moment.

Vacation Can be Quick & Inexpensive

Katja (16:22):
So anyway, I still have like 50 days left in my hundred day schisandra project, but it’s really working. Anyway, stress and getting away from it. It’s not like just as easy as deciding that you’re not going to eat something anymore. But the other side of that is our bodies are actually really good at managing stress if we can get a break once in a while. And that’s one of the reasons that sleep is so important, because it does give us a break every day. But it’s also the big reason that frequent vacations are really mandatory because that’s how you get a break. So just taking a little while to do that Monty Python thing where they say, and now for something completely different, like that’s what we’re going for here. So, maybe you can’t just like up and spend several thousand dollars going to wherever, the Riviera, or I don’t know what seems like a great vacation spot. But you can accomplish this in a reasonable way, because we’re not made of money. And it’s not a stress relief if you have to spend a ton of money on your vacation, or if you don’t have a lot of vacation time from work. And also a lot of people don’t have any vacation time from work. A lot of people work jobs where if they’re not actively working, then they aren’t getting paid. So, all of these things are really big thing to consider when we’re going to say that vacation is really important for everyone. So we just went on a 24 hour vacation. We did leave the house. We got an Airbnb. And I know the Airbnb has some issues, but that is what we did. And I don’t have a great solution to those issues yet, but I do feel pretty grateful that I got to stay at this place. Yeah, it was about two hours away from here and there was a hot tub and a kitchen so we could bring our own food. And the whole thing costs a hundred bucks. So basically for a hundred bucks and a tank of gas, presto! Vacation. And that’s fairly achievable. And when you can bring your own food and cook in the kitchen, then you save a lot of money. So you don’t need a whole week off or airfare or like any of that stuff. Literally 24 hours can do the trick. But if your budget is really tight right now, and even a hundred dollars and a tank of gas is not in the picture, because that is a thing that’s frequently true for anybody really, you can still have a vacation. Or what if you don’t even have 24 hours to go on vacation. If you have one day off of work, maybe you get Sundays off of work or whatever day, it doesn’t even matter. You can just take a part of that day and vacate. And by that, I mean, don’t do the dishes, don’t do the laundry.

De-Stress by Disconnecting

Katja (19:17):
And above all do not stay in your house where all the things you should be doing are staring at you with that look like a puppy waiting for its dinner. Go somewhere else, in my opinion preferably outdoors. Also because outdoors is free, usually. But just go anywhere that is comfortable to you, and take a snack with you. And let yourself just really completely disconnect. Even if it’s just for a couple of hours, that’s still vacation. If you’re local here in Boston, it turns out there are a shockingly large number of places where you can just go for a walk and basically be in a wild space. And those places are T accessible. And there’s lots of good spaces along the Charles river. So if you are there, that’s good. Now that we live in Dorchester, one really cool place is the Neponset reservation which is by the Ashmont T station. And it’s like, it’s right in this bay. And it’s beautiful and free. You just go walking there. And so, if you can get to a place like that, or Boston common if you like a more urban kind of a setting. Or if you live in some other city, I was shocked to see that there are so many wild spaces available even on public transportation here in our city. And so I would say, even if you live in a city, really do a little research. Because it might turn out that your city is similar to our city. And that there might actually be a bunch of wild spaces that you can get to for free, even if you don’t have a car. So really just going outside, being able to hear animals and the wind going through the leaves, and being able to see things that are not computer screens, it makes a huge, huge difference just in your body’s ability to relax. And if you have followed any of the Japanese forest bathing sort of trends and the data that comes from that, even just two hours is enough to significantly change cortisol levels. So, if our goal with a vacation is to reduce stress and give the body a break from stress, seriously, a two hour walk out in a wild place actually really can achieve it. So, one thing that we noticed on our 24 hour vacation was that it was really hard to disconnect. We kept wanting to check our phones for email and for political updates and the news, whatever.

Katja (22:14):
And like, literally, I was in the hot tub with my phone, which is ridiculous. It’s just completely ridiculous. And that’s where wedding tea comes in, because a blend like that can really get you present and grounded so that you can focus on just not focusing on all the stuff that you normally have to think about. We left in a rush and we did not bring any wedding tea with us. And so that wasn’t the thing. But mostly we sort of just watched each other and we were like, boy, isn’t this ridiculous. We’re having a hard time disconnecting. We’re still in our phones. Then it got dark. And I was looking out the window and I realized that there were fireflies just everywhere. And that’s when it finally happened. We got back in the hot tub and we just watched the fireflies blinking everywhere. And it was really amazing. And I think that’s when we finally were like, Oh, okay, we’re not connected anymore.

Ryn (23:15):
Here we are with the fireflies.

Katja (23:17):
Yeah. We we’re connected to real things and not to things inside our phones.

Ryn (23:21):
Yeah. It was really amazing. Yeah. Yeah.

Katja (23:24):
Anyway, so, when you think about I’m going to take a vacation, that’s actually the goal. What can you do to get your body to be present with something that is not human or made by humans. And if you are a person who the concept of hacks appeals to, then you can even think of it in those terms. Like, what’s my vacation hack. Like what do I have to do so that I can get myself grounded and out of that high stimulation place. So, we knew for sure that we’d been on vacation because in literally the 24th hour, it happened at like 11:15 this morning, suddenly we had the answer to a problem that we hadn’t been able to figure out. And it was a work problem. And we just hadn’t been able to figure out what the right answer was. And should we do this or should we not do this? And whatever. And suddenly without even talking about it, it just suddenly became very, very apparent. And then on top of it, we realized that the answer to that problem could solve another problem that we’d been having. And like just the whole thing cascaded into this huge, easy, very obvious, like, here’s exactly what you should do for the next six weeks. And it’s obvious and clear. And like we hadn’t been sitting there talking about it or belaboring it. Literally it hadn’t come up at all. At 11:15, you just sort of said, Oh, what should I do about this thing? Or, you didn’t. You said Oh, I have to decide about this thing or something. And it just like suddenly poof, it just fell on us, like in its completeness. And when suddenly problems solve themselves, I’m like, ah, yes, I must have been on vacation.

Ryn (25:23):
Yeah. That tends to happen whenever we find a hot tub and hang out in it for awhile. That tends to work out really well for you.

Katja (25:31):
Yeah. We get a lot of clarity when we can do that.

Ryn (25:34):
So, yeah. Vacate. It solves problems. It’s pretty awesome, you guys. All right. Well, let’s see. So one of the things that I was thinking about for this week and wanted to talk to you guys was about this herb that I think I’ve mentioned on the podcast a few times. It’s called jiaogulan, or it’s Latin name is Gynostemma pentaphyllum. And don’t worry. I will type all of these names into the show notes for you. You may have seen jiaogulan in the show name, because I think I’ll put it in there. But anyway, so this herb is one that I’ve been working with now, almost as long as I’ve known you actually. Somehow I encountered it shortly after I met you and you started teaching me about plants. And then I got really excited about it.

Katja (26:27):
We used to, when I moved to the city, my very first office was in the same complex where he was teaching martial arts. And so he would teach martial arts all day and in between the classes he would come and raid my apothecary.

Ryn (26:43):
Yeah. And I would eat all of your goji berries and everything.

Katja (26:44):
That was fun. I like you.

Jiaogulan: A Unique Adaptogen

Ryn (26:47):
Yeah. That was pretty good. All right. Well, so jiaogulan is worth talking about because this is an adaptogen that has a number of unique features. So one of them is that you can make it in an infusion. And if we were to think about our adaptogens herbs, many of them require a decoction to make a good tea, or a good water extract. So if you’re thinking about like real classic adaptogens, like ginseng or American ginseng or eleuthero or rhodiola, Fo-ti, ashwagandha, codonopsis, all of these are plants that if you’re going to make tea out of them, you’ve got to do a decoction. And so it’s going to take a while and you need to have a pot. And I don’t know, you need to plan ahead. This is probably the biggest thing. Yeah. You know, it’s going to take a minute. You’re going to have to prepare. And you can’t just like throw some herbs into a thermos, pour in some boiling water and get on with your day. So that’s true of a lot of adaptogens. Not all of them. You’ve got plants like tulsi that you can also make in a quick infusion to go, so that’s handy. Butjiaogulan is one of that group

Katja (28:00):
It might be only tulsi and jiaogulan. I’m trying to think if there are others.

Ryn (28:07):
I don’t know. It gets into this thing where you’re like, well, what counts as an adaptogen. And that can be a really long discussion, but we’ll hold that one for today. But yeah, so jiaogulan’s excellent in that regard. Also, in terms of its qualities. So a lot of adaptogens are going to be warming and stimulating, and many of them have a drying quality to them. And a lot of them are also tonifying or tightening. Toning to your tissues or your state of muscular tension in the body. They’re going to help you to hold yourself together through difficult moments. And that’s really valuable and necessary, but it’s not always exactly the kind of state you want when you’re coping with some stress, including long-term stuff that’s been taking your energy, really just demanding a lot of you. Sometimes that puts you into a state where you are already kind of agitated, where you are tense, where you are getting a bit dried out. Especially if that’s the sort of baseline constitution that you have, if you tend towards those sides of the spectra anyway.

Katja (29:15):
Which, if you’ve ever met Ryn, he definitely does that.

Ryn (29:19):
Yeah. That’s me for sure.

Katja (29:19):
Definitely on the dry side and on the tight and tense side.

Ryn (29:25):
Right. So jiaogulan as an adaptogen is really valuable for people like me, because if you are already coming from a place of dryness and tension and maybe some extra heat, you don’t want to take ginseng. They can have the ginsenosides, and they can have these other chemistry things that seem to be helpful. And they can have our RCTs behind it and whatever else, you know, scientific trials and this and that. But if it doesn’t match your body, then it doesn’t match your body. And it might just not help you as well as it could, or it could even make things aggravated actually. There’s people who take ginseng products all the time because they hear that it’s good for stress. And then it takes their anxiety or their insomnia or their just general state of feeling a little overheated and exacerbates that. So, think about the energetic qualities of your herbs in all cases. And that definitely includes adaptogens, because you often take your adaptogens for a long period of time anyway, to get that sort of saturation effect. It’s not going to be one dose and your set, but you’ve got to keep going with it. So that is true with jiaogulan, by the way. I find that the more consistent I am with it, the more days in a row that I drink this herb, the better it works or the more helpful it is. I used to get jiaogulan from Mountain Rose herbs, but they haven’t carried it for awhile. So we did have to look a little further a field. And you actually found a couple of vendors on Amazon.

Katja (31:00):
Normally I’m not a big fan of buying herbs on Amazon.

Ryn (31:02):
We’re always wary. Like, hmmm, what do we know about this? But this one had a lot of things to support it, or actually we got a couple of different vendors here. We have one from Bare herbs and one from Majestic herbs. And whenever we name brands or whatever on here, it’s not, because we’re like giving them our endorsement. It’s just because we want to be clear about what exactly we’re working with and talking about for you guys in case you’re looking.

Katja (31:36):
They’re part of an agricultural program in Southeast Asia that is not yet certified organic, but they’re in that process. And it’s specifically like the farming program is specifically to produce organic things and to, like they’re taking a lot of consideration about the way that they are doing this farming. So I felt pretty awesome about that.

Ryn (32:04):
Yeah. One of these is from China, and the other is from Thailand. But they’re both involved in projects like that, that are coming down. And it makes sense because this herb is economically important for both of those countries and a couple of others as well. It’s, I mean as far as I understand, it’s a little easier to grow thanginseng, which, you know, is a forest medicinal. It takes many years to come to full maturity and strength.

Katja (32:35):
Ginseng is a forest medicinal. I was just being clear that that’s the one that’s harder to grow.

Ryn (32:40):
Oh, right. Yep. That’s the one. Yeah. But jiaogulan is a bit easier. And with this also, it’s the leaves that you’re working with rather than the roots. So, you know, that speaks both to that you can make an infusion out of it, because with leaves and stems and flowers and stuff, that’s the way you tend to make those. But also that when you’re harvesting it, you don’t have to kill the plant. You can leave the plant alive and harvest some leaves and send them off to people like me.

Katja (33:10):

Ryn (33:11):
Yeah. This herb is interesting in its dry form. It rolls up into these kinds of like little balls or like little curls. And then it unrolls and expands really extensively. You can take maybe a teaspoon or a not heaping tablespoon. Put that into a quart jar and you know, like, Oh, it doesn’t look like very much herb in there. But then you pour on the boiling water and it unfurls and opens up and expands. And it’s just one of these herbs that does that very extensively.

Katja (33:41):
It’s really fun to watch actually.

Ryn (33:43):
Yeah. so the the taste of jiaogulan is sweet. There’s a little note of bitterness buried back in there somewhere. It’s in there.

Katja (33:54):
There’s something else in there too. And for a long time, I really wasn’t a big fan. And just lately I’ve really been getting into it. And it’s sort of not exactly smoky, but kind of in that direction. Minerally maybe.

Ryn (34:12):
Minerally, for sure. Yeah. Jiaogulan has always reminded me of seaweeds. And, you know, the way that it unfurls in the water and expands to many times its dry volume also reminds me of seaweeds. You see that a lot if you had ever made seaweed tea, or just like you throw a little handful of seaweed into a soup pot and then suddenly there’s seaweed everywhere. Right? That sort of reactivity to rehydration is something that they have in common. But also there’s like a little bit of similarity with the flavor. I have here, this is a day old now, but this is a seaweed tea. This is basically just some Alaria esculenta, kelp, or it has a few other names, but we usually just call it kelp, which I made into tea yesterday and drank all day yesterday. And it’s still…

Katja (35:04):
Yeah, it was just straight. But if we normally put seaweed in tea, there’s usually other things in there, so that it isn’t like, I’m just going to drink seaweed from a jar. But this one was straight up just seaweed from a jar.

Tea Blends with Seaweed & More

Ryn (35:16):
Yeah. Kelp is our herb of the week this week. There’s a few different seaweeds that kind of go by the common name of kelp. But I’ve been drinking Alaria to get on with the herb of the week thing, and I was reminded again that Yeah, it has a really similar, there’s like part of the flavor in seaweed that turns up again in jiaogulan. I haven’t seen a mineral content analysis for jiaogulan, but I wouldn’t at all be surprised if it was quite high to account for that flavor. But my next trick or my next experiment is going to be blending seaweeds and jiaogulan together in teas, and doing some overnight infusions and some like real good nourishing blends for that. I think that should be fun.

Katja (36:01):
I think that they would really benefit from some goji berries and some ginger in there just for flavor, personally. And frankly, while you’re at it, toss some tulsi in there. It can be like a big old party.

Ryn (36:17):
Yeah. As long as you’re infusing these in like a closed container, then you won’t lose anything you want. The tulsi does have some aromatics. So if you had an open container, then those would evaporate overnight. But if you put everything in the jar, pour in the boiling water, close it up and give it a night to infuse, you’ll get that mineral content coming out of the herbs plus you’ll capture and contain all of those good volatiles agents. That’ll be some good stuff for you.

Katja (36:47):
I’m pretty excited, but we should just do this as soon as we’re done. I’m pretty excited.

Ryn (36:51):
Oh yeah. That’s the plan, and we can drink it tomorrow. Yeah. So let’s see. A couple other things about jiaogulan. If you look it up at all, you’ll see a lot of things about it that will say that it has more saponins then ginseng, and that’s cool. You know, like your count of different isolated or identified chemicals is never necessarily the best thing to judge your herb by. But it is cool that it has this big variety of these compounds that are known to contribute to the adaptogenic effect, certainly of ginseng and also of this herb, jiaogulan. So, that’s neat. I would say that subjectively my experience with jiaogulan, and what I observe in offering it to clients and students and so on, is that again, it has that nature of being moistening and relaxing and cooling to excess inflammation. It’s not cooling in the way of something that is like a refrigerant where it really turns off your fire. It’s not a diaphoretic either. It’s really more just serving in the way of an antioxidant or an anti-inflammatory, helping your body to keep inflammation contained. Useful, but not overrun. Able to do what it needs to do and then fade away. So that’s cool.

Katja (38:15):
I think that also really came through in the way that you worked with it when you first started working with it. Because for you, it was almost like hit medicine only internally, you know? That you were teaching multiple martial arts classes in a day. And the way that you taught them was very participatory. Instead of standing on the corners you were really involved. So, you were also having several hours of martial arts a day. And so you were coming in, in between, for that like anti inflammatory action of like, okay, I’m really putting a load on my body right now. And it helped you a lot.

Ryn (38:56):
Yeah. I’m excited to have some of it around again because I’m just about to get on another big push for some more physical activity. And I’m going to offer some new classes and some stuff going on, so…

Katja (39:08):
That was the big problem that we solved and I’m really excited about it.

Ryn (39:11):
Stay tuned.

Katja (39:13):
You’ll have to stay tuned because…

Ryn (39:15):
There will be some MoveNat/holistic herbalism stuff coming up soon. We need a catchy name for that. But anyway yeah, that’ll be us and that’s one reason I’ve been getting excited about this plant again. But yeah, definitely in terms of combinations, I find it works really well together with goji. It just fits together super nicely. Goji is another adaptogen, right, that you could make an infusion tea with. Go ahead and throw some tulsi in there if you want. They all go together really nice. But it definitely enhances the sweet aspect of the herbs flavor and fits together really nicely with that. I often like to combine jiaogulan with some caffeine herbs as well, whether that’s green tea or I like it a lot with yerba mate or with the other caffeine hollies, like guayusa or yaupon. Those are very similar to yerba mate in their nature. But I like the flavor of those together with the gynostemma a lot, especially if there’s a little bit of goji and a bit of ginger in there too. That’s good stuff. And what I find with that is that if it does a really good job of like softening and extending the feeling of energy and vigor that you get from the caffeine. When you combine your caffeine herbs with the gynostemma, they never seem to make you feel jittery or anxious or anything, but just like, all right, I’m ready. I’m going to conquer problems today or go out there and really have a good workout or play around or just get a lot done. So that’s a combo I really like quite a lot too. I guess that’s probably everything I wanted to talk about the herb today.

Katja (41:05):
I’m so excited to have it loose-leaf again.

Ryn (41:07):
Yeah. That’s the best. I had been buying these teabag versions of it for a while. So this is one that you’ll probably see in like your local health food store thing. But Ron Teegaurden’s spring dragon longevity tea, the healthiest tea on earth. Okay. Now we’re advertising. But I mean, this is a cool tea. And it is primarily Gynostemma leaves. But then they’ve taken a couple of other adaptogenic herbs and related plants, and made extracts of them and then saturated the gynostemma leaves with that extract. So this also has Luo Han Guo, schisandra, lycium, which is goji berries, astragalus and eleuthero extracts on it. So these are actually kind of useful. They are fairly concentrated with the process that they use to make them. And they do taste pretty sweet, because the Luo Han Guo and the goji berry both contributed substantial sweetness to the flavor. So you can drink some spring dragon if you want that. But I definitely do recommend getting the loose leaf jiaogulan and tasting it on its own. It’s good to get that sensory experience in there and then to like free form your taste combinations and see what you come up with.

Katja (42:30):
I’m pretty excited because I found a place that sells jiaogulan plants. And reportedly they will grow indoors because they won’t overwinter. So I have a scheme…

Ryn (42:43):
Up here in the northeast.

Ryn (42:45):
If you’re in the south they probably will over winter.

Ryn (42:47):
You know, Sam Kauffman told me that he had a bunch growing. They’re in San Antonio, Texas. So yeah, I guess if it’s warm enough, you’ll be all right.

Katja (42:59):
Well, I’ve got a scheme to get some Gynostemma plants and get them through the winter. And so I’m going to work on that later this month.

Ryn (43:09):
Yeah. See if we can resurrect that goji berry too. A plant we’ve got out there.

Katja (43:15):
Alright. Well, so drink some jiaogulan, and take a vacation.

Ryn (43:21):
It’s working for us.

Katja (43:22):
Yeah. Even if you only take a couple of hours of vacation, vacation is a state of mind.

Ryn (43:28):
Yeah, you can do it. Alright, folks, we will talk to you again next week.


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