Podcast 060: Herbal Resolutions

New Year’s Eve is right around the corner, and we, like many folks, are ready with our list of resolutions. Let’s all make them more about self-care and becoming who we want to be in the world, and less about guilt & shame! In this podcast we’ll give you some tips how to do that, along with our own holistic & herbal resolutions for 2019. There are plenty of ways for herbs to help you stick to your resolutions – listen in to learn how!

Our weekly listener question this time is about what to do when herbs are out-of-stock & how to go about making elegant substitutions.

Herbs discussed include violet, betony, kava, pedicularis, green tea, calamus, pine, elecampane, sage, tulsi, goldenrod, ginseng.

Mentioned in this podcast:


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Episode Transcript

Katja: 00:00:13 Hi, I’m Katja.

Ryn: 00:00:15 And I’m Ryn.

Katja: 00:00:15 We’re here at the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ryn: 00:00:24 And on the internet everywhere, thanks to the power of the podcast.

Katja: 00:00:24 For the last time in 2018, we will remind you that we are not doctors; we are herbalists and holistic health educators.

Ryn: 00:00:31 The ideas discussed in our podcasts do not constitute medical advice. No state or federal authority licenses herbalists in the U.S., so these discussions are for educational purposes only. Everybody’s body is different, so the things we’re talking about may or may not apply directly to you, but they will give you some good information to think about and to research further.

Katja: 00:00:50 We want to remind you that your good health is your own personal responsibility. The final decision in considering any course of therapy, whether it’s discussed on the internet or prescribed by your physician, is always yours.

Ryn: 00:01:01 This week we’re going to be talking about herbal resolutions and some ways to be healthier in 2019 that you can actually stick to, just like probably everybody else is promising you this time of year. But ours has herbs in it, so that’s better. [laughter]

Katja: 00:01:19 First, we have some shout outs: Carol and Jennifer became monthly supporters this week and we’re really grateful.

Ryn: 00:01:31 Thank you so much! If anybody else out there would like to get in on that action, any page on our website down at the bottom has a quick little signup thing you can click to really easily and it’s very much appreciated.

Katja: 00:01:44 It’s commonwealthherbs.com, in case you weren’t sure. [laughter] Michelle from Northern California wrote to say: “Watching your recorded classes feels like being in a real class and actually it’s much more engaging and informational than many of the in-person lectures I sit through at school”, which made us so excited because that is exactly what we we’re trying to have happen. Sometimes people think that learning online feels like you’re alone or isolated and we wanted it to be super engaging and we wanted you to feel really drawn into the lessons, so I’m so excited that she wrote to say that’s what’s happening for her. Michelle (and also everyone) remember that you can sign in to the live Q & A webinars that happen every week and talk to us in person. If you are a student in any of our courses, including the free courses, you will get an email every Tuesday morning with the link to login to the web conference. In another week or two we’ll be sending out a poll so that we can plan a second weekly session.

Ryn: 00:02:59 We also had a note from Erin Stewart, who loves reinforcing her herb knowledge by learning from lots of different teachers, which is absolutely the way to do it. We tell everybody you’ve got to learn herbalism from lots of teachers because there’s going to be lots of opinions and ways of practicing.

Katja: 00:03:21 Everybody knows the plants a little differently, so you have to learn it from lots of people so that you can find out how you know the plants.

Ryn: 00:03:29 Just today I was looking at an herbalist named Stephanie Hoffalt, who had put up a sheet of her way of making tinctures with percentages, herb to menstruum ratios, little comments and stuff, and it was really great. I love seeing how somebody else thinks about these things and goes about doing it, so that’s always a good idea.

Katja: 00:03:52 Absolutely. Also, Erin is the editor for the AromaCulture magazine, which is definitely worth checking out. I wanted to make mention of the fact that I’ve started to notice that some of you, when you write to us, are also signing your emails “Love and [some herb]”, kind of like how I always sign “Love and chamomile, Katja”, or “Love and whatever-I-happened-to-be-drinking-in-that-moment”. I’m noticing that you guys, when you write to us, you’re starting to do that, too, and I love it! It’s like we have some kind of secret club where we’re all sending love and herbs to each other and it’s the best thing ever. [laughter]

Ryn: 00:04:37 We also had a question this week that we thought we would share with you all here on the pod.

Katja: 00:04:42 Dawn wrote in to ask if I had a source for violet and betony, because everywhere she was looking was out of stock. This is what I answered her: First, I said that yes, stock issues are a definite thing and they’re becoming more of a thing as more people get interested in herbalism. If any of y’all have green thumbs, this country needs more herb farmers for sure. Also, plants are seasonal, so sometimes people just run out of things; it’s not like paper clips where you have an infinite supply. Sometimes you’re just out of a plant and you have to wait until next year for there to be more of it. Usually when Mountain Rose and the rest of the bigger suppliers are out of something it only lasts for a few weeks, but sometimes it does last annoyingly long. Self-heal is one of those; it has been so hard to get lately and I think a big part of that is not just due to the increased popularity, but also the fact that it is really labor-intensive to grow, so it’s not always around.

Ryn: 00:05:55 Unfortunately, we noticed the increasing scarcity of self-heal immediately after we included it as one of the 35 herbs in our book, Herbal Medicine for Beginners. We felt like, “Oops, we’ve now made everybody enchanted with this wonderful plant and now no one can find it.” Unless maybe they go outside!

Katja: 00:06:15 That’s the thing–it’s not endangered or anything and it’s ridiculously easy to grow in your own yard, it’s just not commonly in stock right now. It used to be, and now it’s not as much. Anyway, I was looking around and at this moment, Jean’s Greens and Healing Spirits Farms both have wood betony in stock, but neither one has violet so I was suggesting some substitutes. If you’re going to substitute for violet, you need to think about why you wanted to work with violet to begin with. If you were looking for the moistening high mineral action, then you could try nettle and linden together to replace the violet. If you’re looking for the lymphatic action that violet has, then you could try calendula and red clover together, or chickweed to replace the violet. If what you were looking for was the heart support aspect of violet, then you could go with hawthorn and linden together, because then you would get that heart-targeted moistening relaxing action as well.

Ryn: 00:07:29 It all depends on what it is you’re actually going to be changing.

Katja: 00:07:33 Yeah, like what do you want to do with that plant? I think that betony is a little harder to substitute for; it’s not impossible, but I think that it’s harder. If you are trying to work with betony because you want to relax the head a little bit, then skullcap and maybe chamomile together could be effective for that aspect. If you were looking for the ‘getting centered in your body’ part or that grounded aspect of betony, then I always feel that calamus is maybe a good substitute there. The one drawback with calamus is that it’s not as easy to formulate with some of these other herbs, but you could always just take that separately as a tincture.

Ryn: 00:08:22 If you happen to be fortunate enough to have ready access to pedicularis herb, that would be one that you could mix in the same places as betony and for many of the same effects. Not all, but many. That kind of ‘relaxation into the body’ aspect primarily.

Katja: 00:08:40 Betony also has a sort of ‘be kind to your heart’ type of aspect. That’s not exactly the phrase that I want, but it’s kind of an uplifting, “you can do it”, “you’ve got this”, “I know it’s hard and you don’t want to do it but you can” -kind of aspect, and for that I feel like hawthorn, linden, and goldenrod together can really help in that regard. What this really comes down to is that if you think about your plants this way–think about what kind of actions you’re actually looking for–if you don’t have one of the plants that you wanted to work with, you can think about who else can do those actions, and that will let you come up with a replacement formula for a plant that you want to work with but don’t have. More importantly, it also frees you up from thinking that there’s some kind of magical herb from some far away place that you must have. There are so many plants and it’s really fun to work with far away exotic things sometimes, but if instead you are thinking about the action that you want and the intention that you have and you find your local plant who can do that, then that puts us in a much more bioregional and a sustainable attitude. Although it’s always easy to exploit natural resources, if we are not having the mindset that we need something from the rainforest or whatever, then we’re less likely to fall into that exploitation place with our herbs.

Ryn: 00:10:36 We had previously talked about that idea of formulating ‘absent friends’ or trying to make a formula to constitute the set of actions you were looking for from a given herb. I just looked it up, it was in our podcast number 30. If you want a little bit more on that thought, then check that one out. I go into that in a little more detail there.

Katja: 00:10:59 Well, I think it’s time to talk about New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions are so often driven by the things that we’re unhappy with and the things that we don’t like about ourselves. I’m excited about resolutions because I’m really thinking about them differently, but I’m not necessarily excited about this aspect of resolutions that is always about like losing some weight, going to the gym. Sometimes people talk about eating healthy and that is a little bit better, but in my experience, making resolutions is actually just an exercise in self-loathing, or at least self-nitpicking. I look at all the things I don’t like about myself and I resolve to ‘fix’ them in the new year, whatever that means, and I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone in this. I think that if you look at all the marketing that’s happening right now, a huge amount of that is targeted to losing weight. I feel like if instead we think about the things that we want to change about ourselves not so much as losing the things we don’t like but instead about building the things that we want to be, that would be healthier, more achievable, more enjoyable, and more positive. I’m definitely not saying that we should ignore it if we’ve noticed that sugar has gotten out of hand or that there’s never an appropriate time to lose habits and behaviors that aren’t serving us anymore. For me, the time around Samhain (or Halloween in the late fall) is a really good time for that. I try to not think about losing a bunch of weight, but letting habits that aren’t serving me go, and I feel like that’s a different mindset than “I have to lose 15 pounds”. Anyway, I’m trying to think about resolutions as framing things in a much more positive and more achievable way. If you say, “I’m going to lose weight”, that isn’t necessarily a healthy goal; it’s about getting to a certain number on a device because society says that number is better than your current number, or it’s about getting to a certain size of clothing because society thinks that size is better than your current size. First off, it’s hard to make that achievement stick because a number alone isn’t really a great motivation. Inherently I think that we also understand that society’s ideas of what is healthy, pretty, or acceptable are not really a great judge of what those things are. Why does society get to tell me what size clothing means that I’m attractive? That’s completely f—ed up. Instead what I’ve been working on is making resolutions that are about aligning with goals.

Ryn: 00:14:35 You had a little motto for a minute there. What was it? Aligned is the new hustle?

Katja: 00:14:40 Yes. I’m thinking about what you want to become or who you want to be in the world, and then making either specific goals for the year that meet that–like “I want to be a person who can grow vegetables effectively”, “I want to acquire first aid skills and disaster response skills”, or “I want to be confident working with 10 new plants this year”–and then your resolution becomes the steps that you’re planning to take to achieve those goals because that’s the person that you want to be, that’s a thing you want.

Ryn: 00:15:27 Katja, this is sounding suspiciously like the project planning exercises you give your business mentorship students. [laughter]

Katja: 00:15:34 Well, it’s going to get even worse because another way to look at this is to make a personal mission statement. [laughter] I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s really a great idea, because as you’re going through your daily life, you’re making decisions based on alignment with your own mission statement. You can say what kinds of things you want to bring into 2019 with you. Maybe it’s something like, “I’m a person who cares deeply about myself and my community, who strives to provide compassion to myself and my community.” That’s a pretty good personal mission, I like that personal mission. If that was your mission statement for 2019, on any given day you can ask yourself, “Am I showing myself deep caring? Am I showing myself compassion?” And maybe on any given day, eating a piece of cake is showing yourself compassion, but probably on most days the way to show yourself deep caring is to nourish yourself with all the nutrients that you need and not as much with sugar.

Ryn: 00:16:40 It’s helpful to keep these things somewhere you can see them. Work on your mission or goal statement for a while until you’ve got it just right. Then write it out real pretty and put it somewhere you’re going to see every day, so it’s a reminder to yourself that this is what you’re trying to become and that will shape your actions so that you do.

Katja: 00:17:00 I like that so much more than thinking “I’m going to lose 15 pounds”. Aligning myself with my mission, with who I want to be, or what I want to achieve in the world is not about hating myself when I look in the mirror or when I eat something that isn’t kale. I don’t even like kale. [laughter]

Ryn: 00:17:22 I like kale. I’ll stand up for kale over here. [laughter]

Katja: 00:17:24 It’s not about restriction, it’s about nourishment on all the levels. Instead of telling myself that I’m bad and I have to lose this weight; it’s about checking myself and making sure that the actions I’m taking are in line with the person I want to be, my own mission in life (or at least in this year), and my goals for myself, and that feels so much more positive to me. It also doesn’t mean that my whole life is only kale and there’s never any room for cookies, because you can’t sustain that. That is why people get their gym membership and they go for two weeks. So, I was going to share some of my goals. One of my goals is to be a person who makes more time to read, which might sound kind of silly.

Ryn: 00:18:51 It might have something to do with the stack of books that both of us have. Actually, it’s multiple stacks for both of us in various places in the house. Basically every room has a stack of books that we’re currently reading and then another stack of books that we’re planning to read real soon now. [laughter]

Katja: 00:19:11 Especially at the end of the night when you’re tired (I’m going to just blame everything on society today, I don’t even know what that’s about), it’s so easy to just turn on Netflix and be like, “Entertain me with the moving pictures”. I’m not dissing that because some nights that’s a thing. Some nights you want to be entertained by moving pictures, and I think that all of the stand-up comedians that Netflix has are genuinely a service to society, because laughter is really important. I also see that it’s very easy for that to become a habit and that habit, while it is not inherently bad, doesn’t serve the goal that I want. My goal is to become a person who makes more time to read, so I’m building that into my nighttime routine and setting a reading alarm for 8:00 PM every night. I feel like if I build it right into my routine, it’s much more likely to happen.

Ryn: 00:20:17 Plus, we let our phones tell us what to do all day, so we might as well program them to tell us to do things that we actually intended to be doing. [laughter]

Katja: 00:20:29 That’s not saying that I’m giving up all forms of media and entertainment in favor of reading, it’s just saying an alarm is going to go off at eight o’clock to remind me that I want to be a person who reads and that it’s time to turn off media and go read on paper. That’s important to me.

Ryn: 00:20:50 That goes back to framing it as what kind of person you want to be instead of some numerical goal. Your goal isn’t, “I’m going to read a hundred books this year”, your goal is, “I’m a person who wants to read and I’m going to find ways to align my life to make that real”.

Katja: 00:21:04 Also, it’s not, “I’m a terrible person because today I watched some Netflix, I said I wasn’t going to do that anymore.” No; I said I want to be a person who makes more space in her life to read and I’m going to do that.

Ryn: 00:21:19 One of my goals for this year is to become a person who’s a little bit better at botany. As an herbalist, that’s one of those areas that I’ve not given quite as much time to as some of the others. In order to become that person, my intention-setting here is to identify a lot more plants, especially trees because that’s my weak spot. There are some trees that I can pick out from across the street; I think there are just a few groups that I need to get a little more personal with. This goal is important to me because I want to be a more well-rounded herbalist and to better be able to answer my students who when they ask plant ID questions. Also, particularly because this year we’re changing up the way we do our first year program. We’re doing a hybrid version of it here in town and we’re going to have a lot more outside time, so there’s going to be a lot more opportunity for that kind of work as well. That’ll help me do that–just in preparing for and then leading those adventures–but I’m also going to start a couple of hashtag trends (at least on our Instagram). We’ll see if they spread a bit. I want to do another round of #bloominginBoston, which I did a couple of years back, and that was really great as a way to remind me if I’m outside and I see a flower, click it, identify it, figure out what’s going on, and tell everybody. I think that’ll be a way to do it and I want to add a couple of new ones. I want to do #treesofBoston and #weedsofBoston because I think that’d be great. That’s going to be one of my resolutions this year, more botany and more plant ID.

Katja: 00:23:07 I love that resolution, I think it’s a good one. I think that a lot of herbalists find botany to be really challenging. In our programs, the first year we have an herb walk every month, but now we’re going to be able to spend an entire day doing just that. In the advanced program, we started switching that up and making our students lead the herb walk, because for so many herbalists that is the most intimidating part of herbalism. So, we start them right off the bat doing this. It’s always something that, especially for us city-dwelling herbalists, can use more work, more branching out, more learning. For me, instead of saying I’m going to eat better or I’m going to lose however many pounds, I am instead setting some self care goals. Before I share those, I think it’s really important to define self care, and for me that definition comes from sea otters. If you’re thinking, “Katja, seriously–sea otters?”, here’s the thing: on an average day, sea otters spend about eight hours feeding themselves, eleven hours sleeping or resting, and five to six hours grooming.

Ryn: 00:24:43 Because they occasionally have a 25 hour day, just like all of us.

Katja: 00:24:47 Right. Once in a while you have to, or sometimes maybe you’re very efficient at catching the fish. [laughter] Anyway, that is a huge amount of time in a day to take care of your body if you think about it, but they have to do that or they won’t be able to stay warm. When I think about what we humans require in the form of caring for our bodies versus what we actually do to care for our bodies–most people, it’s the quick shower we take in the morning so that we look pretty and we don’t smell funny at the office, and then maybe the 45 minutes at the gym after work–there is so much more to caring for the body than that. For me, that’s really what self care means. Our trendy definition of self care is going shopping, getting your nails done, or getting a latte, and I’m not saying that any of those things are bad.

Ryn: 00:25:51 Like you said earlier, sometimes eating the cake is the way to take care of yourself. It’s troubling because it’s been so commercialized. We’ve talked about this on the pod before, but every time I see some article or somebody’s comment about that, I’m reminded what has happened to self care in commercial culture. It was something that we’ve always talked about, then the phrase ‘self care’ kind of became an object unto itself, and then it got commercialized. There’s a bunch of really weird interpretations of what that means out there in the world, or who it’s for. When every little advertisement talking about self care only has affluent white people in it, there are a lot of problems with that.

Katja: 00:26:41 Yes, for real. The reality is that self care could be not going out tonight so that you can go to bed early, not turning the TV on so that you can get to bed on time, or self care can be doing your laundry. One thing I’m thinking about as self care is working on sitting up straight instead of slouching over. That’s really important. That’s just as important as a sea otter taking care of all their fur. If I slouch over all the time, my organs will get smushed and they won’t work properly. Self care is, most of the time, really mundane stuff, and I want to make space for that in my life.

Ryn: 00:27:34 Me too. When I think about self care for myself, one of the things that works really well for me (and yet I somehow don’t stay consistent with) has been meditation. I’ve had times over the years where I’ve been super consistent with it for a couple of weeks or even a whole month at a time, then other times I’ll do it once and then a couple of days later, then a week later, and this and that. But I’m trying to work to a way where I’m doing this as a daily thing, the goal there is to become a person who meditates consistently. Thinking about this year’s hybrid program (the foundations program in person), one of the things I want to do is to meditate together, so I want to brush up on and expands my own practice so I can speak from integrity. We’re always saying–usually in the context of sugar–the whole story about Gandhi and how if you want to give people advice, then it’s good if you follow it yourself. [laughter] That motivation works really well for me, to think, “Wait, I’m about to go and tell somebody this is a great idea to make a habit; that means I should do it first.” So, if meditation is on your resolutions lists for 2019, here’s a few helpful herbs to get you into that space or to help you relax into that space. If you find that your problems are seated in the body being uncomfortable, particularly with various kinds of tension in the body, then I would guide you toward kava or (again, if you have access to it) pedicularis, which is called betony, sometimes called lousewort. There’s a variety of different species and they all have really cool names, like Indian warrior, elephant’s head, parrot’s beak, and stuff like that. These two herbs are not exactly the same, but they do have in common this aspect of profoundly relaxing the body while leaving the mind engaged and acute. That’s a really nice state to be in when you’re trying to sit, settle, and be doing some mind work, but the feeling of physical tension or discomfort is getting in your way. You could take a nice solid dose of kava or pedicularis tincture and then a few minutes later go ahead and sit down and meditate; you may find that to be very helpful for you. If, on the other hand, you have issues where your mind is a little scattered or a little foggy and that’s presenting trouble for you with your meditation, like you’re having trouble forming a good visualization or image in your mind (if that’s the kind of practice that you’re practicing), then I would actually recommend green tea for this. Green tea has this really nice combination of effects where it helps to sharpen your mind and your focus, but it doesn’t generate the kind of anxiety that coffee can generate from the way that it’s caffeine and cohorts constituent come together in that herb. If you feel like your troubles are somewhat a blend of these things or all of them at the same time, my favorite go-to herb here is calamus. Calamus is really fantastic for bringing the body and the mind closer together for helping you relax into wide-angle perception, visual, auditory, and otherwise. A lot of times with meditation, one of the first things you do is tune into your senses and, eyes open or closed, you may be taking stock of the space that you’re in, whether it’s a room, a field, a tree, or wherever you do your meditating. Calamus really helps you get into that state of accepting your perceptions and being open to what’s coming in through all of your nerve endings, so that’s a really helpful ally for this. Then because meditation often includes some focus on breath and breathing, I think that white pine is a really excellent ally here as well. My favorite way to work with white pine for meditation is to find a nice, tall white pine tree and climb it [laughter] and do my meditation up there, but you can also drink some pine tea or even get a little bottle of pine essential oil and sniff that a few times in each nostril before you start to meditate. I find that really helps me to take good deep breaths and feel like I’m getting all of the crud out, so that’s a really good ally. I’ve mentioned for whatever kind of phone you’ve got the app Headspace before. I still find that really helpful and that’s my primary mode of meditating these days. But as I sort of alluded to a moment ago, sometimes I like to meditate by climbing a tree. Climb up as high as I can, up to the part where I’m starting to feel a little jitter in the belly, like, “Oh boy, what am I doing up here?”, getting good and stable on a branch (a little tree hugging basically), and just feeling the branches sway a bit, listening to the leaves. Or if it’s a pine tree, then feeling the little prickles of all the needles on my neck, my knees, or wherever they are, and breathing in those terpenoids, resins, and other scents that are coming off the tree.

Katja: 00:33:38 And getting stuck to your hand.

Ryn: 00:33:40 And all over my pants. [laughter] All of them have resin stains now. That’s another way that I really like to meditate, so maybe you’ll find that helpful too. Climb safe everybody.

Katja: 00:33:53 Meditation is really important. I want to make time for that, but I feel like I need to really emphasize going in the other direction. It’s so easy for me to sit and be in my head, even if it isn’t meditation, so one of my big goals is to be more consistent about moving my body. I set some specific goals to work towards, which is that I want to do stable handstands, I want to be able to go all the way across the monkey bars, and I want to be able to walk and stretch daily, which means that I’m going to need to attend to my schedule and make that a priority in my daily life. That part is the hard part, so I’ve got a friend who I’m buddying up with to share my daily progress; we will text each other when we’re doing our yoga or when we are going for a walk. Having that accountability of texting somebody and knowing that person expects to receive a message from me every day that I’m going for my walk or I’m doing my yoga now means that I better do it, because if I don’t send her that message, then it’s dinnertime and she asks, “So did you walk?”

Ryn: 00:35:30 This is such a fundamental strategy to stay consistent with movement practices especially, to have a buddy.

Katja: 00:35:38 I have some good yoga videos that I like that I found on Youtube, I have an app on my phone that also does some yoga stuff. There are also apps for walking or whatever–basically any kind of physical activity there’s apps for–and that gives me a little structure in my goal. I know how to stretch, but it’s kind of nice to have something to just push play, just do the thing, you don’t have to think about it. It’s hard enough to get up from the desk and do it, so just push play and do what it says. That makes it a little easier also.

Ryn: 00:36:16 My movement goal for this year is climb more trees. I got started a little while ago because I found a really good tree for climbing over at the park, then I started trying some other trees that were a little harder to get up into, and I thought it was great and that I needed to do this all the time. I’m going to try and climb at least one tree every day but I’m going to make an allowance for stacking; if I missed a couple of days, then that means next time I have three trees to go climb. That’s going to be my goal there. I’m going to try and not miss any days. Part of this is also going to help because I generally tend to go and climb trees while I’m throwing the frisbee for Elsie dog and we can all play together.

Katja: 00:37:06 That’s really good, I like that idea. When I think about being a person who takes care of my body, I think about a little mantra that we use to remind ourselves to set realistic boundaries around how much we work in a given day. We started this mantra last year at this time and it was “Lunch break and quittin’ time.” I would say that last year we succeeded maybe 40% of the time at actually taking a lunch break and actually having a quitting time. You might be thinking that 40% is failing, but look at it this way: if you get a 40% off coupon, you’re pretty excited. That’s a really good discount. So, if we have done something 40% more than we did it the year before, that’s pretty good. If you were investing money and got a 40% return on investment, that would be pretty great too. I want to look at it that way and I want to continue to work on “lunch break and quittin’ time”. Quitting time is never five o’clock; it varies from day to day because sometimes we teach at night or whatever, but just knowing each day that there is a time at which we are going to stop working and that we expect ourselves to stop working helps a lot.

Ryn: 00:38:37 If you have a job where you go, you work, and you come home, then maybe that’s not as acute for you. But anybody out there who’s self-employed–and I’ve seen a bunch of articles this week about the explosion of millennials freelancing instead of a traditional nine to five job and all of the completely predictable reasons why that is the case and why people are pushed in that direction. That’s a large and growing number of people that, to whatever extent, are setting their own hours and when that’s the way, then there’s always that little pressure somewhere.

Katja: 00:39:17 Even if you’re not, the more connectivity we have, the more I see employers expect constant connectivity from their employees, and that’s harmful too.

Ryn: 00:39:32 It used to be, “Oh, you’ve got a Blackberry. Wow, you must be very important, and also always busy.” I don’t know if any of our listeners know what a Blackberry is, but it was sort of a precursor to a smartphone I guess.

Katja: 00:39:47 Yes, it was the first thing you could get your email on.

Ryn: 00:39:49 They used to have an acronym, it was PDA, personal digital assistant. That’s really old. I’m not even that old actually, I just was paying attention. [laughter]

Katja: 00:40:01 I remember that, when Blackberries became a thing and you were super important if you got one.

Ryn: 00:40:10 Now, if you were to say, “I didn’t look in my email all weekend”, first of all, I don’t think anybody would even believe you, but second of all, they would be appalled. How’s that possible? Were you locked in a box? What happened?

Katja: 00:40:23 And “What kind of employee are you? Slacker.”

Ryn: 00:40:28 It’s like everybody’s on call all the time and it’s just not healthy.

Katja: 00:40:31 It’s not. “Lunch break and quittin’ time,” that is a thing to do. Another way to do all of this kind of stuff is to have a self care club. I have a few friends that I like to get together with and we do things like make herbal treats together or share things that we’ve made. Lately, a lot of it has been around syrups, because we’ve all kind of been getting into that, and sharing different syrups that we’ve made. Or we’ll make food together. All three of us really like to cook, so we’ll make food together that supports our goals of self care. I have to say that no matter who you are and no matter what your definition of eating healthier is, it is so much easier to do that if you have people around you who are supporting that goal. If the people who live in your house with you do not support that goal, then find people who do and be around them. We also like to go for walks together. Sometimes we go to the hot tub together, do yoga together, and often we like to do art together (which lately has been in the form of spinning wool). I think that’s a really important part of self care because humans are art. It’s not humans do art, we are art. You can’t not make art. The definition of art is wildly diverse. For my dad, fixing the car is an art for him, so I’m not saying that art is getting out your paint brushes and that’s what it has to be for everybody.

Ryn: 00:42:28 This isn’t to say, “You better be making some art, Buster.” This is saying find the places in your life where you already have some creativity expressing and make sure that there’s space for that to happen, to whatever extent you can.

Katja: 00:42:44 Regardless, it’s a place where, even if we’re not doing it together, we can share our achievements. Last night we were texting, “I’m in bed on time!” “Me too!” [laughter] It’s more fun to build the kinds of habits that support your health and wellbeing if you’re building them together with a supportive group of people who care about you and people who you care about.

Ryn: 00:43:11 Katy Bowman has been talking about that as ‘Vitamin Community’ over the last couple of years. It’s good to take a walk, but it’s better to take a walk with a friend or somebody you live with. So, you may be thinking to yourself (if you don’t already have a extensive list of resolutions and goals for next year) what are some things that you could do together with some of your friends to meet your goals and to care for yourself in 2019.

Katja: 00:43:47 Might we suggest that you study herbalism with your friends together! You can study separately if you want to, because sometimes you live in an area where there aren’t any other people who are into herbs yet. Yet is an important word there, because trust me, it will happen. Even if your friend is far away, you can still work together to learn things. You can make fun herby things and send them back and forth to one another like care packages. We offer group discounts on all of our video programs. If you want to learn as a group with your friends, then send us an email and we’ll make a special coupon for your whole group, and that way you guys can all watch the same video lessons each week and talk about them together. There’re so many easy, simple ways to do free video conferencing so that you can video your whole group together, you can see each other, and you can be talking about what you were watching this week and what you were learning. If you want help doing that, I can tell you how. Zoom is the one that I like best. So, you should learn about herbs more in 2019.

Ryn: 00:45:15 Do it. You can find our complete course catalog at commonwealthherbs.com/learn, and we’re really excited for a couple of new courses that are going to be dropping soon. One of them is the Emergent Responder Program. That’s your gig, so I should probably let you talk about it. [laughter]

Katja: 00:45:34 That includes the Emergency Clinic Organization and Management course, which is already available on Commonwealthherbs.com/learn. That teaches you everything you need to know about how to prepare to set up an emergency response clinic and every single thing you possibly need to think of, from what supplies you are going to need, how are you going to find a good place to set it up, what are you going to do if FEMA finally shows up, what if they don’t show up, how are you going to manage it if you have to do this work for a long period of time. In the Far Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy, no government assistance showed up for the first five weeks, so it was just community volunteers who had to do everything in terms of disaster response for the first five weeks. That’s a long time to be running an emergency disaster response clinic, and that experience is what we based this course on. Whether it’s a long weekend power outage or that a hurricane has come through and we all need to pull together, that course prepares you for that. Then the Emergency and Disaster Response First Aid course should be coming out. I really want it to be out by the end of this weekend, but let’s say that it’ll be up by the end of the first week of January. That has all of the actual first aid skills in it for the emergency trauma response, the acute stuff all the way through to ‘for weeks we have to support people who are supposed to be having kidney dialysis’, ‘people who are on prescription medications and we can’t get them and what are we going to do now?’, or ‘how are we going to get them?’ are all in there.

Ryn: 00:47:47 I’ve been kind of thinking about that as first, second, and third aid. [laughter]

Katja: 00:47:51 Yeah, and longterm wound care. It’s not just about slapping a bandaid on it, washing it out, or stopping the bleeding. There is then infection management and stuff like that that you really need to think about. Or long-term environmental exposure, because this is Florida and there was a hurricane and now you have elderly people with no air conditioning and it’s really hot, or this is New England and there was a blizzard that knocked out all the power. There wasn’t even a disaster–this entire block had no heat whatsoever–and just like that, you get to deal with the environment and we’re not accustomed to doing that anymore. Anyway, those will be up and ready.

Ryn: 00:48:51 We also have another new program coming out soon that is to serve as a companion course to our book, Herbal Medicine for Beginners. That will include some elaborated monographs on each of the herbs we covered in the book and a couple of other goodies for you. Both of those coming soon; we’ll make further announcements as warranted, but we wanted to let you know. I have one last resolution that I wanted to share here. Thinking about all of the teaching that we’ve done over the years, mine is this: I resolve to remember that my students and my clients are my best teachers and that the most important things they teach me come out of their lived experiences, which are different from my own, and I resolve to challenge my own assumptions about others, to ask and to listen for the lessons.

Katja: 00:49:50 That’s pretty on point.

Ryn: 00:49:54 That’s one of those things I’m going to write and put on the wall because I want to remember that. This is a thought I’ve had before, but the more that I think about that before I go to teach or if I’m feeling grumpy on a day when we’re going to record a video or whatever, remembering this really helps to turn me around and make me feel good about what we’re doing.

Katja: 00:50:14 Even when I go into see a client and I’m maybe not feeling my best, I don’t feel good, I don’t feel like I’m taking care of myself, and now I’m going to go and take care of somebody else and I don’t even know if I have the resources for that, it turns out I always have the resources for that. When I start listening, that’s when it’s really easy to melt my own frustration. Also when I start listening, it’s so funny because when I go into a client session that way, invariably it’s a client who is showing up with whatever’s going on for me in that moment. Now I’m giving them the advice that I should be giving myself, and I’m just sitting there thinking, “Are you writing all this down Katja, because you need to go home and do exactly that.” [laughter]

Ryn: 00:51:13 One thing that’s kind of occurring to me as we talk through this is that a lot of these can be stacked or interwoven with each other. If I look back at mine, if I was to go and climb up a tree that I’ve never identified before, figure out who it is somewhere along the way, and do a meditation up inside of it, then I’ve hit all of my resolutions at once, and finding ways to accomplish that is really good. Or like yours, where you get together with some friends, go for a walk, do a little yoga, make some food together, and then you all go home early so you can have reading time before bed. There it is, it can all happen at once. What’s happening is that they’re all in service of a larger goal really, which is who do I want to be, what kind of life do I want to live? And look, we’ve moved into philosophy. [laughter] If you go back all the way, it’s about how to lead the good life.

Katja: 00:52:10 When you are spending your time checking yourself regularly and saying, “What can I do today to be the person I want to be?”, then I don’t have to tell myself that I’m not allowed to look at Twitter today. There’s just not time for that. I’m filling my time with being the person I want to be and there isn’t time for the things that can be addicting and are starting to be the activities in our culture that kill time. What they really kill is who we are.

Ryn: 00:52:52 If you’re feeling that way, or if you find yourself feeling that way at some point, there are a couple of herbs we wanted to mention that we think of as herbs to strengthen resolve. Do you want to lead with a couple?

Katja: 00:53:04 I do. Elecampane is one of my favorites here. You might be thinking, “Hold on–isn’t elecampane for respiratory infections?” Yes, definitely. But there is an aspect to elecampane that is very much about stepping into the idea that you are building of yourself. When you have an idea of your new identity, the changes that you want to make, and what that means for who you are as a person, you can have those ideas and you can hold them, but at some point you have to take a step into being that person. That’s pretty difficult, especially that first step. The first step maybe even happens multiple times, so elecampane is really beautiful there. I think about it almost like the breath, because elecampane really supports breathing. It’s a plant that you can work with if you’re a person who has asthma, weak lungs, or is super prone to lung issues, and it really just helps to breathe a full breath and to develop stronger lungs. I feel like that is part of that move of breathing life into what you want to become and the fullness of what you want to become. That’s how I think about it. You don’t have to drink it as tea if you don’t want to. Elecampane does have a little bit of a challenging flavor. It is fine to work with as a tincture and you can keep it with you, take some throughout the day. You don’t have to take tons because this is more of the emotional work, so it doesn’t have to be huge doses, but having some throughout the day can be really wonderful.

Ryn: 00:55:23 I think of sage as an herb that can be helpful for resolve and for helping you to feel a little more stable, steady, and persistent. Sage is a really nice herb because it has a grounding aspect to it. There’s a little note of bitterness in it that is centering and grounding in your physicality, but it also has a lot of aromatics that are stimulating, motivating, increase brain activity, and actually protect and restore health of the brain and other nerve systems. It’s one that I like to include in blends when I’m feeling like I’m dragging or slogging; some sage and then maybe some sunlight-related herbs to get into the mix. That always makes me feel a little more like, “All right, let’s do this.”

Katja: 00:56:24 We have sage in the blend that we’re drinking right now. One that comes to mind for me is tulsi goldenrod, and that’s all one word.

Ryn: 00:56:38 This is like your ginger chamomile. Alchemical pairs. [laughter]

Katja: 00:56:46 Tulsi is really helpful when you are trying to make new habits that involve breaking old habits and when you’re trying to break the craving for something, and I think a big part of that is just the uplifting aspect of it. Tulsi works on the brain in some ways that have already been discovered, but just because we’ve discovered a couple of ways doesn’t mean that we’ve discovered all the ways. One of the things is that tulsi stimulates the hippocampus and gets things moving in the brain from being stuck–emotionally or stuck in a thing that you’re just thinking about over and over again–and moving it into your long-term memory, so I think that is one of the ways that it’s really helpful and motivating. Goldenrod is one of those really amazing marathon plants that can really help when you have to keep going and it’s not really fun anymore. Maybe the first moment when you set out and you say, “I’m going to do yoga every day.” The first day you do it and you feel great, and the second day you’re thinking, “I don’t have time today. I’m getting my period. What are you talking about? This is dumb.” Maybe it doesn’t happen on the second day, maybe it won’t happen for a little while, but there comes a point when it’s is not fun anymore, isn’t enchanting anymore. Goldenrod can really help you keep moving through that phase until it is just what you do. This is the person I am.

Ryn: 00:58:37 One last herb for strengthening resolve: I would like to offer ginseng. This is actually an herb that we don’t talk about too often and we don’t work with super frequently. Ginseng, particularly for those of you who have a resolution involving physical movement and activity, could be a good ally for those times when you are feeling stuck in place, too weighted down, or too tired to go and work out today (or however it may show up for you). When you need a push, when you need a release of some energy to get you out or moving, then Asian ginseng (Panax Ginseng) can be very helpful for this. It’s a hot, fiery, stimulating, activating herb. In traditional terms, it was a called a yang tonic and brings out all of those outward, expressive, and active elements in the mix. I would like you to make a little agreement with me, if you decide to start working with ginseng (we’ll just shake hands over the internet here). The agreement is that if you take the ginseng, you need to do something with the energy that it liberates in your system.

Katja: 00:59:55 You can’t just answer more emails with it.

Ryn: 00:59:57 No, I want you to be moving that body. Even if it’s just a nice stroll or a walk, or if it’s on the other side and it’s a high intensity interval training session, a bunch of sprints, or something. Take the ginseng when you have that feeling of, “I should really get moving, but I just can’t.” Take it, let it have that stimulating effect in your body, but then go out there and do something with it. So, finally for real this time [laughter] we wanted to give one last quick reminder that if you’re an herbalist–a practicing herbalist, clinical herbalist–and you’re looking for a bit of clinical mentorship or guidance, I want to let you know that our 2019 clinical mentorship has some open spots. This is a biweekly video web conference where you can get feedback on any client sessions that you’ve had in that period of time, or really any period of time. We will go through the whole intake, all of the notes that you took, all of the discussions you had with that client, and what you ended up suggesting and offering to them in the way of herbs and other lifestyle ideas. Then myself and everybody else in the group will offer their thoughts, ideas, and questions (like, “Did you consider this? Did you think about that or did you ask this question?), things that you can bring back the next time you have a session with that client to refine your work and to keep it moving forward.

Katja: 01:01:39 Sometimes you see a client and everything has flown out of your head and you cannot remember anything right now. That does not mean that you’re not a good herbalist, it just means that everybody has that day sometimes. It’s really comforting to know that you can say, “Okay, I’m going to start you off with some foundational work. We’re going to work on getting a little bit better sleep and we’re going to give up sugar, or we’re going to keep sugar to a dull roar. We’re going to do some foundational things. We’re going to drink a high mineral, high vitamin tea blend. We’re going to start with that and give you a week or two to really get that going, get a little extra sleep. Then we’re going to dig in with the round of herbs that are really going to address these issues.” If you say that, that gives you a little bit of time to figure out what your next step going to be, but you also have offered something that is definitively helpful. Then you know that you can go and talk to your mentorship group and get some really solid ideas for where to go next, because everything has fallen out of your head.

Ryn: 01:03:00 That starts on January 7th. It occurs on the first and third Mondays, generally speaking, seven o’clock to nine o’clock eastern. It runs from January through October. I would love it if you all would join me. If you’re interested, just send me an email over to info@commonwealthherbs.com and we’ll get you going.

Katja: 01:03:25 Also, the Building Your Holistic Business program has a couple more slots. We can probably take two or maybe three more students. If you are ready to start an herbal business, whether you are starting a product business, a clinical practice, an herbal preschool, or whatever your business with herbs is, then you can join that. You do not have to have your business right now. If you’re just ready to start it, that is fine. Or if you do have your business but it’s a little disorganized or not profitable yet, or if you’ve gotten started but don’t have a website, or if it’s time to really make this a business instead of just a hobby, any of those places, whatever state you’re in, then you can join in this program. It starts January 14th, it’s also a web conference program. It’s the second and fourth Monday of every month, from seven to nine eastern time. We are going to go through every aspect of getting your business up and going, every single thing from getting your name registered, taxes, all that administrative stuff, to having a project plan, a business plan, having your branding, your logo, your website, your marketing, and all of that good stuff. By the end of the year, you will have your business. All of the steps will be done and it will be really exciting and great. Now, both of these are live courses, so there’s a lot of interaction. We do record them, so if you have to miss one because you’re sick or whatever, that’s fine. But it’s really directly tailored to what you are doing in your life right now.

Ryn: 01:05:26 Again, if you want more info on either of those or if you’re ready to sign right up, just drop us an email info@commonwealthherbs.com. So, that’s it for us. We’ll be back next week in 2019 and all through that whole year, here with you on the Holistic Herbalism podcast.

Katja: 01:05:46 We’ll be kicking it off with headaches as a listener request. We will not be having the headaches.

Ryn: 01:05:53 Not just because of celebrations on New Year’s Eve. Is that what you’re saying?

Katja: 01:05:55 No, I mean we’ll be talking about handling headaches.

Ryn: 01:06:00 Cool. Well, happy New Years to all of you.

Katja: 01:06:04 Happy New Years! Don’t forget your milk thistle!

Ryn: 01:06:07 We’ll see you next year.


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