Podcast 062: Herbal Hygge
Hoo-ga? Hue-guh? However you pronounce it, hygge is big right now! And it makes sense: this time of year, we could all use a bit more comfort, coziness, and cuddly contentment as we contemplate the context of our current collective consciousness! . . . Or, uh, just have a nice way to find some warmth in the wintertime. 😉 But, how to make your hygge herbal? Listen & learn!
Herbs discussed include solomon’s seal, ginger, meadowsweet, self-heal, licorice, kelp, chamomile, elderflower, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom; and our wedding tea: tulsi, betony, rose, violet, & spearmint.
Mentioned in this podcast:
- 12 Minute Yoga In Bed to Unwind – need some gentle movement? Start here!
- Herbal Medicine for Beginners, our book!
- The Holistic Herbalism Podcast, episode 59: Solstice
- Southern Folk Medicine, by Phyllis Light
- Phytochemistry and Pharmacy for Practitioners of Botanical Medicine, by Eric Yarnell
- Behave: The Biology Of Humans At Our Best And Worst, by Robert Sapolsky
- Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness, by Peter Godfrey-Smith
- The Holistic Herbalism Podcast, episode 48: Pumpkin Spice
Family Herbalist: Learn Your Herbs & Make Your Medicines – if you’re not sure where to start in learning herbalism, look no further! Get familiar with more than 89 herbs and learn how to make them into simple – but powerful – home remedies. Start today and take advantage of our 14-day, no-questions-asked, zero-risk return policy!
Katja: 00:12 Hi, I’m Katja.
Ryn: 00:14 And I’m Ryn.
Katja: 00:14 We’re here at the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.
Ryn: 00:18 And on the internet everywhere, thanks to the power of the podcast. Alright, so let’s just tell you again that we are not doctors; we are herbalists and holistic health educators.
Katja: 00:28 Ideas discussed in this podcast do not constitute medical advice. No state or federal authority licenses herbalists in the United States, 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’ll hopefully give you some information to think about and research more.
Ryn: 00:46 And, as always, we want to remind you that 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 actually always yours.
Katja: 00:59 Well, I’m really excited this week because it is January, the holidays have passed, and we’re all kind of settling in for the rest of the cold while we wait for spring. Here in New England, we’re waiting for some snow, but maybe that will happen this weekend. I thought it would be a really good time to talk about hygge, which is the Scandinavian idea that’s usually translated as ‘comfort’ or ‘coziness’. It’s the perfect time of year for that, so I thought we could talk about it.
Ryn: 01:46 First, we have some shoutouts.
Katja: 01:48 A shoutout to Melinda, who loves the pod and just signed up for the detox course and also the formulation course in our online programs. We hope you loved them!
Ryn: 02:01 One to thingsthatwork01201 on Instagram, who shared the headaches episode with all of their migraine friends.
Katja: 02:11 Friends who get migraines? [laughter] I wrote that kind of weirdly. Also to Emmy, who signed up for the clinical mentorship program after hearing about it on the pod.
Ryn: 02:20 To herbalaromatherapist on Instagram, who apparently loved the headaches episode. Great, I feel good about it.
Katja: 02:30 And Serena, who was asking about working with people who have chronic illnesses.
Ryn: 02:35 Also to Patrick, who wrote to ask our thoughts about essential oils.
Katja: 02:39 And to all of you amazing people who wrote reviews on iTunes, we really appreciate it. The algorithm overlords are happy. The giveaway winner, it’s time to announce! It is spelled C A Y L A T E T Z.
Ryn: 03:15 Hopefully you know who you are, and we’ll be reaching out directly.
Katja: 03:19 You can let us know the right way to say it. [laughter] We need you to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, because iTunes does not give us a way to contact you. So, contact us to claim your prize! We have a student question this week. We have a bunch, but I really wanted to focus on this one because many people have said similar things. This question comes from the Four Keys to Holistic Herbalism, which is a free mini course that everyone can enroll in, and it talks about our philosophy of herbalism and holistic health.
Ryn: 04:06 It’s easy to find, just go to commonwealthherbs.com and there’s a great big banner right up at the top. Click one button and you’re there.
Alternative Options for Daily Movement
Katja: 04:12 We invite everybody who is in that class to join us for the live Q & As and also to ask us lots of questions. One question that was submitted by a student was, “My biggest challenge is daily movement, especially in the colder months. I have a whole list of autoimmune diagnoses, and overall pain and stiffness has led me to be less mobile than I would like to be.” This question comes up a lot, in this case, some chronic pain and autoimmune disorders or other people asking from a perspective of having a sedentary job and not a lot of time. There’s a lot of different aspects that people talk about. In this case, there was the issue of chronic pain and limitation to the movement from that pain and stiffness, so I had a few thoughts and then some other students chimed in too, which I thought was really awesome. We have this idea that “I should exercise more” or “I should move more” means that person on Instagram who’s doing the primal movement flow routine that involves a backbend, hand stands, and all ofthat stuff. I love that stuff, but even I fall into that category of like feeling like I didn’t do anything good today because I didn’t do that. The reality is that any amount of movement that is more than what you’re moving right now is good. Even if you’re a person who has very limited mobility, there are definitely still options, and it’s really important that we recognize that those options are good. You do not need to be doing handstands to be a person who is moving for their health. Some suggestions that I had were things like chair or even bed yoga, and those are stretches that you can do while seated and while laying down. Again, the bottom line is just be moving, any amount that you can and that will build on itself. I shared some links of ones that I particularly like, but if you Google “chair yoga” and “bed yoga” on YouTube, you’ll come up with a bunch. Some are better than others and it’s going to depend on your needs, but they’re really excellent and it’s nice to be able to see someone else doing those so that you can get an idea. Also, I like to suggest things like not discounting just walking through your house. Especially if you’re a person for whom walking is difficult, making sure that every day you walk into every room of your house, like three times a day before you eat or something like that. If it’s more movement than you’re moving right now, you win, you’re doing it. Another student chimed in about swimming and that is such a good way, if that’s accessible to you. A lot of gyms, sports clubs, and YMCAs that have pools have specific programs for people who have limited mobility (either from disabilities, injuries, chronic pain, or what have you) that can help to get you moving, and because it’s in the water and it’s not a high gravity environment, it can be a lot more comfortable to do movement that way. I think that is a really awesome idea.
Ryn: 08:50 My thoughts on this are basically that for a lot of people the pain is the thing that’s the barrier to the movement and so we need to have ways to address that. But what we tend to not want to do is to kill the pain (at least from our perspective), because that’s a signal that’s useful. If you numb yourself and and feel great for a short period of time, and then go and work out really hard or push yourself beyond some limits that you weren’t aware were present, then you might actually make your situation a little worse. Let me share a little recipe; this actually comes out of our book, Herbal Medicine for Beginners, which is still available. I called this ‘Joint Support Decoction’, and I actually have measurements for you this time. Probably one of the only times this will happen on our podcast. [laughter] This will make about two and a half cups of herb mixture and that should be enough for 12 or 16 quarts of tea. This is a combination of some joint-supporting herbs, some seaweeds, and some herbs that have anti-inflammatory potency, all in a combo to help the joints, to get fluids moving in the body, and to help you to feel a little more flexible. I start with a cup of dried Solomon’s seal root, one third cup of ginger, one third cup of meadowsweet flowers, one third cup of self heal herb (that’s leaf and flower together), and then one quarter cup each of dried licorice root and kelp. You can also add cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, allspice, or really any kind of spice-type herb that tastes good to you.
Katja: 10:49 I have to say that you made a blend of this tea without any of those additions and I kind of looked at it and thought, “You put kelp in the tea and you put licorice root? I’m really skeptical.” But you guys, it’s actually really good. Even with the licorice, it’s really good. I really like this tea a lot.
Ryn: 11:13 That’s something coming from you. Licorice, she’s not your favorite. [laughter].
Katja: 11:16 If you can make a blend of tea with licorice in it and Katja will drink it, you win.
Ryn: 11:21 I think a lot of it is that the Solomon’s seal has a sweetness to it and it smooths over the extensive sweetness of the licorice.
Katja: 11:33 The Solomon’s seal sweetness is rounder and earthier.
Ryn: 11:42 Yeah, I was going to say earthier. Then there’s the ginger in there, so it’s got a good strong flavor. Meadowsweet has a nice touch as well. All these things together actually tastes pretty good, if I may say so. You mix all those together and then you’re going to make a decoction with this. You’re going to take two to four tablespoons (not a flat measured tablespoon, but a big heaping tablespoon) of herbs per quart of water and mix them together in a pot. Put the lid on, bring it up to a boil, and then take it down to a simmer. Simmer this for at least 30 minutes, but I often do it for a whole hour before straining and drinking it.
Katja: 12:26 Makes sure you put a lid on it.
Ryn: 12:29 Yes, while it’s simmering. If you make a habit out of that, if you do that consistently, you may feel a difference in your joints or your degree of musculoskeletal pain, even after the first batch. More often it’s going to take a few days to a week of consistency with this and you’ll really start to loosen up and feel a little more free in your movements, and that can make it easier for you to go out and feel happy about moving. So, shall we get to our weeks topic? ‘Herbal Hygge’? I’m trying to pronounce it right. I don’t speak Danish or Norwegian, but we’ll do our best.
Hygge in PopCulture vs. Real Life
Katja: 13:33 I speak German, so I definitely hear the pronunciation of it in the German way.
Ryn: 13:42 But you kind of look at the word and you think ‘hee-gee’, because it’s spelled H Y G G E.
Katja: 13:47 The “y” in Germanic languages is a “u” sound. But whatever! You actually have a nice quote here of the definition where you wrote, “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or wellbeing, which is regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture,” and I think that’s a good starting definition. I’m going to add some stuff as we move along, but I think that’s a really good place to start. It’s a really popular thing right now, at least where we live.
Ryn: 14:35 There was a surge of books. All of a sudden there were four or five different books that came out in a short period.
Katja: 14:42 The books though, they’re lovely, but the thing is that they’re lovely. All of the pictures are sparkling, clean, fancy things with a lot of white, and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s beautiful and great, but even the photographs kind of look expensive and I just want to be clear that it isn’t necessary. I think that the important part here is an awareness that winter is a hard time of year and that self care is required, and as a culture they’re saying, “Yeah, that’s a thing and we embrace it.” But it does not have to be expensive. It’s great to look at the beautiful pictures in the books and it’s even fun to like replicate that in your life if you can, but it doesn’t have to be expensive.
Ryn: 15:34 It feels like an extension of solstice traditions from northern countries to me. When it’s solstice, it’s the shortest day of the year and you want to get a big fire, get lots of candles, have a feast, and remind ourselves that there’s warmth in the world. This feels very similar, but more on the day-to-day level.
Katja: 15:56 I think that’s what makes it important, actually. Especially this time of year, everybody wants to sleep a little extra, everybody is maybe not their fastest, speediest self at work, and we all would really kind of rather curl up and be cozy, and we don’t have to feel lazy for wanting that. We live in such a productivity-focused culture that those kinds of feelings generally are considered to be undesirable, unless you can dress them up really fancy and make it something to achieve–that makes it desirable. The reality is that we are mammals. It is okay to want to curl up, put your tail over your nose, and be toasty and comfy. So, I want to first off just advocate that and say if you are feeling like you’re not up to all the stuff that you normally would do in your life and you’re sort of feeling like it can wait, I want to validate that feeling and say, “Congratulations. You are a mammal and it is okay to act like one and to feel like one.” We have some ideas about how you might do that in an enjoyable herbal kind of way. To me, when I think about the words ‘cozy’ or ‘comfy’, the first thing that pops into my mind is curling up with a hot beverage, a good book, and a blanket.
Ryn: 17:52 Nice. Do you want to talk a little bit about some books?
Book Suggestions for Colder Months
Ryn: 17:59 I do! Let’s make some suggestions of some good books you might want to curl up with.
Ryn: 18:04 If I think about an herbal book for a quiet time, to me that sounds like a great chance to dig into Phyllis Light’s book, Southern Folk Medicine, which actually I was doing last night in this very room. [laughter]
Katja: 18:22 You were talking about this over the weekend when we were teaching the advanced students. I haven’t had a chance to even look at it yet, but it sounds really exciting.
Ryn: 18:31 We’ve kind of all been waiting for this for years. [laughter] All of the herbalists I know (for the first eight or 10 years that I was hanging around herbalists) were saying, “Phyllis Light, she’s southern folk medicine’s standard-bearer of the tradition, she’s going to write this book and it’s going to be so great”. Then it happened and it arrived! Was that last year or two years ago?
Katja: 18:55 It feels like a couple months ago, but that’s probably not accurate.
Ryn: 19:00 It’s a really great book and I’m about halfway through. So far it’s a really lovely weaving together of life story and anecdotes, as well as some specific methods or insights from the southern folk traditions, along with a really nice discussion about some of the fundamental principles of theory and practice that apply to all kinds of traditional medicine systems. I like when we can get a view on that kind of thing that says, “Look at these similarities–look at humans being humans, plants being plants, and look at them working together.” Ta-da, there’s herbalism. So, that’s one I’ve been digging into a bit. I also just got a new book in the mail (not a brand new book published recently, but new to me), and this one is called Phytochemistry and Pharmacology for Practitioners of Botanical Medicine, by Eric Yarnell. Doesn’t that sound cozy? [laughter] I’ve been digging into phytochemistry a lot more over the last few years and this one feels like a really great companion to go along with Lisa Ganora’s book, Herbal Constituents. That’s kind of been my phytochemistry bible.
Katja: 20:20 If phytochemistry is new for you and you’re a little intimidated by it, that book is a very comfortable start. Not because it is basic, it is quite thorough, but because her writing is very accessible. There are definitely pages in that book that talk about the magic of plants and have molecular diagrams in the same paragraph.
Ryn: 20:50 Most of the pages.
Katja: 20:53 If chemistry feels scary to you, this book can make that open, accessible, and not scary.
Ryn: 21:05 I’ve only read a few pages so far of Eric’s book. It seems to have a different perspective on a lot of these things. It’s much more of a hard science approach, which I think is kind of an interesting counterpoint, but there’s some interesting stuff in there. Like, there’s a diagram of the metabolic pathways in plants, which has cleared up some questions I’ve had about relationships between different chemical groups, like how they are related and how this came out of that. It’s really nice because it shows pretty clearly that everything starts with photosynthesis. It starts with the production of the sugars and then the plants do their metabolic magic and turn that into all of the other things. I find that to be really fascinating. Those are some books that I’ve been curling up with lately. How about you?
Katja: 22:05 Two books that I am really obsessed with right now are not directly related to herbalism as much as they are related to understanding humans and human behavior. I feel like that is just as important as understanding the plants because if you’re going to put these things together, then you’ve got to understand both sides. For a while now I’ve been studying Robert Sapolsky’s book called Behave; it’s a very large book and it’s really detailed. On one hand, it’s thoroughly academic and on the other hand, it is completely accessible and entertainingly written. It is about neuroendocrinology and…
Ryn: 22:55 Psycho-neuro-immuno-endocrinology. [laughter].
Katja: 22:57 Yes, that’s exactly it. It is the intersection of all of these scientific approaches that we have to understanding why humans do the things they do. This person took a widely cross-functional approach to understanding and explaining it, and I really appreciate the amount of work that went into it and what he’s talking about. I’ve been reading that for a while as I am working on expanding a class that we’ve done in the past on emotional first aid and working with trauma, so watch for that to come out (hopefully before summer, but realistically probably in the summer). Another book that I have also been really enjoying right now is called Other Minds: the Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness, which is a philosophy book. If it had been billed that way, I would not necessarily have been so excited to read it, but I got interested in this book because I really love cephalopods and I’m very interested in cephalopod intelligence. That’s how I got interested in this book, but what I found the book to actually be is a really fascinating discussion of the similarities and differences between all the different types of intelligence. I think it’s something that’s really important to think about because when we can see all other forms of life as being intelligent, then we are so much less likely to exploit all the other forms of life. I think that’s something to really be pushing our understanding of, and I always like to harp on the idea of not saying that we “use” plants, but saying that we “work with” them. It’s difficult because this language has been wired for so long that it’s hard to change. That doesn’t mean we don’t try to change it, it just means that we don’t get it perfect every time after we’ve made the decision to make that change. But the reason that is so important to me not to talk about using plants is because that language implies that it’s okay to use things. I guess it’s okay to use a screwdriver, there’s no problem with that, but it’s not okay for me to use Ryn to get the dishes done.
Ryn: 25:52 You could say that it’s not okay to use other lives. We need to remind ourselves that plants are alive. It’s easy for people to forget that
Katja: 26:04 Plants, too, have intelligence and they have this huge realm of everything. A couple of books there are Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees, and Daniel Chamovitz, What a Plant Knows. Now that’s a pile of books for you.
Ryn: 26:25 Looking at the ones we’ve been choosing, there’s a lot of contemplative thought, seeing connections between things, and understanding our place in the world in various ways.
Katja: 26:38 It is very introspective.
Ryn: 26:39 It’s wintertime reading. If you think about how people talk about beach books or summertime blockbuster books. It’s like fast-paced stories of adventure and stuff like that, and this is sort of the other side.
Katja: 26:52 That’s awesome. What a great observation.
Ryn: 27:01 So, that can be something to curl up with on a nice, cool day, or a nice, frozen day, maybe with some snow. But the tea was the other important part of that.
Cozy Tea and Wedding Tea
Katja: 27:13 Right, and we have a recommendation of a tea actually. Chai is great–anything with cinnamony, gingery, warm spices are all wonderful, but might we propose the tea that we served at our wedding? We just refer to it as “Wedding Tea.”
Ryn: 27:37 This is a blend we made for our day and it’s got tulsi, betony, rose, violet, and spearmint.
Katja: 27:57 How does it have neither catnip nor chamomile?
Ryn: 28:00 I don’t know, but we can make Anniversary Tea and we can include those.
Katja: 28:08 You could put both of those right into this and it would still taste awesome. It would be great.
Ryn: 28:15 There’re a lot of nervine herbs in there, a lot of calming, soothing herbs (if you have any jitters going on), but also herbs to get you into your body and into the present moment. Betony is really key for that, tulsi as well, to help you to be here, be here now, and to be in a good mood while you’re at it.
Katja: 28:37 Exactly, just to feel positive, sort of calmly positive. This is not like wanting-to-charge-off-and-leap-over-things-kind of positive, it’s a very calm kind of positive, and it’s tasty. Everybody loved it, so if you’re wondering what’s tea you can make for people that they’ll like, we suggest this. Also, we’re talking about books, tea, and curling up on the couch, but I do want to propose that if you would like a super 21st century version of curling up on the couch with a good book, I might propose curling up on the couch with a blanket, a cup of tea, and your Internet device of choice, and you can learn herbalism from our video courses. It’s not a book, but it is comforting and great. When I was thinking about different ways to work with herbs to achieve a feeling of comfort and coziness, I was combing through all these ideas and I was thinking about a foot bath. You really love a nice foot bath and, even when it’s really cold, you get so toasty when you do it. You start off with your sweater and by the time you’re done you’ve got to take your sweater off, you just end up so toasty. I thought maybe you would share some ideas about your foot bath.
Other Ideas for Working with Herbs
Ryn: 30:18 I like good foot bath, and you can put almost anything in there really. If you really want to get the blood moving, it’s good to have things like ginger and you can even shake a few flakes of cayenne into there. If you wanted to have a stronger relaxant effect, you can put in some really calming and soothing herbs, maybe some lavender would be a nice place to start with that. You’ll get the scent of it and you’ll also be absorbing it right into the soles of your feet. One I might consider would be some friendly little flowers, which I think one of our very early podcast episodes was all about little flowers with big power.
Katja: 31:02 Yes, it was. I remember I had a whole rant going about that.
Ryn: 31:06 A few there could be chamomile, maybe some elder flowers, and some meadowsweet flowers. I haven’t tried heather flowers in a foot bath, but they’re so lovely.
Katja: 31:18 They’re just beautiful. Why not add them in?
Ryn: 31:20 They smell nice. So, if you haven’t done foot baths or worked with herbs in this way too much, then just think about herbs that you like to drink when you feel a little stressed out, and make some tea, drink some, and then soak in the rest.
Katja: 31:42 I have not quite gotten onto the foot bath bandwagon yet. I’m not even sure why, because I sure do love hot tubs and taking a bath, but I just haven’t quite gotten there yet. The thing that I really love is a hot water bottle. I really think that hot water bottles are an undervalued commodity in this country because they are amazing. They can solve so many problems.
Ryn: 32:11 We converted one of our students this weekend [to hot water bottles]. She had been having a problem with some eczema on one of the arms and had been realizing that she should do a licorice compress, but it gets cold and that’s not very pleasant. So, we suggested a hot water bottle, put that right on there. She came back in the next day and said, “What have I been doing? This is absolutely the best thing ever. And everybody in my family is now clamoring to get their own hot water bottle.” [laughter].
Katja: 32:48 You should definitely have as many water bottles as you have people in the house, or maybe one extra. There are a couple of ways that I really love to work with a hot water bottle. One, I have an area in my back (on the left side, right over the hip) that’s my usual place; if I do something stupid, if I sit all day, or whatever, that’s where it’s going to hurt. I love to rub some nice linament into that with Solomon’s seal, St John’s wort, some clove oil, and different things (we’ve talked about the linaments that Ryn makes from time to time on the pod). I’ll rub that into the whole area of my back and then put the hot water bottle on top of it and it feels so good. The other thing that I really love is with a compress; unless it’s 95 degrees outside, it’s going to get cold and you won’t like that, or it won’t feel good. You might love it, but I am a person who really doesn’t want to be in cold water or cold dampness at all. The solution to that problem is to go ahead and make your compress (the way that you’re going to do that is make a really strong infusion–or decoction if that’s appropriate–and soak a clean cloth in it, ring it out just enough so it isn’t dripping but still very full of liquid), put that on the appropriate location, and then put the hot water bottle on top of it. Don’t neglect this for a headache even though it looks a little funny. A cloth soaked in chamomile tea on my forehead with a hot water bottle on top of it, or if I don’t have time to make the cloth, just putting the hot water bottle on my head, really is a lovely thing for the type of headache that I get most often, which is a very cold, dull headache. This wouldn’t necessarily be lovely for a hot headache, but for a cold, dull headache, it is glorious. I love doing it when I’ve been sitting all day and I’ve got a lot of tension in my neck. Laying down and putting the hot water bottle there, maybe with some skullcap as a compress or some skullcap infused into oil, and then draping my neck over the hot water bottle. Really, just hot water bottles, they’re wonderful.
Ryn: 35:41 What else is comforting and hygge in nature?
Katja: 35:48 Well, for me, apple pie comes to mind when I think about comfort. When I was a kid, we had apple pie or apple dumplings at times when there was enough time to make them. Usually that was a holiday or some sort of special time or a slow time. My family lived far away from our extended families, so our holidays were always really quiet. I can just remember certain photographs in my mind of times when my mom was making apple dumplings or apple pie, my dad usually was reading, and either the TV or some music was on quiet in the background. I can remember the way that it smelled and so that feels really comforting to me. But when I think about it, the herbs that we are talking about when I’m really talking about apple pie are cinnamon, nutmeg, maybe some cardamom, and those are very similar to pumpkin pie spices, too. I remember when we were doing the pumpkin spice episode, I had done some research and it turns out there was a study that says that pumpkin pie spice is one of the most aphrodisiac scents of all the things that they tested, and their conclusion around that was that the flavor is a comforting and sort of nostalgic type of thing that makes people feel relaxed. Whether or not that’s accurate, the spices do that; they’re warming, they’re antispasmodic, they improve circulation but relax the muscles.
Ryn: 37:36 They improve your digestion, which is where so much discomfort comes from whether you realize it or not.
Katja: 37:40 Those are all the spices that are in a good chai blend, too, so get them in any way you like best.
Ryn: 37:58 Something that I find very comforting when I’m reaching my nerve limit and about to go over that cliff is having some of the nice big batch of a kava electuary that I made a little while ago. Kava is the herb from the Polynesian islands and from Hawaii that has a very nice body relaxing effect, loosens up all your muscles, and releases those feelings of stress, especially if that’s where it manifests in your body. If you’re somebody like me that has a tense constitution overall, then kava is a really great friend, and electuary is a very nice way to deliver that. The sweetness of the honey and the warmth and the little numbing effect of the kava all come together. There was a day earlier this week where I was having a big freakout-breakdown situation and I need some herb. I grabbed that jar and took a great big spoonful. It’s one of those things where as soon as you’ve got it in your mouth, you’re starting to already feel some relief. We can call that whatever you want, you can call it placebo effect or you can say that the tastes triggers a reflex response inside your body that doesn’t wait for you to metabolize all of the chemical constituents to start to work. I think both of those are definitely at play for me when work with that kind of thing.
Katja: 39:32 This is something we’ve talked about before that I think is relevant to put in here as well about the taste that you’re talking about. When you build a relationship with a plant over time, you know what that plant will do in your body. You’ve worked with kava so many times, and this is true for me with lobelia, too–I have such confidence in what the outcome will be because it has happened over and over again–that just the taste of it [makes you feel] everything’s going to be fine now. I have taken the action, I know that everything is about to relax and because I know that with certainty I’m already relaxing. Maybe you don’t get that effect the very first time that you take it, but over time of building that relationship, the effect comes on faster and faster because you know that’s what’s going to happen.
Ryn: 40:32 Yeah. Kava electuary can be a good way to go if you’re somebody who’s doesn’t have time to be cozy or time for this hygge stuff. Take a bunch of that, give it a minute to go to work on you, you’ll curl up, you’ll calm down, and you’ll be alright. That’s been a good friend for me lately.
Coziness as the Process – Not Just the Outcome
Katja: 40:53 I want to spend a little minute thinking a little bit more deeply about the idea of coziness or comfort and how we’re translating this word and this concept. For people who don’t know, my original field of study in this life was foreign languages. I went to school for foreign language and linguistic theory; because of that, the way that people use words and the way that we translate words is of course always something that I love to nerd out on. When we translate the word hygge, we translate it into our language and into our culture as cozy or comforting. Also, if you just Google ‘hygge’ and you look all of the pictures, it’s really apparent what our cultural idea is that we are translating this word into, and then we stopped there. It’s cozy, it’s comforting, it’s beautiful.
Ryn: 42:02 It’s clean, neat, orderly, and all of that.
Katja: 42:03 But we don’t investigate that clean, neat, and orderly background part. We just see the cup of tea and the fireplace or whatever and then we stop. I think the clean, neat, and orderly part is a fundamental part of the cultural understanding of this concept in Scandinavia. This is a sense of things in their place, or even the process of putting things in their place, that process itself is comforting. Or the process of things that bring comfort is comforting. Even the beginning steps of making the tea is part of the comfort. You don’t have to wait until you are perfectly settled next to the fire with your perfect blanket that is completely vacuumed and devoid of all dog hair and everything in its complete perfect place. You don’t have to wait until you get to that part to be experiencing the comfort. The steps that you take as you are getting there is part of the process of building comfort. I think that for us in our culture, we think about not having to work and leisure as what we want when we say comfort. Those are definitively not bad things, but even when we think about what leisure time is, sometimes there is the mainstream concept of leisure time as the complete absence of anything that could be work. As in, “I’m not doing any dishes right now because this is my leisure time,” when actually doing the dishes could itself be a practice of hygge. Like, the joy in putting things into their place, the joy of setting things right, the joy of creating what we consider to be Scandinavian design–cleanness, tidiness, everything in its place and not too much overflowing its boundaries–that doesn’t just happen magically. There is a process of creating that in your life and I think that process can be comforting as well.
Ryn: 44:38 I have noticed lately that when I get completely overwhelmed by our schedule, our deadlines, and our commitments, and if I’m just feeling like we’re behind on our promises to everybody, sometimes I’ll just throw up my hands and go do the dishes. Then I’m at least moving my body a little bit and I’m getting something cleaned in the house. It’s something physical, it has a definite start and an end, it’s just as unlike the endless to do list as it can get, and that is absolutely comforting for me.
Katja: 45:13 I think that this is reflected in the sort of resurgence of handmade items right now. Taking joy in making something all the way from scratch as a hobby activity, and allowing that to permeate our lives until we can get all the way to the place of taking joy in doing the laundry, folding it neatly, and putting it into the drawer neatly (or on the shelf or wherever).
Ryn: 45:47 Again, this tracks back to some of those herbs we were talking about previously in the wedding tea. The tulsi and the betony, that presence in this moment, just being here where you are, doing what you’re doing, and not thinking “When am I done? When I’m done, that’s when I’m relaxed.” No, you can be relaxed right now.
Katja: 46:06 In our house, often the dishes get left at night for the next morning. That is absolutely because I often have that mindset of, “I’m done, I just have to relax now. I don’t want to do anymore work tonight. I want to sit down and be cozy.” I don’t think that’s bad or wrong, especially because often I’m really busy and by that point I am really tired and maybe it’s late, so I’m not chastising that’s a thing that I do sometimes. But on one particular evening before the holidays, we had a get together with a couple of friends, they did the dishes before they left, and the kitchen was so clean. The next morning, I walked into the kitchen and it was beautiful and clean and I was thought, “This is really nice.” Since then we’ve been way more on top of the dishes and I’ve been noticing how pleasant it is to come into the kitchen in the morning and think that it’s nice in here. That doesn’t mean that I always want to do the dishes at night, sometimes I just want to sit down. But it has really changed my opinion about doing the things like that that I don’t really want to do. Sometimes we like put on some nice music, maybe we chat, and we do the dishes and put them away, and that’s an activity that we can do together and that we are doing to care for ourselves. It’s something that we’re doing to invest in our future selves. I will do this thing for myself because tomorrow morning I’ll be so excited that my tonight self did it and I’ll be so grateful. It will be tomorrow morning’s delight and I will have comfort tonight in building that for myself for tomorrow. Anyway, so definitely take the idea of hygge, sit on the couch, curl up, and do nothing and knitt, read a book, or whatever. Maybe not every single day, but most days there should be some time for that for a person. Our culture doesn’t necessarily make that time, but I proclaim it should be there. I also am really fascinated with how can we apply this to our idea of what self care is and how can we expand the idea of self care beyond the way that our culture defines it. I think that inherent in the Scandinavian definition of that is this idea that the process of putting things into their place is as comforting as seeing them in their place. The process of creating order, neatness, or whatever it is that makes you feel good and cozy, feels as good as feeling good and cozy that it’s done. That’s my thought about it.
Ryn: 49:40 That’s awesome to hear your thoughts. So, maybe you can find some ways to apply some aspects of hygge to your life this week. Maybe some of these herbs we’ve mentioned can help you to get into that space in your mind and in your body, and maybe you have some herbal friends that you already know help you get there and you can link them together. I hope that for you.
Katja: 50:08 Yes, I hope that for me, too. This week, we’ll all work on that.
Ryn: 50:15 Sorry the podcast is a little bit late this time around.
Katja: 50:19 It was our first weekend with our advanced students to kick off the year, and we were so excited to see them. They all finished the local Foundations Program last year and now they’re in their second year with us, and we’re so excited to hear about their holidays and to get started with the advanced material. The podcast had to take a back seat for a minute, but we’ll be back on Friday.
Ryn: 50:48 See you then.
Join our newsletter for more herby goodness!
Get our newsletter delivered right to your inbox. You'll be first to hear about free mini-courses, podcast episodes, and other goodies about holistic herbalism.