Podcast 117: A Week In The Life Of Two Herbalists

Whew! There’s a lot going on right now. Between coronavirus, the election cycle, and the approach of spring, we’ve been extra busy and under more stress than usual. This week we wanted to share with you some of the herbs we’ve been relying on to get through. It’s a bit of a smorgasbord!

First up, a friend of ours is undergoing laser eye surgery, and we have some herbs to help make the healing process as quick & comfortable as possible. Supplements, compresses, and gentle healing sprays are all part of the plan.

Then, there’s been a death in Ryn’s family – his grandfather passed away. There’s grief, as well as other emotions, to process and work through. There’s also the funeral! With family & friends coming in from across the country and the world, we’re looking at a large gathering – and of course this is during the coronavirus outbreak. So we’re thinking a lot about community immunity, and daily active immune defense measures we can put into place. Herbs are coming in as steams, decoctions, infusions, fire cider, incense, and room spray!

As if that weren’t enough, allergy season is starting around here, and we’re looking to get our supportive herbs in as soon as possible. Nettle & eyebright tinctures are extra helpful lately.

And finally, we’re taking extra steps to support digestion right now – bitters are front & center.

Herbs discussed include (get ready!): bilberry, chamomile, calendula, marshmallow, hawthorn, linden, motherwort, blue vervain, lemon balm, elder, tulsi, thyme (& friends), lavender, garlic, elecampane, ginger, cinnamon, angelica, reishi, mullein, lungwort, boneset, yarrow, tarragon, nettle, goldenrod, eyebright, & calamus.

We mentioned several of our courses in this episode:

As always, please subscribe, rate, & review our podcast wherever you listen, so others can find it more easily. Thank you!!

Our theme music is “Wings” by Nicolai Heidlas.

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Episode Transcript

Ryn (00:14):
All right. We’ll have our regular podcast for you in just a moment here. But before we started, we wanted to make a quick comment.

Katja (00:21):
We recorded this podcast earlier in the week as we were getting ready for the things that were going to happen. And as often is the case the week did not turn out the way that we thought. Because of coronavirus, a lot of the plans that our family had made were changed along the way.

Ryn (00:38):
Right? Yeah. Initially, you know, with the funeral that we’re going to mention in the pod here, there had been a plan to have a big gathering, and a whole Catholic mass service and everything like that. But because of the state of emergency nationally, and here in Massachusetts, and from the diocese and other places, including the family, we decided to shrink everything down. So we had a small service and then we had the outside burial.

Katja (01:08):
Yeah, we kept everything small just to limit the exposure. These are weird times. And so everybody is sort of navigating them the best that they can in the moment. And so some of the things that we were planning for did change. However, all of the things that we were planning, all the things that we were doing in preparation to keep ourselves healthy through this week and everything that is to come. All that stuff we still did and we’re continuing to do.

Ryn (01:36):
Right. In fact when we finish closing this little addendum, we’re going to go and have another Thyme steam right now.

Katja (01:42):
Yes.

Ryn (01:42):
So you’ll hear more about that in the pod coming right now.

Katja (01:45):
Hi, I’m Katia.

Ryn (01:46):
And I’m Ryn.

Katja (01:47):
And we’re here at the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ryn (01:51):
And on the internet everywhere, thanks to the power of the podcasts and the YouTube and all the other good internet-y stuff.

Katja (01:58):
Woohoo.

Ryn (01:58):
Thanks internet. We appreciate you.

Katja (02:01):
Well, it has been, and it is still actually being, a really busy week in our house. And we wanted to share with you the herbs that we’ve been working with for all the different things that have been going on. It’s a lot of them.

Ryn (02:17):
It’s a bunch of different things. Yeah. So we figured it’d be like a week in the life, you know. What have we been up to lately?

Katja (02:22):
Yeah.

Ryn (02:23):
But first let’s remind you that we are not doctors. We are herbalists and holistic health educators.

Katja (02:28):
The 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. And everybody’s body is different, so what we’re talking about may or may not apply directly to you. But we hope that they’ll give you some really good ideas to think about and research further.

Ryn (02:51):
So remember, good health is your own personal responsibility. The final decision whenever you’re considering any courses of therapy, any intervention, whether it’s discussed on the internet by people like us, or prescribed by an actual physician, that choice is still always yours.

Katja (03:05):
Yes.

Ryn (03:06):
Yours. Yeah. Okay. So yeah. What has been going on this week? Can I even remember?

Katja (03:12):
Oh my goodness, it has been a crazy week. So just aside from the fact that the whole world is extra crazy right now. And I feel like basically every week for the last, I don’t know how many years, we’ve been able to be like, wow, this week is crazier than any week previous. And it just keeps being crazier. But so, there’s that. And honestly, I kind of like say that as a joke at the beginning here, but that’s not to be discounted actually. I think that it’s really important that everybody just acknowledge for yourself that the world is wicked crazy right now. And if you’re feeling stressed, if you’re feeling anxiousness, if you’re feeling all the things that you might be feeling, that you probably are feeling, that there’s something wrong with you. The world is on fire. And so, but besides that, this has just been a week of a lot of things happening in our world. The first of which is.

Ryn (04:12):
not coronavirus related.

Chamomile, Calendula, & Marshmallow to Soothe the Eyes

Katja (04:13):
Right. The first of which is that a friend of ours had laser eye surgery this week. So, we had been working with him to help prepare for that.

Ryn (04:25):
Yeah. So I did this a bunch of years back. We got different procedures. This person got one that’s the shorter recovery time, so that’s nice. That’s nice for them. But yeah, when I got my eyes lasered up so I could see things over there. And I still delight in it today. When I got mine done I took bilberry for about a month before and a month after. And my eye doctor said that I had the best recovery time that he’d ever seen.

Katja (04:56):
Yeah. He was like, Oh, what’s so special about you?

Ryn (05:00):
That really worked out. Yeah.

Katja (05:00):
So it doesn’t have to be Bilberry. Although honestly, if you’re considering laser eye surgery or if there are just eye problems in general, it is okay to go and get the encapsulated bilberry extract. That is okay. It works. It is great. But also almost all of the berries do this. And bilberry is really just a blueberry that grew up in England. So you can also work with blueberries in the same way. It’s better if they’re wild blueberries and not the like hydroponic domestic, really fat, big blueberries. But honestly, eat berries. And the reason that berries are so important is that they have a lot of antioxidants and a lot of other phytoconstituents that are chemicals that support capillary health in the eyeball. And that is critical to any kind of recovery.

Ryn (05:59):
Yeah, for sure. Right. So that’s fantastic. And then we also had some post-care ideas for them, which was about getting Chamomile and Calendula. And making a good, strong tea. And straining it like extra strain. Strain it all the way. Strain it a bunch of times.

Katja (06:18):
Like through an unbleached coffee filter or something.

Ryn (06:20):
There you go. Yeah. So those are awesome. And what you’re going to do is you’re going to take that, strain it out super good. And then you can soak a cloth in it, and then just rest that over the eyes and rest back. And let it kind of seep in and do its thing there.

Katja (06:34):
That’s a good way to do it because you should lay down with your eyes closed after you’ve had it. Like they say, you can just run around and do the things, but you did just have surgery on your eyes. So any amount of time that you can rest and just like listen to something with your eyes closed. And have a cloth over it with Chamomile or Calendula or both, that’s going to be supportive on many levels. Supportive from the herbs, but also supportive from the fact that you’re resting. You’re allowing your eyes to heal.

Ryn (07:05):
Right. Calendula and Chamomile, they both have a lot of anti-inflammatory effects of course. So they can keep the inflammation corralled to like just enough to do the healing and no more. Just kind of what we’re always going for. Right. They also have some healing stimulation aspects to them. So the word we use for that is vulnerary. And Calendula in particular is a really, really good vulnerary herb. Yeah. So so we think those could help too.

Katja (07:35):
I was going to say the other way to administer that is you can also put it in a spray bottle, especially if you have one of those like fine mist bottles. And then just spray it across your eyes regularly.

Ryn (07:48):
You don’t have to keep your eyes open.

Katja (07:48):
It’ll feel really soothing. Yeah, no, no, no, no. It’s fine. Close your eyes, but spray it on your face

Ryn (07:55):
Not like a Clockwork Orange situation, you know.

Katja (07:57):
Oh man.

Ryn (07:58):
Yeah, no, but just just to spritz that on there and get that feeling. I mean, even if you had a, like a spray bottle of Rose water from the store that that works really well and they have this nice fine mist sprayers on there.

Katja (08:10):
Yeah. That would be soothing, really, really soothing.

Ryn (08:13):
One thing that’s definitely going to be a factor though is a moisture balance. And that’s going to be right there in the tissue, in the eye. But really you want to think about whole body hydration, really whenever you’re doing a a healing process and going through that. Can’t heal if you’re not hydrated. So, and then, you know, when you do the laser eye surgery, that does tend to be a lot of eye dryness. And so some herbs that can be really helpful there are going to be our demulcents right? And starting with good old marshmallow: marshmallow leaf, marshmallow root even more so, really help the body to hold water and to utilize water efficiently. So we’re going to want to have this person drink a whole lot of it. Like a quart of a cold infusion of marshmallow in a day would be really, really helpful.

Katja (09:03):
You know this is also, the marshmallow infusion, you can apply it as a compress. And you can put it in a spray bottle too. Like any way that you can get it on your eyes directly is also going to be really, really good. But I was just thinking something as you were saying that. That all three of these herbs, also, Chamomile, Calendula, and Marshmallow, they all have an antimicrobial anti-infection, anti-pathogenic. Like it’s different mechanisms of actions, but they all have infection fighting powers. It sounds like wonder twin powers, you know, like, but infection fighting actions. So again, anytime that there is a compromise to the body. Anytime that there is any kind of wound, even if the wound was surgery to repair damage. Like that’s obviously ultimately something good, but in the short term there is this wound that has to be healed. And any time that there’s a wound, then that’s opening up to infection. And so it’s really fantastic that these herbs that we have that are going to support healing and also just support soothing actions are also fighting infection. So anytime that we can get that extra layer in there.

Hawthorn to Help the Heart

Ryn (10:18):
Yeah, and I mean with herbs that happens so often. It’s one of the things we love about herbs is that they’re multifactorial. They’re working in in many directions simultaneously. And that’s often to the good for us. Yeah. Cool. Okay. Well, so another thing that’s been going on this week is my grandfather passed away. So this was my dad’s dad. We called him dziadziu, because you know, we’ve got Polish in the line there. And it was long expected. He’s been in in the old soldier’s home for several years now, and has been on the path of cognitive decline and dementia, Alzheimer’s like so many people. So as many people have experienced, it was both a long expected and also sudden and surprising event.

Katja (11:15):
Yeah, I mean dziadziu was 96, maybe 97. He was old. He was up there. He’s had a long, awesome life. But just as the last few years have gone on, the cognitive decline has been a big factor. And yeah, just sort of suddenly that went from the sort of every day we’re just dealing and keeping him happy and comfortable. And yes, there’s cognitive decline. And, to like suddenly a physical decline kind of over just a short number of weeks.

Ryn (11:56):
Yeah. Right. And then worsening in the last several days especially and all of that. So there’s been a lot of emotions for me and for my family. And you know, each of us processing in different ways and all of that. But there’s also the arrangements. And we’re in a good spot actually because my parents have been the legal guardians of my grandfather for a while now. And they’ve been making the arrangements and they sold the old house he lived in. And got all of the money lined up. And the plans for the funeral were already in place. And we were talking about it the other night and realizing like, wow, it’s really good that we did because there’s still last minute stuff and changes and unexpected fees and debates and arguments in the family about how to do this and that and what kind of service should we have and where should it be. And like on and on. And this is a case where we already do have really clear understanding of what his wishes were, and what our plans have been, and where he’s going to end up and all that kind of stuff. And so just feeling a lot of sympathy for people who haven’t had the resource and the time and the space to do that and then are facing something like this, you know, right out of the blue.

Katja (13:15):
Yeah. And I think being super aware that in addition to everybody feeling the things that they’re feeling, right. Like even when you expect it to happen, you still have like, okay, well now I need to face that it has happened. Like we’ve been expecting it, but also it isn’t real. So you sort of push it off. And I think that it is very common to feel some surprise when you have strong emotions. When the thing that you’ve been expecting actually occurs and you’re like, why am I feeling these strong emotions? I was ready for this, except like you’re never really ready for it. So in addition to that, there also is, regardless of how good the planning was, all this last minute stuff and you’re not in your best place to deal with it. And there are different family members who maybe have different ideas about what should happen. And nobody’s really in their best place to deal with it. And then suddenly, Oh, well there’s an extra fee for that that hasn’t been paid yet. And Oh well there’s this and that hasn’t been dealt with yet. Even though like, maybe you thought everything’s been dealt with. So really seeing how, even in a situation where everything seemed tied up, like everything seemed already neat and tidy. There’s so much that is not neat and tidy. And I think that the first step is to just acknowledge that it’s okay to feel all of the things and to feel them in fast succession.

Ryn (14:52):
Yeah, I think when people started talking about your seven stages of grief or whatever, then a lot of us got the idea that they’re supposed to happen in that order and in the line

Katja (15:02):
No, they like swirl around.

Ryn (15:04):
It’s one of those, like, Jeremy Bearimy things, or the like wibbly wobbly timey wimey-ness or whatever, where it kind of just wanders all around in lots of different directions. And you know, ultimately you get somewhere else but it’s not a straight line at all.

Katja (15:17):
And they like revisit.

Ryn (15:18):
Yeah, sure. Okay. So we have had a lot of herbs in our lives and we’ve been giving a lot of herbs to my family and friends and everything. And so we’ve been thinking a lot about heart support, right? For the emotional heart primarily. But you can go back to good old Hawthorn and Linden.

Katja (15:44):
They never let you down.

Ryn (15:44):
It’s a great place to start, you know. Tastes good, soothing, calming. That nice intersection between a nervine herb and one with a heart protective, cardioprotective kind of an aspect to it.

Katja (15:59):
You know, and Hawthorn really, I always like to think about, you know, like a hole in the heart. Whether that is from a loss, an emotional loss or whatever, or like a physiological issue that maybe is not an actual hole in the heart, but you can kind of represent with that metaphor. And that is so appropriate here because there is that emotional aspect of a loss. But then there’s also the the impact of the stress on the physiological heart as well. And that while you’re coping with your emotions, you’re also coping with this whole influx of stress that you weren’t necessarily expecting at all. And so Hawthorn is really supporting both sides of that. Both the emotional aspect but also the physiological symptoms of the stress itself. So that’s really exciting.

Motherwort & Blue Vervain to Rest & Digest

Ryn (16:58):
Yeah. And, you know, it turns up in odd ways. Like a few days ago I started an argument for no reason that I could understand. And you certainly couldn’t. So we kind of, you know, hissed at each other like cats for awhile and then I kind of wandered away. And then you came by and gave me this. And you said here, I think this may help.

Katja (17:20):
Yeah.

Ryn (17:20):
So I don’t know all that’s in here honestly, because we didn’t really label it properly. Always label your bottles.

Katja (17:24):
Well. It’s labeled stress and palpitations. Shake well.

Ryn (17:28):
So I know it’s got that Hawthorn in here.

Katja (17:31):
Yeah. It’s labeled shake well because it has Hawthorn syrup that I made from fresh Hawthorn berries. And fresh Hawthorn berries are very high in pectin. And so the resulting syrup is really quite gloppy. Which is good actually. You really want that. That pectin is helping your probiotics in your gut. So that’s actually a really wonderful thing. It’s just that the end result does… It’s not a smooth end result. You could strain it through a sieve to make it smooth if you wanted to have it as a fancy product. But then you would lose the pectin. And I want the pectin, so I will take the glops in order to get the pectin. But so Hawthorn and Motherwort are the two, like, the big core of that formula. And then there’s like 15 other nervines in there including Lemon Balm, and Chamomile, and Blue Vervain, and Wood Betony, a bunch of Tulsi, and some other herbs that actually I had made that a few years ago in another very stressful time and it was super, super effective. And then it’s just been sitting on the shelf for awhile. Yeah.

Ryn (18:53):
Yeah. You know, Motherwort and Blue Vervain have been speaking to me a lot lately both for us, and what we’ve had going on. But also I’ve had a lot of clients lately where I’ve really wanted to give them something that was both bitter and a strong nervine. And with the instructions, like, you should take this three times a day before your meals and that will help you to digest. But it will also be three times a day where you take a dose of your nervine herb, to calm and to center. And what I like about these plants is that they, again, the Motherwort, the Blue Vervain, they have that strong bitterness to them. But they also have that nervous calming action. And they’re really good at switching you from the fight or flight, or the sympathetic activated nervous system state, to the rest and digest or the parasympathetic active state. And that’s super helpful when you’re about to eat because getting into your rest and digest state, well it helps you digest better. So it really kind of all matches together really nicely. But I’ve been advising people to, you know, get a tincture of Motherwort or Blue Vervain and take it before meals, but also just have it around so you can take some when you’re feeling anxious, when you’re feeling agitated. It’s a really nice kind of dual purpose situation. And it speaks to that nexus between your digestive and your nervous systems and how they’re tightly intertwined. And it’s better to think of them as…

Katja (20:16):
All one thing, Yeah.

Ryn (20:16):
well, all parts of one thing rather than separate things. Yeah.

Lemon Balm & Elderflower to Chill

Katja (20:22):
Another duo that has been really prominent this week is Lemon Balm and Elderflower. And this is, by the way, super lovely infused in white wine. And if you have any kind of contentious situation, I’m thinking about how it’s often difficult for people to go home and have dinner with their families. Like maybe you don’t see eye to eye on everything and that can be a stressful situation. Anytime that you know that there’s going to be some sort of a dinner, right, some sort of a situation like that where there’s also a lot of potential for the conversation to veer off the rails and get into something really contentious. And then I really love Lemon Balm and Elderflower in white wine because it’s almost always appropriate to take a bottle of wine as a gift. I mean, there are people who don’t drink alcohol. And so obviously it wouldn’t be appropriate to take it there as a gift. But you could take it as tea and it would be delicious also. But because so many families do serve wine at dinner, it’s not weird, right? Like it’s not, what weird thing did you bring? You’re the weird one, you know, like whatever. It’s just, Oh, I just brought some wine. Like it’s just wine. And and it has a very lovely flavor that blends very nicely with the white wine flavors. Whether it’s a sweet one or a dry one. Yeah, it really goes in either direction. You can put it in a red too. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that you know, it’s easy to add herbs to a red wine. And it’s sometimes a little bit more difficult to find herbs that have a lighter flavor that will blend nicely in a white wine. And Lemon Balm and Elderflower do. But it can be super, super helpful, especially in this sort of situation where maybe some folks are getting together and having dinner and then we have to talk about like, okay, so how are we going to handle this situation? And just to like head it off at the pass. Let’s like have everybody chilled out a little bit. Everybody relaxed a little bit. And Lemon Balm and Elderflower both, like literally, they are chill out herbs, right? They allow you to sort of evaporate off any hot feelings, whether those are hot emotions like anger or hot feelings like anxiousness or worry or nervousness. And also just allow you to relax like the physical body as well. And that can be so, so helpful. Just really helpful. And you don’t have to drink it as a whole glass of wine. Even if you infuse it into white wine, you can just have that as a tincture. Wine is a perfectly acceptable and I think amazing menstruum for tincture, just the same as vodka or whatever else. You could make a regular tincture in vodka as well or brandy. Basically any way that you get these two into you and the people that you have to make decisions with will make it a little bit easier.

Tulsi to Keep Afloat

Ryn (23:35):
Yeah. For sure. And so we’ve also had a lot of Tulsi lately. I mean, that’s not super different from always, honestly. But yeah, so you know, Tulsi really helps you to keep afloat. Tulsi helps you to keep on a more even keel. Tulsi helps you to go from States of extreme emotion back to someplace that’s a little more measured, whether you’re feeling agitated and over spun or whether you’re kind of down in the dumps and stuck. Tulsi helps to bring you back towards your center. So, yeah, that’s been a good trend lately. So, you know, connected to the funeral well there’s the funeral, right? So people are coming around and there’s going to be family gathering from a lot of different places. You know, a couple of continents at least.

Katja (24:22):
Actually, yes. And this is maybe like, this is not the best time for that, not just because of coronavirus, but also because every year this is actually a big part of cold and flu season, right. Like people who didn’t get it yet, like vitamin D levels are down, immunity is down. This is kind of a slump time in the year. And this is when maybe you made it through the whole winter and you didn’t get the flu or you didn’t get a cold and this is when it hits. So it already would have been a vector for Oh, we’re getting a bunch of people together and somebody’s going to have a cold and spread it around.

Ryn (25:07):
Yeah. I mean it is good practice in general when we’re gathering many people together, especially from many different disparate places, to think about community immunity a bit. So they probably won’t let us burn some medicinal resins and smoke out the whole funeral.

Herbal Steams

Katja (25:26):
No, it’s going to be a Catholic service. So there probably will be. Yeah, there probably will be quite a bit of incense. And actually that is one of the places, that is one of the reasons that incense is part of so many religious ceremony traditions. But I’m really especially thinking about Europe here. As the big churches were built and people came from all the surrounding villages into the large churches, the incense was used not just for the spiritual aspects of the smoke, which many religions also incorporate, but because incense, when you burn plants that are smelly, plants that have high volatile oil content, you are releasing the volatile oils. It is basically an herbal steam without the water, you know. It’s the same effect of releasing all of those phytochemicals into the air for everybody to breathe in. And those are anti-microbial. So you’re getting that down deep in your respiratory tract. And it is, this is not the best metaphor on the planet, but it’s totally the best metaphor on the planet. It’s basically herbal Lysol, right? Like obviously it’s not Lysol. And also I’m glad it’s not Lysol because I don’t want to inhale Lysol. But it has that sort of effect, right, of just yes, we’re all gathering here together and sharing germs because you come from that village and you come from that village and your germs don’t normally mix except on this day when we all come together in this big room. So anyway, that is where that tradition comes from. And that’s also one of the things that we’re doing in our own home and that we’re going to encourage for the rest of the family to do as well. Which is to do Thyme steams or Monarda or Sage or Oregano or Tulsi or Peppermint or Lavender, any of the Rosemary, any of the smelly mints. And we are doing that at least twice a day throughout all of the family gathering time.

Ryn (27:40):
Yeah. We’ve been doing it most days anyway, just lately, just for extra protection and everything. Especially when we spend time in the city or on the train or whatever else. Just to get a little extra of that. But yeah, trying to do that twice a day right now, really solid. Lately we’ve been doing it, putting together the Thyme with Lavender. And that I think I’m going to start talking about to people because I found that that really takes the sharpness off of the steam, off of the inhalation.

Katja (28:09):
It does make it a little more pleasant. And especially if your nasal passages are already kind of dried out, the Thyme can be a little bit irritating. Now I usually don’t tend towards dryness. I’m a person who tends towards dampness in general. And when I get sick, I tend to be super snotty. So I actually kinda like that, because it does have a little bit of that sharpness that causes my mucus membranes to kind of tighten up just a little bit. And because my mucus membranes tend towards the runny side anyway, that’s pretty helpful for me. On the other hand, sometimes breathing that sharp Thyme smell deep into your lungs, it can burn a little.

Ryn (28:58):
Yeah, it can sting a little bit.

Katja (28:59):
It can sting a little bit.

Ryn (29:00):
And usually it’s like, yeah, it’s working.

Katja (29:01):
Yeah. But sometimes you’re like, okay, okay, it’s working already. I’m done with that, you know?

Ryn (29:09):
So yeah. So if you ever have that feeling when you do your Thyme steam, like throw in a handful of Lavender flowers. I think it makes a big difference.

Katja (29:14):
And you’re still getting the same sort of anti-microbial action. It just has a different like flavor profile but smell profile. Right. And a little gentler.

Firecider

Ryn (29:25):
All of the same chemicals are like, you know, evaporating up and coming into your nose. I think it’s just that with the Lavender in there that’s triggering other nerves at the same time. And so the signal kind of gets altered or changed a bit. Yeah. So yeah. Steams. Awesome. We’ve also got a bunch of Firecider kicking around.

Katja (29:44):
Yeah. I think we have four different jars lined up on the kitchen counter right now. And just every time I go on the counter I drink a different one. Cause they’re all different recipes,

Ryn (29:54):
Right? Yeah. A couple of them…two…

Katja (29:57):
Two have elderberries. One has Elderberries and Schisandra. One is very yellow. It’s like Turmeric and Ginger and Onion and Garlic. They all have garlic. And the last one was like Firecider and Thieves vinegar mixed together. It had like a bunch of mint family plants in there also.

Ryn (30:19):
Rosemary and Lavender.

Katja (30:19):
Yeah. I actually avoid that one every time.

Ryn (30:22):
Yeah? Oh, I like that one.

Katja (30:23):
I don’t like that one as much. I really like the one with Schisandra in it. That’s my favorite.

Ryn (30:27):
Yeah, that makes sense. You love that one.

Katja (30:29):
I love that one.

Ryn (30:31):
Yeah. So, you know, Firecider, if you’re not familiar, just honestly Google that phrase. Firecider. You’ll get tons of recipes. You might also get an interesting story about copyright. So today let’s just focus on this is a great way to bring heat, to bring activation, to bring vital force. However you want to describe it. Metabolic activity into the lungs, into the whole respiratory tract. It’s just like it sounds. It’s a hot, fiery substance.

Katja (31:00):
It clears your sinuses.

Ryn (31:00):
Yeah. And it’s a great delivery method for those powerful pungent herbs like the Garlic and the Horseradish and all of that. Strong, strong stuff. But yeah, you know a couple of shots a couple of times a day. That’ll really get you going. Not a couple of shots. Just take like a half of a shot glass or maybe a full one. Scale it to your body.

Katja (31:23):
Well it depends. I happily will take a full one, but that would be a little bit much on your stomach.

Ryn (31:26):
I would need to eat like pretty close after or I would feel some burn.

Katja (31:30):
Yeah, some acid in your stomach, right? Whereas my digestion is slow and sluggish. And so if I just swallow a whole shot glass full of apple cider vinegar with a bunch of herbs in it, that feels fine to me. But if you are a person who tends a little on the acidy side in your stomach, then take it with meals so that it is more comfortable for you. If you don’t know how to make your own Firecider, it is high time you learned. And there is a ton of recipes and also step-by-step video instructions in the cold and flu course which you can find online.commonwealthherbs.com. And the colder flu course is just 25 bucks and it has like nine hours of all kinds of stuff for cold and flu. We just added some coronavirus stuff

Ryn (32:21):
Yeah. And it’s called cold and flu. It’s maybe better or not better. It might be more accurate to say herbs and strategies for respiratory infection. You know what I mean?

Katja (32:34):
Yeah. Because sometimes you don’t know which you have. And is it a colder or it a flu or was it actually a little bronchitis or like, eh. A lot of that will apply across the board. Anyway. Yes. So buckets of Firecider.

Decoctions & Infusions to Support the Lungs

Ryn (32:52):
Cool. We’ve also had an extra daily decoction cause you always have your notCoffee going on.

Katja (32:57):
I always, I have it right here actually.

Ryn (33:00):
And you know, notCoffee usually includes Reishi and Elecampane and some of these herbs that…

Katja (33:05):
Angelica yeah. Always has it. Right now it’s got an extra scoop of Elecampane. Yeah. But then we were like, Oh, we should make a separate decoction. So the separate decoction is only Elecampane, Ginger, Reishi, Angelica, and like a little Cinnamon I tossed in there at the last minute.

Ryn (33:24):
Just a little.

Katja (33:25):
But really like the notCoffee has also some decaf coffee in there, and some more adaptogens herbs.

Ryn (33:36):
Some Ashwagandha.

Katja (33:36):
Yeah. A lot of Ashwagandha.

Ryn (33:39):
Sometimes Eleuthero.

Katja (33:39):
Yeah, and the purpose of that blend is really on the adaptogenic side. I always include some Elecampane just as like a tonic, but really the purpose of that formula is in the adaptogen arena. So we wanted to make up a decoction that was specifically in the lung support arena and that’s why there’s so much Elecampane in there. But then the Reishi, the Angelica, the Ginger, the Cinnamon, all of that does really support lung health. And there’s a lot of specific anti pathogenic action going on in there too.

Ryn (34:22):
Yeah. And these herbs are pretty easy to find and to access from any herbs supplier. I’m trying to think of like local variants. You know, if you live in a place where there’s a lot of Yerba Mansa, that root could go in there and make sense. Osha would make sense here. Of course, there’s issues with sustaininability on that one.

Katja (34:38):
Yeah. We don’t work with Osha except that we have one tiny jar of it that was gifted to us by a responsible wildcrafter. And that’s our special jar.

Ryn (34:51):
Yeah. But the thinking here is like, you’ve got these roots that have this pungency to them. They have some sharpness, they have some aromaticity. You know, the Elecampane and Angelica really share that in common. And they’re very, very helpful in a time like this as like amp up that defense, wake everything up, get you ready.

Katja (35:10):
And heat up the lungs too. Like I just can’t stress enough how important that is. Viruses don’t want to be warm. And our lungs are the coolest part of our body. And so even dumb stuff like wearing a scarf, like just to keep the heat in through the respiratory tract in the throat. And then like put on an extra sweater because it really is important to help keep your lungs warm. That’s why we run a fever at all is so that we can get the temperature of the lungs up to kill off …well in a respiratory situation that’s why we run a fever. There are other times where it’s trying to kill off pathogens in other areas. But in the case of respiratory stuff, we’re trying to heat up the lungs enough to make it too hot for a virus to live in there or a bacteria. But we’re mostly worried about viruses right now.

Ryn (36:01):
Sure. Yeah. All right.

Katja (36:05):
So that decoction we are also doing that by the shot glass. And so just again, anytime we go in the kitchen we just take a shot glass of it. I have it just sitting on the stove ready.

Ryn (36:22):
So, you know, cause that’s not enough. We’ve also had a bunch of infusions going on. Herbal infusions all day long for respiratory support, for some immune support. We’ve got a bunch of different categories going on here. And we’re making it different… I was going to say every day, but every time.

Katja (36:37):
Yeah. Because we drink. We have one of those big two and a half liter Airpots and we drink like one and a half of those in a day. And then every time we make it, we do it a little bit different.

Ryn (36:50):
Yeah. Sometimes we’ll add things again, like halfway through the day, you know. But yeah, so some cast of characters lately, we’ve had a lot of Mullein, a lot of Marshmallow leaf and Lungwort. And we’re talking about pulmonaria species here, because there’s a lichen that people call Lungwort sometimes. But this is an actual herby plant thing. So Mullein and Marshmallow leaf and Pulmonaria here. These are all about supporting the lungs and particularly the mucosa in the lungs to direct moisture to them so that they don’t get dried out. So that they don’t get brittle. So that they don’t get caked on stuck, phlegmy stuff that’s hard to move. So this both helps to protect the lung, to keep it you know, flexible. But also to help with expectoration so they get that crud up and out. Yeah. So each of those herbs, they have all their specificity, but in this context they’re serving this goal.

Katja (37:46):
Yeah. So we’ll choose one of those or two, whatever. And then there’s always an immune support plant that goes in. And lately that’s been Boneset or Yarrow. Now if you put Boneset in, you just put a smidge because it’s super duper bitter. It’s bitter enough that if you tried to drink an entire cup of just straight Boneset tea, you might puke. And that’s not because it’s toxic, it’s just because it’s so bitter that your body will be like, Whoa. I do not necessarily want to be drinking that right now. So if you put Boneset in there, just know it’s bitter. Just put a little. Yarrow is bitter too, but much less so. But both of them are very helpful in different ways for supporting immune function. With Boneset, it’s really getting at the bone marrow level, immune support. The production of white blood cells, the capacity to produce that, and to produce it well is what Boneset is supporting. Whereas Yarrow is a little bit more on the innate immunity side. Sort of that stimulation of innate immunity. And innate immunity, remember, if you are if you are enrolled in the immune health course, we go through this. That innate immunity is the response that your body makes before you have time to determine which antibodies you need. So you don’t want to sit around and do nothing while you’re waiting for your body to figure out which antibodies are required to fight this illness. You want to start immediately. And that is the innate immune response and Yarrow supports that really well

Ryn (39:37):
For sure. Okay. so we also have some herbs in there for antimicrobial purposes. And we’re not like going hard and heavy here. We’re just trying to get a constant inflow to keep things organized. So this is friends like Sage, like Thyme, like Pine and Cedar. You can see we’ve got a lot of aromatic friends going on in a list like that. But yeah, and also they tend to taste good, feel good when you’re drinking them, so.

Katja (40:04):
Yeah, Yeah. They do.

Ryn (40:04):
So yeah, so just that consistency of bringing that in. And you can see that we’ve got herbs like that coming in a couple of different methods now. We’ve got the steam with them. We’re drinking them in tea. We have a couple of other different types of herbs that we’re making decoctions here and so on. So, we’re trying to give you this picture that it’s multifactorial, and it’s not the same thing every time. We’re staying agile and adjusting as things present, you know. Wake up on a given day and it’s like, wow, I’ve got a lot of runny mucus going on this time. Focus more on the astringents, right. More Yarrow, more Cedar, more Sage, Thyme and stuff like that. If you wake up and you’ve got a really dry cough situation going on, okay. Focus more on the Marshmallow, the Mullein, the Lungwort there. So we’re going to be staying responsive and adjusting from day to day.

Katja (40:55):
Speaking of agile we have another whole different blend that pops up every day or day and a half, which is some Rose Hips, some Hibiscus, some Sumac berries and some Elderberries. And that is going in a totally different direction. That is in that vitamin C support, antiviral actions, anti inflammatory or inflammatory modulating, because we don’t want no inflammation. That is part of your innate response. That’s important. But we just want Goldilocks inflammation. So all of these help keep inflammation in that Goldilocks place. And that tastes really good, especially if you toss just a smidge of honey. And I would recommend Tarragon infused honey. I love it. And I really love the flavor of Tarragon with the zingy sour flavor of things like Rose Hips and Sumac and Hibiscus and also Cranberries. I just find that those go together super, super deliciously. And if you don’t have Tarragon infused honey, you can make it right now. You have to use fresh herbs to infuse honey. But at the grocery store, they are very likely to have fresh Tarragon in the little section where there’s the fresh herbs. It’s a very popular culinary herbs. So the likelihood that you’re going to be able to find it, even though it’s March, is actually really high. So if you don’t have Tarragon infused, honey, go get some Tarragon. Get some honey. Put them together. You will thank me. Yeah.

Smells Good

Ryn (42:33):
Cool. So some other steps we’re taking. We are spraying a lot of Smells Good around the house. So if you haven’t heard us talk about this one before, Smells Good is super simple. You get like a, I don’t know, liter sized spray bottle. Put in like 10, 15 drops of essential oils. We usually go with Rosemary and Lavender. Sometimes I sneak a little Cedar in there, you know.

Katja (42:57):
And sometimes we put in Sage and Pine too. Yeah.

Ryn (43:02):
Close it up, give it a good shake, and spritz it all around. And just kind of walk through the house. And shake it every 10 sprays or so again, because you want to keep those those essential oils from all floating up to the surface of the water. You want to keep them dispersed in there. So spray and shake, spray and shake. Cover the whole house, you know. Extra attention to the doorknobs lately.

Katja (43:26):
Yeah.

Ryn (43:27):
So this is actually an effective surface antimicrobial agent. I am not making promises or claims about how fast or how long it will kill off any particular family of viruses

Katja (43:39):
Or if it will kill every family of viruses. We don’t know that. But what we do know is that they have done trials with alcohol based sanitizer. And I’m not talking about hand sanitizer here. I’m talking about like what they use in hospitals to wash surfaces. And they have done trials with both of these and found that they’re on par. And actually even that the essential oil version can last longer. Like it retains its efficacy longer because it doesn’t evaporate as fast as the alcohol based ones. Again, that does not mean that you won’t get coronavirus or whatever else. It doesn’t mean that you won’t get the flu. It doesn’t mean that you won’t get a cold. But anything that we do to make life easier for your immune system will make it easier for you to deal with whatever you do get. And so that’s what all of these strategies are about.

Ryn (44:38):
Yeah. So this stuff, it’s for surfaces. I mean, we use it as a cleaner, you know but it’s also for the air. Right. And just like we were talking about the incense previously. That really does whether it’s this kind of a room spray or whether it’s the incense from strong aromatic herbs that does change the, I dunno, air microbiome. It’s literally changing the type and concentration of freely floating critters. Yeah. It’s pretty cool. Cool. All right. So other things we’re doing, we’re making a point to avoid much in the way of sugar and alcohol.

Katja (45:14):
Two things that show up at funerals.

Ryn (45:16):
Yes. And two things that do depress immunity you know. So it doesn’t mean you can’t have any cake.

Katja (45:24):
No, and I mean, I’m bringing a gluten free dairy free spice cake that, you know, has much less sugar than all the other options. But when there are gatherings and when there are emotions, there will be sugar and alcohol. That is the way that humans work. And so because what we’re trying to do right now is make sure that our bodies are as strong as possible for whatever we might get exposed to, whether it’s at a funeral or whether it is just walking around town like going to the grocery store, who even knows. And especially because right now we are sort of in this elevated time where we’re in just the regular cycle where it would be more of a risk, but also with corona going around like, okay, everybody’s being a little bit more careful. So, yeah, like we’re just making the intention to do what we have to do to eat healthy and not to eat mindlessly. Not to just be like, well, there’s a bowl of chips over there. I’m just going to go eat the chips.

Ryn (46:27):
Yeah. Right on. So again, none of these things are going to guarantee that we don’t get sick. Whether it’s the coronavirus, the flu, a cold, you know, whatever. They’re all going around. It’s just that time, right? But these are the actions that we take to help make sure that we have the best chances of either not getting infected by what we get exposed to, because exposure and infection are different. Right? More on that in the cold and flu pores. But even if we do get infected that we’re able to fight it off efficiently because our immune system has all the resources it needs, and it has the support and the collaboration of herbs that are going to be serving the same kind of purposes as with the immune system itself is working to accomplish. So that’s how that goes.

Katja (47:20):
Of course, as if this week weren’t already complicated enough. Allergy season is just starting to start.

Ryn (47:27):
Indeed.

And Then There are Allergy Blends

Katja (47:27):
And spring is really early this year. Actually. I have to sneeze right now. I’m trying to make sure that I get myself moving right along with my allergy support so that it doesn’t sneak up on me. And I actually, I think that I may already be just a smidge late. I can’t even believe that because it is so early. But I’m really working to make sure that with all the other stuff that’s going on, that I don’t get caught when the pollen is in full swing. So that means that in addition to everything else, I’ve been drinking a whole bunch of Nettle and Goldenrod tea. And when I think of it, I grab some Eyebright tincture. And that’s about it because right now there’s kind of a limit to how many herbs I can get into my body in a given day. And I’m kind of at capacity. In a week like this, like getting herbs into my body becomes like I don’t really mean a full time job, but like it does become something that I actually take time to think about.

Ryn (48:37):
Yeah. And think in various ways, not all of which involve like cogitation, you know you usually prefer to get your Nettle in tea, but right now it makes more sense to have it in tinctures, right. Tincture mix with some Nettles, some Eyebright and all of that.

Katja (48:54):
And just leaving it on the table, so I can see it.

Ryn (48:55):
So I was going to say, yeah. Yeah. So because you’ve got so many other drinks involved in your day right now, that’s why we go with the tincture for that and then yeah, leaving them where you see them. Right. So right on the desk, like in an awkward place that you kind of knock it over when you reach for something a lot. Oh, there it is. Yeah. I’m going to get that.

Katja (49:14):
And then, like, don’t just like move it out of the way. Like, Oh, it’s in my hand. I need to take that right now. You know, like you don’t have to be actively thinking if you set yourself up to just encounter it in your day all of the time.

Ryn (49:28):
Yeah. Like so many things. It’s all about setting up the environment to make it conducive to happen. And yeah, so that’s for real. You know, similar to that is what we do with the bitters lately where we just like have a selection of bitter tinctures right there on the table where we eat dinner together. And that way we always remember to take our bitters. It works great.

And Bitters

Katja (49:48):
Yeah. And if we forget, like one of us will remember and take it in and put it next to the other person’s plate. And bitters are really especially important right now actually because whenever your schedule is off or you’re not in your usual surroundings or a bunch of disruptive stuff is just going on. And disruptive, I mean, just like it just disrupts your normal daily rhythm. That disrupts your digestion. It’s important to recognize that digestion is actually work. It does not happen automatically just because you put food in your mouth. Your body has to have reason. Like it is literally something that it has to do, it has to happen in your day. So if you think about all of the stuff that’s written down on your to do list for today, none of that is just going to happen automatically. You have to give it attention. That’s the same with digestion. It does not happen automatically just because food went into your mouth. So especially when things are all kind of disrupted and even when we’re trying to make good food choices. Maybe they’re not our normal food choices or whatever else. It’s just really important that we think a lot about making sure that we’re taking our bitters during that time because that’s going to give us our best ability to actually digest that food. Well you know, you kind of think about like high quality work, right? You want to do work and you want it to be good. You want people to look at it and be like, Hey, you did a good job on that. Well, think about that in terms of your digestion. Like, what do I need to do so that the rest of my body says, Hey, really good job on that dinner. You know, like you really broke that down. Good work. And one of the things that I need to do to make sure that happens is take bitters before I eat. Yeah. For sure.

Ryn (51:53):
All right. Well, so that was a lot of herbs we talked about, right? We talked about Bilberry and Chamomile and Calendula and Marshmallow, Hawthorn, Linden, Motherwort, Blue Vervain, Lemon Balm, Elderflower, Tulsi, Thyme and friends, Lavender, Garlic and Firecider friends, Elecampane, Ginger, Cinnamon, Angelica, Reishi, Mullein, Lungwort, Boneset, Yarrow, Tarragon, Nettle, Goldenrod, Eyebright. And we didn’t mention it, but we were really thinking about Calamus a lot.

Katja (52:18):
That’s our favorite bitter. We have some other bitters on the table, but that’s the one that’s almost empty yet again.

Ryn (52:24):
Yeah. So one thing I did want to close off here, was don’t panic if you don’t have, I don’t know, 15, 30, whatever.

Katja (52:31):
However many herbs that is.

Plant Some Defense Trees

Ryn (52:33):
…In your life right now. That’s okay. Start with what you know, right? If you know Ginger, if you know Chamomile, if you know Dandelion, you know, as your bitter agent. If you know Elderberry and Elderflower for immune defense and fever migration and everything, great. Start with that. But think about your herbs. You’re thinking about them now cause you’ve just listened to this whole episode. You’ve heard the kind of considerations we’ve got. Take a moment and think about your own life, right? Where do you need extra support? Where do you need extra defense and who are the herbs that you’re already familiar with that can help you to do that? Right? Get them out of the cabinet, get them out of the shelf, get them out of the, wherever you hide them. Put them where you’re going to see them and work with them every day. That’s how holistic herbalism works, right? It’s not like we have the magic remedy and we pull it out at the last moment and we solve the problem and everything’s different. It’s that we started that work a month ago. We started that work as soon as we could. And you know, it’s like the thing about planting a tree, right? When’s the best time to plant a tree is like a year ago or 10 years ago. The second best time is now. So just like that, you know, plant some plants, some immunity trees, plant some defense trees inside your body.

Katja (53:55):
So, and the courses that we talked about today, we talked about the cold and flu course, the immune health course, and also think about the digestive health course, especially if you are a person who struggles with digestion. There are herbs that can really make this so much more effective for you. And when you digest your food well, like that is part of having good immunity. That is part of having like, it’s part of everything. So definitely check those out, if you want to learn more. You can find all of them at online.Commonwealth herbs.com.

Ryn (54:38):
Cool. So we wanted to take a moment and acknowledge that we’re behind on shout outs.

Katja (54:43):
There are so many, there are so many. And I didn’t get a chance, especially with all the funeral stuff going on, I did not get a chance to put them all into the notes for the pod today. But I love all of you and I am so grateful to see your emails and your comments. Thank you guys for sharing the pod with your friends. Please keep doing that. And we will have real shout outs in next week’s episode. We will. Yeah.

Ryn (55:10):
All right. So yeah, until then, take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. Drink a whole lot of tea, do some steams, and we’ll be back next time with some more podcasts for you.

Katja (55:20):
Yes. Thyme steam. Do it right now. Just do it.

Ryn (55:24):
Bye.

Katja (55:24):
Bye.

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