Podcast 121: Six Herbs for COVID Anxiety

The pandemic has got all of us in a heightened state of alert. The news changes fast, stories come and go before we can fully process them, and every day there’s another set of statistics that are hard to mentally translate into real human lives. It’s stressful. Even if we’re not actively doomscrolling through Twitter, this background noise of fear and worry is elevated. So, this week, we’re sharing some of our favorite herbs for COVID anxiety – for any kind of anxiety, really, but specifically the ones we ourselves have been relying on lately.

Ryn has been making a daily tea for himself with st john’s wort and friends, and has found it helpful in steadying out emotional peaks & valleys. He’s also been making sure to get some preparation of marshmallow in every day, because as a person with a dry constitution, it’s easy for him to get frazzled and frayed when anxiety is elevated. And when things are most acute, he’s turned to kava for a quick and comprehensive relaxant effect, often in the form of a rich hot chocolate blend.

Katja finds herself turning to motherwort these days. It’s an herb we often turn to when we need help holding or building up emotional boundaries, and she’s recently found it helpful to put some boundaries around anger. Not to eliminate it – anger is important and can be helpful – but to direct it appropriately. She’s also been working with blue vervain as an anchor point to her daily tea blends, an herb which can help decouple the concepts of self-worth and productivity, and let her set down some mental burdens. And, she’s turned to linden, our favorite ‘hug in a mug’ herb, to help build emotional resilience through compassionate offering. Lessons learned from trees are lasting.

If you’re feeling edgy and unsettled lately, try out some of these herbs for COVID anxiety and see if they don’t help you out! And remember, none of this is about suppressing or turning off ‘bad’ emotions, it’s about helping you move through the flow of emotional states more smoothly. Whether its these herbs or your own personal allies, turn to them: the plants will help you.

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.


Episode Transcript

Katja (00:01):
Hi. I’m Katja.

Ryn (00:16):
And I’m Ryn.

Ryn (00:16):
And we’re here at the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts. And on the internet everywhere thanks to the power of the podcast. So this week…

Katja (00:26):
Yes. This week. This week we want to talk about mental health in uncertain, weird, pretty terrible times.

Ryn (00:38):
Yeah. So if you’re in the future right now, then at the moment we’re in the midst of the covid 19 pandemic, and it’s anxious around here.

Katja (00:49):
It’s anxious. It’s a lot of feelings. And so we want to talk today about herbs that can help you navigate all of those feelings, or at least learn to contain them or maybe even help you get rid of some of them.

Ryn (01:07):
Yeah. Herbs are helpful in these ways. So well we thought we’d just kinda jump right in and talk about some plants that we’ve been relying on ourselves lately.

Katja (01:16):
Wait, first we have to do our reclaimer.

Ryn (01:18):
Oh, right, right. Okay. Let’s do that.

Katja (01:20):
Yes. So, we want to tell you, we have to tell you, and we want to tell you that we are not doctors. We are herbalists and holistic health educators.

Ryn (01:29):
The ideas discussed in our podcast, do not constitute medical advice. No state or federal authority licenses herbalists in the US. These discussions are for educational purposes only. Everyone’s body is different. So the things we’re talking about may or may not apply directly to you, but they will give you some information to think about and some ideas to research further.

Katja (01:49):
We want to remind you that your good health is your own personal responsibility. So the final decision when you’re considering any course of therapy, whether it’s discussed on the internet or prescribed by your physician, is always yours. All right.

Sunny St. John’s Wort

Ryn (02:04):
All right, cool. Well I’ll start. So a while back I had a couple of days where I got really overwhelmed and I had a rough time. So after that I decided that I needed to get more consistent with my daily tea, and that I was going to make sure that certain herbs got into my daily tea every single day. And the real key herb that I’ve been focusing on most has been St John’s wort. Now St John’s wort has a big reputation as an antidepressant. And I hesitate to even use that word, but you know, it always comes up when you talk about St John’s wort. So my purposes in turning to the herb are not exactly summed up by that word. I’ve been working with St John’s wort more to help with internal processing. And that’s taking place on multiple levels. As I mentioned on the pod before, my personal kind of weak spot in the body is digestion. And so I do work with digestive support herbs most days and I usually feel pretty good. But that’s also where my anxiety is going to show up. It’s where worry is gonna show up for me. Uncertainty is going to show up in my guts. And so having some herbs in there that are a little more oriented towards processing and keeping things at a low inflammatory level, making sure that all of the detox or transformation processes in the digestive system and in the liver are functioning at full strength.

New Speaker (03:43):
And these are all things that St John’s wort can do. It’s a profound vulnerary herb. It’s a great wound healer, whether that’s internal upsets or whether that’s external kind of wounds that you want to cope with. St John’s wort is a digestive stimulant. It has some bitter flavor to it. It’s fairly mild, but completely enough to get those processes happening. And it has a noticeable effect on liver activity. So it can help to wake up the liver and get it processing through all of the crud that you accumulate or encounter or ingest over the course of your day. And so, you know in addition to that, yes, it does have some effects on neurotransmitter levels and hormone balances of all the different kinds of those there are in the body. And much of that again, is mediated through effects on the liver. Making sure that the liver is processing well, humming right along. Getting rid of the trash so that your body doesn’t have to cope with that on top of whatever is newly arising in your body as a result of what’s going on in your world. Another thing that I would connect with about St John’s wort is that it is very solar or very sunny herb. St John’s wort has its name because in the Catholic calendar, St John’s day is right on, or maybe near, the summer solstice. I don’t know how exactly they calculate that one.

Katja (05:17):
Well, the solstice moves, right? And I’m pretty sure that St John’s day is the 25th. But anyway, it’s just like right around in that same.

Ryn (05:25):
Close enough. Sometimes we just call it solstice wort. If you want to be a little pagan about it. So, yeah. You know, it’s an herb that we often gather on summer solstice day and make some special preparations we want to keep around. And you know, like many people, when I do get anxious or upset at a deeper level, then that shows up as a kind of a black cloud, a depressiveness and angst and everything. Which I can now admit as I’m, what year is it? 39? Finally. ..

Katja (06:02):
Some age.

Ryn (06:03):
I can just say those things. Yeah. It’s taken a lot of work and a lot of support from my lady bird and from helpful people to talk to and from herbs. So all that was just to say that St John’s wort as an herb of the sun, I find also helpful to combat the particular expression of anxiety or worry or frustration that plays out in my own body. Yeah. I’ll say other things that I’ve been putting in my tea most days. I’ve been putting in some Tulsi, another uplifting mood, boosting kind of exhilarant herb, as well as an adaptogen to help with, you know, your body’s ability to cope with stress from one day to another. And then I usually put in a bit of fennel and sometimes some aniseed as well, both for digestive effects and because they taste wonderful. Very soothing. Fennel has a moistening quality to it as well. I put a little bit of licorice in there for similar reasons. The sweetness, the adaptogenic qualities of it, liver support, anti-inflammatory effects, and that moistening quality. And then also I realized after a couple of days I needed to add even more moistening herbs into the mix there because I do run on the dry side. And that led me to marshmallow, which is actually the second herb that I wanted to talk about. So I don’t want to monopolize our time here.

Katja (07:24):
Well I actually wanted to say a couple of things about St John’s wort too. One was about liver function. You were talking about its ability to improve and increase and stimulate liver function in the body. And this is one of those times that I’m reminded that emotional health and physiological health are not in any way separated. So when we talk about the liver’s ability to detox the body. And we mean, Oh, it can help remove stuff that your body doesn’t need or things that maybe are harmful that got into your system. Or like you know, if you drink too much alcohol, it’s your liver that clears that out. But also just the general mess that we make every day in our bodies. It clears that out. And we don’t have like a separate place that we house our emotions. And it’s not like they only live in our mind. They are in our whole body. And so when I think about the emotional work that herbs can do in our bodies over and over again, I find that it is so tightly tied to the physiological work. And so when you think about the liver’s ability to clear out stuff that your body doesn’t need or even that is harmful. And then you think about that at an emotional level, to clear out emotions that you don’t need or even can be harmful. Like to help you process those more more clearly. And then of course, I mean we process a lot of stuff in the brain obviously, and there are herbs that help with that. And Tulsi is one, but the longer that I do this…like, I can remember when I first started thinking about things this way. And I thought that it was metaphoric or I thought that it was like a pretty picture or a nice way to understand things. And over the years it’s not those. It’s literal. Over and over I find that whether it is true because of the lovely metaphor of look, the liver is clearing out things that are harmful to us, both physiologically and emotionally. Like, whether that parallel is pretty, or whether it’s coincidence. Like, okay, it’s not coincidence, it’s because of the elegance, right?. But over and over, I have seen this proven time and time again with every herb that its physiological effects and its emotional effects are just not actually separable from one another. And so I think that it’s really lovely to be thinking about that in these times. In addition to the beautiful sunniness of it and how solar powered you are and stuff. And the other thing I was thinking about St John’s wort was that a lot of times this is not true for you, but it is very true for me. A lot of times we eat our emotions, right. So when Ryn is anxious, he tends to eat much less. But when I am anxious, I tend to eat a ton. And of course it’s always stuff with sugar in it. And that’s a place where St John’s wort really is helpful. I have no idea why I’m feeling emotional about this right now. As I just admit to the whole world, which I do really regularly admit to the whole world, that I have a thing about sugar and about sweet treats and carby treats. And I reduce their harm by making sure that they’re always gluten free and dairy free. So at least if I’m eating sugar and carby things, I’m not also eating my food allergens. At least there’s that. But St John’s wort is so helpful there too. Like even if you are a person who turns to comfort food, St John’s wort can help with that. Because it really helps deal with the sugar and help your body to… I mean, obviously ideally we wouldn’t turn to sugar to help us manage our emotions. But, the reality is that many, many of us do. And there is a human nature component to that. And so it’s so lovely that here is this plant that can also help undo the damage that our comfort foods can do. Like to further reduce the harm.

Ryn (12:11):
For sure. Yeah.

Katja (12:12):
So lovely.

Adding Marshmallow

Ryn (12:14):
Yeah. So, yeah, it’s been, I don’t know, a couple of weeks now actually. I’ve been drinking this tea every day. And I think it’s been helping me to feel a little more stable, a little more even-keeled from day to day. But I was about to say there that I had started that and then I realized, wow, this is actually a pretty astringent tea as far as my body goes. I think you probably would have been like, no, let’s add some uva ursi to it. But for me it was a bit much. So I started to add marshmallow leaf to it every single day.

Ryn (12:42):
And then I started to think about marshmallow a little bit and to remember why I got it tattooed on me as one of my herbs to remember and to carry with me everywhere.

Katja (12:52):
You kind of didn’t want it.

Ryn (12:52):
And to remind me that this would be a really useful herb to have.

Katja (12:57):
The other herbs you were just so excited about and the marshmallow you were like, I don’t know, I guess I’ve got to put the marshmallow in there.

Ryn (13:03):
I guess it should be marshmallow for my water herb. Yeah. But you know, thinking about marshmallow and, you know, recognizing it as an important component here. And thinking about the plant in its own right and what it can teach us has been revealing for me on a bunch of levels. So one is that I’m a person with a dry constitution and so it’s easy for me to get frazzled and frayed and to have all of my nerves feeling very exposed out there. When we talk about dryness, we’d like to think about how that can manifest in the nervous system. And you’re always comparing it to split ends and dry, frazzled hair. And how, you know, demulcent and moistening herbs, especially those with some nerve affinity, can help to smooth and to soothe that state, but also that emotional experience. And I think more often we think about linden for this kind of purpose. But I’m a real fan of marshmallow and I do think that it works in a similar way.

Katja (14:08):
I am totally with you on that.

Ryn (14:10):
Yeah. So so that’s been on my mind and you know, I’m having it on a daily basis again to try to make sure that I don’t fall into my pattern of imbalance. You know, get more and more dry and subsist on, I don’t know, crackers and dried fruits and like all of the driest possible things that I can find. And like matzo and everything.

Katja (14:34):
Yes. Saltines, Triscuits. Well they don’t make gluten free of those, but…

Ryn (14:37):

Katja (14:37):
But that’s what you used to…

New Speaker (14:40):
What I used to do all the time.

Katja (14:42):
Even when you ate cheese, it was like the driest possible, like hardest,

Ryn (14:46):
Super sharp.

Katja (14:49):
sharp cheddar.

Ryn (14:49):
So, you know, so that’s a pattern that I can fall into, especially when I’m feeling a little unsettled, or agitated or anxious. So, yeah. So having marshmallow every day on a constitutional level. Also on that emotional level, you know, marshmallow teaches lessons about flexibility, about how softness can be a virtue and for…

Katja (15:12):
How softness can be a strength. You know, like, it’s hard to even say that, but….

Ryn (15:19):
Yeah. And you know, particularly because a lot of the reaction to anxiety for most people, for many people anyway, people like me, is going to be to tense up, to tighten up, to shrink inward. And marshmallow is about softening and softening is about opening and being a little bit more porous. And that can feel threatening when the world seems threatening. But it’s still important to be able to access that space and to find that way of being when you do have a safe space to be in. And you know, we’re here at home, I have you, I have the cats around, Elsie’s here. Like this is a safe place and I can release that tension, that anxiety. But it’s easy to let it come on, especially if that’s already your tendency. And if you’re doom scrolling through Twitter, then like that’s gonna happen. So, you know, marshmallow helps me to release that. To let that go. Come back to a place of feeling safe and comfortable.

Katja (16:15):
Yeah. I think that that softness is a rescue actually. And I even can think about like this morning where we both woke up and we didn’t feel great emotionally. And instead of like sort of being in a cloud and being like, rah rah rah, I don’t feel very happy today and I’m kind of grumpy and whatever. We both just admitted like, Hey, I feel bad. And that is, that’s freedom. Like as soon as we are able to say that to each other, a whole different thing kicks in. Like a whole list of compassion actions kick in instead of well I feel grumpy? Hey, you walked in and I can feel that you feel grumpy. So now I’m mad at you for your grumpiness, you know? And instead of just like, Oh, you feel bad. I feel bad too. Oh, we could be kind to each other. So marshmallow can be like a life preserver, you know, like the SS happy relationship. I don’t know. Whatever. Yeah, and I also am thinking about how when we got our wedding tattoos, you were going Eh, marshmallow.

Ryn (17:36):
Okay, a moistening plant.

Katja (17:37):
Yeah, I need one but like, I don’t know. Okay. And how over the years both of us have worked so much with marshmallow and it snowballs, you know? And I think that watching that has been really cool. You know, go from, it’s aspirational, you know, like, all right, I really do want to balance everything. Our tattoos that we’re talking about are the compass points. So they have the hot and cold and moist and dry on them. And that was an intention to like hold that balance and to go from that intention place to see how it has affected our lives is really cool. Yeah.

Ryn (18:26):
Yeah. So if there’s an herb that you you know that you should work with a lot and just can’t quite get there for some reason, then put a tattoo on yourself. That that might help.

Katja (18:34):
Yes, yes. I’m always in favor of that.

Turning to Kava

Ryn (18:39):
Remember, none of this is medical advice. Okay. So one other herb I wanted to mention today was that when things had been most acute for me, then I have turned to kava. And kava has been a long term friend of mine, an herb that I’m often very happy to take a bunch of, because it has a really fantastic relaxant, quality to it. And what I always say about kava, what draws me to it the most, is that it gives you this profound relaxation in your muscles, in your body, including in your internal state if you’re prone to tension in your digestion or in your intestines or something. It releases all of these tension patterns for you, but it doesn’t make your mind feel slack. It doesn’t make your mind feel foggy or covered over or distracted or anything. You can stay present and focused while you have kava in your system. And I like that combination. I like the two of those qualities coming together. So if I’m looking for a rescue dose of kava, sometimes that’s tincture. And I take several doses of the kava tincture to get me through. Other times I’ve been making some kava hot chocolate which has been really, really nice. Kava does extract a little bit better, you know, if you’re going to make a decoction of it. It extracts a little bit better if the medium has some fat in there. So I’ve been using, you know, like an almond coconut milk blend, and that’s sufficient. Lots of folks like to do this with milk or straight up like full thickness coconut milk. You make it that way. I do actually, I’m one of those weird, horrible people who likes their hot chocolate more on the watery side. So send me all your hate mail.

Katja (20:26):
I don’t know, I think you could say I’m one of those traditional people, because wasn’t it traditionally made that way? That sounds better.

Ryn (20:35):
Yeah, maybe. Alright. But anyway yeah, I found kava really helpful that way. And then I also actually, I have a kava electuary around that I think I’ve mentioned on the pod before. But, so that’s a honey suspension of the powder. And that’s really nice because it’s super quick. So if like a flood of tension and anxiety and stress is getting to me all at once, then I can just like take a big spoonful of that, melt that in the mouth and get the release pretty quickly. If you’re looking for like fast onset best quality, like take a few squirts of tincture, then a spoonful of your electuary. Breathe deep for a few minutes, and you’ll be in a state of relief pretty soon. So that’s been kava for me lately.

Katja (21:22):
Not me.

Ryn (21:23):
Not for you?

Katja (21:23):
No. I don’t know. I’m just not a kava person. It’s a very uncomfortable kind of relaxed for me.

Ryn (21:30):
You know, you did like the combo tincture where it was kava and vanilla and a little bit of cacao too.

Katja (21:41):
Yes. That’s all right. But kava straight all by itself is a little bit too much. And I’m a person that… I like to hold on to… I like to stuff my emotions in a box is what I’m trying to say. And it’s funny to say that because I’m also a person who cries super, super easily. And so I think that people who have spent any amount of time with me and have watched me just cry for no particular reason are like Really? You stuff your emotions in a box? Because you cry really easily.

Ryn (22:15):
This box has some, you know, cat scratch holes in it.

Katja (22:20):
Some like mouse chewed through places. And kava for me, kava is like opening Pandora’s box and all the stuff that I’ve been trying to like put away so that I don’t have to deal with right now comes out. Now that can be….Look, it’s happening just talking about kava. That can actually be super helpful if you are a person who stuffs your emotions. Then in a time, like ultimately that’s not very healthy. And in a time when you feel safe and private and ready to do it. And you’re like, man, I should probably get rid of some of these things and not carry them around stuffed inside all the time, then kava can be really helpful for that. But you know, you might want to do it when nobody’s home so that you can have a big cry fast all by yourself. And you know, like whatever, as if I could ever have privacy in my cry fest, because I just cry way too easily, right? But yeah. Honestly, if you’re listening to this and you’re thinking, gosh, I would’ve never thought you were a person who cried easily, then Yay! I’m glad there is somebody out there who thinks that.

Ryn (23:34):
You just need like the commercial with the puppy that gets rescued, or just like the soundtrack to a movie. Like if you’ve got those violin strings going, then she’s gonna…

Katja (23:46):
I’m toast. Yup.

Ryn (23:52):
So yeah. Which herbs have you been turning to?

Motherwort and Boundaries

Katja (23:54):
Well, speaking of, I cry all the time. So my first herb here that I’m thinking about is motherwort. And motherwort is amazing when you need to hold some boundaries. When you feel like all of your boundaries have been trampled on, or when you feel like you aren’t even maybe able to build those boundaries. If you are a person, like every time your boss asks you to do one extra thing, you’re like okay. And then the next extra thing and you’re like, okay. And you know, if you’re that kind of person then motherwort can be really helpful with that. And also with the kind of anxiousness that leads to feeling revved up. And I don’t get palpitations. And a lot of people do. And they kind of define anxiety as when I’m having palpitations. And so for a long time I sort of thought, well I guess I just don’t have much in the way of anxiousness or anxiety because I don’t get palpitations. But that’s not the only way to experience anxiousness. And what I do get is revved it up and hot. When I feel like my boundaries are not holding or when I feel like I’m in a situation where somebody is crossing a line that doesn’t feel comfortable for me, I get really revved up. And even though my heart doesn’t pound, my emotions have palpitations. Like, my emotions pound. And that can also happen with anger, because a lot of times when I’m feeling my boundaries being crossed, there’s a lot of anger in there as well. And motherwort is just really, really lovely in all of those kinds of situations. And I think that in addition to that, I want to say that it’s okay if you’re feeling really angry right now. It’s a disaster. Like what’s going on is just completely ridiculous. And it’s okay to be mad about it. But if you are hurting yourself with that anger, then that’s not good. Anger is amazingly powerful. But if it doesn’t have a direction to be pointed at where it can be useful and helpful and achieve a righteous thing, then it will just eat you up. So setting some boundaries around your own anger is also pretty important. And keeping that in a place where you can harness it is good. But when it just tramples all through you, that’s terribly uncomfortable. And also it uses up energy instead of being something that’s providing you with energy so that you can go forth and do good things in the world with your anger. So motherwort.

Ryn (27:38):

Blue Vervain Pivot Point

Katja (27:42):
Yeah. And I guess the next one that I’ve been drinking a lot of is blue vervain.

Ryn (27:48):
You have, and what’s interesting to me about this is that you’ve decided to take your blue vervain in tea. Like we’ve got some blue vervain in tincture around. You’re not really interested in it. Like I’ve brought it to you a couple of times when it seems like you really needed some help you know, loosening up a little and letting go of some tension. But blue vervain in tea, that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

Katja (28:11):
Well, okay. To be fair, it’s not only blue vervain in the cup. Today’s tea has — hold on. I have to look at the wall to remember what I put in — It has blue vervain. And it has elderflower. And it has linden and hawthorn and sage and wait, hold on. Motherwort and chamomile and tulsi and yarrow and lady’s mantle

Ryn (28:44):
One of these kinds of formulas.

Katja (28:46):
Yeah, I think that’s everything.

Ryn (28:46):
It’s interesting because this is different from what you had yesterday. I think yesterday there was skullcap maybe betony.

Katja (28:56):
Yeah, goldenrod and jiaogulan.

Ryn (28:56):
So the vervain has become like a pivot point or like this is going to be my consistent herb everyday.

Katja (29:03):
It is. It has been… Like every day has been a lot of stuff in the tea, but there’s always been vervain. And it’s funny too because vervain is a plant that I have kind of avoided for a long time. I recognize it as a really important plant. And it’s a plant that we always have. But it is a plant that is really well known for helping people who are very Type A to relax that a little bit. And I don’t want to relax that a little bit.

Ryn (29:43):
Yeah, I think when I was meeting you, you would like read or you would teach that kind of thing about blue vervain and be like, and that’s why I don’t take it. Because I have too much to do.

Katja (29:52):
Yeah. That’s so true.

Ryn (29:57):
And no one else will do it right.

Katja (29:58):
Yeah. Oh, Well that’s sage. Yes, that is super true. Everything you just said, it’s just very true.

Ryn (30:09):
So this represents a big shift for you over the years.

Katja (30:12):
Well, at some point you just can’t hold on to every tiny little thing and try to control it anymore.

Ryn (30:18):
Yeah, that’s true.

Katja (30:20):
But it’s also hard to stop doing that when that’s your nature. Like when that’s …hold on a second. Yeah. Up close and personal with Katja and Ryn.

Ryn (30:36):
So blue vervain for Type A people, right? Because it’s a relaxant. And because that Type A impulse is one of to hold, to tighten, to contain, to claim over things, even if you don’t necessarily want to be driven in that direction. That’s a reflex. That’s something that tends to happen for people of this nature. And you know, an herb that can help you to let go physically, it can help you let go mentally. Blue vervain helps with that shift from the fight or flight or the sympathetic nervous system activation state to the parasympathetic or the rest and digest phase. And by literally switching which nerve circuits in your body are active and turned on, there’s a lot of change that happens from that kind of effect.

Katja (31:31):
So I think that if, if you are a person who normally really orders your life. If you’re the person in the family who is like the logistical manager of everything and all the things keep flowing because you’re the one who knows how much toilet paper there is, and you’re the one who knows how much of your husband’s favorite whatever is still in store, in stock, in the refrigerator. And how much of, you know, all this stuff and exactly how many days has it been since the sheets were changed and all of that stuff. 10 million details about every aspect of life. If you’re the kind of person who thrives on managing all that, then right now it’s really hard, because we can’t manage all that right now. I mean, okay, I can manage how much laundry gets done.

Ryn (32:25):
Yeah, but no, I mean, we can imagine like there are a lot of people who maybe have had that role. Probably mostly a lot of women who’ve had that role in the household. And now trying to keep up with all of that stuff. Plus everybody’s around all the time.

Katja (32:39):
Yeah. There’s no quiet moment.

Ryn (32:40):
So there’s even more of that kind of stuff to do. And now, you know, can we take some motherwort, have some good boundaries, and say, all right, everybody else, it’s time for you to learn how to do the laundry properly and stop pretending that you can’t learn how as a way to get out of it.

Katja (32:56):
You know, honestly, I think that if we just, you know, all the kids are out of school and whatever, I really think that if we just let these times be the time in kids’ lives when it’s like, all right, everybody learns to do laundry, everybody learns to cook, everybody learns all these things. Like it would be fine if we’re a little late on algebra. Like if we missed a month of, you know, trigonometry, like that’s not the end of the world.

Ryn (33:24):
Yeah, you can learn math later, everybody. Everybody can do it.

Katja (33:27):
Everybody can do it.

Ryn (33:28):
There’s not like a window between, you know, ages of two to 18 that you have to learn all your math and be done with it.

Katja (33:34):
Neither of us learned herbalism when we were in college. You learn all your life. The other thing around blue vervain is that if you are a person who derives your self worth from productivity, then this is also a super challenging time. a) because our productivity is hampered by the reality that we can’t meet up with people. But also our productivity is hampered, like it or not, by the fact that we are all facing so much uncertainty. So like I mean, Ryn and I, our productivity doesn’t require other people most of the time. If we are producing a podcast, well here we are. We’re in our office, in our home producing a podcast, whether it’s covid 19 or not. And so it’s very tempting to think, well, what’s the matter? Why can’t I just produce at the same level that I’ve been producing at all along? And the reality is that for all of us, we can’t do it right now. Even if you are a person who works from home. This is not actually necessarily the time where you’re going to write that book, and the time where you’re going to like finally get all those projects done, because we’re all carrying so much mental burden right now as we try to navigate this thing that’s never happened before. And so much uncertainty, and that requires processing time. And so whether you like it or whether you don’t, you just can’t be as productive as you want to be, even if you could have been productive in your home without going to your actual place of employment or whatever. And so for a person who derives their self-worth from the level of productivity that they exhibit, that’s tremendously painful. And blue vervain can help with that as well.

Ryn (35:43):
It’s a good friend.

Katja (35:43):
That’s where I’m going with this.

Ryn (35:46):
Cool. Yeah. All right. So who’s your third?

Lovely Linden

Katja (35:52):
Who is my third? I think it’s going to be Linden. Yeah,

Ryn (35:58):
It has turned up in your, in your tea blends more frequently than usual lately.

Katja (36:02):
Here’s the thing, Linden is an expensive herb. And that’s fine. That’s appropriate. I’m not complaining about that. But it’s a costly herb. I actually don’t know how much it costs right now because you’ve been doing the ordering and we haven’t ordered it in a little while. And the reason that we haven’t ordered it in a little while is because it’s a costly herb. And so no matter how much I love it, I save it. I don’t want to drink it because I’m like, well, that one’s expensive. Do I really need it today?

Ryn (36:34):
This is your tendency with many fancy things.

Katja (36:36):
Yes. And that also comes into that self-worth thing, right? Like, Oh, well this is a special thing. Do I deserve that today? And so I think that’s why… Holy cow, you guys, sorry. I think that’s why Linden should be in the list because right now, right now it’s really easy to say what’s wrong with me? Why am I not doing the things. And I’m not doing the things, and therefore I don’t deserve nice things. And that’s not true. Linden is a nice thing and you deserve it. Even though it costs more than some of the other herbs. And also linden is such a good friend in sadness. And it’s okay to be really sad right now. Oh my goodness. I can’t believe… I’m sorry.

Ryn (37:37):
It’s okay, lady bird.

Katja (37:38):
It’s okay to be really sad. Look, I’m modeling good behavior.

Ryn (37:44):
You are. You’re demonstrating for us how to be sad. Yeah. No, I mean part of what I would feel with linden is an ability to get into that place, when I’ve been fighting to not break down for a long time.

Katja (38:00):
Look at how lovely and calm you’re sitting here.

Ryn (38:00):
You can be like, okay, I can’t right now let that emotion flood me. I can’t right now like, really take a moment and contemplate how many people are sick, how many people have died, how many people have lost someone, and how many people are going to do that today and tomorrow and for a while. And that’s really big. And it can be very overwhelming. And so a lot of times our reaction to it is, I just can’t think about that. I can see a statistic and it can be a statistic. But if I start to get too far down a chain of thought or observation or things that I’m watching that show me the real people, and show me that, then that’s gonna take me out of my capacity to do anything today. And I’ve got people who are relying on me. And so you can have this impulse to like tighten up and to be like, I just can’t right now. But you can only do that for so long. And at some point you do have to open up to that. Linden can help you do it.

Katja (39:02):
Yeah. And linden is also so lovely about it. We like to sometimes we give different herbs little mottos. Like if an herb wore a t-shirt, this is what the t-shirt would say. And linden’s t-shirt definitely says hug in a mug. Linden is like, you feel sadness and your best, most compassionate person in your life is there with you, and is like holding you up through it, and maybe has a plate of your favorite cookies or whatever is appropriate for you. And your best tea right there and doesn’t make you feel bad because you’re crying or sad. In fact it makes the space for you to do that, makes the space for it to be okay to do that. And also makes it work. You know, like sometimes you have a cry and you do not feel better afterwards. But sometimes you have a cry and then you’re like, all right, okay, I’m in a new place now and I’m feeling better and whew, okay. I kinda needed that. And linden makes sure it’s that one. So I think that it is just such a companion in this, in this kind of a time. You know, linden also, it’s a tree. It’s a tree, it’s a big tree. And like they grow really, really, really tall.

Ryn (40:51):
Yeah, a great way to get linden medicine into your life is to find one, have a picnic under it,

Katja (40:59):
Especially in June when they’re blooming and they smell so amazing. And the wood of this tree is like, if you’re a person who’s into woodworking or furniture making or whatever, is particularly prized because it is resistant to rot and resistant to bugs and resistant to water damage. And it’s just tremendously strong. And I think about that, like the flowers themselves are so delicate and so like ultimately floral. Like the smell is just intoxicatingly beautiful. And it’s light and it makes a tea that is light and delicious and gentle. And yet it stems from this tremendously strong, and not only that, but also Linden trees provide food for lots and lots of bugs, especially ants. So on Linden leaves, you’ll often find these little bug bits and these little egg… they look like little hats, like little gnome hats or something.

Ryn (42:23):
They’re little galls.

Katja (42:24):
Yeah.And it’s an amazing percentage of the tree that can be affected by bugs and not harm the tree. And like a tree that can give that much, like it is so strong that it can offer up a large percentage of its leaves as food for other creatures. And that offers up its flowers as comfort for other creatures and still is totally fine, like strong and fine. That is, that is an amazingly resilient medicine.

Moving Through Emotions

Ryn (43:09):
Okay. All right. Well, so these have been our friends lately and none of this is to say that these are the herbs that will make your anxiety about covid go away. Hasn’t exactly made ours go away either, but it’s made it easier for us to move through that emotion. And with emotional first aid or emotional, you know, maintenance work with herbs, that’s what we’re looking for, right? We’re not looking to stop you from experiencing these feelings. We’re looking for ways to make your experience of them more comfortable, more fluid so that you don’t get stuck in any one emotional place. And kind of locked down there.

Katja (43:47):
Yeah. And I think more compassionate, too, because ultimately if you can allow those emotions to move, that is a compassion for yourself. Well actually and also a compassion for those around you. Because if you’re really stuck and bound up in painful emotions, then it isn’t just you that is being affected by that. It is also other people who love you. And, you know, that’s true for both of us. When one of us is grumpy it does seep out into the other.

Ryn (44:22):
Yeah, for me, that was something that took me a long time to learn, relearn, learn a third time, understand, and then actually incorporate into stuff I did with my emotions and with my words and everything. And yeah, maybe that was just me, but I don’t think so.

Katja (44:39):
I think that is probably a product of growing up male in this society. Although, honestly, like anyone can do it. Like my emotions can hurt you just as much you know, like yeah, we all just, it’s hard. It’s hard to feel what you’re feeling and also not get it all over the people who are around you. And so I think that working with herbs, it’s not about not feeling what you’re feeling, it’s just about getting enough comfort around it that you can feel grounded. And you can be more constructive with your sadness, be more constructive with your uncertainty, be more constructive. Not necessarily useful, but literally construct-ive. Like it doesn’t have to flatten you. You can contain it. And maybe the way that you’re containing it is you’re talking about it. And you’re talking about it a lot even. But just that even is enough to change your relationship with it. Yeah, I guess that’s the word I’m really looking for here. It isn’t about making hard emotions go away. It’s about changing your relationship with them so that they are easier to manage for you and also easier for you to manage in relationship with all the those around you. Right?

Ryn (46:17):
Yeah. And this is what the herbs help us do. You know, they each have their own talent or their own way of being in the world. And when we take them into ourselves, we can adopt some of that. We can learn from those lessons and that’s what we’re looking for. So, yeah. So we hope that some of this resonates for you. You find this helpful. Or maybe just this way of thinking about what does it mean for an herb to help out with emotional, you know, discomfort, with anxiety, with stress, whatever. And see which of the herbs that you have a relationship with or are forming one with can be your allies in this time.

Katja (46:52):
Yeah. It doesn’t have to be this six. Don’t limit yourself. Look at all of your plants, especially if you’re feeling terrible. There was one day where we just pulled every tincture that had any kind of nervine at all and put it in a big, long row on a table. And we were like, all right, when we feel bad, we’re just gonna walk in here and grab something. It doesn’t even matter what. And so whatever herbs you have around you, do that. And just look at all of them and say, well, okay, I don’t have any linden right now, but who can help me right now? And even if you just sort of wildly, blindly choose, that can be okay. Right? It’s something, it’s an action that you’ve taken to support yourself. And even if it might not be the perfect, most efficient, most effective action, it’s an action of compassion towards yourself. And that is always good. Yeah.

Ryn (47:52):
All right, well that’s it for us for this week. We will be back next week with some more Holistic Herbalism podcast. It will just be a week this time. Thank you for bearing with the the interruption in your regularly scheduled Holistic Herbalism podcast. But yeah, we’ll be back next time with some more of that for you. And until then, take care of yourselves. Take care of each other, drink some tea.

Katja (48:14):
Drink some tea.

Ryn (48:15):
And turn to the herbs. They’re gonna help you. All right. Bye.

Katja (48:31):
Bye bye.


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