Podcast 137: Accessible Herbalism for Emotional Health Support

Our emotions part of our health just as much as our physical organs & system. When we have difficulties like anxiety and depression, we can draw on practices in holistic herbalism for emotional support.

Even when we know what’s causing us to feel stress, often there’s little or nothing we can do about it. When the stressors are systemic or unavoidable given our current circumstances, we can’t simply walk away from them. Instead, we need to find ways to help our bodies and minds cope with the stress and still maintain good function.

In this episode we highlight some of our favorite herbs to call on in stressful situations. First we take a look at some specific plants and their own talents, then we consider common contributors to emotional disturbance and the way holistic approaches can resolve them.

Herbs discussed in this episode include: chamomile, peppermint, tulsi, green tea, nettle, dandelion, seaweed, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, hibiscus, apple, basil, dandelion, cacao, beet.

Other things we mentioned: Natural Calm, Mega-Mag.

This is part 9 in our Accessible Herbalism series! We’re sharing strategies for safely improving some of the most common health concerns, especially for marginalized communities. We want to empower people to take action in support of their own health and the health of their neighbors. The safe, accessible tools of holistic herbalism can fill in the gaps left by uneven access and affordability of conventional care. Working with easy-to-find, inexpensive herbs, with low risk of adverse effects and drug interactions, is something anyone can do.

We’re building a community health collective organizing tool out of this material as we go through the series. You can learn more about the project and find all the collected resources here:

Mutual Aid Resources

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 (00:00:01):
Hi, I’m Katia.

Ryn (00:00:15):
And I’m Ryn.

Katja (00:00:16):
And we’re here at the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ryn (00:00:19):
And on the internet everywhere thanks to the power of the podcasts. All right, folks. So, we’re continuing on with our accessible herbalism series. And this one is part nine in our series of strategies for safely improving some of the most common health concerns, especially for people in underserved areas.

Katja (00:00:38):
Yeah. We’re going to be talking about emotional support today. So, I’m pretty excited about it. All right. So, we’ve been doing this series for a while. And the purpose of this series is to offer community herbal information in an accessible and inclusive way so that people can take action to support their own health.

Ryn (00:00:57):
In a lot of parts of our country there just isn’t accessible medical care, and what is available in some other places is really understaffed. And so it’s difficult for a lot of people to get good quality care.

Katja (00:01:07):
We want to provide some tools that can help fill this gap. Now this is not medical advice, but it is safe and accessible self-care strategies that will help improve health outcomes. We believe that all people have a right to high quality accessible healthcare. And we also want all people to have the tools to take care of themselves as well.

Ryn (00:01:29):
So the plan is to work with a relatively small number of inexpensive and easy to get herbs. So you will notice the same herbs turning up in multiple places in different episodes or in the same one in this series. There are other plants that can work well too, but the ones that we’ve chosen to focus on here are effective, but also accessible. And we’ve chosen herbs that are generally safe and don’t have any interactions with medications unless we specifically note them.

Katja (00:01:57):
And then a printable version of this work is also going to be available at the end of this series, along with information on how to start a community health collective so that you and your friends or loved ones can support one another in your health goals. We’re making this whole series available free to all people, because we want everybody to have these skills.

Ryn (00:02:20):
So if you’d like to find out more about all of this, or if you want to support this effort, you can do both of those things at commonwealthherbs.com/mutualaid.

Katja (00:02:31):
And so before we jump in, one more thing that we have to tell you, and also that we want to tell you, is that we are not doctors. We’re herbalists and holistic health educators.

Ryn (00:02:42):
The ideas discussed in this podcast do not constitute medical advice. No state or federal authority licenses herbalists in the United States, and 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 some information to think about and some ideas to research further.

Katja (00:03:00):
And we want to remind you that good health is your right and also your own personal responsibility. So what that means is that the final decision, when you’re considering any course of therapy, whether it’s discussed on the internet or prescribed by your physician, that’s always yours.

Ryn (00:03:20):
Okay. So we’re talking about emotional health support today. So you know, a lot of that’s going to be built around stress and the way we respond to different stressors and difficult things in our lives. Stress is stressful. It can make us feel whole range of different things, right? We can feel depression, we can feel anxiety, crabbiness, sadness, a feeling of being stuck, a feeling of being antsy. It’s going to vary from person to person, but we all have these kinds of experiences.

Katja (00:03:50):
Often we know what the cause of our stress is. Not always. Sometimes we don’t, but sometimes we do. And then unfortunately, often there’s nothing we can do about it. I mean, sometimes we can create healthy boundaries around a person who stresses us out or certain activities that upset us. But sometimes the cause of the stress is a terrible job that we can’t walk away from because we have to pay the rent. Or systemic oppression, which you can’t walk away from either. So it’s not like we can always just say, well, I think I just won’t be stressed out today. I’m just going to power of positive thinking and make myself decide to feel better. It doesn’t always work like that. I mean, positive thinking can be helpful sometimes, but it’s just not that simple. So we want to find some external ways, some supports that we can turn to for emotional health, especially when we’re stuck in stressful situations that we can’t escape, that we have to get through in order to get by.

Ryn (00:04:59):
Right. So today we’re going to kind of work backwards a bit from our normal pattern here. We’re going to start out with the herbs and describe how various easy-to-find herbs can be really helpful in stressful situations. You can approach this kind of like a menu. Choose anything that sounds good to you, and just go ahead and give it a try. We’ll be specific about when to choose each one so that you know when to work with, or which ones might be most relevant to your own case. And as always here, we’re sticking to herbs that are very safe and also ones that you could blend together easily if you’d like to.

Tension in Body & Mind: Chamomile, Peppermint & Tulsi

Katja (00:05:34):
Well, let’s just kick it right off with chamomile, because when I think about stress, that is the first herb that pops to my mind. And I always think about this one client that I had, who came in on the very first day, the very first time that I ever saw her, and said, I have a very serious chemical imbalance in my brain. And I don’t want you to tell me that I need something stupid like chamomile. And in that moment I had this whole flood of emotions. One of them was a lot of empathy for her situation. And another was, wow, what you really need is chamomile. And I was like, Oh, I can’t say that. But I think that that is a feeling that a lot of people have. That like, Oh, don’t tell me something stupid like chamomile. And what I have found, especially in my own body, is that chamomile is actually the superpower that solves many of my problems. So, why is it so great? Chamomile is relaxing both to the nerves themselves, the actual nerves, and to your muscle systems. Like all of the tension that you’re holding in your body, it’s going to relax a lot of that out. And for me, that is a combination that like, if I only do one of those two things, that’s not enough. If I relax the nervous system, but I’m still holding a lot of tension in my body and my muscles, then my nerves are getting the signal from my muscles: Hey, we’re very tense something’s going on. So then my nerves just get all tense again. I really need an herb that can relax both at the same time, and chamomile can do that. But you really need to make a strong cup of chamomile tea to get the job done. So, instead of just a very light, you know, putting the teabag in for just a minute or two and getting a nice pale yellow cup of tea, you want like two teabags even. And leave it in there for 10, 15, 20 minutes so that it gets strong and even a little bit bitter. Now, if you don’t love the bitter flavor, just put a little honey in there. That’s not cheating. That’s totally fine. But it is when you get that strong, strong cup of tea that you’re really getting that super relaxing action. And I think that part of it also maybe plays into people’s thinking that chamomile doesn’t do anything or that it’s just weak. Simply because most people have experienced chamomile in a very light cup of enjoyable flavor, but not the strong action that it has if you really let that cup of tea get very strong.

Ryn (00:08:30):
Yeah.

Katja (00:08:32):
But really, so when we’re thinking about chamomile, we’re thinking about when both your mind and your body are tense. They’re both wound up like as tight as they can go. When you’ve got tension in both places, that’s when I’m really thinking about chamomile.

Ryn (00:08:49):
Yeah. Nice. And also when there’s a lot of expression of that tension or agitation taking in the digestive system. Because that’s where chamomile is going to kind of operate first, and then effects spread out from there to other parts of the body. So, you know, peppermint is actually similar in some ways in that regard, that it operates first in the GI tract and then the effects spread out from there. Peppermint is also a relaxant herb. It can very well help to release tensions that are occurring in your system, especially in your guts, if you get cramping or spasms in there. But peppermint can also help with tension more generally. And it has a bit of a stimulating quality to it as well. You know, peppermint, it has a feeling of coolness because of the menthol and the way that that kind of makes things feel fresh and and all of that. But it is, in fact, stimulating blood movement and getting more flow and more metabolic activity. So we do look at it as a warming kind of a plant in that regard. And that movement and that stimulation can be helpful. Maybe not looking at something like anxiety in this moment, but looking at something where you’re a little more depressed, a little more stuck, feeling heavy, weighted down. Peppermint has like a lightening kind of a quality to it, lifting.

Katja (00:10:10):
Yeah. So like you’re feeling tension in your body, but your mind is feeling like just totally fogged or stuck in the mud. So like your whole self is kind of like down and tight, you know. Like that’s a real peppermint kind of…

Ryn (00:10:29):
Yeah. But again, easy to find, and an inexpensive herb.

Katja (00:10:34):
Tea bags are totally fine. Whatever you find at the grocery store.

Ryn (00:10:38):
Right. Right. Yeah. Always make it strong. You know, whenever we make tea with teabags, we tend to use two in a cup. And just make sure you’re really brewing it strong.

Katja (00:10:48):
So tulsi. It’s also called holy basil. This is a plant in the mint family. And when you taste it, you will taste a lot of similarity to mint. Especially kind of it’s in a spearmint sort of direction with the flavor. And this is another one that you often can find at the grocery store, especially like in the natural section. And, again, it’s fine to get it in a teabag. I like to make it strong. The thing that we love about tulsi is that it really stimulates movement of emotions. And so when you are feeling like your emotions are stuck. Now this can be stuck in a couple of different ways. You could be stuck, like completely stalled out, almost like numb, like you’re not processing any emotions at all. That’s a really common definition of stuck, right? Like literally as if your car was stuck in mud and it wasn’t moving anywhere, that kind of a feeling. But you can be stuck in anxiety. Like you could be stuck in a place that is very revved up. And you are just, your thoughts are spinning and spinning and spinning and spinning, but you’re stuck in that spinning place. You can’t stop the spinning. You can’t like get out of that spot. Which also is kind of like when you’re stuck in the mud or in the snow, but you’re not staying stuck. You keep pushing on the gas and the wheels just go Zzzzzz, you know? So I guess our stuck in the mud analogy is going to work in both directions here. But either one of those, that corresponds with a physiological state in the brain where the part of your brain that processes your experiences, that’s called the hippocampus, and it’s not doing its job. It has slowed down. It is no longer able to process the things that you’re experiencing. And so you’re just not. You’re either spinning those thoughts around, or you’re just sort of sitting there numb. So any time that you have had experiences and you’re not able to work past them, not able to push through those feelings. And you’re like, God, I just need to stop thinking about this. Like, there’s nothing I could do about it. I just have to get past it. Those are the kinds of feelings that make me think about tulsi to just help move those feelings through. To process them and be done with them, at least for right now. They may come back again later. I may have to deal with it again. But at least for right now, let’s just put them aside and get them moving out of my brain right now.

Ryn (00:13:37):
Yeah. So tulsi is pretty wonderful in that regard. And it’s, like you said, it’s a very pleasant tasting tea, and it blends well with a lot of other herbs so that you can kind of direct what aspect of it’s effect you’re really looking for, by the way you combine it with other plants.

Katja (00:13:55):
Now, I want to also mention here this chamomile, peppermint and tulsi or holy basil, these are ones that are pretty common to find at the grocery store. But when you’re there, you may see other tea blends that are some sort of stress tamer type of a tea blend. You know, I think there’s one out there called tension tamer, actually, different types of tea blends that say on them that they’re helpful for stress. And I want to just give a shout out to all of them. All of them could be good. And so, you might find ones with lemon balm, or you might find ones with different types of mint in them. And if you see one that is interesting to you, definitely give it a try. If it’s an herbal blend and you’re thinking, Oh, this is stress blend. I wonder if it works. You won’t know until you try. So we like these three and these are widely available. But if you see something else that says it’s a stress blend, it is worth trying just to see if you enjoy it. If nothing else, it is a nice, delicious cup of tea that you can just sit down quietly with for a few minutes. And that’s always a benefit, because it’s giving you a little moment to have a break in your day. To just be like, okay, I’m just here with my cup of tea. The whole world can take a seat for a moment while I just drink my cup of tea, and then I will go back to life. So at the worst case scenario, you’ll still at least have that experience. But everybody’s stresses a little bit different. And so I don’t want to imply that these three, chamomile, peppermint, and tulsi, are the only ones that you might find at the grocery store that could be really helpful. And it’s definitely worth doing a little experimentation and seeing which ones you like best

Ryn (00:15:49):
If you find a tea blend like that, that you do find to be effective, then look at the ingredients and see if reconstituting it or recreating it yourself is also feasible. You know, especially if it was something that you really, really like, and you want to have often, and in big quantities. It may be cheaper in the long run to reformulate it on your own.

Katja (00:16:10):
Yeah. So what you would do is look at the ingredient list there. And then whatever’s at the beginning of the list, that’s the largest portion. And whatever is the very last thing at the list is the smallest portion. And then you could just sort of estimate for yourself and order those herbs in bulk, or if you have an herb shop near you that sells herbs in bulk. And just get a great big bowl, dump them all in there. And whatever the first thing in the ingredients is, put the most of that and a little less of each subsequent herb. And store it in a glass jar. And that can be a more cost effective way to purchase herbs once you find something that works really well for you and that you like.

If You’re Stuck on the Couch: Green Tea

Ryn (00:17:00):
All right. A few other things to consider here. Let’s talk about green tea for a minute. So that’s the tea plant Camellia sinensis, right? So green tea is something to think about, because occasionally you do need a boost. If you need some energy, green tea can be a really good way to do that. It does have caffeine in there, but it’s much gentler on your body than coffee is. And that has to do with the fact that neither of these plants is just giving you caffeine. They have a lot of other things that come along with it. And in coffee, there are a lot more stimulating things that can kind of get you agitated in a lot of bodies. And in green tea accompanying the caffeine or some compounds that are actually calming and soothing and help you to relax and to focus your energy a little more. So it’s a really good choice for when you do want to have some stimulation, but you don’t want to get overstimulated.

Katja (00:17:54):
Especially if you feel like you’re just really stuck on the couch. Whether that’s actually you’re really stuck on the actual couch, or whether in your mind you’re just like feeling like you’re a lump. And it’s been days of that and you’re like, I have to get myself moving and it doesn’t matter if I’m feeling better or not. I just have to get moving. Sometimes caffeine really is what you need in that moment to just be the push to get you going. But yeah, green tea is just more gentle than coffee.

Emotional Discomfort and Mineral Deficiencies: Nettle & Dandelion Leaf

Ryn (00:18:29):
Yeah. All right. Then let’s think about a little bit about some actual nutritive herbs and the way that they could help out. So we’re going to talk about nettles and also about dandelion leaf. No, they are two different plants, but in this regard they have a lot in common. So both of them are going to provide a lot of mineral content to us that can be relevant here. Mineral deficiencies can lead to mental or emotional discomfort or disturbances. There’s lots of different ways that that might play out. And what’s nice about plants like nettles and dandelion leaf, and also the seaweeds, is that they provide a pretty broad array of different minerals. It’s not like you’re, you know, eating a plant based iron supplement or something like that. You’re getting a whole array of them. And that’s how your body really prefers to receive this kind of nutrition, is to get that sort of naturally occurring spread. So that’s really valuable and very supportive. The nettle and the dandelion leaf, they also have a lot of support for the kidneys. And that can be important here too. Your kidneys are in some ways the seat of your energy in your body or the seat of endocrine or hormonal function or coordination in your body. They’re really tightly connected to your adrenal glands, of course. But they’re also responding to an influencing other hormonal signals in your system. So herbs like this that are going to give them a little bit of gentle stimulation and a lot of nourishment can be very helpful in a lot of unexpected ways.

Katja (00:20:04):
Whether or not you are experiencing any kind of a hormone imbalance, even if you’re not experiencing that. Maybe through menstruation or some acne or something like that, where we would look at it and say, Oh, I have some hormonal imbalance going on. Often mood issues are coming from hormonal imbalance, because our hormones are very strongly tied in to the way that we are able to process emotions and our moods in general. And so a lot of times maybe we don’t think too much about, Oh, maybe I should be supporting hormone health to help battle depression. But actually there is a lot of crossover there. So when we get these nutritive herbs, nettles, and dandelion leaf and even seaweed, that can provide a very foundational support to give the endocrine system what it needs to create balance in the hormones itself. Then that can be a very effective way to help support emotional health.

Ryn (00:21:23):
Yeah, it’s occasionally surprising the people who will work with nettle and friends or some kind of infusion, or introduce a lot of seaweed into their life, and suddenly they’re getting changes in mental or emotional patterns. We’ve seen that happen when we were like working with people for a nutritional aspect for the first month or two, you know. And we’re just like, all right, we’ll start with this. We’ll get a few things. We’ll work on that first and then see what’s going on after a month or two. And a lot of times you see improvements in those other areas even if you weren’t necessarily targeting them

Katja (00:21:57):
Right. Now, with seaweed, you might think that it sounds really strange to make tea out of seaweed. But actually, if you put a little bit of seaweed and then like some ginger, because it has a good strong flavor, and maybe some tulsi, you might be surprised at how not weird that tastes. But if it seems too adventurous or just too weird to put in a cup of tea, my actually favorite way to work with seaweed is to put it in bone broth. So if you had a chicken, like a rotisserie chicken or something, and you’ve got the bones. Or if you had a bunch of chicken wings and now you have a bunch of chicken wing bones, just make broth out of those and put the seaweed right into it. And one reason that I like this so much is because now you have a really broad spectrum of minerals. You have all the minerals that are coming out of those bones, and then all the plant based minerals as well. And it gives you the widest possible array of minerals, and also lots of vitamins are in there too, in a way that your body can absorb it very, very easily, much more easily than through a supplement. So that’s a really great option. And you don’t have to make it every day. You can save up bones in a Ziploc bag in your freezer. And when you get enough, you know, a pile of whatever, chicken bones or whatever you have, then just put them in a big pot. Make a big pot of broth, and then you can freeze that as well. Keep some to eat, or to drink, right now. And then freeze some so that you can just thaw it out a little bit at a time and kind of always have it around. But that way it’s not something that you have to think about making every day. You can make a big batch at once and then it’ll last you for a while.

Stagnant, Depressive Pattern with Tension in the Middle: Ginger, Cinnamon, & Cardamom

Ryn (00:24:00):
Yeah. All righ then, let’s talk about ginger. Ginger is just a really fantastic herb. And we’ve mentioned it in a lot of different episodes in the series so far, because it has so many talents and can support us in so many different conditions. So ginger, let’s say it’s got that nice anti-inflammatory effect. It has the antispasmodic activity. It has a circulatory quality to bring blood and move that around. It can improve digestive function. So, you know, all over you can see the effects of ginger, again, are often going to start in the GI tract, where we’re releasing tension and discomfort there, especially where that’s coming from a tension pattern. And that is, like, the middle of you. And it warms the middle of you and it releases tension in the middle of you. And then that starts to free up energy and resources for other parts of your body. Ginger, even just on its own, it can be helpful when you have that kind of stagnant, stuck cold depressive pattern because of the warmth of it. And just that warmth is enough. You know, it’s correcting it, it’s on that energetic level, that base of the things that we will speak about as herbalists and work on. So it is really quite excellent there. And then another thing that I think of for ginger is that a lot of times when you get really anxious or agitated or even even depressed, sometimes that can lead to nausea or other forms of digestive discomfort. And ginger is so good at relieving that kind of feeling of digestive tightness, or like things are going to go the wrong way on you. You know, it’s very soothing in that regard.

Katja (00:25:40):
Yeah. You know, that antispasmodic action, that tension releasing action again, is so important here, because your muscles and your nerves talk to each other. So when we think about our mental health or, you know, our moods and stuff like that, we often think about the nervous system because that’s where all that communication is happening. But when your muscles are tense, you’re actually sending signals to your nerves saying: Hey, something is wrong, because all these muscles are tense. So that’s like a feedback loop. And maybe you had a little bit of mental stress, and then that created a lot of physical tension. But now that physical tension is going to create more of a feeling of emotional stress, because you’re getting that feedback from the muscles saying: Oh, we’re tense, something’s wrong. So herbs like ginger that can relax muscles play a really huge role in relaxing all of your thoughts and emotions as well. I think too, you know, you were talking about the depressive state. And ginger stimulates circulation. It helps your blood move through your body more easily. And when I think about a depression state, like even when I say it, I tend to sort of slouch down a little bit because that’s how it feels. But it is a stuckness, right? When you get really depressed it’s hard to move. It’s hard to keep yourself going. And so an herb that causes your blood to start moving around. It’s like it is starting that movement in the core of you. Not just, you know, the warmth, but also the movement, and that starts to cycle outward. And the things that felt like they were just weighing you down and you couldn’t move out from under them, you get that movement going in the middle and it’s spiraling out as the blood also is spiraling out to all the parts of your body. And it’s like, it motivates that movement up out of depression. And again, it starts small, you know? But over time it’s like an engine that gets going. And you’re like, okay, yeah, things are moving. And I’m feeling a little bit more relaxed. And maybe there’s still a lot of stressful things in my life, but at least I’m moving now. You know, I’m not stuck anymore. So that’s really exciting.

Ryn (00:28:25):
Yeah. Other warming herbs, like cinnamon and cardamom, can also work in similar ways for when you’re feeling cold and stuck and numb in that regard. So they have that same set of qualities. And you would know that just from the taste, because again, they have that warmth, that pungency to them. They share that in common with ginger. Cinnamon has another element here, though, that’s relevant. Cinnamon is helpful with emotional eating, both in terms of helping to curb or to reduce sugar cravings that can often interfere with making great choices. When you’re stressed out, you’re more likely to choose sugar. Your body’s looking for quick fuel. So cinnamon can help to reduce those sugar cravings, but it can also help to mitigate the effect that eating sugar or eating some carby foods is going to have on your body. Cinnamon helps to improve insulin sensitivity. It basically means that it helps to reduce the peak of blood sugar spikes in your system after you eat something sweet or something carby. And we want to prevent our blood sugar from spiking up too high, or falling down too low. Those are like two sides of the same coin of a problem there. So cinnamon is helping to keep us in a nice Goldilocks middle range.

Katja (00:29:41):
Yeah. I like that a lot too, because first, like, you can start with it. You can say: Oh, I’m really stressed out. And when I’m stressed out, I want to eat a lot of cake. And I know that that’s not actually going to help me. So I’m going to start drinking a bunch of cinnamon to help me curb that craving for cake. And cinnamon is like, I got you. And we’re going to work on that. But just in case you still eat some cake, it’s all right. Because I’m also going to help you clean that up afterwards. And I’m like, that’s the best friend ever, really. Like a friend who will help you make good choices, but also just in case, oops, cake, will be like, don’t worry. I will help clean this up. Thank you. Thank you, cinnamon.

Ryn (00:30:27):
Pretty good. You know, ginger, cinnamon and cardamom, you can make tea with all of these herbs, or you can include them with other herbs as part of your formula there. They’re pretty amenable to working in that regard. You can also work with them in other ways, as tinctures or even just as powders. And having them in your food more frequently is a way to get these into your system. Spice it like you mean it, if you’re going to do that. If we’re making like one pan of sauteed veggies, or like blends of meat and veggies and stuff, then one to three tablespoons of powdered herbs might get into the mix there. So that’s what we mean when we say spice it like you mean it.

Katja (00:31:09):
Yeah. On the flip side of this, if you are thinking, boy, I really want some cake because I’m feeling bad. And you’re like, okay, what could I eat that isn’t cake? I like to bake an apple. So if you just cut the middle out of the apple so that the seeds are out. And you can put a bunch of cinnamon and walnuts or whatever, raisins, whatever is good to you in there. But the key here is a bunch of cinnamon. And so now you have something that you can eat that is satisfying. It’s sweet. It’s tasty. But also it is providing that herbal support as well. So maybe you managed to avoid cake this way or whatever your comfort food is. Clearly my comfort food is cake, but whatever your comfort food is. Maybe this is a way that you can avoid that. But also to be getting the herbs in with that as well. And you can put ginger and cardamom on there as well. But it really can be as simple as putting an apple in the oven with a bunch of cinnamon on top. And then 20 minutes later, presto, dessert,

Ryn (00:32:22):
Believe it or not, the apple is also helping. So one thing that apples provide you with a decent amount of is prebiotic fibers. Those are food for your probiotics, right? Food for your healthy gut flora who are supportive for you. This might be part of where that whole apple a day keeps the doctor away phrase comes from. When your guts feel good, the rest of you feels good too. So yeah, apples, and there’s other good things in there. There’s a bunch of nice anti-inflammatory polyphenols in the apple skin. That’s all wonderful and lovely. So yeah, think about your food and the way that that can support you. Other things that support your gut flora: any kind of fermented foods cabbages onions, you know, stuff like that. There’s lots of foods that can support them. You’ll notice that they’re pretty much all plant-y and whole food-ly in nature. That’s the way that goes.

Katja (00:33:19):
We’re actually, when we get finished with all the herbs, we’re going to talk a little bit more about probiotics because there are a lot of strong ties between your probiotic, gut health and mental and emotional health. So we will definitely be coming back to those concepts. Who knew the apples could really be so effective.

If You Haven’t Seen the Sun in a Long Time: Basil & Dandelion Flower

Ryn (00:33:42):
Yeah. Hey, let’s talk about basil. So basil is really wonderful. And we were talking about holy basil a few minutes ago, tulsi, holy basil. But common garden basil or sweet basil is no slouch either. It’s got really nice light aromatics in it that do have that upward moving, mood lifting effect that we also find with the tulsi, the holy basil, with peppermint, with rosemary, other herbs that have that sensory quality to them. But basil is a really nice one if you have any capacity to grow some herbs at home. It can be a little expensive to buy it on its own, but it grows really well in a pot if you have a sunny spot on your porch. And it can really spread if you do have a whole little patch of ground that you can grow in. You can get a lot of basil growing.

Katja (00:34:35):
Yeah, you really can.

New Speaker (00:34:37):
And if you were to do that, you may be able to have enough to keep around to dry for tea all year, or there other ways that you can preserve your basil.

Katja (00:34:46):
I really love to infuse fresh basil into honey. And you just take the fresh basil, stuff it all in a ja, and then fill the jar up with honey. And one of the reasons that this is one of my favorite ways to work withbasil is because I turn to basil when it’s the middle of winter and everything feels gray. And I feel like I haven’t seen the sun in a long time. And I feel like my life also hasn’t seen the sun in a long time. Like, it’s not just the weather. It’s like my life starts to feel that way. And I always can tell when I am actually having some mood problems, because I start craving basil. And I’m like, well, do we have any pesto? Do we have any, like, is there any basil anywhere? And it’s really because that sort of seasonal kind of getting down, seasonal affective stuff. But just that grayness through the winter, that’s when I really think about basil and the effects that basil can have. So if you put a bunch of basil in honey, because it’s expensive to get basil in the winter. But if you grow some and then put it in honey, it will last through the whole winter. And also honey is really delightful. So you can have just like a spoonful of it. You can mix it into a drink. You can mix it into some tea. But it’s always there for you. So if basil is a little on the expensive side but you can grow some, then that’s a way to keep it through the whole winter. Another way I like to keep it through the winter is to chop it up really fine and just freeze it. You can make it into pesto. It’s just basil and olive oil basically, mixed together, maybe some nuts chopped up and then put it in the freezer. You can freeze it even in an ice cube tray, and then just thaw out the amount that you need at the time. And that’s a way that you can preserve it through the winter so that you don’t have to buy it in the winter when it’s really expensive.

Ryn (00:37:04):
Yeah. Another mood boosting herb that really works fantastically when infused into honey is dandelion flowers. Specifically about the flowers here, we had mentioned the leaf previously, but the dandelion flowers are one of my personal favorite herbs for seasonal depression, or just like the gray winter time doldrums. When you feel like you haven’t seen the sun in too long, and you’re wondering if it’s going to come back ever. So that’s a really great time to work with dandelion flowers. And, you know, we gather them in the summertime, through the long season that they have. And we’ll take some and tincture them. We’ll take some and just put them in a jar and pour honey over them. You can just eat them or fry them up into fritters. People make dandelion wine from the flowers. So there’s lots of different ways to work with them. We don’t really try to gather them and dry them and take those as tea. Dandelion leaf you can dry and preserve that way, dandelion root you can. But the flowers, you kind of need to either work with them that day or preserve them somehow. Make an extraction of some kind. But they really are excellent. And that infused honey is something else. It glows when you look at it.

Katja (00:38:22):
Yeah. It gets really yellow. Like, I mean, honey already has this golden color to it, but it gets like, yeah, like glowing. It’s like it has a halo. Dandelion is also a really excellent ally when you’re feeling kind of trampled on, when you’re feeling like nobody wants to listen to you and your needs or your ideas or whatever. It really is the official plant of the resistance, you know? And so when you feel like every day of your life is resistance, right? Just to stay alive you have to be in an environment that is pushing on you all the time, then dandelion flowers is super effective for just helping to lift you up and help you to feel like you have the power to get through that. And that if you do, there might be something better on the other side. Because it can be very hard to hold on to any kind of optimism in that sort of a situation. And again, just gather the flowers. Put them in a jar. Pour honey over them and let them sit there for a month. And then you can strain them out if you want, or just scoop the honey out bit by bit. You can do half as a tincture. Put all the flowers in a jar and pour vodka on top over them, and half as honey, and then mix it together. That’s an elixir. But honestly it can really be as simple as just picking a bunch of dandelion flowers, putting them in a jar, and pouring honey on top.

When You Need a Little (Bitter) Lift: Cacao

Ryn (00:40:08):
Absolutely. Okay. In the realm of delicious things that can help let’s talk about cacao, or really good quality, really dark chocolate. Ideally we’re looking at above 70% cacao content if you’re looking at dark chocolate. And otherwise you want it to be relatively unprocessed in order to get the best effects. So cacao, it does have some mood boosting activity to it. Some of that exhilarate quality that we find with tulsi and rose petals and other plants that lift your mood, cacao definitely has that. And a lot of people are very familiar with looking for chocolates as a mood booster.

Katja (00:40:51):
Now the chocolate that we’re looking for is going to be more expensive. To get that high quality, dark chocolate with the high cacao content, it will cost a lot more than Hershey kisses. But on the other hand, you don’t need to eat very much of it. Usually there’s like little squares on the bar. You know, you open the bar up and there’s the little squares marked on it. One square is really enough. So even though this kind of chocolate costs more, we’re really going for the medicinal aspects of it, and so it’s much more concentrated. You don’t need as much. It will last you longer then Hershey kisses will. And just to be clear, there isn’t really much chocolate in Hershey kisses. They’re mostly sugar and milk actually. But it really is that cacao content that has all those medicinal properties, all kinds of plant chemicals that are really rich and are supporting emotional health and a lot of different ways.

Ryn (00:41:57):
Yeah. And it doesn’t actually have to be chocolate. It can be cacao nibs or cacao powder that you work with. And that will provide the same kind of benefits. A lot of anti antioxidant activity, lots of anti-inflammatory effects coming out of cacao. Believe it or not, there is, again, some good support for your gut flora in there. So…

Katja (00:42:20):
Even some mineral content. There’s even some magnesium and other minerals in when you get the really good quality chocolate. I mean, it’s going to be like $4 a bar, but it’ll last you a couple of weeks. So that’s good. Yeah. You mentioned some liver support, right? Chocolate like that is going to have a little bit of bitterness to it. And honestly, anything that has bitterness to it is going to be supportive to the liver. And that’s going to help us in a couple of ways. First of all, the liver is where we hold on to a lot of anger, and a little bit that’s metaphorical. I don’t think if you did an autopsy on somebody’s liver, you would just find a bunch of anger in there necessarily. Like, that’s not exactly what we mean. But these, anger and the liver, have folk association in many cultures throughout eons of history. And so when we see that. When we see associations like that in many different cultures and over many centuries of time, we want to pay attention to them. You know, if it was just an old wives’ tale from one town somewhere, well, okay, maybe that is valid and maybe it isn’t. We have to look into it. But when many different cultures have the same types of ideas, then usually that means there’s something to that. So when we take bitter herbs, whether that is, you know, radicchio or endive or something like dandelion leaf or dandelion root or burdock, anything that has this bitter flavor. Honestly, even coffee, although sometimes the caffeine is going to be a little much. But anything that has these bitter flavors, it stimulates the liver to do its job better, do its job more effectively. But there’s another thing that’s happening as well. And that is that these bitter flavors help to give the message to your body to move out of that fight or flight stress state, and into what we call that rest and digest, that parasympathetic state where you’re coming away from stress and feeling more relaxed. This is one of the reasons that bitter things before a meal help you to digest your food better. When you’re really stressed out, it’s hard to digest food. And when you come into that relaxed place, it becomes much easier to digest. That’s why they say it’s the rest and digest state. So, whether you find a bitter blend, a tincture blend, which you actually can find at a lot of grocery stores or health food stores and definitely at herbs shops. Whether you get a bitter blend as a tincture, or whether you just start incorporating more bitter foods into your meals, that is also helping to move your body through the processes of anger, and to move you from that stressed out state into that restful state, where it will be much more easy to digest your food. So, whether that bitterness is coming from chocolate that is really, really dark and has a low sugar content — It is on the bitter side — or from bitter vegetables like endive and radicchio, or from bitter tincture blends. Wherever it’s coming from, it’s going to have this effect. And that can be really helpful.

A Sluggish Thyroid: Minerals, Seaweeds & Good Quality Fats

Ryn (00:46:04):
Yeah. Nice. Okay. So there’s a number of herbs to think about and to consider working with. There are also a few other things we want to talk about that can make emotional difficulties worse. And so it’s worth understanding them to the extent that they may be playing in to what you’re experiencing. So the first one we want to mention here is a sluggish thyroid. So even if you don’t have a diagnosis for hypothyroidism or for low thyroid function, you could still be a little bit on the low side. When your thyroid isn’t functioning well, it’s like your body is moving in slow motion, and it can lead to you feeling tired and cold and depressed. The thyroid is kind of like your internal thermostat, determining the amount of activation and heat and movement and metabolism that’s going to be taking place throughout the whole body. So when the thyroid is slow, turned down, everything else slows down too. So a couple of things that really help the thyroid work very well. First off minerals. And like we mentioned before, you can get a lot of minerals from your seaweed, from dandelion greens, and from nettles. And so those are going to provide some much needed mineral nutrition there. With the thyroid we especially think about iodine and about getting that from seaweed. That’s going to be the richest source that you’re going to be able to find. So that’s, that’s one thing to help out with the sluggish thyroid. And then another one is that you want to be getting good quality fats in your diet. You need those in order to maintain healthy energy levels and for everything to work effectively. So good quality fats, very briefly, we’re trying to avoid corn oil, soy, canola oil, generic vegetable oil. And we’re trying to emphasize things like the fat from healthy animals. So that could be ghee, or it could be lard or tallow. But also things like olive oil. And I’d particularly highlight here coconut oil. That’s a little easier to digest and to absorb, especially for folks who have some difficulty with fat digestion.

Katja (00:48:12):
Yeah. And coconut oil has some particular affinities for the thyroid as well. It can really be very helpful. A lot of times when the thyroid is slowing down, you also can sort of dry out a little bit. So getting extra fat in can help kind of rehydrate your body. We think about hydration in terms of water, but water is only part of the story. The other part of the story is oils and fats. And you need both of them.

Ryn (00:48:40):
Yeah.

Low Iron Levels: Red Meat & Oysters

Katja (00:48:41):
All right. Well, another factor here that can be playing into emotional issues and just making it harder to make progress with emotional health issue issues, is if you have low iron levels. So when your iron level is low, you feel tired and run down. And this is true even if you don’t have an official diagnosis for anemia. You could still be low, even if you aren’t all the way low enough to call it anemia. You could be like, you know, there’s an amount of low that isn’t called anemia, but it’s still not enough. You know? So, this is a situation that even if you aren’t diagnosed, it’s worth thinking about. If you are struggling with depression or with feelings that have you stuck and run down. And also you don’t have enough iron, so your physical body is feeling tired and run down as well. Then it’s like doubly hard for you to manage those emotions.

Ryn (00:49:47):
This is going to be most relevant for people who menstruates or if you donate blood with any regularity. But don’t let that mean that those are the only people who get this problem. That’s not what I’m trying to say at all right

Katja (00:50:00):
Now plant sources of iron are not very efficient in the body. It’s not easy for us to absorb them. So honestly the fastest way to raise your iron level is with hamburger or, you know, steak, something like that. Or if you don’t like to eat red meat, then oysters are a really good option. And while we’re at it, low protein levels also can leave you feeling tired and run down. So in this case, if you’re feeling that way and you aren’t sure what the cause is, then an easy and safe experiment is to try to get more protein. And specifically protein that has iron in it, like ground beef or oysters for a couple of weeks, and see, like, does that help? And when we say for a couple of weeks, I would have ground beef or have oysters at least three times a week. And do that for a couple of weeks and see, like, do you start to feel like, Oh, I’m starting to have some more energy now. Maybe I’m still experiencing a lot of stress, and I still have a lot that I have to deal with emotionally. But I feel like I have a little bit more perk in order to do that work. Then the likelihood is that your protein and your iron levels were probably low.

Low Magnesium: Nettle, Seaweed & Supplements

Ryn (00:51:18):
Yeah. Another metric you can use is to try to get a fist sized portion of animal protein once a day. Alright. Another mineral that can lead to problems here is low magnesium in particular, and then low minerals in general, right? Almost everyone in the U S could use more minerals in their diets. And a lot of that has to do not even with individual food choices, but with the way that our food system depletes mineral resources from the soil and from the plants that grow in that soil, and doesn’t really replenish them adequately or in their full complexity. So a lot of us run into this. And this is particularly important when we’re talking about emotional health, because your nerve cells need minerals to help them send and receive their electrical impulse signals. But more importantly, you also need minerals to stop sending signals also, and to help your nerve cells decide when they don’t need to listen to the signals that they’re receiving. So there’s a lot of complexity to the nervous system. And there’s a lot of like individual neurons making decisions about whether to pass a signal forward or to stop it here. And much of that activity is going to be determined by the availability of minerals in your body.

Katja (00:52:36):
Yeah. So in other words, if you’re feeling a lot of anxiousness and you’re feeling like it’s very hard to turn off those signals of worry and anxiety, then part of that might actually be because you don’t have enough minerals to turn those signals off. Part of it might just be because the world right now is crazy and it’s anxiety making. But part of it could also be physiological. You might be thinking, wow, I’m doing things to try to relax. And it is just really hard to slow down those thoughts. It might be that you need more minerals to be able to do that job. So, again, this is where nettle and seaweed really come into play. Dandelion leaf here. But there are two supplements that can also be very helpful that focus on magnesium in particular. And magnesium in particular is a mineral that is very absent in our foods these days, even if you are getting a lot of leafy green vegetables, simply because it’s not included in the fertilizer. So year after year of growing vegetables in the same dirt, all the magnesium is removed. And because we don’t put it back with the fertilizer, it means that spinach or kale today has less magnesium in it than it did 20, 30, 50 years ago. So, focusing a little bit on magnesium can be helpful. And especially because magnesium is so important in this function in the nervous system.

Ryn (00:54:16):
Yeah. Particularly for anxiety issues, insomnia, anything where you’ve got shaking or tremors. Magnesium is really strongly indicated there.

Katja (00:54:24):
Yes. So there’s two that we like a lot. One is a powder that you mix into water called Natural Calm, and it sort of tastes like Crystal Light, if you remember that.

New Speaker (00:54:34):
Yeah. It tastes good. I like it.

Katja (00:54:35):
Yeah. And especially if you’re giving it to children, it has a pretty good flavor. Incidentally, this is also very helpful for growing pains, which doesn’t have anything to do necessarily with emotional health. But just since I just mentioned children, it is very helpful for that as well. And so, because this one tastes good, it can be more appealing to kids or really anyone. And the other one that I like a lot is called Mega-mag. And it is a liquid. It comes in a little blue bottle with a white dropper top. And this one tastes much more like the ocean, but it also has a broader spectrum of minerals in it. So, I like it better if you can get past the flavor. You can add it to juice or something so that it doesn’t taste so much like the ocean if you want to. Both of these cost between 10 and $15, but they will last for at least a month. So it’s a little bit on the more expensive side, but it really can be helpful, and it will last for a while. So that’s good.

Systemic Inflammation: Reducing Sugar & Processed Foods and Adding Herbs & Veggies

Ryn (00:55:45):
Definitely. Yeah. All right. Another factor that can contribute to any kind of emotional health disruption is high levels of baseline inflammation or systemic inflammation in the body. There’s a lot of new information coming out lately around the connection between systemic inflammation and emotional health issues. Especially, they’ve been looking into a connection with depression there, but other kinds of conditions have been studied there as well. One of the fastest ways to reduce inflammation for people in our culture is to change what we eat. So reducing the amount of sugar in your diet, reducing the amount of processed, packaged, and restaurant foods that you consume. That can really make an enormous difference, but we want to be realistic here, right? And recognize that during a stressful time, during a period of depression, during a period of high anxiety, this isn’t gonna be easy to do. So the good news is that there are herbs that can help to reduce your inflammation and maybe make it easier for you to make those other shifts in diet or movement habits or whatever else.

Katja (00:56:51):
Yeah. Even if you even if you can only manage to reduce some of your sugar and some of your processed food intake, but then you add in herbs that are going to help reduce inflammation, then that will still give you a lot of improvement. And here we’re thinking about things like ginger and turmeric, cinnamon, tulsi, and actually, basically all vegetables.

Ryn (00:57:15):
Yeah. So, you know, finding ways to get more veggies into your life in whatever way that you enjoy them and are going to get them consistently, that goes a really long way. Ideally we’d be getting lots of different colors and flavors and that’s going to reflect varying kinds of plant chemistry that comes into us and supports our system. But really, start wherever you are, right? And don’t think that it all has to be, you know, fresh and fancy and foreign in order to be effective. A lot of people get that impression when it comes to veggies. But you can just get a bag of some frozen carrots and peas and cauliflower and stuff, and that counts as a veggie in your day. So, don’t forget that kind of thing.

Katja (00:58:00):
Even if the reality of your life right now is that there is no time for anything but take out food. If you just get some frozen vegetables and keep them in the freezer, it’s really fast to heat those up. And then you can just add them to whatever takeout you have. And instantly that meal is better than it was before. It doesn’t even matter if it’s french fries or if it’s, you know, like whatever fried thing. If you add vegetables to it, it is suddenly better for you than it was before. And that is a fast way that, even if your life is really busy, you can get more vegetables in. And it’s realistic, you know?

Ryn (00:58:46):
Yeah. And then while we’re at it, don’t forget spice it like you mean it, right? You know, you can get some spice mixes or blends that you enjoy. Or even if it’s just like, I really love powdered ginger and I want it on everything. I eat that way when I’m cooking, so that’s totally all right. But again, you can get a lot of benefit from those herbs in that format. Yeah.

Not Enough Friendly Gut Bacteria: Pre- and Pro- biotic Foods

Katja (00:59:07):
Now another area that has had a lot of scientific interest lately is the relationship between probiotics and mental health. So a lot of us have heard about probiotics in terms of antibiotics. So if you sick and you have to take antibiotics, then afterwards, maybe the doctor suggests that you take some probiotic supplement afterwards so that you have the right kind of bacteria in your guts to help you digest your food. When you don’t have enough of those helpful bacteria, the friendly bacteria, then that contributes to depression and anxiousness and a lot of other emotional health issues. And again, this is something that they’re just starting to discover really in like the last 10 years. And it’s becoming really fascinating to see the tie between these things. So you can take probiotic capsules, but here’s the thing: they’re usually pretty expensive and also they’re somewhat limited because not everything will survive being in a capsule. So, they’re limited in what they can put in. But you actually get more microbes in probiotic foods like fermented sauerkraut, not the kind that you buy in a can, but the kind in the refrigerator section, or kimchi, or, you know, pickled beets. Again, the kind in the refrigerator section. It has to be really fermented, not just made with vinegar and canned. But those foods have a much wider variety of microbes. And because they’re coming in on vegetables, they come with the fibers that those microbes need to eat so that they can stay healthy and alive inside your body.

Ryn (01:00:58):
Yeah. Plus any like them who already are living in your belly, you’re feeding them and supporting them too. So that’s always good. Yeah. And remember, you also want to think about the prebiotics, right? Those are those fibers. And so those fermented foods give you both the probiotic and the prebiotic. But also in the rest of your diet, whenever you’re getting some fibrous vegetables, leafy greens for instance, apples, things like that. That’s also getting you some nice prebiotic fibers. So that’s helpful.

Katja (01:01:22):
Yeah. Cabbage is a really good one here. And one of the easiest ways to get more cabbage into your life is coleslaw, if that appeals to you. Any of the different, there’s so many different types of coleslaw recipes. But it’s kind of a universally quick way to eat more cabbage. So that can be a good option.

Loaded Down with Stress & Anxiety: Sleep & Address Caffeine

Ryn (01:01:45):
Yeah. So like we said, making changes to diet can be powerful, but also difficult in the context of stress or emotional disruptions. And that also applies to some other fundamental, kind of common sense interventions, like trying to get good sleep, trying to reduce caffeine if you’re anxious, if you’re tense, if you have insomnia. Reducing media exposure. So, all of these things can really help, but they can also be difficult when things are bad. So we want to let the herbs help us to get a foothold there, and then we can build on that. So let’s just take a minute on each of those, right? We think about sleep issues. Well, sleep is where we process a lot of our emotional experiences and emotional currents that we’ve built up over the course of a day. So, you know, if you’re feeling, first of all, if you’re feeling like you want to sleep more, then if you have time to do it, then go do it. Just do that.

Katja (01:02:40):
Yeah. We sort of have this idea in our culture that if you want to sleep more, that’s bad. And actually that might just be your body saying, Hey, I need more sleep.

Ryn (01:02:50):
Yeah. There can come a point where it’s obvious that you’re sleeping way more than you actually need to, or that reflects some problem of accessing energy in your body, or something like that. Occasionally that happens. But for most of us, our expectations about how much sleep we should get or how much is too much are pretty skewed, you know? So eight or nine hours of sleep a night, 10 hours, 11 hours of sleep a night. That’s perfectly reasonable when you’re under a lot of stress of whatever kind. Try to like mentally convert all of your emotional and mental stress into a physical equivalent. And so if you have a day where you’re anxious, there’s a lot of stressors, there’s things that are making you worried, then imagine all of those are like you carrying a dozen boxes up and down three flights of stairs. Something like that, and say like, okay, yeah, that would make me want to sleep a lot.

Katja (01:03:41):
Yeah. Like you had an emotional workout. Yeah. Alright.

Ryn (01:03:48):
Oh. About herbs to help out with sleep. We had an episode about that not too long ago. So look back at that.

Katja (01:03:55):
So the flip side of getting enough sleep is caffeine, right? It is a reality for so many of us, because sometimes you just can’t get as much sleep as you need to. And also our culture doesn’t value sleep. We don’t give people enough time to sleep. And even when people say, well, I got enough sleep, culturally, what we usually mean by that is like seven hours. And a healthy human adult requires nine hours of sleep. That’s not actually negotiable. So, and you might actually need more than that. But because our culture doesn’t value sleep, we just keep like dialing back the amount of sleep that we culturally say is normal. But just because we’ve all decided that that’s normal does not mean that our bodies are going to go along with it. And so caffeine sometimes is a reality. But the truth about caffeine is that it also can really amp up anxiousness and anxiety. So, if you’re feeling those things, it is really good to be cognizant about how you are working with caffeine. Stopping caffeine too quickly can cause headaches for some people. So if you’re feeling anxiety and you think, well, I’d like to reduce my caffeine, then either step down slowly or swap out your coffee for green tea, which honestly I think is a great strategy all around. Maybe you need the caffeine. Maybe the reality of your life is that you’re not going to get through a day without some caffeine. But again, green tea is a little bit more gentle, a little easier on the body than coffee is. And you may find that you can make that switch. And that just making the switch to the green tea kind of caffeine, instead of the coffee kind, is enough to help dial back the anxiety a little bit, or the effect that the caffeine was having on your anxiety.

Needing a Break: Reducing Media Exposure, Meditation & Deep Breathing

Ryn (01:05:53):
Yeah. All right. And then we had mentioned media exposure and trying to limit that. So we can literally be getting addicted to Twitter, to Facebook even to news. Anything that triggers a strong emotional response, there’s a strong reaction on a chemical or on a neurotransmitter level there too. And that can be something that feeds on itself and that makes you want more and more of that same thing. So…

Katja (01:06:22):
And when that same thing is crazy making.

New Speaker (01:06:24):
Yeah. Right. And the world is so crazy right now, we often feel like we have to keep up with everything that’s happening, because you never know when it’s going to, you know, come your direction. But the thing is your brain has to process all of that information, and it’s hard to keep up with. It’s not really the kind of thing that we evolved to cope with. You know, it’s going to take a while before that catches up. So anything that you don’t process can just kind of bounce around inside your head contributing to anxiety. And so sometimes letting yourself turn away, get away, from media can be really, really helpful.

Katja (01:06:59):
Yeah. The thing here is that you can’t go from all media all the time to just silence, because that will drive you bananas. So, if you say, well, I think I want to take a vacation from the news for a week, just to let myself have a little time to kind of come down from the intensity, you’re still going to know what’s going on. Your friends are going to tell you. You’re going to hear about it at work. It’s, you know, like the stuff that’s happening in the world right now is bad, and also we know it. It’s still going to be there next week. So, in one sense, it’s okay to tell yourself like, it’s okay for me to take a week off. If something super important happens, my friends will tell me. But when you try to do that, that gap is like withdrawal, and that will suck you back in. So, I find that it is so much easier if you find a healthier kind of media to fill that gap. And for me that often is an audio book that I’m really excited about. Or, you know, some other thing, maybe reading a book on paper is enough stimulation for you. Sometimes for me, I kind of need to hear it too, to get that same feeling, but a book that is uplifting. I read Michelle Obama’s book and it was beautiful and it really made me feel so much more positive and, you know, whatever. Whatever kind of book it is for you that gives you that feeling of positivity. Or even if it’s hard for you to disconnect, then an audio book that is relevant to the stuff that you’re interested in, but it’s like slow media that way.

Ryn (01:08:53):
Yeah. More of a deep dive into a, you know, defined topic, rather than like, I don’t know, just like what’s the million different things that are streaming across my screen. And I’m trying to keep track of all of them simultaneously, you know. Like that’s a much different mental experience.

Katja (01:09:09):
I actually, yesterday, saw that Lawrence Fishburne is narrating the autobiography of Malcolm X. And so if you’re feeling like you can’t step back from the news, but you also need a break, then something like that could be a really excellent way to let yourself say I’m still involved in this, but I’m going to do it long and slow for a week or two. And that way you’re staying true to who you are and your need to be connected to the things that are going on, but you’re also doing some stuff that you need to do to keep your brain healthy.

Ryn (01:09:53):
Yeah. And then, you know, even though this might sound a little annoying if you’ve heard this advice too many times: deep breathing and meditation. They can be really helpful for a lot of people. So, you know, there are meditation apps for your phone, meditation videos on YouTube, guided deep breathing exercise, recordings or instructions or things like that. You don’t have to just sit still in a room by yourself staring at a blank wall to meditate. There’s lots of different ways to do it. So, I think it’s good to explore and to try a bunch of different styles from a bunch of different traditions or practitioners just to see what really works for you, to kind of like sample a bit.

Katja (01:10:43):
Yeah. I mean, and sometimes the best kind of meditation is just looking at clouds and trying to see what animal shapes do you see in the clouds. The purpose of meditation is not so many of the things that we think it is. It is literally just to give your mind a break. And there are many ways to get there. And if your way of getting there is to see a ladybug in the clouds today, then you win. You did it. That is meditation.

New Speaker (01:11:11):
Yeah. That counts. And if meditation isn’t your thing so much, then just some deep breathing can really help. Every time you take a deep breath, your diaphragm is expanding. It’s actually massaging your liver and taking care of that important organ. There’s some big benefits on your vagus nerve, too. The vagus nerve kind of connects all your organs, and plays a big role in your ability to get out of that stress response, get out of that fight or flight state of being. So yeah, deep breathing. It sounds like Ahh, come on, how could that possibly help? I find the biggest struggle is like remembering to do it, or like getting agitated and then like, okay, I need to pause. I need to stop. I need to breathe deep. Those moments when it’s hardest are the times when it’s going to be most helpful. So building it as a habit is the way to get it accessible to you in those difficult moments. Practicing it when you are calm, when you are settled. You know, a few times a day, if you take a few minutes before you’re going to have a meal and do some deep breathing, you know, then that starts to become a habit. It becomes a skill. And then eventually you’ll be able to call on that when you need it most.

Katja (01:12:21):
You know, I think about a lot of different traditions that have things based on time. I’m thinking about the tradition of prayer in Islam. And in Buddhist traditions there, that too, like prayers that happen at certain times. Actually, even in older forms of Catholicism, there are prayers at certain times of the day or certain times of the week.

New Speaker (01:12:46):
Matins and vespers and all that.

New Speaker (01:12:47):
Yeah, exactly. And again, like any time that we see something repeated through many cultures and across time, that’s something to pay attention to. And I think that all of those traditions are pointing towards the need in humans to have regular breaks, even if they’re short breaks. Just a regular break to like disconnect to whatever it was that you were doing and just find your center, find your focus, whether that is a spiritual focus or whether that is just a little bit of time to breathe and to feel grounded. But if you don’t have a religious tradition or a spiritual tradition that provides that kind of a, like, multiple times a day, like mini retreat just for a little bit, there’s no reason that you can’t invent one for yourself. And just decide that at certain times through the day you can set an alarm on your phone and that this is your time to feel grounded. And to just take a few minutes to separate yourself from the swirl that’s around you.

Ryn (01:14:02):
Yeah. That’s what I think. Yeah. So again, all of these things can help. The herbs that we’ve been talking, these interventions, these habit changes and so on, all of them may help for these kinds of problems. And if you found yourself kind of nodding along to everything, being like, yep, that sounds like me. I feel that way sometimes. I’ve felt like that too. Then that’s okay. That’s fine. Do all of them. Try all of them or find whatever one is most interesting to you or that’s the most appealing or the easiest, the most accessible for you right now. You don’t have to find the one right thing. Think of all of these as emotional health supports the same way you would think of vegetables to support general health, right? You need to get some veggies every day. And it’s good if you get different ones frequently, so you get a full spectrum of actions. But you’re going to have your favorites. You’re going to have the ones that feel the best in your own body.

Build Up Your Emotional Support Reserves

Katja (01:14:56):
Yeah. Herbs are emotional support in just the same way. You can think about like, Oh, well broccoli has these things that are good for my body and beets have those things that are good for my body. Well, herbs do too, right? You can think about that like, well, you probably have some tension and some inflammation and also some mineral deficiency. And also like whatever you’re feeling, anxiety or depression or any of those things, it’s not because of one thing. So working with a bunch of different strategies, maybe a few different ones every day, and you switch it up here and there. What you’re doing is building yourself up over time in multiple areas. You know, you are building up your mineral reserves so that the nerve cells themselves can work better. And you’re building up your sort of relaxation supply every time you take in the ginger or the chamomile or whatever it is that you are able to relax the body a little bit more, a little bit more. And all these different things that you take in, they’re all going to help. And none of them are necessarily going to fix all of the problems. If there was an herb that would fix all of the problems and make people be kind to one another…

New Speaker (01:16:16):
Then we would run it to extinction.

Katja (01:16:19):
Well, that’s probably true.

Ryn (01:16:21):
Sorry to be a little depressive there.

Katja (01:16:26):
But like one thing doesn’t have to solve all the problems. It’s okay if many things solve a little bit of the problem, and we just add them all together.

Ryn (01:16:38):
Yeah. So, yeah, let that play out over time and explore a lot of different herbs, a lot of different interventions. And then you’ll find the ones that work the best and feel the best, and that you want to keep on with. That’s how that goes. It’s a lifelong learning. All right. So we’re going to be back next week with another accessible herbalism pod. We’re going to talk about respiratory crud. That should be fun.

Katja (01:17:02):
That’s the official term. Yes. And that will be the final installment of the series. So that is very exciting. And then we will package it all up with its printable guide. And that will be where you can find it at commonwealthherbs.com/mutualaid. Yeah, it’s very exciting.

Ryn (01:17:26):
That’s what. All right. Well, thanks for being here with us and we’ll see you all again. Next time.

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