Podcast 146: Herbs Help Us Feel Our Way Through Difficult Times
It has been a rough few… weeks? Years? Well, a while, anyway! In the last month more than ever, people have been asking us how to get some space, how to find ways to feel grounded, how to find some calm. So we thought, maybe it would be good to share the things that we are doing to get through the days.
Being an herbalist doesn’t mean you never get sick, and it doesn’t mean you never have emotional issues either – emotional exhaustion, despair, uncertainty, panic sometimes – all the things we’re all feeling lately. Herbalists catch colds and turn ankles just like anyone else, and the same is true with emotional health troubles. Sure, we have all these herbs and we work with them every da -, but sometimes we also just want to hide under a giant pile of blankets and pretend the world isn’t out there. So if you’ve been feeling that way, you’re not alone.
In this episode we offer up some of our favorite comforts and soothing strategies – things we turn to again and again when we need them. Whether it’s herbs to protect the heart and give it a safe space to be tender, embodiment medicine to get out of our heads and into our hearts, or relaxants to let the tension go, we’re sure that some of the things that help us will help you, too! And not “just” herbs, either: as you listen you’ll hear that community and social support are also very important during difficult periods, and we’ve got lots of ideas about how to cultivate those for yourself (even during lockdowns).
Mentioned in this episode:
- Apotheker’s Kitchen – amazing honey-sweetened chocolates, hot cocoa, & marshmallows!
Not sure where to start? We love to organize our thoughts about all things herbal & healthwise into the “four pillars” of good health: food, sleep, movement, and stress management. Our free course, Four Keys to Holistic Herbalism, explains this approach and also shares our best tips for starting your herbal journey. Check it out – for free! – right here:
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.
Hi, I’m Katja.
And I’m Ryn.
And we’re here at the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.
And on the internet everywhere thanks to the power of podcast in 2021.
Well today’s episode is about things we like, because it has been a rough few weeks, few years. I don’t know. It seems like in the last month especially, people ask us all the time like how should I feel better or whatever. But really in the last month, I think more than ever before, people are asking, how do I deal with everything that’s going on? How do I get some space? What herbs can help me feel grounded? You know? Like where can I find some calm.
Right. Yeah. Lots of questions along those lines. So, you know, for today we thought maybe it would be good to share with you all the things that we’ve been doing to get through our days lately. And some of these are perennial favorites. And others are like, oh, recently right now this particular herb has really been doing it for me. So, before we jump into that we just want to give our reclaimer and remind you that we’re not doctors. We’re herbalists and holistic health educators.
The ideas discussed in this podcast do not constitute medical advice, no state or federal authority licenses herbalists in the United States. So these discussions are for educational purposes only. Everybody’s body is different. So the things that we’re talking about may or may not apply directly to you, but we hope that they’ll give you some good information to think about and to research further.
Yeah. And we just want to remind you that good health is both your own right and your own personal responsibility. And that means that the final decision when you’re considering any course of therapy, whether it’s something discussed on the internet or something prescribed by a physician, that choice is always yours.
Well, so you know, when you’re an herbalist it doesn’t mean that you never get sick and it doesn’t mean that you never have emotional issues either, right? Like emotional exhaustion and despair and uncertainty, and even sometimes panic, these are all the things that everybody is feeling in these times. So, just because we’re herbalists or just because you’re an herbalist, that doesn’t mean that magically you’re never going to have those feelings.
Right. And you could say this about a lot of practices or arts. You can be a meditation teacher, you can be whatever it is. And none of that’s a guarantee that you don’t be perturbed.
Actually, there can be no guarantee that you won’t be perturbed. It is the state of humans to feel things, and some of those things are negative. Sometimes people get really surprised when Ryn or I get a cold or whatever. They’re like, well, you’re an herbalist, so why are you sick?
Yeah. Sort of like the physical reflection of that same thing.
Yeah. But it’s like, you know, we’re just like everybody else. We too are susceptible to germs. And also sometimes we don’t get enough sleep or sometimes we eat too much sugar or sometimes we’re just…
Or do both at the same time.
Or we’re just too busy to take care of ourselves. Well, all of this stuff happens to everyone. And so whether you’re an herbalist or whether you’re not, or whether you’re a medical doctor you still get sick. And this is true with emotional health as well. We have all these herbs and we work with them every day. But sometimes we just want to hide under a giant pile of blankets and pretend that the world isn’t out there, and that’s like inherent to being human.
I mean sometimes the dog wants to do that too. So…
Yeah. It doesn’t mean you’re not a good herbalist if you’re out there feeling like that.
Yeah. We’ve been feeling that way too. That’s really important to lead with as kind of a preface to what we want to talk about today. Because what we don’t want the message of this podcast to be would be something like here’s a list of things. And then just go do them with all your might. And click your heels three times and believe. Then you’ll never feel sad again. You’ll be instantly released from all of your discomfort and your unpleasant feelings, and they won’t chase you around anymore.
That would be nice, I suppose, in some way. But that’s not what’s going on.
Yeah. You know, and I think that there are so many, like in the whole wellness world right now or whatever, there are so many messages like that. Like just do what I tell you and you’ll be fine. You’ll always feel youthful and beautiful.
One simple trick to live forever. Yeah.
Yeah. There are none of those. There are none of those. So, that’s not that’s not what we’re saying here. But instead we just want to offer up some of our favorite comforts and some of our favorite strategies and things that we turn to again and again, or even like new things that we’ve had to make up recently, because stuff is just very, very crazy.
Yeah, and also because you needs change through time. They change as your health changes, as you age, as your social environment shifts, you know? So, in this, just as in every other aspect of health maintenance and vitality, the herbs that are best for you and most helpful for you, they’re going to change over life. So, be comfortable with that.
Right. Hold on. I want to back up a second, because I said that things are very, very crazy right now. And what I actually meant was that things are very bonkers right now. Things are completely you know, in ways that we haven’t experienced or in ways that many of us haven’t experienced. And I’ve been trying to work on the word crazy and to use more accurate speech instead of just letting crazy fill in for everything.
Yeah. To take that out, recognizing that there’s stigma attached, so.
Anyway yes. So, these are some strategies that we are really, really appreciating right now.
Yeah. You know, humans get overwhelmed. We get depressed. We get exhausted. We get afraid. Again, there’s nobody alive impervious to these things. I was saying earlier, like even your meditation teacher, your whoever. And if you are practicing a lot, you know, maybe you learn to feel more calm as you move through the emotions. But that doesn’t mean they’re not there. Right? They are there. They’re there for everybody. So, yeah, let’s share some stuff that we turn to when these emotions get hold of us. And maybe some of the things that help us will also help you or give you some ideas for other things that might help you.
Any Effing Herb
Well, the first thing in our list that I sort of hastily scrawled down is any effing herb, which right now is really true. Like a lot of days I feel… So I guess maybe to kind of, if you don’t… You might already know this about us, but you might not. We don’t really work with recipes. We custom formulate almost everything. There’s a couple of blends that we do turn to again and again, although we always modify them for the moment. But we blend in the moment, whether we’re blending something for a client or for ourselves or for a class or whatever, because we are always trying to be specific about the situation that we’re working with and the particular person that we’re working with. So. We want to really match herbs up to the specific person and then the specific situation. And I think that is the best way to practice. But also what that means is that we don’t actually have like jars full of Tuesday blend and like, whatever.
Yeah. I’ve done that sometimes. Like there was a while I was drinking a tea called Everyday Yeah. You can check out I’ve got a formula and a description of that in a blog post on the website. But that was unusual to be like this is my literal everyday tea. I’m going to stick with this for a month or two.
You did. It was kind of like a phase. I don’t know that word sometimes sounds negative, but I don’t mean it negative. But it was like, you know, you went through maybe even a season where you really leaned heavily on that blend.
Yeah. I had some particular goals at the time and they were helping me get there. And that can be important when you’re trying to solve a specific problem. You know, so lately I’ve had a lot of client consultations with people who are also students. And I love that, because they know some stuff about herbs, and we can kind of talk on a somewhat different level than someone who’s brand new. But in a lot of those client sessions the work that I’ve been doing has been to winnow down and prioritize. And say, all right. Have lots of herbs in your life, but make sure you get this formula or this set of herbs every single day at an amount that’s really going to do the work. So sometimes that is necessary. But other times any effing herb is going to do it.
Right. So, to sort of get to it, like, that’s our background. So normally we’re like, okay, I’m going to make the tea for today. What’s going on with our bodies and our health and our emotional state today. And then I’ll blend something specific for that. And lately I have sort of just stumbled to the apothecary and put plants in a pot. And, like, that’s our tea for the day. Or we have a big shelf of all of our tinctures. And there are days that I’m not even looking at the labels. I am literally just picking up a tincture and sort of on that idea that like, just get a plant in me. I don’t even know what I need right now. I can’t sit and think about what I need right now. So instead of not addressing the need, I’m going to… If you can’t think about what you need right now, you have choices. You could say, all right, I can’t think about it. So I will do nothing to give myself what I need. And instead what I said was, I’ll just do something. Like, I won’t think about it. I will just do something. So that is the any effing herb. Just pick up a tincture and take it.
Yeah. And, you know, from one perspective, what’s quote unquote really going on here is that your intuition is stepping in to fill the role of the intellect, right? So, and that’s not entirely random, which jars you reach for, and which tincture you grab, and so on.
Right? Some of it is, you know, our tinctures are kind of roughly alphabetically organized. And some of it is that the patterns that I have made over time. Like often if I don’t feel very good in both my gut part of me and also my head part of me, I’m reaching for the ginger-chamomile tincture. And so that’s a pattern that I’ve developed over time. And then when I don’t know what to do, and I’m just standing in front of the shelf. And I’m just like just pick something up. Well, I’ve already kind of programmed myself in certain directions. And that knowledge doesn’t go away. Even if I can’t consciously access it, there is a part of my body who knows how I feel, and who is like directing my hand. And you know, we always like to talk about intuition as like muscle memory in your brain.
It’s like trained instinct.
Yeah. It isn’t just like I will trust the universe to just put the right thing in my hand in this moment. That also might work. But this is more in terms of like, I will trust in my relationship to catch me when I can’t hold myself.
Yeah. I’m feeling that way a lot for sure.
So, that a lot. Like even trying three or four times a day, just to try to as soon as I recognize that I feel bad, to just take an herb. And not to worry too much about which herb it is. Just take an herb.
Catnip Honey & Yarrow
Right. Yeah. Cool. So then let’s maybe talk about some specific herbs that we’ve been drawn to frequently recently. Yeah. I guess I can start for me, when I was thinking about this earlier today, I just kept coming back to this jar of catnip honey that we have in the kitchen. Because I don’t know. I think this must have started like two weeks ago, maybe not even that long. But I was like, I need to put honey in all my tea now. And I really want it to be that catnip honey pretty much most of the time. So, we grew some catnip in the garden this year, and we harvested some fresh. And cleaned it up a little and then just poured honey on. And infused it in there, and let it sit for a while and strain it out. And now we have this lovely little jar of catnip honey. And it’s just wonderful. It’s soothing. It’s calming. It has all the catnip scent and the goodness that I associate with that flavor and that smell. And it’s just a little sweeter right now. And I’ve been really feeling soothed by that flavor.
I think that is like, I share that. I don’t know. It’s like the end of December when I was like, I can’t deal with our kitchen counters anymore. We have a tiny, tiny kitchen. And so we have tiny amount of counter space. And we’ve been trying to like…
And there were like 14 jars of herbs infusing themselves into honey that had been kind of waiting.
But then you cleaned them all up and now they’re just right there.
I cleaned everything up and pressed everything out. I organized, and I like made a little shelf so that there can be two layers, like two rows of herbal honey.
And you made sure that we can see all of them.
See all the labels. Yeah. And so I just call it the honey bar. And it was not conscious exactly of like, the thing that will help me right now is herbal infused honeys. It was just like, this needs a resolution now, because I can’t work this way. You know, like, I don’t know. Like the end result that I wanted was honey with herbs in it needs to be accessible.
Yeah. You know, I’m kind of realizing in this moment, I think one of the things that actually got me started on putting honey into my tea. Because I literally, like, I don’t think I put honey in my tea, like one out of a hundred times that I make a cup.
I never ever do. I never do. I only put the honey in the fizzy water and then pretend like it’s soda.
But recently when I’ve been making tea blends for myself, I’ve been wanting to actually put some astringent herbs in. And if you’ve listened to our pod before, then you might know that I don’t always really love astringent plants. But I think a lot of it’s because I want to drink yarrow lately. Yeah. So, you know, yarrow it’s an herb. It has an astringent quality to it. It’s a drying herb. But it is an herb that really does help with feeling a little safer, feeling a little more protected. Or kind of most accurately it’s like it gives you a thicker skin or a little bit of armor. And so, you know, in times or places when you’re feeling extra vulnerable or exposed, yarrow can be really helpful on that kind of mental/emotional level. So I’ve been making tea blends. And kind of my standard favorites, you know, catnip tea and ginger and goji berry and a few different things. But I’m like, Oh yes, and some yarrow. And maybe a little more yarrow. And then I go to sip it. And I can remember a few weeks ago now that I think about it, like, hmm, yeah, this is great. But this is going to dry me out. Ohm wait. I could put honey in it, and balance that. Because honey has got a moistening quality, you know, energetically. So…
Yeah. And it was right about when the honey became visible and accessible on the counter.
Yes. Yes. It all kind of came together that way. So yeah. Yarrow tea, catnip honey. Those have been real features for me lately.
Evergreens & Mugwort
For me I have been turning a lot to the evergreens. So, for us that is pine and cedar and juniper and mugwort, even though
Mugwort’s not exactly evergreen, but like the flavor profile, the scent…it’s close to that in some way.
It is. They’re definitely like some crazy kind of cousins. Some like, yeah. And, so yeah, so we’re just going to put mugwort into that category. But I’ve been like really craving it. And so almost every day, not every day, but almost every day those start off the tea blends. And some days I don’t even remember what went in to the teapot. We have a big tall air pot, like a three liter air pot. And we just pour a ton of herbs in and then pour in the hot water. And then you can just push the spout at the top, and hot tea comes out all day. And sometimes by the time I’m putting the last herb in, I really can’t remember what I started with. But lately there’s been a lot of like, well put in the mugwort and the pine and then just start putting other things in. Or put in the mugwort and the juniper and then just put other stuff in there. So, that has been a sort of like anchor for a lot of my unknown formulas over the past months. And I, you know, in some ways I think it is… We do have like a really strong relationship with pine in particular and with mugwort too and with juniper actually. But I’m sort of thinking in particular about pine. Just so stalwart and pine can see up over things. And evergreens in general, you know, they’re not fleeting. They have been around for a while. And in the part of New England that we live in, there are some pretty big pine trees, you know, that have been here for a hundred years or for however many, you know, more than that. And there’s something grounding about working with a plant, or a tree, who is not like refreshing Twitter every 30 seconds. Like the very opposite of that, the very wide, long view.
Yeah. Plants have some patience.
Yeah. And I guess like, I don’t know. Mugwort maybe doesn’t fall into that category, because it’s an annual. But on the same or on the other hand or I don’t know some hand, it almost is. Mugwort reseeds itself super easily every year. And you know, I can think about places we walk in Boston, and there’s like those cutouts in the sidewalk with the tree, so that a tree can grow. And the same ones always have mugwort every year. Like, yes, there’s some moving around. But it’s like, there are certain ones where there will always be mugwort in this particular sidewalk square that has a tree in it, you know? And so even though it’s successive generations of this plant, it still feels like it has that longevity to it. And I think there is comfort in longevity right now. Like comfort in, oh, you are bigger than the present moment.
Kava & Calling on Benefactors
Yeah. Let’s see. You know, speaking of present moments, one that I’ve been calling on a lot is kava. That’s pretty consistent for me. Kava is not an herb I’ll take every day. But it is an herb that I’ll take for periods of time when things are extra stressful or difficult. And especially if I check in with my body and notice that I am carrying excess tension, you know, like in the jaw and the neck, lower back, for me sometimes in the wrists or the hands. That for me shows up more like shakiness rather than like just things being curled inwards. But still it’s a tension pattern. So yeah. Kava has been important. Something I’ve noticed over the last week though is that there’s like four or five times where I’ve been like, oh, I’m stressed out. I need some kava. And I didn’t actually go up and get it. I was just sort of thinking about kava for a while and like remembering the flavor of it and kind of feeling that internally. And that’s still helped. So it probably would have been better for me to get up off of whatever I was sitting on and go over there and actually grab it. But when you have a long-term relationship with a plant, that kind of thing will start to happen. So, maybe that’s happened for y’all listeners already. And if not, then don’t be surprised if that does sometime down the line, when you get to really know an herb and you sort of call on it. And people talk about this in different ways. Some folks say you’re like calling on the plant spirit or calling on that imprint. But however it happens, there is some real soothing to be gotten in that way. To like say, oh, I remember my friend.
This morning we were doing a meditation with a sangha group, a Buddhist group. And one of the portions of it was about calling on benefactors. And that’s a very traditional Buddhist practice. But there was a kind of a spin on it here, which was, you know, think of somebody who’s been comforting to you in your life. And the person was saying that can be a person. It can be a friend. It could be a pet. We would probably want to add that it could also be a plant, you know. When you’ve gotten that kind of relief from a plant, when you felt that kind of comfort from working with kava or some other herbs that brings that to you, that is something that you can access pretty much at any time if you can pause and slow down and conjure it up. And the teacher there was also saying to try to imagine this not just as a memory, but as like a living presence. And it’s the same way with plants, you know? For me just like the name of kava isn’t quite going to do it. But if I kind of like tell my tongue to remember the flavor, and try to like conjure that in this moment. And you know, like, oh yeah, I know that numbs a little and it kind of tingles and it’s a little warm and then it moves down your throat like this. And then like, okay, now it’s sort of starting to happen. This is kind of bound up in the placebo effect. This is bound up in mind over matter or whatever you want to call it.
Okay. It might be. But on the other hand, the flavor of plants, like I’m thinking about especially something like kava where it has a really strong flavor, or any of the bitter herbs, right? Like when you taste that bitterness on your tongue, first off interpreting that bitterness. It is the interpretation of that bitterness by your brain that then turns on all of your digestive juice flow and turns on your whole digestive cascade. And you’re getting the message from the bitter thing to tell your body we’re going to need to digest some stuff. So, we better get ready. And just like pain isn’t pain until your brain interprets it as pain. The same thing. If you are going through the mental interpretation of the bitter flavor, then you have still provided that cue for now your brain to turn on all of that cascade. And so to me it almost feels like you are cueing your body. Like, oh, these are the things we do when we taste this flavor. I guess I should do those things, you know? And I think it’s, you know, like you’re going to see a dear friend. And you’re like, oh, these are the things we do. When I see my dear friend. We hug and we smile and we share what’s been going on with us lately. And we drink some hot cocoa or we, you know, whatever. And we always feel so good. And so then you start to look forward to it. And you start to preemptively feel good, because you are in that expectant state of going to be in the presence of this person who makes you feel good. And so I think it is those…I mean, I guess maybe that is part of what the placebo effect is. But I sort of just feel like when we say placebo effect I think that it’s very easy to interpret that as, oh, it’s not real.
Yeah, no, I would never mean that.
Yeah, you would not mean that. That’s true. You would not mean that.
The clarification is important. True. Yeah.
But it’s more like auto… whatever that kickoff is to start the process of whatever it is that the thing makes you feel, but that we’re able to self do that, to like self start that process. Yeah.
Yeah. Well, you know, you mentioned a couple of things there. You mentioned bitters, you mentioned hot cocoa.
Calamus & Hot Cocoa
Yeah. Well, those are two things that have been big for me. One is calamus. I’m not a huge fan of kava. Some of you out there are laughing right now, because you’ve heard me say that a few times before. But I really do love calamus. And calamus helps the body to shift from the sympathetic nervous system into the parasympathetic nervous system. It helps relax the vagus nerve. It helps switch us over into that sort of rest and digest kind of state. And I didn’t really realize it until I had to. We keep a bottle of calamus on a table where we eat food, because that way we don’t forget to take bitters before we eat.
Pro tip. Definitely do that.
Yeah. You still do need some kind of presence, because sometimes we’re staring at the bottle. And we’re just like, just feed me the food. And then we’re like, wait, wait, wait, I didn’t take that yet. But whatever. It’s like a hundred times more likely to get into your mouth if you actually put it in the place where you’re eating the food. So, that’s where one bottle of calamus is. There’s other bottles in other places of the house. But it’s a big bottle. And then I realized, I just filled this and it’s empty. And so I filled it again. And then like a week and a half later, I was like, I have to fill this. What is going on? And I was like, I am really working with calamus a lot. And it wasn’t until I realized that I just kept refilling the bottle that I was like, what’s going on? Like, oh, I must be really needing that assistance in coming out of that fight or fight place – fight or flight, whatever, the threat perception place – because I am just over and over again turning to this herb who is helping me to do that.
And yeah, the other thing, hot cocoa. So, around the holidays, like the whole month of December, I was sharing different herbal gifty kind of things in our newsletter. And if you are not on our newsletter, you can do that at our website, commonwealthherbs.com. I send emails almost every week, and I think they’re pretty fun. But anyway, in the month of December I was sharing all these different ways that you can make gifts that are meaningful and delicious and delightful. And one of them was this whole series of hot cocoa recipe suggestions. And that just got me into a total hot cocoa phase. It was almost like I kind of forgot it, but like herbal hot cocoa. So, the one I happened to be drinking right now, right this very minute is half tea, and I’ll get to that. And the other half is almond milk and then a scoop of cocoa mix from our friends, the Apothekers. And also they make honey sweetened marshmallows with real marshmallow root in them. And so there was one of those in there too.
Yeah, we’ll get that link in your show notes. Don’t worry.
Yeah. So the tea blend was just the tea that I made for today, which I do know what it is. Because I wanted to put it on Instagram. So I did take a picture of it as I was making it so that I would know for sure that I could report what was in it. So let me tell you.
Yeah, this is a tasty tea today. I like it a lot.
I’m pretty excited about it. It is sage and tulsi and catnip, a lot of catnip, and a whole bunch of juniper and a lot of mugwort and not very much orange peel. And that tea is half of my herbal hot cocoa right now. And I gotta tell y’all. This is wicked good. It’s so good.
Yeah. And that’s a good way to get your herbs into your cocoa. Like other ways you could do it were to like have some herbal powder mixed with the cocoa powder and put that in. That’s pretty fine. But this way is quite excellent.
Yeah, this is my favorite way. Also because I’m a person who doesn’t like anything gritty. So, I’m not a huge fan of putting powdered herbs in, because they don’t fully dissolve.
Yeah. I mean, with the cocoa powder that you use for hot cocoa, it’s like pulverized so small that it will dissolve or like suspend even more or less, you know? But other herbal powders, they’re going to sink.
Right. And then you end up with that sludge at the bottom, which is not unappealing to some people. But to me, I like it better to be like a smooth experience.
Yeah. When I have one like that, I kind of just keep stirring it as I sip. So there’s always a little bit of grit coming in, but not a big slug at the bottom.
Yeah. Anyway, I have tried hot cocoa with basically every tea that I’ve made over the past month. I don’t even. Like none of them have not been good. Wait. None of them have been bad is what I’m trying to say. So yeah. It’s great with hawthorn. It’s good with reishi. It’s good with like everything in between. Tulsi and hot cocoa is fantastic. Rose, oh my goodness, rose. I’ve put blue vervain in the hot cocoa. And all of it’s good. If you’re a mint person, then put all the mint in there. And that’s good too.
Ingesting Sunshine, Incense, & Cut Flowers
You’ve definitely been on an orange peel kick for a minute. And I feel like some of that’s related here too. You know, orange peel, citrus peel, it has such a bright flavor. It is something that in the winter time, it’s like you see the orange just like in your French press or whatever you make your tea in. And you taste that kind of like bright citrusy sour flavor. And it’s like, oh, I’ve transported some summer into my tea cup.
Listen. That is real, right? So when you eat a vegetable or fruit or whatever, what you are eating is the plant body that was created out of its environment. So that plant built itself out of the minerals in the soil, out of the water, out of the sun, out of all these things. And now you consume it. And that plant built itself partially out of vitamin C. And it built itself partially out of magnesium. And it built itself. And now you’re going to consume those things. And I just don’t think that we consume the magnesium and the vitamin C but not the sunlight. Like plant bodies are also made of sunlight.
Energy transforms into matter. You ingest it into your body and turn it into energy again.
Right. And so, especially with something like orange peels, it’s like almost emblematic of sunshine, because obviously all plants are made of sunshine. But orange peel in particular, it’s just like not only is it made of sunshine, but also it is…
It comes in a little bright orange sphere.
It is like the microcosm of the sun right there. Yeah. So I guess that’s why I’ve been so…
That has been good. And you know, that also makes me think of dandelion flower. You know, this time of year, kind of mid-January on through February is when I drain all of our dandelion flower tincture. Just because dandelion flower has this uplifting, again, sunny kind of quality to it. And I really do want to call on that in this kind of gray doldrums time of the seasons.
Yeah. As if just the gray doldrums weren’t enough, there’s the extra bonus everything as well. Yeah. Like, I mean, that happens every year at this time of year with the dandelion flower for you. But it’s just heavier this year.
Yeah. You know, another thing that I really noticed, especially this morning because lady bird tends to wake up much earlier than I do.
The early bird gets the first pot of tea.
Yeah, that’s right. But today I woke up and came out of the bedroom. And I was struck with delight, because you’d been burning tulsi incense in the house. And that was wonderful. And that’s been wonderful pretty often lately just to have that.
Yeah. I really, really love incense. And lately it has pretty much been exclusively tulsi and ashwagandha incense, just alternating every day. And it’s so helpful. It’s just when something smells good, you know, it’s like…
It’s aromatherapy, right? It’s getting into those olfactory centers in the brain, that really old part of your lizard brain that says, oh, must respond to this scent in this way.
Yeah. Oh, something nice, you know? Like there’s so much not nice flying around right now. And like, oh, something nice is coming in. It is a very pleasant scent, and I appreciate it, you know?
Yeah. And look, that is a way to convey a lot of the medicine from tulsi. So much of tulsi’s medicinal effects are bound up in the aromatics, you know. They’re in those scent compounds. So you make tea. You smell it. You drink those in. But you burn incense, you smell it. You breathe them right into you. They’re going to exert the same kinds of effects on your system as a whole. So, yeah.
Similarly we’ve had flowers on the table. Which, you know, I grew up that flowers were an extravagance, and we don’t do that. And maybe at a holiday and certainly for mother’s day, but other than that, that’s money you don’t need to spend.
Yeah. And you know, when we’re outside a lot in the green seasons and gathering herbs and this and that, then we’ll bring some flowers home and some wild flowers and have those there.
Or even just we’re outside so much that like, that’s also great.
Just around flowers a lot.
Just around them all. But lately I’ve definitely, and I mean just grocery store flowers. Like whatever was on sale. And just been like, actually Katja, it’s okay to have flowers today. Like it’s all right. And I’ve been trying to get the ones that last the longest and whatever.
Yeah, we take care of them. We appreciate them while they’re there with us.
Therapeutic Interruptions, Walks, & Music
Actually, that was great this morning. They needed to have all their stems trimmed. They last longer if every couple of days, or every like maybe four or five days, you trim the stems so that you trim off the part that got mushy. And you’re too a fresh part of the stem, so it can suck up water better. And so this morning it was quiet, and I was like, well, I guess should check the news. And I started to do that. And then I was like, this feels bad. And then I sort of looked up and I was like, the flowers need to be trimmed. And so I just got up and trimmed the flowers instead, and gave them fresh water and whatever. And I’ve noticed that a bunch of times. I’ll start to check the news and I’ll be like, this doesn’t feel good. This is hurting me. And I don’t mean we should be irresponsible and not know what’s happening. But just like, I don’t need to check it like 52 times a day. So, then I look up and I’m like, oh, the plants need to be watered. Just get up and water the plants. Do that.
Yeah. For me, that’s been when Elsie comes and kind of bumps on my leg or like looks up at me and says, I’m bored, come play with me. And I’m like, you’re right. Let’s go walk around the house a few times. Let’s throw the frisbee. I should sprint for a little while. You know, I would feel better too. And so trying to allow those, I guess, interruptions to be a good thing.
Therapeutic interruption. Yeah. And especially when it’s like, I should be working. It isn’t time to walk the dog. Like maybe right now yes, there’s work to do. But maybe also it’s fine to take 10 minutes to go play with the dog, you know.
Right. Especially when you’re like sitting there staring at an email, trying to figure out how to say what you need to say. And you’ve been there for five minutes and haven’t really gotten anywhere. It’s like the best time to go away, walk around, stretch, breathe, look at trees, chase a dog. But, yeah. And then you come back and you’re like, all right, I got this.
I take Elsie for her like first walk in the morning. And usually we just walk on the sidewalk around the house, like near our house. And I try to walk for at least a mile because that’s good for Elsie and it’s good for me. But lately my typical habit is to do that with headphones. And then lately I realized that like my nerves were frazzled enough that the traffic…. I’m walking on the sidewalk and cars are going by, and that that was unsettling. And it took me a while to realize that my walk is a little unsettling, and part of it is the traffic. And so I started taking an extra couple minutes to drive up the hill to a park. I could walk there, but then it would be like a three or four mile walk. And that would be good for me and good for Elsie, but not good for my productivity at work. So my compromise is, even though it’s dumb, I will drive the three minutes. Drive the mile and a half to the park. And then do the walk in the park where there are trees and birds and squirrels and not cars. And normally that’s not a choice I would make. Normally I would be like, if you’re going to the park, then you walk. You don’t drive there. But lately I was just realizing that I need to not have traffic whizzing past me all the time. And then I got there the first time I thought I would try this, and I was like, I can’t listen to a podcast in the park. Like that’s not going to work out. There’s too many birds and squirrels, and I need to hear what they’re saying. And ever since I started doing that, I have not listened to anything on my walks with Elsie. And that has been tremendously therapeutic. Even once a couple of weeks ago, I was like, well, some pretty big stuff is going on. I think I need to listen to a podcast about it. And I heard like the first three sentences and I was like, this is wrong. I can’t do it.
Yeah. These, the podcasts you’re talking about, these are like news and events and the latest updates from the collapse of governments and whatever.
Yeah. It’s not the holistic herbalism podcast. It’s definitely like political awareness and current event. News, it’s news. And I was like, this is not what I do. This is not the way. And I feel pretty excited not just that I am able to go for a walk, completely disconnected from anything except nature. But also that now I am like fiercely protecting that. So most of the time I don’t even take my phone at all. I leave it at home. Once in a while I’ll pass something and I’m like, ooh, tomorrow I need a picture of that so that I can post it, you know, or whatever. Like oh, look, there’s some pine resin, and I’ve been meaning to get a good picture of some pine resin on a tree. Like, okay, fine. So then I’ll bring it. But for the most part I’ve stopped even bringing it at all. And just having time without media has been an enormous positive impact.
Yeah. We’ve kind of been doing that in the house too. You know, a lot of times in the evening when we’re making dinner or doing chores together or whatever, then we would say, all right, let’s put on the news. Let’s put on the pods that give us all the updates about all the terrible stuff. And lately more it’s been like, all right. Find me an album that you used to really love in high school, and let’s play that and talk about it together. And that’s been really nice, too.
So much more music in our lives.
Well you’ve been playing harp like crazy.
Actually, that too. I started learning Irish harp a little more than a year ago or maybe right about a year. And that was really great. And when I started, I was like, oh, this is great. I like it. You know, I’ve got to make sure I can practice 20 minutes a day. And now I’m like, I need to set up my schedule so that I get up early enough that I can practice for an hour or an hour and a half a day and not negatively impact the work I need to do in a day. Like how early do I have to wake up so that I can spare an hour to practice. And that also has just been, you know, time where there’s no media coming in. Instead there’s art coming out. And so even if you are not a musician, whatever kind of art comes out of you. And if you’re sitting there thinking, well, I’m not artsy. No art comes out of me. That’s actually not accurate. Because art is intrinsic to being human. All humans are art. So it doesn’t matter if people like your art, you know. Or if somebody says, wow, that picture of a frog really looks like a frog. Like it doesn’t matter. It could be purple. It doesn’t make a difference, whatever.
There’s got to be some purple frogs out there,
Probably there are. Yeah. But like whatever kind of art it is that you make. I will say I have really found that getting up early so that I have time in my life for art has been amazing. And not just amazing for the art, but also it makes me go to bed earlier too. And I do find that when work is done, and we’ve finished our Q & A sessions. And dinner is put away and like all this stuff, it’s like the time from there until whatever time I go to bed is usually not therapeutic time. You know, like, yeah, maybe I read a book, but often that is time when like I’m ready to check out. And so our version of checking out often is the news. And that’s not super helpful for me. So, either to say like, well, I’m not ready for bed yet, so I’m going to do something that is more uplifting. Or in my case it has been sort of like, oh, well it’s 9:30 and it’s time for bed so that I can get up early enough so that I can play harp in the morning before it’s time for us to start doing things. So, that also has been very helpful.
Changing Media, Meditation, & Being Tender
Yeah. Right. And we’ve been kind of changing our relationships with media too. Even in just what we watch, you know. Like let’s see some documentaries about space and planets and things like that.
Yeah. That has been a new thing.
Just because it’s been a little bit different, you know? So I think the advice there is not so much like a watch planet documentaries, although they’re pretty cool. But more just like try changing it up a little bit. Just something that’s different, something that you’re interested in, but maybe haven’t learned a whole lot about lately or for a while.
There are so many different kinds of nature documentaries, and they’re so beautiful. They’re just beautiful. The photography is, or the videography or whatever, just stunningly beautiful.
Yeah. And of course, you know, learning herbalism can also be part of that. And you know, we try to especially make our programs entertaining or visually interesting that you can sit down and watch a video for 20 minutes or 30 minutes and learn about an herb. And see some pretty pictures of leaves and roots and flowers.
Yeah. And we try to make it humorous.
Sometimes they are.
Sometimes they’re funny. Yeah.
There’s a few jokes in there.
Yeah. You know, we’ve been working hard on meditation, which is not necessarily easy. It’s not necessarily easy, because we live in a culture that says you have to be working all the time. And if you’re not productive, you’re not good. And so meditation feels like wasted time. Like I’m just sitting here doing nothing. What do you…who do you…like that’s…I have work to do. But meditation specifically for the purpose of being more aware of how we’re feeling, being more aware of what’s going on inside of us, just being more aware in general.
Yeah. And also some particular practices like to acknowledge physical or emotional discomfort without like stacking a whole pile of judgements on top of it. So, not just like I’m feeling sluggish or I’m feeling annoyed. Actually just kind of leaving it at that and saying, oh, look, annoyance, look, sluggishness exists here. Rather than like, I am a sluggish person who’s never going to do any good in the world, or I am annoyed at everybody because these people are all terrible and I hate everything. So that practice, you know, it starts with like sitting there, breathing deep, doing your body scans, all that kind of basic meditation stuff. But then you build that habit on the cushion and then you can carry that into the rest of your life.
Yeah. So that has been something that we’ve been also working with intention to do is to be more open with each other when we feel bad. And so, often it is well, I’m feeling bad, but I don’t want to impede. We’re supposed to film today and I don’t want to make that not happen. So I’m going to pretend like I’m not feeling bad. And instead of that, to just acknowledge it to one another and be like, hey, this is what’s going on for me right now. And to not be like, well, just not tie any negative self-talk to it. Just to show up as we are. And that has allowed us to like support one another through our struggles, instead of feeling like there’s a way we need to show up for each other. And especially because like, I think that with COVID, everybody’s kind of getting a little bit of experience about what our normal life is like. Because we’re married, and we work together all day every day. So we literally are just together all of the time. And so, the way that you show up to work with your coworkers, there’s like, oh, well, I guess I need to leave my anger at home and show up to work and be professional. But if you just imagine that you’re always with your coworker 100% of the time. And when you’re at work, you’re always with your spouse 100% of the time. That is really great. It’s really wonderful. But also there’s a lot of like, you know, any human relationship, there’s a lot of, what am I showing to the people around me. And what are the impacts of what I show to the people around me. And oh, I’m in a bad mood and I don’t want to get her in a bad mood. Or oh, I’m feeling grumpy about my own productivity. And then, oops, I have now projected that onto him and all that kind of stuff.
Yeah, this is kind of like an interpersonal or a social kind of health intervention, I suppose. The way that we intervene in our diets or in our movement habits or whatever else. Lately, we’ve been trying both of us to just be more straightforward, I guess, or more open about I’m feeling bad today. I’m grumpy right now. I can’t think straight for some reason. And I’m trying and banging my head on this computer. Could you please hand me an herbal tincture of whatever kind and I’ll just take it and we’ll go on from there. All of these are things that we’ve said to each other in the last week.
Yes. And you know, it’s very liberating to drop into deeper levels of being vulnerable. And I feel like I just used a lot of buzz words in that statement. And I don’t like buzz words, and yet those are the appropriate words. Like it is just how much more of my soft underbelly can I possibly show to you? And every time it’s better, every time it’s easier. It turns out that every time that we just say, this is how I’m struggling right now, that we can be there for each other.
And it’s not as if the other person wasn’t already picking up on it to begin with. And probably thinking of no, they’re mad at me. I did something wrong. Or we’re about to have an argument or who knows what. And that’s very likely to happen if nobody in the room can say, wait a minute, I think this might be what’s happening, or this might be what’s being felt.
I mean, even if it is that we did something wrong, it isn’t helpful for one of us to just like plow into the other, being mad about it. If something has been done wrong, that’s a problem to solve. And we’re not going to solve it well if we’re mad at each other. We will solve it better if we’re just like, huh. This went south. We need to resolve it. And let’s just get right on that. And so the more open that we can come to one another and being like this went south and I’m feeling really bad about it. But whatever the thing is that went bad, whether it’s something that he did and I’m mad about it or something I did and he’s mad about it or whatever. The mad doesn’t really serve us. It’s just an indication of acknowledgement that something went wrong, and now we just need to resolve it.
Yeah. And I think over the last span of time of some duration, we’ve also kind of worked to have a little habit between us of like, well, let me just try offering this to you. You came to me earlier today. You were like, I think that you’re feeling… Some things had come up, and I was thinking about our cat who just passed away. And you saw it happening on my face, or I don’t even know how. And you just walked over and handed me this tincture blend from Wonder Botanica, and what’s even in there? I didn’t even look at it.
Rose and ocotillo. It is all the thorns. It’s so thorny. It could only be thornier if there were also hawthorn in it. But it’s like thorn, thorn, thorn. And I mean thorn medicine has been a big deal around this time as well.
Right. Yeah. Thorn medicines, in this context we’re thinking about like protection and making a safe space for a heart to be tender and to be sad.
Yeah. I think actually you just said the perfect words that we’ve been trying to get to and talking around. We have been trying to make our relationship more and more a place where it’s safe for our hearts to be tender. Like every day. And that has been so helpful. It has made it so much easier to get through the day, even though it’s scary. It’s scary to be like I’m just going to tell you what’s on my mind. I’m just going to tell you what’s upsetting me, even if it’s me that’s upsetting me. It’s so scary to be open and honest to somebody else, even if you’re not married to them, like just to anybody.
Yeah. And again, I really keep coming back to but the herbs help with this so much. That’s definitely been my experience, you know, including some of the plants we’ve mentioned today, right? Working with catnip, working with hawthorn, and working with kava. Honestly in my own life, in my own body, cannabis helps me in this way quite frequently just to open up a little, to soften up a little, to speak more freely in places where otherwise I would want to hide or crush it all down and not look at it.
Yeah. Just like animals, right? Animals try to hide when they’re hurt, and we’re animals too. We also, that’s such a vulnerability. But I will definitely say that if there’s anyone in your life who is willing to go down that path with you, the ability to just be honest and open and not have any of those walls to hide behind. And just be like, I feel like I’m a total waste today. Like, what is my problem? And then just go from there together, instead of feeling all these negative self whatever. And then trying to hide it and then being mad because there’s so many layers of projection happening and like, oh, he must think I’m this too.
Right. Yeah. So, not the easiest skill to learn, but really, really helpful. And again, let the herbs help you get there.
Yeah. I think one more thing in that category of being awareness. So like working through meditation to become more aware of how we’re feeling. And then working with each other to be more open about what we’re becoming aware of. And then I think also the last kind of step in that is instead of feeling bad and trying to ignore it, feeling bad and trying something. Even if it isn’t the right thing. Like I feel bad and I’m going to try something. It’s going to be chocolate today, whatever. I’m just going to try something. And, oh, well, since I mentioned chocolate, actually that is sort of a link to food. Because this is a really turbulent time, but also the last two and a half years have been particularly challenging for some personal reasons. And so there’s been a lot of coping with food in my life. And so for a very long time that was just harm reduced junk food, like the gluten-free brownies or the whatever.
Yeah, we’re allowed to eat cake as long as we make it ourselves. Yeah.
Yeah. And it’s gluten free and, you know, whatever. And then right after Thanksgiving, I was like, this isn’t the way for me anymore. And I want to be clear, for two years, that was. For two and a half years that’s how I was coping. So if you’re like, nope, brownies are still the answer for me, please do not think that I’m saying that you should be in some different place than that. But so whether it is like taking stock of your own comfort foods and trying to find a better version of that, that still fulfills the desire for comfort. For me, because I’m highly sensitive to gluten and dairy that means finding a gluten-free dairy-free one that appeals to me, and that I like. You know, whatever that is. Or in this other case lately, it has been I’m just going to try to eat foods that make me feel good in my body. Because it kind of came to where that was what I needed to feel better was I needed my stomach to just not hurt or whatever.
Yeah. We’ve both been kind of making some adjustments to food. You know, my problem for a while has been like just eating way too late at night. Just staying up late and then snacking on nuts and things.
In general your snack food is really healthy as opposed to my junk food choices.
Yeah. I was just getting like too much and then too late. So that shift has been helpful. But looking at it, not from the idea of if I eat this I’m bad, but rather, well, if I eat that, then I’ll feel good. Take that as the motivator.
And if I do eat the comfort food, then I try to just let myself fully be comforted by it.
Yeah. That’s super important.
Like fully experience the comfort of that food. Instead of every time I take a bite of ice cream, just like, oh, I’m so bad. Just, oh, this is comforting. Just be in that place of comfort if that’s what comforts you. We did recently acquire an ice cream maker, just a really simple one. And that means that now if the comfort of ice cream is required, it’s just coconut milk and egg yolk, some herb infused honey, and like some chopped up nuts. And that’s basically it. So at least now it’s just like harm reduce, harm reduce, harm reduce as much as possible. But I think that wherever we fall in the spectrum of our relationship with food and comfort, to look at it and just be like, okay, that’s what it is. Whether it is in order to feel comfort I can’t eat anything because I’m so wound up that food won’t go in…
Well, that is a problem I have a lot. And then trying to think of what to do during those moments. Like lately you’ve been making me tea in the morning with ginger and fennel and a little bit of licorice and maybe some mint. Just kind of light, but like this is going to be super easy on the belly. It’s going to help you get ready. And for awhile this past week, I was just waking up and eating broth every morning. I was like, I’m all messed up in here. You’ve got to get organized and broth is a great way to do that. Just make this breakfast. Make it super simple. Don’t have to think about it. Just like, okay. Warm that up. Drink it down. You’re going to feel good. And then by lunchtime you’ll be ready for more…
Solid food. Yeah. But so just accepting whatever your food relationship is right now at face value. Like, okay, well, that’s what it is right now. So, is there any way that I can support my body through that? And maybe that just is, well, whatever. I’m going to eat all the chips, but I will make sure I get some broccoli today. Okay. Fine. Like whatever it is to…
I’ll make sure I drink a quart of nettle and friends.
Right. Whatever it is to say, like, this is my current relationship with food. I’m not going to call myself bad for that. I’m not going to make a bunch of judgments about it. I’m just going to acknowledge it. That’s the reality. And then is there anything I can do to improve that reality and yet still derive whatever comfort I need in whatever way that’s right for me. You don’t have to just eat kale and salmon to be healthy. Emotions and food are so deeply intertwined. That instead you can just look at, well, this is my current state. And this is one way…I could just eat one apple a day. And then I’m just not…like, that’s what I’m going to do. That’s what I’m doing for myself. And then if I eat the Doritos, fine. You know, whatever it is.
Herbs & Habits
Yeah. Right. So, trying to navigate that kind of stuff with some compassion for yourself, with some recognition that not everything’s going to be fine all of the time, and that’s okay. And you’re going to develop coping skills around it. And there are herbs that can help you with that work, help you in those difficult moments. Herbs and habits too. I think probably half this podcast was specifically about these plants. And the other part was about the movement and the sleep habits, and the ways that we relate on a social and an interpersonal level. And that’s our gig, right? We’re holistic herbalists. We want to think about, yeah, the herbs we give you, but also all of these other parts of your life and those foundations of good health including community, including those kind of social aspects. So yeah, well, that’s what we’ve been up to lately is this kind of work, these kind of considerations and thoughts and explorations. So, you know, I hope that some of that resonates for you out there. It gives you some ideas about things that might help you feel better or help you get through rough days or even help you feel bad, but, you know, efficiently, I guess. To move through your uncomfortable feelings in the time that they need. And maybe not too much more than that. I mean, we’ve been grieving, because I think I mentioned earlier, one of our cats passed away not too long ago. And just today in that meditation group, the teacher said at one point that grief isn’t something that you want to just disappear or run away from, because grief is an expression of the love that you have for the one you lost.
Ryn would never say that he loves one cat more than the others. But this was his favorite cat.
She was just wonderful.
Yeah, I guess I think that sort of makes me think that maybe we should have said this very first, but you don’t have to feel better. You can just feel bad. Like if you feel bad and you drink some tea, and you still feel bad, that’s okay. Like do what you need to do to find enough comfort to survive the day. And yeah, that might be enough. That might be all there is. And things are really bad. So like we just can’t expect that we’re all going to be our normal perky selves, even if perky was ever a word associated with us.
Perky, productive, whatever.
Whatever it may have been.
And so, the goal here is not necessarily oh, I will stop feeling discomfort. But I will have support in my discomfort. I won’t be alone in my discomfort. I can take the edge off my discomfort maybe.
Yeah. Some vanilla, some rose, some motherwort, something like that. And feel your feelings. That’s the only way to allow them to evolve into something else. Yeah. All right. Well, thanks for being with us.
Wait, wait, wait, before you stop there’s one other thing I wanted to say. It’s that I think that you were saying feel your feelings. And sometimes it’s really hard because right now we’re all super isolated. And that reminds me that tomorrow is a national day of service.
Because it is.
It’s MLK day, yeah.
Martin Luther King day. And I really love this practice of a national day of service. And I’m really glad that that practice is coming back. And so if you just Google national day of service, the website will come up. There’s a lot of different places where you can volunteer in a COVID safe way.
Yeah. If you’re thinking of like, well, what we’re going to get 40 people together and pick up trash? That might actually be part of what’s going on. But there are virtual options now. There are other things you can do online. There’s letter writing.
That was one of the really super beautiful ones that I noticed was that there’s this whole campaign to write letters to seniors and to elders who are like even more isolated than maybe normal. And so, if you’re feeling bad. And you’re thinking I’m all alone and I’m feeling bad, and it would feel better if there were people around you. I mean I’m not saying that you should write a letter to a senior that says I feel bad. But in service we work through emotional stuff as well. And in service we get a break from our own emotions. Because for a moment, like right now we’re alone, we’re in our homes. Maybe you’re in your homes with people, and so that’s good. Or maybe you’re on each other’s nerves. Like all of it is whatever it is. But we are so much more isolated right now than usual. And so having a way to focus on someone else’s needs, even if it’s just for a short period of time, can be helpful and can give you a little bit of a break from feeling what you’re feeling. Not like it ever goes away until you’ve felt through it. But I don’t know. Somehow what you said just popped that into my head. And I was like, wait, I wanted to mention that.
Yeah. That’s good. I’m glad that that came to mind. Yeah.
Okay. Well, anyway.
So yeah, again, thanks for listening and being with us here. And again, we hope that some of this helps you the way it’s been helping us. So, we’ll be back next time with some more Holistic Herbalism podcasts for you. Until then take care of yourselves, really take care of yourselves. Take care of each other, really, really take care of each other. And don’t forget to drink some tea.
Yes. And maybe just take a day off from the negative self-talk. Just let it on vacation for a day.
Yeah. Okay, bye.
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