Podcast 157: Ground Ivy: Sometimes It’s Hard To Hear

Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea), also known as alehoof, creeping charlie, and gill-over-the-ground, is one of our favorite herbs to gather in early spring. We like to prepare a tincture of it in brandy, and we work with it for troubles in the ear-nose-throat. It helps a lot with tinnitus and with difficulty hearing that comes from stagnant fluid in the ears.

Here are just a few comments on this ability of ground ivy, over a 300-year span:

  • Botanologia, or The English Herbal, written by William Salmon in 1710, says about ground ivy that “It is bitter, cleansing and opening the Obstructions of the Viscera: put into the Ears, it helps the Noise in them, as also their Ringing and Deafness.”
  • Health from British Wild Herbs, written by Richard Lawrence Hool in 1918, noted that “The expressed juice of Ground Ivy is a specific for deafness.”
  • Writing in 2012, Henriette Kress in her post Herb of the Week: Ground Ivy writes that “It’s one of the few herbs that can touch noise-induced tinnitus. A lot of people read my first book […] grabbed the ground ivy, and could start working again … they’d been on disability for their tinnitus for years. I know because quite a few told me.”

But we also observe an effect of ground ivy on ‘hearing’ issues that have more to do with mental & emotional blocks to communication. When we avoid hearing something because it’s painful, because we’re not prepared to accept it, because we’ve built up a habitual reaction to a topic and can no longer hear the nuances… ground ivy can be helpful. We’ve seen this over and over in our clients & students, and it’s a direct extension of the physical work of the herb. All plants are this way! They work on the whole human, not “just” the body or “just” the mind.

Herbs discussed in this episdoe include: ground ivy, nettle, garlic mustard, violet, henbit, deadnettle.

Ground ivy is one of 90 herbs we profile in-depth in our Holistic Herbalism Materia Medica course. It’s the foundation of our herbalist training program and a great way to get started if you’re new to herbalism. Course enrollment includes access to twice-weekly live Q&A sessions with Ryn & Katja!

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.

This episode was sponsored by Mountain Rose Herbs. We thank them for their support!


Episode Transcript

Katja (00:02):
Hi. I’m Katja.

Ryn (00:02):
And I’m Ryn.

Katja (00:02):
And we’re here at the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ryn (00:20):
And on the internet everywhere thanks to the power of the podcast. Yeah. Podcast time.

Katja (00:26):

Ryn (00:26):
Here we go.

Katja (00:27):
Hey, today’s topic is ground ivy, which I’m super excited about.

Ryn (00:31):
It’s a great little plant.

Katja (00:32):
We love ground ivy, even though some people think that it’s quite the pest in the garden. I am one of those people that intentionally is like, come, come into my garden.

Ryn (00:45):
We’re happy to have you here.

Katja (00:47):
Yeah. This is an amazing plant. And also like we’re excited to talk about it. It’s about to be ground ivy season, like the first babies are popping up here. So if you live more south of us, then maybe you’re in the middle of ground ivy season right now. But so we want to talk about it, but not just the physiological attributes, right? We want to talk a little bit about the less tangible, but absolutely observable, ways that this plant works on emotional states. Or maybe even we say like works on your personality a little bit.

Ryn (01:24):
Your temperament. Yeah.

Katja (01:26):
Yeah. And actually all plants have this aspect. This is something that I’ve been paying intentional attention to for the past, I don’t know, a little more than a decade I think. It’s really fascinating to see how you might say that there are like parallels between the physiological actions of a plant and then the things that we can’t see, the emotional and the psychological, and like even maybe the impacts on personality. But honestly, I’m really not sure that parallels is the right word because I’ve really come to view it, actually not in any way as a metaphor or a coincidence or a parallel, but as actually intrinsically the same thing. Like the physiological aspects and all of that other less tangible stuff, it’s actually all one stuff. I don’t know. You’ve used the phrase a few times as above, so below. You know, I think about it like a kaleidoscope or a fractal or like when you stand in between two mirrors, and you see infinite versions of yourself in a row. Like it’s like that. It’s like it is all the same thing, even though we don’t in our culture consider it to be the same thing. One of them we call real – the physiological part. And the rest of it…you know.

Ryn (02:58):
It’s all in your head, right? Except actually it’s not all in your head. It’s in the entirety of your body and your whole sensitive organism and the attunements it has to your environment and your experiences, inner and outer. Yeah. So that’s kind of where we’re headed with our discussion of ground ivy today.

Katja (03:15):
Yeah. So ground ivy, but also.

Ryn (03:19):
But before we dig into that too much, further first we want to remind you that we are not doctors. We’re herbalists and holistic health educators.

Katja (03:25):
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.

Ryn (03:37):
We want to remind you that good health doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. Good health doesn’t exist as an objective standard. It’s influenced by your individual needs, experiences, and goals. So we’re not trying to present a dogmatic right way that you should adhere to.

Katja (03:52):
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 some ideas to research further.

Ryn (04:02):
Finding your way to better health is both your right and your own personal responsibility. This doesn’t mean you’re alone on the journey, but it does mean that the final decision when considering any course of action, whether that’s discussed on the internet or prescribed by a physician, is always your choice to make.

Katja (04:19):
You know, and also we just want to say that we are so grateful to Mountain Rose Herbs for supporting our podcast. A podcast is really a labor of love. For us it’s something that we give to help build community. And honestly, that is my experience with Mountain Rose Herbs too. We’ve talked about how they help support herbal education in so many ways, but that’s not the only way that they’re serving the community. I mean, well of course…

Ryn (04:46):
They do have the herbs, right?

Katja (04:48):

Ryn (04:48):
That’s a big service.

Katja (04:49):
Yeah. They do provide amazing, high quality herbs for all of us. But they have done a lot to support and grow the herbal farming community in this country too. Many of our herb farming friends sell herbs directly to Mountain Rose Herbs. So when you buy herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs, often you’re getting herbs that are grown right here.

Ryn (05:11):
Or right there.

Katja (05:11):
Or right there, yeah. Right where your here is, yeah. Not only that, but Mountain Rose Herbs maintains a list of local herb farms right on their website. And I find that so handy. Because you can count on Mountain Rose Herbs to have a big selection of herbs that your local herb farm might not grow. So, you know, maybe you can’t get everything. Maybe you can’t get schisandra from your local herb farm, because it just won’t grow where you are, or they don’t grow it. But if you want to support your local farmer, even if you don’t know who your local farmers are, you can go to the Mountain Rose Herbs website, and find out who your local herbs firms are. And get the stuff local that you can get locally and then get the stuff that you can’t get locally from Mountain Rose. And it’s all like, it’s just so much of that community-not competition attitude that I think is so critical to having a healthy, like herbal everything in this country.

Ryn (06:15):
Yeah, yeah. An herbal community, an herbal movement, you know?

Katja (06:20):
Movement. Yeah. So, I remember when they put that on the website and really born out of their dedication to supporting all aspects of herbal community in this country. So, I think that’s awesome. As people who are trying to support and grow the herbal community, I love that there are other people also trying to do that. And I love that that is a part of our community in general. That there is so much support, and there is so much of a sense of community not competition. Anyway.

Ryn (06:55):
It’s good stuff.

Katja (06:56):
Yeah. So head over to Mountain Rose Herbs and get yourself some herbs. Get some local ones. Get some not local ones. Yeah.

Ryn (07:05):
Yeah, check them out. That’s MountainRoseHerbs.com. Okay. So let’s talk about ground ivy. So this plant, it actually has a number of names. I learned this herb from you, Katja, Ladybird. And I learned it as ground ivy, but other people have known other names for this plant. So, it’s, in Britain, sometimes called alehoof, because it’s kind of shaped like a hoof print. The leaves are. And because historically they would include ground ivy in ale recipes, in part for flavor and activity and stuff, but in large part because it helps with the clarifying process as you make the ales. So, that’s one of its names. It’s also called creeping Charlie.

Katja (07:50):
I think that name is much more common in the midwest or in like the northern midwest.

Ryn (07:54):
Yeah. And then some folks call it gill over the ground or like gill on the ground. Something like that.

Katja (08:01):
I like that name. Yeah. The Latin is Glechoma hederacea. And it’s so important to learn your Latin names, because you have a plant like this that has a bunch of different names depending on where you go. So, if you learn the Latin, then you always know for sure that you and the people you’re talking to you are talking about the same plant.

Ground Ivy Habitat & Identification

Ryn (08:22):
Yeah. So Glechoma hederacea, right? And it’s funny because ivy is there in that name as well. So, like the botanical name for, for ivy or English ivy, that’s called Hedera helix. And so hederacea in the ground Ivy name there, it means ivy like. And you can see it if you look at it. You’re like, oh look, little sort of ivy looking leaves, kind of, except they’re on the ground. So it’s the ground ivy. Okay. Where can you find it? Really a lot of the world. I was looking for distribution maps on this one, and it’s found all over the United States, all over Canada, many places in South America, documented in Brazil and Chile and Argentina. It’s all over Europe, across through Russia, over into Asia, and also all the way over in Australia.

Katja (09:14):
It might be naturalized there, taken there by Europeans.

Ryn (09:18):
Right. Indeed. But a pretty widespread plant and fairly prolific in the places where it has gotten a foothold.

Katja (09:25):
Adaptable to lots of different biomes.

Ryn (09:28):
Right, right. So, you know, for ID purposes, this is a plant you’re going to find from the early spring time through a pretty long season.

Katja (09:38):
Yeah. The green parts of the plant have a very long season. The flowers are early spring. But you’ll still see the plant all year.

Ryn (09:49):
And it has kind of like kidney shaped leaves or like I said, think of a cow’s hoof and imagine a hoof print. Kind of shaped like that, you know, a curve to it. And it has teeth along the edges of the leaf, but they’re rounded teeth.

Katja (10:05):
They’re like the scallops on a doily. Or if you remember when you made valentines as a kid with those red paper and then the white paper doilies. Yeah, and it had those little like rounded lumpy edges. Yeah. It’s like that.

Ryn (10:29):
So there are a number of other plants that sometimes beginning students get a little confused with when we’re out on an herb walk, and we’re like, all right. What do we got right here? And they might see ground ivy, or they might think maybe it’s a baby nettle or a baby garlic mustard or even a violet. But the thing is that it’s actually not too hard to differentiate. So for nettle, well, even a baby nettle, it’s going to have triangular teeth on its leaf edges. They’re going to be pointed.

Katja (10:58):
Yeah. Really jagged.

Ryn (11:01):
Also even a baby nettle may sting you. So, remember with plant ID you need all your senses, not just your eyes. So yeah, if you get stung, that’s not ground ivy. That’s probably nettle. Garlic mustard is one that the leaves look fairly similar, but again, the teeth are more triangular on your garlic mustard. And plus with garlic mustard, if you crush the leaf or rub it between your fingers and then sniff, there will be a pungent aroma there. It’ll smell a little like garlic and a little like mustard. And that’s where the name for that one comes from. And with violet, violet has very small teeth on the edges of the leaves. And also those leaves are a lot more heart-shaped. They come to a more defined point.

Katja (11:42):
Really quite a defined point. Yeah.

Ryn (11:45):
At the tip of the leaf there.

Katja (11:47):
Also ground ivy can be confused with henbit and with deadnettle. And actually if you look at them, you can start to see pretty clearly that they’re quite different. But at first glance you might think that they’re very similar. Deadnettle has very arrowhead shaped leaves that point distinctly downward. And when you’re looking at henbit, the leaves are similar, not the same, but they are similar. They’re more similar. I think that the leaves of henbit are the most similar to ground ivy. But their structure is a little bit different. They’re more circular instead of kidney shaped. And the other thing is that the flowers of henbit are a lighter color pink, and they have like a velvety red hat on the top of the flower. And if you just Google henbit and ground ivy, and you look at the two flowers, the ground ivy flower is sort of a bluish purple and it really looks like an ear trumpet. You know, it really has a very trumpet shape. Whereas the henbit it’s pink sort of fuchsia colored, and it has that velvety hat on top. And that hat almost is a little like a hood. So the bottom part of the flower has a trumpet shape, but then at the top it kind of has that hood on top that is like a trumpet with a mute on it. Yeah.

Ryn (13:30):
Right, right. Cool. So yeah, not a hard plan to identify. And once you get to know it real well, you’ll be able to recognize it very easily. Yeah, when you get to know it. And it’s a fairly small plant we should also say in terms of ID. Even when it’s fully grown, I mean, I’ve seen one with like, I don’t know, four inch leaves.

Katja (13:49):
I have seen…oh, the leaves? The leaves still stay very small. I’ve seen one that was maybe like as much as six inches tall. But I think I’ve never seen a ground Ivy leaf that was much bigger than my thumb.

Ryn (14:01):
Yeah. They’re not enormous.

Katja (14:02):
Yeah. And you frequently find them, and the whole plant is only two inches tall, especially if that area gets mowed regularly. But if it’s super happy and growing as tall as it can grow, it’s still probably is only going to be six inches.

Ryn (14:20):
So it’s a tiny plant, but don’t worry. It can have tremendous impacts.

Katja (14:23):
Yes. And it also is a prolific plant. Like it’s not tall, but it’s wide. It spreads over an area very quickly. So it’s actually quite abundant even though it’s not large.

Ryn (14:37):
Yeah. So it’s abundant, but you know what’s interesting is that we don’t really see this herb in major herbal commerce.

Katja (14:44):
Right. This is actually one of the rare herbs that you can’t find at Mountain Rose Herbs. It is very unusual not to find a plant there, but this is one you can’t.

Ryn (14:55):
You can find folks selling tinctures of ground ivy, like on Etsy for instance. But you can also absolutely tincture it yourself. And this is a good time of year to be thinking about that.

Katja (15:06):
Right. If you live south of us, then it’s probably time right now to just go out and do it. And if you live in the same latitude as us, then it’s time to be just thinking and watching. I was out for a walk this morning and took a picture. I think it’s maybe three more weeks before we’ve got any going into flower.

Ryn (15:29):
Yeah. In parts of the city where there’s more pavement, some of these ground ivies that we’ve seen around town have been much, much further along.

Katja (15:38):
Yeah. Of course that’s not where you want harvest, but yeah.

Ryn (15:41):
Just for admiration’s sake, you know.

Katja (15:41):
It’s true there are the little micro-climates that get warmer. Yeah.

Ryn (15:47):
Yeah. So we tend to tincture this plant.

Katja (15:50):
Yes. Pretty exclusively. I really like to tincture it in brandy, especially because ground ivy is an herb that I often work with for kids. And brandy is a little bit nicer flavored than vodka.

Ryn (16:08):
Yeah. The herb itself doesn’t have a super strong flavor. There’s a little touch of bitterness in there, you know?

Katja (16:14):
Yeah. Mostly in a tincture, it tastes pretty green. Yeah.

Ryn (16:18):
Yeah. And when you have the brandy there’s a little bit of sweetness in there already, so it comes out really pleasant.

Katja (16:23):
Yeah. I like to tincture it when it has a lot of flowers. So I’ll take the flowering tops, which means the top couple inches. Of course, this plant may only be four inches tall. So, you know, it might only be the top inch of the leaves and flower and the stem. That’s fine. But where the flowers are really dense. Once the flowers stop, I just leave that. And it’ll keep making chlorophyll and photosynthesizing and the plant won’t die as long as you leave leaves there. So yes. So I take those flowering tops. I stuff them in a mason jar. I pour the brandy over. Honestly, I never have dried ground ivy for tea. Once or twice we have made tea out of the fresh herb, and to be honest, it’s not super delicious. It’s a bitter mint.

Ryn (17:22):
Kind of like skullcap in a way, you know.

Katja (17:24):
More bitter.

Ryn (17:25):
A little bit more, yeah.

Katja (17:26):
I think so, than skullcap. Yeah. It’s not like the kind of tea that you just want to sit around and sip. But as a tincture in brandy it’s really quite lovely and very, very effective.

Ryn (17:39):
Yeah. And as an herbalist or a student of herbalism, it’s a good thing to try all of your herbs at some point. Make a straight up tea with them, really swim around in their flavors for a little while. Great way to learn your plants. Reference last week’s episode for more thoughts on that.

Katja (17:56):

Working with Ground Ivy

Ryn (17:56):
All right. So in terms of how we work with ground Ivy, we can start with the physiological stuff, right? And there it’s really all about getting things moving, and especially about getting them moving up in your head, in your ear, nose and throat – your sinuses there, your lymphatic vessels around into there. And you can often feel it most pronouncedly in your ears, especially if they’re aching when you got started.

Katja (18:23):
Right. It is really helpful for tinnitus, any kind of ringing in the ears, for ear infections, for sinus crud. I’m a person super prone to ear infections. And whenever I start to feel one coming on, then I’ll start taking ground ivy, like one or two droppers full every couple hours. And most of the time that’s enough to keep things moving, so that the infection can’t settle in. Like really within a couple of days it’s just gone, and it never got any worse than whatever that sort of foreshadowing ache in the ear was.

Ryn (19:02):
Yeah. And for you sometimes that’s like a standalone, I guess we’d call it, ear infection. And other times it’s like your first sign that a cold or the flu or some respiratory situation is getting started, And it shows up there first. And if you can get the ground ivy going, and take it down a notch or two right away, then that will take the ensuing cold and either prevent it or just make it a lot more mild.

Katja (19:27):
Yeah. It really makes it a lot better for me. In fact I include ground ivy in every single cold and flu blend that we make for ourselves. Every year I make a little bit different blend, but every year it’s got ground ivy in it always.

Ryn (19:43):
Yeah. So, you know, these applications for the herb, they’re not brand new. We didn’t invent them. I went looking for some older writings about ground ivy, and I found a couple of cool things I want to share with you. So a book from 1710 called Botanologia or The English Herbal by William Salmon has a note in there about ground ivy and the juice of the plant. Taking the plant and crushing it and squeezing the leaves until the juice comes out. And he wrote there it is bitter, cleansing, and opening the obstructions of the viscera. Put it into the ears, it helps the noise in them, as also their ringing and deafness. So the language is a little obtuse. But basically if you’ve got ringing in your ears, noises in the ears, deafness in the ears, they’re suggesting to put some ground ivy juice into there. That’s not a way that we work with the plant, but again, historical reference.

Katja (20:39):
Yeah. We would just take the tincture instead, and take it orally, not in your ears.

Ryn (20:44):
Yeah. But that method persisted in English herbalism for quite a while. Here’s a book from 1918, so about 200 years later. Health from British Wild Herbs is the title of the book. And they wrote in there the expressed juice of ground ivy is a specific for deafness and sore eyes, dropped into the ears or eyes respectively with frequency. So they’re saying don’t just do it once. You’ve got to keep it up. And then for more current reference the excellent Finnish herbalist, Henriette Kress.

Katja (21:17):
With whom, really, like we could not live without Henriette.

Ryn (21:22):
She’s done so much for all of us.

Katja (21:22):
Yes, really, truly.

Ryn (21:24):
In 2012 she wrote, it’s one of the few herbs that can touch noise induced tinnitus. A lot of people read my first book. This is not her excellent book, Practical Herbs. It was another book written only in Finnish. But she said a lot of people grabbed the ground ivy and could start working again after they’d been on disability for their tinnitus for years. I know because quite a few told me. And that had been two to three cups of tea for weeks or months on end or until the noise stops. What a relief.

Katja (21:51):
Yeah. I prefer tincture three times a day for weeks or months on end or until the noise stops. But…

Ryn (21:59):
But it’s true that we have had a number of folks with tinnitus from various causes, you know. Some of the first ones that I can recall passing this on were people who had definite like fluid obstruction, and there was stuff in the ears in the way. And then there were a few where they were like, well, it’s definitely from too much noise or exposure to loud sounds and things when I was younger. And we were like, well, worth a try. Let’s give it a shot and see what happens.

Katja (22:28):
Honestly, I didn’t expect it to work. Because I was like, eh, yeah. No, that’s like, that’s broken. I don’t expect it to fix it. And yet there was improvement.

Ryn (22:41):
Yeah. Yeah. So definitely worth a try there.

Katja (22:43):
Yeah. Well we often like to give little mottos to our herbs. So instead of remembering like ground ivy is for ear infections, which is specific in a way like being a multiple choice test answer, and doesn’t feel like it really captures everything about the plant. We like to give these little mottos that are more like metaphors that do help capture a range of action, but still in a convenient bumper sticker format. So for ground Ivy we like to say sometimes it’s hard to hear.

Ryn (23:24):
Sometimes it’s hard to hear. It is. It is. And that does line up just right with the physiological actions, right? Ear infections, inflammation in the ear causing pain, sensitivity, fluid, congestion, and stagnation there that dulls your hearing. Tinnitus that distracts you from what you’re trying to or gets in the way of what you’re trying to hear. Or from another perspective, like here’s an herb that moves fluids. Think about water. Think about all the associations with water and that element in the world. And moving that fluid relieves pressure. Pressure. Like do you feel like you’re under pressure sometimes? Would you like some relief from that, right? Relieve pressure, tends to reduce pain, help local immunity, let you hear clearly.

Katja (24:09):
Yeah. Like removing the barrier to hearing. You know, the thing is that this also lines up very precisely with other actions, these other sort of intangible actions. Because there are actually so many reasons why it can be hard to hear. And that is the part of the work that we really want to dig into today. And before we do, I want to preface by saying, it’s not just ground ivy. All herbs are like this. So once you see what we’re talking about and the kind of, you know, once you kind of get the tune of this in your mind, then take this kind of thinking and apply it to all of the other herbs that you have a strong relationship with. And think about how you can deepen your understanding of the way that that herb works on all the other planes that we exist in. So not just the actual physiological plane, and of course actually all of the planes that we exist in are the same one plane. Like the multi-verse is just the verse. Like if we can get big enough to see it as just one complex interconnected system, then it isn’t actually like many different things kind of near each other or overlapping. It’s actually just one complex interconnected thing. But sometimes it’s hard for human brains to actually be able to hold something that large.

It Can be Hard to Hear

Ryn (25:40):
Right. Yeah. To be able to adopt those kinds of perspectives. Yeah. So let’s talk about ground ivy. Let’s talk about some of the ways that it can be hard to hear. I think that there were some…one case or a particular case.

Katja (25:56):
There was, there was. It was this one couple that really…they were like the progenitor of the motto for ground ivy. So this was, you know, working on this way where sort of selective deafness that has maybe more to do with some relationship issues than the actual functioning of the ear itself. So this was a very sweet and adorable couple, a little old man and his very sweet little old wife. And the wife had just had enough of his hard of hearing-ness when she was talking, but strange lack of hard of hearing-ness when the topic was something that he was interested in.

Ryn (26:46):

Katja (26:48):
And I really want to be clear that they were a very sweet couple. I was entranced. I loved them. But you know, like when you’ve been together for a long time, like maybe some little patterns develop. They actually thought there was something wrong with his ears, and there wasn’t. His ears were fine. And they had seen hearing specialists, and they had talked about hearing aids and all these other things. And in fact…

Ryn (27:18):
This wasn’t really the problem.

Katja (27:19):
That wasn’t the problem.

Ryn (27:20):
Tympani were vibrating, you know. The hammer and the anvil and all of that. They were going down. It was great. But yet.

Katja (27:29):
Ground ivy really did help to break through a bunch of stagnation though in their relationship, right? So like, what really happened was that it helped him to break patterns that were kind of entrenched in their relationship, and just to start listening to his wife. Instead of listening to I have heard my wife say this for 50 years and I’m kind of tuning it out, to just listen to his wife. And he really was a lovely fellow. And once he started listening, things shifted for both of them actually like in kind of an astounding way. Because not only did he start listening, but his listening changed the way that she spoke. Because she was being heard, which meant that she didn’t have to start speaking from a point of frustration. The more that he listened, the more pleasant listening became.

Ryn (28:17):
Hmm. Yeah. Really interesting. And here, you know, I think a big part of this is that they found an herbalists. They talked to you about this issue, right? Having trouble hearing or being heard, or both sides happening simultaneously. And then you had the ground ivy. And of course the ground ivy is doing its work regardless of what anybody thinks about it, right? But also here was this little tincture bottle. And every day however many times a day, was the idea. Little old gentlemen would open the bottle, take some drops, and have a moment to remember I’m trying to hear. Sometimes I’m not hearing her when she speaks. I’m trying to work on that. I’m trying to change that. And that’s a really important part of this work.

Katja (29:08):
Yeah. Like your intention and the plants actions all wound together. You know, there are so many things that are hard to hear. And over time I have come to find that ground ivy actually can help with all of them. The things that we are hiding from hearing, because hearing them is painful, right? This could be a reality that we don’t want to accept like that someone is dying, or like that we are and worth being loved.

Ryn (29:42):
It can be very hard to hear these things sometimes, right? And even if your tympani are vibrating, even if the sounds are making their way through the air to your ears and the nerves are getting triggered, and inside of your sensorium those words are there. Sometimes they just don’t quite make it all the way in, you know. There’s something that gets in the way. A wall that jumps up, or one of those monsters that lives in the subconscious jumps in there and eats it before you can get at it.

Katja (30:12):
I just think about, you know, so physiologically I often have like a little too much fluid in my ears. And sometimes I can hear it sloshing around. And I think about emotions that way too. Like when someone tells you, hey. You are good. You are valuable. You’re worth being loved. But it’s not like you didn’t hear those words. It’s that your hearing is so filled with the sloshing around fluid of no, I’m not. I’m not worth anything. I’m not good enough. You don’t really know. And so now you can’t hear. It isn’t that you didn’t hear the words. It’s that you couldn’t hear the words, you know? They couldn’t get in there.

Ryn (31:06):
Yeah. So even if you were listening, you weren’t hearing.

Katja (31:08):
Right, right.

Ryn (31:10):
Yeah. There can also be things that we can’t hear because our heads are too full of other stuff, right? And again, think about that literally to start with, and say like, all right. If I have a bunch of fluids stuck in my ears, and it feels like I’m on an airplane or something else Is going on, then like, yeah. It’s going to be a little muffled inside, right? But your head can be full of all kinds of stuff, can’t it?

Katja (31:33):
Yeah. You know, a lot of times we’re not present with what we’re hearing. We’re present with all the stuff that our heads are full of. We’re present with worry. We’re present with doubt. We’re present with a to-do list. And words are happening around us, but we’re not present with those words. We’re all congested with and tomorrow I have to make sure I do the thing, you know?

Ryn (32:03):
Yeah. For sure. Yeah. And when that happens you know, and you just have so much that you’re, planning or you’re trying to hold on to mentally and working really hard to do that, then it can make it so you don’t hear things that are being said or being offered. That’s really happening but just doesn’t quite get all the way in there. Including where you might respond to it as if you had heard, but you hadn’t really. So it can be like hey. Can I help you? Is there something that I could do for you right now?

Katja (32:32):
Oh, this is me. Yeah. And like somebody says, can I help? And then I say, no. I’m fine. I’m fine. And then like later I’m like, why doesn’t anyone ever help me? And like but I said it. Like they came. And I can think about there was a time in my life when I was really working on this. And immediately before that time was a time when I was hosting a lot of dinner parties. And I only remember that, because then when I started working on this problem, I was thinking about the dinner parties. And people would literally come in the kitchen and say, is there anything I can do? And I would answer, no, no. I’m all set. And then they would leave. And then I’d be so angry that no one was helping me in the kitchen, and that everybody just came to eat my food, and nobody would help with anything. And it took a long time for me to realize that people were offering. And I was saying no, because I just had this huge block in accepting things. And in my case, a lot of it was around having been raised to believe that it’s not okay to ask for help. But then when you need it and it appears, I couldn’t accept it. And not only I couldn’t accept it, but I literally could not hear that it had been offered, even though I had answered. I had responded in a happy and smiling way, and still had not realized that it had been offered, because I was so entrenched in that place where asking for help was unacceptable. And wow. Realizing like when I was doing some therapy around that. And then realizing like, oh my God. People have been offering to help all this time, and I’ve been saying no, and then I’ve been being mad at them.

Ryn (34:26):
Yeah. If I’m remembering right, this was also a time you were working a lot with ground ivy. I feel like ground ivy and betony were herbs that became more important at this time in your life.

Katja (34:35):
I think you’re right, actually. And I wonder if that maybe was the impetus to start doing that work in therapy. Yeah.

Ryn (34:43):
Yeah. So there can also be things that you don’t hear or that don’t get heard, because they’re complicated and get repeated, but there gets this breakdown. So for instance maybe there’s something that a person is trying to express, trying to say, and it’s difficult. And maybe they’re not quite doing it as well as they’d like, but they’re making the attempt, you know. But after a few rounds of trying to get that across, the hearer, the person that they’re speaking to, is not really present in the conversation. Instead there’s this reaction of like, oh, you’re on this little rant again. Okay. I know where this is going to go. You know? So the conversation is evolving on one side, but not on the other.

Katja (35:24):
Yeah. Like every time the speaker gets a little better at trying to express what they mean. Maybe not all the way, but maybe they’re getting a little closer. But by that point the listener can’t hear it anymore, because they’re starting to tune out.

Ryn (35:39):
Yeah. They can get stuck, right? And even though new words are being said, it’s the old words that are being heard.

Katja (35:45):
Yeah. Wow. Yeah. You can say that one again.

Ryn (35:50):
It happens a lot, right?

Katja (35:52):
Yeah. This can also be things we hear but don’t understand. So like we hear you should do more chores, instead of hearing I’m feeling unsupported. And the current example that I’m giving is not necessarily the whole story. It’s just the only thing I can hold on to right now to start this conversation. But what was heard was you should just do more chores, and then there’s all kinds of emotions around that. Like, well fine. Then I’ll just do more chores if that’s what you want. And then of course, then the person not satisfied because like, well now you’re angry on top of it. I still don’t feel supported and you’re angry. Like what, you know? And listen, communication is hard. It’s really hard to get anything across to anyone actually. It’s hard to get it out of your mouth. And then it has to get across to somebody else’s ears, and then into their heads. And like, it still has to make sense when it gets there. It’s kind of amazing that it works at all.

Ground Ivy Mechanisms of Action

Ryn (37:00):
There are so many times when this is happening, right? When, when we hear what we’re expecting or what we’ve become biased to expect or to anticipate as opposed to what actually was said. Yeah, that happens a lot. So, you know, those are some examples. And right now we can’t really point to like a mechanism of action for these effects that we noticed with ground ivy, right? Ground ivy has scientific evidence pointing to effects being anti-inflammatory, including up to like where it can be anti-cancer, right? That’s often a necessary attribute for herbs that can help us deal with cancer. Ground ivy has antimicrobial powers that are, again, proven in lab dishes and science studies and all that kind of thing. It has liver protecting effects that have been documented there, kidney protective activities as well. But this idea about helping you to hear better…

Katja (37:52):
I mean, I think there’s plenty of documentation around tinnitus or ringing in the years or whatever, but this other kind of hearing better. There’s no real mechanism of action for that. We don’t really, we can’t say why it works. We can say that it works. And you know, I feel like that’s very often true. Sometimes it’s just, like for all kinds of plants, sometimes it’s just because even though the technology exists to prove it or to figure out why, that particular plant in action just hasn’t been studied in a way that can point to a mechanism of action. But in this particular case, the technology to understand what’s happening here, I don’t think it exists yet. I mean, I do think we’re maybe starting to move closer to it.

Ryn (38:44):
Yeah. I think a lot of the things around just the starting seed idea of embodied cognition, and the recognition that not all of your nervous system’s calculations about what’s going to be perceived and how bright or how important that’s going to be as it comes into the sensorium, that does this all happen in the brain, right? That’s happening in the entire body. And so here we’re still pretty close to the brain. But if we can say like, yeah. When there are physical impediments to hearing, and when there’s an herb that relieves them, that can also lead to improvements in your psychological ability to hear or to receive communications. There’s a direct connection there.

Katja (39:22):
Yeah. At any rate though, I do think it’ll be a while before we can show some sort of study around this. And I’m fine with that. I don’t actually mind, because we see again and again in a very observable way that this is valid. If you try something and it works, it works.

Ryn (39:42):
Right. And if you see, you know, at least a 220 or something year history of…actually it’s closer to 310 years since that other reference we had there. So then we can say, all right. So people have been noticing this over and over again in different times, in different places, and applying it in different ways as the culture changes, as the needs change, you know, of the people. But you can see that it’s working there, right? And so figuring out why it works, and especially figuring it out in a way that involves receptor sites and micro molecules and all that fun stuff. That’s separate and it’s to some extent unrelated. What we’re really interested in here is finding something effective. Yeah. And remember, what works and what’s effective for you is something that you still need to identify through direct experience.

Katja (40:33):
Like even if there is a scientific study, it still doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s valid to your body and your experience. You still have to be like, well, that’s interesting. I’ll try it, and see if it works for me.

Ryn (40:45):
Yeah. And same thing for the kind of info we’re sharing here, right? Where we’ve had these experiences, we’ve seen it in clients, we’ve got other practitioners who’ve also observed similar kinds of effects and that kind of thing. That too is information. And hopefully it’s interesting, but you still need to go and try it in your own body to see what it’s going to do in your life and in your experience. So go try it. Go experience some ground ivy. See how it helps you, and let us know. I would love to hear all of your Glechoma hederacea thoughts.

Katja (41:17):
And it’s the perfect time of year to be thinking those thoughts.

Ryn (41:21):
Yeah. So that’s it for us this week. We’ll have some more Holistic Herbalism podcast next time. Until then take care of yourselves, take care of each other. Drink some tea, and listen up.

Katja (41:32):

Ryn (41:34):
Okay. Bye.

Katja (41:34):


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