Podcast 194: Climate Change Is Reducing Herb Harvests

We’re back! We had a bit of an interruption in our podcasting schedule, and we’re sorry! We’re moving to our “forever home” very soon, and the podcast took a back burner to online course production work. But we’ve got a plan! This episode and the next two constitute a mini-series on herbalism and climate change. After that, we’ll re-air a few of our favorite episodes from years past. By the time pumpkin spice season hits, we’ll be back again to continue our Herbs A-Z profile series.

Today’s topic was spurred by the many reports of drought conditions around the world, as well as a particular article just a few days old which reported on falling yields of some major botanicals. Chamomile, valerian, elderberry, and pine bark harvests have all declined substantially in recent years, and they’re certainly not the only plants affected. Furthermore, the quality of the plant material available is also being impacted, as variations in moisture and heat lead to differences in phytochemical production.

Declining harvests also means increasing prices – and not just for consumers at the end of the chain. This puts pressures on farmers and distributors to use less ideal methods, to accept lower-quality material, or plants which were harvested unsustainably. It’s important to be selective and thoughtful about our sources for medicinal plants as these pressures build. As individuals – and more importantly, as communities – we can work to reduce the impacts on plants we love, and we can share what we have with those who need it.

Mentioned in this episode:

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Episode Transcript

Katja (00:00:14):
Hi, I’m Katja.

Ryn (00:00:15):
And I’m Ryn.

Katja (00:00:15):
And we are here at Commonwealth Holistic Herbalism with our birds in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ryn (00:00:22):
And on the internet everywhere, thanks to the power of the podcast.

Katja (00:00:25):
Okay. Listen, it’s like a kabillion degrees. And we have a ceiling fan in the living room, and it’s quiet. So, we were like we can be in the living room with a fan on, and it won’t be loud on the podcast. But the thing is that the birds are in here and so…

Ryn (00:00:39):
Sometimes when we’re quiet and then start talking, then they start talking too.

Katja (00:00:43):
Yeah, sorry. They’re going to squeak at you a little bit. But in exchange for that we are a little bit less warm.

Ryn (00:00:50):
Yeah, that works. That works for us. I hope it works for you too. Well, okay look, we’ve been away.

Katja (00:00:55):
That’s so topical.

Ryn (00:00:55):
Yes. Hi everybody. It’s nice to talk to you again. We’ve been gone for a little minute there.

Katja (00:01:01):
Yeah. We have been really spotty with podcast production lately. We are very sorry. It’s because we are moving. We are moving to our forever home, and I’m very excited about that.

Ryn (00:01:16):
Yes. Yes. We’ve been rescued. We’ve rescued each other. Ahh, there we go.

Katja (00:01:21):
Yes, we’ve been adopted.

Ryn (00:01:23):
Well anyway, we’ve been really busy with that, and getting that organized, and getting ourselves ready. And oh, it’s happening soon. So, it’s very exciting. And in addition, of course, we’ve also been making a bunch of video content for our online educational programs and courses.

Katja (00:01:39):
Yes. And because of the laws of physics, that means that we’ve been making fewer podcasts. Because there’s only so much you can do in a time space.

Ryn (00:01:49):
But don’t worry. We have a plan.

Katja (00:01:51):
We do have a plan.

Ryn (00:01:52):
We have a plan. We have a couple of plans that are going to unfold, actually. The first one is we’ve got a series of episodes for you starting today about the changing relationship that we herbalist are having with our herbs, whether we like it or not, because of climate change. And we need to know what is happening, because that’s going to affect how we practice. So, this is going to be a short series on that topic, and a couple of particulars about that, and some new information we’ve been looking at and coping with.

Katja (00:02:24):
Yeah. And not just oh no everybody, climate change. It’s terrible. But like very specific things that you can do to make this situation more sustainable for the plants and for you.

Ryn (00:02:36):
Yeah. You know, you can’t really solve any problems until you identify them. It can be hard to identify specific problems when this seems like it’s happening everywhere all at the same time. So yeah, trying to get a little more clarity on that. That’s what we’re going to do for the next few episodes. And then we’re going to replay a couple of our very favorite episodes from the whole 195 run of the Holistic Herbalism podcast.

Katja (00:03:04):
Yeah. There are a few that are real favorites for us that we would love for you to hear again, because we think they’re really important.

Ryn (00:03:11):
Yeah. And then once we’re officially moved, we’ll be back to a regular production schedule. We promise, for sure, for real this time.

Katja (00:03:20):
Yeah. We will be finishing our really long series about the herbs on our apothecary shelves. Of course they’ll be on new shelves.

Ryn (00:03:29):
They’re going to be some new shelves.

Katja (00:03:30):
Yeah. It’s going to be very, very exciting. I really can’t tell y’all how excited we are to finally be able to put down some roots and yeah.

Ryn (00:03:39):
Yeah. And we’ll talk more about that soon, no doubt. Well, around the time when you’re starting to think hmm, perhaps a pumpkin spice latte would be just exactly the thing for today. That’s about when we’ll be back.

Katja (00:03:51):
Yes. And if you are one of the people who never ever says that a nice pumpkin spiced latte would be nice, don’t worry. You’ll know that we’re back, because everyone else will be having a pumpkin spiced latte. So, that’s how you’ll know. But like we said, this series, this is going to be today’s episode. And then there are two more in this series that we’re going to talk about talking about how we can improve our sustainability, how we can be responsive to what’s going on as herbalist, to what’s going on for the plants that we work with. And then a couple of old favorites. And then pumpkin spice, and we’re back.

Ryn (00:04:36):
Yeah. That’s what. Okay. One other note here before we get rolling. Are you already a student in our online courses? I think you should be.

Katja (00:04:46):
I hope you are.

Ryn (00:04:47):
I hope so. And if not, then you should consider it.

Katja (00:04:50):
Yes. That is the best way to support this podcast. Because when you enroll in our online courses, you not only support our work. And you know, I mean it takes…

Ryn (00:05:01):
And you receive our work.

Katja (00:05:02):
You receive our work, yeah. It takes about a full day to put together one episode of the podcast. So, you might be like hey, we want to support that. And lots of people ask how they can support the podcast. So, when you enroll in our courses, you not only support that work. But also, you get an entire cool herb course, which since you’re here listening to this podcast, you probably would really like.

Ryn (00:05:30):
I think so. And in addition, you get access to our twice weekly live Q & A sessions. So, if you’ve ever been listening to the pod and thinking hey, wait a minute. I wish I could ask Katja and Ryn this thing. Well, you can, live and in person. Because everyone who’s enrolled in any of our online courses gets access to the live Q & A sessions. So, what are you waiting for?

Katja (00:05:53):
Yeah. Come hang out with us.

Ryn (00:05:55):
Okay. Really the last thing this time.

Katja (00:06:00):
Before we get started.

Ryn (00:06:01):
Yes. Before we get to today’s topic, we have a reclaimer. This is where we remind you that we are not doctors. We are herbalist and holistic health educators.

Katja (00:06:10):
The ideas discussed in this podcast do not constitute medical advice. No state or federal authority licenses herbalist in the United States. So, these discussions are for educational purposes only.

Ryn (00:06:21):
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, keep in mind that we’re not attempting to present a single dogmatic right way that you should adhere to.

Katja (00:06:37):
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 new information to think about and some ideas to research further.

Ryn (00:06:48):
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. And it doesn’t mean that you’re to blame for your current state of health. But it does mean that the final decision when you’re considering any course of action, whether it’s discussed on the internet or prescribed by a physician, is always your choice to make.

Katja (00:07:06):

Ryn (00:07:07):
All right. So, let’s all cheer up with some climate change news. That’s how this works, right?

Katja (00:07:15):

Ryn (00:07:16):
No, maybe not. But how about like build resolve or….

Katja (00:07:19):
Wait, no listen.

Ryn (00:07:20):
Or get directed, yeah.

Change is Happening & We’re Not Depressed

Katja (00:07:22):
Climate change is happening. It is happening. And it can be depressing to talk about it, but it’s just a thing that’s happening. And so, I think that this doesn’t need to be depressing, because, like I said, we are going to talk really specifically about how we as herbalist can adapt. Not just adapt our practices so that we are less affected by these changes. But also, so that we can adapt our behaviors, so that we are supporting the plants and helping them to adapt through these changes. And I think that’s the reason that climate change discussions are often depressing. Because we get this idea that we’re doomed. There’s nothing we can do about it. Everything is at such a high level, there’s nothing that one person can do to have an impact. Like all these different things that truly are depressing, but that’s not the case here. There’s a great deal that we can do even as individuals to make a very specific impact. So, we’re not depressed.

Ryn (00:08:32):
Yeah. And again, that directing your attention to a particular direction is really helpful for that. And as herbalist, we think a good way to turn is toward the herbs, the actual growing plants, when we’re thinking about climate change. It matters for us, because it’s kind of hard to be an herbalist if you don’t have herbs. We need to know how the drastic swings in weather that we’ve been seeing are impacting the ability of farmers to grow the plants that we work with and then impacting the growth of those plants in the wild too. Because we need to respond to those changes. Both in terms of how we work with those plants, and also in terms of what we can do at any scale from one person to a community – let’s get the whole planet organized together, come on – to help the plants survive and to thrive.

Katja (00:09:23):
Yeah. So, we’ve talked about sustainability before on the pod. And I’m never the one who remembers the old episodes and the numbers. So, this time Ryn helpfully put the number into the notes for us. I just want to not take credit for saying that it’s episode 169: Herbalism and Climate Change – The Plants, because you would be like wow, this time Katja knew one. And I didn’t. Ryn put that in there helpfully for me, but…

Ryn (00:09:54):
No worries. But look, that was part of the last time we ran a little series on the effects of climate change on herbalism. And that particular episode we were talking like today, just about the plants themselves. Previously we’d been talking more about like what to do when wildfires come your way, flooding, and impacts in that perspective. Lots of windows onto the intersections between herbalism and climate change, for sure.

Katja (00:10:19):
Yeah. This is something that is pretty much always on my mind. I think also, always on your mind. And all y’all listening, probably always on y’all’s minds too. But this morning I was reading an article that had some pretty staggering statistics that I wanted to share. And there’s a link to the article in the show notes, so you can find it there. But the information in this article is from a harvest yield report that was written for a botanical industry group called NeutraIngredients. And you might not have known, but there are lots of these kinds of industry reports that come out every year.

Ryn (00:10:58):
Yeah. Every, I think it’s like, September or maybe November, I get very excited. And then I post onto my personal Facebook about how ah yes, the market report finally came out.

Katja (00:11:15):
It’s so nerdy.

Ryn (00:11:16):
Yeah. And it’s the herbs in commerce report, where they talk about trends and changes in what’s been popular this year versus previous years. And they’ve got these tables where they say here are the top 40 selling herbs in the mainstream market channel and the natural market channel. And it’s really interesting actually. Like you can see the impacts of COVID on elderberry purchasing over the last couple of years. And a couple of other plants that were popularized in part because of the pandemic. So, you know, there’s that kind of thing. And we often have a need to pause in a discussion like this, and say look, I’m not here to shill for the industry group, good grief. Or to defend the most enormous companies out there laundering their reputations through this kind of work or whatever. Because I know that that’s happening. Yes, we know that that’s happening. But look. There is some really intriguing information available through these kinds of groups. And there aren’t many other places to get it.

Katja (00:12:17):
Yeah. And the thing is that we need the information actually. Maybe you are the only herbalist you know in your community. Or maybe you have like one herbal friend. And so your context for herbalism is just what you do and what maybe your friend does. And there’s no way for you to know the scale that a lot of this stuff is happening on, if you don’t have these kinds of reports. Even if you have a big group of herbal friends. It’s really kind of mind blowing to read some of these reports and to see first of all, how much of the herbs that are harvested are actually going to the pharmaceutical industry. Like that’s actually fascinatingly interesting. And to see what herbs they’re interested in, what herbs are they buying? But then just to see, I mean, the scale on which herbs are being traded throughout the world.

Ryn (00:13:20):
Yeah. Including information about like well, if you compare it to 20 years ago, where you see the curve showing just like profits on sales of botanicals as supplements. And you’re like wow, that really is spiking up very similarly to a year over year temperature curve. It’s got the hockey stick thing going on. And that’s one of the important factors that we’re trying to be aware of. Part of that’s driven by climate change. Part of that’s driven by people who are not well served, or dissatisfied with conventional medicine, or trying to protect themselves in whatever way that they can find. And so, there is a correlation there.

Katja (00:13:59):
Yeah. I think also that, especially since today we’re thinking in terms of stress on the plant populations. Now granted most, or like the majority… Maybe not all the way to most, but the majority of the plants in these reports, the majority of the plants that they’re talking about in industry are cultivated and not wild harvested. Not all of them. Some of them are being wild harvested, and that is more problematic. But the majority are cultivated. So, we are talking about the agriculture industry. And of course, now we can… If we really want to like go galaxy brain on this, we can also be thinking about the conditions for workers and where these farms are located. And the soil conditions in those locations. And the irrigation conditions in those locations and all that other stuff. There are so many things we can think about when we look at these kinds of reports. But right now it plays a role for what we’re thinking about today in terms of the stress on the populations. And also in terms of this is where the data is, where we can see what’s going on with the yield. And so this particular article that references this report, the article is titled Botanical Yields Fall as Climate Change Affects Harvests. And there’s no way to have that data as individual herbalist in different places. Like we might notice it a little bit. But to see it in the aggregate, you need to be reading these big reports.

Impacts on Chamomile, Valerian, Elderberry & Pine Bark Harvests

Ryn (00:15:40):
Yeah. So, this one, the writeup about this came from August 17th from this year. So, that’s just a few days ago for us as we’re recording. 2022, okay. And this one mentions effects on chamomile and valerian as well as elderberry. In this writeup they noted that the chamomile harvest was down by as much as 40%. And that what they’re harvesting is often lower quality than what is typical or what’s desirable. The word that they reason to describe it in the report was earthier. And that reflects an actual change in the taste and the color of your chamomile. And as you know, taste and color of chamomile and any other plant are very important. In a way they’re made up of the phytochemicals within that plant, right? What makes the calendula flower orange? Well, we’ve got carotenoids and some other pigments.

Katja (00:16:35):
Yellow. Whatever, yellowy orange. Yeah.

Ryn (00:16:39):
Yeah. What makes the chamomile flower smell chamomile-y? It’s a whole array of different volatiles there. And if the plant is stressed to the point that it can’t adequately produce those.

Katja (00:16:53):
Or that it’s shifting its production to a different group of volatiles for various reasons. I mean, listen, every chemical that the plant creates it’s doing for its own purposes, right? Like volatile oils, they smell nice. And they have a lot of function in the human bodies, as do bitter compounds, as do minerals. Like all different things in the plant do different things in human bodies. But the plant is producing those things for its own benefit in response to its environment. And so when its environment changes, it produces different quantities, different ratios, or entirely different phytochemicals. And so when we see a change in the color of the plant… They’re saying that the color this year is browner, last year also is browner. And when we see a change in the taste. And they’re describing it as earthier. What that’s really telling us is that the phytochemical profile of the plant has shifted.

Ryn (00:17:58):
Yeah. And I mean, you know, it’s pretty much…. It just feels very direct. It’s like yep it was a lot hotter. There was drought. And the chamomile got kind of baked out, you know? The green shifted towards yellow, towards brown, you know? The scent kind of cooked off a bit. I’m not saying that that’s a literal, simple description of what was occurring here. But it’s pretty much in that direction, you know? And so this means that the actions that we expect from that batch of chamomile may or may not be present in the way that we expect. They might be stronger or weaker, because of those shifts in the chemical makeup. Yeah.

Katja (00:18:38):
We’ll talk a little bit more about those chemical shifts in a minute, but I want to share some more numbers. This one is about valerian. So, valerian, when we work with valerian, most commonly it’s the root that they work with in commerce. Ryn has some aspirations to do cool things with valerian flowers.

Ryn (00:18:59):
I like them. I like them. I’ve got to grow some.

Katja (00:19:02):
But commercially… Hey, at our forever home you’re going to get to. Yeah. It’s so exciting. But the root that they’re talking about for commercial purposes, since 2018 there has been a reduction in the harvest by 800 pounds of dried root matter per acre. That is a ton of reduction.

Ryn (00:19:34):
She’s waiting.

Katja (00:19:36):
It’s half a ton.

Ryn (00:19:37):
It’s about half. A ton is 2000 pounds.

Katja (00:19:41):
It’s about half a ton.

Ryn (00:19:44):
We’re joking because we’re trying to diffuse the freak out of per acre, every acre, everywhere that they’re growing valerian?

Katja (00:19:51):
Of dried? That’s not even fresh material. Like they’re weighing that out dried, and it’s coming in 800 pounds less per acre. I didn’t even know you could get 800 pounds per acre of valerian, much less 800 pounds less. That’s a lot less.

Ryn (00:20:07):
That’s bonkers.

Katja (00:20:08):
That’s bonkers. I wish that they had included that as an overall percentage of total yield. And they did not. It might be in the report somewhere, but it wasn’t in the article. And I couldn’t access the actual report, because there’s a paywall. But that’s a ton. Well, I mean that’s half a ton.

Ryn (00:20:30):
Yeah. They mentioned also that during this time that valerian was becoming more popular, and that demand was increasing. So, you know, falling yields, increasing demand. Not a great recipe really for anybody. You know, there’s lots of different effects that are going to come from that. One from a selfish, human perspective is that prices are going to go up.

Katja (00:20:51):
Well, okay. So, that’s selfish quote-unquote on the consumer side. But on the producer side when prices go up, there’s a lot of pressure there to either adulterate your product, because your margins are so high. That if you adulterate to artificially increase your yield, you can make a lot of money. And so the pressure to actually do that becomes higher than if it was like a plant that didn’t have quite so high demand. But also, the pressure to take risks, like to take agricultural risks that aren’t sustainable for the plants. Like to harvest plants that aren’t fully mature or to maybe use a fertilizer that is not going to do great. Like it will produce larger roots, but maybe not be very good for the quality of the plant that’s harvested. And then there’s pressure for distributors to import from lower quality sources, or to purchase lower quality sources even if they’re not imported, even if they’re domestic. And so, all of those pressures are playing in in this kind of environment where the supply is going down and the demand is going up

Ryn (00:22:22):
Yeah. You know, the report there also mentioned there were year-over-year losses in the elderberry harvest too and also in pine bark. Pine bark is a little more popular in Europe than it seems to be in the US. And in particular there’s a few kind of well-known pine bark supplements or extracts that are quite popular over that way. But yeah, declining. And you know, we’re just looking there and valerian, chamomile, pine, elderberry, fairly different plants, you know? It’s not like it’s only affecting aromatic flowers that like to grow in a field environment.

Katja (00:23:01):
Or only affecting things like marshmallow root that want a damp environment or whatever, yeah. All right. So, this is just one article about one report. And we can take this to be indicative of the larger scene, and that gives us a lot of information. So, let’s talk about what’s going on here. And then we will talk about what we can do about it.

Various Types of Environmental Stressors on Plants

Ryn (00:23:32):
Yeah. So, you know, these kinds of shifts, let’s say at the beginning, they’re problematic. They’re bad for plants overall. And we’re not just thinking about drought, but also even shifts in the delivery of water. So, I’m thinking there of places where instead of having fairly steady rain over a longer period of time, you get a bunch of drought and then a giant downpour all at once. That’s something that we’ve been kind of feeling around here lately.

Katja (00:24:03):
Yeah. That is going to contribute. First off, it’s a lot of stress on the plant that’s not getting water when it needs it. When the water comes, it doesn’t stay put. Like most of it runs off. But as it runs off, so do a lot of soil nutrients. Another thing that we had here this year and last year too, is in the beginning of the growing season, in the germinating and seedling season, we had too much rain and too much cold. And so that created a lot of rot situations. Well, some seeds just didn’t germinate, because the conditions weren’t right. And then the seeds rotted. So, you had to reseed a bunch of stuff. And then maybe your seedlings were out. But they ended up with root rot, because it was too cold and too wet, and they never really could dry out. So, now you lost your crop maybe before it even became a crop, before it really even grew at all. So, that’s another kind of situation. It isn’t just that people have no water. It’s just that water and sun need to balance out, and they’re not balancing out right now.

Ryn (00:25:22):
Yeah. And there can also be changes in the way that that affects insects that might prey on the plants or just kind of interfere with their growing habit and everything. Yeah. So, again, this is just a way to say the plants are stressed, and that it’s widespread. So, an effect of that stress, of that different availability for water, for nutrients, or having them at the wrong time, or things like that, that’s going to change the way the plant grows. It’s going to change the chemical profile that the plant produces. We know that plants change their production of different chemistry all throughout the year, right? Even in an ideal growing season for that particular plant, it’s going to produce more aromatics in the height of summer, than it is kind of at the beginning of the season or at the end of its life.

Katja (00:26:14):
And you can know that for yourself. If you go out and check your catnip plant when it’s a little baby seedling, and it’s not really very established yet. It’s not going to be nearly as smelly as it’s going to be when it is totally happy, and it’s the middle of July, you know?

Ryn (00:26:33):
Yeah. And, you know, for all plants there’s going to be variations here. Some of them you’re going to be able to detect. A lot of our plant chemistry we can detect with our senses. And that’s important to our work as herbalist. But even there have been investigations into these things done through a laboratory and no noses involved, right? But we’re going to say ah yes, we have andrographis. And it has this growing season. And at this time of the year the andrographolide content is really high. So, make sure you harvest it just in this moment. And then someone, you know, who’s a little extra clever, turns around and talks to the people who’ve worked with this plant for the longest, and have some traditional knowledge, and asks them when they harvest it. And it’s usually just about exactly at that time. We see these connections, and we think ah yes, this is good.

Katja (00:27:19):
Listen, because people have been doing science for as long as there have been people, right? Yeah, now we have cool equipment that assists us in the doing of science, but we’ve always been doing science. And they didn’t have microscopes or whatever kind of spectrometers. But they said huh, when I harvested on this day, that batch was really good and really effective. I’m going to do that again.

Ryn (00:27:41):
Right. Or even every time I feed people nettles that’s harvested after it’s flowered in late August, then the people with kidney trouble come and complain to me about it. Or things that people have observed over a longer period of time and have come to understand about this. And then we can again, look at it from another perspective. And say ah yes, well, after the plant flowers the nettle leaf makes more oxalate crystals. And that can irritate your kidney, especially if it’s already inflamed. Yeah. So, we can learn these things about our plants. And they can shape our decisions about when to harvest and what kind of remedies to make and so on. But we can also gain some insight from that into the way that these productions are going to change as the plant’s growing cycle changes. As it responds to the changes in the climate, and the changes in the rainfall, in the spikes of the heat, and when they come, and how long they last. So, we’re going to have to expect those kinds of changes. And it’s not to say that we have the capacity now to predict all of them and know exactly what to do. We’re going to need to be agile as we respond to this and observe it through time, including through the use of our senses.

Katja (00:28:53):
And it may not be reliably predictable from year to year, even. We can’t even necessarily say oh, my plants changed in this way this year. I should expect that from now on. No.

Ryn (00:29:10):
Right. Yeah. And you know, one manifestation of that could be… I think from the world of looking at plants, and looking at varieties of plants, and looking for the biggest, most beautiful, most perfect tomato. And like that impulse in a lot of agriculture or of plant commerce. And how there’s an extension of that into herbalism. And how when we look at say a field of potatoes, and they all get attacked by a blight. And then someone says yeah, but we should remember that in the Andes mountains, on every mountain and on every hill and every ledge and of different altitudes, there would be a different variety of the potato. And some of them could be resistant to the blight. And some of them could survive a different problem that happens at another time of the year or whatever, right? And so there to say we don’t necessarily need to strive to have the most perfect basal or the exact lineage descendant of tulsi or whatever else. But that local variation is going to be really important there. And continuing to kind of protect that, and to shepherd that, and help that to evolve is going to be part of our jobs.

Katja (00:30:34):
Yeah. To protect and shepherd and steward the plants that thrive in your area, and to resist the temptation to monocrop the plants that thrive in your area. Right? To continue the variety even as you steward the one that seems to be strongest in your current situation. Because as things change, then the variety that is the strongest may also change. And so continually planting multiple varieties or continually planting just in general great diversity in your growing space wherever that is.

Ryn (00:31:11):
Yeah. And that includes at all levels, right? That’s like from the person growing the plant, to the people who are making medicine out of it, to the people who are suggesting or guiding people towards these remedies, and then getting feedback about which ones work the best. Like everybody has to get involved. Like all of the herbalist, the different types and specialties of herbalist need to be involved in this work. Yeah. But I think we’ve kind of detoured into solutions, when we were trying to just give you a list of scary problems.

Rising Prices & Pressures on Quality

Katja (00:31:36):
No, no. The solutions are coming. Don’t worry. Okay. So, other problems that happen, of course, is raising prices. And we were talking about that when we were talking about the valerian. That raising prices isn’t just a bummer for the people who are trying to afford what they want or what they need. But it also puts pressure on the industry to degrade the quality of what we can purchase by various mechanisms. Either through adulteration, or through sourcing from lower quality sources. And this is why I’m going to do my Mountain Rose Herbs thing. And I know that local is awesome and all that stuff. And I am in favor of it. And sometimes as a person who is in favor of all that stuff. To be like hey, you know what you should do. Is you should support this big producer or distributor. Well, actually Mountain Rose Herbs is both. They also produce a lot of things themselves. But the flip side of that is that when there is a large company who is doing work with great integrity, and who is responsive to their community, then that needs to be supported. Because some things can only be done at the large scale. And Mountain Rose is really using their position as a large supplier for the forces of good. And they’re reinvesting in sustainability. They’re creating. We did a podcast about rhodiola. And no, I can’t remember the number, because I can’t.

Ryn (00:33:18):
We’ll get it in the show notes. That was part of our interview with Shawn.

Katja (00:33:21):
Yeah. Shawn Donnille. And because they are large, they can afford to support new avenues of sustainability that require upfront investment and require that investment over a series of years before there’s any payoff. And so yes, support local. And that’s critically important. But also for the things you can’t get locally, for the things that you don’t know the grower, then Mountain Rose is really good. And the reason here that I’m promoting that… And they’re not paying me to say this. When they do, we tell you. But the thing is that their staunch company policy is that they would rather run out of something than source lower quality or source unsustainable material.

Ryn (00:34:20):
Irresponsibly, unethically, with a lot of these adjectives all at the same time, lined up to each other, and paying attention to the differences.

Katja (00:34:28):
Right. And they’re continually improving in it. And the other thing is that you might have noticed recently that they are drastically expanding their tincture selection. And that is intentional, because tincturing is a way that you can provide more medicine with less plant matter. And so they intentionally are creating high quality tinctures, so that they can consume less plant. And so that they can make more available to people in a more sustainable manner. So again, Mountain Rose is not the only company out there doing good things, but they’re very good example of this.

Ryn (00:35:08):
Right, yeah. Look for your B Corps. Look for, again, always starting with what’s local and what you can have a most direct connection to. Yes, absolutely.

Katja (00:35:21):
And then, especially as things become less available, or if because of climate pressure your local source for something is no longer viable. And you’re thinking well, where am I going to get this now? It’s going to be hard to find it. So, if you don’t know, Mountain Rose is a safe place to go, because we know what their standards are. We know that they’re consistently listening to community feedback and consistently trying to improve the situation. So, that’s my not-a-commercial commercial for Mountain Rose. But I guess I just say it’s important to include. Because it doesn’t do any good to say oh, you have to be careful that the sources for your plants aren’t adulterated. And then not say hey, if you don’t know how to do that, here’s a place to start. Because it can be very intimidating. A lot of times when you are purchasing plant material on the internet. Or you’re not able to get it from people who you know, and you can go to the farm and talk to the growers, which is always the ideal situation. But sometimes you can’t do that. And a lot of times you don’t really feel like you have the accessibility into different companies that you might be buying from. You should always try. Try to talk to the owner and whatever. But if you feel stuck, and you’re like well, now I just have no options. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to leave you with no options. I want to risk sounding like a cheerleader for a big company but give you a place to turn.

Ryn (00:37:06):
Right. And then again, the other reason that we bring this up is just to keep in mind the scales of operation that we are talking about here. There are larger botanical industry companies than Mountain Rose. There are supplement companies that are moving and churning through a lot of plant material out there. And not all of them are very scrupulous about it, so…

Katja (00:37:31):
Yeah, there are some that are wildly unscrupulous about it. And yeah.

Help by Not Hoarding

Ryn (00:37:35):
Yeah, So, we’re trying to raise these issues and just be aware of them. And again, to connect those back through this chain of events to it was wicked hot, and it was wicked dry this summer. And it’s going to be next summer. And it’s going to be the one after that. And we’re trying to understand the effects of these things at all of these different scales. From that plant to that field, to the community all the way out to the whole planet. So, all right. Like we said, there are some things we can do about this. And let’s give you some ideas. So, the first one here might sound a little counterintuitive or – I don’t know – might feel like it’s out of left field for a moment, but we’re going to get you there. This first suggestion is do not hoard herbs. So, hoarding is actually wasteful. It’s not preservatory.

Katja (00:38:31):
I mean, right? There is such a human impulse to squirrel things away for winter. That is the squirrel part of the human impulse, I guess. And that is at a DNA level, right? Squirrels hoard things for the winter. That is what they do, and nobody judges them about it. That’s what squirrels do. Listen. There is a part of being a human that is winter is coming, I better be prepared. Or famine is coming, I better be prepared. Or whatever else, right? Part of that just is being human. So, we already have that tendency kind of built in.

Ryn (00:39:13):
And that tendency can be – I don’t know what the right word is – like directed or buffered or contained by culture and by community. But when your culture and your community don’t teach you how to do that, then it’s very easy to go pretty far off the rails, you know? And lots of herb teachers have identified this in different ways. I always enjoy Howie Brounstein’s description of it as herb lust. And he’s usually talking about that in the context of trying to take people out on a plant identification walk. And suddenly everybody’s grabbing flowers, and putting them in their pockets, and trying to take them home. And you kind of have to lay out some rules. And to be like listen, that’s not what we’re here for right now. And when we are, you’ll definitely know. And there will be a lot of other rules about how we go about doing that, right? Because that’s how we get ahold of that urge. And that includes, especially for people who are new to herbalism, or in the most excited exploratory phases of their herbalism, where they want to try everything. And they want to have a lot of everything. And they want to have a room full of herbs up to the ceiling. And are they going to need a gallon of lobelia tincture this year?

Katja (00:40:27):
Probably not.

Ryn (00:40:29):
Or this decade? I don’t know. I don’t know. Probably not though, right? So, we start with the warning to not hoard, because we recognize the tendency. And how a lot of it grows out of just the delight and the joy of having herbs. And also the feeling of I’ve got some medicine here. This is great. We’re going to be safe. We’re going to be protected, because I’ve got it.

Katja (00:40:53):
And, you know, there’s also this disbalance. Kind of like how we have invented so many kinds of sugar that are each progressively sweeter, that now it’s hard when we come across bitter flavors, because we’re so accustomed to things that are so sweet, like so disproportionately sweet. And so, humans always liked sweet things. But as we have become able to create things that are sweeter and sweeter and sweeter and sweeter, our kind of innate urge towards ooh, I like that sweet thing has been really thrown out of balance. And I see that here too. Humans have that tendency to say I’m going to need this later. I’m going to save it. But our communities have been so damaged. And lately I’ve been learning about the different kinds of community support that are part of Islam. And there are different prescribed times when you give to support different things in the community. And I was reading about it, because of wanting to get involved with supporting refugees here in Massachusetts. And one of the places that had a lot of information about how to do that was a local Islamic center. And so part of that education on the website also included different ways that you could use your different prescribed giving to support refugees. And I was like wait, that’s interesting. I want to learn more about that part of this culture, and so I was digging into it. And I think that, you know, the more that I was reading about it, the more that I was like wait a minute. Many cultures, through religion or through other cultural aspects, had this kind of idea. I even think about like the Scandinavian ideas around hospitality. And it doesn’t really matter how much you hate the person, if they show up at your house, you have to feed them, because it’s really cold, right? Like that’s where a lot of those things came from. Like, because if you didn’t, you could die overnight. You had to house people. You had to feed them, because they could die overnight in the cold. And so even if you didn’t get along, just for the sake of the survival of the community.

Katja (00:43:38):
And so you think about these kinds of traditions in so many different places. But in our modern life our communities have really been amputated. We don’t have time for community. We don’t have the resilience in our communities that we used to have, basically because everyone is working all of the time. And so it’s like there’s no energy left at the end of the day to create these communities of resilience and communities of support in whatever way it happened. I happened to be reading about it in terms of Muslim traditions. But many, many cultures have these ideas, and they’re dying. And so those ideas are the things that told us here’s how to direct the human instinct to save things for the winter. And oops, you have saved more than you needed. And we are going to redistribute that to the people who need it. It’s human to save stuff. It’s community to redistribute that saved stuff to the people who don’t have enough. But when we are humans without community, all we are is saving bodies and there’s no redistribution. There’s no way for us to say oh, you don’t have any. And look, I have all of this. Let me share some with you, so that you have what you need also.

Ryn (00:45:28):
Like the trees in the forest.

Katja (00:45:30):
The trees in the forest.

Ryn (00:45:33):
Yeah. A little extra sugar for that tree that’s having a rough time.

Katja (00:45:39):
Yeah. It’s so funny. It’s like every other species… You were just talking about mouse song, and how mice sing to their babies.

Ryn (00:45:55):
Yeah, the chirpy little songs that we can’t hear, because they’re just, you know, a little high pitched for us.

Katja (00:45:58):
It’s because everyone sings to their babies. The birds do, the mice do, the whales do, the penguins do. Everybody sings to their babies. And everybody provides for their communities, even the trees. That is in the Secret Life of Trees where they’re talking about how if one tree is sick, the other trees will feed it sugar through the root systems. But it’s just like modern industrial humans who have just completely lost that half of us. Like one half is save up the stuff that we’re going to need through the winter. And the other half is spread it around, so that the whole community survives through the winter. And that half has been amputated. And now we just live in this society of I’ve got to get mine. And mine is as much as I can possibly get. And all the rest of y’all are screwed, suckers. And wow, we… Sorry.

Ryn (00:46:58):
So, we resist the urge to hoard.

Katja (00:47:01):
This started off as the urge to hoard is natural. Don’t shame yourself because of that. The urge to hoard is natural, but it is rebuild the part about the community.

Ryn (00:47:14):
Right. And that’s what can bring the sense of security so that you don’t feel need to hoard in quite that way anymore. And so I don’t want all of this to be negative. And I do want to make it clear that it might be difficult to know what your actual needs are right out of the gate. And so this is something that you’re going to kind of continue to evaluate as you go along. Oh, I didn’t actually need the entire two pounds of blackberry root.

Katja (00:47:42):
I did in fact need more than a pound of catnip.

Ryn (00:47:47):
Yeah, exactly. So, you’ve got to assess your needs realistically. And again, that’s something that will evolve and change as time goes by. And I do mean realistically, right? Like if you are running an herbalism free clinic, and you have 30 or 40 people coming through every month. And you’re giving away bags of tea, and foot wash soaks, and other kinds of stuff, and like all of this.

Katja (00:48:11):
Yeah. That’s not hoarding.

Ryn (00:48:12):
Then your realistic need is substantially different from somebody who’s taking care of themselves and their dog and a couple of their friends in the apartment building, right? Yeah.

Katja (00:48:23):
Or like if you are intentionally setting yourself up as community support, right? You’re like okay, you know, I bet we’re going to have another round of COVID this year. And so I am intentionally preparing. And I am letting all my friends know. And I am creating care packages. That’s not hoarding. That is doing the work. So, do not hoard is not the same as don’t use any herbs. Not use, but you know, don’t have any herbs. It is don’t take more than you need. And then eventually they go bad, and now nobody gets to use them, so…

Attending to Abundance & Supporting the Natives

Ryn (00:49:06):
Right. And that kind of goes along with being attentive to what’s most abundant. And so that leads us to our next point here, is to say let’s get smart about invasive plants. Some of those invasive plants out there are filling gaps that need to get filled. So, we can demand some more nuance about how invasive plants are managed, and the way that we think about them, and the way we talk about them. Our position at this particular podcast is that plants are allowed to move around. That the idea of an unspoiled wilderness is racist and colonialist nonsense. That plant populations have been managed by humans on this continent for a really long time before colonizers ever got here. And for that matter, plant populations were managed traditionally in Europe and in Asia and lots of other places as well.

Katja (00:50:03):
Yeah. There’s really no excuse like it’s okay to manage plant populations. We don’t have to have this idea that there needs to be like some kind of unspoiled thing to protect. First off, we need to protect everything. We need to make space in our policies for the survival of the ecosystem.

Ryn (00:50:26):
And to understand that protection does not mean that we wall things off, and then we say that nobody’s supposed to walk around in there…

Katja (00:50:33):
Right. It’s not imprisonment.

Ryn (00:50:34):
if you wear shoes. Yeah, right. That protection is going to be most pervasive and lasting if it means that people have an ongoing relationship with that wilderness, and with those plants, and with those animals, and with the entire ecosystem in all of its nuance. Right. That’s what we’re looking for. So, when we look at invasive plants, the reason we’re using this framework is a lot of times it’s like oh, well, they’re invading. They’re coming in from somewhere else to a place they don’t belong. And they must be chased away, and killed off, and all of that.

Katja (00:51:11):
With pesticides. I mean, herbicides and yeah.

Ryn (00:51:13):
Yeah. But all change is not necessarily bad. And we can get some, again, some nuance and some different perspectives on those invasive herbs. And we can make sure that the needs of the ecosystem that we live in are being met. And recognize that sometimes an invasive plant is the one that can do that job.

Katja (00:51:32):
Yeah. As the climate changes, some plants who were filling a role in the ecosystem, in the community of the plant populations, are no longer able to thrive. But the job they were doing still needs to be done. And a plant that comes in who is also good at that job… Yeah, maybe that plant is identified as invasive, but right now it’s also lending a helping hand. And so I think that if we can put more nuance into the way that we think about invasive plants. And when there’s a plant that comes in and really does damage to the ecosystem, that’s one thing. But changing the face of the ecosystem is not damage. As long as the pollinators still have what they need, and the soil still has what it needs, and the waterways still have what they need.

Ryn (00:52:27):
Yeah. We want to try to protect and sustain existing so-called native plant populations as much as possible. Absolutely, every last degree of it, yes. But I think that the most important part of that is going to dovetail directly with looking at invasive differently. And it’s noticing that the invasive plants come in where people have disrupted territory. This is like where they arrive. It’s where they come from. They thrive in anthropogenic habitats. That’s the fancy way to say it, right? So yeah, we do need to understand our impacts on all these different ecosystems. And see the invasive bloom as a part of that. And not respond by saying oh oops, let me kill it and hide the evidence of what I’ve accomplished in this area, right? Like that’s not the most productive response here.

Katja (00:53:16):
And even when we establish that a particular plant has moved into an ecosystem, and it is not playing a role. And it’s taking up space that is needed by a plant who could have a supporting role in that ecosystem. Then we’re going to get further if we manage that plant without chemicals, right? If we dump a bunch of chemicals on it, then we’re just pushing the ecosystem out of balance even further. It’s more work to do it manually and to really replace it with another plant who will thrive and fill the role that needs to be filled in the ecosystem. That’s more work. But on the other hand it’s more successful.

Ryn (00:53:59):
Yeah. If we had an eco-corps, you know, a job corps situation going, but it was all eco jobs.

Katja (00:54:06):
That’d be cool.

Ryn (00:54:07):
Yeah. It sounds cool to me. I don’t know. It’s a lot of manual labor. There are problems. I don’t know.

Katja (00:54:13):
Yeah, okay. There are problems. But listen, your town already has a crew of people who are employed to do this work. And you can get involved in how that work happens. Okay. It’s going to take learning. But you can learn about the plants that are coming in. The ones who are playing supportive roles in the ecosystem versus the ones who are not playing supportive roles. Instead of just looking at it’s crowding out a native species, looking at the whole picture. And then you can present that at your town meetings. You can present that to the department of public works. You can form a partnership about how will our town manage the wild plant populations. And what do we take into consideration when we’re identifying invasive species that need to be controlled. Some of them will still need to be controlled. But we can be nuanced about the parameters that we use to evaluate which ones that is and evaluate the methods that we want to use to control them.

Ryn (00:55:28):
Yeah. And it’s kind of an extension of trying to be a conscious steward. You know, this is looking beyond land that you supposedly own, right? That’s not the only place that you can be thinking in terms of stewardship. So, like she’s saying here, to talk to owners of land or town boards for public lands, whether that’s a city or a state or whatever else. And say like what’s going on, right. And like you said, forming groups and clubs, and like literally carrying water, and maybe shading some plants, protecting habitat, all these kinds of things. Maybe there’s some Greenpeace work to be involved in some of that a little bit. I don’t know.

Katja (00:56:10):
Listen. Even if your town has decided that… Purple loosestrife, for example, is one of my favorite plants that gets identified as invasive. Oh, autumn, olive too. I have a lot of them actually. Even if your town says okay, we’re going to change our policy on purple loosestrife. And we’re actually going to let purple loosestrife come in. Or we’re going to stop chemically trying to restrict the purple loosestrife. That doesn’t mean that you’re not necessarily going to manage it at all. I mean, you manage mint in your garden too. But you can manage that population. And then you can also identify this native population is struggling. And so why is it struggling? Oh, because it’s too hot. What can we do to help? Or it’s not getting enough water, or it’s this, or it’s that. What can we do to help create a microclimate for that native plant population to improve its ability to survive. And that might be shade screens. They make shade tarps that are basically just tarps with a very loose weave, so that there’s holes. And the, and it will, you can get percentages, right? Like you can get a tarp that will block 20% of the sun, or 40% of the sun, or 60% of the sun. And maybe you have a native population that needs some shade structures to reduce the stress of too much sun. Or maybe it needs more water, and so you organize a watering schedule. Whatever it happens to be. The point is just it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. We can support our natives. We can support the invasives who are performing functions in our communities. And we don’t have to call them invasives. We can call them plants. We can just call them plants.

Ryn (00:58:09):
Yeah. Right. And, you know, to extend on that we can be looking and learning about who’s thriving near us. So, that can involve expanding in the way that you work with a plant that might be kind of familiar, but maybe got a little pigeonholed. Perhaps your introduction to mugwort was oh, this is an herb that’s really good for when the menstrual cycle’s kind of sluggish. And it can help that blood to flow. Maybe that was kind of all that you remembered about it. And so, that’s the only thing you ever think of for mugwort. But if you maybe look back at your materia medica lessons, and you check out a couple other things. You might find that there’s a lot of different ways you can work with mugwort, some that you kind of skipped over the first time you were learning about it, right?

Katja (00:58:54):
Yeah. I really love to work with mugwort actually, for mental and emotional health. And specifically in cases that are brain fog plus something, right? So, if it’s like brain fog plus depression. Oh my goodness, that is such a good time for mugwort. Or brain fog plus intrusive thoughts. Or brain fog plus anxiety that makes it difficult to focus. All of those are places where I love to work with mugwort. Usually I like to add a little juniper in there too, just because it tastes great, but also to give it just a little extra kick. But mugwort has so much mental health activity stuff going on. It has so many actions in the digestive system. Like even just in terms of circulatory stimulation, you get that too. There’s so much you can do with mugwort.

Katja (01:00:03):
And then even if you think about it topically. Have you ever considered mug wort as a topical antimicrobial for wound care? Because let me tell you yes, it absolutely can help with that. And right now we are in a drought. We just actually got our drought level elevated one more level. And they project it for another… We’ve been in a drought for six weeks, and they project it for another many weeks here. And I’ll tell you, the mugwort is thriving. We have mugwort in our actual garden. We have not irrigated our garden. I did carry a little bit of water for the catnip, but otherwise we haven’t watered our garden at all this year. And the erigeron was fine. It did great. And the mugwort is gorgeous. And if you look at the mugwort, you wouldn’t even know that there was a drought. It’s not wilting. It looks fantastic. So, finding these plants, and saying hold on. You do not seem to care that there’s a drought at all. In fact, you don’t even seem to have noticed. And then saying well geez, I only really know one way to work with you. Is there another? Are there other ways I can work with you, because clearly you’re doing fine right now. The more that we can work with those plants that are thriving locally, and the more creatively that we can work with them, the more that we take pressure off the plants that are struggling. And if we don’t harvest as much of the plants that are struggling, that means there’s more to create seed and hopefully to be stronger next year or whatever.

Grow Your Own, Find Synonyms, & Share with Friends

Ryn (01:01:52):
Yeah. A piece of this that can help a lot is to grow your own, and you can do it pretty much anywhere. You know, we’re big advocates for just getting some five-gallon buckets and putting some soil in them. And you can move them around to try different places for light exposure and shade and water and all of that, for a plant where you’re not sure where you want to put it down yet. Or if you can’t, if you can have just a porch or a fire escape or something, you can do that pretty well.

Katja (01:02:19):
I want to actually mention one other… I’m going to interrupt for a second to mention one other option that you might not think of. Ask other people. If you have a neighbor who has a lawn, ask them if you can grow a garden in their lawn. And then just grow half of it for them and half of it for you. You might be surprised to know that, especially around New England, most of the small herb producers, the actual growers of herbs here in New England, are growing on rented land. And most of them do not own their land. Some do, but most of them are renting land. You would be so surprised at how many places are available to rent land or to have a piece of land, like a small gardenable part of land, available to you. And it’s not just community gardens. So, if you don’t have a lawn, just don’t be dismayed. Just get really creative. And if your town doesn’t have community gardens, then okay, let’s go to town hall. And listen, town hall is there for exactly this purpose. So, head on down and propose a community garden. And, you know, it’s no different than the people that propose a dog park, and the people that propose a this and a that and whatever. Propose a community garden. And anyway, there are lots of ways. So, don’t be dismayed if you are renting, and you don’t have access to the dirt that you’re renting is on.

Ryn (01:03:58):
Yeah. And you can ask other people about seeds as well. You know, look around your neighborhood. If somebody has a great bunch of basil or tulsi growing around, ask them if they’ve got some seeds to share. You can also get seeds from wild plants instead of harvesting those wild plants. You don’t really need a lot of seed to get you started. And then you can grow your own and have a nice big harvest next year. So, if you harvest some seeds this year, those will be ready for you. And with a lot of wild plants, you can pretty much just grab the seeds and put them right in your garden right when you harvest and let them hang out there over the winter. You might not need to do anything special with them.

Katja (01:04:37):
You know, I mean, make sure that they don’t get eaten if they are the tasty kind of seeds. But for the most part, especially if there’s plants that are thriving right now around you, you can just grab some seeds and just plop them down in a bucket of dirt, and they will grow. Try to mimic the place where you found them. So, if it’s a little bit shady or totally sunny or whatever, try to create that sort of situation at your home or wherever you are planting them. And don’t hoard seeds, right? Like if there is a stand of whatever, a stand of motherwort. And you say oh, I’m going to get some seeds and plant my own motherwort. But then you take all of the seeds of all of the plants that were growing there. Well, you might as well have just harvested those plants, because it can’t reproduce now. And you never need as many seeds as you think you’re going to need. So, just take a little bit, like if there’s however many plants, just take two thirds of the seeds from one plant. That will actually be enough for you to get the plants established in a place where you can steward them, and you can harvest them the following year.

Ryn (01:06:00):
Yeah. Cool. All right. Another suggestion is to look for synonyms. Synonyms? Hey, wait a minute. So, what does that mean? Well, what if I can’t get my hands on any nettle right now? Well, perhaps I can find or grow some dandelions instead. And if there’s no elderberry to be found this year, because the market sales increased another 37%.

Katja (01:06:24):
Plus the harvest is down however many percent. Yeah, exactly.

Ryn (01:06:27):
Yeah. So, if that happens, then what can we do with the local staghorn sumac berries? How do they compare? How do they stack up?

Katja (01:06:34):
Fairly well, actually. They compare fairly well. Think about all the herbs that you can’t live without. And then think about why. Why is that herb so important for you? And what are the actions that that herb performs in your body that you need. And then use that information to help you either find an herb that is a synonym for you or to formulate. Maybe you really can’t live without chamomile. And so there’s no herb that is exactly like chamomile, but you can like put a couple herbs together to get the kinds of effects that you need, that you turn to chamomile for.

Ryn (01:07:17):
Sure. You can do it for all kinds of different herbs. I wonder if you could formulate a synonym for cinnamon.

Katja (01:07:24):
You just wanted to say synonym and cinnamon next. That’s actually harder than I thought it was going to be.

Ryn (01:07:30):
It’s not the easiest one.

Katja (01:07:31):
That was actually hard to say.

Ryn (01:07:32):
But actually also, what would that be? We would need… If we have a spice that makes it kind of easy.

Katja (01:07:38):
Ginger. If you had ginger. Oh, listen. It’s ginger and goji berry.

Ryn (01:07:45):
Is cinnamon?

Katja (01:07:47):
Don’t you think so? Because the goji gives you a little bit of sweetness, and the goji gives you a little moistening action as well. But the ginger gives you the warmth, and the circulatory simulation, and the anti-spasmodic action. And also blending it with goji backs off the heat just a smidge, because maybe ginger is a little warmer than cinnamon. They’re pretty close, but… I’m advocating. It’s not like that was an answer I had in my back pocket, because I didn’t know you were going to talk about cinnamon. But that’s my answer.

Ryn (01:08:21):
This is the game, folks.

Katja (01:08:22):
I propose it. I propose ginger and goji.

Ryn (01:08:25):
We played this game on the pod before actually, way back. I did have to look this up beforehand, okay. I don’t know the numbers offhand. But way back in episode 30, we did an episode where we were talking about formulating absent friends. And we did tulsi and chamomile. And we came up with some options for that. We should probably do that again. without listening back.

Katja (01:08:44):
Usually you do know the numbers off the top of your head. Everybody who listens to the podcast knows that normally you know the number. It’s pretty ridiculous.

Ryn (01:08:52):
So, our last suggestions for you for things that we can do in response to the drought and the pressures on the plant harvest is to share your herbs with friends.

Katja (01:09:03):

Ryn (01:09:04):
Wait, wait, what am I going to do? First, I’m not supposed to hoard things. Now I’m supposed to give away my herbs, just because these people are my friends. I don’t know about that.

Katja (01:09:13):
That’s exactly what you should do.

Ryn (01:09:15):
Are you sure?

Katja (01:09:16):
Yes. Listen. So, it’s hard, honestly. It’s hard not to have too much. So, go through all your herbs right now. Anything that’s older than a year. Tinctures, dry herbs, whatever, anything that’s older than a year. Maybe you got too much of it. And so start thinking about what you could share. Or maybe you kind of like got really enamored in some other plant. And so you kind of forgot that you had that stash. Okay. This is the chance now to really get into it and work with it. Especially because right now you might be making your herb order for the winter. Or you’re harvesting things, and you’re realizing that you still have a little bit from last year or whatever. All of these are indications that it’s time to share. And sharing also means swapping, right? You can exchange things, especially if your area had a really hard year for whatever, chamomile, whatever it was. And you have a friend who has lots of chamomile. But they don’t have any Solomon’s seal, and you happen to have a lot of it. You can swap. This practice actually is as old as herbalism. Trading herbs back and forth, that’s some of the oldest trade that there was. So, it is an important part of being an herbalist. And in fact, in our online community – that’s part of our school online – we have a student swap board. And this fall we are going to be implementing a schoolwide herb swap. And so if you’ve ever participated in like a holiday cookie swap, it’s going to be kind of like that.

Ryn (01:11:03):
She was telling me this morning, she has a whole vision.

Katja (01:11:05):
I do. I’m very excited about it. So, we’re going to get people who want to do herb swaps together in groups. And if you just want to swap one thing with one person, that’s fine. If you have so much sumac that you infused in honey. And now you have this really delicious, sweet and sour sumac honey. And you have tons of it, and you want to share it with lots of people, we’re going to have groups that are sharing with all kinds of people. It’s going to be so much fun. It’ll be a way for you to make new friends and get to know plants that maybe you haven’t worked with before. To share stuff that you have in abundance. To strengthen your own community network of herb friends. And your community network doesn’t have to only be right next door to you. It can be people all over that you share with, and people who support you. That too is traditional in herbalism, right? Like we have always shared herbs from far away. And so it’s okay if you want to swap herbs with somebody who lives across the country from you. It’s part of the tradition. So anyway, this whole thing is happening in our student community groups. And so if you are not a student in our online program yet, then start now. I’m going to launch this in October, but we’re going to start preparing for it now, so that everybody can kind of be making their plans about what they want to swap. And you don’t have to do this through our online community thing. You’re welcome to. You’re invited to. But you don’t have to. You can just do it with your own herb friends. And just have a big community swap. And it can be a barter, it can be a trade. It can be just bring a basket and just share whatever. There doesn’t have to be any dollars involved at all, or whatever kind of currency you have where you are. It can just be we’re all just bringing stuff, and we’re just trading. And it’s such a fun way. It’s fun if you’re new to herbalism. It’s fun if you’re old to herbalism. It’s fun if you’re thinking about starting a business, and you want to like really get some feedback and refine some of your formulas before you launch them. It’s just fun. And maybe you’ll make new friends that way too.

Ryn (01:13:32):
Well, I hope so.

Katja (01:13:32):

Ryn (01:13:34):
Okay. So, those are some suggestions from us. As always, it ends with find some community, build some community. This is the way that we survive together. But yeah, again, thinking about the impacts of drought, impacts of climate change more broadly on the plants. And then the ripple effect that that has throughout the ecosystem into the economic system and all the other levels of abstraction in between.

Katja (01:14:01):
Right. But we’re not… Victim isn’t the word I want. We are not like prisoners to that. Because the systems of resilience that we build, the connections that we build with one another, the connections that we build with the plants, that is what survives us. Listen, humans have been going through troubling times forever. These are pretty big, troubling times. But the concept of getting through hard things together is not new. That is just as human as squirreling things away for the winter. And so all we need to do is just let that part out of us and let it grow. And it grows the more that we do it. The more that we practice it. The more that we come together and form alliances of support. Ways that we can assist one another, ways that we can be there when we need things. Whether that is a cup of tea and somebody to listen to a sad story. Whether it is a piece of cake – of herbal cake – and celebration. Whether it is everything in between. This is what humans do. This is what herbalist do. This is what we have always done. And we can just keep doing it. See, we’re not depressed here.

Ryn (01:15:28):
Yeah, you did it.

Katja (01:15:30):
The times are hard. The troubles are big. And humans are good at that, actually.

Ryn (01:15:36):
Nice. I like it. All right. So, we’re going to be back next time. In our next episode, one of the actions we suggested today as a response to these shifts was learn who’s thriving. Identifying and getting really excited about and really familiar with the resilient plants who live near you. But it occurs to us that maybe you’re not quite sure how to go about doing that. So, next time that’s what we’re going to talk about.

Katja (01:16:05):
Yes, exactly.

Ryn (01:16:08):
Until then take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. Drink some tea,

Katja (01:16:13):
Drink some tea. Share tea with your friends.

Ryn (01:16:17):
Yes. And that’s how we will save the world.

Katja (01:16:19):
That’s right. Bye bye.


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