Podcast 202: Herbs A-Z: Monarda & Nepeta
Happy new year everyone! May 2023 be an herb-filled year for all of us!
Monarda species plants are sometimes known as bee balm, wild bergamot, horsemint, or a variety of other names, but we usually just call them monarda. These lovely mint-family members produce an abundance of hot, “sharp” aromatics which are extraordinarily helpful in infectious respiratory issues. Monarda is fantastic in a steam, but teas and tinctures are also very effective ways to work with this herb. If the intensity is a bit too much, or if you have a dry constitution, try formulating with some demulcents such as fennel, licorice, lungwort, or marshmallow.
Catnip is well-known to many, yet underappreciated. Nepeta cataria is not only for felines – although it is indeed quite good for them to have a little catnip, regularly! For humans, catnip is an excellent relaxant. It works this way in the digestion (releasing cramps and upward-rising heat or nausea), in the skin (as a relaxant diaphoretic), and in the emotions (as a soothing and calming remedy). It’s easy to grow your own, and it’s quite safe even for young children or for elders. 😸
No matter your level of experience or training, it’s always helpful to study the herbs in depth! Our comprehensive presentation of herbal allies is in our Holistic Herbalism Materia Medica course. It includes detailed profiles of 100 medicinal herbs! Plus, you get everything that comes with enrollment in our courses: twice-weekly live Q&A sessions, lifetime access to current & future course material, discussion threads integrated in each lesson, guides & quizzes, and more. Two tuition options are available, including a monthly payment plan.
If you have a moment, it would help us a lot if you could subscribe, rate, & review our podcast wherever you listen. This helps others find us more easily. Thank you!!
Our theme music is “Wings” by Nicolai Heidlas.
Hi, I’m Katja.
And I’m Ryn.
And we’re here at Commonwealth Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.
And on the internet everywhere, thanks to the power of the podcast. Woohoo. Happy New Year. Hello 2023. Hello podcast listeners.
Hello. Hello YouTube listeners also. We are really excited for 2023. It’s going to be an excellent year.
Yeah. We’ve got a lot planned, but you’ll hear about it when it happens. So, for now let’s just say that remember in our last episode, all the way back in last year, okay,
2022, so long ago.
Enough of that joke. Last episode we talked about three species of mint, specifically Mentha. And the thing is, we’re not done with the mint family yet, because today,
That was excellent. Hey, mint family. We’re not done with you yet.
Yeah, that’s for real. Today we’re talking about catnip and about monarda.
I mean, aren’t we actually talking about monarda and catnip? I mean, when we think about these in terms of alphabetical order on the shelf, the monarda does come first. Sorry.
Yeah, you’ve got to keep your alphabets in order.
If we are talking about it in priority order to Ryn, then perhaps…
Catnip is first, yeah.
the catnip is probably first.
No question about that.
And I mean, the monarda is a close second, but okay. Anyway, sorry, we were saying.
Yeah. So, it’s going to be our topic. But before we jump in, I just want to remind you that if you like our podcast, you’ll probably love our online courses. They’re taught primarily by video lessons, and they’re designed for you to progress at your own pace with lots of support as you go along. But, you know, since you like podcasts, we want you to especially know that we also provide MP3 versions of all of the video content, so that you can download that, put that on your phone, and take a walk in the woods. And take us with you wherever you go, even to places that don’t have cell service or internet.
So, if you want to support our podcast on the other hand, the best way to do that is to buy some of our online courses. That way everybody gets something good.
That’s right. You’re not just supporting us, you’re also getting something cool. All of our courses have twice weekly live Q & A sessions that you are invited to. They’re not mandatory, but they’re really fun. And that way you kind of get the best of both worlds. You get to work on the material at your own pace. It never expires. You have lifetime access. So, it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get through it. But on the same hand, on the other hand, on all of the hands, you also have the opportunity to talk to us live twice a week. Ask your questions. You can ask your questions in writing too. They get answered daily. But it’s just really fun to be together in person, and we would love to see you there.
Yeah. So, you can find everything we’ve got at online.commonwealthherbs.com. All right. And then the other thing we have to do before we get rolling is our reclaimer. And that’s where we remind you that we are not doctors. We are herbalist and holistic health educators.
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.
We want to remind you that good health doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. Good health doesn’t exist as some kind of objective standard out there in the universe. 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 need to adhere to.
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.
Monarda’s Sharpness Is Its Power
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. All right. So, let’s talk about our friends. Our minty minty friends, who neither of them is particularly minty, menthol-y. Catnip has a touch of it in there.
It’s not like minty like double your pleasure, double your fun, double mint gum. It’s not like that. If you’re a child of the eighties…
Sing a little jingle in your head.
Or seventies. Yeah, exactly. So, we are drinking catnip and monarda together today. And if you are at home, and you’re thinking I’ve got catnip and monarda. I’m going to make that into a tea. Well, first off, that’s a great idea. Do it. You can pause us, don’t worry. We’ll wait. But the other thing that I was going to say is that I find a tea that is only catnip and monarda just a little on the sharp side. And so I also tossed in a little bit of pulmonaria and a little bit of marshmallow, which both have very neutral flavors, but they just do take a little bit of the sharp edge off the monarda. And I think that’s actually maybe a good introduction to monarda, because that sharp edge is heat.
There are a few plants that we use this word to describe. That they have that sharpness to their aromatics. Thyme can get there. Oregano can get there. Even rosemary can, although I’d say less so. But monarda is a standout in that regard. Monarda is pretty ferocious with those fiery aromatic elements in there. And that’s fantastic, right, because that’s powerful stuff. That’s good… well, many actions come out of that, right? We get antimicrobial effects from those. We get immune stimulant effects in the local tissues they get exposed to. They are carminative in nature. They’re going to move blood. Carminative and rubefacient. So, carminative is kind of like you drink the thing and your lips, and if we were to see the inside of your stomach and all of that, that gets red. And it gets infused with blood, and activity, and movements, and digestive processing and so on. And you can also take these and do a poultice and put it on your skin. And not just from the heat of the poultice, but from the action of the herb itself, you’ll see that redness in that. And you’ll feel the warmth and the blood movement.
I’m thinking about, I’m sure at some point you’ve heard that phrase – my dad really liked to say this – about well, that’s how you know it’s working. So, like something would be really hot or really bitter or really whatever. And then somebody will say well, ah yeah, that’s how you know it’s really working, you know? And kind of in that tone of voice too. Like very kind of manly macho. It’s working. Ah, it’s making me sweat. And I’m crying that I can taste it so strong. Ah, that’s how I know it’s working. And so on one hand that’s a very kind of heroic sort of approach, which is not necessarily bad, but it is assertive. But I also feel like monarda is really the poster child for that phrase. Because in fact, the intensity of the flavor and also even the smell of monarda is how you know it’s working at least in some of its actions. And specifically here I’m thinking about the antiseptic actions. That the flavor and the smell, a lot of that is carried in the volatile oil content. So, monarda is also really helpful if you have a respiratory infection, and you have it as a steam, and one of my favorite ways to work with monarda. But when you inhale the steam, it’s just as hot. The smell of the monarda is just as hot as the flavor is when you drink it. And those volatile oils, that’s where most of the antimicrobial action is carried or where it is housed in the plant, where it lives. And the intensity of it is… I don’t want to say that the intensity of the flavor and the intensity of the smell is a reflection of the intensity of the action, because it’s not actually a reflection. Those smell/flavor chemicals, the organic chemicals, the chemicals in the plant that are part of the plant that are creating that smell and that flavor, they are actually doing the work of being antimicrobial. So, it isn’t just like reflective of the power. It is the power. So, in this one case yeah, that’s how you know it’s working actually.
Yeah, right. And that kind of leads us naturally into administration methods or preparation methods for this plant. Anything with these kinds of volatiles, you have some flexibility actually. You can take these as tea. And once you smell it, and as you drink it, you’ll smell and you’ll taste those elements, those hot, sharp volatile terpenoids and other friends in the monarda coming through. You can also tincture these kinds of plants very effectively, because those constituents are super enthusiastic about leaping out of the plant matter and into the alcohol. And they’ll swim all around in there and do their thing.
I’m just imagining little monarda volatile oils. They’re like green. They’re definitely green. Green with purple edges and they’re just swimming around in the alcohol, just whatever. Sorry, it’s a cartoon inside my head right now.
Yeah. We’re sharing it. So, a tincture is good and strong. And that’s handy, right? Because it’s nice to drink a hot cup of tea. And that can enhance even further the diaphoretic quality of a hot aromatic plant like this. So, if you were taking to raise heat in the body and get a good strong fever going, then a nice cup of hot tea is really the best way to go for that, right? But if you’re traveling, and you think oh, I don’t know. I’m worried about my lungs or something like that while I go. Then it’s really handy to be able to bring a little bottle of tincture and know that it’s pretty potent in there. That you can squirt that into a cup of hot water that you get at the airport or whatever. Put a few squirts into there and drink that down. That’s still going to be good and solid. But an herb like this that has these strong, hot, sharp aromatics for us always makes us say first and foremost – and you’ve probably been waiting to get it out there – is the steams. Herbal steams are so, so good for this plant.
This plant is so, so good for herbal steams. You know, we do try not to say that plants are good for things. But in this particular case I meant more like this plant just wants to get into a steam. That’s what I really meant.
Multifactorial Help Against the Pathogen Party
Yeah. It comes through really well. It delivers this medicine, it delivers the actions of this plant that we want, right where we want them, right? You’re dealing with a respiratory infection. You might not know what it is. It could be a viral thing. Maybe it’s a bacterial thing. Maybe you’ve got exposed to some fungal stuff, and it’s in there. Hey, it could be all of them together having a little pathogen party.
That’s so common, that’s so common. And you can get really hung up on I need to know exactly what virus I’ve got right now mm-hmm. Okay. Sometimes that is important. I mean, Ebola, it starts off as a respiratory virus too. And if that’s what you’ve got, you do in fact need to know that that’s what’s going on. Okay, sometimes you need to know exactly what virus you have, but sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it’s like I don’t know, my nose is dripping. I’m coughing. I’m sneezing. I’m runny nose and aching and stuffy head and all that stuff. And honestly, most of the time it’s not just one thing. Most of the time there’s lots of pathogens involved. They’re friends. They network. They hang out together.
Yeah. With this herb and with a lot of our herbs that we work with for this kind of kind of effect, they can be very direct in action against some kinds of pathogens like the bacteria or fungi. But they’re also going to help out if you have a viral thing going on. Because it’s not like a pharmaceutical, where it’s totally reliant on one chemical activity, one receptor binding, one capacity to penetrate and disrupt the metabolism of a pathogen in some way. The pharmaceutical has that one trick. And it’s powerful, and you can stuff a whole lot of that power into one tiny capsule. And so, you know, this is why they’ve become so popular in our world, right? But there’s a limit to that. If you pick the wrong pill for the pathogen, that’s… I need another P word. That’s propounding in your preposterousness. Okay, whatever. Yeah. If you pick the wrong one, it’s not going to work. And we see this as a real problem in our world. You’ve probably heard about antibiotic resistance. And yes, a huge portion of that comes from what we do to feed animal and feed lot agriculture and that kind of stuff. But another big part of it comes from giving away too many antibiotics for viral infections. I’ll tell you, my childhood doctor, he was always really ready with that erythromycin prescription. It was just like 10 seconds, and you’re done. Get out of here. And unfortunately, that’s been extremely common for a very long time. And there’s consequences, you know? So, we’re very lucky as herbalists, because we don’t have to worry about that in most cases. And with a plant like this directly, we can break apart or we can literally melt some of these pathogens with those aromatics, with those sharp hot aromatics. And at the same time it’s a little bit, honestly, a little bit irritating to your mucous membranes and to the tissues of your own body. And the way they respond to that irritation is more blood flow. And to wake up some white blood cells that live in those tissues and say hey, something’s going on over here. Do your job.
Yeah. It’s kind of like herbs in their function are multifactorial. So, monarda doesn’t just have one volatile oil that has antimicrobial action. It has many that are like a complex mixture that blend together. It’s like every plant has its own perfume. It doesn’t just have one scent. It’s all these scents blended together. All these chemicals that carry scent or that produce scent blended together to create the smell of that particular flower. And then remember that the smell is actually doing this antimicrobial action. But the more complicated the smell is, the more different chemicals it takes to make up the smell, the more different types of antimicrobial action you’re getting. So, we’re multifactorial or like broad spectrum in that regard. But then also like multiple mechanisms of action are happening too. The actual kills germs on contact behavior of the volatile oils, but then also the humoral stimulation of the impact of those volatile oils against your mucous membranes and etcetera.
Yeah. And I think in this context, it would be fair to call these both antiseptic and immune stimulant, right? Now that phrase immune stimulant is often used for plants like echinacea or maybe red root or something like that. And a lot of times people sort of try to imply with that phrase, or to use it as shorthand for increases white blood cell counts. But that’s not the only type of immune stimulation that one can induce. And it’s not even, I think in a lot of cases, the most important type.
Right. It’s just that we live in a pharmaceuticalized world, and that’s the perspective for all of us. That’s what we grew up with as the perspective. So, when we think about immune stimulation, the very next thing we think about is ah, white blood cells. There must be more white blood cells. No, no, no. There’s like so many other parts of the immune system that you can like wake up, and shake out, and say come on, come on, come on. Let’s go, let’s go. Okay. Just, I’m sorry. A word from our sponsor here is that, so we’re filming this so that we can put it on YouTube. We’re just wearing whatever we were wearing, including the cat hair that came on it, whatever. That’s our deal.
And Ethel here giving me more cat hair on my lap.
Well, see that’s the thing. We’re filming this so that we can put it on YouTube, because some people like to watch stuff on YouTube. And so we want to make this available for everybody. And normally we would say oh, you lovely podcast listeners. Our beautiful cat is in the room. And you can’t see her, but she’s wonderful, and she’s purring at you. Except that today Ethel has managed to…
She’s like hiding behind the…
Right. She has found the only spot that the camera can’t see, and that’s where she decided to curl up and fall asleep. So, whether you are listening on the podcast or watching on YouTube, you can’t actually see, but Ethel is here.
Energetics & Formulating with Monarda
Yeah. She’s probably here for the catnip, but we’re not quite done with monarda yet. There was at least one other thing I wanted to add in here about this. So, we’ve been kind of emphasizing the heat and the potency. And we keep using this word sharp for this. And I’m realizing that might put some people off. And you know what, some of that is actually appropriate, because this herb is hot in nature. It is drying in nature. It’s tonifying in nature. And if that’s not your constitutional pattern, then this might not be the herb for you to drink every single day, right?
Right. Like if your lungs are already hot, hot, hot, dry – you just feel like there’s a desert inside your lungs – you’re probably not going to love monarda right now. You might love it some other time, but right now it’s probably not the time. On the flip side, if you have a cold, wet, boggy lung infection. And every time you cough, it’s sounds like whatever it sounds like when there’s lots of fluid in the lungs. It sounds like that gurgly… Like you can hear the stuff peeling off the inside of the lungs and gurgling around inside the cough. If you’ve got that kind of lung infection, then you would probably really enjoy monarda.
Yeah. But the thing that I’ve been thinking about recently, I started a new student group the other day. And this was kind of coming up spontaneously as I was doing some intro talk. Is that when whenever we say something like that. Like oh, this herb might not be super appropriate if you have this type of constitution, that’s not actually the end of the story. And it doesn’t mean that the folks with the dry or the hot pattern can never, ever work with monarda. The solution is formulation, right? And this herb, I find it formulates really, really well with the herbs we refer to as sweet demulcents. So, the two best examples of that for me are going to be licorice root and fennel seed. There’s something about the heat, the pungency. It’s not thyme. It’s not sag., it’s not rosemary. It’s close to them, but it’s not them.
Monarda has some kind of flavor in there that is all its own. Yeah.
And it’s so nice against fennel or right up along with a little bit of licorice. And she won’t like the licorice, but I like it.
But I recognize that that’s a flavor for you. Yeah.
But it’s so nice. And the sweet demulcents, they have this velvety feeling like in the mouth or as you swallow. And they mitigate some of that sharpness. So, maybe if you had kind of an irritated throat, the monarda on its own might feel a little too much like that. But you pair it with an equal portion of fennel or even a half portion of fennel, and now the drink is a lot smoother, and it feels more comfortable and pleasant.
You know, I’m not a fan of the sweet demulcents, although fennel works for me.
You’re getting more appreciation for fennel this year.
I am, yeah. I am. It is true. But you know, I also don’t put honey in my tea. I just find that flavor to be very cloying.
But that is another option if you’re like I don’t have fennel, oh no.
Yeah, it’s true.
You can put some honey in there and that does a similar effect.
Yeah. But earlier I was talking about marshmallow leaf and pulmonaria. And so that also softens the flavor, but just in a different direction. Instead of that direction being like pushing into a sweet kind of place it is pushing into a… You know how sometimes they describe wine as being like full-bodied or like… Well, that’s how they describe it. Or sometimes coffee too. Sometimes coffee will be described that way. On one hand, I can’t really tell you what I think full-bodied means as a flavor, except that pulmonaria and marshmallow leaf both have it. I’m not sure how else I could possibly describe it, but I know it when I taste it in coffee. I know it when I taste it in wine. And pulmonaria and marshmallow both have it. And that broadness of their flavor, it’s almost like it spreads out the sharp heat of the monarda, and just makes it so that you’re not getting it all in one sharp stabby bit. You’re sort of getting it all spread out neatly over… Yeah.
Yeah. I can feel that. I think we both…
Yeah, had an idea at the same time. That’s okay. Go first.
One other thing about monarda that I really love to do is to both steam with it, and then drink a cup of it, and then bath in it. And this is like I must be really sick, if I’m going to do all these things.
Yeah, it’s true.
Like it’s the actual flu. It’s the whatever, right? And so that can all be the same pot, you know, as long as you don’t drip any snot in it while you’re doing your steam. Then you can like scoop a cup out and drink that. And the rest you can pour into a good hot bath. And you know, bring it into you through all of the pathways of absorption, basically.
It’s true. When you start asking for that, it’s just like oh my God. He’s really, really sick. But it works so well. Yeah. It works so well. The thing I was going to say was that you know, I’m talking about pulmonaria and marshmallow as like a flavor component, but they’re also both really helpful lung components. And both of them have a little moistening action. And so if you are a person like Ryn, who you run dry… Like for me, I can have a hot drying herb all day long forever. And I will never get too hot. And I will never get too dry, because I’m cold and damp to begin with constitutionally. But if you’re somebody like Ryn, where you’re already a little on the dry side, or a lot on the dry side even, then if you are working with monarda over a long period of time, maybe you need to do that. Because even though you’re a dry person, you still can have a wet lung infection. You can get pneumonia. You can get whatever.
Or it could be like, I can’t move out of this apartment, because I don’t have the money. But I know there’s black mold in here. So, an herb like this every day.
Right. But then if your body runs dry, bringing in any of these moistening herbs, whether it’s on the flavor side of pulmonaria and marshmallow or the flavor side of licorice and fennel. Any of them is going to help balance out the heat and the drying action of the monarda, so that it doesn’t compound the dryness you already had in other parts of your body. Maybe you didn’t have it in your lungs, because of too much dampness in your environment or because of a wet lung infection or whatever. But you have it in the rest of your body. And so that will smooth that out for you, so that you’re not uncomfortable.
Yeah. What a lovely plant. We’ve got to grow some this year.
Yeah. It is also super beautiful.
Gorgeous, yeah. So, beautiful.
Yeah. And not hard to grow. I mean, the mints, they’ll grow pretty readily.
And you know about species, we’ve just been saying monarda. And as far as I’m aware, every one of them is great. So, you’ve got Monarda didyma and Monarda fistulosa and a couple of others kicking around here and there. But as far as I know, all of them can do the job.
You know, I am always fairly… So, monarda is such a beautiful plant that there are some horticultural cultivars. And I am always kind of picky about that. I prefer wild versions of plants over horticultural cultivars. But if it has the smell, and if it has the flavor, that’s the most important thing to think about. If it doesn’t have those things, then it’s not going to give you the action that you want, because so much of the action is bound up in the smell and the flavor. But if it does, you don’t have to worry too much about exactly which species it is. All of them that have that strong smell and strong flavor will do the job.
Catnip for the Reluctant Cat Herbalist & Its Actions
Nice. All right, catnip.
You’ve been holding it in. You’ve been just waiting.
Yeah. Well, I kind of wondered. So, one of the reasons Ethel probably came in here was that we both have catnip in the tea. And she in particular, she knows. She can smell it when our tea has catnip in it. She’ll come walking along the counter. And she doesn’t really lap it up, but she’ll sit there.
She will put her face right in the tea.
She’ll sniff at it, yeah.
She does like that a lot.
Yeah. And, you know, we can lead with that. Catnip is actually, yes, good for cats. I always like to emphasize this. I think it’s important for people to know that cats are not the most enthusiastic herbalists, you know?
They’re carnivores. They come reluctantly to the plant world.
Yeah. You kind of wonder does an obligate carnivore like a cat do animal medicine? Do they say oh, I’m feeling a little ill today. I need to find a beaver. This particular kind of mouse has the right kind of chemistry for me. I don’t know. In any case…
Medicinal mouse. I don’t even know, man. That’s dark.
But they are interested in a few plants, right? And they’re interested in catnip. They’re interested in valerian. There’s a plant called silver vine. And there’s tatarian honeysuckle and a couple of others that they seem to get excited about. But for me when I see that, I think okay, they’re particularly interested in this plant. I want to make sure they have access to it regularly. And we get the medicinal grade catnip quality for our animals, just like we do for ourselves. That’s a general principle, right? We give our animals the same water that we drink, the same quality of food. That’s what we’re aiming for.
And you know, the easiest way to get really high-quality medicinal grade catnip is to grow it yourself. It is a very enthusiastic partner in the garden. It is very easy to grow. And of course, the next thing you’re going to think is like well, how will I grow it without all the cats in the neighborhood destroying it. Grow two rows. One for the cats and just leave it for them. And then put a fence around the other one, and they won’t bother it because they can’t get to it. I suppose you could have some cat that’s like super, super wanting to get in. But if you make the fence right around the catnip, so that there’s not very much space for them to jump in, it won’t guarantee that it’s impossible.
But what might happen though is that the catnip will kind of grow through the fence a little bit.
And they’ll eat those parts.
They’ll come and nibble on those ones and leave the rest alone.
Yeah. But so it really does require a little bit of fencing, but seriously, one roll of chicken wire will do it. So, it doesn’t have to be too expensive, or difficult, or fancy. That is enough. But it’s worth it. It’s like all of these words that I’m saying, and all the time that I’m taking to describe it, it’s worth so much more than that. Because homegrown catnip, oh my goodness. It is so much better quality., Just think about the best quality catnip you’ve ever had, and you were like woohoo. That is quite catnip-y. Homegrown catnip is infinitely better than that.
Yeah. It’s so nice. It definitely helps a ton if you have a dehydrator, so that you can get it dehydrated and preserved and everything. You could also grow your own if you don’t have one, you can’t get one, whatever. You can grow your own catnip and then tincture it fresh. Tincture of fresh catnip and tincture of dried catnip are different. They are different. And you know, if you’re an herb student, find both. Make both, whatever. Sample them. Taste them blind. Grab one at random or have somebody swirl them around and hand one to you. You’ll be able to tell.
Yeah, you will. You’ll taste the difference. Also, when you grow your own catnip, you can make catnip infused honey. And that is super delicious and wonderful. And then you can blend the catnip infused honey with the catnip tincture. And now you have a double catnip elixir, and it is pretty amazing.
Yeah. That is a double extraction, isn’t it? Because people always say double extraction, and they mean like the mushrooms. You do the water fraction. You do the alcohol fraction. You combine them.
It’s a double extraction. You have two sets of plant matter. But still, it’s also two extractions.
Right, yeah. Two media, yeah. I also think that the way cats respond to catnip can be instructive. So, they get that initial stimulation. And people often point out pheromone similarity or that kind of thing with the nepetalactone and yeah, that’s part of it. But they get that initial stimulation followed by relaxation. You know, they run around. They play. They chase things. They jump up. And then they purr, and they stretch out. And they find a warm spot, and they just bliss out for a while, you know? And catnip is kind of like that, you know? It does have a little bit of stimulation like other mints do. It has some capacity to move blood to tissues, to warm them gently. Not at all like monarda, but gently, right? And then the relaxation comes. And there’s that release of tension patterns. And especially in your guts, especially in your stomach, your intestines. If you’re tight in there. If you carry your anxiety in your belly, then catnip just lets it out. It just releases that for you. And it’s such a relief.
Yeah. Those are words spoken from experience. And that’s one of the reasons that we tell students all the time. You can’t just learn this stuff in a book. You absolutely have to taste it. You have to feel it in your body. And the way that catnip relaxes the digestive system, I mean, it’s really profound. But you have to feel it. Otherwise, all you’ll ever think about catnip is well, I guess it’s a diaphoretic if you have a fever.
Right, yeah. It turns up in the gypsy cold care tea and all that kind of stuff. Right. And look, it is, okay, it’s a relaxant diaphoretic. It’s great for that stage where the person’s been hot for a while, and they’re carrying a lot of tension in their body. And the blood and the heat, it can’t really circulate properly and do the real job. Catnip and skullcap and these kinds of relaxant diaphoretics, they’re really handy for that. Or to give you a break if you’ve been fevering hot for a couple hours. And okay, that did the job. Now it’s time to quiet down, rest for the night and all that.
Yeah. Or even if the job isn’t quite done yet, but you’ve been fevering hard for a whole day, and you just need a little break from it.
Yeah. So, that’s really, really valuable too. I don’t want us to get caught up only in the digestive aspects of catnip either, because that would also sell it short, right?
Okay. Well, while we are talking about the things that are not digestive, I want to talk about the emotional aspects of catnip. And I like to think about catnip for things that rise from the gut. Okay, so I’m kind of talking about the gut, but not exactly. Emotions that rise from the gut. Like when you have fear that is just rising, and you can feel it. The fear is in the pit of your stomach. And then you feel it rising. And as it gets higher, you are starting to panic more and more. Or nervousness or anxiousness that you feel in the pit of your stomach, right?
Butterflies in the stomach.
Yeah. And then except the more that you are experiencing the feeling, the less that it is friendly, beautiful butterflies. And the more that it is like a swarm of wasps in your stomach. And they’re coming to get you, you know, like whatever. So, those kinds of rising emotions that both are moving upward, but also are snowballing as they do it. They’re getting worse and worse and worse the higher that they get. I kind of think of emotional nausea, right? You can have a little bit of nausea, and it’s in your stomach. And then that moment happens where you get that wave of heat, and the nausea starts to move. And it kind of gets worse and worse. And maybe you puke and maybe you don’t. But the heat just keeps happening, and it’s snowballing. Okay that, but in your emotions. That’s when I’m thinking about catnip. And for me especially, when it’s that kind of fear, fear for the world, fear for your children, fear for whatever it is. There are so many things to be afraid of right now. Oh goodness. I don’t want to sound like a downer or like the world is such a dangerous place, but just to be realistic.
Yeah. You’re aware of the realities in the world.
Yeah. There are things to be anxious about. There are things to be fearful about without just being meaninglessly fearful. And sometimes those things can spiral. Because you look around, and you’re like I’m one person. What are we going to do? And you hear the news, or you hear this, or you hear that. And you’re just like it’s getting worse and worse. And I don’t know how I can fix it. And so you get that kind of emotional response of everything snowballing, and rising up, and being harder and harder to handle. Those are the times that I’m just like okay. Just a good cup of catnip tea. Just like un-snowball it. Settle it all back down again. And that doesn’t make everything in the world better, but it makes you calmer and more able to think clearly about it.
So Safe & So Effective for So Many
Yeah. And that’s so important really for, for lots of different kinds of situations. One of the really nice things about catnip is that this is an extremely safe herb. This is an herb you can give to small children. This is an herb you can give to elders. This is an herb that you can give to people who are taking several pharmaceutical medications. It’s an extremely safe plant, and yet it can do these things, right? So, if you have a kid, and they sprain their knee, or they skin their knee, right? But like 90% of the screaming and crying is just that this is new for them, and they’re scared and upset and don’t know how to handle it yet. So, the pain is really kind of small, but they’re pretty unhappy. They would like something. Something would be helpful for them. And we can give a bit of catnip. And it’s the magic kitty elixir and whatever. And it’s like oh okay, now I feel better. I’m going to go play. And honestly, as many people know from direct experience now, it’s a pretty similar situation with an elder, who’s maybe not entirely where they used to be in terms of mental acuity and awareness of what’s going on. And it’s easy to get frustrated when say the nurse is different, or this isn’t the meal I expect on Thursdays, or whatever else, right? So an herb like this can be really helpful there too.
Yeah. And so many people now are taking care of elderly parents. And it can be very challenging to feel like you have confidence in how you can approach things, because so many elders are taking so many pharmaceuticals. And so you might be thinking, well, I love herbs, but I don’t really know how I can help my mother or my father or my aunt or whoever I’m taking care of with that. Because I’m just afraid of drug interactions. And there are a few plants that are very, very safe and have a very low likelihood of interactions, and catnip is one of them. So, it’s comforting that there are plants like that we can turn to. Chamomile is another like that that that has very low risk of any kind of interaction. And both of them are so appropriate and so helpful in those kinds of moments of some mental confusion that is contributing to feelings of panic. And then if you’re the caregiver, hey that doesn’t feel awesome for you either, right? As the person that you are caring for is starting to panic, there can be like a mirror reaction in you thinking I’ve got to calm this down. And they’re not calming. And so you are also not calming. And so it can just be a lovely way to just be like hold on. Let’s just have a cup of tea right now. And that can break what’s happening in the environment, create an actual break in the situation. And so that’s good, because it’s sort of like just a minute for things to sort of settle in a different way. But then also with the herbs that are going to help to encourage that sort of winding down of the tension, of the anxiousness, of the panic.
Yeah. Thanks, catnip. Let’s all purr for a while.
See, Ethel is doing that for us. She’s really demonstrating catnip efficacy here.
All right. Well I think that’s it for this episode. But before we go, I just wanted to say a couple of thoughts. So, for beginner herbalist, and I know some of our podcast listeners are, one of the most important things you can do is to study the individual herbs in depth. Today’s episode was not superficial, no. But it’s not everything we can have to say about these.
It’s not in depth yet. This is just the beginning. There’s so much more.
Yeah. And I know we also have some intermediate herb students listening. And for intermediate herbalist, one of the most important things you can do is to study the individual herbs in depth. And you know what? For advanced herbalist, one of the most important things that you can do is to study your herbs in depth.
It’s not a joke actually, even though I’m giggling.
So, depending on which level you’re at, now you know exactly what to do.
Yeah, right? No, it is. And the most important part I think… Oh, I don’t know. It all goes hand in hand in hand in hand in hand. But I think the one part that you cannot leave out is to actually taste the plants. Actually work with them in your own body, unless there happens to be one that you’re allergic to or something like that. Okay, well then not that one. But work with them in your body. While you’re reading materia medica entries about the plant, be drinking it. While you are watching videos or listening to podcasts about the plant, be drinking it. While you are studying formulating with this plant, be drinking it. Because the words only convey a certain amount of information. We’re trying to describe things that are happening in the body, and language is imprecise. So, when you feel it, it gives you the kind of understanding that you can’t forget. It’s easy to forget words, because they’re imprecise, right? No matter how hard you try to speak very clearly about something, it is not the same as actually feeling it. When you experience it in your body, your body remembers for you. Your brain doesn’t have to do that work anymore.
Yeah. So, to help you with that, our holistic herbalism Materia Medica course covers 90 medicinal herbs.
Actually it’s over a hundred now.
Over a hundred herbs. And we feature their energetics, their actions, their applications. That’s the what do I use it for stuff. Okay. Also contraindications and suggestions for formulation. And this course, just like every single one of our online courses, comes with lifetime access to current and future course material.
Yeah. That’s like every time we make an update, it just shows up for free in your account automatically. And you don’t have to do anything. You just get the new material. And then the next time you log in you’re like oh my goodness. There’s more here than what I paid for. How great.
Yep. You also can come to those twice weekly live Q and A sessions that Katja mentioned up top. There are discussion threads integrated into every lesson. So, if you’re watching it and you have a question, you can put it right in in that moment. Get an answer within a day. We’ve got quick guides. We’ve got quizzes. We’ve got all kinds of stuff in there for you. So, you can find that course and all of our offerings, including a couple of free courses, at online.commonwealthherbs.com.
Yes. We’ll see you there.
So, that’s it. Thanks for listening and or watching. And we’ll be back with some more Holistic Herbalism podcasts for you soon, sooner than last time.
No, no, no. That’s part of our… I really don’t love resolutions. So, I skirt the resolution issue by setting a theme instead. But I suppose if I do have one resolution for 2023, it is no, for real. The podcast will be on time every week.
There we go.
There it is.
Until then, take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. Drink some tea.
Drink some tea with your cat.
With your cat, and we’ll see you next time.
Join our newsletter for more herby goodness!
Get our newsletter delivered right to your inbox. You'll be first to hear about free mini-courses, podcast episodes, and other goodies about holistic herbalism.