Podcast 206: Herbs A-Z: Pedicularis & Polygonatum

Relaxants come in many varieties. Today we come to two herbs who relax tension patterns in the body, yet are quite different from one another.

Pedicularis densiflora, P. canadensis, and P. groenlandica are just a few of the “louseworts”, also sometimes known as wood betony. We ourselves usually mean Stachys officinalis when we say “betony”, and east of the Rockies that’s usually how it goes. Both betonies release tension, though we think of Stachys as reaching the body via the mind, and Pedicularis as reaching the mind via the body. This is an herb you don’t need to take in high doses to get a good effect; even a touch in smoke is palpable.

Solomon’s seal is Polygonatum biflorum or P. multiflorum, and in some contexts the species P. odoratum is similar enough. Just watch out for certain medicinal processing in some traditions, this can change the properties of the herb from its basic set of moistening, relaxant, and cooling. Sol’seal root is a good one to chew, or take in tincture; we do love it in water but reserve that for special occasions.

Both of these herbs appear in our Musculoskeletal Health course as well as our Neurological & Emotional Health course. Whether you’re looking to release some physical tension, soften some emotional rigidity, or a bit of both, pedicularis & solomon’s seal can help you let go.

Like all our offerings, these are self-paced online video courses, which come with free access to twice-weekly live Q&A sessions, lifetime access to current & future course material, twice-weekly live Q&A sessions with us, open discussion threads integrated in each lesson, an active student community, study guides, quizzes & capstone assignments, and more!

Musculoskeletal Health
Neuro Emo

If you enjoyed the episode, it helps us a lot if you 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.


Episode Transcript

Katja (00:14):
Hi, I’m Katja.

Ryn (00:15):
And I’m Ryn.

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

Ryn (00:19):
And on the internet everywhere thanks to the power of the podcast. Yeah. Hey, guess what?

Katja (00:27):

Ryn (00:28):
Today we’re talking about Pedicularis and Solomon’s seal.

Katja (00:31):
Your two favorite herbs on the whole planet, except for some other ones that are also your favorite herbs on the planet.

Ryn (00:36):
Except for my other favorites, these are my favorites. This is the way favorites work.

Katja (00:40):
You know what? It says here in the notes that we’re supposed to remind you that we make these podcasts, so that you can decide whether you like the way that we talk about plants. And if you do, then you can decide that you would love to take online courses with us. And because we’re going to be talking about Pedicularis and Solomon’s seal, I was just thinking the Musculoskeletal course is really appropriate. Because these are two herbs that can be really helpful with musculoskeletal issues. And I’m sure we will talk about that at great length for the next however long it is that we’re going to be talking. You can find the Musculoskeletal Health course along with all of our courses at online.commonwealthherbs.com.

Ryn (01:32):
Yeah. That’s a good one. It’s not just sprains and strains. We do talk about arthritis. We do talk about just what do you do when you have a dry crackling joint that pops every time that you move it, or the first time you move it in the morning, or things like that.

Katja (01:49):
Chronic back pain is in there. Connective tissue stuff.

Ryn (01:54):
Yeah. How to get specific with your herbs, so that you’re picking the right ones for the right people at the right time. Ooh.

Katja (02:00):
Like how I was specific with the connective tissue stuff.

Ryn (02:04):
That stuff there.

Katja (02:05):
That’s the technical term.

Ryn (02:08):
Yes. But you can learn much more there. You can also learn a little bit here once we get rolling. But first, let’s just remind you that we’re not doctors. We’re herbalists and holistic health educators.

Katja (02:18):
The ideas discussed in this podcast do not constitute medical advice. No state or federal authority licenses herbalists in the United States. So, these discussions are for educational purposes only.

Ryn (02:30):
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 (02:47):
Everyone’s body is different. So, the things that we’re talking about may or may not apply directly to you. But we hope that they’ll give you some good information to think about and some ideas to research further.

Ryn (02:57):
Finding your way to better, better health is both your right and your own personal responsibility. That 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 (03:17):
All right. So, I guess this is podcast episode, like 206.

Ryn (03:20):
206. Let’s make some choices. Let’s do some health interventions. Yeah.

Katja (03:27):
We have said that 206 times, and I have to read it every time. What is my problem? You’d think I could say it in my sleep by now.

Ryn (03:34):
We have edited it several times. I think the very initial version was a little rough compared to where we’ve got it to now. It has expanded a little bit as our words tend to do once we get going.

Katja (03:48):
Oh, we better get started then.

Pedicularis vs. Stachys & Their Relaxant Actions

Ryn (03:52):
So hey, let’s talk about Pedicularis. That’s the way that we say it for clarity, because this is an herb that goes by the common name of betony or even wood betony. But if you hear me and Katja say wood betony, we probably mean the herb Stachys officinalis or Stachys betonica.

Katja (04:15):
Yeah, actually Pedicularis is my favorite example of this. So, it’s a very like east – west United States kind of thing. Because Pedicularis does grow in the east, but kind of showier versions of it grow in the West. And it’s a plant that used to be much more common to work with in the west.

Ryn (04:45):
You need altitude anyway. And like I don’t think Massachusetts really has enough altitude for Pedicularis to grow.

Katja (04:50):
No, no. There are some in the mid-Atlantic, Appalachian areas, but I think they more call it lousewort there. I don’t think they call it betony. Somebody who lives there can correct me if that’s wrong. But at any rate, in this part of the country, if we say betony, it is Stachys. But in the west if they say betony, it’s probably Pedicularis. And so this is just yet another reason why you have to learn your Latin names. Even though it can seem a little bit obnoxious, it really is helpful. It’s not wasted effort. You are going to use those Latin names for sure.

Ryn (05:36):
Yeah. They’re different from each other, right?

Katja (05:40):
The Latin names?

Ryn (05:41):
The Latin names, the herbs, the two of them, they’re different from each other. Stachys is a nice light herb with not too intensive of a flavor. A little bitter. A little bitter, come on.

Katja (05:54):
Oh, it’s so minimal. It’s very gentle.

Ryn (05:59):
It has some little light aromatics that don’t particularly taste like anything, but they’re there moving around. There’s some activity. So Stachys, it has this primary effect of taking a mind that’s caught up in your skull or floating above your head and bringing that center of consciousness down back into your bod. And helping you to kind of live from your middle. Also to get out of your, your throne-ness. Your projection into the future, your worries about the past and take you to this moment. So, it’s a very like presencing, centering, grounding kind of a remedy. That’s the Stachys, right, betony. Pedicularis isn’t 100% different, right? These are both relaxant plants.

Katja (06:40):
Right. They’re similar in that they are both relaxants.

Ryn (06:44):
Right. I wouldn’t think of Pedicularis so specifically for that getting your mind back into your body or getting your body and your mind closer, interwoven together. That’s a very specific Stachys situation. Pedicularis, I think of kind of in a more general relaxant way, right? In a more like let’s get all your skeletal muscles nice and loose, rather than for that particular effect on your mind and your emotional pattern.

Katja (07:13):
Right. I feel the same way that Pedicularis can relax your mental state. But it does that by releasing the tension that you’re holding in your body. And then when you are not holding musculoskeletal tension, that’s a biofeedback signal to your brain that you can relax your mental and emotional state. Yeah.

Ryn (07:41):

Katja (07:42):
And okay, so that doesn’t mean that we can’t work with Pedicularis on an emotional level. Absolutely. And I think that Ryn is actually a fantastic example of that situation. In that you carry so much tension in your body. And sometimes that’s the only thing that is the driver of emotional tension. And so, if you have that kind of a situation, that kind of a constitution where you just carry a lot of tension, you might find that mental and emotional tension has kind of come out of nowhere. You don’t even maybe know what to attribute it to. That’s the kind of situation I’m thinking about when I would be looking specifically for Pedicularis for emotional health.

Ryn (08:32):
Right. Yeah. Stachys sometimes you can choose to work with, even if the person has got some physical laxity to them.

Katja (08:40):
Oh, absolutely.

Ryn (08:41):
You know, that tension pattern isn’t the major physical feature for them. But I would really look for that if I’m going to choose Pedicularis. And be like okay, we have tension in the jaw. We have tension in the neck. We have tension in the sides of the temples, or we have them in the shoulders, even into the lower back. Pedicularis, it can get to muscular tension in lots of places in your body. And here I’m talking about taking it orally, but you can apply it topically. You can convey some relaxant effect like right through the skin and through the muscle that way.

Katja (09:15):
Well, it’s like skullcap in that regard. Although skullcap is kind of specific for that sort of base of the neck kind of region. It works really well there.

Taking as Tincture or in Smoke

Ryn (09:30):
Yeah. The two of them go well together. The Pedicularis in there is a way to kind of dial up the efficacy of that muscle relaxant effect a little bit further. Yeah. It’s a really great herb to take as tincture. The Pedicularis is. You can really feel it quite rapidly. You take a dropperful dose or a teaspoon dose, and you’ll wait 15, 20 minutes. And your body, your muscles, the tension spots in you, they’re going to feel that difference almost always. I feel pretty confident for that one.

Katja (10:03):
It’s also a good herb to work with in tincture because it is not abundant. It only grows at altitude. It’s not super, super easy to get your hands on. And so if you have a plant that you want to make into medicine, and you don’t have a lot of it, then tincture is a better choice, because you can make more medicine with less plant matter. Yeah.

Ryn (10:32):
Yeah. This is one for sure to seek the ethical wild crafters or people who are cultivating. I honestly have to admit, I don’t know too much about cultivation of Pedicularis species. Just based on what I am familiar with about its ecology, I reckon it would be difficult to recreate the kind of wild conditions at home. So, that doesn’t mean impossible. You know, there are a number of plants that it’s not so easy to do but is yet done to cultivate or even cultivate organically. But again, I’m not very sure on the situation here. When I’ve worked with Pedicularis, it’s been preferably, and nine out of 10 times that I’ve done it, it’s been buying it from somebody who harvests it, and I know that their ethics are really good. Like literally, Howie

Katja (11:19):

Ryn (11:20):
It’s kind of the place that I would prefer to get it from, just because I know for sure that that’s ethical all the way around.

Katja (11:29):
I mean, another way to do that is there are some western herb farms that do sell it. And they may be wildcrafting. But one way that you can tell. Or one way that says oh, this looks promising. I should get more information. Is if they ration it. If they say that any person can only order this much. And if they also say we have X amount, and that’s all we will have. And we will not harvest more than that. Like those two factors, then that’s a pretty good sign for you to then… I still would contact them and ask for sure. But those are the sorts of things that we want to see people saying.

Ryn (12:18):
Yeah. Kind of similar to what you were saying about how tincture is effective. And you can ultimately only need a small amount of plant material to make a good decent amount of tincture. I mean, I talk about tincture being effective. This is one where at your standard one-to-five ratio, or even you can make a one-to-three if you like. But somewhere in that range is pretty common for preparing tinctures of this herb. And they work great. You don’t need these extra concentrated ones.

Katja (12:52):
Or big, big doses.

Ryn (12:53):
To follow the strict, you know, fluid extract preparation where you get a one-to-one ratio or anything like that. It’s not necessary. You know, tincture is fine. Also, this is an herb that you can feel the effect through smoke. You can really taste it on smoke. It’s a light flavor. It does add a bitter element to it though, like a lot of relaxants have a bitter element to them. And especially the relaxants who convey that activity through smoke, because not all of them do. Some of these constituents are going to get burned up or transformed into an unuseful way by fire. But whatever is doing it in Pedicularis, it passes through the fire right into you. And you get a pretty quick onset of that relaxant effect. And again, just a tiny, tiny little amount is going to do that. So, that can be a nice way to work with it for those who are already occasionally having a little pipe here and there.

Katja (13:49):
Yeah. Don’t take up smoking so that you can smoke Pedicularis. Just work with a tincture. It’s totally fantastic. But if you are a person who is trying to become less dependent on cannabis, for example, and maybe you work with cannabis to release tension. Then this could be a plant that you maybe add in. There are lots of other plants that can do that work too, but this could be also.

Ryn (14:11):
Right. Yeah. A kind of relaxant formulation, you know. Some Pedicularis, a little skullcap, you could put it some mullein or some mugwort as the base there. A little touch of catnip could be nice. But yeah, a little set of relaxant herbs, this one in there would work really well. Yeah. I, I should say about species, you know, we just keep referring to Pedicularis, the entire genus altogether. And from what I understand, there’s at least several species, if not a hundred percent all of the species, are going to have crossover effects. But let’s say Pedicularis densiflora, canadensis, and groenlandica are three that I’ve tried. And they all feel very, very similar. They look a little bit different. They taste a little bit different. But in terms of that body feeling, and that muscular release, and the calm that can follow for those of us who are wound a little too tight, then each of those species has worked very similarly. Yeah.

Solomon’s Seal & Flexibility Thru Fluidity

Katja (15:17):
Speaking of wound a little too tight, I think that is a beautiful transition to Solomon’s seal. Yeah. Solomon’s seal is a plant that I had worked with for a long time, but really very strictly in the musculoskeletal toolkit. And early in our relationship, Ryn was still teaching martial arts at the time. And when Ryn taught martial arts, he did the whole class in mirror reverse, so that the students watching him would see exactly him doing the same thing they were doing on the same side or whatever.

Ryn (16:07):
Yeah. These were mainly techniques classes, so it was a lot of okay, you’re going to do this movement 30 times and then the next movement. And we’ll check your form and all of that. And you know, sometimes your teacher just sort of tells you what to do, and then you do it. And they pace around and look. But I had to move. So, I was like I’ll just do the whole class myself too.

Katja (16:25):
He would do the whole class but backwards. And he would teach like five classes in a row on a Saturday and just all back-to-back. And one of these marathon days he did something and sprained his ankle but good. And so out came the Solomon’s seal. And the funny thing was that it worked really great to help his ankle. But also everyone around him suddenly started saying hey, you are acting a lot more flexible lately.

Ryn (17:04):
Yes. We were noticing that this is an herb for flexibilities, plural. And so we’re thinking here about emotional flexibility. Yeah.

Katja (17:17):
Yes, yes. Maybe what some people were saying was hey, you’re not being such a stubborn goat. But that wasn’t me. I was not saying that.

Ryn (17:26):
No, she wouldn’t have said that out loud.

Katja (17:29):

Ryn (17:30):
To me.

Katja (17:31):
No, but okay. So, it’s kind of silly. And like listen, all of you…

Ryn (17:41):
All of you stubborn goats, listen up.

Katja (17:44):
No, I was going to say all of you spouses of stubborn goats, actually.

Ryn (17:47):
Ah, okay.

Katja (17:48):
Listen, it’s never awesome to be like oh, this is just the herb to fix my husband for like whatever.

Ryn (17:57):
Yeah, what you want to do is you want to get a nice tincture and just sneak about nine drops into every cup of coffee they drink. That should take care of it.

Katja (18:04):
But like, you know, I mean…

Ryn (18:10):
It’s worth a try.

Katja (18:11):
I’m not saying that like… Marriage is a whole thing y’all, and I’m not perfect either. So, we can tease about stubbornness, because we can also tease about many other things in both directions, and a lot of them in this direction. So, what I’m saying is that I am not saying, all you spouses of stubborn people, that Solomon’s seal will fix your spouse and turn them into a suddenly flexible person who’s easy to live with. Because it’s not right to try to fix them and turn them into whatever. Come on. I’m trying to say a thing, and it’s just not coming out right.

Ryn (19:01):
Okay, listen. This herb can be very helpful for this particular purpose. You do need to have the intention clear in the person taking the remedy, right?

Katja (19:12):
Stubbornness becomes a habit. Yeah.

Ryn (19:14):
Right. And the thing is here that this kind of observation is self-perpetuating. And so by that I mean once we started to notice this and received some comments, then it was like oh, okay. That’s now one of the things to take that herb for, Ryn. That’s now one of the things to remember about that plant.

Katja (19:37):
This is what I’m trying to say.

Ryn (19:38):
And to call upon it when required.

Katja (19:41):
Do not go to your spouse and say babe, I think you need some Solomon’s seal today. Holy cow. That’s what I’m trying to say. That’s not what this plant… Don’t do that. Don’t do that.

Ryn (19:52):
No, but what can be helpful and probably wasn’t expressed in exactly this way. But like a way to sum it up is hey, you know, you’re actually trying to change your habits, or you’re trying to be more mentally flexible. Or in the case of that original injury, you’re trying to cope with the fact that this stresses you out a lot and makes you feel uncertain about your identity as a martial arts teacher. And that that’s getting all into up into your emotions. And we need something for that as well. And oh look, this medicine that operates at the physical level to release tension and allow better fluid movement within the body can also be doing that on your emotional planes at the same time. Isn’t that surprising? No, that’s completely normal herbalism.

Katja (20:34):
Completely reasonable. Yeah. It really is.

Ryn (20:36):
But it’s amazing nonetheless, and very worth calling on. Yeah. And so, right about a week ago, it became necessary for me to put the Solomon’s seal bottle back on my desk and to take my nine drops a day. And not just because my thumbs started to click and crack.

Katja (20:52):
Although they have.

Ryn (20:53):
And they’ve been hurting me lately. And I guess it’s like my time, all right.

Katja (20:57):
He’s getting old, ya’ll.

Ryn (20:58):
I don’t have as many gray hairs as I want, but I have crackly thumbs.

Katja (21:02):
I had way more gray hair at your age.

Ryn (21:04):
And so for that as well, Solomon’s seal. It’s time.

Katja (21:09):
I think maybe the way to say this is… Gosh, this is like the most graceless description of a plant ever. Maybe I need some Solomon’s seal. I think the way to say this is that from the outside, you can look at a stubborn person. And you can be like ugh, it is such a drag to deal with this person who is so stubborn. But from the inside when you’re feeling very stubborn, often that’s not comfortable. Often that feels bad, or it feels restrictive or constraining. And you might actually like to do something different, but maybe you don’t know how. Or you’re stuck there in that place of not being able to have access to other options. And so like that’s what Solomon’s seal provides, is the ability to access other options. The ability to allow other things to come in, so that then you can make choices that feel more comfortable for you. And that’s what’s going on physiologically too in the joints. It allows fluid movement to occur. It allows fluid to move into the joints, and lubricate, and create a broader range of movement, and all that good stuff.

Ryn (22:39):

Katja (22:40):
This feels really good. I think maybe I should exercise my wrists a little.

Ways to Take It & How to Grow It

Ryn (22:43):
Do some water fluid movement with the fingertips. That’s pretty good. I mean, this herb is really fantastic in water as a decoction. It tastes good for one thing. It’s a nice sweetness to it. There’s a little bit of acrid in Solomon’s seal if you bite into a fresh one, but not so much once it’s dried.

Katja (23:02):
Yeah. I mean listen, if you’re comparing it to lobelia, there’s really no acridity at all. But if you’re comparing it to parsnip, okay, there’s just a smidge.

Ryn (23:13):
Yeah, just a little. Yeah. But the decoction is lovely. We tend to be a little conservative when we’re working with Solomon’s seal. We’re not going to just grab handfuls of it and toss it in every day. It’s usually either boy, the joints are really hurting us lately. Or hmm, no, it’s usually that.

Katja (23:34):
It’s usually that.

Ryn (23:35):
That leads us to be like okay, put it in the decoction. Let’s really have some. Also, we’re going to refill the water two or three times at least. As we drink that down, refill it, reboil it to make sure we’re not leaving anything behind. Essentially if your Solomon’s seal bits have disintegrated into your decoction, then you’ve cooked it long enough, or you’ve cooked it enough times.

Katja (24:00):
And you can eat them too. Like if you’re just making Solomon’s seal decoction and nothing else, you can absolutely eat the root bits once they get soft.

Ryn (24:08):
You could cook them into rice all day. Or even more than normal rice, if you’re making congee or something like that, you could cook that in. This is a convalescent food. This is a very nourishing sort of a substance. So, it could be worth including for those reasons.

Katja (24:24):
And it won’t be gross. It’ll taste good. It’ll taste like parsnips.

Ryn (24:29):

Katja (24:31):
A little nuttier than parsnips, but like somewhere between a parsnip and a potato. I don’t know. It’s quite pleasant.

Ryn (24:38):
A nice little nutty flavor to it, yeah. But we do more often prepare it right up into a tincture. Because if you harvest it yourself, then now you only have like a couple of roots to work with. And you can make several ounces of tincture. And then when you take your Solomon’s seal dose, you don’t need enormous doses. You don’t need a tablespoon of Solomon’s seal tincture to get the effect you want. Oftentimes my dose is just nine drops of tincture. And then we’re going to take that four or five times in the day now, and that part is important.

Katja (25:09):
But even that still is not… You’re not even having a tablespoon a day.

Ryn (25:12):
Right. Exactly. So, you know, when you do the tincture, then you can kind of stretch your amount. And that’s the other option there. You could even tincture it. And then take the marc and then cook that into food, if you want to be extra conservationist there.

Katja (25:34):
You know, it’s also important to recognize that Solomon’s seal is super easy to grow. It grows lots of places. I was so surprised to find it growing in the Gila desert. Okay. It was on a riverbank under a tree, but still even there.

Ryn (25:52):
And it was tiny. It was so tiny.

Katja (25:53):
Even there, it was growing. And so it is at risk in the wild, but you can go get it at a garden center. It’s actually a very popular plant. I prefer not the variegated kind. I prefer the biflorum or multiflorum that just has the plain green leaves. I feel like those roots are stronger. In general, I always prefer the unimproved plant over the ornamental plant. The improved plant, that’s how they refer to it. But it does like dampness. And it likes to be under a tree. It wants shade. But other than that, if you have a tree in your yard. And nothing grows under the tree, and it’s just dirt under the tree, that’s the place for Solomon’s seal. It grows fast. It’s easy to grow. You don’t have to do much to it. And in a few years you’ll have a lot of roots.

Ryn (26:59):
If there’s deer around, you may need to protect it from the browsing.

Katja (27:02):
Yeah, they do like a nice salad bar of Solomon’s seal.

Ryn (27:06):
Apparently, they can eat the leaves and upper parts, and they’re fine with it. Humans can’t do that. You’ll probably just get an upset stomach. Your heart rate might kind of get a little wonky. This herb is somewhat related to lily of the valley and other herbs that have constituents that can very powerfully alter the heart rate and beating strength. There’s some of those present in the leaves and flowers and berries of Solomon’s seal. And that’s why this herb is often labeled toxic in a plant identification guide. But the root is, like we’ve been saying, benign, nutritious, medicinal, extremely safe stuff. So, just to add that level of clarity there.

Katja (27:48):
And also while we’re clarifying, the root is a rhizome. It’s very similar to calamus, very similar to ginger. So, you know it’ll have that kind of fleshy moist part. And then the little roots will come off of that.

Ryn (28:06):
Yeah. It is very similar to calamus and ginger in terms of like shape and everything, but also, it’s really good together with them either in a decoction or in a chewing mixture. And that’s one way I really love to work with Solomon’s seal is have little slices of it or little pieces of it. Either by itself or in a mixture together. I like a combo where I have Solomon’s seal, calamus, a little bit of licorice root. Really those three are kind of my favorite rooty pieces to chew on. And I like the three of them together. You get the sweetness from Solomon’s seal and a very different sweetness from licorice. And then the bitter heat from the calamus comes through. It’s really nice together. Maybe some fennel seeds could go in there next time. That might be good.

Katja (28:58):
You know recently one of the students asked if it’s safe to eat dried dandelion root. And I was like well, yes, but I’m not sure that you would want to. Because I really expected it to be very hard and unpleasant to chew on. And so I grabbed some to see like does it hurt your teeth? Is it that hard? I don’t know. I’ve just never chewed on dried bits of dandelion root before. It turns out it’s really nutty and kind of delicious. And that would be a nice addition to your mix. Ryn loves to chew on roots. He loves it. He loves to chew on roots. And he has all these little tins of chewing roots everywhere. Anyway, so yeah, you could add that to your mix.

Ryn (29:50):
That would be good, yeah.

Katja (29:51):
I think it would go really nicely with the Solomon’s seal, because they both have a little nuttiness. But then the Solomon’s seal goes in the sweet direction, and the dandelion root goes in kind of a bitter direction. And yeah, it would be really pleasant.

Solomon’s Seal Species & Actions

Ryn (30:06):
That’s cool. You had brought up the thing about the variegated species. Species-wise, you know, like you say, we’re usually talking here about Polygonatum biflorum and Polygonatum multiflorum. Also, you’re going to sometimes encounter Polygonatum odoratum, particularly in the context of Chinese medicine. The thing about that one is that Chinese medicine, of course, has its own set of indications for the plant. Not only about musculoskeletal aspects, though there is some overlap. They also discuss it in some contexts more generally as a yin tonic. Think about this in comparison to plants like shatavari or even for that matter marshmallow, right? This is a demulcent plant. It’s a sweet demulcent. It’s a little bit polysaccharide-y. You know, it’ll get you a little bit…

Katja (30:56):

Ryn (30:57):
There we go. A little bit of viscosity in your fluids, but it’s primarily having that sweet demulcent effect kind of similar to fennel or licorice. Some of the stuff though that I’ve seen, like students have brought in prepared Solomon’s seal root from a Chinese medicine herbalist. And in some of those preparations, I think they’ve been doing things like where they soak them with the soy infusions.

Katja (31:23):
And then they fry them or whatever.

Ryn (31:25):
Or they fry them in honey or oil or whatever else. And that will change the qualities sometimes pretty substantially. So, I just mentioned that because if you’re ever reading a writeup about Polygonatum radix or whatever. And then they start talking about it having heating properties. That was almost certainly one that was prepared and honestly mixed with other herbs to generate that type of effect. The herb on its own is cooling, moistening, and relaxant pretty indisputably, you know? So, that’s the species thing to be aware of. The other thing to be aware of is the false Solomon’s seal, rah.

Katja (32:04):
That’s like calling somebody false Bob.

Ryn (32:08):
Yeah. That’s why we don’t do it. We call it Solomon’s plume instead. That also helps you to tell them apart or to distinguish between them, if you encounter them in the forest. Solomon’s seal is an arching stem, and it has clusters, pairs or clusters of flowers and then later berries that hang down at multiple nodes underneath the stem.

Katja (32:34):
They’re like elongated bell flowers.

Ryn (32:36):
Yeah. The other one, the Maianthemum, the so-called false Solomon’s seal or Solomon’s plume, it presents all of its flowers on a plume at the tip of the same kind of arcing, bending stem.

Katja (32:50):
Kind of like golden rod, except that the shape of the plant is very different. It’s just that the flower spray is very similarly shaped.

Ryn (32:59):
So, even from fairly early in the springtime, when they start to begin to produce the structures that will become the flowers, you can kind of see which direction your little Solomon of whatever type is going in. And you can be like oh okay, you’re Solomon’s plume, you’re Solomon’s seal. That’s great. There’s a lot of crossover between them in terms of action and flavor and everything. But when we’re looking for that musculoskeletal remedy to move those inner fluids, get them into the connective tissue layers, then we really do prefer Polygonatum over the Maianthemum.

Katja (33:40):
Yeah. Definitely grow some. Definitely grow some. This is a service that you can provide. And even if you think that you are not very good at gardening, or like nothing ever grows for you, you can’t over water it. And just make sure it’s not in the sun, and you’ll be all set. And then you’ve got this plant that is at risk, but you are putting more of it into the world. And that’s pretty exciting.

Ryn (34:10):
Nice. All right. Well, I think that’ll be it for us for this episode. We’ll be back next time with some more herbs for you. Looks like we’re going to be coming up to He Shou Wu and self-heal.

Katja (34:27):
That’ll be an interesting mix, yeah. You know what I was thinking as we were sort of wrapping up there is that at the beginning, we were talking about the Musculoskeletal Health course. But we ended up talking a lot about emotional health. And so I also want to reference the Neurological and Emotional Health course, because you might really like that. So, if you’re dealing with all kinds of emotional health things that you want to support or neurological health things.

Ryn (35:00):
Yeah. I think maybe the connection to draw would be that was an opportunity for us to get out of your sort of usual set of nervine herbs. So yes, chamomile makes a lot of appearances in that course. Yes, catnip and tulsi and betony itself comes through. But also we get to talk about things like when and why to work with sage, or with Solomon’s seal, or for that matter with yarrow for these kinds of emotional and mental patterns. And thinking about the ways that we can observe the impacts of constitutional balancing or working with a person’s and an herb’s energetics. And the way that that can impact not just the physical body, but also the mental and emotional body. And that’s really fun stuff. So, you should check that course out, yeah. So, you can check that out. You can find that and all of our courses at online.commonwealthherbs.com. And we think you’ll love them.

Katja (36:00):
We do.

Ryn (36:02):
So, that’s it for us. We’ll be back next time. Until then take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. Drink some tea.

Katja (36:10):
Drink some tea.

Ryn (36:12):
Chew some roots and stay flexible. Bye.

Katja (36:16):
Bye bye.


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.