Podcast 209: Herbalist Is A Verb

Is it more accurate to say “I am an herbalist” or “I’m doing herbalism”? To us, if “herbalist” is an identity, a name, a noun – then you’re subject to imposter syndrome. Why? Because you’re treating it as something you can be, once and for all, based on a credential or status. But like all living and growing things, herbalist is a verb.

If “herbalist” is a piece of paper you hang on the wall, or a pile of books you’ve read, it’s easy to feel defensive when you’re challenged. But when “herbalist” is a set of actions you do every day, then the evidence is right there to see. The basis for your claims and beliefs is right there, today and tomorrow.

In herbalism as in few other arts of healing, we have the ability to follow this maxim: don’t suggest something to another person until you do it yourself. Get the direct experience: it’s where integrity lives!

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Episode Transcript

Katja (00:15):
Hi, I’m Katja here at Commonwealth Holistic Herbalism. And Ryn is out shoveling a giant pile of snow that we got overnight. And so I said well, you’re doing all the shoveling. I will do the podcast. So, here I am. And today I want to talk about a new series that we’re going to start. And we’re going to kind of intertwine it with the materia medica series that we have going on. So, don’t worry. The materia medica will be back next week, but we’ll just sort of weave these two together. And this new series is sort of based on this little bumper sticker that I have going on in my head lately. Herbalist is a verb. So, these are just a bunch of thoughts that we hope will be really relevant for you, whether you are starting an herbal business, or building a clinical practice, or just herbing it up in your own life at home.

Katja (01:22):
So, this is a little on the philosophical side and a little less on the herbal practice side. But I will still remind you that I am an herbalist. I am not a doctor. This is not medical advice. You know the reclaimer. And obviously I don’t know the reclaimer, because Ryn always has it on the computer. And I read it every time, even though I have said it however many hundred times now. Two hundred some odd times now, whatever. Y’all know I’m not a doctor. An herbalist and hey, that’s enough. Actually, honestly, just a girl who really likes to talk about plants. And that’s true and also kind of at the crux of what we’re going to talk about today. So, I really want to introduce this idea of herbalist is a verb. And we’re going to kind of expand this in many different directions. But today I want to kind of maybe put this in the context of imposter syndrome. Because these days there is so much talk about imposter syndrome and people feeling like they’re a fraud. Like they’re not doing it, whatever it is for them, right? There’s so much talk about how to avoid imposter syndrome or how to redirect those thoughts. I mean, if you look at social media anywhere, it’s just everywhere. There’s this concept of imposter syndrome.

Katja (02:59):
So, this new series is not just about avoiding imposter syndrome. It’s really about being a better herbalist regardless of what level you practice at. And it is absolutely about being more successful with your herbal strategies, whether that’s at home or in business, all that kind of stuff.

Avoiding Imposter Syndrome with Experience

Katja (03:19):
But for today I want to start with this concept of imposter syndrome, because I think that it really illustrates the overall idea of herbalist is a verb. So, if you think about that, what I’m really saying is that an herbalist is an action. A person who is an herbalist is a collection of actions. You will know them by their actions, right? And so imposter syndrome only ever happens if you make herbalist into a noun. If herbalist is your identity, or if you are using it as a name or a title. I mean it is a title. Language works that way. But I’m getting really nitpicky about actions here. So, just kind of be a little loose with the parts that we’re going to be a little loose with and be nitpicky about the parts we’re nitpicking. It’s not the normal places where we would nitpick and be loose. Okay. If you are letting herbalist be a noun, a thing that you are, that’s where you can get stuck in imposter syndrome. Or if you let herbalist be an adjective, a thing that describes you, that can lead you to imposter syndrome. But if herbalist is a verb. If herbalist is an action that you do regularly, then you can never, ever feel imposter syndrome. It will never happen to you.

Katja (05:01):
Let me explain. So, like I said, right now Ryn is out shoveling the driveway. We got like 12 inches of snow last night. And of course the snowblower is in the repair shop. And our driveway at our new house is really long. So, it’s like a football field. So, he’s out shoveling. I think it may be more than a football field anyway. He is shoveling it all. And he could go into the world, and say he shoveled the driveway in casual conversation. Like oh, what did you do yesterday? Like whatever. And no one would ever be like you’re such a fraud, right? He would never feel like an imposter, because the driveway is shoveled, and his muscles are sore, right? This is a thing that happened. It is true. It is real in the world. It is a verb. He shoveled. Past tense, but still. If you make herbalist that in your life, you will never feel imposter syndrome. If herbalist is a piece of paper that you hang on the wall, or a pile of books that you have. And then you go and say something about herbs in casual conversation. It’s really easy to get into that place where you feel a little defensive. Because someone, maybe they ask a question. And maybe you don’t have an answer. And then that imposter syndrome really creeps in or maybe it rushes in, right?

Katja (06:32):
But if herbalist is what you do every day. Even if you have a day job. Even if you’re still a student, any of those things. It’s just something that is an action that you do in your life. Then you’re never really out there saying I’m an herbalist. And then people say to you, well prove it. And then you panic. Like that isn’t what happens. You’re just out there talking about the tea you made yesterday. And oh yeah, I’m dehydrating some red clover that I grew this summer or whatever. And you’ve got tinctures macerating on your counter. And you’re trying some new herb that you never worked with before. You can’t feel like an imposter, because the jar is on the counter filled with the vodka and the whatever plant. The catnip or whatever you’re making a tincture of right now, right? It is real. It is an actual thing. It is on your counter. It is taking up space. Your housemates or spouse might be complaining about that fact, right? And so the things that you’re talking about, and the way that you’re talking about them, they are the proof. They are your actions.

Katja (07:41):
Okay, you might not know everything in the world about all herbal things. Just like Ryn may not know everything there is to know about all the different kinds of shovels there are in the world. That doesn’t mean he didn’t shovel the driveway. And if somebody says oh, did you use a this kind of shovel or a that kind of shovel. He would be like I don’t know. My shovel’s gray man, and I shoveled a lot of snow with it. He doesn’t feel like an imposter. He just is like my shovel is gray. It’s got like a little metal strip on it. There was ice in the snow. It sucked actually, right? When you are speaking from your actions, and somebody asks you a question. And it goes into territory that you don’t really know. You never feel ashamed to just be like oh, I don’t know about that. But let me keep telling you about my catnip tincture, because I’m really excited about it. It doesn’t really trap you in that place of oh God, there’s stuff I don’t know, right? Because you’re talking about what you do know. You’re talking about what you do, your actions, your daily life.

Katja (08:43):
So, it doesn’t feel like, oh God, there was one question I didn’t know the answer to. Now I question my entire existence. You can’t question your existence. The catnip tincture is right there on the counter. It exists. It’s real, and so are you. This is also why so often we talk about never suggesting something to other people that you haven’t tried yourself. For example, if you’ve never tried blue vervain, but you read in a book that it does this or that. And you tell people oh you should take vervain because it does this or that. At that point you’re kind of in danger of imposter syndrome, because they may ask a question and you don’t have much to go on. You just read a line or two about it in a book, and you don’t have any more depth than that. You’re kind of stuck at that point. But if you read in a book that blue vervain can do this or that. And you think oh really? And then you make vervain your herb of the month, or herb of the season, or however long. And you study it a bunch. Sure in books, in videos, in anything, right? But also you take it every day. You keep notes about your experience. You keep notes about what you notice in your body and in your emotions. And after all that you recommend vervain to someone. You have the authority of your experience, and it’s real.

Katja (10:15):
So, if someone asks a question. If they say uh, but it’s so bitter. How can you possibly manage? You have so many responses. They just flood out of you, because they are your lived experience. You’ll be like oh, I just take it as a tincture. And I make a yuck face, and then I just drink something else. Or oh, I mix it in with these other things like tulsi and peppermint and pennyroyal, because they have strong flavors that I like, and it just covers up the vervain. Or actually that bitter kind of helps me. I just started taking it before meals, so I could double up on the actions in the nervous system and also the bitter for my digestive health. So yeah, it’s bitter. But hey, it’s helping me actually. That’s fantastic, right? You have so many things you could say. And again, it never occurs to you to feel like you’ve been challenged. It never occurs to you to feel like your identity is on shaky ground. It never occurs to you to feel like maybe you’re a fraud. They ask the question, and you in fact have not only one answer but probably a lot, because you tried it yourself, right?

Shared Experience & Book Learning

Katja (11:27):
Now, of course you can’t experience everything in the world. That’s not possible. You’re in the body that you’re in. And maybe your body has never experienced rheumatoid arthritis. There’s not a lot you can do about that. But maybe you still want to be able to help people. Maybe a dear friend of yours has rheumatoid arthritis. And you’re like man, I want to do something to help. That’s okay. You don’t have to have every experience to have experience, right? So, the more that you experience with the plants and the more that you study. And in this case you’re going to study, let’s say, what people who do have rheumatoid arthritis have to say about what that’s like in their body. And it is not the same. It is different from person to person. And so you spend a lot of time reading or talking to people who have rheumatoid arthritis and learning about what that feels like in their body. And you spend a lot of time working with plants. And now you’re starting to think okay, this over here is an experience I don’t have. But this over here is experiences I do have. And if I were having this kind of experience, I know what these plants feel like in my body. And I can sort of start to imagine how I might weave those together, right? Now you can get somewhere.

Katja (12:52):
And so you meet up with your friend now who you want to be helping. You meet up with them in collaboration. Your experience of the plants, and the plants in your body, and their experience of what it’s like to live with rheumatoid arthritis in their body. Those two sets of experiences come together, and they just build this amazing full spectrum of knowledge. And by knowledge here, I really mean something more like muscle memory. Something like lived experience, right? That knowledge is also going to include all the different people’s accounts of living with rheumatoid arthritis that you read. Sure, that’s preparation. That’s study. That is whatever. But really it is that deep muscle memory, that deep knowing of things inside yourself, because you’ve done it so often. You never have to go check a book to remember what an apple tastes like. You just know because it’s in you. You’ve tasted an apple however many times you’ve tasted it, or whatever fruit is your favorite, right? It’s like that. Just like a person who’s living with rheumatoid arthritis, they don’t have to look up in a book what it feels like. They live with it every day. They know what it feels like. They’re experts on it, in fact. So, when we put those two things together, those two sets of lived knowledge in your body. Now we can use that to come up with strategies that will be a starting point for experimentation, because everything is an experiment, right? And ultimately that will lead to a protocol or a series of protocols that will really work in your friend’s life and really actually be helpful for them. And that protocol will be that joining of the experiences that you have had. The actions, the verb of being an herbalist. The verb of herbalist-ing. And their experience of living in their body and knowing what that’s like from day to day, right?

Katja (14:59):
Okay, now I want to come back to that certificate on the wall, and that pile of books that I mentioned. There is nothing wrong with those. They are fantastic. It’s great if you have those. It’s great to document the work that you’ve done with a certificate, absolutely. And of course it’s fine and even great to have a pile of books or podcasts or whatever else that you like. Books are great places to get ideas that you can then go test out in your body, maybe with your friends, and see for yourself if they really work. So, when you’re thinking about books though, to note that publishers want to make money. And while we’re on this topic, it’s really the publishers who make most of the money from books, not really the authors. But okay, that’s a side topic. So, publishers want to make money. They don’t really care if someone is a good herbalist. Most publishers are not out there vetting herbalist before they let them write a book. They just want a book to sell. And so they’re researching what topics do people want to learn about. And if the book is about the topic, that’s what they care most about. So, not every book about herbs is good. And not every book about herbs is coming from real lived experience. A lot of herbal books out there are just copy and paste. Actually, probably, I guess soon they’ll have AI write the books. Who even knows.

Katja (16:35):
But that’s never going to be a problem for you. It’s not going to matter if you get a book, and it turns out that book isn’t good. You’re going to know. You don’t have to say I’m afraid that I won’t know. I’ll be misled by a book that maybe it doesn’t have good information in it. You’re going to know. Why are you going to know? Because you’re going to see something in a book. You’re going to say hmm, that’s very interesting. Let me try it and see. And then you will know for sure. You won’t ever have to think, what if I don’t know that this book isn’t good? You will know, because you will try what it says. And if it works, then it works. And if it doesn’t work, eh, maybe that book was a better door stop, right? It’s fine. But ultimately the key here is the verb. You tried it, right? You experimented. There was an action, and you did it. All right. So, that’s some philosophy around this bumper sticker that’s been bouncing around in my head just to sort of introduce the idea.

Herb It Up Every Day

Katja (17:41):
Let’s think about it for a minute in some real-life terms. If you are wanting to start an herbal business in the world. And you’re thinking oh, I want to make sure that my business is solid, and good, and has integrity, and that I don’t feel like an imposter while I’m out there with my herbal business. Then make sure that part of your business work is that you in your own life herb it up every day, right? And that might look like making new formulas every day and testing them out with your friends and family, so that you can come up with something really special for your product line. Absolutely. It might look like going back through your own case files of when you’ve worked with people. And thinking to yourself okay, great. But what if I was working on this case, and I didn’t have access to any of the herbs that I actually recommended? What would I recommend in this situation instead of those herbs, to sort of push your flexibility, push your boundaries, push your knowledge. And if you can’t think of any herbs that you would’ve recommended as an alternate, then great. It’s time for action, right? It’s time to start experimenting for yourself. Like okay, well, I’m just going to start trying things. And find out how would I get the actions that I need for this person, if I didn’t have those herbs that I recommended. It’s an invitation to experimentation.

Katja (19:10):
It might be that you say to a friend hey, I read this thing in a book. And I want to try it out to see if it’s good, or if it works, or if I like it, or if I feel like it’s relevant to my life. I want to get some experience with it. And I was wondering would you try it with me? And give me your feedback so that I can know how it feels in my body, but also hear how it’s feeling in your body? Would you be willing to do that with me? Lots of times friends are willing to do that with you, especially if they’re herby friends, right? And if you don’t have herby friends local to you, jump into the community space. And just say hey, I’m doing an herbal experiment. And I am looking for some people to do the experiment with me. And we can all share our data and see what comes up. You can totally write that in the community space. And lots of other of our students would be happy to do that with you, I’m sure.

Katja (20:10):
It might be that you build a new habit that every evening you pick one person who was a part of your day. It doesn’t matter if it was the cashier at the grocery store, or your spouse, or a person you didn’t even talk to, you just saw them walking across the street, whatever. But somebody in your day that you noticed something about. Maybe you saw somebody walking over there. And it’s the middle of summer, and they were wearing shorts. And they have varicose veins. And you thought huh, okay. I’m going to go home. I’m going to build a whole herbal protocol for that person. You’re never going to give that protocol to that person. You’re probably never going to see that person again. But it is an opportunity for you to exercise. It’s an opportunity for you to experiment and see what can you come up with. And then not just to write it out on paper, but like the next day try to do that protocol through the whole day, right? Like, is it a good protocol? Did you make a tea blend that you might have recommended, but it turned out it was super bitter, and it was really hard to drink? Did you set some sort of a goal like get this much sleep, but it was too much or too little or too impossible? Was your protocol that you came up with manageable with your regular workload? All these kinds of experiments make you a better practitioner. So, where you get the idea, the inspiration, isn’t super important. It is about oh, okay. I imagine a person who has this kind of problem. I’m going to design a protocol for them. The real action comes in when you then try to live that protocol the next day and see for yourself how did that feel in your body?

Katja (22:05):
Even if you don’t have whatever you’re trying to design a protocol for. Maybe the protocol that you want to come up with needs to be drying, because the person you want to work with has some edema. Well, okay. The next day when you drink that tea, does it feel drying in your body? Do you feel like, oh yeah, that would definitely be drying for that person. Or did you miss? Maybe it wasn’t drying enough. Whatever it happens to be. These kinds of activities are the things that make you a really good herbalist with a lot of experience that you can draw on right in the moment when somebody’s asking you a question. You don’t have to go back and check things. You might not even remember that you remember it until somebody asks you a question. You’re like oh yeah. You know, I tried that out a couple months ago, and this is what I found. And I meant to do a little follow up on that, and I didn’t. Hey, do you want to try some experimentation together, and we’ll see what happens? There’s no feeling of fraud in that kind of conversation. There’s only the excitement of experimentation and the excitement of action.

Katja (23:18):
If you are living herbalist as a verb, there’s no space for imposter syndrome. There’s only excitement about ooh, let’s try it. Let’s find out. Or drawing on the body knowledge that you have of oh no, I tried that a couple weeks ago. And this is what I found out about it. It’s never too late to start this kind of practice. If you’ve been feeling like your herbal studies are a little bit abstracted lately. If you’ve been just reading a lot of stuff, and your head is starting to swim with all these herbal facts. It is the perfect time to verb up your herbalist-ing, right? And it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a ton of time. Or you only have half an hour every day that you can devote to herbalism. That’s fine. You don’t have to work fast. You just have to work actively as a verb. And so if you’ve been just reading a lot of stuff, or watching a lot of instructional videos, or whatever else, but not trying it. Then right away today just pick an herb that you’ve been studying lately and make some tea with it. It only takes 10 minutes to make some tea. So, just make some tea with it. And don’t make one cup of tea. Make a whole quart of tea. It takes the same amount of time to fill up a mason jar of tea as it does to fill up a cup. Okay, like maybe two seconds more. But now you can drink it all day long, and it’s already made. You don’t have to stop and make it again. And so you’re getting more experience for the same time expenditure.

Actions Are What Matter

Katja (25:00):
You’re just going to carry that mason jar around with you and drink the whole thing all day, whatever it happens to be. But bringing your study into action, that’s breathing life into the life you want to be living, right? Okay, so we’ll talk about this some more over the next month in between talking about material medica. And we will talk about things like can you be a good herbalist if you’re not skinny? Yes. Herbalist is a verb. It has nothing to do with your body image. I know that there are like 10 million Instagram accounts with skinny people wearing whatever they’re wearing. And they make everything look so beautiful. And maybe your house is a mess, and your life is a mess. And you have four French presses. Because today you make a French press. And then you leave it on the counter with the herbs still in the bottom, because you don’t have time to clean it out. And tomorrow you make a fresh one while that one is still on the counter. And then the next day you’ve got two on the counter waiting to be cleaned. So, you grab a third one, right? It’s okay if that’s your life. That is the active verbing of herbalist. Your life doesn’t have to look a certain way. It’s the actions that you take. And if you want to go look at my kitchen sink, it is a mess right now. And yes, there is a French press full of old herbs that need to be dumped into the compost. And anyway, yes.

Katja (26:46):
We will also be talking about things like can you be a good herbalist if you have a chronic illness? Oh my god, yes. Herbalist is a verb. And if you are dealing with health issues, that is just more opportunity to practice. And by the way yes, you can be a good herbalist and still take pharmaceuticals, all of these things. Being an herbalist is a collection of actions. And if you are herbalist-ing, and you take some pharmaceuticals that really help you manage some health issues, then hey. You’re getting a lot of experience about making sure that you are safe with your herb-drug interactions. And that’s extremely valuable. There’s nothing out there that’s going to make you lose your herbalism club card. Not the clothes that you wear. Not how clean or dirty your house is. Not if you live in a city. Not if like all the things that you might have in your head about what you have to be to be an herbalist. You just have to be a verb. You just have to verb herbalist. That’s it. We’re also going to talk about professionalism. About some of the best ways to collaborate with clients to help them have successful outcomes. The best ways to come up with new products. Everything that sort of falls under the verb of herbalist, the verb that is herbalist, and probably more stuff as well.

Katja (28:20):
So, stay tuned for that. But next week we’ll have some more materia medica. Oh, and one more thing that I’m supposed to remember to say is that you should verb your herbalist with us. We would really love to have you. And we want to help you be a verby herbalist. So, when you take online courses with us, whether it is the very beginning level, or working as a community herbalist, or a clinical herbalist working through the business program, we are always trying to help you be very active in your work. There are twice a week opportunities to talk to us live. All the stuff is prerecorded in videos, so that you can watch it in the way that fits into your life. Maybe that is while you’re doing the dishes. Totally fine. Whenever it happens to be. And so we hope that the learning materials fit into your life, whether you’re watching the video, listening to the MP3 version, or reading the quick guides. And then you can interact with us live, so that you’re getting direct feedback, and making sure that you’re on the right track, and getting help on designing some new cool experiments that you want to do.

Katja (29:37):
Plus, you can be talking in our community space anytime to all the other students who are experimenting and verbing up their herbalist being. Herbalist-ing. Anyway, you can find all of our courses, all of our programs at online.commonwealthherbs.com. You can start with some free courses, so that you can see if you like to be a verby herbalist with us. And I think now that I have done all the things that are supposed to go into the podcast. And I think now is the part where Ryn says take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. Drink some tea. Drink some tea. And verb herbalist today, this week, right now, all the time. Just verb it up. Bye-bye.


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