Podcast 214: The Herbal Sisters Project in Kurdistan, with Anna Rósa

We almost never do interviews, but our friend Anna Rósa is collaborating with The Lotus Flower to empower refugee women in Kurdistan to care for their own health, their families and communities, and to start herbal businesses to support themselves as they rebuild their lives.

We are so excited to support her efforts, and we wanted to tell y’all all about it too!

You can learn more about the collaboration here:

Herbal Sisters Workshops for Women

And you can find her fundraiser course here – all proceeds go to support the Herbal Sisters project!

The Healing Power of Icelandic Herbs

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Episode Transcript

Katja (00:14):
Hi, I’m Katja here at Commonwealth Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts. And today I’m here with Anna Rósa Robertsdottir from Iceland, and I am so excited. Y’all know, we almost never do interviews on our podcast. But this is something really special, and I’m super excited to talk to y’all about it. Before we just launch right into this whole thing, I just have to do the quick reclaimer. But you know, Ryn isn’t here to keep me on board and remind me what the script is. So, I’m going to do the shorty short version, which is we are not doctors. We are herbalists and holistic health educators. And all the stuff that we’re going to talk about today is for educational purposes only. There’s no medical advice here. So, let’s go. Let’s do this. So, this is Anna Rósa. Hi!

Anna Rósa (01:04):

Katja (01:07):
Anna Rósa and I and Ryn met at an herb conference in the US. I think it was the International Herb Symposium.

Anna Rósa (01:16):
It was, yeah, quite a while back.

A Meeting With Rhodiola

Katja (01:19):
2007 or… a long time ago. And then when we got married in 2014, we went to Iceland on our honeymoon. And we visited Anna Rósa, who took us all around to see different herbs growing in Iceland. And it was an amazing experience. One of the herbs that I remember in particular meeting was rhodiola. And rhodiola is an herb that, of course, I knew about before I went to Iceland, but I had never really understood it. Like I had never really formed a relationship with it. I didn’t really feel comfortable knowing how to work with it. It was like an herb I knew about, but I didn’t know about it in my body. And I definitely didn’t know about it in the world. And then I went to Iceland, And Anna Rósa gave us some and took us to harvest some. And it was amazing. So, I’m going to just let you talk about that for a little while.

Anna Rósa (02:21):
Yeah, I remember that very clearly when we did that. And what I think is so important is that you don’t connect with the herb, really, until you’ve actually done that. So, I remember standing there with you and digging up that root by hand, just like we were allowed to there by the sea, I remember. And just breaking it. And you can actually smell it. You can see the colors. And you kind of get a totally different feeling for it. And in Iceland it grows both wild, and then it’s very common in garden as well. So, I live in a street which actually has three rhodiola plants on it. Which delights me no end, because I say hello to them each time I go out of my house kind of. I wonder what the neighbors think, you know. Probably that I’m quite weird. And then you can occasionally find it in the countryside as well. But it is that kind of connection, which is so important, if you’re going to be an herbalist. To actually recognize them, to taste them, to smell them in the nature if you possibly can. Of course you can’t with all the herbs you work with. But rhodiola is easy to grow in the garden, for example, so you could do that in the States.

Katja (03:37):
But it doesn’t last. You have to regrow it regularly. It’s an annual here.

Anna Rósa (03:46):
Is it? All right. I didn’t know that, because it’s not here, of course. Okay. Takes a long time to grow though. At least five to seven years, I think.

Katja (03:54):
Yeah. We’re just a little too far south for it to be really happy here.

Anna Rósa (03:59):
Yeah. It’s probably too hot for it or something like that. I’m guessing that. But I have like 30, because I’ve been working as an herbalist for 30 years. So, I have about 30 years experience with rhodiola. And it is one of the herbs I have used the most. So, I’m talking really from experience, for example, in the course. In the online course I’m doing on Icelandic herbs now, The Healing Power, I’m talking about working with patients or clients – whatever you call it here – for 30 years with rhodiola. And also, I sell it in like 50 chemist shops. So, I get a lot of feedback from people just taking that, not in a mixture or anything like that. And it’s such a good one for anxiety.

Katja (04:42):

Anna Rósa (04:44):
Everyone is anxious by now in Iceland, just like anywhere else. Although we do claim that we are the happiest people in the world or something according to all surveys, but then we’re riddled with anxiety. It’s kind of a bit of a controversy, I think. But that’s what I have been treating so much: anxiety in young people, of course.

Katja (05:05):
I feel like what I knew about rhodiola before I came to visit you was just, oh yeah, it’s the happy herb. And that didn’t really give me enough information about how to work with it. But once I learned it from the Icelandic perspective. And I saw it in its climate with the cold and the damp all around it. And maybe you go many days without sun. And here’s this plant with this bright yellow beautiful flower. And those are the things that helped me to really understand the right time. Like rhodiola is maybe not for every single anxiety. But when you start to realize how this plant lives in its own environment. And then you can start to see like oh, I see the kinds of times when it would be the right answer for anxiousness. So, I always like to tell people I have this Viking analogy about rhodiola.

Anna Rósa (06:13):
You see, I think about it differently. Because I’ve seen a lot of writing and material, especially in the States, that you have to be careful with it. That it’s not for everyone and all that. But that is not my experience. That’s absolutely not my experience. I have given it to thousands of people, and it’s literally for everyone. I do not see side effects from it. That has been extremely rare. I mean, you do see that from some herbs as we know, but rhodiola, no. And I’m giving it in a cupful. I’m not giving it in drops. I’m giving big doses. It’s much bigger than you do in the States. And we’re talking about a regular tincture here, which I make myself. It’s just in the ratio one to five, or it might even be less. No, I think it’s one to five, the one I’m doing. And it’s just, I don’t find this to be the truth that it’s difficult for a lot of people. I’ve never seen it, literally. One patient per year who might have side effects from it or something. Sorry, go on.

Katja (07:17):
You and I have had this conversation before. And always to me it reinforces how to work with rhodiola. Because I find that if I’m working with someone in a really hot place, and they’re just totally wilted, that’s maybe not the right time for rhodiola. But you’re never in that situation.

Anna Rósa (07:40):
Exactly. Yeah. That’s a very good point. I’m never, ever in that situation. Everybody is cold here. And we are all depressed, of course, because of the darkness and so forth. So, that might be the explanation then. But my thing is also the dosage. I wonder about that, because I’ve never ever given it in few drops. I mean, I don’t do that generally. But, I mean, I give it in a big dose per day as well. I find it centers people.

Katja (08:05):
Not only is it like damp in the environment, because it’s an island, but also everyone’s in the hot tubs all the time. So, everybody’s in water all of the time. So, it’s fine to give something really astringent to people who are surrounded by and often submerged in water.

Anna Rósa (08:27):
That’s a very good point. You’re giving me a new view on it now. For me it’s just like normal. Give rhodiola to absolutely everyone I come across, literally, and it works. And the thing is with rhodiola, I find when I take it, I find it really centers me. And I find it effective immediately, like the same day.

Katja (08:44):
I find that too. Ok. So, here’s my Viking analogy. I always think about it. If you imagine a Viking. And they’re going from Iceland or from Norway or from wherever they’re from. And they’re going to go all the way to Greenland. Or even, you know, they got all the way to North America. So, they’re going to do that. But it’s not like they did that in a luxury cruise liner. They did that in an open boat. And maybe they were rowing for a lot of that time. And so just imagine these men and also some women. It was cold. It was damp. It was gray. There was no land anywhere. And it’s going to be exactly the same tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that. And it’s kind of hopeless if you think about it. Just are we ever going to get there? And I haven’t had hot meals forever. And so if that’s the situation you’re in – just surrounded by gray fog and it’s not going to get better tomorrow – that is the perfect time for rhodiola. It perks you right up and makes you feel like yeah, I can row to North America. No problem.

Anna Rósa (09:52):
Yeah. I think you’ve totally got it there basically. And I’ve often heard it. Because with a lot of the herbs you wait for kind of two weeks for them to work, or at least one week, months sometimes. But with rhodiola I would say it’s instant. I have no idea how many feedbacks I’ve had like that. It really worked the same day. And for ADHD as well. It works for loads and loads of other things too, you know. But definitely one of my favorites.

Anna Rósa’s New On-Line Course

Katja (10:22):
Well, I want to transition to your new course. So, you’ve started this new course as a way to raise money for your work with Kurdish refugees. And we’re going to talk about that work in a minute. But I’m kind of also really excited about your unique perspective in this course, because it’s focusing on Icelandic herbs. But the really cool thing for us here in North America is that all these herbs that you’re teaching about, almost all of them grow here too. And learning them… Like my experience of learning rhodiola from you, as opposed to what I heard about it from people here in the States. I could not unlock my relationship with that plant until I learned it from you. And so I’m kind of excited that you got this whole course together with your perspectives on all these herbs that people can learn. So, why don’t you tell us a little bit about this course that you’re offering as both this amazing thing for people and also a way to raise money for your refugee work.

Anna Rósa (11:24):
So, what I did was I put together 14 herbs, because those 14 herbs are the ones I have been wildcrafting and working with nonstop for over 30 years. So, I didn’t pick the rarer one. I really picked the common ones, because, well, I did this course originally in Icelandic. So, it was for the public here in Iceland to actually go out and grow. And it has been very popular for that. And then I kept on being asked about it in English as well, partly for the people who speak English here in Iceland, but also just from abroad. I’ve had a lot of requests. Because as you say, those are common herbs wherever you go. Except maybe Iceland moss might not be. That’s one of the 14. I think you might have it in Canada, but not in the States maybe.

Katja (12:10):
Yeah. It doesn’t grow here, but it’s very easy to purchase here.

Anna Rósa (12:13):
Yeah. That’s the other thing. All of them are very easy to purchase. So, I wanted to do a course with common things, because it’s pointless having a rare thing. I mean, the thing is you can do almost absolutely everything with 14 herbs. I have always been that kind of herbalist. I’ve never worked with 300 herbs and lots of unique things or whatever, you know. I have had to partly because half of the herbs are illegal here. I have a very small flora, so I can’t pick that many. I mean, it’s very tiny compared to the states. So, I’ve just had to make do. And I’ve done that and discovered that I literally can do most things with those 14 herbs. But that’s the whole thing, you know. That’s always how I have worked through the years. So, that’s why I picked those ones. And my main thing has always been to harvest myself. That’s what I’ve always done. So, I did specific videos just on that in my authentic style. I’m not that good at videos. But in the videos you can really see the plant. And I really show people where I cut it and why. And talk about it and maybe diseases or whatever. So, I’m literally giving all my harvesting tips I’ve accumulated for the last 30 years. But then of course, I do a lot of talking about the uses, scientific research, habitat, everything. It’s literally an encyclopedia about those 14 herbs.

Katja (13:42):
It’s so excellent. So, okay, in the show notes for this pod, we will put the link for where people can find this course. And it’s awesome and amazing, just like your book is awesome and amazing. And everything you do is awesome and amazing. But the most awesome and most amazing part about this is that this course is helping you fund a project that you have started, a new long-term relationship, to work with Kurdish refugees. And I am so excited about this work. And I would just love for you to talk about who you’re working with, and the projects that you’re doing, and your plans for the future. And just ah, tell us all about it.

A Calling to Work with Refugees

Anna Rósa (14:32):
Ok. Ok. Ok. I will try. Okay. So, that is my biggest passion in life now. And it feels a bit like my biggest passion was herbs when I was 21. And then I had a call, like a literal calling for being an herbalist. And then now, five years ago, I had the same thing happening to me from Instagram this time. Last time it was newspapers. I just go with the media. I know I’m very modern. And so I had this kind of a calling that I needed to work with refugees. And that was a weird thing happening to me, because I had no connection. I hadn’t been following refugee situation in any particular way except on Instagram through photography. And so slowly I sort of started to think well, I need to do something too, you know? If that person can do this, well, can’t I do something?

Anna Rósa (15:28):
So, it was literally like a calling. But it was really weird, because there was no one else around me with those kinds of ideas. And I had a calling to go to the Middle East, which I had never been to. And not until I went to Iraq, Kurdistan in Iraq this year. So, it was really weird to be setting up an idea of a project in a faraway country I’d never been to. I didn’t know anyone at all. And then if I would mention those ideas here in Iceland, people would just look at me and think like she’s certifiable or something like that. I mean, honestly, if I tried to talk to people here, they really thought I was just like bonkers or whatever you say, you know? I mean, honestly. So, I kind of like waited for those five years to actually let it materialize, because I needed to kind of sit with this odd idea. And it never went away.

Anna Rósa (16:22):
And with good ideas, that’s the whole thing. They actually don’t go away. And it didn’t matter if I tried to ignore it, it always popped up again. So, eventually I went on Instagram, because that’s my source of information. You’re always saying social media is so bad. It’s not. It’s just the way you use it, you know. That’s my experience. You just have to use it properly. And I most definitely do. Because I went on Instagram and found an organization that I simply emailed, and said here I am. Do you want to work with me? And they said yes. And I was just like okay, I’m going. And it was literally a few emails. They put a lot of trust in wanting to collaborate with me. And we didn’t even zoom. We didn’t even talk. It was just decided in like five emails. And yes, you can go to Kurdistan Iraq. We’ll support you and give you access to our people and so forth. And off I went. And I had the most fabulous time ever, literally.

Katja (17:23):
I think that is actually really important. Because a lot of times we see that ideas for support don’t work out. Because maybe people don’t have access into a community that they want to support. But what you did was you found an organization that was already doing this work. And contacted them and said I have resources. I have ideas. I have plants. I have all these things. And I would like to be of use to you. I would like to be in service to you. Is that something that you would like? And when we operate that way, like you said, people are like yes. I would love it if you would come and participate in this work that we’re doing.

Anna Rósa (18:08):
But I think most organizations actually don’t work like that. I think they’re fairly bureaucratic. They are huge, international. And I just lucked out with this organization, which is called the Lotus Flower, by the way. They’ve been working there, I think, for eight years. And they’re doing fabulous work with the women in the refugee camps, and the camps for internally displaced people as well, so not just refugees. And so they have set up all kinds of brilliant programs like for mental health, for cyber health, for genders, for food, all to assist the women to learn about things and become independent. Setting up their own businesses. And that’s where I come in. Because my idea is I’ve been there, of course. And I went to three of the camps. And I taught workshops on how to make ointment. And that was a bit tricky, because it was not like I could just find herbs like that in Kurdistan Iraq. I couldn’t. I went to the market, didn’t recognize half of them. And in the end, I found nettle and chamomile. And I thought well, I can work with that. I can do anything with nettle and chamomile. So, those two herbs I was recommending basically for everything for the rest of the trip. Because I could tell people you can go to market and get them. So, I made recipes with those and a few spices maybe along with it. But that is when it comes in a good stand that I have worked with so few plants. I have no problem working only with three plants. Because if they’re the really good ones, like chamomile and nettle, you can literally do most things.

Katja (19:39):
You can do so much, right?

Doing What You Can With What’s Available

Anna Rósa (19:40):
That’s the whole thing. So, I’m not too bothered that I don’t recognize anything in Kurdistan. I’m just there going to the market and sort of yep, okay. Tastes nice, but I have no idea what it is. I will figure it out though. I have found people, an agriculturalist who knows medicinal plants. And they are helping me out because they know the Latin names. So, I will figure it out in the end what is available. But so I went to the workshops and started teaching them how to make ointments. Which was very well received, because of course, well, firstly they just wanted ointments. They needed that for all kinds of things. They wanted to learn about it as well. And I had great fun teaching there. Absolutely wonderful. I mean, the women were so nice. And then I’m assisted by… I have a translator of course, because I don’t speak any of the languages. And lots of languages there, not just one. So, I’m lucky that the organization provides me with a translator, and a driver, and all those kinds of things. So, I couldn’t do it without another organization. Because you don’t just go there and knock on your door and say here I am. I want to do something in the refugee camp. It doesn’t quite work like that. I figured that out, at least. So, I’m very lucky that I can collaborate with them. We call the Project Herbal Sisters because they have a lot of sister programs. So, we just named it Herbal Sisters, which is very suitable.

Anna Rósa (21:04):
And so I have all kinds of ideas. I want to develop quite a few other herbal products with them. And my idea and the end goal is that at least a few of them could start selling those products, so they have some income and can support the families. Some of them are very keen on that idea. But I need to also figure out ways around things. Like I can’t make tincture like usually because they are religious Muslims, a lot of them, so they don’t drink alcohol. So, I have to move on to glycerites, which I’m not used to. So, it’s all these kinds of things to figure out, which is not difficult, but just takes time to develop. And also, I can’t get hold of good essential oils and all kinds of things we don’t have to think about it in the Western world. So, what I’m doing is I’m only working with material I can find there. I’m not importing herbs. I’m not looking for donations of herbal products, because that’s just impossible. You’re not going to send them to Iraq. Or I’m not going to bring suitcases with me. That is not going to work. So, the only thing I have is to work with what is there. And of course there are lots of medicinal herbs there, but they’re not necessarily sold where I go. I mean, they’re all kinds of things to figure out. Anyway.

Katja (22:16):
I think that’s actually really important on a few levels. Because on one hand, the fact that you are only working with the herbs that are available there, that is a very sustainable model. So, that what you’re teaching these women is not just like well, wouldn’t this be nice. You could do these things. It is literally you can do this because all the materials are here. And you can support yourself and care for your family this way, because we’re specifically working with what’s here. But I also actually love that you are going there and starting off with the herbs that you are most comfortable with. But there’s so much space to grow and not everything has to come from you. They know those spices. They know a lot of that stuff. And you can teach them new ways to think about it. But all of this is a collaboration. It’s not just you parachuting in and saying this is the one way.

Anna Rósa (23:17):
It’s always like that. And I did a lot of sort of gathering of material. So, I always in those workshops I asked a lot. I was really trying to ask them, are you used to this one? What do you call that one, and how do you use it? There was some knowledge, not that much. I was expecting more, but maybe they were just shy. I don’t know. But it’s always a collaboration. What I am doing more than anything else is that I’m bringing the confidence. I’m transporting my 30 years of experience, and the confidence that I know the herbs work, which you don’t if you’re not used to it. And if it’s just sort of lala something women do and not important. We know those kinds of prejudices, you know? And I’m transporting my confidence to those women. And telling them you too can learn this. And it’s not difficult, and I will teach you. And you can have the confidence. And you can become your own community herbalist as well, which is another part of my plan. There are people within the organization who want to study herbs. So, to train people to be herbalists in some way at least. That’s definitely one of the plans. I would like to set up a clinic there as well. But then I’m not going to live there, so that’s more difficult. So, I think of it like there are endless… I don’t think of it as challenges, endless opportunities. There are endless ways to grow in whichever direction you want to.

Anna Rósa (24:42):
So, that’s why I’m doing the course. That’s why I’m marketing it literally abroad. Because I’m going to take the profit from it and use it directly. If you buy the course, you are directly sending money to the women in the refugee camps. I think you can trust me on that one. I’m setting up a charity too, you know, a registered charity with a board of people who have already agreed to work with me. So, I’m not just fundraising out of the blue and just take the money and do something. This will be done properly, let’s put it that way.

Katja (25:18):
I think everything with you is. That is very much your style.

Anna Rósa (25:23):
Thank you. But it’s also just very important that it’s transparent. That there are other people involved who are not just doing whatever. I mean, I could just otherwise do whatever I like, if there is no one looking over my shoulder. And that’s not fun, not in terms of money, and if you want to fundraise properly. But so yeah. That’s why I’m doing it, basically.

Building Confidence & Independence

Katja (25:44):
I’m so excited about it. I want to go back to the thing you said about confidence. I think more than anything that is actually a thread through all of the sister projects that this group is doing. They have a project where they’re teaching the women to box. And they have various ones where they teach other kinds of business models, baking or whatever, and then educational projects. But the line through all of that is to give women confidence. It’s not that the women don’t already know how to cook or bake or whatever. But there’s a big difference between knowing how to do something for yourself and having the confidence to put it out there as a business that’s going to support you. A way to support yourself is the most important thing that people, that refugees need. And we can donate food and whatever, and we should. But ultimately, over the long term, what they really need is to be able to support themselves. And that’s also what they want. I mean, everybody wants that. And it really comes down to that confidence feeling after everything around you has maybe been destroyed or taken or ruined. And now you are not in your home, and you’re uprooted and everything else. The thing to get back so that you can move forward is that confidence.

Anna Rósa (27:16):

Katja (27:18):
So, I think it’s really beautiful that that’s also your attitude as you go in there. It isn’t that you’re the expert bestowing all the things. It’s that we can all collaborate and build this beautiful work. And I’m super excited about it.

Anna Rósa (27:36):
And you have to also just raise the awareness of herbalism. I happen to be in Kurdistan, Iraq, so it will be my job to raise the awareness. Because I mean, it’s not looked upon as a proper thing in most places in the world. We know how that is. So, here I am. I come in. I have 30 years experience. I’ve written books. I’m running my own company selling cosmetics, doing good and all that. Well, if I can do it, and I can teach it, I can give the confidence then. It’s also about having the confidence of being independent and running a business. That is part of what I can do as well. Because if there is anything I have been doing is being independent myself for the last 30 years, you know.

Katja (28:19):
I was going to say something about that. Because I think that if I were making a dictionary and independent was in the dictionary, I would just put your picture next to it.

Anna Rósa (28:32):
I’m going to take that as a compliment, okay?

Katja (28:35):
But everything I know about your story. You’ve lived in a lot of places. You’ve traveled all around. You’ve done some really cool and very different things. I mean, you’re an herbalist now, but you were a banker, and you did like all these different things.

Anna Rósa (28:49):
Yeah. I was a banker once. That’s right.

Katja (28:52):
And all these different places, and in different languages, and like all this stuff. And I just sort of look at you in the world. And even when I just think about you like oh, my friend Anna Rósa. I just think about like you’re just such a force. I think that if anybody was going to go role model confidence, and also confidence as a woman in a world where it’s not always easy to have confidence as a woman. And it’s not the

Anna Rósa (29:23):
Now that is important. Very, very important. Yes, absolutely. That’s the other main thing.

Katja (29:30):
Right? But like your spirit is the spirit I want them to be infused with. And to be like, I want to be like her. I want to be me with that energy, you know?

Anna Rósa (29:41):
Yeah, yeah. I get you. You know how I think of this? I’m just doing what I like. I’m always just doing what I actually like. I say no to a lot of things, because I’m always constantly being asked to take part in whatever projects and other businesses and so forth. But I just say no, because I know I’m doing exactly what I like. I think it’s very important to learn to say no and just follow your heart. I’m following my heart more than anything. I mean, if you get a calling like that from Instagram of all places. And I got the calling from a regular newspaper to be an herbalist. That was like when I was 20, I read that article. And I was just like I have to be an herbalist. And I’m not such an impulsive… I’m fairly careful in many ways. But it was just like instantly okay, I know what I’m going to do with my life. I’m going to be an herbalist. I mean, how lucky is that to know that when you’re 20? Then I digressed a little bit and became a banker for a while, but I didn’t stop being an herbalist, you know?

Katja (30:38):
Well, and you have to pay your bills, so it’s okay.

The Amazing People of Kurdistan

Anna Rósa (30:40):
You have to, yeah. But I actually thought it was interesting. I actually liked the banker’s world too. But no, I think it’s the thing about you just have to like what you do. And I have. I’ve always been very lucky, if you call it luck, to be passionate and just do things I really like. And this is the same thing. I mean, I went there, and I met only absolutely gorgeous people wherever I went. The people in the organization, they were just absolutely awesome. Like, all these young people I was working with, most of them 23 or something, you know? It didn’t matter at all. They’re fabulous. I’m What’sApping with them today. That kind of thing, you know? They want to learn about herbs. They’re really keen on what I’m doing and want to learn. And they want to be able to also tell the women. They want to be able to teach as well. Because they can see of course I can’t do all of this myself, just one person. But if I can sort of spread the word out. And then things will happen, you know? But I am only doing it because I really like it, and I’m having fun. That’s the other thing. And the people were so worried. I constantly was bothered by people from Iceland. Like are you okay? Is everything okay? And I was perfectly safe. This was like as safe as being in regularly. But if you Google it, you’re not supposed to go there at all because it’s so dangerous. And that is simply not true. I mean, I was there for two weeks with absolutely no problem whatsoever. And you can feel it, because I’ve been in many countries. And quite a lot of countries are much more unsafe than that one. So, in the area I was, it was perfectly safe. And the people were the most hospitable people I’ve ever met in my life. I could not pay for anything if I went into a shop to buy. They were like, no, no, no, no. We are giving it to you. I’m not joking. It literally is like that. I was just like whoa.

Katja (32:35):
It’s so funny when you go to countries that really have hospitality as a part of their culture, at least as a person who lives in the United States, because that’s not necessarily part of our culture here.

Anna Rósa (32:49):
Oh, I think it is.

Katja (32:51):
It depends on the context, right?

Anna Rósa (32:54):

Katja (32:55):
You know, any place where you find people who are just happy to see you, and happy to work with you, and happy to share, and everyone shares. Like that’s so amazing.

Anna Rósa (33:06):
Well, people are just so genuinely nice. It was not that they were wanting something from you, which is often the case, you know? But it was like that genuine. I mean, I was driving around the countryside with two friends, I would say. And we just went and talked to a farmer. And we ended up drinking tea with him. And I gave him a recipe for his diabetes. Well, obviously nettle & chamomile was all I had. It so happens that nettle is very good for diabetes. So, I built the recipe for him, and he was very happy. We had this very nice conversation through translators and in those almond trees. And it was just a gorgeous experience. And I literally think people are like that wherever you go in that country. That was the feeling I got. So, I’m hoping to be able to go twice per year and spend a month each time. And I’m not being salaried or anything like that. The money that I fundraise will go towards what I’m doing, not bringing a salary for me or anything like that. That just definitely will never be on.

Katja (34:11):
But that’s not the reason for the work.

Anna Rósa (34:13):
No, it’s not. But people could think I was doing that kind of thing. So, I just want to be clear about it. I will write it on the website too. So, I’m setting up the charity and the whole thing. And I hope to go in Autumn next time. So, I was only in March. So, it’s a short while I was there. And if I can go twice per year, that would be fabulous. If I can get off my regular work of making cosmetics in Iceland.

Katja (34:37):
You were talking about setting up a clinic. And I think that is a really amazing and wonderful thing.

Anna Rósa (34:44):
I’d love that.

Katja (34:46):
We had that work in West Virginia too, where we don’t live there. But we had people who we were training. And then we would go to do the clinics together. And now they can do that themselves. You know, like people learn the work. And if you are able to support them online while you’re not there. And then when you are there, you’re able to say okay. Now let’s take everything you learned over the past six months, and let’s do it in person together. It moves people forward very quickly. So, I think that the plans for that are really exciting.

Anna Rósa (35:25):
I think so too. I would love to see that happening too. And the other thing is, it’s not like people have many options in the camp. I mean, there are probably some doctors there. I don’t know how good they are. I mean, medicine is expensive and maybe not that good. So, it’s not like they have access to great health service at all. They don’t. They’ve hardly any access at all. So, anything that can help really matters, I think. So, of course, herbs come in there. We know that. They can go and pick them next door kind of thing in some cases. So, that’s another thing to actually find the fields around the camps. Yes. What herbs can we find? I mean, as I said, and then also growing. Because I know the organization is quite keen on growing in greenhouses. And I would like to set up, of course, growing lots of herbs, and a proper clinic, and all that. And maybe that will happen. It wouldn’t surprise me at all. I just have to figure out a few more things and set that up somehow. Get more people involved. And like you say, teach people.

Katja (36:31):
Yes. And it’s so exciting to be at the beginning phases of this project and be watching like all the little sprouts. And to think about five years from now, how different it will be, and all the different things.

Anna Rósa (36:50):
I hadn’t heard of that.

Good Works Spread Like Plants

Katja (36:53):
For me I think that’s one of the most amazing things about working as an herbalist and specifically about teaching other people. Is that, you know, you teach people. And they already know lots of things. And now they also know some stuff that you know too. And they go out into the world. And they do it differently than you did, and in different places than you would, and places you maybe couldn’t get to or whatever else. And, and it’s just like plants. Everything spreads and grows. And there becomes all sorts of variety, and diversity, and interdependence.

Anna Rósa (37:34):
That’s a beautiful analogy.

Katja (37:37):
It’s amazing to think about. We’ll have to have you back every year.

Anna Rósa (37:45):
To check on the project, where I’m at. Absolutely. Yeah. I promised them that I would come. I was in March, and so it was hardly spring then. And so they were urging me I’d have to come next time in May, so I would actually see the flowers. And apparently if I go in September or October there would still be a lot of them. Because of course, the one day I could spend in the countryside was the highlight of the trip for me being an herbalist, you know. We always want to stay with the herbs. I think it’s going to be fabulous. If I just think of the absolutely great time of heart for only two weeks, I think I’m in for a good thing, you know? Never mind getting ill and all those things, you know. But it was just quite something, you know. And it’s going to continue like that, I’m fairly sure of that. Well, I’m not going to stop. There’s no way. There’s no way. I will somehow get the money together. No question about that. Just somehow. Buy my course, please. Buy my course so I can go back to Iraq and continue.

Katja (38:56):
Thank you so much for telling us all about this. And also, if you are out there listening. And you’re thinking well hey, there’s some work that I’ve really been wanting to do. And look, Anna Rósa had work that was on her heart to do. And now she’s doing it. And I could do that too. You could do that too. You totally can do that too. Again, the steps that you went through were to get an idea. Then spend a little time, a lot of time, sitting with it, and thinking more about it, and learning more about it, and then finding an organization that you can plug into. And then just putting all your energy behind it and all the resources that you have to give behind it. And showing up and saying how can I collaborate? How can we work together? How can I be of service to you?

Anna Rósa (39:47):
It’s that kind of thing that I have no choice. That’s how it is for me. I have no choice. I have to do this. It is pulling. It’s that kind of pull or calling or whatever you like to call it. But that is what it really is. And you just can’t say no. You have to do it. And the plus side is I’m having so much fun always. That’s the best thing. But then I’m an herbalist, you know, we do have fun.

Katja (40:13):
When you are aligned with the work that is for you to do in the world, it is fun. I mean, it doesn’t mean that there’s never any hardship or whatever, but it is fun. And it is joyful because you’re in the flow of where you belong, so yeah.

Anna Rósa (40:32):
Yeah. No, there is always hardship too. I mean, I for example, got seriously ill there too. I have forgotten about that conveniently now. But I’m just like figuring out how can I avoid getting ill each time I go kind of thing, you know? But I really don’t care about that. I’ll figure it out. I’ll take some herbs. I’ll figure my way around it. But that comes with it. You get serious illnesses when you go to countries which are not as sanitized as we are, that kind of thing, you know? But who cares? I don’t, not really.

Katja (41:02):
It’ll be okay. It’ll all be okay. Oh my goodness. Thank you so much for sharing all this. Again, I’m going to put the link in the show notes of where you can get to the course. And also you can support all of this work through that course. So, you’ll be getting all this cool information from the Icelandic perspective on these herbs that are common here in North America also, and that we can work with every day. And all of the money that is raised with this course is going to work on these beautiful Herbal Sister projects in Kurdistan. And I’m super excited about it.

Anna Rósa (41:40):
Thank you so much for having me and supporting me all the way through. That is really important to have this kind of support, especially when you’re starting out. So, I think it’s very auspicious. Auspicious, is that a word?

Katja (41:53):
Yes. It is the right word.

Anna Rósa (41:54):
The right word. For me it’s auspicious that I’m already feeling so supported by the herbal world.

Katja (42:01):
Again, it’s like when you are where you belong, all of the support comes. And I think that is true, whether it is a project like this, or even just people who are learning about plants for the first time. And they’re thinking like, I need to bring the plants into my life. And then you commit to that inside yourself, but then like the herbs just come to you. And they come to you in the form of friends who also like herbs. Or they come to you in the form of hey, where did this plant in my yard come from? All of a sudden I’m seeing this plant, and it was never here before. And it comes to you in all kinds of ways.

Anna Rósa (42:37):
If I can have two herbs in Iraq, nettle and chamomile, you can do anything where you are, seriously. You don’t need much. That’s the whole thing, you know?

Katja (42:47):
Awesome. Anna Rósa, thank you so much. I am sending you huge hugs. And to everybody else on the podcast.

Anna Rósa (42:57):
And in Iceland.

Katja (42:57):
Ryn usually does the ending thing. But isn’t it take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. And support Anna Rósa’s project in Kurdistan. And drink some tea. Maybe it’s nettle & chamomile.

Anna Rósa (43:09):
Thank you again. Bye.


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