Podcast 222 – Herbs A-Z: Trifolium & Turnera

Today our featured herbs are red clover & damiana – two complementary fluid-moving remedies.

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) has a reputation as an herb that “cures breast cancer”. That’s not the way we talk or think about it, but it’s worth digging in to why people say that! What underlies the claim is an observable effect: the plant can diminish or reduce swellings (and not only in breast tissue). This is due to its capacity to improve the circulation of lymphatic fluid, and that’s a good thing – helpful for stagnation patterns and for immune efficiency. But it’s still not a “cure”, and it’s important for herbalists to be clear about that difference.

Damiana (Turnera diffusa) is more of a blood-moving than lymph-moving herb. It’s one of our favorite dispersive remedies, for increasing blood flow to the periphery and to the skin. Its affinity for the pelvis and it’s capacity to restore or enhance sensitivity in nerve endings contribute to its reputation as an aphrodisiac. It’s not about raging lust – it’s about relaxation, sensation, and communication!

Red clover and damiana both make an appearance in our Integumentary Health course, along with an array of other herbs who help the skin. Whatever the problem is – whether we call it eczema, psoriasis, or just “that troublesome patch of skin”, herbs can help! Topical applications for common herbs play a big role in this work, and we also dig into the effective herbs – like these two – which you can take orally to get results on the skin.

Integumentary Health

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

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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 (00:15):
And we’re here at Commonwealth Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ryn (00:20):
And on the internet everywhere thanks to the power of the intermittent podcast.

Katja (00:26):
Isn’t it the power of the internet?

Ryn (00:28):
Uh, yes, that too.

Katja (00:30):
Oh, okay.

Ryn (00:31):
It’s just, you know, it’s been a minute.

Katja (00:32):
It’s been a minute. It has been a minute. I just want everybody to know that right before he started the recording… We have these notes on the laptop here beside us, so that we don’t get too stuck in a tangent. I know we get stuck in tangents a lot, but the idea of the notes is that we won’t do that. And right before we started, he hit the button to make the font larger because I’m getting bifocals. And right now I can’t see from…

Ryn (01:05):
You don’t have them yet.

Katja (01:06):
I don’t have them yet. And.

Ryn (01:07):
Soon, soon.

Katja (01:09):
Okay. Maybe you just had to be there. But it was just this little, cute, and also mischievous movement of consideration and also scampiness.

Ryn (01:21):
Accessibility for everyone, folks. That’s what we’re about. Yes. That includes us, you know?

Katja (01:27):
Yes. So, whatever. Anyway, the font is bigger now, and I appreciate it.

Ryn (01:31):
And now we can read it. And what does this say? Oh, this says today we’re going to talk about red clover and damiana.

Katja (01:38):
I’m pretty excited about it.

Ryn (01:39):
That should be fun.

Katja (01:40):
Yeah. These are two herbs that I have been basically living off of over the past months.

Ryn (01:50):
For a while. For a while. Yeah, you’ve been doing some work.

Katja (01:53):
I have. I’m really excited about them.

Ryn (01:56):
So, before we get into that though, we’re going to just briefly mention that if you like our podcast, you should check out our website, commonwealthherbs.com. First of all, if you like the podcast, there you can find a complete listing of all of the past episodes, including transcripts. And it’s way easier to search through the archive there than scrolling back forever in your podcast app.

Katja (02:18):
Yes, that’s true. That’s true.

Ryn (02:20):
Yeah. I’m often doing this myself. I’m like oh, but there was that episode of, you know, Unexplainable, or the Ancient Egyptian podcast, or whatever. And which one was it? I don’t know. How will I ever find it? Go to their website. Use the search box. Yeah. So, check ours out.

Katja (02:37):
He never searches ours, though. He literally remembers everything we said in every single episode. And I don’t know how he does it.

Ryn (02:43):
Yeah. It’s called the magic of production, because I check it before we start filming.

Katja (02:47):

Ryn (02:48):
Usually, usually.

Katja (02:50):
I didn’t know that.

Ryn (02:52):
80% of the time. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But on our website you’ll also find a blog archive with some really cool things in there. Some recommended resource lists, like where can I learn about this and that? We have some ideas for you. And some book recommendations as well.

Katja (03:07):
Everybody’s always excited about book recommendations.

Ryn (03:10):
Yeah. Well, you know, that’s a good way to line up some new books to add to your pile.

Katja (03:15):
Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Ryn (03:17):
I like that, yeah. And you’ll also find links there to take you straight to our free courses and our entire course catalog. So again, all of that is at commonwealthherbs.com. All right. We also want to remind you that we are not doctors. We are herbalist and holistic health educators.

Katja (03:33):
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 (03:45):
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 must adhere to.

Katja (04:03):
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 new information to think about and some ideas to research and experiment with further.

Ryn (04:15):
Finding your way to better health is both your right and your own personal responsibility. This doesn’t mean that 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 that was discussed on the internet or prescribed by a physician, that’s always your choice to make.

Katja (04:36):
You know, we’ve been talking about that a lot lately. Because part of why there haven’t been any new episodes of the podcast for a little while is that we have been filming lots of new updated material for the clinical skills course, which is part of our clinical herbalist program. And we’ve been talking a lot about how in our culture, if you seek medical care or even just medical advice, there’s a real power imbalance inherent in the system. And we’ve been talking a lot about how do we as herbalists remedy that imbalance? How do we return power to the client, and shift from a kind of I will give you the answer sort of a scenario, to a we will collaborate on solutions that will work for you kind of scenario. And that’s not something that clients just automatically know how to do, because we don’t have that modeled in our culture. And so finding your way to that kind of collaboration – both as a client, but also as an herbalist, as a clinician – is work that we do together intentionally, because it is the stuff that we say every week. Except it isn’t every week so much anymore. But you know, that it is your right to have agency over your health. But you’re not alone in that. It is your right also to seek counsel, and seek information, and seek education without feeling forced into a decision. And anyway, so that is what collaboration is, right? Seeking a lot of input, and then coming up with a good idea that’s going to work for you. Not seeking counsel and being told what you feel and what should be done about it.

Ryn (06:46):
Right, yeah. And you know, it’s important to emphasize, repeatedly through your training and your practice as an herbalist, these ideas. Because they’re something you have to actively work to maintain, and to realize, and to cultivate in all of the different aspects of your work and your relationship with the people that you work for and that you work with. It’s very easy to find that slipping away from you in the rush of I’ve got something that will help you. I’ve got something that will fix you. I’ve got something that will cure you, ahhhh. Let’s do it. It’s very, very easy to get caught up into that. And people want to bring you there. They walk in, and that’s part of their expectation.

Katja (07:30):
Which is reasonable, because that’s the expectation that we have all been sort of socialized to have. But just herbalism is different. And yeah, it’s so hard because you feel excited. You’re like ooh, I know just the right plant. I know just the right strategy. I know just the right whatever. And it’s not like you want to take somebody there because you’re a bad practitioner. It’s like the excitement of I really want to help. But then, you know, just always bringing that back to I really want to collaborate. I really want to work with you. I really… Yeah.

Red Clover & The Cancer Cure Myth

Ryn (08:04):
So, I’m finding a way here into our topic today, these two herbs that we’re going to talk about. And I think I’m going to say it like this. Uh, hey Katja. I read on the internet that red clover cures breast cancer. What’s the best way for me to take it? I’m sorry. What I mean is what’s the strongest way for me to get it?

Katja (08:25):

Ryn (08:26):

Katja (08:27):
Uh, you will find that on the internet.

Ryn (08:30):

Katja (08:30):
Listen, you find a lot of trash on the internet. And okay. So, where does that myth come from? I think myth is probably the right thing to call it in this day and age. So, the origins behind that are that in – I don’t know – the late 1800s, early 1900s, there’s quite a bit of documentation around red clover. I don’t want to say for… red clover as part of a protocol for managing breast cancer and other kinds of cancers. And that does not mean that red clover will cure cancer. But if we think about that part of history, there were surgeries that were available. Not like we have today, like a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. Today is obviously much safer than doing that kind of work in the past. And they weren’t able to do as much as we can do now. But they were able to do some surgical procedures. And although it might surprise you, at that time they also were able to evaluate the cancerous tissue under a microscope and be able to determine here was the boundary of the tissue. And now I’m into the fresh tissue, the healthy tissue. And I got the whole thing or whatever.

Katja (10:11):
Now again, the surgeries that they did then, they couldn’t do it for every kind of cancer. They couldn’t do it for every person with the kind of cancer that they could do it for. Right? It was much more limited in scope. But I don’t want you to think that we didn’t have surgical technology. That goes back tens of thousands of probably even more than that years, right? Okay. So, as part of that work, it was recognized that the lymphatic system plays a very important role in managing cancer. And so that is one of red clover’s super superpowers. That it is able to stimulate lymphatic flow in a way that is not too jarring, but very effective. It’s not so mild that it’s sort of just like oh, just a gentle stimulation. But it’s not so strong that it’s red root, and it’s going to dry out all of your lymph nodes. It’s like the Goldilocks lymphatic stimulation. And although I find red clover personally in my own body to be a super effective general lymphatic stimulant, even for lower body stuff and working with venous insufficiency in the legs, for example. So, I don’t want you to think that it’s only for boobs. I really do find it to be very helpful for the whole body. But there is a definitive affinity for boobs. There is.

Ryn (11:56):
A definity.

Katja (11:58):
Yeah. And red clover can be worked with topically in this way as well. And, you know, when we think about breast cancer today, we have a ton of differentiating ability.

Ryn (12:18):
Yeah. Lots of nuance. This one is estrogen receptor positive. And this one is not going to react in the same way. Even aside from just how severe it is, or how large, or how aggressive, or other metrics that we might think of.

Katja (12:33):
Right. And even if we think about throughout history, times when it couldn’t be fully evaluated. It was like well, that’s possibly a cyst, or possibly a cancerous lump, or possibly some other kind of benign lump, or possibly an inflamed lymph node or a milk duct. Sometimes they didn’t have the technology to be all the way certain about what was going on.

Ryn (13:00):
Yeah. And even historically the idea of cancer… You would start with what’s called bad blood, right? You would start with okay, you are getting more skin eruptions. You’re getting more digestive difficulties. You’re getting more expressions of stagnant fluid and poor clearance of your fluids in the body. So, we’re going to work with some alterative herbs, and that might include clover. We’re going to improve your body’s filtration. We’re going to improve other factors inside your metabolism. And that’s going to help to keep your fluids cleaner. And then that’s going to lead to the reduction or maybe the dissolution of these things that have formed, right? So, you were talking about the 1800s and so. And people removing tumors and thinking about lymphatic flow and all of that. But even before then, just to say oh, there’s a lump. Drink clover for a while. Hey, the lump is softer. Hey, the lump is smaller, right? A connection to be made on that level.

Katja (14:04):
Right. But yeah, and then that tying into the time when we knew there was a lump there, but we couldn’t necessarily know exactly what it was. And we maybe didn’t know all the different things that lumps could be. We have a lot better imaging now. And so that’s good sometimes, and that’s bad sometimes. But we can really differentiate different things. Whereas a lot of stuff that was sort of just labeled as breast cancer may have been cysts, may have been other things. But regardless of what it is, if you think about this energetically. If you just think oh, I have just this big lump somewhere. Whether that is a big clot of menstrual blood that you notice. And you’re like whoa, that’s just a big lump. Or whether that is some kind of fibroid, or some kind of cyst, or all the way to a tumor. Honestly, whether it’s constipation. You know, that’s also a big lump. Or food that’s sitting in your stomach and not going anywhere, it’s not digesting. Also a big lump. All of these things are stagnation. Oh, we can also think about varicose veins. That’s a big lump too, right?

Ryn (15:20):

Stagnation & Moving Lumps Along Preventatively

Katja (15:21):
Okay. So, all of these things are stagnation. And in a time when it was harder to differentiate exactly what kind of lump it was. Okay, well, they always knew what constipation was, you know, whatever. But the lumps that you can’t see. Is it a this? Is it a that? Is it just a sebaceous cyst? Not always was it clear? And so if you don’t have the technology to know exactly what your lump is, what are you left with? Well, there’s an accumulation of something. And it really probably shouldn’t be there, and we should move it out. So, logically, energetically, the idea of stimulating the lymphatic system in a kind of Goldilocks way – We’re not going to just completely dry it out. We’re not going to be super extreme about it – makes a lot of sense. And that part of not super extreme about it and Goldilocks also is important, because this is not an overnight situation. And so today, because we have many other options available to us, the way that we work with red clover when we are supporting somebody with breast cancer is very different. And so obviously this is going to be super complex. And I’m not going to get into all of the details in a podcast. But in a person for whom red clover is going to be appropriate in a breast cancer situation, this would be playing a supportive role, for example. A relative or several relatives, maybe mom and a few aunts, had a type of breast cancer that works well with red clover. You don’t have it, and you don’t want to have it. And so you start drinking red clover now in a preventative way to make sure that your lymphatic system is working well, addressing problems right from the start., That kind of thing.

Ryn (17:17):
Yeah. I mean, this is not the whole point of looking at plants and looking at problems and people through the lens of herbal energetics. But it is one of the things that it enables you to do that are maybe not available to other methods or other tools. So, if you look at your own body. And you say yeah, I’m prone to stagnation. I’ve got to make sure I keep my fluids moving. One of the ways I can do that is by drinking a tea blend that’s got some lymphatic movers in it, like red clover. And I’ll make that a regular habit, you know, most days. And at the same time I can make sure that I get some movements into my day. That’s also going to help keep my fluids circulating, right? Other strategies I can think of. But the goal is to anticipate the problem before it fully manifests.

Katja (18:07):

Ryn (18:08):
And I think people can understand that pretty well with cancer. Especially now in the time where, at least I hope a little bit, the concept of overtreatment has made its way out to the general public. This is kind of what you hinted at earlier, where sometimes the capacity to be able to scan things super finely can be a drawback or can have negative consequences.

Katja (18:29):

Ryn (18:29):
Overtreatment is a major one. This is something that, yeah, it’s odd, but it’s not harming you. It’s not going to kill you anytime soon. But then people might get an invasive surgery. There could be side consequences to that. And I’m not even just talking about the surgery went wrong. I’m talking about hey, you just spend a couple of days in the hospital. That’s a somewhat dangerous place to hang out. That is where the superbugs live. So, you know.

Katja (18:57):
I mean, and even if you think about a mastectomy or even a lumpectomy. Even if it’s very successful, there are side effects. Your lymphatic system is damaged in that area. And that’s something that you’re going to have to manage afterwards. And so I don’t want any of this to sound like you shouldn’t see an oncologist, or you shouldn’t have surgery. You should do those things if those are appropriate. But if you have something that’s diagnosed super, super early, and you have a practitioner who is into it. And you have a really good clinical herbalist as well. And you’re all collaborating together to say okay, I’m going to make the following palate of changes in my life. Including maybe an alterative blend that includes red clover, but a whole lot of other stuff too that’s appropriate for each individual person. And we are going to test at regular intervals to find out is it working, or is it not working? Is this growing? Is it shrinking? That would be ideal. And sometimes that can happen if you catch it early enough. But that you are constantly monitoring, constantly staying in that safe zone. And that with your medical practitioner, you have identified a line that is the okay, this is not safe to experiment with anymore. Now we do need to take some action.

Ryn (20:26):

Katja (20:26):
And then you’re testing. And as long as you’re staying in that safe area that has been identified, you say great. Okay, we’re going to continue with these holistic strategies. And if you hit that line or cross that line where you’re not in a safe place anymore, that’s when you talk to your oncologist about the next steps. So, there’s definitely space for collaboration here, for complimentary work. And if you catch it early… That’s the good side of being able to catch things really, really early now, is that if you catch it early, sometimes you really can move the needle significantly. That’s fantastic. If nothing else, maybe you make it easier to get through the surgery, right? You make the surgery a little less complex. And you make your body a little stronger going in, that kind of stuff. But that’s why I also say that red clover is for breast cancer is like a myth today, because that’s not… First off, red clover by itself is never going to do the job. But secondly, it’s just so much more complicated than that today. And it probably always was, but…

Ryn (21:37):
Yeah. But, you know, I guess it’s that we can identify some of the points of complexity in respond to them more appropriately now.

Katja (21:45):

Phytoestrogen Content Considerations

Ryn (21:45):
You know, like if we… Maybe take it this way. If somebody just hears red clover cures cancer. And then they say all right, cool. I’m going to go to Amazon. I’m going to find myself a red clover product, and I’m going to start taking that. Well, what they’re very likely to encounter are products made from the leaf of the red clover plant, which are processed in such a way to emphasize their phytoestrogen content. So, these are some constituents in the plant. And these are found in a number of legume family herbs, right? That can go into your body, and bind to the estrogen receptor on a cell, and trigger some of the same responses in that cell that it would engage in when your own naturally produced estrogen goes in and binds to it.

Katja (22:33):
The some there, the emphasis on the word some is because phytoestrogens are usually like beta estrogens. And then your endogenous estrogen can be either alpha or beta, and it gets a little bit more complicated than that. And then exogenous estrogen – what you get from plastic leaching or from like flame retardant chemicals and stuff like that – those tend to be alpha estrogens. And the different types of estrogen function a little differently in the body. Sometimes the beta estrogens will turn things off that alpha estrogens have turned on. And sometimes it isn’t working that way. And so it’s not just as simple as saying well, this is an estrogen dominant cancer, and therefore I can never work with red clover. Regardless, I still wouldn’t work with the leaves probably. But there is a lot of complexity there that is dependent on exactly what’s going on in your particular situation.

Ryn (23:36):
Right, yeah. And like you say, the concern is on several levels there. But I think the more important one is how’s that person going to behave in regard to other medical recommendations or interventions? If they’re going to hear this, and they’re going to buy that product and believe that they’ve taken something just as good. Or they’ve done something that’s going to be totally sufficient for their problem. They could be really, really off base there. And now maybe something progresses to be much worse, and we could’ve prevented that.

Katja (24:16):
That part is worth saying again, right? You think oh, well, it’s got phytoestrogen. So, it’s going to take care of the problem, and this is all I’m going to do. And then it did not take care of the problem, because it wasn’t acting the way that you thought it was going to be acting. And then things progress, and now you’re in a worse position than you were when you started.

Ryn (24:38):
Right. But I also want to say that our worry here isn’t solely focused on the fact that some tumors are estrogen responsive, and the plant has phytoestrogens in it. And we’re not like oh no, my major worry is that they’re going to make their tumors six times worse. It’s more the delay, it’s more the diversion that can happen sometimes. And this is why we take pains to emphasize that we’re not against conventional interventions when they’re necessary or when they’re relevant, when they’re appropriate. And appropriate is context bound, you know, so there’s a lot of nuance to all of that. But maybe from a more self-interested point of view – if you’re an herbalist listening to all this – remember that the number one way to get in trouble is to do anything that qualifies as practicing medicine without a license. And now I want you to think about that not just for what you recommend to people, but think about what the world is recommending to people. Think about what the world is suggesting to people, what TikTok is suggesting to people.

Katja (25:37):
Please don’t learn herbalism on TikTok.

Ryn (25:39):
Yeah. But then, you know, say all right. Well, what are the consequences of that? And what can I do to help to ameliorate that? It might be just with people you talk to. It might be just with whoever you can reach, right? But any one person that you can teach about the benefits of some more integration rather than siloing in either direction. Siloing with my only natural stuff, or siloing with my only the peer reviewed whatever, right? Neither of those is actually the most efficient way.

Katja (26:08):
Right. Don’t turn your back on the tool that can help you if it can help you. Don’t grab for a tool just because it’s there that isn’t going to help you. But don’t turn your back on something that could help you. And that goes in every direction. Yeah.

Ryn (26:23):
Yeah. And so, you know, when we do think about the relevance that red clover has to stagnation patterns – whether it’s in the breast tissue or it’s somewhere else in the body – for us that’s not about the phytoestrogens. That’s about these impacts on lymph flow.

Katja (26:37):
Yeah, I’m glad you said that, because I wanted to come back to phytoestrogens. And just be super clear that that is such a small part of how this herb functions. Small enough to even maybe kind of be a little negligible. The lymphatic action is so much bigger. Even the mineral action is so much bigger. And I don’t want to pretend like there’s no phytoestrogens, and they’re not doing anything. But our culture really is like red clover: phytoestrogens. And I just want to be like nah. Oh, these other things are way more important. Yeah, also and some phytoestrogens. Sure, okay.

Ryn (27:19):
And especially because we’re coming at this from the perspective of our red clover is flowers, most of which you’ve gathered in the fields. And now we’re going to put it into our tea blends. Now, that is a different substance. That is a different object. That is a different agent from a capsule product made from the leaf designed to emphasize those specific constituents.

Katja (27:41):
Right. Where it’s isolated and concentrated the phytoestrogen content. That’s totally different.

Ryn (27:46):
So, as far as we’re concerned, there’s red clover the herb, right, or even red clover blossom. The herb that we work with and have in our jar. And then there’s these red clover derived phytoestrogen products. And those are different things. They’re just different things. Okay. This is true for a lot of herbs, by the way. But for some herbs it’s a little more pronounced than others, right? Like a milk thistle supplement versus milk thistle seed. Yeah, there’s differences. Yeah, there’s some concentration in the product. But basically, it’s still the same kind of thing.

Katja (28:16):
It’s not as drastic.

Ryn (28:17):
Yeah, right. Okay.

Red Clover’s Lymphatic Action

Katja (28:20):
Okay. But so lymphatic stuff. Listen, your lymphatic system is like… Okay, so our road where we live now is this really small road that doesn’t have a lot of traffic. And one end of it got washed out in a storm several years ago, and they haven’t gotten around to fixing yet. Although I heard that maybe it’s happening this fall.

Ryn (28:48):
I’ll believe it when I drive over it, not before.

Katja (28:50):
I don’t even know. And so, as a result there has been no maintenance on this road for the past almost five years. And it was already kind of deteriorating before that with a lot of potholes that had been kind of sloppily patched and whatever. This sounds like I’m dissing the DPW, and I’m not. They’re fantastic. But, okay. So, I go for a walk. And especially after a big rain or whatever, there’s lots of places of the road now that have just been completely washed out. And driving over it is super treacherous, but they’re kind of in a place where people don’t drive very much. And by super washed out I mean really, truly super washed out. And so sometimes when I’m out for a walk… Seriously, this is related to lymphatic function, I promise.

Ryn (29:43):
We’re getting there.

Katja (29:44):
Yeah. Sometimes when I’m out for a walk, I’m just looking at the road and how really impassible it has become. And then you get to the part where the road is totally washed out. And it’s like well, that’s just all the way impassable. You really can’t do anything there. And that is your lymphatic system, right? If your lymphatic system isn’t working, nothing’s getting anywhere. There are just traffic jams everywhere. Supplies can’t get where they need to go in your body. And I think that when we’re in school we learn a lot about the circulatory system and about blood vessels and blood. And we really don’t learn very much about lymph. And blood is like you drove to the store. Lymph is like you got all the stuff you needed, and you came home again. And so if all you learn about is blood, you never came home. You didn’t get the stuff. You didn’t get home. You didn’t do any of this, nothing. You just stayed there forever molding in the parking lot. I don’t even know. And so when we think about lymphatic function, there’s a lot of factors involved. One is that we’ve got lymph nodes throughout the body. When people think about lymph nodes, they think about the part under your neck where your mom, or your dad, or whoever took care of you when you were a kid would feel. And if it was swollen, you didn’t have to go to school. Or I might be showing my age. Maybe they do that differently now. And that’s what we think of when we say lymph nodes.

Katja (31:25):
But they’re everywhere in your body. There are hubs of them, but they’re all over the place. And they are a localized collection system, kind of like the town dump. Where they collect everything, and then they drive it off to wherever it’s going to go. Well, if you can’t drive it off to wherever it’s going to go, the trash just accumulates and accumulates and builds up and everything. So, the first part when we’re talking about lymphatic stimulation is making sure that the lymph nodes are emptying at an appropriate pace. But it’s also just helping… Now listen, the lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump. You need your muscles for that or manual lymphatic drainage also. But there’s still a lot that we can do to help keep the fluid from getting too congealed. Keep everything free flowing, right, so that it’s the right consistency, and it’s easy to move through the vessels. And we need to keep the vessels themselves healthy so that there’s not a bunch of varicosities. A varicosity is just like a pouch where some of the vessel stretches out. Maybe it’s around right where the valve is, and it just sort of pouches. And then trash gets stuck there and never gets collected. And I don’t know if you’ve ever been in the city in the summer next to a dumpster, especially a south facing dumpster, but it smells so bad. And so just imagine that, but inside your body, in your lymphatic vessels. So, keeping those vessels healthy is really important also. And red clover is playing a role in all of these tasks. Yes.

Ryn (33:12):
Yeah. Okay. Here’s something that might help make that a little more compelling for you, if it wasn’t enough on its own. And if thinking about keeping your inner waters flowing freely isn’t quite enough to get you onto the bandwagon. When lymphatic stagnation is occurring, you’re also way more likely to get acne, and cysts, and boils, and other…

Katja (33:39):

Ryn (33:40):
Yeah. Eczema, rashes, other things like that.

Katja (33:43):
Or not eczema, but something like eczema. There are lots of things that are not eczema, but are like eczema, you know?

Ryn (33:50):
Yeah. Or even like okay, I’ve got eczema, or it’s a problem that recurs from me. But it’s worse when things are getting stagnant, right? So, yeah. So, skin issues. Skin issues can often respond pretty well to red clover. And we don’t think of that as a whole separate thing. We don’t say oh yeah, it can move lymph. It can break up these kinds of stagnant pockets inside the body. And then also it does this other thing on the skin. They’re connected, right?

Katja (34:14):
They’re connected.

Ryn (34:16):
They’re tied together.

Katja (34:17):
Because now we’re back to my washed-out road, right? The skin is on the other side of the washed-out part. And if you’re not getting the supplies to the skin and gathering the trash away from the skin because the road has been washed out, then your skin is going to start to deteriorate. It’s undernourished. It’s going to dry. It’s going to flake. It’s going to maybe crack. It’s going to rash. It’s going to all those things.

Ryn (34:41):

Katja (34:42):
If you can’t take the trash out from the inside, your body will push the trash out through the outside. And that’s pimples and boils and stuff like that.

Ryn (34:53):
Yeah. Absolutely

Katja (34:54):
Not glamorous.

Ryn (34:55):
Right. So, you know, this is one of these herbs where you can be drinking it internally, but you can see these external effects. And the nice thing is that, like you said before, it is gentle. It is Goldilocks. Red clover is an herb that you’re not going to need to worry about causing a big adverse event. Like oh, this herb could be helpful. But if you take too much, it’s going to make you nauseous, or it’s going to make you have heartburn, or it’s going to make your temples itch, or I don’t know what.

Katja (35:30):
You’re going to suddenly have tons of acne because you’re dumping a bunch of whatever. Like that’s not going to happen.

Ryn (35:35):
No. So, that’s not a concern with red clover. And I think between that and the fact that it’s recognizable and really widespread and easy to harvest. This is often put out as a beginner’s herb, right? Oh, you’re brand new. You can learn about dandelion and red clover, and you won’t hurt yourself.

Katja (35:58):
And you will help yourself.

Ryn (36:00):
Yeah. And that’s all real and valid. But also don’t ever let yourself think once I get good at herbalism, that’s when I can do the real herbs. That’s when I can get the strong herbs. I mean, that’s not at least our style of herbalism.

Katja (36:15):
No. Red clover is a strong… Yeah, no.

Ryn (36:17):
There’s plenty of good things to be done with day one plants.

Safety of Red Clover & Method of Administration

Katja (36:21):
Yeah. Listen, I am literally drinking red clover every day right now for months and months and months. It is so important. But I do want to say, since we’re talking about it being really safe, there is a drug interaction here. And that is for somebody who’s taking blood thinners. So, there can be some differentiation about the type of blood thinner and exactly what’s going on. You can get a little nitpicky there if you’re really advanced. And so for that information, check out the Herb-Drug Interaction & Herb Safety course. Because there’s a little complication there, but there are times when you still can maybe do that work with red clover. But if you’re not at that level of practice, then just no red clover ever if there are blood thinners in the mix. It doesn’t matter what blood thinners. Just say oh, any blood thinners at all? Okay, no red clover.

Ryn (37:16):
Yeah. That’s like level one, keep you safe, precautionary process. Yeah.

Katja (37:20):
Yeah. When you get more advanced, then there can be a little more nuance.

Ryn (37:23):
Cool. Like I said before, we prefer to take the red clover as tea, the dried blossoms. Tinctures can be nice for red clover as well, but with tea you are getting that mineral provision. And that isn’t just about a generalized nutrient effect. That can have to do with improvements in nerve health. And some people do feel a sort of nervine impact from red clover, generally not on day one, but with continued intake of it. We would argue that a decent amount of that is coming from the provision of minerals and the way that that’s going to improve literal function of your nerve cells, you know? They require a variety of minerals to work properly.

Katja (38:03):
And then that combined with the lymphatic improvements, so that you’re not just getting the minerals. You’re also getting them where they need to go.

Ryn (38:10):
Yeah. Well I was even going to say there’s a connection to the mineral content and the lymphatic movement. Part of what allows your fluids to get into the right places and move along in the body is that they’re not just empty water. That they have the right type of electrolytes or the right balance of electrolytes to pass through this or that membrane in the body, right, go in the right direction. So yeah, mineral rich herbs often do have an impact on fluid balance, including lymph, and red clover’s no different. Okay.

Katja (38:44):
I love it.

Damiana: A Fluid Mover with Lower Body Affinity

Ryn (38:45):
Well, let’s talk about damiana then. And I think you’d been saying that the pair there, red clover with damiana, has been a feature lately?

Katja (38:54):
Well, until I drank all the damiana. But I have more on order, so I’ll be very excited when it gets here. Yeah, so, okay. Remember I was saying that red clover kind of has a lot of boob association, but I find it to be really helpful in a generalized way. Damiana has a lot of pelvic affinity and lower body affinity. Not only that. There are other things going on too, but it has that. And so when you are working with red clover. And you’re like yeah, but I really want to work in the lower half of my body. Pairing it with an herb like damiana is going to help get that movement directed in the place that you want it to go.

Ryn (39:41):
Yeah. You could do ocotillo if the two were doing a tincture combo.

Katja (39:45):
Yeah, you could.

Ryn (39:47):
But for tea, damiana is better. Because you can’t really, or don’t want to, make an ocotillo tea.

Katja (39:53):
No, that wouldn’t be awesome, no. Although if you were making tincture, damiana and ocotillo together would also be really good.

Ryn (40:00):
That’d be kind of cool.

Katja (40:01):
That’d be nice too. Okay, so damiana. Damiana is another fluid moving stimulant, here a little more on the circulatory side, the blood side. But really good at clearing blocks and stagnation, and a lot of affinity for the, the pelvic area. So, I almost feel like damiana is really appropriate for anybody who has an office job and has to sit a lot, because that creates pelvic stagnation. Just sitting all day long everything’s sort of folded in half or in whatever. Your blood vessels are just bent all day and whatever, and you’re not getting that movement. And that just creates stagnation anytime that stuff just sort of slows down its flow. Just like a garden hose when you bend it in half, stuff is still going through, but it’s going through slower.

Ryn (41:03):
Yeah. There’s pressure on those points right there, right? Yeah. And that’s worth remembering for a number of reasons. One of which is that you can better understand what happens with arteriosclerosis or atherosclerosis if you understand that it’s not that every single blood vessel in your body is all accumulating the same degree of restriction or blockade all at the same time everywhere. There are points in your body, there are places in the body where that problem is happening and becoming acute. And then others where things are mostly doing okay. And when we think about a posture analysis. And then we look and compare that to the places in the body where these problems tend to arise. We say oh, look. They’re at the places where you’re keeping those blood vessels bent at this angle all the time. There’s that pressure point on there. And that’s where your body responds, and you get that cholesterol buildup or whatever inside.

Katja (42:04):
And don’t think that means that you can never sit down. Of course you can sit down just like humans have been sitting down since before we were humans. But it’s just that when we get stuck in a particular position for hours and hours, then there’s no refreshing of that flow. It’s just everything is slowed down to a trickle. That’s why your leg falls asleep when you sit with it bent, right? It is literally exactly that.

Ryn (42:35):
Yeah. You know, lots of solutions there, including sit lots of ways. That’s how we do it a lot, you know?

Katja (42:42):
Just keep moving around.

Ryn (42:43):
If you have more of a flat surface to be on, you don’t always sit in the exact same posture, right? You can do cross-legged. You can do two legs to one side. You can have legs out in a v-shape or whatever. But you cycle through, and that way you get a little bit of movement. Or it’s like very, very slow-motion yoga, right? You go through a bunch of different postures as you go along. So, that’s a very small intervention, but that can make a change. And then, you know, movement alarms and movement breaks and all of that kind of thing. We could go on and on. But if you do all of that, and you have your damiana, now we’re really starting to talk. Now we’re getting holistic herbalism in there. We’re incorporating the herb for its effects that are going to lay over the habit changes that we’re making. That’s what we’re up to.

Effects on the Nervous System, Circulation, & the Skin

Katja (43:34):
All right. So, I want to take a 90 degree turn from this and talk about another reason that damiana is so fantastic, and that is its effect on the nervous system. I find it to be super relaxing, relaxing but not sedating. There is an energizing, an innervizing involved with damiana, right? If we are improving the flow of blood to all the nerves, they’re going to function better. But also, they’re going to relax, because they’re not freaking out because they’re not getting enough oxygen and all the other stuff that they need. And you can think about that on the individual cellular level, but you can also think about that on the emotional health level. If you are feeling a lot of anxiousness because you don’t know that you’re going to have what you need. If you’re feeling a lot of anxiousness because you don’t have the support that is required. Or if you can’t relax, and there’s a lot of stagnation built up around you, and no one is helping you to clear it away. You’re overwhelmed by your to-do list maybe. All of those things are on the macro level, the whole-body level. The same as what one individual nerve cell is experiencing when it’s not getting enough circulatory flow in its region. So, hopefully you can kind of see the micro and the macro there. Because the thing is that our emotions… Think of your body like a community. And all of the cells in your body are individuals, and then they also make up little neighborhoods. All the cells that are in your stomach make up the stomach neighborhood and whatever. Fine. And so the whole body is a community. And if one part of your community is not being served, then stuff in the community isn’t going to work well. So, yes.

Ryn (45:55):
Yeah. This is a good way to think about where does our experience come from, right? We haven’t gotten a total atlas of the brain. And to be able to point at any individual brain and say ah, here’s where the picture of a dog is whenever you think of dog. That’s not it. It’s closer to saying there’s patterns of activity that are mostly similar when we try to internally speak the same words, or imagine a picture, or whatever. And we can identify some kind of pattern. But yeah, it’s not one cell acting alone, like one cell per thought or anything like that. It’s these patterns of activation and collaboration, and that extends outside of your brain. That extends down into your gut flora. That extends through every cell of you.

Katja (46:46):
Right, it’s the analyzing, but also the data that’s coming in, the communication back and forth between all the different groups. All of that is what’s building up your emotional state. Just exactly like in your community when some groups aren’t communicating well with each other. Or some groups are actively mistreating other groups or whatever else. Like, then there’s tension in your community. That’s your body, you know?

Ryn (47:15):
Yeah. So, damiana can improve these communications, because of that increase in warmth, in flow, in nourishment and leading into relaxation. So, it can lead to those changes in your physiology and in your psychology at the same time. Damiana has a strong reputation as an aphrodisiac. And as always when an herb has that kind of attribute, it’s not about pushing your hormones around or spiking testosterone or something like that. Herbs with this reputation through time, from ancient times up till now, they tend to be plants that bring in some livening effects – especially some blood moving impacts – and also help you to feel comfortable, right? Relaxed, calm, friendly. So, and with damiana, one particular effect of it, one particular direction that it’s going to increase that kind of blood movement is upwards. And by that I mean upwards to the layer of your skin, from the deep part of your body up to your skin layer. And that can be seen in the benefit of damiana when someone has a tingling feeling, or pain, or loss of sensation in the feet, or in the hands, or in other parts of your body. Take damiana for a while. Get some more blood moving out. Feed those nerves again. They start to wake up, right? You’re getting things back to where they should be. But you can think more broadly about oh, I bring… You can call it vitality, or life, or energy up to the skin, right? Okay. I am like yes, my sensations. Ah, I have them here. Hello, my darling. I’m feeling kind of calm right now and in a comfortable way.

Katja (49:19):
And I have nerves, and they’re functioning.

Ryn (49:21):
I have nerves everywhere.

Katja (49:22):
They’re not freaking out. They’re very receptive.

Ryn (49:25):
Yeah. Okay. So, aphrodisiac in that sense.

Katja (49:29):
Right. It’s not like you take some damiana tincture, and all of your desired type of human will chase after you with their hair on fire. Like oh, I have to be with you. It’s not that.

Ryn (49:42):
Yeah. But, you know, we were talking earlier about red clover, and coming up around, and seeing these skin effects. And with damiana it maybe has less of that reputation. But it’s definitely an herb I’ve worked with and recommended to folks when the skin troubles they were coping with had that component of cold, that component of depressed function, of limited circulation, right? And sometimes you can be having dryness on the skin, or rashes on the skin that won’t really go away, or some skin problem that’s taking forever to resolve. And a little bit of an improvement in circulation can really be the thing that turns that around. Yeah.

Katja (50:25):

Ryn (50:28):
All right. So, I think we’re going to wrap it up there. But as a little closing advertisement for you today, I actually wanted to point to our Integumentary Health course. That means skin health, okay. Because both of these herbs we looked at today – the red clover, the damiana – these are two plants that you can work with internally as a tea, or as a tincture, or some other way to affect a positive change on your skin, right? But the thing is that you always get faster results for a skin problem if you work from both directions, right? You come at it from the inside. You come at it from the outside. So, if you take this course, you’re going to learn about all different ways that lotions and salves and sprays and soaks and other topical herbal preparations can get your skin glowing and make you feel good.

Katja (51:19):
And really not just like okay, now my pimples are gone or whatever. But is there longstanding eczema? Is there psoriasis that we’re trying to deal with? Okay. Well, all the red clover in the world and all the damiana in the world are not going to be enough alone to deal with psoriasis. Psoriasis is really built in there, you know? But that and a whole list of other strategies all together will make a huge difference.

Ryn (51:52):

Katja (51:52):

Ryn (51:53):
A hundred percent. So, the Integumentary Health course, just like all of our online courses, includes video lessons, so that it’s your herbal TV. There are MP3s of each of those lessons as well. So, if you want to take them on a walk and learn as you go, you can do that. We’ve got PDF guides for you. We’ve got discussion threads right there integrated into every lesson. So, if you are watching along, and you have a question, you pop it right in. You’ll get an answer within a day. Awesome. Apart from that, there’s a separate student community that you’ll get access to. And there you can chat with your peers and with us about what you’re working on and what you’re interested in. There are weekly Q&A sessions, twice weekly Q&A sessions, live with us. So, you can ask your questions that way too. And all of this you get with lifetime access. You’re not on the clock to try to complete everything in a month or whatever. You get this for as long as the internet exists.

Katja (52:50):
And every time we make updates, then they magically are added to your account for free. You don’t have to do anything. You just get all the new material forever.

Ryn (52:59):
Yeah. That’s how we do it. So, you can find that course and all of our courses at online.commonwealthherbs.com. Okay. Well, that’s it for today. We’ll be back sometime with some more Holistic Herbalism podcast for you. Until then, take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. Drink some tea.

Katja (53:20):
Drink some tea.

Ryn (53:21):
And flow those fluids. Yes.

Katja (53:25):
I never know what the last part is going to be. It’s always a surprise.

Ryn (53:30):
Bye everybody.

Katja (53:31):


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