Jewel Klahn holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Herbal Medicine from Bastyr University. She has been engaged in many aspects of herbalism from gardening to quality assurance, research into botanical science and as a practicing herbalist.
This interview focuses on simple and effective ways you can bring herbalism more into your daily life. You’ll learn:
- The Dual Value of Teas
- Recommended Tea Brands…and What to Avoid
- How Long to Steep
- The Best Methods to Prepare Infusions and Decoctions
- Understanding the Volatile Oil Component of Aromatic Herbs
- How to Find a Local Wildcrafter
- Suppressive vs. Supportive Forces
- How Bitters Trigger the Vagus Nerve to Get Your Digestive Juices Flowing
- Elderberry for Colds
- Steam Inhalation with Peppermint, Eucalyptus or Thyme
- Yarrow, the Soldier’s Herb, for Fever, Cuts, Leaky Gut and More
- And Much More
Links mentioned in this interview:
For more from Jewel check out TheHerbalGem.com.
Click the link below to access the complete transcript.
Logan: Welcome to The Vital Way podcast. I’m Logan Christopher with Superman Herbs and we have a fun call today. It’s really all about bringing herbalism into your everyday life. Herbalism as a whole, I’d say, has largely been forgotten, sort of the wisdom of it. It’s just not what people do in western society. But when you learn just a few things, you can really bring it into your life and be able to support little things like aches and pains and colds and flus and that sort of thing. Joining me today, we have Jewel Klahn who has a Bachelor of Science degree in Herbal Medicine from Bastyr University. She has been engaged in many aspects of herbalism from hardening to quality assurance, research into botanical science and is a practicing herbalist. So as I said today, we’re going to be talking about simple home herbal remedies. Thanks for joining us, Jewel.
Jewel: Thank you.
Logan: All right, can you give us a little bit of a background of how you got into the field of herbalism?
Jewel: Of course. I got into herbal medicine, honestly from drinking simple teas as a young girl and as a teenager. I really liked drinking green tea and chamomile tea and different teas that I found at my local supermarket and was intrigued by how they made me feel. That kind of sparked my curiosity into different herbs and if I could make tea from different things. That kind of crossed over to oh, I can treat these different ailments of mine. It kind of exploded after that. It’s a big passion of mine so I kind of dove deep into my own research and studies at that point. But it really started with just drinking teas, just drinking simple herbal teas.
Logan: Nice. I guess that’s probably a good place to start. Would you recommend that’s where people should start if they’re really trying to bring more herbalism into their lives?
Jewel: Yeah, I love teas as a form of taking herbal medicine. Water itself is such a good medium. So many people don’t drink enough water every day. It’s hard to get that in. I understand. But drinking a tea, you can accomplish both of those things, getting more water in and then getting some herbal component in. I also drink teas because it allows you to interact with your medicine. You have to brew your cup of tea. You have to get your water. Even if it’s just herbs in a teabag, if you have to take them out, you smell them and you put it in the cup, you’re very involved with the whole process, which I think is very important whether you’re just trying to relieve some stress and relax at the end of the day or if you’re actually trying to treat some sort of ailment. It’s important to have intention there and be connected to what you’re doing. So yeah, I love teas. I think it’s a really great way to introduce you to herbal medicine and even if you’re an advanced herbal medicine practitioner, teas are such a good way to get the herbs in your body. And a lot of different teas are enjoyable and so is the social experience when you drink tea with a friend.
Logan: Yeah, those are a lot of good points. Where would you recommend people start? Do people just go to a store where they sell herbs and pick some things up? Should they just start with teabags? What would you recommend there?
Jewel: The best way to take herbs in tea form is to do it with your bulk herbs, loose leaf herbs in a whole, fresh form as possible but that’s not easily accessible for everybody. I live in Seattle so there’s a lot of different holistic stores around that have different bulk herbs and all sorts of teas in season. So it’s easy for me to get. I have access for those things but not everywhere in the country, in the world so really whatever you have access to. A lot of supermarkets and grocery stores, their tea selections are getting bigger and bigger. I think people are getting more and more into drinking natural teas so the selections aren’t bad. They definitely almost always have a peppermint tea, a chamomile tea usually, that kind of blend, usually digestive blends. And that’s great. They’re not going to be the best quality herbs but they are going to be herbs that are getting into your body so that’s great. If you have some sort of coop or natural food store by you, they probably have a bigger selection and possibly loose herbs so they’re great.
But there’s also online. We live in a day and age that you can go online and order something. Superman Herbs is a great place to get some herbs. MountainRoseHerbs.com has been tried and true. I love their company so if you want to branch out to that. But I think if you would just go out to your supermarket and see what they’ve got and then see what you can make work for you. Also a lot of culinary herbs can cross over and people kind of forget about that. You can look at the spice section in your grocery store and they might have some herbs there.
Logan: All right. Just as far as sticking with tea bags, are there any certain brands you would recommend or that you would recommend people stay away from?
Jewel: I really like Celestial Seasonings. You can find them almost anywhere, the main big supermarkets. They have high quality herbs and they have herbalists formulating their products. They taste good and they’re approachable. If your grocery store or coop have bigger tea selections, Traditional Medicinal is I think top quality bagged teas from a bigger line. They do individually-packaged tea bags so everything stays very fresh, airtight. I hate to say stay away from some brands and bash some brands but you’re not getting going to get the highest quality from your Lipton teas. Unfortunately, you’re not going to get the highest quality from your Twinings teas. Again if that’s what you’ve got, that’s fine but if you can get those that are quality, like I said the Celestial Seasonings is great and very readily available. You can find it almost anywhere. And then if your grocery store also carries some Traditional Medicinals or Yogi teas, Yogi is another brand that’s great. Those would be good.
Logan: And as far as working with loose leaf teas, I know if you’re talking about the average person out there, it’s a big step for them just to heat up some water and throw a tea bag in there. But if you’re going towards the loose leaf teas, what are your recommended ways of doing that because you know also the different devices like strainers and things to make it well easier to do? Something I just started recently doing was using a yerba mate straw just so I don’t need to filter out the loose herbs. What do you recommend for doing that?
Jewel: Yes. Again, if you’re honest with yourself or you’re just like I’m not going to make loose leaf teas, I’m not going to take that much time and energy to do it—it doesn’t take that much time and energy but I understand there are different lifestyles out there—if all you can do is a tea bag, that’s great. But yeah, the loose leaf tea which I recommend and I do prefer so I drink myself most of the time, there are many ways to brew a loose leaf tea.
We’ll start with a teapot, the traditional teapot. Normally the shape of the teapot is a normal one and then they often have a strainer, a mesh strainer in the top. So you can put your loose herbs in that mesh strainer, pour your boiling hot water. Always boil the water with herbs and then do like a hot water. Some green teas and white teas, they say you can steep them a little bit under boiling but with most herbs, you can boil the water, pour it right over there. So then you pour it on the teapot, put the top on and let it steep. Almost always with herbs, the longer the steep time, the better. I tell people to try to wait 10 to 15 minutes before you drink your herbal tea, whatever you’re steeping it in. If it’s teabags, if it’s loose tea, if it’s in a teapot, if it’s in a French press, boiling water and let them steep 10 to 15 minutes, if you can. The longer the better, sometimes overnight, even great. But it is more time and effort so I understand that. So a teapot’s a good way.
The third way that I really like that’s easy is a French press. People forget about them but they’re not just for coffee. Anything that allows the herbs to move around and have a lot of space to infuse in the water is going to be better. So a French press where the herbs are just free floating on the water and then you’ll strain them with a strainer at the top. They just have more room to dance, to move around and interact with all those water molecules and to open up their cell walls. They’re going to give you more medicine than if you put that same amount of herbs in a tea ball, the mesh tea ball which you can find in stores. They’re the size of a ping pong ball and you can open it up and split it into two halves, put your herbs in it, close it back up and kind of dunk it. So you have kind of a makeshift metal teabag. That’s another way to infuse your herbs but it doesn’t give them a lot of room so I don’t prefer those things. They’re very cheap. They’re inexpensive and they’re pretty easy to find so that’s a good plus for them. But I do prefer something like a French press or like you were saying, just put a yerba mate straw or some sort of tiny, tiny straw with a filter on the bottom, some sort of strainer and just put your herbs in your cup or in a mason jar or a mug and just sip just the water out and have it strained through the straw instead. But anything that will allow the herbs to move around freely and to infuse for as long as possible is going to be the best.
Logan: Right. Everything we’re talking about has been in the more technical terms in the teas and the infusion, right? And then we have decoctions, which is a longer boiling tea where you’re really actively boiling it as the herbs are in there.
Logan: Let’s say someone is like okay, they’re getting the teas and they’re using loose leaf ones. At one point do they start doing decoctions and which herbs are used for decoctions rather than for infusions?
Jewel: As you said, you’re correct, you can call herbs in water tea, very general. Everybody understands what tea is. But you can break that down into subcategories of an infusion and a decoction. The infusion, like you said, is what most people think of a tea, kind of just letting your herbs soak in boiled water and it’s often still topped. It’s in a teapot now, in a French press, in your mug, whatever and letting the herbs sit in there and then drinking that. That’s an infusion. That’s pretty standard. It’s the easiest thing to do and most herbs do well in an infusion.
A decoction is when you slowly simmer, a very, very low boil, herbs in the water for a while before you strain them out. So instead of letting them sit in boiled, still water, you’re going to simmer them like you’re cooking a pasta or rice or something like that, a low boil. Put them on a stovetop. Walk away. Let them simmer 15 to 20 minutes, sometimes more, strain it out and then drink that liquid.
So rules, what you can kind of go off is infusions are best for tea leaves and flowers, things that are more delicate and things that if you boil them for a long time, they might fall apart. A decoction is better for sturdier things like roots, dried berries, seeds, barks, those kinds of things. If you think about it because those roots, those barks are really hard, woody things, they’re tough. You’ve got to really break them open to get into their cell walls. They’re supposed to be protecting the plants, those botanical parts of the plant. They’re for protection. So in order to get all good constituents out there, get all the good medicine that you want, you’ve really got to try and break down those cell walls and it’s going to take a little bit more than just a standard infusion. It’s going to take a low boil. That’s going to take simmering it for a little bit on the stovetop to really break it open, really make sure that they’re infusing all their goodness into that hot, hot, hot boiled water and for a while. So that’s the main rule with them.
If you’ve got a dried berry, a seed, a bark or a root, it’s probably better to do a decoction. Do a low simmer for at least 15 minutes. A lot of Chinese medicines, they’ll be decoctions and let those herbs simmer for like 24, 48 hours even, which is pretty labor-intensive. I understand if it’s a little too much for most people but the longer than you really simmer those tough, rooty parts down, the more you’re going to get versus think of rose petals, peppermint leaves, these chamomile flowers, these delicate herbal ground parts of the herbs, those will do just fine just getting a hot water bath. They’re easy. They’re soft. They’re malleable. They’ll give what they’ve got much easier. So just infuse those. No need to really simmer those and break them down more than they already are. So that’s the rule with them and that’s what I would go with. If you’ve got a tea that’s a blend of both, which I find a lot—you’ll have a blend of either a couple of roots in here and some flowers—what do I do know? I’ll often just infuse those. I tend to go for the most gentle of the two if I have both woody and aerial parts of an herbs.
Logan: Do you ever do the decoction with the woodier, the hardier things and then just add the last 10 or 15 minutes, like you were mentioning, then you throw in the other ingredients just so all that stuff is really more compact in there that you get the hardier work than with the stronger ingredients?
Jewel: Absolutely. If I have the time and then the patience that day to do that, I certainly will. You really will get the most out of it. So I was going to say if you’ve got a tea blend, like I want to take for example licorice roots and schisandra berry and a little bit of peppermint, you would decoct that licorice root and that schisandra berry, those hard, tough, woody things and decoct them 20 minutes, 30 minutes if you can, low boil. Turn the stovetop off so it’s not boiling anymore. Let the water still and then put your peppermint leaves in and let those sit in the water for another 15 to 20 minutes before you strain it out. Definitely, like I said, if I’m feeling up for it that day I will definitely do that. You will get the most out of your medicine that way.
Logan: Something else I’ve heard which was kind of an aha moment for me at the time, when you’re working with a lot of the more delicate things when they contain essential oils, you want to be sure that there’s a lid on there because if they’re in boiling water, just in really hot water, if you’re smelling the tea going, that stuff is getting into the air so having a lid on there can just help keep those things inside the tea so that you get a little more of those benefits when you’re drinking them.
Jewel: Definitely. Yes. Thank you for that point. You definitely need to have a top on anything. Really I do it with any of my teas when I’m brewing it. They all have some sort of essential sort in there so definitely put a top on. Another term for essential oil is the volatile oil because they are volatile, which means as soon as they hit that hot water, they’re moving and turn into their gas form. So if you don’t have a top on that, they’re just going to go straight in the air into their gas form, diffuse into the air and make your room smell nice maybe, which is cool, but you want to keep those in and drink them. So if you keep a top on, those oils will still go into the air which the steam, go into their gas phase but then they’ll sit in whatever kind of lid you’ve got and condense back down into your tea so you’ll get everything that way. Especially, the stronger smelling the plant, the more you want to do that. Peppermint for example, lavender and rose, anything that’s got a really strong smell, you want to keep that smell in your cup of tea so cover it.
Logan: Not to say that smelling them is bad because that is one method of administration, just even that where you cook a tea, pull that top off then just smell because then you’re inhaling those volatile compounds, getting them to your lungs. If you’re trying to say treat a lung disease, that’s kind of something you’d do, want to specifically do.
Jewel: Definitely. Yeah, a lot of at-home lung remedies is during the steam inhalation with essential oils because of that reason, because they are so volatile and they will go into their gas phase and you can inhale them. So you’re definitely right. You’ll definitely get a lot of benefits from breathing them in, too. But you want to keep them in your nose, in your sinus passages or drinking them. Share a little bit with your room and your neighbor. They’ll get the nice smell, too, but you want that for yourself when you’re giving yourself some good medicine.
Also, if you don’t have lid for your pot or you’re just a tea bag drinker, you put your teabag in your mug and just get a little saucer. You get a little simple plate out and put that on top. Even if you don’t have a lid, just a makeshift one, or the tiny piece of tinfoil if you want that. I like the saucer. You can just dry it off and put it back. So make sure you use a lid if you don’t have one. Make sure to cover that up.
Logan: Right. Let’s move into let’s say someone likes this idea, they want to start building up their own herbal dispensary just for at home, maybe for themselves and for family, and let’s say they do either online or a local store where they can get these bulk herbs, where would you recommend they start?
Jewel: That depends a little bit on the herbs. I focus a little more on western herbal medicine so that’s my specialty. That’s what I know most herbs to get to. I’m a little bit less knowledgeable on where you can get your Chinese herbs, your Ayurvedic herbs. For that, I would ask someone else. Good quality overseas is definitely very important so make sure you know what you’re doing there.
But I’ve also had very good success with Mountain Rose Herbs. They’re my favorite online herb dispensary. They have so many herbs and they have very high quality assurance so I really, really like going with them. Besides herbs, they have essential oils, carrier oils, other things to make your own natural products, different clays, salts, all that stuff. They are Oregon-based and I’ve known some of the people who work there. They’ve great people over there and they’re very concerned about quality and sustainability. So MountainRoseHerbs.com, I really like their herbs.
Also, I’ve done a lot of work with Pacific Botanicals. There are very high quality herbs there, too. Ideally, the more local the better. I’m from Seattle and there are two herb companies that are Oregon-based. I like to really use the herbs that grow around you, where you’re living. I like that a lot so if you can find a wild crafter or if you know someone who’s working with the plants in your area, the native plants, a lot of times that medicine will be the best if you can get a wild crafter. But if you’re just going for some simple, dried herbs, honestly I would send you to Mountain Rose Herbs.
Logan: Okay. Any tips on finding someone, a local wild crafter?
Jewel: Ask around. If you’ve got some local coops or natural food stores, any kind of tea shop, herb shops, you kind of have got to ask around. A few of them are in between and they’re usually pretty eclectic characters. Yeah, it makes sense. You can also sometimes kind of with the forest service or sometimes your community or your city will have kind of like garden tours or plant walks so you can Google plant walks in your area, those kinds of things and they’ll point out this plant is this, this plant is this and then you’ll do your own research or get like of several herbs to take and a lot of times find out like oh, that plant is growing. It’s funny; that’s a weed where I live, that herb that I’m supposed to be taking. So you’ve kind of got to do a little bit of your own research and then just look for people that know the botany of your area.
You can also grow your own plants, too, if you’re interested in gardening. The mints are super easy. A lot of gardeners call them weeds. They’ve very easy to garden. A lot of kitchen home herbalism uses a lot of weeds and really easy-to-grow plants. So if you’ve got just a couple of containers and a sunny space, you can grow a lot of them as well.
Logan: Speaking of weeds, I can look outside right now and there’s dandelion growing. That’s a great plant, a great herb to use.
Jewel: Yup. I love dandelion, the leaves, the root as well, all of it and it’s a common weed. People just have no idea but it is great medicine so exactly.
Logan: Okay. Let’s move into some specific symptoms or issues people might be having and what would be some good herbs to work with those, some things people might want to have on hand. I guess let’s start with the common cold. What are some herbs that are maybe helpful in that?
Jewel: Common cold, it’s colds and flu season right now where I’m at. It’s definitely going around. A good thing to have on hand before the cold and flu season and during it, I really like elderberry. It’s very safe and very effective herbs. You can give it to anyone in your household. It’s for great for children. It’s great for adults. It’s great for the elderly. A lot of the herbalism that I prefer is safe and is gentle but effective and can be used on everybody. I prefer that kind of herbal medicine, kind of preventive and taking care of daily ailments. So elderberry is great for that.
It’s a tiny little, red berry and you would decoct that. You would do that in a low simmer, about a tablespoon per eight ounces of water and simmer that down for as long as you can, at least half an hour if you’ve got that. If you can leave them on the stovetop for a couple of hours, start out with double the amount of water so two cups of water for a tablespoon and cook it down about halfway. You can add a little bit of honey to that, if you want. It doesn’t take bad. It is a berry so it’s a little bit fruity. It’s a red color. Kids like to drink it so it’s really easy to get in as medicine. That’s antiviral and antibacterial. I found it to help get rid of that bug once you’ve got it. So I use this in cold and flu season. I still drink it every day during a season as a preventive medicine and that will help a lot. So elderberry is great.
Logan: That’s funny because the original cough medicine basically, that red color and—
Jewel: It is.
Logan: —basically decoct it down to a syrup or add honey, that sort of things, as a delivery vehicle and that’s where they came from.
Jewel: Exactly. Elderberries, it’s very, very old school, very folk medicine. And it’s tried and true. That’s why it’s still around and that’s why it’s been around. It works great. It tastes great. It’s pretty easy to find. You can find elderberry at almost any herb website or at the herb shop usually there are elderberries. It’s not a rare herb or anything but I like that. So elderberry is great, again preventative or while you’re sick.
If you’ve got some stuff in your lungs, I like to do, as we were talking about before, the steam inhalation. That’s a tried and true home remedy, too, even without any herbs. Sometimes, can really help, especially if you’ve got kind of a dry cough problem. It means it just kind of won’t dislodge, which we’ve all gotten that kind of respiratory thing, the steam inhalation. But just kind of kick it up a notch, having herbs that have those essential oils, those volatile oils that we were talking about, peppermint is great, eucalyptus is great. Those essential oils, doing one drop of either of those essential oils is wonderful, or thyme.
But if you don’t have the essential oil, just use the herb. Do one to two tablespoons of the herb per pot of boiling water, whether it’s peppermint—and if you have a couple of peppermint tea bags, that’s fine, too; put those in there—if you’ve got just culinary thyme, that’s great. Put that in there. The essential oils, those volatile oils that are in the plant are going to get lifted out once you put them in the boiling water. Than you kind of make a tent with a towel, a sheet or something, lean over that pot with the herbs in there and just breathe that steam in. Obviously, be very careful. It’s a boiling pot and hot water and whatnot. Breathe that in for a while. I really like that.
And then if you can get your hands on a little bit of yarrow, yarrow herb or elderflower, I really like those two herbs if you’ve got a fever, if you’re getting real hot and feverish to kind of bring that down. They’re very cooling and they’ll also help you. Get ready. You’ll be sweating, which can be important, that there is no fun, that fever, that heat that your body is creating is there for a reason. It’s trying to kill off those bugs so encouraging that, encouraging that to break through, through other ways, an example sweating, is good. So yarrow and that elderflower are great. Elderflower is from the same tree as the elderberry so I really like that, the berry and the flower of that same plant is used in herbal medicine.
Logan: Yeah, I’ve been just using tinctures of both elderberry and elderflower and I’m having a lot of fun with those lately. What you said there, I think it was very interesting and maybe you could elaborate on it a little bit, sort of the difference between sort of the western medical model where oftentimes we suppress symptoms versus what we’re trying to do with herbalism, a lot of times we’re sort of enhancing or helping, assisting with sort of the body’s own vital force. So you don’t want to suppress the fever but you actually want to kind of support it so that it can break. That way, you can get over the illness that you have at the time.
Jewel: Right. Exactly. Our conventional medicine these days definitely does not like anything uncomfortable, any kind of symptom, which is understandable. A fever it not comfortable. But most of the time, what your body is doing is there for a reason. Your body is doing it for a reason. It’s a very smart system. If you have a fever, if you’re heating up, if you’re hot, it’s doing that because whatever it’s trying to kill in this certain temperature. It’s trying to make its environment inhospitable to something else. It’s wise enough to know how to that with the fever. Also, fever gets your blood moving, gets things moving, gets your immune system, all your white blood cells, that whole system, it gets it moving to its target area. So instead of suppressing those things, like you said, herbs will kind of enhance what the body is already doing. So if you’ve got a fever, those herbs, the yarrow and elderberry, they’re not cooling herbs herbs in the sense that they’re going to just cool your body off; they’re cooling in the sense that they heat you up a little bit more until you sweat, which then naturally cools you off. That’s the thought behind most things in herbal medicine.
Just for another example, bitters are often given for digestion. If you have a little bit of indigestion or it kind of feels like there’s too much acid or something, instead of giving some Tums or just some calcium to kind of dull your body’s natural side or that system, you kind of want to increase that gastric juice production, increase that digestion and get things moving even more so. Although it’s a little bit hard to grasp the concept. I think if you’ve grown up with the conventional things that tells you if you’ve got a fever, get rid of it. Take some Tylenol and get that fever down. Obviously, too long of a fever and too high of a fever is dangerous and I am not a doctor. You definitely need to consult somebody at that point but a natural low fever when you’re sick, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Logan: And that’s sort of the difference. When you do suppress symptoms, often times it kind of drives them deeper in the body and thus they take longer to completely clear up.
Jewel: Yeah, let them out.
Logan: So if you’re often taking Tylenol when you’re sick, you can expect to be sick a week or longer but if you do herbalism, if you practice herbalism in the best way then you’ll never get sick in the first place. That’s what we’re aiming for.
Jewel: Right. Good idea.
Logan: Secondary to that, if you get something then you can sort of support it and that can be gone within a few days.
Jewel: Yeah. If you think about it also, it’s going to take a certain amount of energy to heal something or to fix something. Anything, you break a car, it’s going to take a certain amount of energy to put that car back together. If you have some sort of ailment, it’s going to take a certain amount of energy for your body to heal that. That amount of energy, it’s going to stay the same whether or not you prolong it by just slowly letting yourself recover a little bit every day. It’s going to take possibly a month versus if you take the same amount of energy for that month you were using to just hit it hard, support your body and be kind of real sick for three days, it’ll be out because all that energy is spent at once. It maybe a little bit harder, a little bit more uncomfortable in the moment but you’re allowing your body to get out everything that it needs to all at once.
Because definitely with those kind of, I have a cold or a fever, this illness that’s just coming on that I got to kick. It’s really good just to let yourself be sick and do everything to support your body. Get a ton of sleep. Take herbs that will make you heat up. Get in a hot bath and sweat out. Be a little bit miserable but then it’s going to be gone instead of suppress, just suppress symptoms and just kind of take the cough suppressant to kind of ignore them. You’re going to have lingering, that two- or three-week cold that you really shouldn’t be having. You don’t need to have that three-week cold.
Logan: Yeah. I remember the last time I actually got sick was after kind of like a long, stressful traveling week. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to be sick so I kind of literally just went on with my day and it knocked me out much harder and longer than otherwise because I didn’t allow that natural healing response because I didn’t have time at that time. So I suffered more for it.
Jewel: Definitely. That’s totally understandable. That is our culture now. There is no time to be sick. That’s why definitely preventative medicine is something you should focus on. That’s because there really is no time to be sick unfortunately. Also, you do have to kind of weigh it out, like when you’ve kind of got a low grade sickness for a month, you’re functioning at your best either. You’re losing time. You’re losing whatever but not really being at your best. So you either lose two days and just be down hard or kind of lose almost your whole month by just kind of being a low grade and feeling crummy. It’s a hard decision to make but I think it’s worth it in the end.
Logan: Yeah. You mentioned yarrow. Could you say a little bit about that herb because it does so many other things on top of helping with fever? So could you talk to some of the other functions that yarrow has?
Jewel: Yarrow is pretty amazing. I mentioned that I really like kind of backyard herbal medicine, home herbal medicine and you’ll find most of those herbs have many benefits and they’re used for many things. A lot of those weeds out in the backyard or in the forest, they’re used for many things as one plant can be used, depending on how you use it or when you use it, can work for you in many different ways. The elder tree, like I said, I love elder. It’s such a simple, old folk medicine and you use the berry and the flower.
So yarrow, its true form, is useful for many, many things. Like I said, it’ll help break a fever by bringing a sweat. Specifically, that’s what it does in that case. It’ll help you sweat. That’s called a diaphoretic in fancy terms. It just helps you lose heat through sweating. Yarrow is also called the soldier’s herb and it was called that in medieval times because it really helps to heal wounds internally and externally. It helps to draw tissues together. It’s astringent. It draws tissues together. A lot of people use with kind of like leaky gut or any kind of gut distress where the cell walls are maybe a little bit too impermeable. You can use it topically on wounds if you have like a minor cut or burn or some sort of mild injury on your skin, yarrow topically or that yarrow tea is wonderful. That will help draw those tissues together and heal those quickly, especially if it’s something kind of weepy or wet like a blister, something that ideally you want to dry out a little bit. So it’ll also do that on the inside. It’s like I said, if that gut is a little bit leaky and yet a little bit kind of wet and inflamed, it’ll tone those tissues.
It’s also a bitter. I like to use it a lot in bitter formulas. Bitters are used for digestion. You take a little bit before eating, about 10 to 15 minutes before eating. You’ll often find them in different European cultures of digestives or aperitifs and they’re mature with different bitter herbs in there that are served before or after dinner to help you digest. Bitters are really easy to make at home. You can make them as a tea or a tincture and yarrow is a great bitter. Because it’s got a lot of the bitter, volatile oils in there, it will trigger something called the vagus nerve on the back of your tongue. That will increase your gastric juices. It’ll increase the production of bile. So if you were to drink a yarrow tea 10 to 15 minutes before you start eating, your body will kind of prep its digestive system, almost start to get all of the juices flowing so by the time you drop some food in there, it’s ready to go, it’s primed.
Lastly, it’s cooling. It’s a very cooling herb and I use that term based on a constitution. So your constitution is kind of how your body naturally runs. Some people, their hands and feet are always cold and they’re always chilled, don’t have much blood flow to their faces, they’re probably more of a cool constitution. Someone that gets real flushed really easily, have always been complaining of being too hot and has a lot of energy and is running around, they’re probably a warmer constitution. So if someone’s a little bit too hot, a little too warm, a lot of times inflammation, that is a hot condition, that’s warm, a lot of people have a very hot liver, an inflamed liver and there’s a lot of stuff out there that your liver has to process, a lot of toxins in our environment so the liver’s usually kind of hot kind of overworked. The yarrow being cooling, tend to cool your body down, cool that system, cool your blood.
So yeah, yarrow is good for a lot of things. It’s a great herb. It also has a ton of folklore behind it, old stories. Like I said, they would call it the soldier’s herb, the woundwort. I can’t think of it exactly but I don’t know whose soldiers would carry it with them into battle to protect them. So there’s a lot of mysticism and stuff behind it, too. If you’re interested in that, yarrow has plenty to learn about it but I find it a very invaluable herb and I’m fortunate that it grows up in my mountain, up here in Washington so I can go get it fresh.
Logan: Yeah, it seems to grow in quite a few different areas so that’s pretty useful. I’ve heard some amazing stories about its wound-healing ability, like people getting huge cuts and just finding some yarrow, chewing it up and putting it on there like a little poultice and the next day, there’s nothing left. I haven’t had a chance to do that which I guess is a good thing but I’m looking forward to it.
Jewel: Yeah, that’s probably good. But I will admit that I have used it topically for a cut, for a gash and it did a lot to heal it. I am hot. I have a hot constitution. I tend to be hot-blooded and things tend to get inflamed. If I get a cut, it very easily gets red. It very easily just hot and inflamed and slightly infected. That’s just kind of how my body runs and yarrow heals it up without any redness, without any inflammation and very quickly. I was very, very fortunate. I got a gash and was up in the mountains where there was fresh yarrow growing so I was able to just pick a batch and make a tea of it and just chucked a cloth in it and put it on there and it really does help. I can vouch for that myself. I’ve been able to use yarrow for so many different things. It’s an amazing, amazing herb. Pretty little white flowers and the flat flower has feathery little green leaves. It’s a cool-looking plant.
Logan: Yeah, the leaves kind of look like stitches after healing it up. I looked at that and noticed that. That’s what I thought.
Jewel: Yeah, they do. Definitely, yup. They’re definitely down to the signatures there.
Logan: What are some of the other bitters that people could use for helping with the digestion that you spoke of besides yarrow?
Jewel: Yeah, I think bitters are a really, really good thing that almost anybody needs these days. You can take them every day.
Logan: Because we don’t have it in our diet at all pretty much.
Jewel: Yeah, they’re pretty much absent completely in our diet and they didn’t use to be. Humans used to eat bitters all the time. Salads used to be a lot more bitter and you can definitely get the bitter in a little bit of your salad greens. You can taste this in there. Those are eaten before meals, right? You’re served a salad before a meal because it’s a little bit bitter. Before we were eating more leaves, more bitter foods for a reason. They really do help but as you said, they’re pretty much absent now. Even the salad, people aren’t eating as much as they should.
So a really good way to kind of get those bitters in is through herbs, your herbal medicine like I said, either a tea or a tincture. Bitters are becoming more and more common. I can find a couple in my local supermarket these days. Definitely the colossal has prepared tincture bitters.
Common herbs that work as a bitter, honestly chamomile is a little bit bitter. Most people can kind of pick that up and that will help digestion. If that’s all you’ve got, that’s great. The most bitter, like the very, very bitter herb is called gentian, gentian root and I like to mix that with different digestive herbs. So I take the gentian root and I’ll make a tea or a tincture of that and then add different digestive herbs in with that to make kind of a complete formula. So I’ll do gentian for the bitters and then a little peppermint, chamomile, those kinds of things to kind of the help the digestive formula without being so bitter.
Another bitter herb is lavender. A lot of people have lavender around, some lavender sachet or something. Lavender is a bitter but anything that tastes bitter is a bitter. That counts. If the salad green is bitter then that counts. Before your meal, let that be your medicine. Bitter formulas tend to have multiple herbs in there. So formula is a little more complex. If you’re going for just a couple more herbs, like I said, lavender, chamomile is good, gentian is pretty bitter but it’s just a single root that you can get the job done with.
I do like to go with kind of store-formulated bitters for people for the most part because they tend to kind of good. Well, they’re a little bitter but then they have different spices like cinnamon, allspice, orange peel, licorice or kind of yummy things on top of it. So you get that bitter but it’s also a little bit pleasurable for you, too. And you take those bitters and you put those tinctures in a little bit of water or make them tea and just drink it slowly, like I said, about 15 minutes before you eat. That way, it hits the back of your tongue, activates that nerve and gets those juices flowing, gets the digestive system up.
Logan: Great. Well, I love that the other ones that’s not necessarily for the bitter component but there are other things that it can help with, various parts of digestion like carminatives and whatnot as well there.
Jewel: Definitely. You mentioned the word “carminative.” That is another fancy word. It just means kind of breaking up vast pockets, relaxing that smooth muscle in your intestines so they’re not all crampy and they don’t feel as if they’re having trouble digesting something. It kind of relaxes it a little bit and breaks up those pockets. Peppermint, peppermint again. I said peppermint so many times over this talk. I really like it. Almost everybody has it and so it’s very easy to find. I definitely think it’s a good one to have. Peppermint is a great carminative. The great thing about it is it’s cooling to the belly. It is a little bit bitter on its own. Ideally, you’ll combine it with something more bitter but that’s a good one.
Chamomile is also a good carminative. Almost everybody has it. It’s super great for kids, really soothing for their bellies. They’re anti-inflammatory. It helps relax the smooth muscles. I like fennel a lot. It’s another cooling herb. If you tend to be a little bit hot, fennel and peppermint are really great. Fennel is very soothing and they serve it a lot in desserts or in Middle Eastern cuisine after you eat. They use kind of candied fennel, licorice, mints and whatnot, those tend to be fennel. So it’s in a lot of kind of mainstream after-you-eat sweets because fennel helps you digest.
Also ginger, ginger is really good in digestion. People use it a lot of nausea and to help digest. Ginger is great. Sometimes, it tends to be a little too hot for some people. I find that if you’re already kind of hot-blooded and just over-heated already, ginger might exacerbate that. Sometimes, if your digestion is like a little bit too inflamed anyway, some ginger can almost add to that. So just keep in mind with ginger, some people are like I tried ginger and it didn’t work. Try a different herb then. Everybody is different. For every ailment or whatever you’re trying to do, there are multiple herbs that can assist you in that so if one doesn’t work, maybe it’s just not the right herb for your body. There are other ones out there so try them. My body likes peppermint and fennel better. My best friend, she’s a ginger girl. So just figure out what works for you.
Logan: And with ginger, you can change how you can prepare it. The dry ginger is more heating than fresh ginger. I find the same thing with turmeric as well.
Jewel: Definitely. Yeah, that’s a good point. That’s not true for every herb out there, that dry and fresh form are going to be very, very different but most of the time, I prefer fresh in general. I like it to be more alive but as Logan said, ginger when you dry it, it becomes a lot hotter. In Chinese medicine, in it and increase quite a bit. It’s way more drying to your tissues and it gets things moving a lot more whereas fresh ginger is still warming, it still increases your blood flow, still anti-inflammatory but much more moistening at the same time. So I like fresh ginger for me personally when I use it. Someone who’s real cold, cold hands and feet all the time, really needs to get that blood moving is probably going to do better with dried.
Logan: I was just thinking about this and I’m not sure what the answer may be. With sushi and other Japanese meals, they often have the pickled ginger. To me, it seems like that’s somewhat like the fresh ginger as far as its energetic nature rather than the dry ginger.
Jewel: Yeah, I would agree with that. I haven’t looked that up specifically so I can’t say for sure but from what I’ve found eating and then experienced with it, it’s definitely more of the fresh ginger.
Logan: And that’s the reason why that’s included with those meals that help with indigestion, everything there.
Jewel: Exactly. You’ll find if you open your eyes and pay attention, digestive herbs are used in a lot of culinary cuisine everywhere, whether or not it’s in your appetizer or in your dessert. Obviously, it’s snuck in there for a reason. For one example, cinnamon, cinnamon is used a lot to regulate blood sugar levels. You’ll find it in so many sweets, so many desserts. It’s paired with sugar for a reason because it helps your body absorb that. So it’s not very obvious until you educate yourself and then you do pick up on it. Oh yeah, I was served candied fennel after I went out to India. That’s probably because it helps break down all those lentils, all those beans. It helps break up the gas. Peppermint candy, when I went out to dinner at this other place, it’s probably because peppermint helps you digest. They really are used everywhere.
Logan: It’s great to bring more awareness to that fact and then people can be a little more conscious about their decisions. Looks like we’re coming up to a close. We can keep going on much longer and talk about some of these other herbs. Maybe we’ll have to do this again sometime but where can people go to find out more about you? Would you like to point them anywhere?
Jewel: Yeah, I have a website. It’s www.TheHerbalGem.com. I do consultations and I also like to teach classes. One of my favorite things is educational classes on backyard herbal medicine, on at-home herbal medicine, on ways to treat yourself and your family. I really like to empower people to be able to do it themselves. There’s a lot of information out there. There’s a lot of really fancy, really cool herbs. There are a lot of really cool, unique things out there that I find that most of the medicine that you need is all around you. So I really like to kind of empower people to embrace that, the idea that it is around you if you know how to look. Again, TheHerbalGem.com, that’s where I’m at. It was great talking to you. Like you said, we could talk about herbs for hours and hours and we didn’t even mention that many on this talk. We’ve stuck with a few but you see how those few herbs can be used for so many things. So it doesn’t even have to take up that much room in our counter or in your cupboard space. You can accomplish a lot with a handful of solid herbs.
Logan: Well, this one I love as I’ve gotten more into herbalism and have known a lot more of the local stuff as well, it’s like when you have a few good things if someone comes to you with their symptoms, you can do something with that. It puts you more in charge of your health, which is unfortunately what most people have abdicated away to doctors and we see the results they’re getting. Not that all doctors are bad or anything like that but really your health is important to you. So you should have some skills in being able to maintain that, at least in my opinion.
Jewel: Definitely. I believe in being your own healer and then using the resources around you for assistance but first and foremost, being your own healer and then knowing where to look for help. That’s what I believe in. So yeah, definitely get your herbal first aid kit going. Get your herbal shelf in your kitchen and empower yourself.
Logan: Well, I think with what you’ve shared today people will be able to take a first step or maybe a 15th step or wherever they’re at in their journey that will allow them to go a little further with this. So thank you so much for your time, Jewel.
Jewel: Thank you. Thank you. I enjoyed it.
Logan: All right, and thanks everyone for listening. We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with another episode.