What is the best way to take herbs? Learn why capsules may not be the best option, as we discuss the five elements and tastes. Learn several options and ideas on how to take different herbs from schisandra to shilajit, tongkat to pine pollen, chaga and more.
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Logan: Hey it’s Logan Christopher here with The Vital Way podcast, once again joined by Cloud. Today, we started talking about this a little previously but how to take herbs. We want to go a little bit more detail onto that because well a lot of these herbs are kind of weird, kind of interesting tastes if you want to put it that way and we get a lot of questions. How do you take these? What are some different ways? So we wanted to deal with that in today’s podcast.
So I think a first sort of a big picture thing to be talked about basically there are five different flavors. That’s how most of the old systems spread them out. I have a little more familiarity with the Chinese medicine versus the Ayurveda. I can’t remember off the top of my head how they break up the different flavors but in Chinese medicine, they also have the five elements. Now these elements interact with the motions. There are different physical components. You have meridians that correspond to them.
The water element has to do with the salty taste. That makes a lot of sense because you have the salt and water, the kidneys, all that sort of stuff. The wood element has to do with the sour taste. Also, the wood season would be spring. These are spread into the five seasons as well, water being the winter. Then we have the fire element, summer, and that is—this one makes sense as well—the pungent, also known as spicy, although there are some different qualities of pungent as well.
Then we have the Earth element. This is sort of the Indian summer, the solstice. There are a couple of different models on how they separate this out. The Earth element has to do with the balance between them or it is spread out in sort of the five-star model of the elements. This has to do with the sweet taste. People are also divided into these different elements and Earth elements can have a bit more of a sweet tooth and then the problems that can come with that, being overweight, diabetes, that sort of thing. The final element is the metal element. This has to do with the autumn and it is the bitter taste that is going with that.
So like I said, Ayurveda, probably all sorts of different medicinal schools of thought out there, look at the taste not just as oh it tastes like that or that’s good or that’s bad but that that indicates some of its action, what it does in the body, where it may correspond, what different organ systems it may be working on. That’s the important thing, why taste is actually important and why these herbs, well a lot of them are bitter. It’s because they have alkaloids. That’s one thing that tends to be bitter. But you’ll notice some herbs as salty. Some are sour. You have all kinds of different tastes across these. So let’s start with some ways to make them taste better.
Cloud: Can we get all five tastes in different herbs?
Logan: Yeah. So in Schisandra and a couple of others, Ayurveda, they believe they’ve got a couple in there as well but Schisandra is pretty interesting. In Chinese medicine, it’s called the five flavored fruit because it actually has all five flavors. Now if you haven’t tried Schisandra, it is amazing stuff. Its predominant taste is sour. That’s kind of the biggest thing people notice right, but here is some bitterness to it that’s kind of like behind. I forget how it breaks up. The different parts of the tongue registered the different tastes. There’s a little bit of sweetness in there as well. These are berries so that’s not too surprising. Then there’s just a tiny bit of that pungency which is kind of the expansiveness of the flavor as well as the saltiness as well.
Cloud: You know what’s funny about the Schisandra is that I’ve never been very good at like the second taste like you’ve become very good that. Well, better than me and I know my wife can do that kind of stuff too. When I eat the Schisandra, I can taste all five flavors in it.
Logan: You may need to take it a couple of times. Understand that as a sense, some people are more visual. Some people are better in touch with their body or their feelings, that sort of thing. Taste is a sense that you can train and get better at. If you look at people that drink wine, they can pick up flavor notes in the wine so much. It’s the same way with herbs. That can actually be a way of sort of understanding the herb a little bit better, understanding the characteristics of the flavor much more.
So that’s a really cool thing. The Schisandra, I definitely recommend you try that out just to understand that but as far as to take herbs, how do you take Schisandra? This is one I like to carry with me because it comes in a small package. I just pour a little out on my hand when I’m like traveling around and throw it in my mouth. It tastes good.
Cloud: I just put the bag up to my mouth and pour it in. Sometimes, I do spoon if I want to measure them out. But I have put the bag up to my mouth before and had half the bag drop in and man, is that sour in the beginning. I love sour but I could hardly stand that. But jeez, if I ate it all—and I did it—I literally felt the energy go through me by eating my 5 grams of it by accident. It’s powerful stuff.
Logan: As I was saying, I really like to travel with that one. It’s something I can easily fit on my pocket. I don’t like to take a whole bunch of herbs where I need because sometimes I don’t have spoons or something and might not be able to mix it. Some travel better than others but that’s one I can carry on me. Generally if I’m travelling, attending workshops, giving workshops or otherwise need to pay attention, it helps with the mental alertness.
Cloud: Yeah, and with our version, you do need so little of it. A quarter teaspoon is a gram so you don’t hardly need any of it. Normally when I put it up to my mouth, I’m just like boom. I just tap it a little bit, a tiny bit falls in and I’m done.
Logan: That one taste pretty good even though I have encountered some people that don’t like the taste because it’s too much for them but you should try the other stuff.
Cloud: In general, in our experience so far, anything with berry behind it, most people do like it. It’s easier than some of the other herbs.
Logan: So let’s talk about pine pollen. It’s kind of our main one. We will be doing some videos on other ways to take herbs and more stuff. We’ve got the recipe book. We’ve got the instructions on taking stuff like Pine pollen but what’s your favorite way to take pine pollen?
Cloud: I eat it. I literally throw it in my mouth and maybe a little bit of water depending on how hydrated I am. I definitely still let it dissolve in my mouth. Sometimes I do that. Sometimes I don’t. But I literally eat the pine pollen.
Logan: It doesn’t cause a choking hazard? Cough it up?
Cloud: Come on now. I’m going to educate you guys right now. If you put pine pollen in your mouth, do not breathe because it will go down your airways. You will start coughing and all of the pine pollen will come flying it out of your mouth. I’ve seen my child do this. I’ve seen adults do this. You’ve got to be careful. Start with a little bit. Get some experience. But yes, I just eat it.
If I make a smoothie, I will throw it in there, no problem. I always take tons of pine pollen every day. When we first started, I used to throw it in water. Pine pollen doesn’t like to mix in water really well. For me, it didn’t seem to mix well. I didn’t like that so that’s when I started eating it. The other herbs tend to mix better, in my opinion, like ashwaganda doesn’t like to mix.
Logan: Some clump up and whatnot.
Cloud: Yeah but whatever. So I used to do drinks but now for the most part, I just eat every single herb, pine pollen especially. I have my Megadose sitting there. When I walk by it and I haven’t had a spoonful in a while, I just grab the spoon, throw it in my mouth and go on with my life. That’s how I take it.
Logan: I’d say I do more of the mixing in water. I find that’s a little easier. But I do from time to time put it in my mouth. It makes sense to me to do that and then just throw it into shakes. It’s a pretty easy one. Once again, that’s one of the better tasting herbs I’d say. It actually has a sort of pleasant pine flavor but there’s a little bit bitterness in there. There are quite a few different things going on.
Cloud: To me, it’s actually kind of bitter. I throw them too much in drinks and to me it made the drink bitter because of the pine pollen. Then I recently opened up a Megadose. It didn’t taste as piney as it most of the time does. But I don’t think it’s bad. I think different times of the year, different harvest locations, different soils.
Logan: Different trees. It is a natural thing.
Cloud: A lot of people have commented on sometimes the bag, the 50-gram bags and the Megadose taste different. These are all possibilities. Again, we’re working with nature here. You don’t have standardization in nature. Standardization with herbs is where they make everything the same every time.
Logan: They standardize it for certain active constituent generally so they get a certain percentage, a fraction of that in there. But yeah, this is just raw pine pollen so one bag may taste a little different from the other. That will happen in food, too. I have no experience with this but they say butter from summer and winter months is quite significantly different in cows.
Cloud: If you get butter from the first grass, that’s going to have so much more nutrients in them.
Logan: It’s going to taste different means different nutrient profiles as well.
Cloud: Yeah. I love spring butter.
Logan: So we talked about just throwing stuff in your mouth. That’s a great way. I would definitely recommend at least one time, even if you don’t want to take herbs, don’t want to deal with the taste, we are advising that is something you should do but at least once taste the herbs so you understand it a little bit from that sort of perspective.
Cloud: One thing right here, do you know what the first thing is when we get a new herb in that we’re interested in testing from different supplier or brand new herb we ever heard of, what the first thing we do once we get it?
Logan: Take it. Taste it.
Cloud: We taste it. Every single herb we might smell it first like we just did over there. Whatever we took over there just made us choke when Zane and I smelled it. I just took it and I just ate and I started choking because I never experienced anything like that.
Logan: Very pungent flavor.
Cloud: Yeah, I was going to ask you, that would be pungent, right? Because my tongue was like spicy and on fire kind of and I honestly have not experienced taste like this from herbs yet.
Logan: And there’s a label on it that we can’t read. We don’t even know what it is.
Cloud: We can’t read the label. So this is a new supplier but that’s what we do. We taste it. That’s the very first thing we do. Why?
Logan: Because it’s going to indicate certain things. That’s your first experience with the herb. You have to tune into the subtlety but by tasting it rather than taking the pill, you’ll actually be able to feel its effects. Once again, you actually have to attune yourself and this can be sort of a practice that takes a long time to develop but by attuning yourself to the flavor of the herb, that’s sort of the entrance of it going into your body and then you’re going to get some of its action going on right there.
Just the other night I tried kratom which is something we may put out in the future, which is kind of a sedative herb. It seems to be pretty powerful stuff. It has similar effects to opium, except to a much minor degree according to what I was looking up on. So I just took it, just a tiny bit on my tongue. I tasted that. It wasn’t bad or anything but I just felt this like relaxation of my body. It just brought things down a notch.
Cloud: And like you were saying, if you want the full effects of an herb, you need to taste them. Our greatest example was Zane and I were doing research and we came across a thing about triphala. Triphala is very bitter and sour. It’s got Amalaki so it’s sour but it’s also very bitter and we have a great raw version.
Logan: Those fruits have multiple different tastes. One of them might be five-flavored according to Ayurveda but the other ones have like three or four, I believe.
Cloud: I mean the combination of these three fruits, the Amalaki, Bibhataki and Haritaki, there’s so much bitterness, sourness, everything there and this is raw. We read you have to chew triphala to experience it awaken your mind. We’re like, really? Because if you take it in a pill you’re not going to experience it.
So we just go run over there, we grab some triphala, only a quarter of teaspoon. We throw it in our mouth, start chewing on it, get it going and boom, my head picked up instantly. That was only what six to eight months ago. That was really my introduction to yes, taste is that important. I had not had that happened before. I had never had that effect. I’d always just swallowed down triphala, chasing it with water, either before or after like Logan showed on the tongkat video because I didn’t want to taste it. But I never got that head straightening effect. So if you put triphala in a pill, you would never get that effect.
Logan: I think we actually just heard that recently with the tongkat from a customer. He was putting it in pills and taking it, saying, “I wasn’t really noticing anything and so I decided to man up and just take it as you guys were talking about”.” Zane mentioned it on a couple of articles about the tongkat. It was then that he started to feel the effects from it, which is really interesting.
Cloud: Guys, ladies, it’s my opinion that if you’re a real human being, you’ll taste the tongkat. Stop being a wuss and freaking taste it. I know there’s a bunch of you that can’t stand it.
Logan: I don’t like the taste myself and I often times I do, do that. I actually wrote that on the tongkat page like this is extremely bitter, which it is, just because it is quite concentrated. That’s why there is so much more bitterness.
Cloud: It’s not the raw form.
Logan: Yeah, it’s not the raw form. I don’t think it’s standardized but it has a very high fraction of the bitter components in it. But first, man up. You’re actually taking something to boost testosterone. It’s about being a man. A man can go out there and have something that doesn’t taste bad because it’s good for them, right?
Cloud: Man doesn’t have feelings. He doesn’t have taste. Eat it!
Logan: Really if you can sort of embody this quality, okay, it tastes bad, so what? Do it anyway.
Cloud: Well if you want the boost of testosterone and what comes with that, maybe you have to man up.
Logan: So the first I heard about this, a guy I was studying with was talking about especially the bitter action. One of the actions of that—I’m not saying this is with the tongkat ali but other plants, dandelion leaves, for instance, they’re quite a bit more bitter than any sort of salad you might have—but the bitter action, one of the things that it does is the digestive effect. If you just take a pill then it’s not going to have it because the first sort of communication, the message starts in your mouth with that bitter taste which starts the digestion, the “agony” in Ayurveda terms to be able to process what’s coming much more. That’s the first thing I heard about the bitter taste doing this. I believe it’s true with all the different flavors that taste is going to then have a guiding action for what the herb is supposed to do because if it just hits your gut in a pill, then it may not work as well. It doesn’t know what to do.
Cloud: Yeah, I’m sure the shamans back in the day when they were talking to plants, learning what they do, they were encapsulating the plants and skipping the whole taste thing.
Logan: There’s actually a lot of other ways you can take herbs. Influxation, nasally, all sorts of stuff like that, suppositories. We don’t have experience in that.
Cloud: I have sniffed pine pollen.
Logan: Accidentally or on purpose?
Cloud: No, I did it on purpose. Just screw it. It’s a natural product. It’s completely raw. It’s not extracted so nothing has been done to it. I just wanted to see what would happen. It literally picked me up. I don’t recommend it but I got to try everything.
Logan: We got a few lines of pine pollen laid out. That would be especially bad for a person with a pine pollen allergy. Okay, so going back, we talked about different ways you can take them. You mentioned the tongkat video. Because it’s extremely bitter and that is going to stop people despite what we’re saying right here, this was actually something Cloud started doing. You spread it to me and Zane. You take a gulp of water, just a little bit in there then throw whatever herb you—
Cloud: You put some water in your mouth and hold it there.
Logan: Yeah, you hold it in there. You don’t swallow the water. Then you take the spoonful, whatever amount of herb then you throw that in your mouth on top of the water.
Cloud: Let me just add I have done way too much ashwaganda before and ashwaganda floats on water. When I tried to swallow it, I almost choked. It was about a tablespoon so don’t do that.
Logan: What I recommend for this because I’ve done it even with the pine pollen even though it doesn’t really bother me, the taste or anything, don’t try to do like a heaping teaspoon or tablespoon at the time. That’s too much powder for probably too little water. So if you’re going to do something with a bit bigger dose, do like this a couple of times.
Cloud: Three. Do three teaspoons. It’ll be way easy.
Logan: So you’ve got the water in your mouth sitting there. Then you throw the herbs on top and then you just swallow it all down. You take another swig of water to help it wash down. You’re not encapsulating it but it’s with the water so you don’t even taste it all that much. You get a little bit of the taste though.
Cloud: Yeah, well it takes some practice. It took me a while to figure this out and get good at it. If you time it right, you throw the herb, you swallow right when it lands on the water, literally hardly any of it will touch your tongue.
Logan: The thing you do not want to do is then close your mouth and swish it around. The first time they were explaining this and I tried it, I was like wait. Oops. It was either too much powder or something. Avoid doing that because then the herb will be all over your mouth and it will be stuck in between your teeth.
Cloud: You know how I discovered this? It was when taking gunpowder at night.
Logan: Gunpowder is the name for the black shilajit with triphala.
Cloud: Man, I would take that at night so in the morning everything comes out fine. That stuff, for all the herbs we’ve had, I still don’t like very much. That’s why I discovered that. It was to avoid tasting that. Let me tell you. You still taste it even if you do it correctly.
The funny thing about taste is I could not stand our ant when we first got it. I could not stand it. Our friend was licking the bag and I’m like grossed out by it because I could not stand the taste. I knew how good the ant was for me in all the research Logan had told us and put up on the website so I just kept taking it every day. To this day, it’s one of my favorite tasting herbs now. So you can get over it.
Logan: It’s the same thing with food. I used to not eat any fruits or vegetables right, not any at all. Then I became an adult and it’s like maybe I should get into this health stuff and start eating some of these things.
Cloud: I think that’s kind of different. When you’re a kid, you have different taste.
Logan: Kid, yes. But what I’m saying is when I became an adult I was like, this thing tastes bad for me. That’s a perception. Does it actually taste bad? If you go and it sounds like I’m not making judgments about how this tastes. Just actually experience the taste. If you’re automatically labeling anything bitter as bad then you’re not going to be able to stand bitter things. If you do the same things with sour or with whatever. But if you go in with an open and just experience, it’s quite a bit different.
Cloud: So like he was saying, don’t have preconceived notions of what it’s going to taste like. My daughter last night, we go hey try this and she doesn’t even look. She just says no because anything we want her to try, she doesn’t like. We were trying to hand her chocolate and she didn’t even look. She was like nah, I don’t want it. We were like, are you kidding me? Do you see what this is? Oh my god! Yes, I want that! I want that. I want that. So herbs don’t taste bad if you don’t go in thinking that.
Logan: So what other herbs can we talk about? Anything different?
Logan: On how to take them. One thing that I like to do, I mentioned this in the How to Take Herb eBook which if you order from us you get that for free—we have all kinds of different things—one, you can cook with these. We can talk about all kinds of things but truthfully I haven’t done that much cooking with them.
Cloud: Well, I just had my wife throw shilajit in and amalaki. She loves cooking with amalaki. She throws that stuff in her chilies. This is in the book, too, her chili. She makes awesome pulled pork. She would put herbs on that. Again, it is important to not really cook with the pine pollen because it is a raw product. The extracts have been processed somewhat with heat already so they are kind of stable. You can cook with them. Pine pollen is more like a topping. Put it in yoghurt. I used to make my own trail mix cereal with coconut, milk, all nuts and berries and then throw all different herbs in there and it tasted great. I loved it!
Logan: One thing I like to do is I drink coffee fairly regularly. Along with the coffee, I do a teaspoon of chaga mushroom in there. That’s a raw one. You can eat chaga raw but it works great as an extract. I use a French press. Often times, I haven’t been doing it as much recently but then I would also throw the reishi and/or cordyceps into the coffee. Those don’t have a whole lot of taste. Just through the extraction method that they go through so those blend in quite well then you have a very medicinal mushroom coffee that can taste quite good.
Cloud: Yeah, to you. I think I’ve tried it. I don’t like it as much. Personally, because I like to have my coffee, I’ve been kind of addicted to throwing pitch in my coffee.
Logan: Pitch in your coffee.
Cloud: Yes, I threw pitch. Sometimes, I’ll sit down and be like this doesn’t taste—oh crap, it’s not dark enough because I don’t have pitch in it.
Logan: So dark water in coffee.
Cloud: Here’s the thing. I do bulletproof coffee or my version of it with coconut.
Logan: You blend up or do you just let it dissolve?
Cloud: No, I throw it in the blender or if it’s too late I’ll just throw it in there and it usually sits in the bottom and I swirl it really hard.
Logan: How big of a piece?
Cloud: Just a tiny bit. I’m just trying to get a little bit of the shilajit taste in there. Actually, I think it goes really well with coffee.
Logan: That’s the thing. One thing about taste and we really haven’t talked about that but if you can match flavors along with what you’re doing—
Cloud: What goes with bitter?
Logan: More bitter.
Cloud: I’ve started putting tongkat with my coffee quite frequently. I like it sometimes.
Logan: I still haven’t tried that. After tasting tongkat, I don’t want to ruin a cup of coffee.
Cloud: This is what I wanted to mention about shilajit. Shilajit per Ayurveda works better when you consume it with milk. The reason that works, and I’ve done this personally, it has a much longer action if you consume it with milk. Personally, I only drink raw milk. I would never drink pasteurized milk and never suggest it to anyone. But the fats in raw whole fat milk prevent the shilajit from your body passing the shilajit along before it has a chance to pull everything it can out of it. So I believe when I throw it in my coffee with all that butter and all the coconut oil, those fats act in the same way as the milk, helping my body to delay the digestion to get more out of the shilajit.
Logan: Interesting, I will have to try that.
Cloud: That is my theory.
Logan: That makes sense to me. Fats in general will probably help with absorption of a lot of herbs. Let’s talk about that, taking herbs on an empty stomach versus taking them with food. There are sort of different benefits to each of this. If you want to feel the action of the herb most significantly then an empty stomach is going to be the way to go. It’s more of like a fast action but you may not absorb it as much. If you have food in there because the body is absorbing all that, it will be slower action but you can also then get—
Cloud: Well what about the theory, the first I consume in the morning, I get more nutrition out of? What about that?
Logan: Yes, I agree with that as well. I think there’s something to that but this on top of that. When do you take herbs?
Cloud: When do I take herbs? I literally get up in the morning, I have a good two or three cups of copper cup water and then I will start taking pine pollen. I usually wait on my tongkat till I sit down and start doing work. But I will definitely have pine pollen first thing because I again believe pine pollen is mostly about nutrition. The first thing I’m going to have is pine pollen. Sometimes, I throw in a little shilajit because it acts as a carrier for the nutrients. I got shilajit carrying extra nutrients of the pine pollen as the first thing I’m eating. Maybe I’m getting every freaking nutrient I can out of it. I don’t know but that’s what I do first thing in the morning. Then for me, it depends on how my day goes. Usually I do mine mid-afternoon, one or two, depending on what’s going on in the day or how I’m feeling. I’m a two-dose guy. I like doing a morning dose and an afternoon dose. Logan agrees.
Logan: No, I do mine differently.
Cloud: Well, okay. But Zane, he has always preferred to take a large dose in the morning.
Logan: I generally do something in the morning. I do the water and different herb but then also there are some other herbs in the coffee as well usually. Instead of the afternoon, I generally do more in the evening. I often take stuff before I go to bed, right before I go to bed. It’s kind of like recommending the Megadose for the morning wood test. Just take a heaping tablespoon of pine pollen right before you go to bed and you’ll definitely notice some effects of that the next morning.
But yeah, you’ve just got to find what works for you. I generally am busy throughout my day and so unless I’m taking something around my workout. I usually do one sort of smoothie or shake with blended stuff in it so I often throw herbs in that, sometimes here and there. I’m never very exactly regimented. I’m always changing things up but for the most part, morning is my main time and then sometimes at night.
Cloud: Well like you were saying, you have to self-discover. You are your own best doctor if you want to call it that. No one is going to care as much about you as you are.
Logan: Right. On the flipside, tinctures though—we only have the pine pollen tincture right now but I tincture a few things myself and we’ll definitely have some more of those in the future—that’s something I often take even more times in a day just because it’s so much faster. You just boom, squirt and you’re done.
Cloud: I don’t like taking it first thing in the morning though. I don’t know. Maybe it’s the alcohol. Like I said, you need to self-discover. We had some general information in the beginning. No one hand-walked us through it. We discovered all of these on our own and we discovered what worked of us. Like I said, I like twice a day, Zane likes once a day and he does it all over the place. I love it twice a day but depending on what’s going on, if I need mental acuity I take some rhodiola. If I feel like I’m getting sick, I’ll just throw some ants, some eleuthero and freaking amalaki in my mouth. I walk by my herb cabinet back and forth all day and I’ll be like oh I want some of that. If I do actually get to work out, I’m going to take some more ant, some amalaki and ashwaganda after.
So it just depends. You’ve got to learn what works for you. We will do our best to educate you on our own experience and what we’ve found that science says this is why it does what it does and even the traditional reason why it does what it does. But you do have to put some of your own work in. You do need to find out what is best for you personally.
Logan: Yeah. All the research, all the data, whether it’s ancient or modern, that’s only a starting place from what you’re then going to do.
Cloud: It doesn’t replace experience.
Logan: Yeah. Just looking at science, you’re not going to get the benefits of the herbs they’re talking about.
Cloud: Like I said in the last episode, the only way to truly know something is to experience it. If I tell you how to take something or what it should do, it doesn’t mean that’s what’s going happen. Only you can experience it and know what’s going to happen. That’s why you are your own best doctor. Have a little faith in yourself. Its’ kind of had to screw the herbs up I’d say.
Logan: Yeah, people find a way.
Cloud: No, I mean it’s not like drugs where if you do this wrong, if I take this with this, it’s going to have contraindications and this and that. It’s not as bad. Herbs are not as bad as like manmade stuff.
Logan: The lethal dose-50 of most of these herbs doesn’t even exist. In that sense, yeah, you can’t really screw it up. The only way to screw it up is to not take the herbs at all.
Cloud: Yeah, that’s the number one rule of herbalism.
Logan: It’s take your herbs.
Cloud: I’ve seen studies—here we go with studies—where they force fed rats with eleuthero and they would give them ten times their bodyweights. Nothing. Eleuthero, you can give this to old people. I give it to my two-year-old daughter because it’s such a good general herb, adaptogen, immunity booster, all this stuff and you cannot consume too much.
Logan: All right. Well, that’s going to do it for this episode of The Vital Way. We’d love to hear your feedback. Are there specific topics you’d like us to cover in the future? Whatever ideas we’re open to hearing in the future. In addition to these roundtable discussion on specific things, we’ll be bringing in some special guest, having some other fun stuff. I hope you enjoyed this episode and stay tuned for next time.