The Holistic Herbalism Podcast


Practical herbalism from practicing herbalists. Conversations, botanical deep-dives, Q&A with clinical herbalists Katja Swift & Ryn Midura of CommonWealth Holistic Herbalism.


United States


Practical herbalism from practicing herbalists. Conversations, botanical deep-dives, Q&A with clinical herbalists Katja Swift & Ryn Midura of CommonWealth Holistic Herbalism.




Herbs A-Z: Pinus & Plantago

Our herbs this week are pine and plantain! A mighty tall tree and a humble herb of the packed earth. Pine trees come in many varieties. Around Boston we mainly find white pine (Pinus strobus) and red pine (Pinus resinosa), but many others are similar. Pine can help sustain energy and mood, so we consider it a stimulant – but not like coffee. Pine will help you stand steady, not make you jittery. We like to include a bit of twig along with the needles in our tea, as this gets a bit of...


Herbs A-Z: Palmaria & Passiflora

A seaweed and a vine-flower, how are they alike? We started out this episode feeling like these two herbs were completely different from one another. By the time we got to the end, though, we found a unifying quality or two. Dulse, whose Latin name is Palmaria palmata, is our favorite choice for those who are new to seaweeds. It has a mild flavor, isn’t too ‘fishy’ or too ‘slimy’. It may not exactly be “bacon of the sea”, but it sure does add a nice salty & umami flavor to dishes! Dulse is...


Herbs A-Z: Ocimum & Oenothera

Today’s herbs are two excellent friends to the human nervous & emotional systems. Tulsi and evening primrose are both nervines, and although they are rather different from one another, they fit together nicely. Tulsi or ‘holy basil’, Ocimum sanctum aka O. tenuiflorum, has featured on our podcast many times previously: as a supportive herb for psychological first aid, sugar cravings, trauma recovery, and cognitive maintenance, among other things! It’s truly a multifaceted herb who can help...


Herbs A-Z: Monarda & Nepeta

Happy new year everyone! May 2023 be an herb-filled year for all of us! Monarda species plants are sometimes known as bee balm, wild bergamot, horsemint, or a variety of other names, but we usually just call them monarda. These lovely mint-family members produce an abundance of hot, “sharp” aromatics which are extraordinarily helpful in infectious respiratory issues. Monarda is fantastic in a steam, but teas and tinctures are also very effective ways to work with this herb. If the intensity...


Herbs A-Z: Mentha, Mentha, Mentha!

20% OFF ALL COURSES & PROGRAMS FOR THE ENTIRE MONTH OF DECEMBER – USE CODE DECEMBER2022 AT CHECKOUT! Today we’re profiling a few of our favorite “minty” mints! We discuss spearmint, peppermint, & pennyroyal. Spearmint (Mentha spicata) has a light flavor and impression, with moderate menthol content. It’s gotten a lot of attention in herbal circles for potential impacts on elevated androgen levels in certain circumstances, but is this generalizable? We’re not convinced. We see spearmint as...


Herbs A-Z: Lycium & Matricaria

Tonight we’re talking about two of our favorite herbs, and two of the tastier herbs in our materia medica. Goji berry, Lycium barbarum / L. chinense, is an excellent post-workout adaptogen. It’s a very good herb to consume as food, whether a simple handful of dried berries, included in a trail mix, cooked into rice, or decocted into dissolution in a broth. It is famous as an herb for building Blood in TCM, and also for supporting blood vessels from the perspective of modern...


Herbs A-Z: Lavandula & Leonurus

This week we highlight lavender & motherwort! Lavandula angustifolia (and many other Lavandula species), a well-known scent to everyone, recognizable and soothing. Lavender relaxes and releases tension. It has a warmth to it, which is more noticeable the more you take or the longer you take it. The flowers are the part that are most popular and available, but we also love to work with lavender leaf! It’s more astringent and less “floral” than the flowers are, and makes a lovely...


Herbs A-Z: Inula & Juniperus

We’re back to our apothecary shelf herb profile tour! This week we have a pair of herbs who both support respiratory function. They demonstrate two types of heat: pungency and the hot aromatics. The root of elecampane, Inula helenium, taste in a way we fondly refer to as “peppery mud”. This herb is fantastic for cold, damp lung conditions. When you feel like you’d need a shovel to get all the phlegm out of your lungs, look to elecampane for help. Inula is also an excellent digestive herb,...


The Herbs We Didn't Pack

We’re almost moved! This week our episode is about the herbs we’ve kept on the shelves so that we have them available every day. These are plants that are helping us get through the physical exertion, dust!, and stress of packing & moving. We talk all about why we love them in this episode, and some formulae for infusions & decoctions we’ve been drinking to keep steady. We also discuss in this episode the possibilities for formulation with the herbs we’ve kept on hand. There are lots of...


[REPLAY] Herbs For Physical Challenges (What Ryn Took To MovNat Level 3)

Ryn says: We've got another replay for you this week, and it's one of my personal favorites. (It also happens to be from right around the last time we moved!) It's episode 95 from 10/5/2019, and it's an episode we made right after I attended the MovNat Level 3 certification challenge. It was a 4-day course/test/immersion in natural movement. It was quite the challenge! We ran three miles barefoot on complex terrain, we jumped 9' across rocky chasms, we picked each other up and carried each...


[REPLAY] 4 Medicinal Mushrooms: Shiitake, Maitake, Reishi, Lion’s Mane

We're replaying some of our favorite episodes from the back catalog of the Holistic Herbalism Podcast. In this one, originally aired as episode 142 on 11/6/2020, we highlight four of our favorite fungi: shiitake, maitake, reishi, & lion's mane. Essentially all medicinal mushrooms share some features of interest herbalists. Famously, they can modulate immune responses – boosting immune surveillance and efficiency, while reducing excessive inflammatory or autoimmune expressions. Some...


[REPLAY] Equinox Thoughts On Balance & Amphoteric Herbs

We realized that the Autumnal equinox is coming up soon: Thursday 9/22 at 9:04 PM, for those of you keeping track! This made us want to re-air episode 155, a discussion of our Equinox Thoughts on Balance & Amphoteric Herbs, originally aired on 3/20/2021. This episode is all about balance. Equinox is the time of year when day & night have equal length. Herbalists use the word "amphoteric" to mean an herb that has a balancing activity, one that is capable of acting in ways that seem opposite,...


We Don’t “Use” Herbs

One of our habits as herbalists and teachers is to avoid the word “use” with reference to plants. We don’t say “I use meadowsweet for headaches” or “I use Japanese knotweed for Lyme disease”. We don’t say “I use chamomile for stomach cramps” or even “I use ginger as a stimulating diaphoretic”. And when students ask “how do you use schisandra berries?”, we stop and have a discussion about the word before we talk about the plant. If you’ve listened to our podcast for a while, you might have...


How To See Stress In Wild Plants

Yellow leaves, undeveloped fruit, long “leggy” stems between the leaf nodes – these are some of the key signs of a plant under stress. But if you’ve never met this species before, you might not know something’s off! Other signs are not so visible, and require you to know the plant stand for a season or a full year before you can see them. The point here is this: both observation and patience are needful to accurately assess the stress load of a plant, stand, or ecosystem. Taking the time to...


Climate Change Is Reducing Herb Harvests

We’re back! We had a bit of an interruption in our podcasting schedule, and we’re sorry! We’re moving to our “forever home” very soon, and the podcast took a back burner to online course production work. But we’ve got a plan! This episode and the next two constitute a mini-series on herbalism and climate change. After that, we’ll re-air a few of our favorite episodes from years past. By the time pumpkin spice season hits, we’ll be back again to continue our Herbs A-Z profile series. Today’s...


Let's Practice - Anxious Insomnia

July sale! Use code TOGETHER2022 at checkout for 20% off any course or program! This week we’re presenting an exercise in practical herbalism. In this instance we’re describing a case of anxious insomnia. We outline the situation, and then you can pause the show and come up with some ideas about how you would help this individual. Then, we share our take – not “the answers”, but some ideas about what we’d want to do, and questions we’d want to ask, to help this person. We include these...


Herbs A~Z: Tilia & Melissa

Today we have abandoned the alphabet! Well, not entirely, just for purposes of bringing you a pair of relaxant diaphoretic herbs in this summer heat. These are two plants who are both helpful for releasing inner heat (whether physical or emotional) and allowing cooler heads to prevail. Linden, Tilia spp., is a common city tree where we live. It’s very easy to identify, just look for the real-heart-shaped toothed leaves, plus the yellow-green smooth-edged “extra leaves” or bracts underneath....


Herbs A-Z: Hibiscus & Hypericum

Today’s featured herbs are excellent in sun tea. Simply spoon them into a jar, pour in water, cover it up, and place it in the sun for several hours. Sun tea makes a light herbal infusion and is best for herbs that can be well extracted in a short hot infusion. The calyx of Hibiscus sabdariffa is distinct from those of other species in the genus. It’s fleshy, red, and sour. These characteristics are signals to us. The red means antioxidant/anti-inflammatory and blood-vessel-stabilizing...


Herbs A-Z: Glycyrrhiza & Gynostemma

Today our apothecary shelves present us with a pair of adaptogens! As we continue our series looking at the herbs we keep on hand at home, this week we encounter two particularly excellent herbs for stressed-out folks with dry constitutions. Licorice’s botanical Latin name tells us straight out that the herb is sweet: Glycyrrhiza glabra means “smooth sweet root”. This sweetness comes together with the plant’s moistening qualities; it’s one of our sweet demulcents, like fennel. Licorice...


Herbs A-Z: Filipendula & Foeniculum

We’re back on track! Today we continue our exploration of herbs in our home apothecary, giving you some unscripted thoughts about these herbs we work with very frequently. They’re the plants we want to have with us always, and it’s been fun to see the synchronicities that emerge as we progress in alphabetical-by-Latin order. Today’s plants make an interesting contrast. Filipendula ulmaria, meadowsweet, is cooling/drying/tonifying. Its salicylates & other astringent elements make it...