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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: Rubus

Today we’re discussing the entire genus of Rubus plants! We focus most on blackberry & raspberry, because we know them best, but with 1400+ species found on every continent, there’s certainly a local Rubus to be found wherever you go. Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus) & raspberry (R. idaeus) leaf and root are excellent astringents. Not just for the pelvic organs, but also the intestines and urinary system, these herbs tonify tissues and eliminate stagnant fluids. Topically, they’re effective as...


Herbs A-Z: Rumex & Rosa

Snow-delayed by a couple days, here’s our next episode! Today we’re talking about yellow dock and rose. Yellow dock (Rumex crispus) is also known as curly dock. We also like to work with broadleaf dock (R. obtusifolius) in all the same ways. These herbs can be tinctured or prepared as decoctions. They’re great help for constipation, and if you prepare it right, they can help some chronic diarrhea also. Docks can help skin issues because of the improvements they yield in digestive function...


Herbalist Is A Verb

Is it more accurate to say “I am an herbalist” or “I’m doing herbalism”? To us, if “herbalist” is an identity, a name, a noun – then you’re subject to imposter syndrome. Why? Because you’re treating it as something you can be, once and for all, based on a credential or status. But like all living and growing things, herbalist is a verb. If “herbalist” is a piece of paper you hang on the wall, or a pile of books you’ve read, it’s easy to feel defensive when you’re challenged. But when...


Herbs A-Z: Rhodiola & Rhus

Today we’ve got two astringent herbs to discuss, though their similarities pretty much end with that quality. Rhodiola and staghorn sumac are our topic! Rhodiola rosea has been commercialized and popularized as an adaptogen and “antidepressant” herb. It’s quite warming, drying, and tonifying – really great if you need to row a viking ship across the North Atlantic… or if your day-to-day work life feels like that kind of marathon. It is an herb of extremes, and it can have adverse effects if...


Herbs A-Z: Prunella & Pulmonaria

Today’s herbs from our apothecary shelf are self-heal and lungwort! Self-heal, Prunella vulgaris, is a lovely lymph-moving herb who we often find in woodland trails. You can find it in lots of places – “vulgaris” does mean “common”, after all – but you probably won’t find it very readily in commerce. It’s not the easiest plant to grow for profit, but thankfully it is easy to grow for yourself! And you may well want to: it’s an excellent wound-healer, lymph-mover, inflammation-reducer, and...


Herbs A-Z: Pedicularis & Polygonatum

Relaxants come in many varieties. Today we come to two herbs who relax tension patterns in the body, yet are quite different from one another. Pedicularis densiflora, P. canadensis, and P. groenlandica are just a few of the “louseworts”, also sometimes known as wood betony. We ourselves usually mean Stachys officinalis when we say “betony”, and east of the Rockies that’s usually how it goes. Both betonies release tension, though we think of Stachys as reaching the body via the mind, and...


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...