Yarow Willard
This week on the SOTT Radio Network's Health and Wellness Show, we're extremely fortunate to have a chance to speak with Yarrow Willard, Cl.H.

Yarrow is a Master Herbalist and the visionary of the Harmonic Arts Botanical Dispensary on Vancouver Island, at www.harmonicarts.ca .

From an early age, he was raised in the ways of natural medicine by herbalist parents. He graduated with a Clinical Herbalist diploma in 2005 and has been continually updating his knowledge base ever since. Yarrow is highly "edu-taining" and shares a wealth of insights into ways to upgrade health and deepen our connection with the natural world. He regularly shares the "Herbal Jedi" life path through events, classes, blogs, his website, youtube channel and other media outlets.

Running Time: 01:51:00

Download: MP3

Here's the transcript of the show:

Jonathan: Welcome everybody. Today is October 2, 2015. It is a beautiful Friday. Joining me here in our virtual studio from all across the planet we have Tiffany, Erykah, Doug and Gaby. My name is Jonathan. So we have a full compliment of hosts today. And we have a very special guest today, Yarrow Willard. I'm going to hand it off to Doug at this point to do introductions and get everybody familiar with our guest and then we'll go from there.

Doug: Great. I was fortunate enough to attend training with master herbalist Yarrow Willard and hearing him speak, he just has knowledge of herbs and the natural world that's unparalleled to anybody who I've ever had the opportunity to hear speak before, so I knew that it would be great to get him on the show.

I'll just go through his bio here. Yarrow is a master herbalists and a visionary of Harmonic Arts Botanical Dispensary, on Vancouver Island. His website is http://www.harmonicarts.ca. From an early age he was raised in the way of natural medicine by herbalist parents. He graduated with a clinical herbalist diploma in 2005 and has been continually updating his knowledge base ever since. Yarrow is highly edutaining and shares a wealth of insight into ways to upgrade health and deepen our connection with the natural world. He regularly shares the herbal Jedi life path through events, classes, blogs, his website, YouTube channel and other media outlets. So, we're very fortunate to have you here with us today. Yarrow, how are you?

Yarrow: I'm good.

Doug: Great. Great to have you with us!

Yarrow: Thank you for having me. It's an honour to be on the radio show with you guys.

Doug: Yeah. I know in your bio you say that you had herbalist parents. So, maybe that kind of answers this question, but how did you get onto this path? How did you start as an herbalist?

Yarrow: As I've said in my bio, my parents were both herbalists at a young age, were really into natural medicine and coming out of the 60s they were idealists and had this idea and vision of doing that. My father really took that to the next level and he wrote about 12 books on herbs and had an herbal school.

Doug: Wow!

Yarrow: So, as a child I was doing a lot of herb walks and was part of that. So, my first herb walk was five years old telling people about yarrow, which is my namesake and how that's a useful herbal medicine. Since then we've been through many different journeys but came to a place of realizing this is really in alignment with where I want to go in my life too and people need to connect with nature in a deeper way and so finding a profound way to do that helps heal us at a larger level. So being an herbalist has been a big piece of that.

Doug: It kind of seems like you were born to do this.

Yarrow: In some ways. The old tradition was that the children would follow down the lineage. You have your group of blacksmiths or your group of semesters', or whatever that might be. In this case working with herbal medicine has been a big piece of that. My great grandfather was a pharmacist back when pharmacy was actually herbal medicine.

Doug: Yeah. It's changed a lot now.

Yarrow: It sure has!

Tiffany: So, are there any other people in your family, Yarrow, that are named after herbs?

Yarrow: Well I have a brother named Juniper and actually I have three children myself. My daughter is named after one of my favourite medicines. Although it's not an herb, it's a mushroom, Reishi; so a daughter named Reishi and then two boys named Linden and Rowan, two tree plants.

Doug: Since you brought it up, what is the herbal use of yarrow?

Yarrow: This goes way, way back and it's been around for a long time and used in the western herbal medicine path and the Latin name of yarrow is achillea millefolium. So, achillea is after Achilles the great warrior and it's not only a warrior's herb, it's also a women's herb, so it's used in both ways but full of legend. In short Achilles was invincible and his army is not so he was continually battling really hard for them to battle and he was losing a lot of men. So, he asked Chiron, his sort of herbal centaur, which is centaur, from the Greek tradition, to give him a plant that would help him heal the wounds of his warriors and he gave him yarrow. So, across the battlefield even in a fight, there will be yarrow. And the leaves will stop bleeding. The roots will numb pain, are analgesic. The key of the flowers and flower tops will help you sweat out any kind of fever, such an infection fever. It has many other uses along those lines.

Doug: Wow, that a big herb.

Yarrow: Yeah, it's a fun herb. It stands about 30 inches tall. It also is a really good women's herb, helpful with menstrual cramping and pain that way, any kind of pain. It's quite bitter but it will help move toxins out of the body and dispel all that type of stuff.

Doug: I wish I had that kind of story for my name. [Laughter]

Yarrow: I'm sure there's something about Doug.

Doug: Well apparently it means dark blue or black water in Gaelic.

Yarrow: That's kind of cool.

Doug: By the way, I'll just mention this here. If anybody wants to call in, if they have any questions for Yarrow, the number is 718-508-9499 and that's actually above the slide show on the Blogtalk Radio page that you're on right now if you're listening live. And I think there's also a Skype button there so you can possibly call on Skype although I'm not totally sure how that works. But you can probably play around with it and get through.

So Yarrow, maybe you could talk a little bit about your approach to herbalism and maybe how your approach differs from other herbalists or what you try to achieve with Harmonic Arts.

Yarrow: Sure. This might resonate with other herbalists as well because there is a theme of what I like to call coherence in the universe, which is, in the flow. It's kind of like my bio that says that herbal Jedi life path. Really what that is, is finding that flow within the connection at a deeper level, but it's that sense of purpose and a natural order in the divine of that way. That might sound a little esoteric but really what it comes down to is when we get in the flow in our lives - and this could be with herbal medicine or with anything - we see the things and doors and pathways open up a lot more and we get a little deeper connection to our sense of purpose or our sense of drive in our life.

There are a lot of herbalists who will resonate with this, that it's really a preventative medicine. It's really the best, most ideal way to work with plant medicine. Of course there are some herbs that have really profound effects, but in my approach would be to try and bring people back into the flow and let their bodies' innate ability to heal do a lot of the other work. So in that sense, I like to think of plant medicine as almost like education. You know how we might read a book or listen to this radio show, for example, to learn things. Well, when it comes to plants and our bodies, the way we learn is reading the chemistry and reading the way in which they show up in the world.

So in a sense it's not that this specific chemical has this specific action; it's almost as though we're reading a novel. Every time we take an herb into our body, we're ingesting all of this information and our body recognizes and reads that and interprets it and helps itself correct or course correct its way of showing up in the world.

So, this might have negative effects as well; if we are consuming too high of a volume of something and not really listening to the way our body's responding. So when it comes to this path, it's really about learning how to listen to your body systems better and start to connect deeper within your own senses so that you can educate yourself properly.

Tiffany: Yarrow, can you give us an example of how you listen to herbs or maybe your own personal experience with a certain herb? What that looks like?

Yarrow: Sure. So first off, you have five senses, right? You also have extrasensory perceptions that we're not fully aware of, but let's just stick with the five senses. The first one obviously and the easiest one to recognize plant medicine with is with taste. If we sort of correlate that back to some of the other systems of herbal medicine, specifically the Chinese system, they've been doing herbs for thousands of years. Four thousand years ago they started writing down the different effects of herbs. So we've go really good what we call mapping systems to understand how the tastes correlate to different parts of the body.

For example in our society right now - and I'm kind of digressing a little bit, but I will get back to that - sweet and fat and salty, these kind of flavours we are really attracted to and so we have a lot of excessive amounts of that in our social structure right now in the way that we eat our foods. What happens is that those were originally built into us in order to help us get past those hunter gatherer years where there wasn't very much fat, sweets and salty to a degree. So we would use those as precious storage energy. Well that's essential and important. Nowadays that we have so much of that, we have excessiveness.

The sweet is really the spleen channel in the Chinese medicine and its summertime. It's the time of year where we would have that, where we have the berry bush, kind of thing. The salty is really the kidney or the mineral channel and that's often the winter time they correlate that to. So in the Chinese system there's this sense of various flavours for various seasons and various organs that they attach to and various meridian channels that they filter. So our body is wired with this kind of perception where when I taste something bitter for example, it might make me shiver a little bit and it's going to affect the liver. The reason why we aren't attracted to bitter so much is because there are lots of bitter compounds that are toxic. So bitter is really cooling and will calm down the liver, especially when he have that heat and inflammation and aggravation. It's something we'd use in smaller amounts.

So when I put an herb in my mouth, I want to look for those flavours. What are those flavours coming to me as, as a first level of interpretation for my own body. And then I might start to correlate that to "okay, when an herb is slightly bitter, if there's a bit of a sweetness and that bitter rises in my mouth, giving me almost a spicy flavour in the back, how is that going to affect the meridian channels? Is this going to be something that's good for my liver? Spicy is kind of the lungs. And then that sweetness is nutritive."

Here I go. I have a plant that's going to be slightly nutritive, it's going to help tone my liver and help get inflammation and congestion out of my lung area. That's just one where we might flavourings. Also when we approach a plant there's something called a doctrine of correspondence and that is a relationship of things in the universe and how they might correspond. So I'll give the example of ginkgo. They call it ginkgo biloba.

Now I know you can use a really concentrated extract of ginkgo, but most people know ginkgo as something good for the memory. What's interesting is that it looks like a little brain. It has this bi-lobe look to it. That's what we call a doctrine of correspondence where various things will correspond. One of my favourite herbs is a herb called devil's claw and it gets that name obviously because it's something to be wary of, devil's claw, right? It has these big, bright spikes on it and if you get one in you the wound will fester because they have a chemical in them. You get a little bit of an infection, so it's something that we are really careful of. But that doctrine of correspondence says, "Okay, this is a very protective plant because it's got this extra protection on it."

This is a native plant from the west coast and it happens to be related to ginseng in that sense, so it's not only protective, but also in that whole aralias family that the ginsengs are part of, there is some aspect of tonic and nutritive to them. They all have that. When you start to get into the inner bark of this, there's almost a sweet flavour to it. And what we learn is that the native cultures of this part of the world have a really hard time processing sugars, so obviously alcohol has been a problem as well as sugar metabolism of all the conventional foods, we see a lot higher volume of diabetes.

Devil's claw, one of their sacred herbs happens to be the best herb for diabetes. It's really good for blood sugar stabilizing. So again, there's this correspondence where you see this protective, nutritive plant that helps correspond and help with their blood sugar. And you can taste that in the nutritiveness of the plant and you can see that when you visually see the protective qualities of it. And if you look at where it grows, you might look at the bio-region and find, "Okay, this plant here grows in these valleys at the bottoms of the mountains where the runoff of all of the energy from the mountain is in this nutritive cool at the bottom of the mountain."

So that's how I would like to approach; observing, sensing and connecting with plants. Now of course we could read a whole ton of information on devil's claw and find out that yes, we're correct in our sensory perception, but if get that initial connection, it's much more profound and educational for our bodies, not just our minds.

Doug: That's pretty amazing, how many dots you are connecting with these plants. You bring in where they grow, how they've been used traditionally, what their flavour is, the whole correspondence of physical properties and how that metaphorically ties to their use. It's really amazing. It's not something you encounter that often.

Yarrow: Yeah, I think that that was my main passion when it came to herbal medicine, starting to learn these mapping systems. Like I said, my parents were herbalists, but I would say also maybe my mom was a bit of a witch in some ways. [Laughter] She really believed in astrology and really went to the Feng Shui pathway where she learned a lot more about how the flow from the Chinese perspective is; so what we call holographic mapping systems, which are all these different mapping systems that overlay our natural flow.

This is the golden rule about all these kind of mapping systems. Astrology as well is an example. I'll give you a couple of other examples and then I'll touch in on that. There's foot reflexology. In Chinese medicine there's pulse. There's also tongue. There's also iridology in the western tradition. There's also face diagnosis. A good example of that is people love the Superman, but they're sceptical of the Joker chin, the specific shape of the structure. "That must be conniving, that pointy chin" or "That broad chin must be powerful and protective."

Already they're overlapped, but as soon as we develop a bit of a mapping system for them, we can interpret them in different ways. The golden rule is you can't rely on any one mapping system because all of them are generalizations and none of them are exactly accurate. So what we started to do was develop a few different mapping systems and the more you get, the more you get a whole bunch of yes, yes, yes, yes, then the more you can trust that that is within that flow.

So if it tastes a certain way, smells a certain way, looks a certain well, then it's a for sure, for sure, for sure, not just a for sure, right?

Doug: Right.

Yarrow: So I was really a buff on theses and that was one of my favourites, that I found to be the most juicy stuff in herbal medicine, learning the interpretation and diagnostics of various systems.

Doug: That's really fascinating. It's kind of a different approach to knowledge than the western approach, which is entirely reductionist and taking something apart, finding out the active constituents and analyzing those. A lot of the pharmaceutical companies will then take those and try and patent them. They're really trying to get down to the one thing that makes this herb or anything really something medicinal. And it is such a refreshing approach to hear because I know you take that sort of thing into account when you're looking at herbs, but that it's only one point on the entire map.

Yarrow: Well yeah. It's like me saying, "Hey, you know what? You have one skill. You're a radio show host. That's it. You don't know anything else. Can't do anything else. You better just be doing nothing while you're not doing this." That's so silly when we put that in a human perspective.

Doug: Right.

Yarrow: But we do that with plants all the time.

Tiffany: Yarrow, can you explain a little bit what you mean by nutritive? Does that mean that the herb or plant has nutrient properties? And also if you could go into a little bit of what you mean when you say it tones certain organs or certain herbs are tonifying.

Yarrow: For sure. Those are herbal nerdy words. There is a good glossary of herbal nerdy words you can find. The one thing I was just touching before that is a lot of this stuff you can find out on what we call Uncle Google or just dialling your pocket god, which is your cell phone [Laughter] website link. A lot of it's really simple and easy but what you need to think about is that you actually want to learn and look at it.

So all these mapping systems that I talked about, if you Google any of them, you can get images of them, print them off, have them at home, look at them. There are all kinds of that information. And the same with these herbal nerdy words. So nutritive is almost like sweet and giving calorie content in a sense. It's got that, "giving more nourishment to the body". So most of our food, despite some of it not having a lot of minerals and vitamins, depending on what we're eating, has that nutritive flavour, where we can tell that this is something, when we taste it, is not going to harm us. It's not going to tone us too much. It's going to just give us a little bit more calorie content and energy.

So sweet has a nutritive type flavour. When I say the word tonic, tonic is kind of an overused word, obviously from tonic water and all these other tonic things. What it means is to tighten tissues and to tone the tissues. For example a lung tonic is going to help tone the lungs and help us expel mucus. If we have a stomach tonic, it's going to help tone those stomach muscles, but also the stomach wall and lining and help it strengthen itself. So tonic is almost like the workout herb. It's toning the body.

I'm a big fan of tonics in general or plants that have some form of tonic properties because I feel like our bodies get a little lazy and a little sluggish as we move through life. In this western world it's easy to do that. We spend a lot of time sitting. We spend a lot of time eating sweetie, fatty type foods and as much as we all want to say we exercise, it's really hard for a lot of us to even find the time to exercise properly.

Tiffany: So a tonic can allow our body system to do its job better.

Yarrow: Yeah, well help tone it. One of the nice things is that it's usually not a stimulating effect where it's going to over-stimulate it in one direction. Tonic in the Chinese sense means almost dual directional where it's going to tighten to a point but hopefully not past that point.

Tiffany: Okay.

Yarrow: So that leads me to my favourite kind of herbs which are those types of herbs.

Doug: Can you give us an example?

Yarrow: Actually there are lots of examples of them. For example in this system, herbs like maca, is nutritive and tonic in that sense. It's going to tone some of the endocrine glands and tone the adrenals and tone the hormonal systems. Herbs like, ashwaganda is another one that's slightly tonic in that sense, where it's again going to give us more stamina and tone the body. Herbs that have a little hint of bitter to them have a little bit of tonic. Liver tonics would be things like dandelion. So you guys probably all know dandelion. And burdock. But dandelion's a great tonic because it's not just a tonic of the liver. It also helps with the kidneys and also helps with the blood. So it's a really hard working, slow moving herb. It doesn't have a fast effect, so it's like extra-stimulating, but it does have this slow tonic effect where it helps filter and clean the blood, helps tone the blood vessels, move to the liver, tone the liver, move it out to the kidneys and expel toxins from the body. So it's a great herb and it's probably one of the most common herbs in the western world.

Again, if you look at that doctrine of correspondence, it tells us that people with dandelions in the yard are probably the people that need them the most.

Doug: That's a really fascinating concept.

Tiffany: People who are always getting rid of dandelions in their gardens are doing themselves a disservice. They're throwing away good medicine.

Yarrow: For sure! And probably those people who are really trying to get them out of the yard are actually the ones that need them more than anyone else.

Doug: That's really interesting. I think that's a really fascinating concept that these herbs show up in your life when it's something that you need. I know for me at one point, I was going through some lung stuff. I had just started a fairly rigorous exercise routine and was having a lot of trouble catching my breath and oddly enough, mullein just showed up in my garden. I didn't plant it. I wasn't expecting it or anything, it just showed up at one point. Researching it a little bit, I figured out that mullein was actually very good for the lungs.

Yarrow: Yeah, it sure is. It's neat how they do that. We have another saying in herbal medicine that an herbalist taught me and I thought was just awesome, which is the people plants. So we call these the people plants and they're the ones that show up and are around us. As much as we want to use these exotic herbs, like the ginsengs and the ashwagandas, it's actually the people plants that we should be focusing on most. Why? Because they purposely are around areas where we disturb the soil. So these are the plants that are actually calling us at some level and they're the ones that show up in our gardens. They're the ones that show up in empty lots or just show up on the sides of the roads.

Obviously we want to be careful not to use contaminated, toxic herbs, i.e., something on the side of a major highway which definitely is not appropriate for us to be harvesting. But these plants that keep showing up around us often have the best medicine for us.

Doug: That's great.

Yarrow: It's a really neat concept to me because again, I'm talking about how we educate ourselves via the chemistry of the herbs. The ones that are seasonally appropriate and seasonally near our area have also learned how to work in that area so they help train us; "Oh, this is how we function in Toronto, for example, compared to this is how we function in south east China." So if we've got an herb that's in our area, it's going to give us a little more of a connection to the area that we're in already. And that brings us again back to that concept I said of coming back into coherence with our natural world.

Jonathan: Yarrow, this is Jonathan. I just have a question. I was wondering if maybe you could, in light of our modern age with all of the glut of information on the internet and blogs, things like this, that may or may not be expert sources of information, can you address what may be some of the common misunderstandings about herbs or some disinformation that's being put out there and what people should be wary of?

Yarrow: Yeah, sure. And you brought up something good there to recognize. This has become fashionable. Herbal medicine is the new magic bullet, we call it. And we take the magic bullet concept from pharmaceuticals where it's like, "Give me this little pill and you'll be all better"; so the idea of the super fix, the thing that will make me immortal [Laughter] or whatever and that exaggerated form of that. What herbs do is again, more of a slow-moving process. Now there are some that are very stimulating in one sitting.

A good example is if I'm at the very beginning of a cold, I might take Echinacea and everyone knows Echinacea. It's not useful once I've had this cold for a longer period of time, like a week, the Echinacea is no longer doing its job. But at that first stage of the cold, that Echinacea can have a really powerful stimulating effect so I want to use it like that. Most of the bottles you'll get, a tincture - just so you know, Echinacea should be taken in a tincture not a powder form because the active compounds become more bio-available that way. The bottle might say two droppers full or 20, 30 drops.

Now to me, that does nothing. That's very little when it comes to a stimulating herb like Echinacea. If I'm going to get a common cold and I know it's not going to work for me a week after I have the cold, I'm taking much bigger volumes. I'm taking that dropper off and I'm swigging the bottle because that's the only way I'm going to get a real immune stimulating effect. So sometimes with herbs you need to take bigger volumes than is recommended.

And then this gets people in a little bit of a fear thing because we're used to these pharmaceuticals where if you double-dosed, you're going to have a major effect on the body whereas as herbs are a lot gentler than that and you can also do that one to two doses above and beyond what it is without having a negative effect. It's really the long-term, continual use of them that can start to cause a problem in that sense of, with any herb, it doesn't matter what it is, I would recommend that you always take a break. Your body will respond to the herb more effectively than if you keep going continually.

So even though I was thinking about ginkgo biloba for my brain, as an example, I might want to take it five days on, two days off or I might want to take it three weeks on, one week off. I'll have a better effect from it, even if it is a totally safe and gentle herb, I still want to take it in these cyclic rhythms', in that sense.

So misinformation around herbs is partly around dosing in that sense that there obviously is a safe level, but at the same time if it's a pretty safe herb, if you have a specific thing you want to work on, you're going to need a lot more of it than may be recommended. Then also, there's a lot of different ways in which herbs can help you that are not necessarily what we call a physiological effect. So the physiological effect of the Echinacea might be I took a big swig of that tincture instead of a dropper full.

Now if I want to have a little different type of effect, herbs work on a much more subtle level too. Like I was saying how to educate the body via the chemistry. Well we're quite sensitive to very, very small doses of things as well and this affects our response, hence homeopathics or flower essence, like Dr. Bach's flower essences. These are all subtle, subtle medicines that affect us on a gentle, gentle level. And flower essences are said to affect our emotional body. The homeopathics are said to affect the mental body or the sense of things. They seem to work better on animals and children who are more sensitive to this.

As we get older, one of our major health issues is that we slightly crystallize. We crystallize in our thoughts, our muscles, our joints. So staying flexible. You've all met that person who's 45, 50 and yet they seem like they're only 20 because they're so flexible in their emotional bodies. So, one of the things to help us move out of that is to take very, very subtle, small doses of herbs. So I might take that Echinacea and I might take one drop of it, just to feel that, roll it around my mouth, pucker a little bit and get a sense of, "Does this have a medicinal benefit?" And I would say it does in the sense of it's made me feel totally different, that really, really small dose, it made me feel different than I felt before, if I'm listening close enough.

So, those are some of those. Herbs are right now being marketed to peoples' body image and stuff, so a lot of the most popular herbs are weight gainer/testosterone herbs or slim down herbs for women, which is the wrong approach for herbal medicine entirely. You're taking a western two dimensional approach and trying to put it onto a four, maybe five dimensional world that the herbal medicine can actually extend into. So, I caution anybody who is taking herbs just for slimming or gaining or just beauty because it's the wrong approach. All of holistic medicine teaches us it's from an internal place, not from an external place as well as having natural cycles.

For example right now, we're moving into the fall and the fall is, "pack it on" cycle. You should be packing on a little extra weight. You will have a healthier, less sick winter if you're taking in the harvest, so to speak. In the spring is cleansing it off. So, you're going to have more effect if you're cleansing and losing weight in that time of the spring where we naturally would do the bitter greens. I'm just kind of rambling on here, but that's one of the things that we should also recognize, is what types of foods and what types of things would be available during the times of seasons that we're eating; so seasonally eating the right things. There's also educating the body similar to how herbs might be.

Doug: That's really fascinating and I don't think you're rambling at all. I think it was all really fascinating information. I had a question. You mentioned tinctures. Some of our audience might not really know what those are, so maybe you could go into that and talk about the different methods of taking herbs?

Yarrow: Yeah, sure. Again, there are lots of different ways that you can take plant medicine. Now for a lot of people probably the easiest is a capsule because we don't taste it and recognize it. This is my least favourite way to take an herb. Even when I get given a capsule, I usually open up the capsule, taste a little bit so my body can recognize what plant medicines I'm putting in and then I might take a capsule. I recommend people do that, so they can inform themselves, at some level, of what they're actually consuming. Otherwise it's kind of like double-blinded placebo-controlled capsule. [Laughter] We don't actually know.

The stomach doesn't have the same sensing organelles as the tongue does. Thousands of generations have taught us that the tongue is a useful thing, to know what we're putting in our bodies. So, we've honed that organelle to work that way. So in that sense I really believe tasting medicines is the best thing.

Now that brings me to a couple of other methods which would be, for example tea. And there's a couple of ways to do tea. If you have a hard root or a hard berry or a hard mushroom, you might want to do what's called that decoction method, which is similar to the whole, "double double boil and trouble" where we've got this big pot and we're decocting those herbs. You need to break down those lignan-filled fibre filled-type herbs so that you can extract the medicine. If it's got a lot of volatile oils, boiling it up like that is going to lose a lot of that volatile oil medicine.

So, for those leafy greens and those flowers and those light, gentle herbs, you want to do an infusion, which is similar to dipping a teabag in a cup although I prefer to use whole, loose herbs versus teabags. Why? Because if you go further back into the industry you see that teabag cuts is really a B or C grade of that herb and once you've exposed it down to that small size, it's oxidizing and losing potency quite fast. They say once you grind an herb into a powder, within 24 hours, depending on the powder, it'll lose up to half of its value. With some herbs you have no choice, for example turmeric. You can't necessarily eat big turmeric chunks and it's so potent already that you're going to get a lot of good use out of turmeric powder. But once you've exposed the surface area on plants, they start to oxidize. So teabags not as good as a nice leafy green cut. Plus, once we see the herbs, we can tell whether it's good quality or just some brown herb matter that's been sitting in a warehouse for five or six years.

So, it's hard at the consumer level to know that stuff until we actually see what's in front of us and we can use our eyes to observe. That's a little bit about brewing herbs. Now tinctures, which is what your actual question was [Laughter], are an alcohol extract of the herb. The reason that we like tinctures is because they end up pulling the best chemistry out of the plants. Alcohol is a universal solvent for a lot of different types of medicine, a lot of different types of compounds that are in the plants. You notice that the fibrous parts of the plants, we then are not consuming. So we're pulling out those active compounds.

I don't want to use too many herbal nerdy words, but the things like the branch polysaccharides, the phenols, the triterpenes, the alkaloids, the different kinds of chemistry that are extracted, even the fats and resins to a degree will come out in alcohol. From an herbalist's perspective this is great because if you were a teenager trying your parents' 20-year-old vodka that they never drank, it still tastes great, right? [Laughter] We can have a huge shelf life on tinctures where they'll last up to 20 years.

So we might have harvested something this summer in the heat of the summer, perfect time. We put it into alcohol. We now have 20 years worth of medicine. Most companies will give a five year shelf life on their tinctures, but know that these are good for a lot longer. It's really just for recall purposes and for sometimes label changing purposes. Tincture companies do that. But in that sense, you've got a medicine locked in there for a lot longer and very bio-available.

The thing about tea and tinctures is that that liquid bypasses the digestive process. So when I take a powdered herb or we chew on an herb in our food, we have to digest it and most of us have compromised digestion whereas tinctures become blood within five minutes. So all of a sudden, you've got this quick-acting delivery mechanism. So I guess I would give that another brain-hooker, food for thought is the idea of what things are good delivery mechanisms for medicine. So alcohol happens to be one. What's interesting is, so does smoke. So does sugar and so does caffeine.

These interesting habits and vices that we have as a society actually are not really medicines in themselves. These are the brain-hook. They might happen to be delivery mechanisms for other medicines if we so choose to use them. So native people would use different herbs as an herbal smoke where they would breathe things into the lungs and it quite quickly would move into the lungs. Things like coffee or caffeine can be used as a good delivery mechanism for things like medicinal mushrooms for example. You get more effect out of putting them into a caffeinated beverage that's going to shoot right into the body quite quickly than you should just eating them on their own.

Things like sugar, sweet, is another one that penetrates deep into the body. So we might make herbal honeys or infuse them like syrups, or might do like herbal syrups, that way. And alcohol is tinctures in that sense.

Doug: Very, very interesting. Since you brought up smoke, maybe I'll ask you this. We had a program a little while ago where we interviewed an author named Richard White, who was talking about tobacco and how a lot of the case against tobacco is actually unfounded. What are your feelings on it? I know in traditional cultures they use it kind of medicinal but in this day and age it seems to really be demonized. Any thoughts on that?

Yarrow: Well it's really a case against being out of balance, is really what it is. It's not a case against tobacco. Tobacco just happens to be the one that shows us how out of balance really works and how hard that can be on the body when we come out of balance. For one, our lungs are sensitive and what causes disease is inflammation in the body and one that's easily inflamed. So putting any kind of smoke into the lungs for long periods of time is going to cause that kind of inflammation. You'll see similar issues will happen with people who smoke other not-so-legal type smoke. They're going to get sick quite a bit, heavy breathing, weakness in the muscles and lack of oxygen flow to the body. These are some of the classic things against tobacco. Obviously you're starting to get things like lung cancers and much more extreme things. I think a lot of that actually has to do with some of the additives and again, being out of balance with smoke in general.

If you look back to where tobacco came from, the natives' ceremonial smokes, it wasn't as though they recommended that they did this every day and in fact, they had health issues with people who became too out of balance with tobacco themselves. It's not as though that was something that was accepted in many of the traditional societies. It was something more for bringing a space of equals. So I like to think about people who go out and party and drink and smoke. What happens is that the alcohol brings them closer, in the sense that they feel a little freer and uninhibited and the smoke helps keep them a little further away and more protected.

So it's like a smokescreen with this uninhibitedness, hence why people get addicted to that type of energy, doesn't make it healthy at all, only allows them to have a pressure valve from things that are deeper down inside that they're not really able to bring up in their normal everyday settings, whatever that might be. Tobacco smoke has a similar thing where we have creating the smokescreen of protection, in a sense. Originally tobacco smokers in high school, if that's where they started, are usually some of the more sensitive kids, some of the kids that find that protection feels good to them because there's a lot of pressure.

If we scale that back and look at how that might become a medicine instead of a bad thing, we can see that possibly in a social setting where we're coming into a group of equals, this might be something that could be beneficial, though when it comes out of balance and it's something we just crave and want to do all the time, it's obviously not bringing us back into flow.

I'd like to just bring up another concept that I think is important. Every single person on the planet wants one thing and there's only one thing that we all want. We might think there's all these other things we want, but we all want this one same thing. Every person wants to feel better. That's all we want. There's not one person out there that doesn't want to just feel better. So we find different ways of feeling better and thinking we're feeling better and looking towards feeling better and that might be like a break. "Oh we get this little treat. Fifteen minute break. Ah, I deserve this!" And we find the wrong thing to fill that break with. But ultimately we want the exact same thing as the guy next to us, and that is we all want to feel better.

So, there's lots of ways to find that and when we move out of habitual little treats or little breaks, whether it's a little cookie or a little tobacco or a little alcohol at the end of the day, whatever the little treat breaks might be, we see that there's an easier, deeper, more profound way to start to feel better by actually taking care of ourselves and listening to our bodies and connecting with the natural world.

Gaby: Yarrow, we have a question from the chat room. It's about aroma therapy. How about the sense of smell with aroma therapy? How does that specifically communicate with the body and in what way is best utilized?

Yarrow: Okay, great questions. Aroma therapy. Obviously the olfactory glands in the nose are the quickest delivery mechanism into the brain, so they are the fastest way into our limbic nervous system. We often are triggered with a sense of smell of various things. So, if you had a certain smell when you were growing up and you smell that again, it brings you back to that time of your life when you were growing up. There's a certain body memory with smell. So it can be really quite therapeutic those ways; as well as, we have things like eucalyptus oil as a good example. When you put your head under a hot bowl of water with a couple of drops of eucalyptus and a towel over top, do a steam, it's amazing how that will clean out the sinuses and how it'll help heal.

I have my own pet peeves with aroma therapy. I maybe will just touch on those. I think it's overused a little bit and it's sometimes so powerful that it's masking the other more subtle scents as well as I'm not so sure on large scale consumerism and aroma therapy on how ethical that really is. When we look at some of the things like rose oil, which is so beautiful, such a nice fragrance and I love it. But I also realize that's hundreds of acres of rose in that batch of rose oil.

So it brings me back to other things like people being concerned about say for example, animal meats consuming large volumes of landmass versus plant foods. So I think, well wait a minute! How is aroma therapy consuming large amounts of landmass versus taking a tea or a tincture? So these are my own ethical things. But it's a powerful medicine and has a real strong value for our senses. I just think that it might be one of those ones that are slightly overused in some senses and if you are going to work with aroma therapy, my recommendation is to do it really lightly and to not over-mask or stimulate our senses too much.

Doug: Very interesting.

Yarrow: Let's use eucalyptus oil, the example I used; a specific thing for a specific purpose, not just always putting a lot of oils on us because then our senses become lazy, just like our digestion becomes lazy when we take a lot of digestive enzymes all the time.

Doug: That's really fascinating stuff. We were thinking about different stuff we could ask you about and there was some discussion on the difference between different parts of a plant; like using the leaf versus using the root and how in some plants one part of it might be toxic versus other parts that are medicinal. Any comments on that?

Yarrow: For sure! There are definitely differences in the different parts of the plant. In general we'll see that each part of the plant, just like everything else in nature and each part of a human is different too. My foot can only do what my foot can do. So with plants you want to look back to their own almost physiology. What is the purpose of the leaf versus the purpose of the root and that channel might have something so that we can correlate its benefits.

When you get to toxic parts versus non-toxic parts, that becomes a little different and you have to be careful. There aren't that many extremely toxic plants but there definitely are some that have really toxic parts to them. Arnica is a good example. The arnica flowers are quite toxic, yet used externally, no problem. But the leaves are capturing the sun. The flowers are the sexual parts of the plant and the roots more of that grounding and nutritive and storage parts of the plants. So almost like the leaves are like our lungs and skin of the plant. They're the breathing parts of the plant. The flowers are like our genitalia or our sexual reproductive organelles. The roots are kind of like our stomach - I don't know if it's the stomach because the stomach's really inside us, but the storage of nutritive parts, so almost our fat tissues and our spleen and some of our liver storage type functions.

We often see a lot of liver medicines are root medicines, like you see a lot of medicines that work on the sexual reproductive area might be berries or flowers or fruits. That's really generalizing, but each part has a different function in that sense although each plant is going to be quite unique. I just want to touch on one thing that I find, that I'm really getting into these days and that's plant pollens. I really like the pollens of plants and I'm finding that these are the most subtle, precious compounds that a plant might make. So every time a plant is in pollen, I'll go and just take some of those little antlers or little filaments, the stamen, off of it and just nibble on those. How does that feel different from consuming the whole plant?

I think that that's the plant steroids or the plant sterols or the hormonal building blocks that plants might have are in those pollens. I think in our society right now we have a real endocrine imbalance. This is one of our biggest imbalances right now. The endocrine system is all wired wrong. We stay up long hours. We aren't in flow, so that really affects our thyroid, our pituitary, our adrenals and all the other ones, the hypothalamus, the pineal gland, all these hormonal systems. The thing about them is they're kind of like radio transducers and they pick up what's being stimulated from outside of us and inside of us.

So they're the first things to go out of whack, then they affect the whole rest of the metabolism of the body. I feel that giving them the best building blocks is one of my favourite approaches right now, hence why I'm getting into pollens. Most pollens are very nutritive, to bring that word back in, and quite safe. There aren't that many plants that you could sit in your back yard, nibble on a little dandelion flower head and try to suck that back. There might not be a lot of pollen on there, but you're going to get a little bit.

With toxic plant parts, it's a little different. You have certain ones where the roots often are more concentrated pieces that are going to be more likely to be more toxic, versus the less concentrated pieces because plants store energy, so it's more likely the roots are going to be stronger medicine in general in plants.

Erykah: I have a question Yarrow. Coming back to the pollens, is saffron an example of an pollen for people that are interested in healing?

Yarrow: Saffron is. It's this stamen that's a very strong one. It's probably one of the most expensive herbs on the world market. I think it ranges around $4,000 a pound or a kilo.

Doug: Wow!

Yarrow: But you only need a tiny, tiny bit. So, that's a plant that has concentrated quite a strong energy in that pollen. One of the ones that I really like to work with that's around our part of the world that's easy to get a lot of is tree pollens. You can get a lot of tree pollens quite easily. The one that's become the most popularized and is shown to have some of the strongest nutritive benefits is the pine pollen from the pine trees. The season for trees is normally two weeks long, so if you have pine trees or some other trees with the pollen like that, the reason the pine pollen's so popularized is because you can get a huge amount of pollen. A huge pine forest will produce 100 tonnes of pollen a year. That's a lot. And that bath of pollen nutrifies the whole forest floor and nurtures it. If you have pine trees in your area you can go around - at least where we are - around June. And that might be the same where various people are. Between May and July is when we're most likely to find pine pollen. You just flick them until you see a little yellow dusting coming off and that's when you can harvest the pollen.

Doug: I'll just mention this quickly. You have a video on your YouTube channel of you going around and harvesting pine pollen, which is really fascinating and very entertaining, so I encourage people to go take a look at that. It's great.

Yarrow: Yeah, that's a fun one. That's what we call edutainment, right? Those YouTube videos. We entertain and educate. Again, it's a delivery mechanism. It's an easy way for us to pick up herbal medicine. That used to be the apprentice method. We now no longer have the apprentice method. Schools are pretty much conformed to learning from books and lectures. It's a little different from apprenticing. There are lots of other good YouTube channels. Ours is really fun, not any video, but there's lot of other ones where we can learn a tonne of information.

Erykah: Well speaking to the pollen discussion, I'm interested in what your take is on why certain people have allergies to it. Is it going back to what you talked about, being out of balance?

Yarrow: It is. If you go back to a deeper level, there are some allergies that are just straight up from when we are born and that might also be back to a deeper level. There's actually a theory of, "You are a donut." I know that sounds weird, but we all are donuts. We all are this modified donut structure which means our insides, between our lips and our bum, that's the hole in our donut. And if our plants might be in soil, we carry our soil inside our donut, in the middle of it. That's where we have our soil, which is our gut bacteria. These are considered our ten thousand flora that align our metabolism. They're our real immune system, our gut bacteria.

What happens and what's happened over years now, degrading the quality - not the quantity - but the quality of these gut bacteria, i.e., losing some of the species, almost like similar to how we've cut down forests, we've done the same thing inside our gut. We've also put in a lot of pro-inflammatory foods which are agitating the gut lining. So how it relates to allergies is that that agitation of the gut lining and the lack of good flora has caused somewhat leaky gut, somewhat inflamed, agitated states where we get things coming into the body which creates all of our autoimmune-type disease states or imbalances. Allergies happen to be one of those where often something is triggering this heightened state.

So we may not be able to prevent the cottonwood blossoms from blooming and causing us allergies, but we can help deal with our own internal state. So this takes me 100 points again, allergy response from a pollen for example, I can actually deal with 50 or 60 percent of that. The other percent might be the pollen itself. But I can build back and heal my gut flora and my immune system that way, as well as look at other things that might be causing slight inflammation in my body or in my system. So do I have dust in my house? Do I have old carpets? Do I have mites? Do I have things like that? Am I using synthetic cleaners? Am I washing my hand too much? Everyone's more bacteria and organisms than you are human by cell count.

So you are an ecosystem. You're not really a human. You might think you are, but really I'm telling you you're a donut and you're an ecosystem donut, covered in sprinkles. [Laughter] So they're all around you and when you get sensitive to them and when you get more heightened inflammation from allergens it's often a response to our agitated system. This might be something we started with in our life and that might also be related back to our ancestry of agitation, in that sense, of our parents and what comes before that. We call that epigenetics, which is something learned through the generations.

And this is where we're coming to a big condition in our society, which is the inflammatory, agitated lack of good quality and diversity of gut flora and organisms that live on and in us. We went through a huge stage of antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, everything. Well guess what? That's anti-life. That's not actually pro-health. So my recommendation is that you look at trying to build back the good bacteria that you need and they will help defend you from the bad bacteria that you might be trying to fight.

Doug: So what do you think is the best source of that bacteria? Is it taking probiotic supplements or is fermented foods a better way to go?

Yarrow: Fermented foods are by far a better way to go. I like to use the analogy of people as gut ecology. So, I like to think of probiotics as the yuppies [Laughter] and parasites as the mobsters and Candida and other funguses as the gangsters in the gut. We've got this big gang of warfare going on right now where we might have a lot of Candida and a lot of parasites, we have mobsters and gangsters that colonize the majority of our gut and we can't grow back those condos that those yuppies can live in, the good probiotics.

By taking the probiotic supplements, we're sending in these yuppies that have been stripped from their food source, whipped around a centrifuge, stuffed in a little capsule and stored on a shelf for a year before we put them in our bodies. These are really wimpy, domesticated yuppies that don't know how to fend for themselves in a dangerous neighbourhood. [More laughter]

You can send 10,000 yuppies in and they're going to get robbed and mugged and taken advantage of. [Laughter] If we send in a few street savvy, built-in food sourced, back-packed Rambo commando yuppies that have what they need to make it in this harsh terrain, then they have a better chance. And that's what probiotics coming from prebiotic foods like the cultured foods like ferments - the reason I mean cultured is culture. Cultured foods are fermented foods and every culture has their form of fermentation, their culture, so to speak.

We've lost some of that, partly due to fridges. Refrigerators have given us this, "Oh, it's easy. We just put it in the fridge and it lasts for a long time." We also have a lot of preservatives and additives, but traditionally we didn't have this. So, how did we survive for hundreds of thousands of generations where we didn't have fridges? Well things fermented and we learned how to deal with fermentation as part of our natural food-scape, so to speak.

So there are some great books on fermentation. One of my favourites is, Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. He's just awesome. He really puts it into simple terms. There's also Mastering Fermentation by Mary Karlin. It's another great, easy way you can do this in our lives, very simply. I'll touch on the acidophilus business with cultures. They are some of the most powerful bacterial cultures out there on the planet. You put them in a petri dish with candida or e-coli or streptococcus or any of these other things; they will gobble them up and dominate the environment. You are symbiosed with a powerful, powerful ally on the bacterial level. You just need to feed it the right things and it will do the job for you.

Doug: That's great.

Erykah: Fascinating.

Yarrow: So prebiotics are also very important, not just ferments but what we call prebiotics, more than probiotics. And those are the foods for the acidophilus cultures and those are what are called medium chain polysaccharides, which are middle-ground sugars that take a lot longer to break down. They are there as food for that environment. So these are things like oatmeal. There are agents with inflammation and oatmeal. You might want to sprout it first, but grains in general are not really our best friends. They're enemies to a degree because we didn't grow up with the gut bacteria that ate a lot of grains.

Now if you were from southern or Middle Eastern or African descendants you might deal with grains a little better whereas coming from northern European descendants, my body does not deal with grains that well. We just never had them. It was just not part of the food-scape.

Doug: We've talked a lot about that on the show actually, the problem with an over-reliance on grains in the diet and a lot of us have actually eliminated them altogether to good results.

Yarrow: Yeah, we do well with things like yams and turnips. Those are good starch sources.

Doug: Yeah, root vegetables.

Yarrow: Yes, root vegetable stews. And this time of year is perfect, eating with the seasons; this is the perfect time of year for that. Root vegetable stew. Oh, your body craves it. I start to wean myself off of salads at this time of year. I no longer need salads. In fact I'll go most of the winter eating very few salads because I'm having stews and broths and root vegetables.

Tiffany: I have a question for you. I went to a herb class some years ago and after that I kind of went a little herb crazy and I was looking into teasel because one of the teachers of the class was talking about teasel and how it's good for Lyme disease. Do you have any experience with using teasel root?

Yarrow: Yeah. Let's go back to the doctrine of signature or doctrine of correspondence. Teasel has these little basins on the leaves and these little basins produce almost a sweet flavour and so they hold water. Another name for it is Venus' basin. It's one of the common names for it. It will hold a little bit of water and it attracts bugs because it's sweet. And then the bugs fall into the water and die. They break down and the plant uses the nutritive from the bugs as part of its nourishment.

So, this is a little bit of a correspondence on how something like that might have an effect on a thing like Lyme because again, and Lyme's being that bacterial sense it's digesting those sneaky, hidden pathogenic functions and you can't really get rid of. It's interesting that we have our somewhat predator plants, not like a Venus Fly trap where it actually eats it, but something that creates a little basin and it's a subtle predation. I really like teasel. I think it's a beautiful plant. I know that it's been used pretty heavily with the Lyme's community but I think there's a lot more than just teasel. It's sort of like saying, "Oh the radio show host is only good for a radio show" or putting herbs into one category instead of giving them a little broader spectrum.

I'm pretty sure that teasel helps the body be a little more protective and give it some of those nutrient protein-type compounds, similar to how it digests the bugs, but I don't think that it's only something that would be good for Lyme's. And I also think there's probably a lot of other herbs that will help benefit the teasel's ability and make it work better in conjunction with those.

So, individual herbs is like in the human community. They're less functional on their own and they're more functional in groups together. So I would say with the teasel I'd want to put a bunch of other herbs that are going to have more of what we call amino modulating, which is to help build up the immune response and not just stimulate it because you don't want to stimulate it in this sense. You're having a bit of an immune attack so we want to modulate it so that it functions better. I might put it with things like Ashwaganda or another one that's commonly used here is Sarsaparilla, which is a common one.

I know there's a great author who talks a lot about some of the Lyme hearts and its great what he has to share about that, but those tonic, adaptogenic herbs are going to have some of the best function with that but then I might like to take some of the endocrine balancing things like seaweeds. I might add in a little bit of bladder wrack to help balance the metabolism that gets into effect in that situations; as well as I think some of the medicinal mushrooms to help bring that body back into balance function too. These are mushrooms that are a real powerful ally for some of these deeper, debilitating diseases; where we can't necessarily pinpoint the problem or the cause of it and that's one of the things with Lyme's. People don't believe people, that there's even anything wrong. "What's wrong with you?! Can't you just get up and go like the rest of us?!" And they can't, whereas taking things like medicinal mushrooms can get the immune system to a stronger state where it can actually fight off this thing where they are continually tired from battling all day long and all night long.

Tiffany: Well speaking of using herbs in combination with each other, so herbs that grow close to each other, would those be ones that are complimentary to each other?

Yarrow: Ah-ha! That sounds like a good thought. Yeah for sure. I think that often can be part of calling the coherence into that flow. These things that grow close to each other can work together, or seasonal herbs are similar. I might do burdock/dandelion/chicory, for example. They might all grow in the same area, nice great morning coffee substitute to drink. Often herbs that grow in the same areas, but also what I like to think of - and this is part of the Chinese method of blending - is that we're creating a family of herbs that are going to have specific functions. So we're going to have the chief of an herbal formula, which is going to be that one major, predominant herb that's going to be, "Okay guys, we're going in this direction today". A lot of herbal formulas just throw in every other ramble herb that's kind of like that one. And it's not necessarily a very good approach because you can send all these big, powerful herbs - I'll use a people metaphor - into a bar and they get into a bar fight. You need to have a soothsayer or somebody who's like, "Oh, it's all good. Don't mind my friends. They're just a little rough around the edges". [Laughter]
We want some gentle emulsions, which is sort of anti-inflammatory soothing herbs, but then you also want to make sure you have in the combining herbs something that's going to be what we call a delivery mechanism or a stimulating herb which is going to help get the blood flow up. I often use herbs like ginger or cayenne or cinnamon or pepper as a great example of spicy, moving, delivery herbs. So they'll help get all the other herbs to the part of the body they've got to go to.

So you want to start combining when you start doing that, various aspects that might not necessarily have to do with the specific thing you're even working on, but they're going to help offset the roughness of the powerful herbs you're putting into that formula.

Doug: That's fascinating. That's really interesting. So when you're looking at different herbal combinations, it's not necessarily that you want to say, "Okay, I looked up all these herbs and they all have antibacterial properties. I'm trying to deal with a bacterial infection; therefore I'll take this one that has all the heavy hitters in it."

Yarrow: Exactly!

Doug: It's more beneficial to take something that has some other herbs that might not address the problem directly but maybe will have some sort of synergistic effect.

Yarrow: That's good formulating, in that sense. So those antibacterial herbs are pretty inflammatory, some of them. They're heavy hitters. They're the big anti-life. Like I said, all anti-parasitic, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, are all slightly anti-life. So they're heavy hitters. So you might want something that's more soothing for the immune system. We get formulas that I like. They're called Radio-Protec and it's really helpful EMF type pollution and working with the fact that we're on screens and going through a lot of radiation and electronic toxicity in our world right now. But one of the big herbs that I put in is catnip and the reason I do is I put it in to help calm people down who think they need an EMF formula. Instead of one of those coyote medicines, it's like usually these people are going to run a little highly sensitive, but they also might be conspiracy theory types energy. "Oh! The universe is out to get me!" Or "Society's out to get me!"

So catnip is an herb that helps calm down the nervous system and our anxiety, more our anxiety around EMF radiation than anything. All the other herbs are going to work on that area, but if I don't put that one in, it doesn't have quite the same benefit.

Doug: That's brilliant.

Yarrow: So we also want to try to relieve our mental/emotional/spiritual angst as much as our physical condition.

Jonathan: Yarrow, I had a quick question about comfrey. I was looking up some of your material online and I see something here called Getting Comfy with Comfrey. I've seen some material in the past talking about the benefits of the leaf versus the root and we had mentioned that briefly earlier. Is there one that should be used as opposed to the other, or do they both have equally potent uses? I've noticed in the past that comfrey root seems to activate a little bit more when it's put into hot water. It gets a little more foamy and I wondered if that was an indication of its potency or if you could just speak to that a little bit.

Yarrow: Great. Why don't you just watch the video? [Laughter] No! I'll be talking a little bit about that in that video. I just want to touch quickly on comfrey as this is one of those "taboo" plants where we've been told not to take this internally because it has something called paralyzadine alkaloids in it which can affect the liver negatively and there have been people who have had major issues because of this. That's the pre-warning around that herb. People have been taking it for a long period of time. It has been used internally for a long history, but one of the big issues on what happened was a person seeing that it has 35% protein by weight in the root, all of a sudden in the '70s the new fad was comfrey root protein! So people were consuming huge volumes of this plant and having real negative effects.

Again, out of balance. People didn't know about it until people started keeling over from liver toxicity and then all of a sudden, "throw it out!" Throw the baby out with the bathwater. That's the back story on comfrey a little bit. The root of comfrey has more of those mucilaginous, gelling compounds and so it definitely gets more foamy. It's much stronger of a medicine. So knowing the back story with the paralyzing alkaloids, you might want to use the leaf a little more readily because you can feel a lot safer with the leaf.

Now one thing that's crazy about this plant - and I'll go back to the doctrine of signatures - is that if you put a rototiller through comfrey, and rototilled it into small pieces, every single one of those small pieces grows a new plant! Each of the cells proliferates. How does it reproduce these cells? How does it keep growing? Comfrey is such a miracle herb for us. It can help us heal wounds like crazy, double the speed of cell growth.

So the miracle talk about someone in the forest with a broken leg and strapped comfrey to themselves and, "boom! they walked out of the forest". So there are all these kinds of interesting stories that come along with that plant. I would say in an emergency situation, that root is going to be far more powerful than that leaf. But just be cautious that you're also going to have higher concentrations of the alkaloid. But these are the same kind of alkaloids that are things like foxglove, which is one of the major heart medicines to use in pharmaceutical medicine, but it's in very, very, very minute amounts. Taking foxglove in any more than that is highly toxic and highly full of these same kinds of alkaloids that affect the liver. Does that answer your question about comfrey?

Jonathan: Totally, yeah. The other thing I was wondering about is I actually have a comfrey plant that's been living in the same pot for about six years now and it's amazing. We get really brutal winters where I live and every spring it comes back and it gets really big and it just keeps growing and growing no matter how many leaves I take off. So I was wondering if it would be positive or negative to harvest the root from that plant, or should I just let it keep going and keep using the leaves?

Yarrow: Well you could literally pull that plant out, wash every root off, strip them down to small pieces, put them in new pots and you'll have tonnes of comfrey.

Jonathan: Oh wow!

Yarrow: How much vital energy is in that root? It's a strong root, so yeah; you'd be fine to harvest some of the root off of that plant. No problem. You might want to, just to break it up. Just break it open, put it in a couple of pots and then give one to a friend.

Jonathan: Sure. Good idea.

Yarrow: That's a good one. And check out the Getting Comfy with Comfrey video. It's kind of a fun one. But there's also lots of good information on there. Another concept I wanted to put into the brain hook, is that the age of information is dead. People keep going back to the information, back to the information. It's actually a dead age. It's an old paradigm. It's dinosaur. We're now in a new age and that is the age of conception. How can you conceive of the ideas and the questions, to have the imagination and the vision to find the answers? Because every bit of information is there, all the information on herbs, with a quick Google search, you can get tons of it. And if not, you're really into it, you want to look up some of the old books and get a little more information on it. But all of these questions that we all have can all be answered. And we don't need to store the information in our brains anymore. We just need to know how to come up with the right questions to ask.

So I just put that brain hook in for listeners. Stop using your brain to store information. Use it to conceive new ideas, have original thought, get out and connect with nature in a way that you can relax the mind and really think about what it is you want to do in your life and how you want your life to flow and where you can find those answers, because storing information no longer functions for us if we want to move forward in this paradigm that we're in right now. It's going to take a lot of work to move this planet back into balance or coherence, as we'd call it, and it leads a lot of us to stop storing information and start coming up with real questions and real vision and real creative ways of answering those questions.

Doug: Wow!

Yarrow: That's one of my main things I see right now. Forget about the information age. All the information is awesome, but it's all available if you know how to find it. You haven't got to hold onto it.

Doug: Speaking of that, I'm making a connection in my brain here. I don't know, this might be getting into a bit of whacky territory, but I read Stephen Harrod Buhner, his book The Secret Teaching of Plants.

Yarrow: Oh yeah!

Doug: Which was a fascinating book. But in the book he talks about the way of communing with plants, that we have this lost ability. He actually goes into a scientific explanation of it, that the heart is actually a sensory organ and able to pick up electromagnetic frequencies and things that we're not necessarily conscious of, that our more logical mind doesn't tap into at all. So, he talks about this method of communing with plants where you can almost speak to them in some way and find out a plant that you might need in some way and that it can tell you how you can use it, and all these other kinds of things. I'm just wondering if, because you are so close to the natural world and do deal with plants so much, have you ever had any kind of experience with this?

Yarrow: For sure! First off I just want to say if any of you are interested in that type of work, Stephen Harrod Buhner is definitely a forerunner and fore-thinker on this type of material, where it is that connection back to plants. And this is also how native peoples would have learned a lot of the plants. When somebody asked, "How do you know this?" "Well the plant spirit told me". That's the common answer they got. It has a little bit to do with slowing down. We are just too fast to even hear what the plants are saying.

So, it takes a bit of effort on our part and that means slowing down to the rhythm. You've got to know that these things stay in one place and grow in one place for their whole life. They're not moving fast. They need us to slow down enough to hear them if we want to commune with plants. It's kind of like neuron that fire together wire together. It takes us a bit of time to get to this place where we're slowing down enough to connect with plants.

I'll give you a real simple, long-lasting meditation you can do to really get to this place, in a way. That is, find a plant spot. This is something that another herbalist, Paul Gardiner taught me about and I really like his work too. He's out of Oregon. He says find a spot close to your home in a natural setting, in a tree or something that's near you, where you can sit at that tree. And then go to that place every week for a whole season. Or maybe even if you can, two or three times a week and just sit in that one spot for 15 minutes. And you can live in the middle of a downtown bustling city, but if you've got a park not too far from you, sit in that one spot.

And what I like to use is what is what's called wide-angle vision where we slow down our perception and we open up our vision. Instead of looking acutely at the direction we're trying to go, we think of moving over into the sides of our head, almost looking behind us, where we slow that down and we're just studying, "how does this plant connect to this natural world?" Who are its friends? Who are the squirrels? Who are the various creatures that live in this area and what plants are coming up at what times? So watch the grass grow through the seasons and watch it decline. We watch the snow come. We watch the rains fall. And we just start to observe the same level that that plant is observing at.

So, I like to find a tree and to go there at least once a week, to the exact same spot. It helps us to slow down our minds to perceive in a way that plants might perceive. I find that to be a really useful tool if we want to start to build our own ability to communicate with other organisms, beyond the humans and the internet, which is its own creature. But we want to start to communicate with other things on this planet; we need to slow ourselves down a lot.

Other ways you can do that are just going for nature walks. And I like to go for nature walks at 25% of the speed of my normal walking and use that same wide-angle vision to look right in front of me but look to both sides and slow myself right down. It's another way we can start to connect with plant communication is just slowing down so it's almost like our heart rate and whole energy is coming back into a sine wave with the energies of natural frequency, natural cycles. Another thing I like to say is that most people, who go for a walk in nature, don't really have a destination they want to get to. They actually are there to do what we call forestating, which is to connect with the natural world.

So, slow down. Take your speed at a quarter of the volume. You might think you're getting more exercise by running fast. I do slow down to control the muscles a little more effectively and to control your thoughts. And it's actually a really good exercise and practice to start doing. It's something I'm always trying to do because I have that slightly indigo child, ADD mind that's moving fast. There's always connecting dots that are far beyond the horizon, so slowing down has been a huge, huge meditation for me to help ground this kind of connection in.

Another thing is that plants and plant connections give a piece of yourself. It might seem kind of weird, but I'll often give a hair and I'll leave it on a branch when I'm harvesting a plant. I'll leave one of my hairs. Or it might also seem weird, but I'll take a fingernail and I'll bury it into the dirt beside the plants that I'm working with. I might take a leaf and I'll mouth it. I'll put my mouth all around it and allow my saliva to be on that leaf, so that the plant gets to know who I am too. It's not just me trying to hear the wisdoms of the world from the plant. It's building a relationship. So, how do we build a relationship with the natural world again?

Doug: That's fascinating.

Yarrow: These are all things that anybody can do. It's just wanting to build the relationship.

Jonathan: Yarrow, we have our resident pet health expert, Zoya on the line and she has some questions she wanted to ask you about herbs and pets and animals and the relationships there. So, if you can hold on for a minute, Zoya, can you hear us?

Zoya: Yes. Hello. Can you hear me?

Jonathan: Yeah, we can hear you.

Yarrow: Yeah. Can hear you loud and clear.

Zoya: Hello. So first of all I wanted to thank you for all the wealth of information because it's incredibly interesting and very important and it's especially important for me because I'm a veterinary student and we do study about herbs and how it applies to animal medicine. So I would really appreciate it if you could help to answer some of the questions that I have, if it would be possible.

Yarrow: Okay.

Zoya: So the first one is that it appears that just like for humans, many herbs are very beneficial to animals too. In fact it seems that animals possess a natural ability to find just the plant that can make them feel better. So the first question would be; did you have an opportunity to observe health benefits of various plants on pets?

Yarrow: Yeah. One of the lucky things for me is that we run an herbal dispensary here and so we have some various veterinarians that actually work with the plant medicines that we provide. So I do get some good examples although I don't have so many personal examples where I'm working with specific pets, I do get lots of examples of people who are using them.

So some of the good ones that are easy and gentle are things like your anti-inflammatory herbs like turmeric. Turmeric's a great one for inflammation of a lot of animals. And also some of the super greens, like spirulina and stuff like that. These are very nutritive and often a lot of the animal foods are not so savvy to that. You get a lot of inflammation and a lack of nutrition sometimes so things like turmeric and spirulina might be great things that animals can work with.

You do see a lot of animals finding their own medicine. So a lot of dogs will eat grass. I see dogs eat grass all the time and I think a big part of that is for them to try and chew a bit more cleanly so that they're moving through the body. They need more fibre through the foods that they're eating and help cleanse. Grass has cleansing properties. So it's got those soluable and insoluable fibres in it.

Other than (skip sound) I would really be cautious of it with animals. Some animals have their nervous system wired the opposite. Hence why catnip makes cats spazzy and us calm down. Valerian is the same thing. We calm down and cats get spazzy. So be careful using herbs too much when it comes to things that are going to affect our nervous system because they might have the opposite effect.

Zoya: Well do you have other examples of certain herbs that may have an adverse effect (skip).

Yarrow: I missed a little bit of that. I do have some other examples. Probably the most really that I've seen veterinarians use is some of the medicinal mushrooms. I've found those to be good. One of the things is that our pets don't live as long as us, so they do get more cancers and tumour systems than we do. So I've seen a lot of good results from giving a multi-mushroom blend, like a three to five, to six to fourteen mushrooms in combination as a powder. So that can be put into foods. I've found that to be really beneficial for adult animals and aging animals. If you have a dog, you just put a little bit of that in sometimes, just as a preventative. We also work with medicinal mushroom powder blends and that's something that is really quite beneficial for them. One thing to note is mushrooms have a more similar DNA structure to us than plants do, so we have a much closer tune to them. They get similar diseases and pathogens and they help bring us back into balance.

So for pets, the thing is that they're quite small compared to us often, so we want to use size-proportionate volumes. Medicinal mushrooms so you can take pretty good amounts. Give them half a teaspoon in food. Things like Reishi mushrooms, the cordyceps, chaga, turkey tail, lion's mane, shitake, maitake, these are some of the medicinal mushrooms. In combination is going to be one of the most beneficial. Other than nutritive, anti-inflammatory and immune modulating plants and mushrooms, those are the main ones I'll work with for animals.

Zoya: During my studies I learned that, for example, camomile, calendula, and the basic herbs that are good for humans also we use it often with animals.

Yarrow: On the skin or internally?

Zoya: Well also internally. Like camomile is good topical application to disinfect the wound, rinse the mouth if there is some sort of problem or skin problems. Or calendula is also very good.

Yarrow: Yes.

Zoya: So yeah, it's pretty similar. But for example, we can also use herbs like digitalis or foxglove or even belladonna, but in very, very small amounts. Digitalis is good for heart.

Yarrow: Yeah, very small amounts of those ones for sure. Camomile and the calendula are both anti-inflammatory to the gut too. They have very similar body structure to us so a lot of the herbs will work similarly. But some of them have the nervous system reversed, like in cats. A lot of the herbs that work on us are going to work on them.

Zoya: I also have a question. Do you think we can learn from animals by observing their behaviour, particularly if they can teach us about plants, or parts of plants that may have medicinal properties? I think it's a more esoteric question, but here it goes.

Yarrow: Well I think you kind of know the answer to your question, that they can do that, in the ability to sense things that we have lost the sense of. So animals can tell what are toxic plants, what are safe plants. They seem to be able to tell that right off the bat. And I do think that they will gravitate towards plants that are going to be healing for them and that freedom, if we let our dog off the leash and to be able to connect in with those plants, they are going to do that. And you'll notice that they don't use plants all the time as medicine, similar to how we don't really need all the time to be taking various herbal supplements, just when we come out of balance. So when an animal is sick, they will go and seek out those plants and that might be a good time for us to just observe them and find out what some of the plants actually are.

And it's not just our pets. It's also livestock and other animals living in the natural world too. Most animals, at least herbivores that we see in the natural world, will eat 200 different plants in a day. They're just eating small amounts and again, no one is educating their body about how the world around them works.

Zoya: So would you have any general recommendations regarding herbal medicine for basic herbs to have at home that could be used to treat both humans and animals? What would be the basic set?

Yarrow: Okay. When it comes to animals, I don't really like to use tinctures. I think that the alcohol is too strong for them and I'd rather see them use a tea or a broth. So herbal broths are something that are a great way to feed our animals nutritive tonic herbs, the gentle herbs that are toning. So, most of adaptogenic herbs like Siberian ginseng, ashwaganda, astragalus, the Reishi mushroom, might make a nice immune broth for us to drink and for our animals to drink. So that's a great way I like to bring herbs into the whole family health, including our fur family, as we might call them, [Laughter] is to make good broths where we can all drink the same kind of super enriched liquid, especially in the winter months where we've got colder weather, there's a lot more bacteria and bugs going around, people are getting sick. Animals get sick too. Our cats will start to sneeze.

I know I've touched on aroma therapy before and it really can be useful for animals too. A gentle ravensara or eucalyptus or lavender oil in the air around the home is another way it can work. We talked a little bit about the camomile being helpful for bacteria in the mouth. So mouth rinses can be good that way. Sometimes you can add just a drop of essential oil in there to do that type of thing. If dogs or animals get an infection, a little bit of clove oil can be really good for teeth infections for cats and dogs. And then you want to put it in an carrier oil. So I put a little bit of clove oil in olive oil and rub that on the teeth and the gums. Things like gum infections, you might things like myrrh are antiseptic and have a great ability to heal the gums. You might add a little bit of myrrh oil into that or myrrh powder into an oil.

So those are some ways. Some of the ones I mentioned earlier like the medicinal mushrooms or the powder are great for both humans and animals, especially during the fall months, so you just put them into a tonic for that time of year. I'd also recommend any of the inflammatory herbs, things that are anti-inflammatory and again I'd ask you to Google search anti-inflammatory herbs and see what you come up with.

Zoya: Yeah.

Yarrow: There are lots and you can certainly go about it that way. The domestic dog breeds that we have nowadays are not really like the wolf - the dogs anyway - but the wolf that they came from. So you get hip displacements and various issues where their bodies are necessarily the right shape and size for them to function perfectly. So working with some inflammatories, essential fatty acids, that's a huge one, that's fish oils. There are a couple of good liquid fish oils now you can get. Most animals do really well with a bit of essential fatty acids in their diet. It seems that they do wonders for the inflammatory response in the body of humans or animals.

Zoya: Okay. Thank you for that. I just have one last question. I don't know if you can answer it, but I'm very curious about it. Lilies are very poisonous for cats, lilies as a general flower. There are a lot of types of lilies. So I just wonder if you have a theory, could you just speculate why lilies? When you talked about specific properties of plants, what they look like, I just wondered why specifically lilies and not other plants and flowers are poisonous for cats.

Yarrow: Did you say lilies?

Zoya: Lilies, yes.

Yarrow: Why they're poisonous for cats.

Zoya: Yeah, just a speculation. Do you have any ideas?

Yarrow: No, but most lilies are actually safe for us. I actually don't know the answer to that, but let's speculate a little bit here. It's definitely not the pollen of them, but that's what they're attracted to.

Zoya: Yeah, that the interesting thing, that they like to eat it. That's the thing that cats are usually better than dogs at avoiding stuff that is poisonous for them. Usually dogs end up eating rat poison while cats will avoid it.

Yarrow: It's probably a liver issue. (Bad audio) be effective on liver. It's the first place it goes and they also have a much smaller liver than us. But probably because it tastes good and they're a nutritive tonic in that sense. They taste pretty yummy. So there's sensory perception, their taste buds tell them that it's safe but it's obviously not. So it's almost they're being fooled by their own sense of safety. My speculation is that they think it's safe for them as well and that's probably some kind of alkaloid that's affecting the liver. I think without knowing the answer to that, which is a toxic alkaloid. Probably in huge volumes they would be hard on our body too but we are so much bigger and aren't going to eat hundreds of roots.

Zoya: I'm just thinking that if it has a liver alkaloid, some cats can eat it and there will be no effect, but if their health is jeopardized or the liver is already compromised, maybe that's how they get poisoned. Maybe that has to do with the liver not being able to deal with it, to digest it.

Yarrow: Right. A lot of cats end up with a bit of a fatty liver from the foods that we feed them. We don't feed them mice and birds. We feed them this weird domesticated kibble and than can give them a fatty liver. It makes it so that the liver does not need to function very much. It's what we call a fatty liver, which is almost like a lazy liver. The liver can regenerate real quickly, but if it's lazy like that or it's kind of a fatty liver, it doesn't think it needs to regenerate. It just thinks its fine and that is not the case because it's not really functioning properly. So that could have something to do with the combination, with the kibble. I bet if you had a wild cat who was outside eating a lot more barn mice or eating birds and things like that, it would have much less issues with that type of thing.

Zoya: Well thank you very, very much. It was really interesting and useful and I wish you a good day.

Yarrow: Thanks for your questions and good luck treating animals naturally with medicine.

Zoya: Thank you.

Yarrow: Thanks for the work you're doing on that.

Jonathan: Thanks Zoya. Great. I think this is probably a good place for us to wrap up at this point. Yarrow, this has been incredibly educational and very entertaining. Thanks so much for joining us. I think our audience got a lot of really great information.

Yarrow: Well thank you for having me. You can tell I'm pretty passionate about these topics and I really think that part of a larger mission is to remind each other that we can come back into flow and that it's not as hard as it seems and that we are actually out of flow with our natural world. Part of that might be herbal medicine. Part of that might be just listening to ourselves and connecting with plants and nature and the natural world around us. So I hope that at least there's a few people out there, some brain hooks and some ideas on how they can re-educate, re-learn, re-wild, reconnect with the world around them.

Doug: Very well said. So if people want any more information or ways of connecting with Yarrow, you can check out his website, HarmonicArts.ca. I also highly encourage people to check out his YouTube channel. I think its The Harmonic Arts.

Yarrow: Yeah.

Doug: That's the user name, right? Great videos, really educational, very entertaining as well. So thanks again Yarrow. This was great!

Yarrow: Yeah, no problem. Thank you for having me. And thanks for doing the work that you guys are doing, connecting people with natural health in the various formats. So I appreciate everyone who's in service to this larger mission, helping us heal one talk, one person, one thought at a time.

Tiffany: Thanks Yarrow and good byes.

Doug: Okay listeners, we will be back again next week, Friday at 10:00 am Eastern Time and we encourage people to listen to the other SOTT Talk Radio Network shows. Tomorrow is The Truth Perspective and that is at 2:00pm and then there is the Behind the Headlines Show at 2:00pm on Sunday. So we'll see everybody next week, hopefully tune in tomorrow and on Sunday.