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Did you know that some of the weeds that grow in our gardens and parks have medicinal properties? In this episode, clinical herbalist Rosalee de la Foret enumerates some of these medicinal plants. She talks about what we can do with each weed and how they benefit us.
Hello, true health seeker and welcome to another episode of Learn True Health podcast. Clinical certified herbalist Rosalee de la Foret is here today to teach us all about wild-crafted herbs that are in our own backyard, and how we can utilize them for our health. She reversed an autoimmune condition that the doctor said would be impossible to reverse. In fact, she shouldn’t even be alive right now, and it’s all thanks to natural medicine that she is here today thriving healthy and teaching us how we can do the same.
Rosalee wants to gift a copy of her book to one of our listeners, so please go to Learn True Health Facebook group and in the Learn True Health Facebook group, there’ll be a post, you can comment there, and one of the comments will be chosen at random. One person will be chosen at random to win a copy of Rosalee’s book, her Wild Remedies book, which is so exciting. So please go to the Learn True Health Facebook group. You can go to learntruehealth.com/group, that’ll take you straight to the Facebook group, or search Learn True Health on Facebook and join the group so you could potentially win a copy of her book.
Join the Facebook group anyway because it’s a wonderful, healthy, and supportive community. I believe we’re about to hit 4,000 people. Everyone is so supportive and loving. I love how the community has grown together to help each other. There’s a great search function in the group, so if you’re looking for you could type the word asthma, allergies, or acne—it’s a lot of words I’m thinking of—shampoo, air purifier, and water purifier. We’ve had these so many great discussions about these kinds of topics—natural household cleaners, cosmetics, and everything that you can think of we’ve had great discussions. There are wonderful threads with lots of information where dozens of people have come together and share what they use, their experiences, and their reviews on different products, so you can get great insights into this holistic health world from this whole community, and it’s free.
So come join the Learn True Health Facebook group. I’d love to see you there and potentially win a copy of Rosalee’s book. Awesome. Thank you so much for being a Learn True Health listener. Thank you so much for sharing this podcast with those you love. Let’s help as many people as possible to learn true health.
[00:02:48] Ashley James: Welcome to the Learn True Health podcast. I’m your host, Ashley James. This is episode 429. I am so excited for today’s guest. We have a wonderful woman on the show specializing in herbs, and what I love is that she’s going to teach us about how to explore our own backyard because remedies are right around the corner. Rosalee de la Foret, it is so wonderful to have you on the show today.
[00:03:19] Rosalee de la Foret: I’m so happy to be here, Ashley. Thanks for having me.
[00:03:21] Ashley James: Absolutely. Now your latest book is Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine. I think all listeners just got tingles. It’s so exciting especially in this era where we’re rediscovering what it means to be self-sustainable. To be able to go into our backyard and craft a remedy or craft something that is healing for the body is so wonderful. In fact, now, it’s nettles season—stinging nettles. I have a cooking membership called Learn True Health Home Kitchen, and we just filmed how to forage wild nettles and how to make delicious stinging nettle soup.
[00:04:08] Rosalee de la Foret: Oh, yum.
[00:04:09] Ashley James: Oh, it’s so, so, so, so good. That’s just one of the many things that people can go into their backyard or go into a park nearby and find these delicious herbs, not all of them are delicious, but these very healing herbs out there. You also specialize in mushrooms so we’re going to have a great conversation today, and listeners are going to really enjoy learning from you. Before we dive into that though, I want to learn a bit more about you. What happened in your life that had you want to teach people how to explore the world of herbalism?
[00:04:47] Rosalee de la Foret: Well, I have been interested in natural health for a very long time. I was kind of an odd teenager. When I got my driver’s license when I was 16, I remember thinking I was just so excited because now I could drive myself to the health food store. Not a lot of my friends were like that as you might imagine. I remember doing things like getting out Vitamins for Dummies at the library and making flashcards so I could learn what vitamin A is, where it’s found, and the deficiencies associated with it. I’ve long been interested in natural health in that way, and I just dabbled here and there as a teenager, early 20s using natural remedies and supplements for minor health conditions.
It was when I was in my early 20s, I came down with a really mysterious illness. I had this crazy fever. I would get a fever at night only, and it’d be kind of low-grade, but it was very persistent. Actually, it would be high-grade at night, and then in the morning, it would be down to 99. At night, I would have this 103 degrees fever, and then in the morning it would be 99. I wouldn’t have a fever at all during the day, and I’d get this fever at night, it was so bizarre. I had these incredible aches and pains. I could barely move. I was in my bed for like a month. I was just in my young 20s, and I just thought I had a cold or the flu because I had a fever. At that time, that’s the only thing I thought you ever got a fever for was a cold or really the flu.
I just thought I had the flu, I just stayed in bed, I was in a lot of pain, and didn’t get out of bed much. I had this rash that would move around my body too, so I’d have this rash on my legs, and then the next day it would be on my chest. It was very itchy and salmon-colored like it’s kind of bright orange color. Anyway, totally bizarre, and just for that whole month I just waited to get better. I didn’t get better and ended up going to the hospital. At the hospital, they kept me there for four days, and they took all sorts of blood samples. I had actually started going to a wilderness survival school prior to this, so they were testing me for all sorts of things because I just thought I must have caught some kind of weird disease from wildlife or something, so they tested me for all sorts of stuff.
I couldn’t find anything wrong, sent me home, and then two weeks later, I remember I was in the grocery store and I got the phone call and they said that I had a whole team of people working on it. The person on the phone said, “Well, we figured out what it is. It’s a very rare autoimmune disease, and it’s called Still’s disease. You should come in.” I went in to see my doctor, and she said, “Well, I talked to your team of specialists. There was an immune specialist there, but really, there is nothing we know about this disease. There’s no cure for it. You can expect a steady decline in life with a life expectancy around 40,” and she gave me a brochure about it and told me that there was a Yahoo discussion group that I could talk to other people who had this disease because it’s very rare. But she basically said there’s nothing we can do for you.
Obviously, that was a state of shock. I was this, what I had thought, healthy 22-year-old, and then I was just given this terminal illness diagnosis. For two days, I took it really hard and just kind of the pits of despair wondering why me? After two days, I just snapped out of it all of a sudden, and I was just like no this is not how this is going down. I got every book I could about rheumatoid arthritis because even though my disease was very rare, I knew it was very similar to rheumatoid arthritis. I just got all sorts of books, and I learned about things that are pretty well known now, but back in the early 2000s were not well-known. Things like intestinal permeability, how important vitamin D is, and overall diet.
At the time, I was very interested in natural health, and I was eating what I thought was a very healthy diet, which was all organic, lots of wheat, lots of soy. That was the basis of my diet were those two things and vegetables, but obviously, lacking in so many ways. I learned all about this stuff. I totally overhauled my diets, got rid of wheat and soy. I slowly started working with other practitioners, acupuncturists, Naturopaths, herbalists. I drank a lot of really strange gross tasting Chinese herbal medicine teas. Those are not really designed to taste well, but I would drink them down dutifully, really studied up on vitamin D, and started supplementing.
Anyway, I did all of these things, and six months later, I had no symptoms. It was a huge paradigm shift for me because, before this, I was already interested in natural health, but I thought it was for boo-boos, like minor things. If you had some serious condition, obviously, you would go to the doctor, but that’s what I did, and I got no health from this whole team of specialists at a hospital. That was just a huge paradigm shift for me. One thing that was really fascinating to me is I went to see all of these different practitioners and none of them said—and they’re also called alternative health realm—none of them said you have this named disease for which there is no cure therefore you are doomed. What they said was after a two-hour intake or all of that kind of stuff, they said who are you, and how can we better facilitate overall health?
It was through all of that that I didn’t have any symptoms six months later. It was, obviously, so amazing to me on so many levels. I proudly went back to my doctor because, obviously, she would want to know about this. I basically single-handedly cured an autoimmune disease. I was in my young 20s, just very like, oh yeah I’m going to go tell her all about it. I went. I scheduled an appointment and I went. I was like, “I just thought you’d want to know that I no longer have debilitating pain in my joints, no longer have the fevers, I no longer have the rash, I have no symptoms, and I’m feeling great.” She asked what I did, and I said, “Well, I think it really revolved around the herbs I took, overhauling my diet, and really changing things.” I remember very clearly what she said. She said, “There is no scientific proof that your diet would affect an autoimmune disease.” She said, “Glad you’re better, you were probably misdiagnosed.” Even though I had all of the symptoms, how could I have been misdiagnosed? But that was all she had and she showed me the door, which I can understand looking back. I can see my 22-year-old self proudly walking in and claiming all these things.
As a doctor, she’s looking for evidence-based medicine and one person saying something didn’t really set off her bells in any good way, but I knew it in my heart. I knew that I was better, and it was so astounding to me. I really started to think about how many other people out there have my same experience whether it was Still’s disease or some other chronic illness and were just told that’s a name disease that we don’t have a pill for yet, so good luck. I wanted to help other people. As I mentioned, I was already in Wilderness School at the time, and I was studying plants. Through that school, I was studying them through the lens of ethnobotany, so doing a lot of fieldwork, and learning how to identify plants, learning how to harvest them sustainably, learning how to use them for food and basketry. But after that, I really sat into my calling and I knew I wanted to be a clinical herbalist.
I went to many different herb schools. I have done over 10 years at different schools and just learned everything I could about how to use plants as medicine. That’s how it all got started was with that one door being shut and deciding to walk through another.
[00:13:30] Ashley James: That is so cool. I’ve actually interviewed people and doctors on the show that have reversed their autoimmune conditions using diet, herbs, supplements, and supporting the body in its ability to heal itself. They’ve come up against the same resistance in the medical community. One of the doctors that I interviewed recently, she’s gone on to create studies where she’s getting whole groups of people with MS and reversing it, publishing her findings, and proving. We just need to get enough people with Still’s disease to copy what you did and then show that you can get the same results.
It’s frustrating that the medical community pushes back so much when new discoveries are created. I actually interviewed a gastroenterologist Ph.D. He teaches medical doctors, and he specializes in doing surgeries of the intestines. He discovered and found a new illness, a new diagnosis, which is small intestinal fungal overgrowth. We never experienced that 50 years ago, that wasn’t even a thing, but it is a thing now. He tried to publish it, and there was a huge resistance. That the medical community didn’t want to accept his findings because it was new. It’s really interesting that he found how much resistance there is to anything new.
We have to push back in big ways. We have to figure out how to get this information out there, and how to get studies together. As I mentioned, get a group of people with Still’s disease together, or get a group of people and then do a study, continue to prove and show that what you stumbled upon really works. I also have had many guests, listeners, and clients who have had type 2 diabetes reversed it with natural medicine and diet and then gone back to their doctors who are treating them for 10 or 20 years, continuing them on medication for many years, and the doctors don’t want to know how they reversed it. That blows my mind.
The doctors that these people have told me about that were their doctors. I know that not all doctors are like this, but so many of them who treat people for an illness, continuing to give them drugs year after year when there are ways to no longer have that illness. These doctors aren’t interested in learning how to heal the body naturally, that blows my mind too. That’s why I do this podcast, and that’s why you’re doing what you do, so we can help people to advocate for themselves. Obviously, you want people to have a good doctor. We can’t wait and just give our health over to the doctor, we have to educate ourselves.
I love what you do because what you’re teaching, especially in your latest book Wild Remedies, we can learn how to support our body’s ability to heal itself every day of the year. Go for your physical and see that you’re getting healthier and healthier, continue to work with good doctors, fire the bad ones, hire the good ones, and know that we have to take our health into our own hands.
There you were, you had reversed Still’s disease, a disease that has no cure and you’ll have it for the rest of your life and you’ll die in your 40s. Here you are, very healthy and vibrant. How old are you now?
[00:17:47] Rosalee de la Foret: I’m actually turning 40 this year.
[00:17:48] Ashley James: So you’re an 80s kid. Me too, I just turned 40. You’re vibrant and healthy and you’re still free of all the symptoms of Still’s disease?
[00:18:00] Rosalee de la Foret: Yeah. I’ve never had them since.
[00:18:02] Ashley James: I love it. That’s so cool. Yes, autoimmune conditions can be reversed. I’ve had so many guests on the show who have reversed their own, and it is so inspiring because people who are trapped in that vicious cycle of having autoimmune flare-ups, I’ve been told by so many specialists that this is their life, this is the new normal, and that they’ll never really get better, and then they believe them. So it takes people like you to share with them that there is a possibility, there is a way that they can escape that prison and have a body that’s healthy and vibrant. What had you want to write Wild Remedies?
[00:18:48] Rosalee de la Foret: It begins with a trip to Ireland, actually. In 2017, I’d published my first book Alchemy of Herbs. People had asked me—as soon as the first book was published—the question was, when are you going to write your second one? I was just so burnt out from that process. I was like never. I have no interest in that whatsoever, but I went to Ireland that year. I was visiting a friend. During that trip, I also got the chance to meet Tori Amos, who is my heroine. She’s a big influence in my life. She’s a piano composer, singer, and songwriter. I had the chance to meet her, and I gave her a copy of the book. She asked me, “How do you get the best results with herbs?” She went on to ask something about how do you take the herbs?
At the time, I was totally like I’m meeting Tori Amos, she’s asking me a question, but I hope I said something semi-intelligent to her, something about bringing plants into our life, and then it’s not just the one thing we do but it’s all the things we do. We had that conversation, and days later, I just kept thinking about that question from her, how do you get the best results from herbs? I just really thought about it from so many different angles. It just hit me, it was one of those things that just landed in my lap. It was so clear, that’s what you will write a book about.
Just after that, I thought I will write this book with Emily Han, who’s a colleague of mine and now a friend. I called her up and I said, “We need to write a book about this.” She was like, “Okay, you’re right.” She knew too. The book is really about—it’s kind of getting back to my herbal roots because as I mentioned, I first began learning in the field, learning with the plants themselves, nature connection, and observance was a really big part of my learnings. Then I steered off on to this clinical herbalist path where the focus was more on herbs that you buy and formulas, just kind of a different focus.
This book is coming back full round to really talk about the importance of nature connection. The healing that’s found there on a personal level as we get to interact with nature, looking at the ecology that’s outside of our doors beyond even just us and the plants, but also all of the creatures there and all of just the beauty and wonder that’s found within there, and being able to then participate in all of that, and recognizing that as humans, we are a part of this earth and not apart from it, and learning how to sink ourselves back into those rhythms. So living through the seasons, changing our habits or the things we do as the seasons change around us, and also learning to identify and recognize all of this plant medicine and plant foods that grow so abundantly around us.
A lot of the book focuses on weeds because (1) that’s what people find around them, but (2) it’s because I know that those weeds that show up so abundantly around us are the plans that can for so much profound healing. You mentioned stinging nettle earlier. That stinging nettle is in both of my books, and I was just thinking about that today because that’s one I would never want to be without. It has so many amazing healing properties and in many locales grows abundantly, and it’s just right out there waiting to be interacted with.
[00:22:32] Ashley James: Nice. I love it. That’s so cool. Since launching your book Wild Remedies, have you had any feedback from your readers?
[00:22:44] Rosalee de la Foret: Yes, absolutely. We’ve been doing a lot with the book. As far as we know, about 20,000 copies sold already. We have a Facebook group, and there is just so much interaction going on there. People are posting recipes, and I’m getting tagged on Instagram every day. Numerous times a day people are making the recipes, which is so much fun to see people getting out, people wondering what the plants are that are growing around them. We’ve had over 200 reviews so far on Amazon as well, so I’ve been getting lots of feedback, lots of emails. In fact, I spent this morning trying to go through my inbox again because I’m getting hundreds of emails every couple of days. It’s been really, really wonderful, and a lot to take in too.
[00:23:37] Ashley James: Very cool. Any specific feedback you’ve gotten from Wild Remedies that stands out? Any stories of success you’d like to share?
[00:23:45] Rosalee de la Foret: At this point, with the book being less than a month old, most of the feedback has come around the joy that people are experiencing of going outside. Right now a lot of people are still sheltering in place and practicing social distancing, which can feel isolating, which can be depressing on some level, and certainly just even anxiety about the state of the world we’re in. A big part of the book is about getting out and using awareness and observation to see all the beauty that’s out there, whether it’s beautiful flowering plants or the little snails that are sliding along the leaves. In general, that’s the biggest feedback that I’ve seen so far as people being able to set down their feelings of isolation, set down anxiety, set down the sadness, and take a step out into the world.
When I say interacting with the plants around them, I happen to live in the wilderness, but my co-author, Emily, she lives in LA. We wanted the book to be very applicable to everybody, whether they’re in suburban, or urban, or rural environments. That’s what I’m hearing from people too. One of the exercises in the book is to find nature and unexpected places especially for those urban dwellers, and people finding beauty out there even if they live in a land that has a lot of concrete. Nature is always there, the plants are always there, and creatures are always there.
Being able to observe that and feel that that’s been definitely the biggest feedback. Because the book has been on my mind and something I’ve been really tapping into too is sometimes I don’t realize how anxious or worried I’ve become with everything that’s going on, or just even sadness, missing my friends, or plans that didn’t get to play out this year, or all of that, and worry for people on the front lines. I don’t even realize how much I’m holding that in until I go outside, take a walk, and I take time to slow down and see all of that.
I feel that connection to nature, it’s something I’m sure so many of us are aware of but it’s so easy to just be like yeah, yeah, yeah nature connection, sure, sure, sure, but there are so many studies these days about showing how important being outside is and how that really plays a powerful role in our overall mental well-being. There’s been some popular headlines in the news from time to time, people showing doctors in certain countries are prescribing nature in order to help people, and it’s really based on studies. There was a 2015 Stanford University research study and it looked at the brain activity of people who went on a local nature walk and compared it with those who walked on a high-traffic street. The conclusion was that walking in nature could lead to a lower risk for depression and other mental illnesses.
There’s another study that looked at 1000 residents in Sweden. In that study, the researchers concluded that the more often people visited urban green spaces, so again, it doesn’t have to be some idealistic mountaintop or anything but urban green spaces, the less often those people reported stress-related illnesses, they reported less burnout, less insomnia, fatigue, depression, and even feelings of panic. There is lots of information out there showing how important nature is in terms of that scientific realm. That’s so fascinating to look at. I like to talk about it, remind people about it, but I think when we get out there and have that moment of feeling more calm, more centered, more peaceful, feeling that in our bodies how joyful it can be, that is the biggest proof, right?
We can look at the studies and find them interesting, but when we feel it in our bodies that’s the most profound. To have that joy and be able to say yes, I want more of this, and to make it a regular habit that becomes really, really important. There are so many studies looking at even stress hormones specifically and how you can reduce those. Even just 20 minutes outside can significantly reduce stress hormones. Tell you what, Ashley, I think a lot of people could use that right now.
[00:28:27] Ashley James: If we took your book, Wild Remedies, and we went outside—I could go in my backyard. I live on five acres out in the woods in Snohomish. This is just 30 minutes away from Seattle. Those who don’t have that luxury of being out in the woods like me could go to the local park, or just find trails, find places where there’s trees, grass, and nature and go for a walk and see if they could find. It’s like an adult scavenger hunt, like a holistic scavenger hunt—see how many wild remedies they can find in their neighborhood.
What’s really exciting about stinging nettles is that they grow everywhere. I thought they only were in the Pacific Northwest until I started looking into them, and they’re everywhere. Let’s start with stinging nettles. Tell us about stinging nettles. Why would we want to forage for them and use them especially now since this is the time to harvest them?
[00:29:35] Rosalee de la Foret: Yeah, this is the time of stinging nettle. In fact, later today, that is what I’m going to be doing is harvesting stinging nettle myself. With nettle, the thing that just jumps out immediately with nettle is how nutrient-dense it is. Many of us know that our modern-day fruits and vegetables, ones that are commonly found in the grocery store, often have less nutrients or even missing nutrients from their former selves. We tend to breed out nutrients by making fruit sweeter or tastier in some way. If you think of the original tomato, it was not anything like what we know today. They were small, they had a very different taste, and over time, we bred them to be bigger and bigger and juicier and sweeter. But in that situation, we have also bred out a lot of the nutrients.
We can also lose nutrients because of monoculture farming and growing crops in nutrient-depleted soils. If the nutrients aren’t in our soils they aren’t in our food. Whatever the reason, many of our foods just don’t contain the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that they once did. Stinging nettle is a great way to get those nutrients back into our lives because they are one of the most nutrient-dense plants out there. Just eating them, having them as teas, they are just so chock-full of minerals and vitamins. They bring us a lot in that regard. Because of that, getting that potent nutrient intake, especially if we are eating them or taking a strong tea regularly, they have a lot of vitamins and nutrients specifically for bones.
I’ll often say there’s the side effect of eating nettles includes things like stronger more luxurious hair, stronger nails and teeth, and healthier bones. They really do affect that in a strong way. That deep nourishment is a really important reason to enjoy nettle and a reason why I think most people can really benefit from enjoying nettles. They are quite tasty too, so that’s a fun aspect of them to be able to enjoy those nutrients and this delicious green. They do not taste like kale and they do not taste like spinach, but it’s in that same genre of this dark leafy green that has just so many vitamins and minerals in there.
Another reason that nettles is incredibly important for many of us today is that regularly using them can help us reduce or modulate inflammation. It can do that in a variety of ways. One way that I commonly recommend it to people is for seasonal allergies, which is this inflammatory response going on. Nettles can help modulate that response, and they do that in interesting ways. You could be drinking nettle tea whenever your allergy season starts. Many people report that when they do that their allergy symptoms that year are lessened. That’s one way to prevent that process from happening. I love that. I can only imagine all the processes that must be going on in the body to make that happen and just all the inflammation that’s being modulated. People are seeing results with their seasonal allergies but must be feeling it in their bodies on many different levels.
You can also take something like freeze-dried nettle, and that can be used for acute allergy symptoms, again, modulating that inflammation. There has been a couple of really cool studies look at how a fresh alcohol extract of nettle leaves can reduce inflammation and blood glucose levels on people with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. I’m sure I don’t need to tell your listeners that there’s a whole approach to working with people and helping to reverse that process, so I don’t mean to say that nettles are the one quick stop solution, but they can be a part of an overall protocol. One of the studies that looked at that fresh alcohol extract for people with type 2 diabetes, they concluded that nettle may decrease risk factors for cardiovascular incidents and other complications in patients with type 2 diabetes. It can lower blood glucose but is seen in decreasing risk factors for cardiovascular health as well.
Another way that it can help modulate inflammation is with musculoskeletal pain. It’s high in vitamins and nutrients and sometimes the depletion of those vitamins and nutrients can lead to musculoskeletal pain. By having that restored, that can affect things. It’s really high in magnesium, calcium and so that’s one way. There’s also another kind of strange way. If everyone knows what we’re talking about stinging nettles, they do sting, right? That’s where they get their name. If you brush up against them with your bare skin they will sting you. They have these little needle-like prickles all over them especially on the stems and underneath the leaves.
What those do is they’re these hollow point needles and when you brush up against them they actually inject your skin with their special little juice there, and you will have a mild reaction. It can be a little rash, and it could be a little painful, a little itchy. It’s very mild though. It’s not that big of a deal unless you really go for it. But we know that the sting of fresh nettle can actually bring blood flow to an area, can bring healing hormones, and will decrease pain.
That’s an old folkloric use of stories of women going off into the forest to harvest fresh stinging nettles to help with their arthritic hands. But that researchers have actually looked into this too, and there were two studies done showing that fresh nettle brushed up against: one study was the thumb and one study was the knees, and both showed that that can reduce pain and inflammation, which I just thought was kind of hilarious, Ashley. Can you imagine calling in for that to be a volunteer for that study? Yes, you can whip me with fresh nettles. Here’s my thumb, here’s my knee.
We do know from tradition and science that fresh nettles sting is actually therapeutic. People can get worried about getting that sting. For myself, I don’t have arthritis and stuff so I don’t necessarily go looking for that sting. When I harvest fresh nettles I do wear gloves and that sort of thing, but I often do get stung just because it would brush up against with my arms or something. It’s really not that big of a deal, but in terms of eating it just because I know people often wonder about this, when you eat the nettles you want to blanch them, which immediately gets rid of the sting with them. Eating them is not an unpleasant experience once you blanch them. They get rid of their sting.
[00:36:50] Ashley James: For those who don’t know what blanching is, you put them in hot water. That’s what blanching is. You can steam them, or you can put them in a soup, or you can put them in hot water to make a tea, and then they’re no longer stinging you. However many thousands of years ago, Roman soldiers used to rub their bodies with stinging nettles in order to stay warm at night. I thought that was interesting because that sting does bring blood to the surface, makes you feel warm, but I’m sure it would also help with their aches and pains from just being soldiers, which is really cool. I wonder if they also ate them—rub their bodies with them and then ate them.
[00:37:33] Rosalee de la Foret: It would not surprise me. I was in France a few years ago. My husband is French and we go to visit his family. We were in central France in the same area where the caves of Lascaux are, those very ancient caves and with all of the art there. We were walking around these caves and I found all of these stinging nettles there. They believe that people were living in the caves 35,000 years ago, and to find all of these nettles growing around the caves, it really made me think of like wow. It’s probably impossible to imagine how long nettles and humans have been interacting together.
[00:38:16] Ashley James: It’s considered a weed. It’s also high in K2, you mentioned the minerals. It really is great for joints and helping the body build healthy bones because the K2 is needed along with those minerals in order to lay new bone tissue, and then you’re out in the sun getting vitamin D. That completes the perfect picture. It’s high in antioxidants and polyphenols, so it’s just fantastic food all around, and it’s free. We just have to go outside and find it. It is in every area. I can’t think of an area it wouldn’t be other than the Antarctic. Stinging nettles, aren’t they in Asia, Africa, North America, and South America? Aren’t they everywhere?
[00:39:11] Rosalee de la Foret: They do grow in many places. I’m not sure about all of those areas. I’m not saying they don’t, I just don’t know about that myself, but it would not surprise me. There are several species of nettles as well. We have our native species and other species that have moved in. They find their niches wherever they like to grow. They like really protein-dense soils, and they do like a bit of shade, but they also like a little bit of sun. You can find them in forests, along the edge of meadows. Once they’ve settled themselves in their little niche, they can do quite well there.
[00:39:46] Ashley James: I interviewed Naturopathic physician Dr. Jenn Dazey who specializes in teaching botany at Bastyr University. She wrote a book called Naturopathic Gardening, and she has this theory about soil and weeds. Weeds are herbs and are just what you’re teaching. She says that when the earth is disrupted, it’s like a wound. Let’s say we scratched ourselves, our skin is broken, and we’re bleeding. That’s a wound. The body creates this scab over the top so that it can build new skin. When the earth is disrupted, the earth is like an open wound. The earth wants to immediately create a poultice and a scab to heal the exposed earth. It brings in fast-growing weeds as some of the first plants to heal that opened or disturbed soil much like our body would.
When she said that it changed my opinion about weeds. From being these pests to being the healers of the planet and our bodies also. Oftentimes, stinging nettles will grow where the earth has been disturbed as well or nearby, so I thought that was really neat. What other wild remedies are really common like dandelion? We could talk about dandelion, everyone knows dandelion. Let’s talk about dandelions, and then tell us more about ones that maybe we don’t know which are in our backyard.
[00:41:30] Rosalee de la Foret: Dandelion, it is one that I love to talk about. In terms of healing the earth, that is just the perfect example, so it’s a great segue herb there. Dandelion has this very deep taproot that goes into the earth. It pulls up nutrients and then brings those nutrients into the soil around it as well as the plant itself and then also helps to break up hard-packed soil as well. It can help aerate the soils, bring nutrients from deeper in the earth back up into the topsoil. It’s a wonderful healer in that regard. We have some lawn purists out there who tend to hate dandelion. I think many of us were just taught to. We didn’t question it. We were just told dandelion’s bad and they should be removed from lawns.
Billions of pounds of herbicides are poured onto dandelions every year mainly by homeowners in the attempt to find that perfect lawn, which is ironic on so many levels. Because one, we’ve been basically taught to poison the earth that we live on, which is just horrific to me. But also, so many of those chemicals that are used are known to be carcinogenic, can promote the growth of cancer, and increase the incidence of cancer. Whereas dandelion is a herb that is widely celebrated for helping people who do have cancer, so that’s an interesting thing there that so many people are poisoning a plant that so many of us could benefit from these days.
Dandelion, like stinging nettle, is wonderful food as well as wonderful medicine. The first medicine I think it brings is joy. Personally, I would just see the dandelion coming out of a crack in a sidewalk, I just love that sign of resilience and this idea of finding beauty in all these places and that dandelion can take root there to grow. Right now on my lawn and around here—I live in an agricultural area and so there’s dandelions and lots of agricultural fields. Those yellow blossoms will just fill a whole area, and I just think that is so beautiful. It’s reminiscent of the tulip fields in Amsterdam. It’s that beautiful. They’re so prolific and so gorgeous. That’s really fun just that joy there. If we wait a little while, then of course those flowers will go to seed and then the plant gives us free wishes—another joyful thing. So many things to celebrate with dandelions.
As food, all parts of the plant can be used as food. The roots can be used as food. As I mentioned, they are nutrient-dense. They pulled up all those great riches from deep down in the earth. The roots have a bit of a bitter flavor to them. I like to pickle them or put them in stir-fries if I’m eating them as food. The roots are tremendous for the liver. That’s their claim to fame is that they really help the liver function well. I regularly enjoy dandelion roots, even though I don’t have known liver issues, just as a way of supporting my liver health because that little organ of ours does so much. The more that we can give it a little boost and support its healthy functions, the better.
Eating the root is great, but probably my favorite thing to do with dandelion roots is to chop them up, roast them, then simmer them, and make what some people call dandelion coffee. It doesn’t really taste like coffee, but it does—because you roast the roots—have this rich roasted flavor that’s reminiscent of coffee. Essentially you’re making a tea, but it does have a little more of like an oomph to it. That’s one of my favorite ways to enjoy dandelion. It just tastes so delicious. That’s a great way to just enjoy it as food and as medicine and support for the liver. It’s also often added to bitters blends, and the leaves are used as bitters too, so might as well talk about bitters, which is one of my favorite topics.
In herbal medicine, the bitter taste of herbs is really important. So many of our foods today, we’ve talked about this earlier with stinging nettle, we bred our foods to be sweeter oftentimes. This is what we’re going for. We’ve often removed the bitter flavor from food. You think about wild salad greens versus iceberg lettuce. There are so many salad greens out there that are making a comeback today that have that bitter flavor to them. I grew up eating iceberg lettuce. That was the salad that you ate was iceberg lettuce. Anyway, even romaine lettuce, which is a little bit better nutrient value than the iceberg lettuce, still does not have a lot of flavors.
That bitter flavor is so incredibly important. It signals to our whole body that nutrients are along the way and we need to get started and ready for it. For example, if you can think of having something that’s bitter, and a great example is a dandelion leaf. If someone happens to have chewed on that, but any bitter flavor will do, what happens when you have the bitter flavor is that you immediately start to salivate more. That saliva then helps to break down carbohydrates, and it begins that whole digestive process. It creates this whole cascade of events that gets our digestive system up and moving: releases hydrochloric acid in the stomach, pancreatic enzymes are released, from that, peristalsis is stimulated. The bitter flavor also stimulates the release of bile from the gallbladder as well as the production of bile in the liver.
The bitter taste is like 101 for our digestive system. Herbalists, we love to talk about how so many of our modern-day digestive issues could be traced back to a bitter deficiency syndrome, which is basically that we aren’t eating bitter things that helped to stimulate our appetite. Dandelion leaves are a great way to do that, as are the roots as I mentioned. This time of year with these greens in the springtime, those greens can be younger, fresh, and tender. They have a bitter taste, but it’s not overwhelming. It’s not take a bite and make a face kind of bitter. It’s more of a there’s kind of a spark to it almost. It’s definitely an enlivening taste because there is a little something there.
Dandelion greens have been used as—some people call it—a bitter tonic but like a bitter springtime digestive aid for so many years. It’s a big tradition in Europe that goes back thousands of years undoubtedly. My husband, he says he remembers going out in the springtime with his mother to wild fields and harvesting dandelion leaves. That was just something you always did. Everybody knew to do that. His family is from the Alps, and in the Alps, they have really traditionally heavy foods in the wintertime: preserved meats, lots of cheeses, and potatoes—so really heavy foods. Eating bitters and drinking bitter drinks is a tradition that still lives on there. I can see why we just need to. You need that bitter oomph if you’re going to eat that really heavy food for a long period of time.
This time of year, having those bitter greens is a great way to get digestion going. One of my favorite ways to do that is a dandelion pesto. You basically make a pesto-like you’d make a basil pesto but you make it with dandelions. It’s slightly bitter but you’ve added some lemon juice, some salt, some nuts, and it kind of tames it a little bit, but I often bring that to potlucks and share it with friends. It’s a great conversation starter because people are what is that? It’s always a crowd-pleaser, and you get to talk to people about how amazing dandelion is. Hopefully, if somebody’s there who is still spraying dandelions, you can open up a conversation that why people might want to stop doing that on so many different levels, but mainly the joy of having free food available to you like the dandelion pesto.
The flowers, of course, are gorgeous too. They are high in lutein, beta carotene so they are also nutrient-dense. I didn’t mention that about the leaves, but the leaves are high in potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and also beta carotene. The leaves and roots are also really high in inulin, that prebiotic that is so wonderful for our healthy gut flora as well. There are so many reasons to enjoy those, but it’s the flowers, again, joyful. Those are edible too. I love this time of year when they’re so plentiful, I love adding them to salads. Yesterday I made a socca bread, which is chickpea flour-based bread. I decorated it with dandelion flowers, violet flowers, and dandelion leaves and made this pretty botanical scape on top of the bread. That was really fun. They’re joyful to add these. People make all sorts of things with the dandelion flowers too from jams, jellies, and all sorts of preserves as well.
[00:51:06] Ashley James: Really?
[00:51:07] Rosalee de la Foret: Yeah.
[00:51:09] Ashley James: That’s awesome. We can eat the flower, the leaves, and the root. What about the stem?
[00:51:14] Rosalee de la Foret: The stem is filled with this milky latex that is especially bitter, so it’s not very fun to eat, but that is a folkloric remedy for warts. You harvest that stem, and if you break off the stem, you’ll see it immediately exude this milky sap. It’s kind of sticky, and you apply that to warts every day. The thing with that is it has to be super consistent. I often recommend internal things as well, but even though we don’t want to eat the stem necessarily, it also offers some medicinal benefits which I just love that with dandelion. It is so incredibly generous. It’s beautiful, it’s joyful, its food, its medicine, its abundant. We could go on and on about dandelion.
[00:52:04] Ashley James: I’m so excited because my son loves eating everything in nature. Now I can tell him he can eat dandelion flowers. Are there any contraindications for eating dandelions at all that we should know about?
[00:52:16] Rosalee de la Foret: No, there’s not. The thing about the flowers is that the petals themselves are kind of sweet to blandish. Actually, a flower head is filled with a whole bunch of those actually—every little petal you see is an individual flower so it’s the flower head. Below it there’s these green parts, the bracts and the sepals, those are kind of bitter. You can eat them, they’re fine, but for a sensitive palate they might find that those green bits are too bitter, so you can separate those if you want. That’s really the only thing. Of course, because so many people do spray, you just want to make sure you’re harvesting from a good area, that’s another thing.
One thing is that if you do eat a lot of the leaves and the roots, they are really high in inulin, which can cause some digestive discomfort if somebody eats a whole bunch of them. Also diets that are high in inulin can reduce blood sugar levels and insulin levels. If somebody’s type two diabetic and is needing to strictly monitor that, they would just want to keep that in mind, but of course, I’m in favor of using plant medicine instead of the medications when possible. That could be a way even to bring healthy healing foods into your life and reduce dependence on those things.
[00:53:42] Ashley James: Love it. Very cool. Inulin, I love that it helps with feeding the gut the food it needs to make healthy gut biome, and then it also helps with the blood sugar balance. You talked about how it’s so supportive—the roots—are so supportive to the liver. I used to have liver problems. I had an inflamed liver. My liver was sticking out. You could actually see my liver stick out. It was really bad. I felt a difference when I drank roasted dandelion root tea. I would drink that all the time and I really noticed a difference. I drink there’s some blend with burdock root and dandelion together, but I would actually feel a difference. My liver inflammation would go down drinking it all the time, so there was something to that. I thought that was really interesting.
In my local grocery store, it’s a health food store/grocery store, they often sell, this time of year, wild-harvested dandelion leaves in the lettuce section. For people who can’t go out and harvest their own dandelion leaves, they actually sell it. I always think that’s interesting. Another reason not to spray beside the fact that people are giving themselves their dogs and their children cancer by spraying pesticides in their backyard to kill the beautiful dandelions, dandelions are great for supporting the bees. We’re at a very fragile point right now where if we lose our bees, we lose, I believe, a third of our food supply won’t be pollinated. The other third of our food chain is pollinated by bats. By continuing to spray and kill off weeds, we’re harming the pollinators. Thus, we’re going to end our own food supply. That is such a huge problem.
By stopping spraying and embracing these beautiful weeds that are then supporting our pollinators, we’re supporting our own health and the ecology of the planet. There are many reasons why we should stop spraying and instead embrace it. These dandelions are beautiful, and if we see them as healing plants instead of as pests—healing for us and also supportive of the bees—then we’ll be changing our mindset for a holistic mindset. You mentioned earlier magic bullet—no one herb is a magic bullet. It’s a really interesting mindset. The mindset that there’s a magic bullet out there for something like just give me the prescription, give me the penicillin, just give me the magic bullet, and let me get back to my life. Let me just chemically alter my world to change my lawn, to change my body, just give me the magic bullet.
That mindset was marketed to us for over 100 years. Before penicillin came out, people, when they were sick, would go take a month-long vacation if they could and go to a place of healing where they could rest and recover. They’d spend weeks or months recovering their health and using herbs. Penicillin came along and it was marketed as this magic bullet. Here are drugs. Drugs are the magic bullet. You don’t need to forage in the woods anymore, you don’t need to rest anymore, and you don’t need to take care of your body, do hydrotherapy, and take herbs and all that backwater stuff. Now we’ve got this modern stuff, so here, take this magic bullet. Over 100 years of marketing has led us, several generations, into this thinking that we can just sit back and wait to get sick and can then chemically alter our bodies or our reality with a magic bullet. That’s just not the case.
I know our listeners agree with me that there’s no magic bullet, that that is simply a fantasy world that we’ve been marketed to, and that gaining and maintaining true health requires diligence, requires us taking action, and questioning the reality that we were raised in. Questioning this reality like why do you spray your lawn? Because my parents did because my neighbors do, and that’s just what we do. Let’s question that reality. Question the reality of why do you consider these weeds to be pests instead of herbs, right? The change starts with questioning the reality we have and the belief system we’ve been raised in. Instead, looking at the world through a different lens—through your lens, through the lens of how we can use nature around us to heal us.
I’m really excited about your book because I think that teaching everyone how to forage healing foods and the craft their own herbal medicine is probably one of the most empowering things we can do right now, but it does start with changing our mindset. If people are still in the mindset of looking for the magic bullet to chemically alter their environment or their body, they’re not going to see the world filled with natural remedies. They’re going to see this world where they have to chemically alter it to their liking. We just have to start to shift our thinking, but I’d love for everyone to embrace weeds as herbs, respect them, try to foster them, and love them instead of spraying them. I’m excited that you brought that up.
Tell us about some more really common wild herbs that are available that we may not even realize like dandelions, which are so powerful.
[01:00:13] Rosalee de la Foret: Before I move to the next herb, I loved everything you just said. Actually, I was nodding my head up and down a lot. One of the main themes in the book that was so important to my co-author, Emily and I, is the theme of recognizing interdependence, which is basically what we’re talking about right now. We mean that on so many different levels. A big part of the book is understanding how to forage for plants really ethically and sustainably so we can rely on future harvests and help to make the world around us a better place with more resilient plant populations. But recognizing the interdependence there of not only the pollinators, as you were talking about. Dandelion is a really fun way to observe all the different creatures that rely on the dandelions from the bees like you mentioned to ladybugs crawling around on them.
There are also some surprising ones too. In addition to honeybees there’s also native bees, bee flies, and hoverflies. They all love the dandelions. Small birds including goldfinches and sparrows will eat the seeds. Mammals also forage for the dandelions: rabbits, groundhogs, pocket gophers, deer, elk, and even bears are known to eat dandelions. There’s so much going on with this. We are all on this circle together. As you said, we poison the earth around us, not only are there not dandelions to help us, but then there are the poisons that we’re dealing with our children, our animals, and then all of the creatures there. This is a really important message, and it is a mind shift on so many levels.
That’s a big part of Wild Remedies too is that it’s not simply about using dandelion roots for your liver, which is powerful and so important, but also recognizing all of this. All of the interdependence and the reciprocity that we can give back to the world around us. That’s an important part of medicine, and a really important part of what we all need to hear right now because that mindset shift is one of the most crucial things in terms of overall healing for ourselves and in the planet as well. It was all beautifully said. Thank you for that.
In terms of the other plants, we could talk about the one that comes to mind. First is plantain. Plantain is this weed that’s low growing to the earth, loves to grow on those disturbed soils, and we definitely think of it as a Band-Aid. It takes these downtrodden disturbed soils especially where people love to walk, and it’ll just thrive there. Plantain was actually the very first weed that I learned when I started on this journey. I was in a class, and I was learning about how to make lip balms and healing salves. The teacher started talking about plantain. I had lived in the Dominican Republic where we ate lots of plantains, the banana-like fruit. She started talking about plantain and how abundant it was. I was like wait, what? Plantain grows here? This tropical plant, I just couldn’t believe it. She’s like, yeah. I remember she said, “It’s right out on the driveway. It’s everywhere on the driveway.” I was like, “Really?” And she’s like, “Yeah, let’s go see.”
So we went up to the driveway, checked it out, and then I got to know plantain, which is a plantago genus, not the plantain fruit. It’s not related to the banana.
[01:03:58] Ashley James: It’s not related at all? There’s no relation?
[01:04:01] Rosalee de la Foret: No relationship whatsoever.
[01:04:02] Ashley James: Of no relation.
[01:04:03] Rosalee de la Foret: Yeah. A completely different genus, red plantain the banana plantain.
[01:04:09] Ashley James: You were so disappointed.
[01:04:10] Rosalee de la Foret: Yeah. I definitely like okay. That was day one of my herbal learning experience. I started off as a complete newbie and learned about plantain. If people don’t know what I mean when I say plantain, I’m sure you would recognize it if I pointed it out, then you would probably start to see it everywhere.
[01:04:30] Ashley James: Oh yeah, oh yeah. I just searched for it—broadleaf plantain—and I’m like yeah, I pulled a few of those out of my garden for sure. I don’t know if you call Toronto Eastern Canada, I guess you’d consider that Eastern. I’m from the other side of North America, now I’m living just outside of Seattle in the Pacific Northwest. I remember there was a plant that looked just like this. It’s just these broad leaves that are all kind of sprouting out, and then there are these little things that shoot up and they have those seeds on them, right?
[01:05:11] Rosalee de la Foret: Yeah, they have a very prolific seed head. There are several different species and many of them are used interchangeably. The broadleaf is the one you’re looking at. There’s also a narrow-leafed one that’s very common, but they both have these very prominent parallel leaf veins that stick out. That’s an easy way to identify them, but plantain loves to grow where people walk. There are some native species here in North America, but most of what we see are weeds that were brought over from Europe. They quickly earned the name white man’s footstep because they would be found growing in the wagon’s trails as white people headed west. It’s very prolific, and as I said, it’ll grow and it’ll thrive in places that many plants would not.
It’s an easy weed to dismiss. It’s common, it’s ubiquitous, but man, this thing is a powerful healer. Plantain is really powerful for acute situations as well as chronic situations. I love that because I just love how versatile it is. For acute situations, it’s very famous for helping with bee stings, or wasp stings, or any kind of insect stings. It can really soothe painful bites or sting, and it can work right away. Basically, what you do is you get a bee sting, wasp sting, whatever the case, and you harvest a leaf. You chew it up, make a mulch poultice out of it, and then place that over the sting. It will take out that sting and the pain immediately, and it will greatly reduce the redness and swelling. It is so amazing. I’ve used it like that many times, but it had been quite a few years since I used it. Just last summer, I got stung by a wasp. Gosh, that’s so painful.
It was just one of those like aw. I didn’t realize what was happening, I figured it out and just headed over to the plantain patch, started putting a poultice on, and changed them out every 20 minutes. The pain relief was almost instantaneous and then the redness and swelling were not that bad for a wasp. That one is just a good one that everyone should know. It works great for kids. Not only is it like actually reducing their pain, but the idea of chewing up a leaf and putting it on your body, kids often like that and it distracts them from the situation as well. Once kids know it, man, I’ve been around so many kids that they know. They get stung and they’ll just go for the plantain leaf themselves. Lots of stories of kids even helping out their parents. Oh, you got stung. Let me find you a plantain leaf.
Once you know how to recognize it it’s super easy to find. It’s so wonderful for that. Another great attribute it has for acute situations is it’s what we call a vulnerary herb, which is a wound-healing herb. It can promote the knitting of tissues together and the healing of tissues. We can use it on all sorts of things like cuts, scrapes, burns, and blisters. All of those things are great first aid application for that. Again, it can be used as a poultice. It can also be used as a salve, which is where you make a remedy where you infuse oil with plantain leaves, and then once that’s really well infused then you strain off the leaves and add a little beeswax and make a salve with it. It’s one of my most used salves because it’s great for just about anything.
It’s a really powerful healer in that regard too, but as I mentioned, it’s also great for chronic conditions. That ability to heal skin and knit tissues back together is also really great for our digestive tract. I’m glad we’ve already talked about no silver bullet miracle cure with herbs because that’s definitely not how I teach about herbs, but they can be a powerful part of an overall healing process. I often recommend plantain for people who have suspicions of having a leaky gut or intestinal permeability. Again, we want to be using the nutrients, we want to be thinking about diet really carefully, but plantain can also be used as a way to help heal the digestive tract all the way through.
You can also use it for any kind of inflammatory bowel disease. Basically, any kind of inflamed in tissues, whether that’s on the outside or through our digestive tract. Plantain is really fabulous for that. I like it for that as a tea. You drink a strong tea of the plantain. It’s like bathing all of your tissues in your digestive tract with these healing abilities. You can also use it as a mouth rinse and use it to heal mouth wounds like a canker sore, for example. For acid reflux where tissues are inflamed. Lots of ways to use that internally, but it’s one that I use all the time for that.
Another way that I rely on plantain a lot is for coughs. Plantain works really well for a particular kind of cough, and that’s that dry hacking cough that can be really painful and just seem endless. I will often get this kind of cough at the end of a cold or flu. I lay down at night and I’m ready to drift off into sleep and then I’ll just start coughing and I can’t stop. Plantain is perfect for that kind of cough. It just soothes that coughing reflex, helps reduce the inflammation that’s going on there, and just stops that spasmodic coughing.
It’s also really great for coughing due to particles in the air like dust or wildfire smoke. When the wildfires have been bad and the smoke has been in the air really thick, I often rely on plantain as well as another plant, mullein, to help with that. Just restoring lung health and helping reduce that irritation that’s going on in the lungs. Plantain is one that just grows at our feet and is so easy to dismiss. It’s one of my most used herbs and has so many healing abilities within it.
[01:11:26] Ashley James: Very interesting. It’s one of those weeds I never thought was worth its time being in my garden. Now, boy am I wrong. That’s so cool. That’s so cool. What else? What other wild herbs/weeds? What weeds should we stop thinking of as weeds and start thinking of as herbs?
[01:11:56] Rosalee de la Foret: All of them. Absolutely all of them. Another one that comes to mind is mallow. Mallow is in the malva genus, and it also loves to grow in disturbed soils like all of these do. It can often be the bane of gardeners. Gardeners especially seem to hate this plant and want to pull it up, but it also is wonderful food, wonderful medicine. It is definitely seen as an invasive weed, but historically, it was a highly prized medicinal as well as food. It’s interesting how these things can change, but I’d rarely see a gardener who gives a whoop of gratitude when they see a mallow in their garden. It’s usually the other way around, but I still feel that big surge of gratitude when I see it because it is so generous in its food and medicine.
When you make a tea out of mallow, The result is this thick—I hate to use the word slimy because people don’t really think like mmm, slimy I want some of that—but it is like this mucilaginous, slimy, gooey result is this tea. We call that in the herbal world it’s demulcent, but basically, all these mucilaginous properties have come out into the tea. It’s similar to aloe vera—the insides of aloe vera plant, it’s demulcent. Even if you just make up some oatmeal and it becomes kind of like goopy, that’s also demulcent quality. Basically, it’s a thick substance that’s very soothing and very cooling.
I mentioned that plantain is great for those dry irritated coughs. I often combine it with mallow and mullein, as I also mentioned, but I often combine it with mallow because it has that additional softening, soothing, cooling, and moistening properties. I love to talk about coughs because I grew up thinking I have a cough, that’s bad, take cough syrup, okay. Basically, the cough syrup is relaxing those muscles and just stopping the cough from happening, but in herbalism, we really want to know what is the type of cough and then how can we help support the body’s healing process.
In this situation, if somebody is coughing because of irritation, because of dryness, but if we just stop the cough, then that means that the dryness is still continuing and that irritation is still continuing. Oftentimes, if there are dryness and irritation, there’s inflammation that’s still continuing. We can use herbs instead of just stopping the coughing reflex. We can use them to support soothing those tissues, relieving the irritation, relieving the dryness, and mallow is just so amazing for this. I use it, as I mentioned, for wildfire smoke in the air. Even just the dryness of summer or the dryness of winter when we have heating going on and drying the air. All of those things can bring dryness to the lungs, and mallow is a great way to just soothe them in a really gentle way. Any of that hot, dry, dusty, or smoky air, mallow is just amazing for that.
Another time we can have that dryness and irritation causing us problems is sore throats like with a cold or a flu symptom or just the dryness again of smoke or dry air. Again, that mallow is soothing, it’s moistening, and it has that thick substance to it and just can be really relieving of all that kind of irritation. Mallow, which is high in polysaccharides and those polysaccharides are known to have immunomodulating activity as well. They can help the body in strengthening the immune system, ward off infection. That’s all wonderful ways to use it.
Historically, it was used for wounds and that’s a way we continue to use it today. It was famous historically for wounds. Today, I often use it not only externally but I mentioned plantain actually internally to heal digestive issues and mallow is really great for that as well, and I often combine the two of those. It makes great food if you’re familiar with mallow. If you aren’t and you’re listening to this, just do a browser search for mallow and find it.
Malva neglecta is one of the common ones, but there are species that grow all over. I bet you’ll recognize it because it’s so common. In the late summer, it produces these fruits. I was told to call them cheese wheels because they do look like a cheese wheel, but they’re really cool tasting. They’re really cooling, I should say, and they taste great. There is a crunch to them, and so they’re really fun to add to like salads. This is like a different textural kind of thing, but they are pretty tasty and delicious.
I have a recipe in the book for roasted dandelion roots and those mallow cheese wheels. Roasting them with apples and cinnamon. It’s a fun wild food treat. Great food and medicine. Again, that soothing quality of the mallow is just so important. I love how that is as herbal medicine it’s just so practical. It’s like oh, I have heat and dryness. I’m going to take this thing that’s really cooling and soothing, and it works so well as that. Once you get used to using your medicine like that there’s just no going back. You’ll know that you need mallow in your life.
[01:17:29] Ashley James: I love it. I’m excited to learn more. There is a weed in my garden. There’s no chance this thing could be herbally helpful at all because I think the devil himself made this weed, creeping buttercup.
[01:17:46] Rosalee de la Foret: That family, the ranunculus family, they have some great medicinals in there.
[01:17:56] Ashley James: No way.
[01:17:58] Rosalee de la Foret: Within that family, but a lot of the buttercups aren’t known to be used medicinally. When they bloom early in the year that is pretty fun. I don’t know a lot of medicinal uses for that particular plant.
[01:18:15] Ashley James: Okay, so I’m just going to keep pulling it out of my garden.
[01:18:17] Rosalee de la Foret: Especially because I know where you live, it can really want to take over.
[01:18:22] Ashley James: It takes over. I’m constantly fighting it, but it’s worth it to be able to have our own garden filled with beautiful fruits and vegetables. It’s totally worth it. You’re less into gardening and more into wildcrafting. I was going to ask you a gardening question.
[01:18:42] Rosalee de la Foret: Actually, I have quite a big garden. I do.
[01:18:44] Ashley James: You do? Okay. How do you manage slugs? How do you get rid of slugs?
[01:18:48] Rosalee de la Foret: Here, I have the best secret for managing slugs.
[01:18:53] Ashley James: I thought you would.
[01:18:54] Rosalee de la Foret: Move to the other side of the mountains then you don’t get slugs.
[01:18:58] Ashley James: I was wondering if you had slugs in Eastern Washington. That’s so funny. When we first moved here, again, I’m from Toronto. I’m from the province of Ontario in Canada. Like Michigan and like the East Coast, we have really bad insects in the summertime. When we first moved here, there was no screen door on our balcony. I kept saying we need to get a screen if we’re ever going to open this door in the summertime we need to get a screen. My husband who’s from here was like what do you mean we need to get a screen? I’m freaking out thinking we’re going to be eaten alive by mosquitoes and black flies. Come spring and come summer, there were no mosquitoes. Rarely, once in a blue moon, I’ll see a mosquito and there are no black flies here.
I thought this is crazy because my entire existence I thought the planet was covered. I thought the whole northern hemisphere was covered in mosquitoes every year. I didn’t realize there was a region of the world where mosquitoes did not take over. Then out came the banana slugs and it was a particularly bad year and these things are like a foot long just sliding across the backyard. You could see them, they’re huge, huge slugs, and they were everywhere. I couldn’t walk barefoot because I’d step on one.
[01:20:20] Rosalee de la Foret: I was just going to say, they make you think twice about being barefoot.
[01:20:22] Ashley James: Worst sensation. I feel so guilty when I kill something, and I’m like oh my gosh, you’re walking through your backyard and it’s like stepping on a water balloon that’s slimy. You just feel so bad. Slugs are everywhere. I’m combating slugs. I think I’m going to spread diatomaceous earth. You live in eastern Washington so you don’t have a slug problem. That’s quite hilarious. It’s so funny. It’s so funny. That’s hilarious. I’ve got mushrooms growing in my garden, which means it’s healthy soil, good mycelial network in the soil, so that’s good. I don’t know anything about mushrooms though in terms of how to harvest them or which ones are safe so I don’t ever venture that way.
But I did have a run-in with an herb that popped up in my garden. This is two years ago so I’m forgetting the name of it but it looked like this herb that I know is safe. I ate a bite of it and I’m like oh, it tastes just like licorice. I thought this is so cool, it’s growing in the back. It’s a wild herb. It’s just so neat. Then my hands started to shake. I’m like uh oh. I looked it up and I actually took a picture of it, sent it to my local gardening group, and they said oh that’s—and again, I’m forgetting the name of it but they’re like that’s a poisonous weed that will kill you. I thought oh my gosh. I called poison control. I didn’t die, obviously, I’m still here. It really snapped me back to the reality that we can’t just go around eating.
There’s a man in 2012 that died in Washington State from eating this weed, so we can’t just go around picking anything and eating it. We have to know. We have to just verify and know, but that snapped me back to reality like herbs can be, depending on which herb, it can be as dangerous as taking the wrong medicine, as taking the wrong drug. We just really want to make sure that we’re doing the right thing and identifying. That’s something you teach in your book, right? To identify the good ones and the bad ones, the poisonous ones and the not poisonous.
[01:22:44] Rosalee de la Foret: Yeah, I’m so glad you brought that up. That’s definitely step one is always be 100% sure of the plant you’re harvesting. In the book, we have beautiful botanical illustrations—watercolor illustrations—that we had done specifically for the book for each plant, but also in the beginning chapters, we talked a lot about plant ID and understanding botanical terms. We like to make it really fun for folks and so it starts with looking at botanical parts at your grocery store. You notice the plants in the produce section and learning to recognize plants is really just learning to see patterns. At first it can seem intimidating, but our minds are really great at recognizing patterns. Once you understand different leaf patterns they’ll just jump out at the landscape at you.
The other thing is that I have always been taught this and I always continue to teach it. The most important plants to identify growing near you are the hazardous ones. That’s where you start when you learn how to do plant ID is you learn about potentially toxic plants. You learn them really well, and you learn how to ID them really well. It’s not like there are hundreds of them but there are some ones that are very, very important to know. Where I live, all around my house, I have death camas, which is aptly named. It’s one of the most poisonous plants in North America and can definitely cause instant, or I shouldn’t say instant, but very painful death.
[01:24:13] Ashley James: Wait, what’s it called again? I got to search this up. What’s it called?
[01:24:16] Rosalee de la Foret: Death camas.
[01:24:18] Ashley James: Death? The word death is in it?
[01:24:19] Rosalee de la Foret: Yeah, it’s very aptly named.
[01:24:21] Ashley James: Oh, look. I type in death and camas pops up.
[01:24:23] Rosalee de la Foret: There you go. It’s a very common plant. It grows here in eastern Washington. It grows all over though. Not as common where you live, but it’s not related to camas, but camas is a very important edible food here in Washington State. Before they flower they can look pretty similar so it’s a really important one to know. There’s all the poison hemlock, water hemlock. I wonder if that might have been what—
[01:24:47] Ashley James: That was poison hemlock. That was it.
[01:24:50] Rosalee de la Foret: Yeah, that one is very, very important to know to not eat. That plant family, the umbelliferae family, is a really good plant family to know to be able to differentiate them because there are some important medicinal and edibles like the carrots are in that same family, parsley is in that same family. You want to be able to recognize those. We have a whole section in the book where just getting to know your local potentially toxic plants. The thing is once you know those, it’s not like it makes every other plant safe, but there is an empowering sense to be like I know the potential hazards in my area.
If you headed off into the woods you would want to know are there rattlesnakes there, should I prepare for ticks, or is this a flash flood area? Just all of those times when you would want to know what are the potential hazards around me? That’s one of the things you want to know. Again, for me, a really empowering thing to be able to look around the plants that grow around me, to be able to identify them, to know which ones are food and medicine, which ones are beautiful, which ones are potentially toxic, all of those things are so important.
Another one that makes me think of is foxglove. Foxglove is a really powerful medicine that most people don’t use it as medicine as much anymore because it is very difficult to administer and can easily cause death. The heart drug, digitalis, is actually based on constituents found within foxglove. It’s a beautiful plant, grows prolifically where you are. It’s so much fun to enjoy it. We don’t really use it as medicine anymore, but when it’s young, it can look like mullein, which is a very safe medicinal plant. It can look like comfrey. But once you know the plant it’s not hard to tell them apart. It’s just in the beginning plants can look very similar before you really suss out their differences.
You really want to know what you’re harvesting. Dandelion doesn’t have poisonous look-alikes, but it can have plants that really look like it. Once you know the secrets of dandelion, you’ll be able to tell two dandelions apart from other ones as well. Definitely very, very important. Extensively, in our book, we went through helping people to identify plants correctly. There are also great ways to learn plants local to you. Native Plant Societies in North America, Canada, and the United States. There are Native Plant Societies where you can meet up with other people who are plant geeks.
You can find herbalists, other people doing plant walks, and interpretive centers. There are local field guides. There are lots of ways to learn plants. Obviously, I’m biased, but I find the whole process of getting to know plants just to be joyful—incredibly joyful to be out there listening to the birds, feeling the sun on your face, and getting to know all the creatures that go around you, but also incredibly power empowering. Again, when I go on a walk, I know all the plants that grow around me. I do know what I could eat right now, today.
I could go out and make a meal from the plants that go around me. Not only a meal but those joyful remedies as well. The dandelion jelly, wild rose petal honey, or stinging nettle soup as you mentioned, which is one of my favorite wild food dishes as well. There’s so much joy out there and that’s what keeps bringing me back is that joy. We’ve been talking about how herbs are not a magic bullet for anything. It’s very popular within natural health as we have all these things that we should be doing. We should sleep well, we should exercise, and we should eat well. Obviously, I agree with all of that. Those are the foundations of our health, but if we leave joy out of that, it becomes a list of to-dos, and a list of should. It becomes less and less fun.
For me, being with the wild plants and using Wild Remedies is incredibly joyful and it’s not a should, it’s an I get to. I get to go out into the forest today and spend time there to feel calm, feel more relaxed, enjoy all there is to offer, to harvest some nettles, to fill my basket, and appreciate all of the beauty and wonder out there. I get to bring them back to my kitchen. I get to make a nourishing meal. I get to enjoy this nourishing meal that is so tasty and delicious. That becomes the foundation of health. From that spring so many.
From the nutrients of the nettle I have more energy that allows me to have more movement in my life. That increased movement allows me to rest more peacefully at night and get a better night’s sleep. As we talked about all of the other side effects of having more energy, to more luxurious hair, to better skin. We didn’t even talk about skin with nettle, but that’s another important gift of nettle is how it can help bring vibrant skin to the surface. All of these things build upon each other in beautiful ways, and again, I love that it is inspired by joy and beauty and less about shoulds or to-do lists.
[01:30:11] Ashley James: Very cool. Yeah, we can have so much fun with this. Make a game out of it. Especially if you have children, or if you have a husband or a partner, we can go make a game out of it and do some kind of wild foraging game like who can identify the most medicinal herbs or something like that, so we can make it fun. I’d like you to think about the last 24 hours, how many herbs have you used in your personal life in the last 24 hours?
[01:30:51] Rosalee de la Foret: Wow. That would be a lot especially with spring here. I’m constantly grazing outdoors. I already mentioned that last night I made socca bread and I put wild violets on it, dandelion flowers and leaves, and some other things from my garden like chives and pansies. I served that with a dandelion pesto, so I put that on top of it after it was eaten. As a drink, I had violet syrup that I just made. The violet is another plant we can go on and on about but the violets are just so amazing right now. They have this really incredible scent and flavor to them, so I made a syrup out of those. I made it by making a strong tea and adding a bit of honey to that just as a little preservative and then I use it up pretty quickly because I use little honey so it doesn’t have a long shelf life. But then I added that to sparkling water—a tablespoon of that to sparkling water.
Last night, having that meal, I was pretty thrilled with myself actually because it was so beautiful and such a priceless thing. You can’t really buy violet syrup of that quality anyway. It’s all of my own making. I went out to the meadow, I harvested the violets, and I made the tea. The tea from purple violets is just so incredible. It’s a beautiful purple intense color. I had all those experiences and was able to enjoy that. Another plant that I have been enjoying a lot lately is hawthorn. Hawthorn is a plant that I regularly use and often widely recommend as well. It’s an amazing cardiovascular tonic, and there are so many benefits to hawthorn especially in regards to heart health. You don’t have to have heart disease to enjoy or benefit from hawthorn. I think of it as the kind people will say eat your carrots to have healthy eyes. It’s just something you do.
I think of hawthorn as like heart disease is very prevalent, might as well enjoy hawthorn regularly. Hawthorn is really high in oxidants and flavonoids, modulates inflammation, which is often the underlying cause of what’s going on with heart disease. So many studies out there showing vast benefits of hawthorn both for prevention as well as for people who have moderate to severe symptoms of heart disease. The berries are just delicious, and so they’re really fun to add to your life. I love to make a vinegar extract from the hawthorn berries. In the fall, I harvest lots of the berries, fill them in a jar—fill up a jar with them—and then I fill that with vinegar. I often just use apple cider vinegar. Cover that with a lid that doesn’t have metal on it, and let that sit for a while. Sometimes I’ll add honey to that.
A straight-up vinegar I’ll use as a base for salad dressing. Every time I’m eating a salad I’m getting the hawthorn in there. Then when I add honey to it, that makes what we call an oxymel, and that is a really delicious way. Again, I’ll add it to sparkling water and it’s this tangy, sweet, and sour drink. It’s this beautiful red color so it’s gorgeous. It’s really fun to make. It’s like a wild food mock soda, I guess. That’s another wonderful way. I’ve had lots of hawthorn in the past 24 hours as well. I’m about to go harvest the stinging nettle as I mentioned. I had a tea this morning that had oat straw, nettles, hawthorn, lemon balm, and lemon verbena in it.
That’s what’s coming to mind right now in terms of wild foods. I‘m a big fan of herbs and spices and cooking. My husband made this breakfast today with lots of vegetables. He uses an amazing amount of spices there. This is a running joke. I asked him like, “This tastes so good, what spices did you put in here?” He says, “All of them.”
[01:35:30] Ashley James: Yes, I love it. I love it. You mentioned lip balm, salves, what other ways are herbs seeping into your life that are unexpected? Like for skincare, hair care that kind of thing.
[01:35:50] Rosalee de la Foret: I definitely love the lip balms and salves. I love infused oils actually. One of my favorite infused oils for this time of year is to infuse violet flowers and dandelion flowers into an oil. Both of those gently move lymph and just support lymphatic function. It’s a beautiful oil to make. You can add a little bit of essential oil to it once it’s done. That makes a great oil for all over the body but especially in places that are rich in lymphatic tissue, so it’s a wonderful breast massage oil just to keep breast tissues happy and healthy, axilla or armpit areas as well. That’s a lovely way. I make all sorts of infused oils throughout the year, I’m kind of famous for them especially amongst my friends who have already started making requests for the year.
[01:36:42] Ashley James: I love that you said that. I’m kind of famous. I’m kind of a big deal. I’m kind of famous with these oils. I’m like yeah, you are.
[01:36:50] Rosalee de la Foret: I’ve given away so many herbal medicines, and after a while, I began to realize that’s what my friends really wanted were these infused oils. Infused oils, which then can be made into facial creams, which I also get a lot of requests for. I infuse wild roses into oil, that makes a beautiful one. I grow holy basil in my garden, which is an amazing herb. That one I just started making infused oils with that recently, and I’ve already had many requests for it again this year, so lots of infused oils. There are so many applications for infused oils in terms of moisturizing your skin, obviously, but also, you can use it for pain relief. I do arnica infused oil, cottonwood bud infused oil, which is oh my gosh, that smells so good. Cottonwood bud oil is great for pain relief but also doubles as a perfume because it has such this heady lovely scent.
I use herbs for shampoo. I like to infuse nutrient-rich herbs into tea, and then mix that with castile soap—makes a really great shampoo. That’s kind of an unexpected way. It can also be a body wash as well. Let’s see, what else? I love to do baths with plants. One of my favorite baths is to make a really strong chamomile tea, and by that I mean two cups of the flowers infused into a quart and a half of hot water for 20 minutes. You make this really strong tea, it’s super bright yellow. You strain off the chamomile flower so you’re just left with the tea, and you add that to bathwater. So profoundly relaxing especially if my shoulders get tense or just my whole body is tense.
Obviously, the hot water is relaxing, just relaxing in the bathtub is relaxing, and then the addition of this really strong chamomile tea is also really lovely.
[01:39:00] Ashley James: There’s this Korean spa in Seattle I love going to, and it’s only for women. They call it The Naked Spa.
[01:39:11] Rosalee de la Foret: I’ve been to The Naked Spa.
[01:39:12] Ashley James: Okay, okay. You know what I’m talking about. You know I’m talking about. Oh man, I love it. Before you get into the hot tubs, you can pour this tea on you, and it’s so wonderful, so relaxing. It’s antimicrobial. I forget what herb that is.
[01:39:32] Rosalee de la Foret: They use mugwort in that.
[01:39:33] Ashley James: Mugwort, that’s right. So you can use mugwort as an antimicrobial to wash away fungus, virus, and all that stuff. In the light of COVID-19, have you changed any of your home remedies, or have you added anything in the last few months for your family?
[01:39:52] Rosalee de la Foret: Yeah, definitely. I feel like I haven’t been doing new things, but it’s been an inspiration, we could call it, to really double down on the things that we normally do. One thing, Ashley, is the hawthorn. As I mentioned, when something that’s coming out in the news a lot right now is that people with hypertension and heart disease are having more serious complications with COVID-19. They’re also seeing these issues with blood clotting coming out. I feel like things are changing so often so I don’t know. By the time this airs, there might be even more news or different news about it, but that’s what’s going on right now is there are lots of things about the blood clotting and involvement with cardiovascular disease.
I don’t have those things but it made me think I might as well just enjoy hawthorn even more, and I’m in no way trying to insinuate that hawthorn is going to save anybody from COVID-19—the severity of the symptoms. However, what COVID-19 is showing us is that the healthier we are the better chance we have at either having asymptomatic, being asymptomatic, or having reduced symptoms. It’s a reminder to me how important hawthorn as well as all the lifestyle choices that go along with healthy cardiovascular function can be, but hawthorn is definitely showing up a lot in our lives right now because I think might as well support the heart as best as we can. Something I often feel, but again, especially inspired right now. Hawthorn being really important.
We’ve been using a lot of teas that are wonderful for modulating immune system care. What I mean by modulate is there’s definitely herbs that we know that boost the immune system. You take it and then suddenly you have increased NK killer cell activity or increased macrophage activity. We know that we can boost the immune system in that way, but herbs are pretty amazing and that we’ve seen time and time again through studies because obviously, this is not something we can inherently know, but that herbs have a balancing effect. They act differently in somebody depending on what’s going on. When we talk about seasonal allergies, which can be an intense immune response, we can take these immunomodulating herbs. Boosting the immune system further, they actually modulate the response and help calm this excitability that we’re seeing.
Anyway, these herbs are wonderfully modulating for the immune system and can help just support the immune system. Many of these herbs are tonic in that we take them for a long period of time. It’s not something like you take it and then suddenly you can leap buildings in a single bound or anything, but it’s something that you take daily over a long period of time to see the benefits. A big one for me is an astragalus. It’s a root that comes originally from China, but Western herbalists have adopted it widely because there’s really nothing else like it. It is nourishing, it’s sweet in flavor, it can be added to so many different things, and it’s just a wonderful way to support your immune system day in and day out.
We’ve been using lots of astragalus in decoctions, which is simmering the root. With that, I often combine it with codonopsis. Both of these are really wonderful herbs for the lungs. They support and strengthen lung function, which seems to be also an important thing to be doing right now. Those three are at my big list. Sometimes, I taper off my vitamin D supplementation at this stage, but I haven’t spent that much time in the sun this spring and so I’ve kept up with vitamin D, which also seems to be very important. All those things that I already have naturally dialed in because it’s not my first day. I’ve had a serious chronic disease, and I’ve taken care of myself ever since.
I think these things—we mention them, they’re so profoundly important to the best of our ability, to get that restful sleep, to get movement in our lives every day, and eat those nutrient-dense foods. As I’ve mentioned before—joy, I think that is such an important part of it too. I know that can be a hard thing right. So many of us are going through varying levels of sadness. Some of us are safe sheltering at home. Some of us are essential workers on the front line. There are so many things going on right now that the world’s topsy-turvy and it can be easy to be falling into anxiety and fear, which is only natural. But the more we can counteract that purposefully with joy the better. In whatever way we do that is a good thing.
I love The Office, the TV show, so I’ve been watching an episode or two of that a day because it makes me laugh and it just takes my mind off things. Laughing is so important right now. In addition to my walks, that’s part of my daily therapy is to laugh in whatever way. Even the passing of the seasons, that is such a powerful thing for me too. It makes us see how precious life is to see the wildflowers come and go so quickly. We can’t hear the wildflowers are blooming, and they will soon be gone, and so it’s that reminder to be present and appreciating things day in and day out and just the joy that surrounds us when we really get to do that.
It takes away the monotony for me. I think of before when I lived in cities, actually Seattle, it was so easy to ignore the seasons with indoor air climate control and being able to get whatever vegetables I wanted whenever at the large grocery stores. It’s easy to just lose sense—it rains nine months out of the year. It can be monotonous in some ways, but when we tap into the seasons, there’s so much richness there. Seeing what birds are coming and going, being in tune with the seasons, recognizing those differences, how slight, seeing the plants come and go—it’s all a beautiful thing.
[01:46:21] Ashley James: I love it. I’ve had several expert guests on this show about how to get rid of parasites. It’s really interesting that we, in our modern age, believe that we’re infallible to parasites because we’re humans, not animals. We live in houses, not in woods, and so of course, we don’t have parasites. Meanwhile, one in three people has a parasitic infection and don’t know it. One of the experts I interviewed, Dr. Jay Davidson, said that our ancestors, even just our grandparents our great-grandparents look 100 years ago, we would regularly deworm ourselves every year with the same herbs that we would give our cattle. Farmers would take the right doses but take the similar deworming herbs that they would give the animals because they knew we needed to cleanse our body.
That was something that we did through trial and error for thousands of years is take herbs and take certain foods that help to remove the parasites from our body. What wild herbs do you take to prevent parasitic infection?
[01:47:42] Rosalee de la Foret: I can’t say that I really take herbs with that intention, but those bitter herbs that I mentioned before or just bitter in that sense is widely used for getting rid of any unwanted creatures growing down there in our bowels. That bitter flavor is something that, I mentioned, when we have a little bit of bitter, it can be enlivening and bring a spark. When you get intensely bitter things, it’s just as bad to us as it is to parasites or whatever. That is the idea, by having these bitter foods, it’s basically sending out a signal like this is not a good place to call home. You want to leave now. Those plants are widely used for that. We call them vermifuge herbs or vermicidal herbs, but it’s rare that we use herbs necessarily to kill. If they kill parasites, then it’s going to be very difficult for our own bodies to handle it, so it can be on that toxic scale. But we can use them to basically show them the door like all right, you don’t want to be here anymore. Those bitter herbs are really important for that.
One of the most famous for this is gentian root. That’s one that doesn’t grow here. I really love to use the herbs that grow around me, but I did fall in love with gentian root. It comes from the Alps in France where my husband’s from, and I love to visit it there. It has been a bit over-harvested, so now I only get cultivated sources of it. You could call it a disastrously bitter herb. It’s not pleasant in any way, shape, or form. In terms of its bitter flavor at the very intense, but widely effective. You could take it in a capsule as a way to avoid taking that super bitter flavor.
One thing I like to do is make my own herbal, I call herbal pastille after the French word, which is basically like an herbal pill. You basically take powdered herbs and mix them into a little ball and then add just a bit of honey to hold it together. Those bitter digestive pills you know can be used for digestion, but again, those bitter flavors are not loved by parasites. So gentian often makes up a big part of that.
[01:50:18] Ashley James: Very interesting. One of the herbs that is relatively safe for us, but not safe for parasites, is mimosa pudica seed, and that’s from ayurvedic medicine. I was surprised to see a mimosa pudica tree growing out past Monroe, Washington. I think it was in Sultan, big beautiful tree. I thought it would only grow in India. Maybe there are different variations of it, but that’s one of the things that Dr. Jay Davidson talks about. As you said, certain ones are really harsh and can be harsh on our bodies as well as harsh on the parasites. We want to do everything we can right now to bolster our immune system and support the terrain of our body so we can have the best outcomes possible when we come in contact with any kind of virus or any kind of pathogen.
You had mentioned violets a few times. Before we wrap up today’s interview, can you tell us about the medicinal properties of violets? Is this just the wild violet flower that you’ve been making these delicious teas out of?
[01:51:37] Rosalee de la Foret: Yeah. The violets I’ve been using are at a friend’s house. The story goes that she got a clump of violets from her friend 20 years ago and planted them in her garden. Now, she has like millions of violets. I mean it just covers the whole sidewalk there where she lives. It was several years ago that she just happened to mention. She has mentioned it offhandedly to me like I got all these violets. They just are invasive and they spread everywhere I was like what? Wait. Tell me more. Now, I go every spring and I get to harvest so many of them. Violets are beautiful plant medicine. You can use the leaves and flowers. The roots can be slightly amidic or make you want to throw up, so those have been used therapeutically in the past, but we don’t use them so much today. Mainly the leaves and the flowers.
We talked about similarly how plantain and mallow especially have that soothing demulcent quality. That is also true of violets. When there are dryness and irritation, violets are really wonderful for that, so kind of the same thing. It’s kind of funny we talked about all these herbs that do that because there’s not a lot of soothing cooling herbs out there, we just happened to talk about them today. Violets are really great for that, great for the dry coughs. I mentioned that they do support lymphatic health. I think of our lymphatic system as this big waterway that’s running throughout our body. Just as rivers and streams can run smoothly or they become stagnant or swollen, same with lymphatic vessels. Violet helps keep things moving cleanly, clearly.
Wild violets love to grow near running water. They will grow on string banks. I like how that it reminds me of how they can be used to keep our internal waterways running really well. Violets are used to break down hardened cysts especially chronic ones. I mentioned it can be used as a breast massage oil. It’s used for fibrocystic breasts. It’s all of those. Anytime there are hot conditions, especially hot dry situations like maybe a rash, it’s really great for moistening that, soothing that as well. Violet is lovely for the nervous system, it’s very calming.
Anytime there’s stress and panic, violets can be used to soothe and calm things. In Iran, they love violet medicine, and they use violets in really interesting ways that we don’t necessarily do in Western herbalism, but I just know from researching it. Now, I’m excited to try it out. There, they use violet for promoting sleep, for example. They use it specifically for people with insomnia, so that’s another way to use that.
Part of the reason that violets can bring joy and help us be more calm is the medicine we make from violets is so profoundly beautiful. I mentioned, you harvest these especially the purple ones. You can use pretty much all violets in the same way, but the viola odorata, which has a beautiful scent to it. There are a couple other purple flowers that have the scent as well, but not all of them do. But if you can find the purple flowers that have the scent, it’s such a unique violet scent and you really cannot find that anywhere else except from the fresh flowers. That’s very hard to capture that for the long term. Anyway, you make a tea from that.
The violet flowers are also used for litmus tests because they’re very sensitive to the pH of the water. When I make violet tea, it actually turns blue. It turns this deep dark sapphire blue. Then if I add just a little bit of lemon juice to it, I’m talking a couple of drops or so, then it turns into this brilliant purple like amethyst little purple or definitely gem-colored. That’s really fun to make medicine with that. I make mocktails with that. I made the syrup, he just made ice cream with it with coconut milk. It’s like a coconut milk ice cream with violet syrup. It’s beautiful. It turned out a pale color when you’re diluting it with all that coconut milk, but it was just really beautiful.
The syrup, as I mentioned, you can drizzle that on whatever you want. I like to add just a little bit to water and drink it in that way. It’s beautiful but it’s also wonderful medicine as I mentioned, it’s great for moving the lymph and addressing stagnant lymph as well as for dry coughs too. Then the leaves are great food and medicine as well. Both flowers and the leaves make a wonderful tea, but you can take those young leaves and add them to your salads. They’re delicious. A bland taste and have a ton of flavor to them, but a great addition to salads as well.
[01:56:57] Ashley James: Very cool. So unlike drugs where most drugs people take because they’re already sick and then they get on a drug, some herbs you can take preventively like you can take as a supplement to feed the body more nourishment to support the body in being healthy. You can figure out how to get these wild herbs into your life every day to increase your vitamins and minerals and fight all the phytonutrients, anti-cancer, antioxidants. Then there are certain herbs that you can take when you have an acute situation. In fact, many drugs, pharmaceutical prescription drugs, are actually based on herbs. They figured out—I mean the most common one everyone knows about is aspirin. Aspirin is a pill, you can buy it in a store. You go to the pharmacy, you buy some aspirin, but aspirin is actually from willow bark.
What’s really interesting is that if you take too much aspirin you can go blind, you can go deaf. I actually had a friend who had aspirin. He had a really bad toothache, and it was like a Friday night. It was so painful that he just started taking aspirin like crazy. By Sunday he was blind and deaf, and he was freaking out, obviously. He gave himself aspirin poisoning because he thought to himself aspirin is healthy because it’s natural, and therefore, I can just keep taking it like candy to get rid of this pain. He soon discovered you can’t. You can probably kill yourself if you take too much aspirin. What’s interesting is if someone were to take the willow bark and make a tea out of it or something and try to get the same medicinal properties, if you take too much of it, there are other compounds that would cause you to start throwing up, that would cause your body to reject.
When we isolate something out of nature—nature has these fail-safes in place. So if you take too much of some herbs, not all, your body will reject it or your body will throw up and try to get rid of it because it’s too much like willow bark. But if we isolate it and make into a drug, then it actually becomes something that could kill us if we take too much of it. It’s interesting to see that in nature, there’s more of a balance. We want to make sure we know how much to take and how much not to take, and know what we should take what we shouldn’t take. Just like drugs, you want to have the same level of respect with herbs. But herbs have a lot more safety than many drugs do. I think it’s very interesting this whole world to dive into and to learn from. I know that my listeners will absolutely love learning from your latest book Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine.
Now you’re giving away a copy of your book to the listeners. They can go to the Learn True Health Facebook group, and you’re going to be giving away a copy of your book, which is really exciting. Thank you so much for offering to give one of our listeners your book. I know that all of our listeners should go out and grab your book because now, the state parks in certain states are reopening. We’re going to have access again to nature, for those who didn’t. This will be such a fun thing to do for the whole family to go out and wild forage and discover this whole pharmacy in our backyard. It’s so beautiful what we can do. Again, with caution, with safety, and with education we can step forward in a very respectful manner into nature and find our remedies. Is there anything you’d like to say to wrap up today’s interview, Rosalee?
[02:01:01] Rosalee de la Foret: I keep thinking about joy today. It is a powerful thing in these times to choose joy with all the uncertainty going around. I would like to leave by encouraging people to get outside and just to observe and experience what’s out there and be open to finding joy and happiness in the simplest of things. Watching a butterfly flutter away, listening to a songbird, feeling the sun the wind on our bodies. If you can get outside even for a little bit, lay on the lawn or anywhere and lay down and just feel the joy of being outside, the fresh air that’s there. I think that is some of the best medicine that we can find right now. The further we want to sink down into that—identifying plants, getting to know them, using them as our food and medicine—the deeper and more profound that joy becomes. It begins with that first step of just getting outside. That’s the step I’d encourage everyone to take.
[02:02:09] Ashley James: Beautiful. All the links to everything that Rosalee does is going to be in the show notes of today’s podcast at learntruehealth.com. Rosalee de la Foret’s website is herbswithrosalee.com. You are welcome back on the show anytime. I know you have even more to teach us. We had this whole section planned out on people, plants, and energetics that I thought that was really fascinating. You teach people how they can understand their symptoms and their energy to pick out the right plants for them. I’d love to have you back on at some point to dive into that. I think the listeners would really enjoy that.
[02:02:52] Rosalee de la Foret: Yeah, that’d be fun. I’d really enjoy that as well. I really like this format that you have of allowing so much time to really sink into these conversations. I’ve been enjoying it while listening to your podcast and then to being a guest, it’s nice to be able to really talk about these things in depth.
[02:03:10] Ashley James: Yes, let’s go deep. It’s so funny when I first launched this show I got a negative review. They’re like this is too long. I’m like then don’t listen.
[02:03:19] Rosalee de la Foret: Yeah, it’s not for them.
[02:03:20] Ashley James: Then go listen to something shorter. This is not for people who want short podcasts. I want to go deep, I want to get lots of information, and I want to really get value. I’ve had listeners say sometimes it takes them a week to finish an episode but they’re so happy because they’ll always play it when they’re in the car. I had so many listeners say that an episode that really intrigues them they’ll listen two or three times and take notes. That’s when I knew I needed to transcribe the episodes, so we got a transcriptionist. We transcribe them so listeners don’t have to—I mean, you can take notes if you want to—but they can go to the learntruehealth.com website and they can read through the transcription to find, and we try to make them as accurate as possible.
There’s always goof-ups in transcribing, which are comical, but they can go through and see things so they can reference what you said as well. It’s really exciting that my listeners love the deep long conversations where we get to go into all this wonderful information and learn so much. It’s like taking a college course from you. We just dived in and learned so much from you today, and I can’t wait to learn more from you. I can’t wait to get your book Wild Remedies. I know my listeners would love to get your book as well. Of course, having you back on the show. I can’t wait to dive into understanding more about how to identify what plants we should use for ourselves. That’s going to be a lot of fun. So yeah, please come back on the show.
[02:04:50] Rosalee de la Foret: Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. Thanks, Ashley.
[02:04:51] Ashley James: If you enjoyed today’s episode and if the Learn True Health podcast makes a difference in your life, please consider joining my membership. For less than $10 a month you can support me to continue doing this podcast, and you can also support your health because I’ve made a membership site where I teach you amazing delicious healing recipes including a recipe I talked about today, the stinging nettle soup, which is so delicious. It’s the most delicious nettle soup I’ve ever had. That recipe, among many other delicious healing recipes, is in the Learn True Health Home Kitchen membership. So you’d benefit this podcast to continue to do the work that I do, and you benefit yourself and your family by joining the Learn True Health Home Kitchen.
Go to learntruehealth.com/homekitchen and give it a try. For under $10, you’d be getting access to all these great videos that I keep making for you every week with these amazingly delicious healing recipes. I keep saying the word delicious, but they are, they really are delicious and they’re healing foods. So it’s like this win-win situation. Help yourself, also help the podcast. I’d love to see you there. I’d love to support you in your health and healing success, and I can’t wait to see you there. Go to learntruehealth.com/homekitchen and check it out. Thank you so much for being a listener of the Learn True Health podcast. I so appreciate you, and I hope you have an excellent rest of your day.