507: Understanding the Polyvagal Theory with Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie
Herbalist Elizabeth Guthrie, Ph.D. in Natural Medicine, shares her insights on the multifaceted world of plants and their significance in promoting well-being. She emphasizes the valuable role of invasive species in soil amendment, dispelling misconceptions and illustrating how these plants can be harnessed for nutritional and medicinal benefits. The discussion expands into the anxiolytic effects of Mimosa pudica bark and its role in downregulating the nervous system, with a focus on polyvagal theory and its implications. Furthermore, Elizabeth delves into the significance of the vagal nerve as a conduit of memories and the intricate connection between the gut and brain in shaping overall well-being.
Explore the transformative power of your unique plant allies as you harness nature’s wisdom for healing and resilience — and embark on a journey of self-discovery, connecting you deeply with the natural world. Sign up now for the free training— learntruehealth.com/plants
Ashley James & Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie
- Mimosa tree insights
- Anxiolytic effects and relaxation
- Beneficial invasives may provide nutritional and medicinal benefits
- Untapped nutritional value in roadside plants often dismissed as weeds
- Anxiolytic effects of Mimosa pudica bark and its role in soothing the nervous system
- Vagal nerve's holistic role
- Holographic nature of the nervous system
Hello true health seeker, and welcome to another exciting episode of the Learn True Health Podcast. We have Part 2 with Elizabeth Guthrie, who we had since the last episode, Episode #506. She was a Ph.D. candidate, and now she's officially earned her Ph.D. in Natural Medicine, and she comes back on the show to dive deeper into this discussion of using herbs as our own medicine at home. And we discuss how you can work with herbs, for your own somatics, for your nervous system. I know you'll love today's interview. I hope you go back and listen to Episode #506, which was Part 1. We just continued the discussion. So, even if you didn't listen to 506, you'd still be able to gain lots of information from today's interview. And I apologize; my microphone is just a little bit off. You're still able to hear everything and gain knowledge from the episode. A knob got bumped, so it's just a little bit off, and I apologize. I'm going to correct that and get it all fixed and sound great again.
So this interview took place a few weeks ago, which we're publishing right now. But today, I just finished an interview with one of the top scientists around structured water and the analemma, and I'm very excited to be publishing that. And that is going to be the next episode, Episode #508. So be sure to check that out. It's going to come out in the next few days. And Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie is giving us access to her free course, so we want to make sure that you guys know to go to learntruehealth.com/plants and sign up for her free class that she's giving on Saturday. And even if it's past the date, go ahead and go to that link because I'll make sure that it forwards to the course she's giving and any future free talks she's giving. But this particular webinar is going to be fascinating. And if you have any interest in utilizing plants and learning more about natural medicine, learning more about emotional and physical health, emotional, mental and physical health, and working with plants, then I invite you to check it out. I think you'll really like it. Learntruehealth.com/plants takes you to sign up for her free talk coming this Saturday.
Make sure you subscribe wherever you listen from, whether it's the Apple podcast app, Android, Google, PodBean, Spotify, even on Amazon Podcasts, all kinds of places, or just on the learntruehealth.com website. You could be listening from there. Wherever you're listening from, make sure that you subscribe so that you get the notifications for when episodes come out.
I want to make sure that you definitely hear next week's episode. It's going to be amazing. I was just floored. There were several times when my jaw was on the floor, and I just can't wait to give you that information. With these interviews, it's like gold is coming out of the mouths of the guests that I have on, and I get so excited thinking about these little tidbits. Sometimes it's just one sentence. Someone says one sentence, and it is all the insight that was needed to spark the action, the mechanism of action for you to take your health to the next level. And certainly, I learned so much from my guests that have taken my life to the next level. So, I'm so thrilled to share this with you. I know today's interview will give you lots of gold, lots of insights as to what you can add to your life to enrich your life and your health and your continued growth in your well-being. And next week's episodes are going to be amazing as well. So remember, go to learntruehealth.com/plants so you can get access to Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie's talk coming up soon, and have yourself a fantastic rest of your day and enjoy today's interview.
[0:04:17.4] Ashley James: Welcome to the Learn True Health Podcast. I'm your host, Ashley James. This is Episode #507. I am so excited for today's guest. We have back on the show — I think it's the third time we've had you on the show, and now I can say, Ph.D. Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie. Welcome back to the show. It's so good to have you. We recently published an episode with you where it was just before you got your credentials, and you're saying, “Any day now, I might find out,” and then, of course, it was days after I saw you on Facebook going, “Yay, I got it!” So you've been Ph.D. for a while now. Although I've just published that episode. It was actually a few months ago. So it's been a few months, and so much has happened in your life. I'm really excited to have you back on the show because what you teach is a type of medicine that is so accessible. We actually all used to use it. Our ancestors only a few generations ago had such vast knowledge, and we've lost it in the last hundred years because of –, and I don't want to get into sounding like a conspiracy theorist, but it's the truth — that there was a concerted effort by those who owned the pharmaceutical companies to make it so that we didn't practice natural medicine. Instead, we focused on just going to the doctor and buying drugs that were petroleum-based patented drugs. And three generations later, we have no idea what herbs do other than maybe drinking some peppermint tea. And yet, right in your backyard, you have access to amazing herbs.
My friend, last year, got stung by a wasp really bad, and a friend of his who, I believe, is a First Nations person, a Native American, or has that background, turned to my friend and said, “Oh, go grab that yarrow right there. Chew it up and put it on the wound. Put it on the bite.” And my friend, who was in immense pain, did it, and within seconds, it felt like the pain just went away. And he was like, “Woah, what was that?” And his friend was like, “Yeah, yarrow. It grows everywhere and really good for…” and he started listing off all these things, and it was right there. He got stung, and he didn't even have to take a step. It was like the yarrow was the medicine.
And the cure to the problem was right there at his fingertips. And this is what it's like in our backyard. You could just reach out. You can just walk ten paces, reach out, touch, and as long as you don't have just a manicured lawn, you can grab something that has wonderfully beautiful medicinal properties. There are trees that I know in our area that grow the seeds that fight parasites. There are things that we think are weeds that are growing up between the cracks in the cement, making wonderful poultices for eczema and bug bites and for calming fevers. The list goes on and on. It's amazing that we could just take a little bit of time, learn from Elizabeth today, and begin to cultivate this excitement around how we can use plant medicine to support our body's ability to heal itself. Even in some cases, in the first stage, just to calm the nervous system and bring in nutrients, decrease inflammation, swelling, and pain.
So we have lots to talk about today. I'm really excited that Elizabeth is doing a free introductory event to plant medicine. You're going to learn so much. I want you to sign up for it. Go to learntruehealth.com/plants. I just tried to make it as simple as possible to type in instead of having to type in plant medicine. So just type in learntruehealth.com/plants, and that'll take you to her free introductory event, where she's going to teach you lots of great information, even more than we're going to discuss today. So, welcome back to the show. It's great to have you here.
[0:08:39.0] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: Thanks. I'm thrilled to be here.
[0:08:41.1] Ashley James: Absolutely. So, take us back to the moments we hung up the last time, and then days later, you finally got your credentials, your very hard-earned Ph.D. in Natural Medicine. Let us know what's happened since. What has unfolded since?
[0:08:59.9] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: Wow, there's been a lot of different fascinating discussions with people. I got my Ph.D. in Natural Medicine because it was accessible to me. It was something that I was able to do. I was able to really buckle down and do a lot of hard work around it. I've learned a lot about natural medicine in general and, of course, my focus on plant medicine and the way that it can help after significant emotional distress or trauma, depending on the situation. And it is a little bit different from Naturopathic Medicine. There are naturopathic medical schools in both America and Canada that can teach you how to become almost like a primary care physician. This was more research-based, but it's been really helpful in my practical application as well because I do support people in a clinical setting to help them find out what their bodies need and what's going to help them the most.
I guess it's been about nine months. It has been a whirlwind. I got to teach a class for the American Herbalist Guild on polyvagal theory in herbalism. I've begun to train in somatic practices. So I was already doing some somatic work, and, of course, I've been training for yoga therapy and things like that. But I've really started to do these professional level trainings with Dr. Peter Levine in somatic practices in order to better merge plant medicine and what's happening in the body, how we can really come in contact with our body, and really get to that point where we feel embodied. So that, then, our intuition is a little bit clearer. When we look out into nature, we look at the different rhythms that are happening in nature. We look at the things that are occurring, the seasons, or sometimes the doctrine of signatures for the plants in the way that the plants look or the things that were called to. If we are more centered on ourselves and we understand a little bit about the plants around us, it becomes easier for us to intuitively reach for the right things at the right time. And that's a lot of the work that I've been focused on.
[0:11:29.5] Ashley James: Love it. Well, since we talked, I've been having tea a lot with my son. He gravitates towards them much more intuitively than even I do. And it's cool because he's very sure of himself, and he's very grounded in knowing who he is. He knows what he likes and what he doesn't like. And he asks for tea, and that's so cool. So we've been playing around with the different teas, and he loves Sleepytime tea and all those herbs that are just calming and soothing right before bed, and I noticed he does definitely seem to just ease into bedtime a bit better. So we enjoy, and we each share a cup of Sleepytime tea. On the back, it says do not let children drink it, and I noticed that after about the fifth time, we were drinking it. I was like, “Oh no, why?” It's not like I'm giving him five tea bags. It's not strong. I'm not making a strong one. But I was like, “Why is it saying this?” So maybe you could enlighten me. Are there teas that they sell on the shelves of the stores just like premade kind of tea mixes that are unsafe for certain ages? Obviously, I'm not feeding it to an infant. My son's 70 lbs, and he's drinking one cup. So maybe you could enlighten us on that. And what we've really enjoyed is that he likes picking his own herbs and making tea like peppermint. He likes picking fresh peppermint, and he'll make his own teas without me prompting him. He kind of just knows how to do it, which is amazing. He's got this innate knowledge.
And then lately, I've been making a turbo moon tea elixir where I've mixed fifteen different herbs. I felt really drawn to that Ayurvedic mixture. Let's see, I have got like ten to fifteen of them, so I don't know if I can name them all off, but I've got like licorice root, dandelion root, a ton of turmeric, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, ginger. The list goes on and on. And then I blend them all up with pepper, with some coconut milk and water, and then I put it in the fridge, and it becomes this congealed, very thick substance. So it's a concentrate, and I just take a spoonful of that — and ashwagandha, a ton of ashwagandha — put it in a mug of hot water, and I stir it, and then that's the tea. My body loves it because it's so calming, so relaxing. I fed some to my husband last night, and he fell asleep within five minutes, snoring on the couch. I was like, “This is really good.” Any time I do this moon tea — I call it moon tea, but there's way more in it than the normal moon tea — I just notice that my nervous system loves it, and I have even better sleep. And, of course, my husband, it just knocked him right out, which is wonderful. A lot of the stuff in there helps detoxify, and it's antiparasitic. Its anti-inflammatory and its adaptogenic herbs are helping to stabilize the body. Ashwagandha is good for men and women. I always thought it was just women, but I started reading about how ashwagandha is good for men, and I thought, “Oh, I'm going to feed this to my husband.” And he loves it.
So you've inspired us to play with herbs since we talked. So thank you. Thank you for that. So you came up with this course — the introductory events and then the whole course that comes after it. So, fill us in on what we are going to learn. Or can we dive into what you are so excited to teach us today?
[0:15:33.2] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: I think it's really interesting because your comments about your son and his intuitive sense towards the plants, making the teas, and choosing the things that he's really drawn to at that moment is a natural intuition that we all have. And I believe that a lot of the time, one of the reasons that we have this kind of deeper homesickness, this deeper sense of “I don't quite feel like I'm in the right place,” comes from our lack of connection to nature.
When we look around us, and we connect to nature, we connect to the rhythms of the universe and what's occurring. And when we can start to really find ourselves in that deeper relationship — first, it may just be like, “Oh, this is nice,” but the more that we do it, the deeper our relationship becomes. And we can get to a point where that stillness actually becomes part of what we experience on a regular basis. And once we're at a place where we can embody the stillness of just knowing that these rhythms are a continual thing, “this too shall pass” — some of the stuff that we teach in mindfulness-type practices — then we can really get to a point where we can listen to our deepest consciousness and understand more about why we're here doing what we're doing. Like what our purpose in life is or the way that we can better connect to things, that kind of ancient wisdom that everybody holds, but we may not be able to access as easily when we're so disconnected from our natural state. And that's a lot of what we're talking about.
Now, of course, we're getting into, “Here are the different plants you can do for this, and here's the teas that you could talk about or hear, the different essential oils.” But the core essence of this course, starting with this free introductory event, and then, of course, if you decide to come into the main course, we're really getting into tapping into that more natural intuitive sense to help to build and strengthen that relationship with the plants that are around us and what that means for each of us individually.
[0:17:53.1] Ashley James: So what herbs have you been featuring the last few months? What herbs have you been most excited about teaching or using yourself, seeing that they are so needed right now?
[0:18:08.7] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: So, it's interesting that you ask me that because I've been chomping at the bit to talk about invasive species. Think about dandelions. For a lot of people, it is considered invasive, and the entire plant dandelion is helpful. The new leaves that come out in the spring they're nice on a salad as part of the bitters. There are a lot of benefits to the root. You can get roasted dandelion root to add to your coffee for people who drink coffee, and that's a really interesting flavor addition, and it has benefits. So there are all kinds of different ways you can use dandelion, and yet a lot of people see it as an invasive weed.
To answer your question, one of my favorite plants right now is the mimosa tree. And it's really funny because the woman that you shared on your Facebook, I know that woman. That's one of the herbalists from our area. She and I have a very similar view on Mimosa because a lot of people go, “Oh, it's so invasive. It's terrible. I hate it. I can't get rid of it.” And I'm not saying that it's not very frustrating if it takes over and you don't want to take over. But I was very excited this year when one finally popped up. My neighbors have one on the property line, and every year, I've been like, “Okay, come here, come here.” And this year, what has finally popped up on the property? The bark and the flowers both have anxiolytic relaxing effects to them. I love this plant, and I use it for flower essences. I use it in tincture form for this anxiolytic effect. So, I am thrilled that this little baby has popped up on my property.
And so we don't need to just see invasive species as a pain. Sometimes, they're helping to change the soil. So, a lot of the time, these things that we consider invasive may actually be helping to amend the soil. Also, even kudzu has some properties that are beneficial. I don't use it very much. And so those kinds of things we can harvest without having to worry about the sustainability of it. Some plants we have to be more careful with because we've never harvested them. But a lot of these invasive plants that have benefits, either nutritional or the medicinal herbal side of things, whatever that is, we can harvest these and use them.
I was recently reading a book by Pascal Baudar. It's his new book called Wildcrafted Vinegars. And one of the things that he mentions is that there are all kinds of different plants. He used to live in California, and there were all kinds of different plants that would just grow on the roadside and all over the hills that had nutritional value to them. But people saw them as weeds and never did anything with them. And you know, when people are concerned about, are we going to have enough access to food. Are we going to have enough capacity to take care of ourselves and things like that? So it may be more on the proper side of things, but still, we can look at those. And there are certain foods that can come from these things that we call weeds. There are medicinal benefits and survivability benefits. I encourage you, whatever you have around you, to get out and start learning about it and start understanding what these plants are. Not just the native plants but the invasive plants that we have in our area that might have benefits. Sometimes, you can find some really strong allies in those plants that we might normally think of as kind of a pain.
[0:22:23.8] Ashley James: So the Mimosa pudica bark, you said the word anxiolytic? Can you explain what that means? So, if we were to take the bark and make tea out of it and drink it, what effect would it have on us?
[0:22:36.1] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: So it helps to reduce the feelings of anxiety. It has a very cooling, relaxing type energetics that helps you bring the nervous system back down. So this gets a little bit into the polyvagal theory — the sympathetic state, that fight or flight response. If somebody is really into a fight or flight mode, then the Mimosa can be very helpful on that front.
[0:23:04.4] Ashley James: I can hear people say, “What if I poison myself because I don't know what I'm doing? Or what if I drink too much of it or have a bad reaction?” They're thinking, “I have to call poison control or something.” Can you maybe relieve our tension around the fear of using plant medicine because we're so used to picking up a prescription bottle and seeing how many to take and knowing that it's controlled, even though tens and thousands, if not a hundred thousand people a year die of improperly using prescription medication, not including the deaths overusing them? We think prescribed medicine is safe, and it's not. There's also a risk to that as well. There's more risk because the safeguards from nature have been taken out.
I think we've talked about it before, but it's worth repeating that the willow bark was where we get aspirin from. Willow bark in its whole state; if you were to make a tea out of that, for example, or tincture, if you consume too much, it would cause you to throw it up. So it helps prevent you from overdosing. Whereas aspirin, they removed those things in nature that help us. I'm not saying every plant has the safeguard because, obviously, there are many plants that you can't eat, and that'll kill you. But there are even more plants out there that you can eat, and that will help. It's like snakes. Most snakes won't kill you, but it doesn't mean all snakes will kill you, either. So, a bit of knowledge goes a long way, and having a healthy respect for plants, just like having a healthy fear of human-made medicine or chemical-made medicine, we should just use more caution and look into each thing more. So, for all of us who have a mimosa tree in our backyard, why don't you just run out there right now and start gnawing on the bark.
Tell us about the safeguards of beginning to use plant medicine just so that we can be rest assured. Like my son, without any thought, he will run outside, pick some bush, and start eating it because he loves plants. And I'm like, “Sweetie, there might be something in this garden that could kill you.” I know there's at least one plant that is in Washington State. I mean, it's killed one person in the last 60 years, but it could make people very sick. And I've told him not every plant is safe. We should really know what we're putting in our mouths. But he's like, “Well, you told me vegetables are good, and this is green, so I'm just going to eat it. He likes foraging, but he does it without me. So he just comes home chewing on something, and then I have to say, “What did it look like? Hold on, let me look it up.” So we want to go in our backyard or out in nature, or just go to the health food store, maybe. Sometimes, I start there. Can you teach us a bit about the safeguards, though, while we get into this?
[0:26:23.4] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: So I encourage people to look into local guides and their plants, what they have locally grown. There are all kinds of different books that are available to give you an idea as to the safe dosing of different plants. And I will say, when you start looking into this, a lot of the dosing is based off of somebody who weighs about 150 lb. And, of course, children's dosing is a little bit different. But when it comes to an adult, usually, if you're looking at a bottle, it's kind of based off of somebody that is 150 lb. If you're heavier than that, sometimes you'll need to take more. But when you get into that level of taking capsules and taking a lot of it, and maybe there are some extracts, or maybe there's something else, that's where I think it's really helpful to find a clinical herbalist in your area, and work with them to learn a lot of these safeguards, a lot of these things that we're finding out.
I think what we got into talking about last time with turmeric and the fact that there are some extracts now that may be giving people problems. We don't quite know yet. Is the whole plant or the whole root safe? Are these extracts, these curcuminoid extracts, giving people problems like, “What's happening there?” And you can work with a clinical herbalist to get a better feel for that. But there are a lot of plants that we can get into, most of which are in the teas that we see at the grocery store, like we're talking about, that are generally recognized as safe. For most people, there's not going to be an issue. If you have a lot of chronic illness, if you have a lot of unusual allergies, that would be a good time to say, “Hey, I think I am going to at least try to get an idea of what I want to do together.” Take it to an herbalist and just pay for time to sit there and talk through it with them. Maybe it's not like a full consultation, but maybe it's almost like a mentorship session. Consultations are good too, but if you're already kind of taking it into your own hands, you already have an idea; maybe you sit down for an hour of mentorship with them where they can help keep you in that safe range. But generally speaking, if you're in a situation where you're relatively healthy, and you're trying to just start to explore these things, then a lot of what you're talking about, like peppermint, is relatively safe for most people. There are going to be some people that may have some issues with acid reflux with it. But for the most part, people are going to be okay, and it's going to be fine, like lavender and chamomile.
So there's a lot of these different herbs and a lot of the adaptogenic herbs that are very safe for most people. So there's a lot of those herbs that you can learn a little bit about, learn a bit about the dosing, and very quickly benefit from them. For instance, with the bark, it is about 10 grams into a decoction, and that's what people can use. Now, it's going to be lower if you put it into a tincture. But it's a pretty decent amount of it that is considered, at this point, safe to use. So it's definitely like an entire conversation in itself, like safety and safety buffers. And I think it's just really important to recognize that you don't necessarily read an article on the internet and assume that it's right. Go back to these people who are herbalists who have been doing this for years or who have credentialing. Notice that I used that separately because there are a lot of people who don't have credentialing who are very good herbalists and have experience. So, both of those things are valid career paths. So look for things like K.P. Khalsa's books. It's a little bit older, but Louise Tenney was a master herbalist who has some good reference guides. Obviously, Rosemary Gladstar's work is really amazing. Now I'm freezing up on the man who did the adaptogens. But David Winston has an adaptogens book if you're into that. So there are all kinds of different places you can go to find out what people are generally seeing as safe dosing.
[0:30:54.3] Ashley James: And they can also go to you, right?
[0:30:58.7] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: I'm here. I just don't want to be totally focused on myself as perfect, like I know all of this. A lot of this I'm learning from. I'm standing on the shoulders of giants with a lot of this information. We have a lot of indigenous healers who have given us a lot of information, and we've got a lot of these people who have really studied and codified what these dosages look like. But yeah, absolutely. And there are ways to look at this from a more energetic angle. So, the first interview I did with you was on chakras and talking about energy healing because, at the base, I am very much an energy healer. And so there are ways to get into plant medicine where we are focused on very low dosing or drop doses that are focused more on the energetic train and less on the chemical constituents. There's just so many different ways that you can go with us. And yes, that is absolutely an option as well.
[0:31:59.1] Ashley James: So, bringing us back to the Mimosa pudica plant, which I first learned about because I had Dr. Jay Davidson on the show, and he talked about using it in conjunction with other herbs. But he used it from ayurvedic medicine to rid himself of 12-inch worms that were parasites in him. And then, he created a line of parasite-cleansing supplements in which Mimosa pudica was a main component of that. Mimosa pudica seed, I should say. So I became very excited about Mimosa pudica, but then I learned that it's sort of like the dandelion. We can use the flower. We can use the leaves. We can use the seed. We can use the bark.
Tell us about the other parts of the Mimosa pudica. Let's pretend 20 years from now, when you have this thriving Mimosa pudica tree in your backyard, what are you going to do with all the properties of this tree and beyond the bark, helping us calm ourselves from anxiety and the seeds that have antiparasitic properties. What other healthy properties do the other aspects of the plant have?
[0:33:15.6] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: Mimosa pudica is actually a different species from Albizia julibrissin. It's very similar, though, but the Mimosa, which is called Mimosa pudica, is actually like the one you're talking about, where I think it's used a lot in Ayurveda and TCM, maybe.
[0:33:35.9] Ashley James: Oh, so these are like cousins?
[0:33:37.8] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: Yeah, they're kind of cousins. And so, Albizia, you'll hear it is sometimes called silk tree, but it's also called Mimosa here in the South. But our main invasive mimosa is the Albizia julibrissin. The bark and the flowers are the two things that I use most frequently. So with pudica, I think you use the seeds, and maybe the roots are another aspect that you can get into. But for this plant, the Albizia julibrissin, that's the one that I work with most. I tend to get the flowers in the late spring when they bloom and tincture them, and then go back in the fall when it's time to trim it back, and trim it back and take the bark, and I do it right before it starts to get really cold because obviously, the energetics move into the roots when we get in the late fall and early winter. But in mid-fall, probably mid-to-late September, I'm going to trim it back and take the bark and put it into the same tincture I put the flowers into. And then, I use that as one of the relaxing, cooling herbs and formulas that I use specifically to support people who are dealing with that sympathetic fight-or-flight state. So that's a lot of it for me because a lot of the time, I am working with people that have a lot of autoimmune issues or maybe chronic pain and things like that. But a lot of the work that we're doing actually starts in the nervous system.
And so, when I'm using things like Mimosa and things like that, I'm not worried as much about the anti-inflammatory properties. They are good. But what I'm really focused on with it is the cooling and relaxing properties that it offers the nervous system to help bring them back into balance, so that their body is no longer in that alarm state, so that their body can start doing what it naturally does to reduce inflammation and flush everything out and get them back into balance. So that's kind of where I use it. I know there are other people who use it in other ways, but that's one of my favorite ways to work with it.
[0:35:57.7] Ashley James: Very cool. I love it. And it's so interesting about the idea that an invasive, not noxious species, but an invasive species could actually be there for our benefit to help balance the ecosystem or prepare the soil or something maybe medicinally that we need. I think of other examples of that. So, there are a lot of invasive thistles in Washington State. I'm thinking about the invasive trees and plants. Not the noxious ones, not the poisonous ones, but the ones that are safe to eat, but they're just kind of taking over. And I'm just wondering if you could share, if you know a bit more about other ones that are known medicinal invasive species.
[0:36:50.2] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: So I can speak mostly from the South because that's where I'm at. But like kudzu, it is rampant here, and there are traditional uses for kudzu. There's kudzu jelly. There is a reason that some people use it for headaches and things like that. There's all kinds of things like that. Somebody said English ivy, but I have not played with that. I've not dug into that. And I'm trying to think of ones that might be out there as well. And chickweed, is chickweed something that you all have?
[0:37:34.1] Ashley James: We've got English ivy, knotweed, Scotch broom, ragwort, Kitsap weeds. There are a lot of different thistles, although I don't know their names. Dogwood trees take over everywhere. Well, it's something like you said — it's very regional.
[0:38:02.9] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: Right. And that's the beauty of getting out there and really learning from a local herbalist. I'm happy to help anybody get started on that side of things. A lot of the work that I do doesn't consist of necessarily, specifically, it's more about the connection once you find plants that you're interested in. It's more about encouraging the exploration of this plant. So now, locally here, I've got chickweed. Like I was just saying, that is invasive, but it's edible. There are so many different things you can do with it, and there's all kinds of stuff like that all across the world.
[0:38:40.5] Ashley James: Okay, so let's talk about chickweed. I'm going to Google it so I can know what it looks like. But let's talk about it. So you can eat it. What is it good for? What does it help people with?
[0:38:50.9] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: Chickweed, I tend to use it just as part of the food. That's the beauty of a lot of these plants. There's a medicinal side to them, but then you also have the fact that a lot of these things are edible, and they can be fermented into really interesting culinary things that people can use. A lot of the time, chickweed is something that people are talking about for digestion. I see it a lot because it is a spring herb, so it's kind of part of those clearing herbs that we use early in the spring. Some people use it to try to help with the kind of systemic inflammation that leads to circulatory problems. I can't think of the official word for it, but obesity and things like that. But I don't go too far into that because I have a doctorate. I have a Ph.D., but I'm not a medical doctor. So, I'm less worried about diagnosing somebody with diabetes or metabolic syndrome. That's the word I couldn't think of. I'm not looking to diagnose somebody with metabolic syndrome and say, “Oh, here are the herbs that can help you.” I'm more about the rhythms of the seasons that we're in. So, in the spring, we eat chickweed. We eat dandelion leaves. We do things like that to help clear the system, to help clear the congestion from winter, to help our body to prepare for the spring energies that are coming up.
If somebody comes to me and they've got metabolic syndrome, I'm less worried about metabolic syndrome and more worried about what are the energetic patterns happening in their body. Is there a lot of stuff? Usually, somebody's coming to me because they've got some form of trauma or emotional struggles and things like that. They really want help with mental health-type things. So we're looking at the nervous system first, like, what's happening in the nervous system? There is a lot of heat and irritation in the nervous system that we can use to cool things, like chickweed is kind of cooling, right? And it can help to cool the body down and bring it back into balance. And that's where some of the polyvagal stuff comes into play with a dorsal vagal versus sympathetic. And if somebody's in a sympathetic state, there are certain herbs that energetically have benefits for that sympathetic state versus the herbs that are going to be more helpful for the dorsal vagal state, where somebody's body is almost too cold, and there's almost not enough movement. And their nervous system has almost slowed down too much, and we have to warm it back up and bring movement back in.
[0:41:45.7] Ashley James: Just to clarify, for those who just need a refresher in dorsal vagal, polyvagal, fight or flight, sympathetic versus rest and digest, parasympathetic, or maybe, like you said, they're having trouble getting proper vagal tone. I don't want to say fight or flight, but when we need that cortisol, we need that stimulus, those healthy cortisol levels, it's just not there. So, for me, I had a really bad end stage, chronic adrenal fatigue. So bad that if something were to happen, I wouldn't have been able to jump up and run out of a burning building. I didn't have to get up and go. And then, out of nowhere, I'd have these adrenaline dumps where I felt like I was dying. That would happen occasionally, like my body was like, “Okay, come on, let's go. Come on, let's go. Let's just release the cortisol.” And it was dysregulated. That was not healthy, and it took nutrition and dietary changes and lifestyle changes. And then the final thing really was minerals, remineralizing my body. But it took a lot of healthy changes to get me back to where I was balanced again.
And thinking about the herbs that I was regularly using, I can remember cinnamon. I was taking cinnamon capsules. It had a few other things in it, but it was like some minerals packed with cinnamon. That was brilliant for me, the minerals. Cinnamon is the only herb I can remember. I know that there were a few other ones. This was like twelve years ago. But I was very exhausted all the time and didn't have to get up and go. So, for me, I was like the other side, where people who are living on cortisol, they're living on adrenaline. They're kind of tired-wired at night, and sometimes they can't bring themselves down. They might go, go, go during the day, but then when they need to relax, they can't, and then it gets to the point where they're burnt out. So when they need to get up and go, they can't. So, the vagal nerve is brilliant. We definitely want to talk a bit more about that. We've discovered it before, but it's so worth talking about more. It's a wonderful nerve that runs from the brain to the gut. And there's so much to discuss because there's a direct connection. We've got like a brain in our gut. We have a brain in our heart, and we have a brain in our head. And that's why we're just discovering what kind of what we know in natural medicine, in indigenous medicine, for hundreds and hundreds of years. We're now just discovering in the West that there are bundles of nerves in the heart and in the gut and that they're communicating to the brain. We used to think the brain just tells the body what to do. But we actually have a brain in our heart, a brain in our gut telling our brain stuff. It's like a consciousness, like thinking that we do in our head. Sometimes, I go all over the place, but it makes sense in my brain.
There's a really great book written a long time ago, and I read it back in 2005, and it still sits with me. It's called The Holographic Universe, and it talks about how we think that all of our thinking is in our head, but it's actually stored holographic throughout our whole body. And it's so beautiful — this idea that our nervous system is actually throughout our whole body, and we can store memories. People will have transplants, like a heart transplant, and then they'll have memories from the person they got it from. There was even a little girl who had a transplant, and she had perfect memories of the murder, and they were able to use them in court and convict the murderer. And that was the organ that she received from the murder victim. We've got several other cases in which we've seen that memories exist outside the brain because the stored holographic leads to the whole nervous system. So that's why I love the vagal nerve because it's this superhighway from the gut to the brain.
And there's more going on in the gut that we need to acknowledge like a thyroid hormone is turned over and produced in the gut that we always think it's just in the thyroid, but there's actually stuff in the gut that's very important. Something like upwards of 70% of our serotonin is made in the gut. There's so much going on with the 6 lb of bacteria in your gut that's making so many of our nutrients for us from our food. So you eat that McDonald's, that's what you're using to build yourself. But that's also what you're using to build your microbiome and feed your microbiome, and you feed the wrong microbiome. It's a bunch of sugar and flour. The bad microbiome is going to produce bad chemicals. So I could go on and on. But the vagal nerve is so important on an emotional level, mental level, physical level, energetic, and spiritual level for our being.
So there's my little soapbox rant about how much I love the vagal nerve. But you talked about the vagal nerve when it comes to herbs and how we can acknowledge, “Okay, I'm kind of running empty.” How can we restore ourselves? “Okay, I'm running. My body is running like there's no tomorrow, and I need to calm myself and put myself in healing mode.” When we're in fight or flight, we're not really in healing mode. Our body shuts off in somatic processes for long-term healing in order to survive the day, the fight, or the flight. So we want to bring restoration because it's good to have the ability to fight or fight when we need to. It's good to have the rest when we need to have to bring ourselves back into the balance. And that's what I love. You teach us how to think about plants as our support system for bringing the nervous system back into check.
[0:48:07.2] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: Yeah, and there's a lot of nuance to that. And that's some of what we get into in the course. It's like, “Well, if you have this going on, then is it sympathetic? Is it dorsal vagal?” Sympathetic means fight-or-flight. The dorsal vagal is a part of the vagus nerve that creates the freeze response that shuts down. And so, what do we do when we're having those responses? How do we balance that back out? And those responses are healthy in certain situations. But like you said, what's happening for a lot of us, especially with the life that we have to live to survive in today's society in a lot of situations that get thrown off, a lot of that is being held in different parts of our nervous system. A lot of the frustrations or the traumas or whatever else, the memories, as you said, like with the holographic body, that's getting held in other places in our nervous system. And so a lot of the conversation becomes, “What are the herbs that we are drawn to?” Because we can talk about medicinal plants. But we can also have plant friends that we don't eat. But the energy, the resonance between them and us, is something that you can't replace, and it feels comfortable, and it feels safe. A lot of the times when you've been through a lot, and things have been very bad chaotic — there's good chaos, and there's bad chaos — but when you've been through something that's overwhelmingly chaotic, sometimes it can begin to feel like this is too much. Everything feels like I can't get to a point where I know what's going to happen next. And if you have a plant ally, a plant buddy, if you will — it sounds fancy to call it an ally, but —
[0:50:06.6] Ashley James: Emotional support plant.
[0:50:08.0] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: Right. It becomes an emotional support plant. And I have some of those. I have this bloodleaf. I don't use it for anything nutritional-based. I don't use it for anything in the medicinal realm. But the plant itself, I feel comfortable with that plant. And when I'm around that plant, I get the same feeling from that plant. And so now that becomes almost a regulation tool for me. So, there's a side to polyvagal theory called co-regulation. Usually, we talk about it with adults and children. If the adult can consciously allow themselves to stay in that ventral vagal state, which is a part of the vagus nerve that helps us feel connected. It allows us to go into rest and digest where the healing can occur. If the adult is able to consciously do things to help themselves stay in that state and their child is dysregulated, the child can begin to see the adults and see the adults' facial expressions and body movements, and they will begin to regulate. And if the adult can continue to keep themselves in that ventral vagal state, it helps the child to regulate. And so adults can do this for each other. But I have begun to realize that you can get some of that from plants. It's not quite the same thing as being around another mammal, and so on and so forth. But you can get some of that from plants. If there is a plant that you enjoy, that you feel safe enough to really get into that place where you can begin feeling healed, that connection is important.
So, in this course that I'm doing, we're not just talking about, “Use this for this nervous system state. Use this to help your digestive system.” We are talking about some. We might talk a little bit about the different plants that people bring to the table, depending on what they've got going on, and so on and so forth. But really, the core of this is there are all kinds of ways that you can learn from different books, or I can teach you about the different herbs. At the end of the day, what really begins to matter, once you understand enough safety to keep yourself safe, like, we're not eating datura over here. But once you understand that and you're able to keep yourself safe within working with these plants, then there's a whole world to explore that allows us to realign our nervous system, realign our body in general, and get back to a place where we can listen to our intuition and decide what our tea needs to look like this morning. What are the plants that I'm being drawn to right now? Once our nervous system is back in alignment and that vagus nerve is feeding the brain the right information again, then our subconscious can begin to direct us toward the things that we need on a regular basis.
[0:53:09.1] Ashley James: Can you give us Beginner 101 going into the grocery store? I hate to say grocery store because I only go to the holistic grocery stores. I go to the grocery stores that have the bulk section of herbs, and I'm like, “I'd like a spoonful of ashwagandha today.” Sometimes, I'll buy the big bulk things, and sometimes, I know I'm not going to go through this herb enough. I've learned my lesson. So I'll just go to the bulk section, and I'm like, “I'm just getting two tablespoons of this root,” because I am not buying a $50 bag of it. I have an apothecary near me as well, and they sell so many herbs, dried herbs in bulk, as well as tinctures. But when I'm working with herbs, I like to start with the herb itself without it being a tincture because I can ease into it if it's new to me. Like tea is something that is so gentle, and they'll get into a tincture for bigger things.
I like to think of it this way — the size of the medicine should reflect the size of the problem. I know several people with cancer, and they're like, “Which tea should I drink?” I'm like, “Lady, this is when you bring out the sledgehammer.” This is when you want to go big and go 100%. You got to change your diet and your lifestyle and bring everything to it. But if I feel a little stressed, I don't need to bring the sledgehammer. That's what I like about homeopathy or Bach flower remedies. Let's bring some gentle energy to nudge the body back into balance. And those are very powerful medicines. Even in themselves, they are energetic medicines. But they're not a sledgehammer necessarily. You can do it gently. The way you do it properly is you do it gently.
So, with full herbs, I can make a tea and just experience it, and then I can go from there. So, let's say everyone's had peppermint tea, and everyone's had some experience with general herbs. What would you say if they could walk into a holistic supermarket or an apothecary, and what are your five favorites to have in the medicine cabinet for those who want to take it up one more notch beyond chamomile peppermint and lavender?
[0:55:57.9] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: In a lot of these, I will say you do have to explore and see if it works for you because, again, depending on your nervous system state, depending on your underlying energetics, there are all kinds of different caveats to different options. But one of them that could be really interesting is Damiana. Damiana is normally thought of as an aphrodisiac. Yeah, it's really very spicy in smell, but it has a very warming effect. Now I will tell you, if you've been through a lot of trauma and you naturally tend to dissociate, Damiana is not something you want to try. But for people who are not experiencing that, Damiana may be something you want to go play with and see how it makes you feel.
Holy basil is generally a great one for almost anybody. You can use any of the three subspecies and usually get very good results. It's not an official adaptogen by whatever the fancy version —
[0:57:16.4] Ashley James: I was going to say the National American Adaptogenic Society.
[0:57:20.6] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: Yeah, I can't think of the right phrase for it. But it's not an official adaptogen if you look at it from the definition like what David Winston uses for adaptogens. He's one of the foremost experts in my mind on adaptogens. But it is adaptogenic. So, it has a lot of those qualities that help the body to adapt to different stressors. It does build that buffer for people, so that can be a fantastic one for just about anybody.
Rhodiola is good if you are dealing with a lot of the spaciness that the dorsal vagal kind of shuts down. Now, if you are like me and you run on the sympathetic nervous system side, then that's going to be a little bit too much, and it may actually make you feel more anxious. But for a lot of people, Rhodiola can be a very, very beneficial option.
Hawthorne is usually thought of as a heart herb, but it doesn't have to be just heart. There's also that warming energetics behind it. It's really beneficial for a lot of people. So if you're dealing with a lot of burnout or compassion fatigue, that sense of, like, “I'm tired of trying to be caring.” That happens. That's a thing, and Hawthorne is a great one for that as well.
[0:58:45.0] Ashley James: I had a bit of that after the last three years. I'm so empathetic, and there's been so much turmoil in the last three years. But I found myself becoming cynical. When you describe compassion burnout, I feel like I've recovered somewhat from it because we've had a bit of relief. But the last few years have been pretty intense, and there's so much polarization in families. And it's kind of disgusting when you think about politics, and I don't think this was handled very well on any side. It doesn't matter what side you're taking. No one handled this well, especially the government. And the people who loved each other were fighting and at each other's throats and saying really nasty things that we all kind of regret. Even if you try to stay out of it and even if you're just a neutral party, we all felt horrible for those who were suffering — suffering from loss, suffering from being through illness, suffering from isolation, suffering from having fights with family members or losing their job, or whatever. It hasn't been that great the last few years, and I find a lot of people are acting like they have amnesia. What is that when you go through trauma, and then you're like, “I'm just going to compartmentalize that in a part of my brain and lock it away and not think about it anymore.” And then they're like, “Oh, we're just back to pre-90s. Screw the 2000s. Let's go back to the 90s.” But my brain is like we're back in 2019. We just kind of skipped over the last few years, and that's trauma. And I really think the globe has been through trauma. And if you haven't personally, if you just somehow managed to isolate yourself in the cave and not go through trauma, you've witnessed trauma. You've witnessed people experience it instead of locking it away because so many of us have to skip doing what we're doing to survive and keep a roof over our heads. You still have to go to work. You got to come home and do your laundry. Your days off aren't spent healing. Your days off are spent doing groceries and taking care of the kids, or the husband, or yourself, and your cats or dog, or whatever. But no one has sat back and gone, “Okay, as a society, let's start healing from this.” It's just like, “Nope, let's go back to normal. Come on, go back to work.” So I think that acknowledging — and that's what we talked about a bit in the last interview — acknowledging the trauma that we've been through and then, obviously, we can use herbs and plants as a support, but we need to acknowledge the last few years that there's some level of acute stress. And when you go through acute stress for years, there's a drain on the body.
And I just realized, when you said compassion fatigue, I was like, “Oh, that's why.” I didn't like feeling cynical. That's not my nature. So I became the observer, watching myself become cynical and I'm like, “This is very uncomfortable. This is not me.” That's, I think, the defense mechanism for having compassion fatigue. And I love Hawthorne, and yes, it is wonderful for the heart. But also because it is so anti-inflammatory. As you are mentioning these herbs, I'm thinking we have to stop thinking about herbs like they're drugs. Like, “These are the effects, and these are the side effects.” No, drugs were copied from herbs, and herbs have so much more. So, for drugs, they took one chemical component or more from a plant, and then they stripped it of minerals and nutrients. They strip it of the thousands of enzymes, phytonutrients, and phytochemicals that make plants beautiful, and then they use some kind of petroleum-based chemical to then make a patented compound with all kinds of side effects, and the body just gets so confused when given drugs. I like drugs to save someone's life. I'd rather you be on a drug and be alive than not in debt. So drugs have their place, but they should not be the first thing we jump to. Unfortunately, most of us only know to go to one doctor, which is the drug-based doctor, and that's why my show features people like yourself from so many different paths so listeners can know that there's more than one choice. Because mainstream medicine is the mainstream — I get that I'm going to sound like I'm a conspiracy case, but it's all true. Just go look it up — almost every single TV show or movie is produced by or owned by corporations that are either owned by or funded by the pharmaceutical industry. And so they have a reason for not featuring — can you imagine if there's like a Grey's Anatomy made, but it's plant-based medicine, herbal doctors? I think it'd be fun. It would be a lot less drama because you're coming in to help people meditate and calm, and like, “Here, have some tea, and let's discuss this. Let's bring in nutritious herbs to help yourself heal.” I think it would be interesting. But it would make for really boring TV because we're not feeding into the drama of it all. The whole system of what we've been raised in is designed to make us think that there's only one form of medicine. And that's part of the PR that has brainwashed us for the last three generations. But if we go back to our great grandparents, they would look at us like we're aliens because they just went to plants as natural as breathing. They went to plants as herbs in their cooking, as herbs in their stews, soups, teas, as herbs that they would use on a regular basis through the seasons, like you talked about using plants in season. They would deworm all their animals, and then they would use the same herbs to deworm themselves. We had to use herbs to survive. That was our medicine. I just want us, as a society, to recognize and be taught that, to this day, there are more options than just drug-based medicine. Plants have always been around, and like I said, you could walk out of your front door and grab a plant and probably have a wonderful time brewing tea and supporting your body. Hawthorne is beautiful. I love it. One of my friends used it to heal her heart condition, in addition to using other herbs. But Hawthorne was her daily go-to. She made a huge 4 liters of sun tea, and she just sipped on it, and Hawthorne was one of them. It was so important to her because if she didn't drink it, she'd have heart palpitations.
[1:06:47.8] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: It's an amazing herb. One of the things that's really coming up for me as you're talking is remembering that a lot of the times — of course, people knew this plant was good for this, but there was also some intuition that came into play there especially when people are first trying to figure it out, like the plants. And a lot of the indigenous folklore, the plants speak to people and tell them what they're good for. And we have a lot of those pieces that I think people are working to reclaim at this point. In some traditions, it was never lost, but for many of us, it was lost, and we're trying to reclaim that. The last three years have really brought people to a point where they want to know that trauma thrives in isolation and in fear. Trauma occurs when things happen too much, too fast, and too soon, or when it's not enough, too slow, or too late, And we had a lot of that. We had a lot of isolation. We had a lot of unknowns. We had things happening too fast or too late. There was a lot of that over the last three years, and a lot of people who had not struggled before are now struggling, whether it's related to things that had happened or if it's just related to the stress. There's a lot of brain fog. There's a lot of uncertainty. There's a lot of emotional struggle for people. One of the things we can do to really start to heal from these moments of compassion fatigue and things like that is to start turning back to nature and exploring what's around us. So what's in our backyard? Like you said, if it's not manicured and you've got a more natural backyard, you're going to have plants in your backyard that are probably beneficial. You just have to learn about them and start to learn how to ID the items in your area.
The fifth herb that I was going to suggest — maybe some of the other apothecaries have it because I haven't seen it a lot in our apothecaries here — is dandelion. Dandelion has several different parts to it. So, like we talked about earlier, you can use the roots for certain things. You can use the leaves for certain things. The flowers make beautiful teas and breads, like people make dandelion cookies. So there are all these different ways that you can use dandelion and the different parts of dandelion. So if you mindfully learn about it and you mindfully start trying like, “What do I feel?” Not just emotionally, but what are the physical sensations that occur when I use the roots versus how is it different when I use the flower head? What does that feel like? So, for me, I have a downward rush of energy. I can feel my nervous system almost rushing, like bringing my attention downward almost to my root chakra into the ground, which makes sense, with the root being a little bit more grounded or connected to the earth. Whereas I feel a lot of warmth in my chest when I'm using the flowers, which is interesting because, from a chakra angle, I might have thought of the solar plexus. But for me, it's in the heart region with the flower.
So these things are going to be different for everybody. But when we start noticing those sensations, what that brings to the table, the intuitive thoughts that we have behind those sensations, the emotions that those physical sensations create for us, the things that we're reminded of, we can easily start to think, “Oh, I like this because it helps me feel this way. I like this because when I'm feeling scatterbrained and I drink some tea that has dandelion root in it, I can feel my energy starting to settle back into a lower center of gravity, so I feel more focused.” That's the kind of thing that people want to look for, and it's really hard. We've got a couple of hours here where we're talking, and it's really hard to encompass that entire feeling. But that's where I would start — playing with plants like that and just getting to know a little bit about them in order to notice your responses to that plant. What is the intuitive feeling that you get? Do you hear something? Do you hear a phrase, or do you get a visualization? I get a visualization of places sometimes, and that can tell me some about my relationship with that plant. It doesn't always have to be a single plant. So if you're in an area that only has a grocery store and doesn't have an apothecary section, you can still get a tea — now you're dealing with three or four plants at the same time — but you can still notice what sensations are created for you and how that relates to you. What are the intuitive thoughts that you're getting? What's happening on a somatic level? And all of that combined can start leading you towards, “Oh, I need this for the part of my healing journey,” or “Oh, this is going to be a lifelong friend.”
[1:12:18.5] Ashley James: Now, one thing you're asking us to do is something that many of us really need to do and don't do, is take a moment to turn off the devices, close our eyes, and just be in our body, and take a breath. That's why I love the idea of tea. It's so nourishing just to hold the cup. Now, of course, we're getting into summer, where it's blistering hot outside. You might not want to have hot tea, and it's okay to make what's called sun tea, where you just put the bags or the herb itself into a big glass pitcher of clean water or purified water overnight. You can place it in the sun like in the window if you'd like or just leave it in your kitchen and it doesn't have to be hot. You could even serve it over rice if you want to, although in certain medicines, like Chinese medicine, they say never to drink anything cold ever. There is no way to do that. So it's room temperature or warmer. And then I have Canadian friends who swear that if you drink hot things in the summer, it'll make you feel cooler because it stimulates your body to open up your blood vessels and to sweat, and then that cools you down. But I argue with them that you're introducing something hotter into the body, which is just increasing your temperature. But they're like, “Well, it makes you feel cooler.” And then they will actually drink cold things in the winter because then it forces their body to warm up. I'm like, “No, just going outside in the winter is fine enough for me. My body will be triggered to warm up.”
But you can play around with hydrotherapy and drinking hot or cold. Either way, you're stepping inside yourself. And this is something that we so need to do because I feel like we're rushing around like we're floating heads. Do you ever feel like you've dissociated from everything below your neck and you're just ignoring your hunger cues, your thirst cues? You're just ignoring everything until the end of the day, and that's when people stand by the fridge at 11 at night going, “I'm hungry. I'm hungry. I have a craving.” It could be thirst. A lot of times, people think that they want to have a cigarette or have chocolate when their body is just really thirsty and very confused because they have not tapped into what actual thirst is. Hunger versus craving dopamine.
[1:14:49.0] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: This can be daunting. When somebody is being told, “Hey, it's time to tap into your body.” This can be a daunting task for a lot of people. If you have a lot of chronic pain or if you've been through trauma, every time you start to notice your body, you start to really reverberate with that trauma. That can be a very unnerving thing. So that's the time that maybe you need to come to talk to me and let's get a plan together. But for general purposes here, I will say that when you start to do this, if you find yourself feeling very uncomfortable or very unnerved, or you start to feel overwhelmed by it, back off and just do a little bit. This doesn't have to be a 30-minute practice, just like two minutes or maybe even thirty seconds, and then come back to it later. And as you begin to increase your capacity for it, it becomes easier and easier to tap into that side of things. And then you're getting into what you're talking about, Ashley, where you're really being able to cue into those hunger cues and those thirst cues and understanding what the cravings really mean at the base level.
[1:16:01.5] Ashley James: Yes. I'm imagining holding a nice warm cup of tea because in Washington, where I live, it's like 66° in the morning, and it's 78° in the evening. So, in the morning, it's very nice to have a cup of hot tea. And then in the afternoon, it's very nice to have iced herbal tea. But holding the hot cup of tea of herbs that you've chosen to experience, or one herb maybe, one herb at a time, and just sit there and breathe. We talked about this in the last interview but just start by closing your eyes, taking one breath, and just noticing how much tension you can let go of. Can you let go of the tension in your jaw? Can you let go of the tension in your shoulders? My mom always used to say, don't wear your shoulders as earrings. Can you let go of the tension in your belly, in your chest, in your abdomen, all these muscles? Can you feel yourself sinking into the couch a little bit? I'm not asking a hundred percent. Just a little, and just noticed how much. If it's five percent, good. If it's ten percent, good. Just notice how much you can release in that one breath, and then take it inhale through your nose. Hopefully, you're not stuffy, and take an inhale through your nose and just be aware of the sensations.
So I'm not asking you to become aware of just your body alone because, as you said, with trauma, a lot of times, people will have racing thoughts, and they get agitated by the racing thoughts. It will bring back things they don't want to think about. But what I'm asking you to focus on is your experience of your body in relation to the experience of the herb because you're inhaling it, and then just notice how you feel. Become the observer going, “What is that smell like? How does my body relax into that? Do I like it? Do I like the sensation? Do I feel comfortable with this?” And then take a sip and just notice, like you said, you notice where it affects you. So obviously, you might feel it down your throat, you might feel it in your stomach. But then you might notice other body parts relaxing, enjoying, singing with it, or nothing at all, and that's okay, too. And just being with that tea, with that herb, taking that moment to disconnect from the world and be with yourself, like you said, it could even be 30 seconds. What a great way to start to become aware of your nervous system. Because sometimes we are going at 11 and we really want to bring ourselves down to 5. That is such a beautiful practice because we can tap into the experience of our body in that moment of the herb, of our nervous system.
A lot of people discredit the importance of your stress because people go, “Stress isn't an emotion. So I'm not stressed.” I've had clients say to me, “I'm not stressed,” and I'm like, “Okay, so your mom has cancer. You're taking care of five family members. You are a manager. You sleep 5 hours a night.” I'm listing off all the things, and they go, go, go, go, go, go. They never have a day off. They work seven days a week because they're always taking care of other people. And I'm like, you don't feel stressed. But your nervous system is in a constant state of stress, meaning that you've shut off processes for long-term health and healing. And you've shut off even access to the logic centers of your brain. So there are so many benefits to just taking a moment and supporting the vagal nerve and tonifying it and coming back into balance.
So I love that you introduced that in the last interview and that you talked about how we can have a beautiful relationship with these herbs and also, at the same time, train ourselves to feel where we are and to bring that calmness back down. A lot of times people, especially women, say, “Well, I need the stress in order to do everything I have to do today.” They're afraid that if they weren't going, go, go, go, go, then they would just stop, and they would lose all motivation or all momentum. We could definitely talk about herbs that help with that. But I propose that by getting into a calmer state, they were able to sustain themselves.
[1:20:36.6] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: So in Western herbalism energetics, you have hot and cold, damp and dry, tense and relaxed. In a lot of people, the stress that's occurring in an energetic standpoint is tension. And there needs to be a balance. We have to find that balance between being atomic and totally relaxed to the point of things like leaky gut. In the digestive system, we see more of that atomic relaxation that creates that leaky gut. It makes it easier for stuff to get in the body. But in the nervous system, we have the relaxation kind of into that dorsal vagal shutdown response. Or we have the tension that takes us into that sympathetic fight or flight response. And a lot of people really need to be able to find that balance and that center. Now, I will say what people are talking about when they say, “Oh, I'm afraid that if I let this go, then I'm not going to have the energy.” That can happen sometimes. That's actually what we see sometimes when people start healing from trauma. More of it starts to bubble up when they first start feeling safe because their body is like, “Oh, now I'm in a place where I can really, really work on this.”
The same thing happens when people start to relax; their body goes, “Oh, I can finally take a nap,” and then they want to sleep for 19 hours. And so if you find yourself in those situations where you're beginning to allow yourself that space to heal and you start to notice that it's overwhelmingly headed one direction or the other, you can talk to your body about this and say, “Hey, I have 30 minutes a day set aside for us to work on this. It's going to take a while, but we're going to get there. But we're going to work on this for 30 minutes a day. And then we have to get back to it so that we can survive.” It's that kind of thing for some people that makes a big difference. It keeps stuff from bubbling up in the middle of the day. It keeps it from feeling like we're just not going to be able to do anything because now that we're able to relax, our body is just totally giving out. Things like that where you're even acknowledging to yourself, it sounds silly to do that, but if you can just acknowledge yourself or even say it out loud, like, “Okay, I have 45 minutes, I'm going to do a Yoga Nidra for instance, like a guided meditation. And then I'm going to get back up, and I'm going to get back to my day.” Recognizing that I'm going to get to do it again tomorrow or I'm going to do it in a couple of days again, and I am acknowledging this. I am working with this, and I'm working to heal. Sometimes, that can keep it from becoming that overwhelming sense of exhaustion that can hit.
[1:23:17.7] Ashley James: Well, that's what I want. I want everyone to have a growing experience of being tuned in to their nervous system and tuned in to their body, and then have the tools to support their body coming back into balance when they catch themselves off balance like we do in life. We're human, and I hear it so often. I know all the things I need to do, but I don't do them all the time. And then I catch myself, and I'm like, “Oh, I'm over here, and I know some things I should be doing.” So everyone does it. I hope everyone knows to drink an adequate amount of water, and then sometimes you catch yourself with a dehydration headache. And you're like, “Oh yeah, I forgot.” Or everyone knows certain things, like everyone has certain foundations, and we forget, and then we remember, and we go, “Well, I know I should be doing this, and I need to come back.” Often, it's just because we dissociate from our body and we prioritize the dues. Like we're not human doing; we're human beings. But we have to do what we have to do to keep the roof over our heads, and our family is fed, and take care of our loved ones, and we prioritize. There's a bunch of things we do, and we don't put our bodies first.
Our body is our home, and it's our sacred temple. If you're religious, look at all the texts that talk about how it's the God-given temple. It is the house you have, and you're not going to get a second one. Not in this lifetime. You're not going to be given a second one. I like to read, and sometime in the past, I've read sci-fi. And there was a cool sci-fi book written by the same author that wrote Like Water for Chocolate. That is not a Sci-Fi novel, but her second one was, and it was all about how you could take your consciousness and put it in a new body. And I thought, what a thing to think about. The prisons were full of love because they thought people who went to prison for doing something wrong just really needed to heal, and they needed love. It was a really cool, interesting society to think about sci-fi. But the idea that stuck with me is that we don't have the ability to take our consciousness and put it in a brand new body. So why do we take better care of our car than our own body? When the check engine light comes on in your car, you are going to drive around for months and months and months and ignore it. I know some people do. But for the most part, if the check engine light comes on in your body, you're just going to ignore it. Some people just take drugs just to push down the symptoms, ignore them, and put duct tape over the body's check engine light. But you wouldn't do that for your car. So, if there was a fuse box blue in your house, you're going to fix that quickly. But if your nervous system kind of starts getting fried, people just want to ignore their bodies. This is the body you have, so let's take care of it. Let's prioritize it and learn some herbs and how to have a healthy relationship with them and use them like a tool. To support your body's ability to heal itself is just like prioritizing the only house you have, which is your body.
[1:26:46.7] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: And when we look at the rhythm of the seasons, there are certain things I'm going to do in the winter that I'm going to do differently in the summer. And if you're into Ayurveda, there's a lot of discussion around the different elements. We see this in traditional Chinese medicine as well. The elements rule the seasons, so different things are going to be beneficial at different times. People will do different cleanses based on the seasons in order to try to keep their bodies in that rhythm. And that could be very helpful because we can get off the bandwagon, so to speak, for certain things that could be really beneficial. But if we're constantly looking back to these cycles in nature, whether it be the moon cycle or the seasons, or whatever it might be, then we can really help to bring ourselves back to what we need at this moment. What does our body — with its very unique constitution, with its very unique makeup — what does it need at this moment? I think we may have talked about this last time, but one of the things that can be really helpful is what is growing in abundance around me right now.
So, for me, in the very first year of the pandemic in 2020, lemon balm just exploded. Yeah, yeah, as a matter of fact, it was right before I realized anything was actually happening. And, of course, lemon balm is prolific, right? Lemon balm meant things like that. If you don't want it to scatter across your yard, you definitely keep it in a planter. But I don't mind because I make tea with it and everything. So, I just let it do its thing, and I collect it and bring it in. But that year, it particularly went wild in my yard. It took over the mint section. I had to really keep it pruned back several different times. And I understand now why because when everything hit in March, I was completely in mental chaos from it all. Not to mention, I was in my masters of Public Health, and I was taking the epidemiology classes as all this was going on. So it was a really weird combination of learning about things in real-time, trying to process everything, trying to understand the what-ifs. And that lemon balm tea really made a difference for me and for some other people. I had a lot of it, and I was able to pass it around. There was plenty of it.
And so this isn't necessarily something you're going to catch on day one, but as you start to do this and as you start to grow a couple of things or maybe you are really getting out there and noticing what you have around you, if one year you notice there's a lot more of a certain plant, pay attention to that. Look at it and see, “Is this something that I need to look into? Is there something to this?” For instance, I would probably say with you and Mimosa because it seems like Mimosa has come up a lot for you in the last few months; I would maybe dig into that and see if there is a relationship to be had there. Anyway, I think it's really interesting to really attune yourself to those rhythms because sometimes those rhythms can help us to remember different beneficial actions that we can do throughout the year or throughout the month if we're going on the moon cycle. And it also just helps us to become more in tune with how our body is responding to those different things.
[1:30:16.1] Ashley James: I love the idea of looking into the plants that are kind of taking over in your area. I was thinking about a garden I had back at the same time as you in 2020. It was a beautiful vegetable garden that was spontaneously taken over by creeping buttercups. When you dry them, they lose their poisonous effects and can be used for several things, but one thing is bronchitis and inflammation. What we were all afraid of experiencing was problems with the lungs, right? Isn't that interesting? I love nettles. Nettles just exploded in my area. I accidentally touch nettles everywhere, and they're just wonderful. I didn't harvest them this year, but in years past, I've harvested them in huge garbage bags and then put them in giant pots of boiling water to get rid of the little needles, the stinging part of the needles. It's so delicious putting them in a soup, like you would with spinach. We make a fermented sauce with it. We take it and blend it with a little bit of salt and nutritional yeast, pine nuts, and garlic. It's like that kind of green sauce, that Italian green sauce. Why am I not thinking of it?
[1:31:57.1] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: Pesto?
[1:31:58.2] Ashley James: Pesto! Thank you. Yeah, we make a pesto out of it, and then it ferments a bit because we make many jars of it, and it's so good. It's so good, and it's so nutritious. And then, of course, drinking the nettle tea is wonderful, but don't do it at night because it's a diuretic, and I learned that the hard way. I was up all night running to the bathroom. But it's so nutritious, not something that comes back to with herbs, as long as you understand the safety of eating a bunch of it. Like with nettles, it's a food as well as an herb. You can eat lots of it. But it's in this natural form, not concentrated. It's the moment you concentrate something into a tincture to be more careful of dosages. But eating it, eating these herbs is so nutritious. They are superfoods. They're densely nutritious, and that's part of the medicine as well.
[1:32:56.8] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: Yes, and it's really important. You were talking earlier about the connection between the gut and the brain and how the ability to absorb is also part of having all of the beneficial bacteria in your gut. And when we have the right minerals coming in, nettles are usually highly dense in minerals. Chickweed, which we talked about earlier, is really helpful for absorbing more minerals into the body. And when we do that, we're giving ourselves the trace minerals that we don't normally get. Then you're feeding your body, you're feeding your nervous system, but you're also giving the right nutrients to the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Now, if you are somebody who has a tendency to order out a lot, DoorDash has been your best friend, I get it. I've been there and done that. Like when I was very fatigued, we had to do that, or otherwise, there would have been no food in the house. But if you're starting to try to turn away from that and you notice like, “I really don't feel good after I eat this food. This is supposed to be more beneficial for me.” A lot of the time, that has to do with the less beneficial bacteria beginning to starve, and now it's kind of mad at you, and sometimes it's a matter of releasing chemicals in your body to make you feel bad, to make you eat the food that you know isn't as nutritious. And so when you start noticing that, even just adding a couple of more veggies and adding a couple of things that are more beneficial and slowly shifting, that can be the way to handle that. And when you do that, and you get to a point where you do have these more beneficial herbs getting into your body, and things are more balanced, your inflammation levels usually will start to lower. Well, I think we talked about this last time. Inflammation actually exacerbates trauma. It makes it harder to heal from trauma. So all these little things, getting connected with these different plants and nettles, is a great one. Of course, with nettles, you do have to be careful. If you are going to go wildcrafting nettles, make sure that you're getting it from a good area. Soil test it if you need to, to make sure it's not taking the heavy metals. But usually, nettles are great. It's wonderful. And those kinds of things can really make a big difference as to how your body is responding to your attempts to heal the emotional side of things.
[1:35:44.2] Ashley James: In healing the physical body, also healing the mental body, emotional body, we have to understand that they're not separate. We like to take off our heads and dissociate from everything else, and just be human doing all day. But really, we need to understand that our body stores trauma, emotional trauma. And I've had episodes; I have this amazing episode with the doctor who invented the emotion code. That was really interesting. I remember I was in massage therapy college — in Canada, it's like a $5,000 program. It's not like a 500-hour little course. In some states, I'm like, “What do you learn in 500 hours? I went to college for three years to learn massage therapy. What did you guys do? You went for like two months?” Everyone does the best they can. But in Canada, in some provinces, massage therapy is in the hospitals. We're alongside the doctors. I remember working in the Scarborough General Hospital and in Toronto General, working in the upper motor neuron lesion ward and working with a physical therapist.
It's fascinating when you can plug in as someone who's there to help with rehab can plug in into a medical system and that they acknowledge massage, which I mean, of course, it's a physical manipulation. But in massage, we know that the body is also energy and spirit. It is connected to spirit, and it is also connected to our emotions, connected mentally. It's all connected. We have to acknowledge that. In massage therapy college, I was at the table, and our teacher was showing us a specific technique, and she was isolating my scapula and working up around the back of my underarms. And I burst into tears, and I could not stop crying. Everyone went to lunch, and she sat with me, and I said, “I don't know why I'm crying.”. And I'm not a weepy person. I feel I'm very strong, like I think of my Russian-Polish grandmother, who was strong like a bull. And I just think of all the strong women in my family, and I felt like I was one of those. Then she touched a spot that was tender, and it triggered some trauma, and I was crying for an hour, just releasing, just crying and crying, and I've no idea. And that was my real first experience of, “Oh, wow. There's some trapped trauma, and I didn't know, and it's physical. I got triggered by something physical, and that was so real.
And so I've had these guests talk about how we can clear it from the body. We need to process it in and then release it, which I do with timeline therapy. It's an amazing technique to help the mental body heal. But it's all connected. And so, you talked about using herbs for healing the body, but we're also connecting to and recognizing that there is an emotional element to this because it's not separate. We cannot separate one part of ourselves from the other part of ourselves. You've mentioned how Rhodiola is great for spaciness, and it reminded me of how many people — this is probably just my algorithm when I go on Facebook — so many people are talking about ADHD. I feel like it's the new buzz term, like people are recognizing that there is an ADHD spectrum, and so many of us are on it.
Early on in the podcast, in the first 100 episodes, I had people come on and talk about how they were diagnosed with ADHD as a child and were put on medication, and then they came to natural medicine and they “no longer have ADHD.” But really, what I'm seeing is it's more of how we process information and that it could become dysregulated. Through holistic medicine, we can become healthier and, regulate better, and learn strategies for success. But that ADHD is a real nervous system regulatory, or how the person sees the world– they call it neurodivergent — but how we process information, how we see the world, how we function. I'm not saying we want to fix it or cure it, but how do we support the mind and the emotional body to function as healthy as possible when feeling like ADHD is dysregulated within someone?
[1:40:47.3] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: As a matter of fact, there's a joke with some people — is it ADHD, or is it trauma? Because a lot of the same or similar symptoms can show as both ADHD and trauma. They're just very similar to a lot of people. I'm neurodivergent, so I have a lot of unusual processing, and my brain works a certain way that has created many hilarious stories through the years. For those of you who are old enough to remember Amelia Bedelia — I had several moments like that. And I think it's really important to remember that there are times when accommodations are the right move. It's not a matter of, like you said, we're not necessarily looking to heal people. We're not necessarily looking to change somebody's brain from a function that your unusual brain can actually create solutions to things that a neurotypical brain can't. So, there is a reason to celebrate that side of things. There's a reason to really embrace that side of things. But neurodivergent and things like ADHD can cause herbs to be a little bit different.
I have a friend who works primarily with people with ADHD because she also has ADHD, and the way that the herbs work for her subset of the population is a little bit different. It's like caffeine. For some people, caffeine really makes them focus, and for other people, it can make them really hyper and really fast. And so, she has a slightly different way of using the herbs with people based on a certain diagnosis or a certain type of neurodivergent. That is more of the reason why taking the time to learn about the herbs in relation to you and your specific experience on this planet is so important. If you are able to do that — because I can tell you all day long, why I prefer Asian ginseng over rhodiola in certain situations. We can get into all of that nitpicky conversation, which is fun, and I love it for research. You can get into a lot of really interesting things, but at the end of the day, your experiences with your plants are what is going to help inform your healing process. And so I really have gotten to, and I love helping people to really dig into that, and that's part of what this class is all about. It is really opening up that experience so that you can start to figure out what this means for you and how this is going to help you on this journey that is our experience here on Earth.
[1:43:44.2] Ashley James: Beautiful. I love it, and I love that you brought up that. Again, it's that spectrum of ADHD — because so many of them, my husband included, he could drink a venti and fall asleep. I drink a venti, and I'm up for three days. Our bodies will process stimulants differently. Now he, on the other end, if he drinks caffeine on the other end of sleep, he'll fall asleep on caffeine, but he'll wake up at 5 in the morning. So I know that it's definitely affecting his melatonin and his stress hormones on the other end of sleep. But he can fall asleep on caffeine. I cannot fall asleep on caffeine to save my life. He processes pain meds differently. He has to tell the anesthesiologist, “These are my things.” They usually ask these kinds of questions, but when it comes to things like local anesthesia for tooth stuff, he has to say to the dentist, “Listen, you have to give me twice as much as you think you need to give me. And you have to ask me in half the amount of time you think you need to ask me if I'm feeling something because my body processes pain meds way faster than you think.” And he'll give the whole speech to the dentist. They won't believe him, and then in 10 minutes, he's like, “Ow, ow, that hurts.” And they're like, “It already kicked it. I gave you the stuff.” And then he's like, “No, no, no, listen. You have to give me more.” And his nervous system, his body, his clearance, whatever it is, he processes herbs a little differently, processes stimulants a little differently. He falls asleep on stimulants.
So yeah, we've got to check in with ourselves, and that's why I like starting with something simple like teeth, something gentle, and then working your way up to the stronger one, should you need it. But off the top of your head, is there like, “Oh yeah, these adaptogens are always good for ADHD people,” or is there like a Ritalin of the herbal world? “Come on. Give me a quick fix. Give me a blanket that is good for everyone. There's got to be one out.”
[1:46:04.1] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: Right, no. It is interesting. I will save it. The stimulating adaptogens like rhodiola or Asian ginseng tend to be the ones that I see as helpful when somebody has an ADHD diagnosis. But I don't always reach for that because just because you have an ADHD diagnosis doesn't mean that you're always in a dorsal vagal state. There may be other things happening, but that dorsal vagal shutdown that causes us to feel more spacey and it causes us to be a little dissociated is sometimes part of that ADHD experience. And so, it makes sense that Rhodiola and Asian ginseng can be helpful. But everybody is a little bit different. My life would be easier if I could name stuff off and just be like, “This is it, boom! I fixed it.” Like I'd be rich. But that's just not how it works. And this is part of what this class is for. We are going to talk about different herbs, different adaptogens, and nervines like the lavender and the camomile that we talked about earlier, which I think we talked about in the last session as well. And we're going to talk about some of those, get a little more in-depth on them, and then we're going to be doing these guided visualizations where you're actively tapping into your subconscious, and you're really trying to discover more about what your body is telling you in this moment, in a way that allows you to also connect with nature.
And so in those moments, I'm going to give you some information. I'm going to give you some ideas about how to stay as safe as possible based on what we're talking about. But then we're also going to get into that intuitive space. So we've got our boundary set up, and now we can just play in that intuitive space within the safe boundaries, and that's where the real healing comes from. I know we call ourselves healers, but the reality is I'm just kind of a facilitator. I'm just telling you these things and letting you understand what we've learned and then trying to help you create space for your body to tell you what it is that you need in these moments. Again, when somebody's got a chronic illness and things like that, there's more nuance to it, and we can work one-on-one and talk about that. But in general, having the space to explore, in my mind, is one of the most powerful ways that you can find what works best for you and your situation.
[1:48:37.9] Ashley James: And you're teaching a person to fish rather than giving them the fish. You go to a doctor, and even a doctor of natural medicine, they're just going to say take this and this. They might tell you what it does, but there isn't a huge education piece, or at least teach you how to get into it and listen to your body. The body speaks to us, and it really does tell us what we need. But again, we're floating heads. We've cut ourselves off, and we really haven't been trained to tap in and listen to our bodies. One of my mentors is an old-school naturopathic physician in his 80s, and when he trained me in this, he devised a way to understand nutrient deficiencies based on the symptoms the body is speaking. I can talk to someone for 10 minutes and say, “Okay, these are the nutrients your body is saying it's missing,” based on having a conversation with someone. And we didn't need to do expensive blood tests and hair analysis and all that. So, it's interesting that we can look at it from a physiological point of view, like, “Okay, muscle cramps, problem staying asleep, urinating in the middle of the night, falling asleep after meals, weird symptoms, eye twitches.” You can give me all kinds of interesting symptoms, and then I can say, “Okay, these five symptoms are all related to the same problem, and I'll explain why.” But beyond that, it's impressive for you as an individual to learn, just like for me to learn how my body responds and what it needs.
And so your body will buzz and love the feeling of an herb when it's good for it, like I made that tea, that turbo tea that I've been really drawn to make. I've made it before in the past. I kind of go through phases where I'll drink it for a while, and then I'll move on to something else. But I was really drawn to it for a while. So I'm like, “Okay, it's time to make it.” And we love it, and my body buzzes and loves it. It feels so good when I drink it, and I'm really called to it, like my body just says, “This is what I want.” And when you tap into yourself, and you learn, like Elizabeth teaches you, how to listen to yourself, your body is going to say what it needs. Now, this is a good feeling. The good feeling you get is not the artificial good feeling you get from sugar from cocaine. Yes, everyone's done cocaine. You know what I mean. Some people think about street drugs like, “Oh, you know, it's very artificial. But they “feel good” just like alcohol.” “But wine is healthy for you. There are antioxidants. There's resveratrol.” I'm like, “Then eat the grapes.” You don't need the toxin. “But it feels good after I drink alcohol.” I'm like, “Yes, and so do street drugs.” But you don't do them. If you want to drink alcohol, I'm not judging. I'm just letting people know there's a difference between the artificial feel-good, which is harmful. And then the really healthy for you, that buzzing — like if you drink organic juice, freshly-made juice drink, and now all your cells are filling with an abundance of vitamins and minerals and phytonutrients, and antioxidants — that good feeling when your body buzzes, it's so delicious. It's so wonderful. Again, you have to re-attach your head and allow yourself to start to tap in and listen to your body. And it's like a muscle. So, at first, you might not know, you may not be aware of your body, or know, the more you do it, the more you'll strengthen that muscle till you get a feeling, you'll just go, “Oh, wow. My body is saying to me, “I want some peppermint tea,” as an example. You just feel at the end of the day like, “Oh wow, I could really use this at the end of the day to bring myself down into a nice state,” or maybe in the morning, you feel like trying all the herbs that can be put in a chai. It doesn't even have to be caffeine. If you want, you can just do all the herbs in a nice warm tea milk kind of thing. I'm not milk or whatever. But the point is tapping into the body and listening is this beautiful thing, and I love that you emphasized this because not many practitioners do. Not many practitioners teach people how to be their own physician, in a sense, because their body is the one that's telling them what they need.
[1:53:09.1] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: And I think it's important to recognize that — talking about some of the stuff you're talking about, like, with wine and feeling good — a lot of the time, we are chasing the excitement of feeling blissed-out or feeling powerful. Like a lot of times when somebody is angry or frustrated all the time, it's that feeling of power that keeps them going to that. Or if we're trying our hardest to almost disconnect and ignore the things that are happening to us, we're chasing that sensation of being blissed out and the excitement of being blissed out. And the reality of our human experience is that it is cyclical, like nature is cyclical. There are going to be highs, and there are going to be lows. And when we can approach it from that place of equanimity, then we are better equipped to experience those highs and lows in a way that gives us the full spectrum of the human experience without the overwhelm. Plants offer us a way to really buffer so that we have that tolerance to stay in a state of equanimity more often.
[1:54:29.2] Ashley James: That's really beautifully said. We're chasing the artificial stimulants because we have dissociated from that, and we don't have that equanimity. So you're teaching us how to really get the true highs, feeling the true healthy highs in life by getting back into our bodies.
[1:54:55.3] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: But I wouldn't even call it a high. This might be kind of a disappointment for some people, like “sorry.” A lot of people chase the highest success, right? They chase the high of “I got this done,” or “I can check this list off,” or “I watched this TV show,” and it gave me that artificial high, or like, “I'm going to feel so blissed out all the time because I am just on top of the world.” The high that we get from natural things is not even a high. It is like a deep knowing, a deep understanding that you are exactly where you're supposed to be. You can't crash from that the same way you can crash from the highest success.
[1:55:53.0] Ashley James: Wow. For me, it's a joy. I remember being sick for so many years, and when I wake up in the morning, and I jump out of bed, and I don't have aches and pains, I don't have brain fog, I don't have the headache, and I don't have this gross feeling like a prisoner trapped in a sick body when I jump out of bed, and I am on, and I start my day, and I love my life and I love my family — I mean, I got lots of stuff I want to improve in my life, don't get me wrong, there's definitely a few things I want to be better — but I guess what I bring in within the first moments of me being awake is I have a sense of gratitude throughout every cell in my body, because I remember being sick and suffering, never to the point where I wanted to die, but to the point where I wanted a new body.
[1:56:54.8] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: And you have the tools where if that happens again, you don't fall into despair. It's like, “Okay, I can do this.” You still have that gratitude. It may not be the same level of joy that you have in a moment where you feel full and complete. But you still have that ability to know, “Okay, I know where I need to go.” It's not the same thing as the despair that can happen after those artificial crashes. And that's what I love about what we're doing with natural things.
[1:57:24.5] Ashley James: Love it. That's beautiful. So there is a spiritual, emotional, mental, and energetic component to physical health, and we have to acknowledge that and just know the body is a whole. The body is all of those things, and that is life. That is why I say the Learn True Health podcast is not just about learning true physical health. We'll have guests on about homeschooling, about relationships, and about a healthy workplace because it's life. Nothing in your life and body happens in a vacuum. Your body can be affected by every aspect of your life. So that's health. Health is bringing awareness and balance, joy and gratitude, to every aspect of your life. And let's not be afraid of plants. Let's use them because they're given to us. They're surrounding us. They're here for our use and it's a tool that we got to tap into for optimal health. You know, those people who are preppers or afraid of something bad happening in the future, it's very real. Just over a hundred years ago, there was a solar storm that took out so badly. It melted all the wires that they were using to send communications. Why am I forgetting the name of it? Dang it.
[1:59:06.7] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: The Telegraph.
[1:59:08.5] Ashley James: Thank you! Okay, so what herb do I need because my brain is forgetting words? I'm like, the rest of the day, I'm going out being in the sun with friends at a pool. So I think my brain is like, “Goodbye!”, walks out the door, slams the door. It's so funny. So, anyway, the solar storm made the telegraph go away. Thank goodness we haven't had one, but it could happen again, and it would completely melt and destroy all electronics and whatever part of the Earth was facing the sun at the time. And we only have about 8 minutes of warning because it takes 8 minutes for the solar storm to hit us. So it's not even like the end of times, like nuclear fallout, or all the kinds of things they talk about. But God forbid — I don't want you to imagine this too long because it will cause anxiety — but imagine something happens, and we are left with no communications, and the world's a little bit chaotic because there's no electricity. What do you do? Do you know how to go into your backyard and pick some herbs and do some medicine for yourself and your family? Do you know how to forage food? Do you know the basics of survival? And that's not a whack job crazy to think about. I don't want anyone to be obsessed about it and worried about it every day because, again, that's not healthy.
But just taking some time to learn basic survival skills, foraging skills, and learning the basic herbal medicine of your region is intelligent. And if you have children, do it with them and learn together. In our area, there are a lot of local foragers that will take you to the woods and teach you the good plants from the not-good plants. “Don't eat those. Eat these.” And that's something that I think we should all just have an understanding of. And I love that you take it to a level of supporting the emotional body's ability to heal along with the physical, which is something that, like I said, I don't see many people doing. And so I really like that you're focusing on that.
[2:01:31.0] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: I agree, and I don't even think it has to be as catastrophic as something like that. It can be as simple as, what's happened with the eggs? I mean, now it's back to normal here. Our prices are back down to normal. But for a minute there, it was a luxury to have eggs. Things can happen in the supply chain. But whether it does or doesn't, the thought of being more connected and more aware of my surroundings is important to me. Feeling a little bit self-sufficient, feeling a little bit like I can walk outside, and instead of being aggravated at the bugs or annoyed by the different weeds that are growing, I can walk out there, and I can see the magic, the beauty that is our universe. Being able to connect into that on a physical level from the self-sufficiency angle, but also the emotional level, just to be able to reconnect to things that are going to be here hundreds of years after I'm gone — there's something to that, that is powerful and emotionally healing, as well as physically healing. Whether you choose to come to check out the free introductory event and get a little taste, I'm going to do a guided visualization to a meditation-type thing in this event. Whether you choose to do that or not, I hope that you will go outside and start to notice the things that are around you. Maybe get a plant idea and start trying to see, like, take a picture of that plant and see if it brings up the right plant, check it, and make sure that it matches up. Just start learning those little things that can teach you more about what you have in your area.
[2:03:13.5] Ashley James: I'm thinking about Pokemon Go, which I never signed up for because the moment it came out, I just knew me, and I have an addictive personality. And I chose never to install that app because I knew if I did, I probably wouldn't have even done the podcast. I'd be out there. Maybe I'd be like a hiker because I'd be walking everywhere. That would be good. But I kind of knew it would take over my life, so I didn't do it. But I'm imagining a Pokemon Go, but with plants. Just make it fun, like geotagging or something. Make it fun, like how they do bird watching. Like, “You have to find these ten birds.” Imagine it like, “I'm going to find and learn about five new plants today in the wilderness of my park nearby or whatever.” You could kind of make it a game like Pokemon Go but with plants. So get a plant identifier app and then just make a goal, or get the family together, and they'll get their phones and this app, and it's like, “Okay, the first person to identify ten new plants today wins. Make a little scavenger hunt, and it's learning. It's walking, and it's fun. And then maybe pick something, maybe just a little bit to bring it home or something, I don't know. I'm a homeschooler mom, so I'm thinking about all these like; I could totally do that with my homeschool group.
[2:04:40.9] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: So, I know a lot of people, especially since I have this long COVID, that has really limited my movement. I've gotten a lot better, but for a hot minute, it was scary how limited my movement was. So if you're stuck inside or if you're wheelchair-bound and you can't get out into a park, or at Oak Mountain State Park here, there's no way you can get a wheelchair up half the trails. But if that's happening to you, you can still connect with these things. There are all kinds of ways. Teas alone, ingesting the tea, is a form of connection. But you can also watch videos with the different plants. You can look out a window and see the plants that are around you. There are ways to still connect with those vibrations that don't necessarily have to be totally hands-on. So whatever it is, whether you're able to gamify it, like what Ashley's talking about, or if it's just something that you have to adjust, these practices are pretty accessible for almost anybody. And I encourage you that if you haven't heard something that totally resonates with you today, play with it, sit on it, and maybe meditate on it if you have time. “How can I begin to connect more deeply with these plants?” If you have a lot of severe allergies and you're afraid of drinking tea, then maybe, like we were talking about earlier with the flower essences, that is an energetic signature. There is no physical component of the plant left in a flower essence, and maybe that's how you begin to connect. There are all kinds of different ways, and when you find the right thing for you, and you find the right way for you to go, when it clicks like that, it makes a world of difference.
[2:06:26.6] Ashley James: Love it. Listeners can go to learntruehealth.com/plants to check out the free introductory event where Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie, PhD is going to be teaching the awesome stuff we've talked about today and share with your friends too. Send them to learntruehealth.com/plants. Share it with your friends, go check it out together, go geocaching together, and make tea. We talked about that in the last episode, where every friend gets a different tea herb, and then we all get together and have a little tea party and experience it together. You can make it fun. You can do it with friends. If you have mom friends, if you do it with your sister, your family, or your neighbors, or if you're not near your friends, you guys can get on a video call together, and everyone can sip their tea on video call together and talk about it. We can make it communal, or if you're an introvert, then just do it alone in the corner, wrapped around a blanket, like my husband would be totally happy being all alone wrapped in a blanket with his tea. However you are comfortable, let's enrich our lives with these plants.
Thank you for coming on the show again today and sharing. This is beautiful, and I love that you're giving us another tool for emotional and mental healing, along with physical healing. I really, really appreciate that, especially in these times when we are all looking to come back into the healthiest versions of ourselves.
[2:08:12.4] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: And this is the perfect time for us to do this. If we can really take responsibility at this point for the healing from the chaos of the last few years, and if we can really take the time to reconnect to nature and to reconnect to ourselves and our body, it is what we need for emotional and physical healing, we set ourselves up to really be able to support our communities and offer healing overall for the next several years. I think this is the perfect time, as the dust is settling, to set ourselves up to be as healed as possible so we can take care of each other and create the kind of community that allows us to feel supported and loved.
[2:08:57.4] Ashley James: Brilliant. Beautiful. learntruehealth.com/plants.Thank you so much for coming on the show, and let's have you on again when you've published your next book or your next course. You've got more to teach. We'd love to have you back.
[2:09:11.7] Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie: Always thanks.
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Health Coach, Podcast Creator, Homeschooling Mom, Passionate About God & Healing
Ashley James is a Holistic Health Coach, Podcaster, Rapid Anxiety Cessation Expert, and avid Whole Food Plant-Based Home Chef. Since 2005 Ashley has worked with clients to transform their lives as a Master Practitioner and Trainer of Neuro-linguistic Programming.
Her health struggles led her to study under the world’s top holistic doctors, where she reversed her type 2 diabetes, PCOS, infertility, chronic infections, and debilitating adrenal fatigue.
In 2016, Ashley launched her podcast Learn True Health with Ashley James to spread the TRUTH about health and healing. You no longer need to suffer; your body CAN and WILL heal itself when we give it what it needs and stop what is harming it!
The Learn True Health Podcast has been celebrated as one of the top holistic health shows today because of Ashley’s passion for extracting the right information from leading experts and doctors of holistic health and Naturopathic medicine
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