Learning Herbs Interview 1.1
with Susun Weed & John Gallagher
The following is a written transcript from John Gallagher's
interview with Susun Weed on November 30, 2006. The interview
was part of The Herbal Teleconference Series, which was an
event celebrating the release of Wildcraft!
An Herbal Adventure Game
John Gallagher: So, we'll officially start here in a couple of minutes here but first, someone wanted to know Susun, what was your favorite anti inflammatory herb and why?
Susun Weed: Well, I'm going to answer this question in a way that's fairly typical to me and that might seem not exactly directly on to the question. The question on the face seems fairly simple:What's my favorite anti inflammatory herb? Won't you just spit out the name of an herb, Susun,that's what the question is asking for?
John: Yes, exactly!
Susun: Right. But you see, I'm more involved in the question behind the question.
Susun: And the question behind the question treats herbs as drugs with green coats on them and people as disease bearing entities. So, I don't deal with either people or herbs in those ways. In other words, I wouldn't necessarily advise someone to take an anti inflammatory or if they were taking an anti inflammatory drug, I wouldn't necessarily say "Oh, this anti inflammatory herb would be useful."
In fact, one of the reasons that I am an herbalist and not a druggist is because herbs are not single acting. Herbs have multiple actions. So, we could compare it to somebody saying "what's your favorite food for vitamin C?"
John: Exactly, exactly. So there are plenty?
Susun: Well, yes! There's certainly lot of foods that are rich in vitamin C, and if we say, if I say well I really like Myer's lemons, and then somebody says, "Oh, well, Susun gets all her vitamin C from Myer's lemons." Well, that of course, that isn't so at all.
John: Right, you get it from the leafy greens that you eat, you get it from...
Susun: Pine needles, from baked potatoes, from sauerkraut, right, and even there, even to talk about vitamin C will really be doing a scientific thing, which is taking a complex whole and reducing it to an active part.
Most people, if asked what vitamin C was would say ascorbic acid and would think that they were taking more vitamin C if they were taking ascorbic acid and yet, vitamin C, like all vitamins is a complex of many many different constituents, just as herbs are many many different constituents working together, working in concert so that we get to the wise woman perspective where the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts.
John: That's right, that's right. And I even heard you once say that all of the ascorbic acid was made by one company or something like that?
Susun: All of the ascorbic acid that is for sale is made by one company, Dupont. And of course, things change very quickly out there, I do keep active with trade journals but that doesn't mean I necessarily see everything and it's certainly possible that from the last time I looked until now that has changed!
But I know that there was certainly one point at which not too long ago quite a few vitamin manufacturers had to pay anti trust fees because they were the sole source of these. So, if you buy vitamins, there might be a name on the bottle, but that's not the name of the maker, that's the name of the formulator.
John: Right, right, right.
Susun: So, all that aside [singing lin, lin, lin lin, feel my heart. You can bring me a brand new start!]. One of my favorite trees is linden. And linden, I think is an herb with anti inflammatory properties but most people don't know enough about.
Susun: Do you use linden?
John: I have not, I've seen the tree and you know, it's one of those things I've wondered about, but I have not used.
Susun: Eule Gibbons used to say that the linden tree is a tree that you find by listening and what he meant was when the linden tree is in flower the flowers are so sweet that the are honey bees lined up in queues waiting to get at the flowers and buzzing so loudly that you hear the tree before you see it or smell it.
[Singing I smell fairies at my feet, I'm sitting under a linden tree]
Each one of my apprentices has to have a plant ally and Margaret's ally was linden. She wrote these wonderful verses about the linden, and of course it's the leading anti cold and anti flu remedy, both preventative and curative. And because we make our remedy from the flowers of the linden it's very sweet tasting and a great favorite with children.
John: That's good to know! That's one I will definitely need to try.
Susun: Yeah! So linden flowers: I make a pretty strong infusion of it and to really increase the anti inflammatory effect I do a second brew on the same linden flowers with cold water to pull out that mucilage, because many plant mucilages are more soluble in cold water.
So here's what I do: I take a quart jar and I put half an ounce by weight of linden blossoms in the quart jar and I fill that right to the top with boiling water, put a tight lid on it and I let that sit for, usually I let it sit for overnight, because that's just easier for me.
But, even after a couple of hours, you could use it, and I strain the liquid away from the linden blossoms and then I take the linden blossoms out of the jar, put them in a pan with two cups of cold water and put it on a fire, and bring that up to boil.
John: Wow, I can't wait to like...
Susun: Put a lid on it, then turn the fire down and let that sit for at least two hours. And you'll see that that second brew, if you touch it, or if you put it in your mouth, it will be much much more slippery. And that slippery ness, of course, that mucilage, is a part of what helps it to have an anti inflammatory effect.
John: So, taking this around to our question, we know see how there isn't just a favorite herb or drug for an anti inflammatory situation, but we're talking about whole experience, wholeness, something greater than the sum of its parts.
we're not just having the experience of having our throats
soothed by linden, but we're also getting connected to linden
by having this incredible experience and ritual with the plant,
which we're learning so much in actually connecting with the
Susun: and that's what I love about your
work, John, is that you keep reminding people that it's not
just this kind of dry knowledge that you get for the sake
of having the knowledge, but that it's really about intimacy
and being more intimate with your own body and with the planet
that we live on.
John: I'd be bored if it was just about the
dry knowledge! [both laugh].
Susun: I guess I never thought of it, but
I guess I would [be bored] too!