Benefits of Thyme with Maia Toll


Share this!



The benefits of thyme include being a potent antibacterial and antiviral herb, one of my favorites for respiratory congestion, and I am so excited to bring you this conversation about thyme with Maia Toll. You’ll also receive Maia’s recipe for thyme za’atar, which is a delicious way to enjoy thyme with eggs, bread, fish, pasta, veggies, salads… almost anything, really.

Maia is the author of the best selling and award-winning Wild Wisdom Series, including The Illustrated Herbiary, The Illustrated Bestiary, The Illustrated Crystallary and The Wild Wisdom Companion. The seed for this series was planted when Maia apprenticed with a traditional healer in Ireland where she spent extensive time studying the growing cycles of plants, the alchemy of medicine making, and the psycho-spiritual aspects of healing. Maia’s books build on this foundation, eloquently translating patterns and metaphors from the natural world to help modern seekers understand and grow within their own lives. She also owns an herb shop called Herbiary, with locations in Asheville, Philadelphia, and online.

Listen in for:

► How thyme saved Maia’s mom from having to cancel her travel plans 

► Tips for working with thyme 

► The benefits of embracing a cyclical timeline 

► Maia’s advice for finding the middle ground as an herbalist 


-- TIMESTAMPS -- 

  • 01:18 - Introduction to Maia Toll
  • 03:07 - Maia’s path to herbalism and how a home sale acted as a catalyst on her journey
  • 08:42 - A quick overview of thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
  • 09:50 - Lessons about sustainable herbalism from a traditional healer in Ireland
  • 10:48 - Maia shares why she loves thyme as an antibacterial and antiviral herb
  • 19:11 - Maia’s thyme za’atar recipe
  • 24:11 - Safety considerations when working with thyme
  • 28:42 - Maia shares thoughts about her latest book and personal evolution
  • 34:55 - What is healing and wellness, really? Maia shares her thoughts.
  • 37:02 - A mistake to avoid as an herbalist and how to find the middle ground
  • 44:40 - Maia shares how herbalism has surprised her

Download Your Recipe Card!

Connect with Maia


Transcript of the Benefits of Thyme with Maia Toll Video

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Welcome to the Herbs with Rosalee podcast, a show exploring how herbs heal as medicine, as food, and through nature connection. I'm your host, Rosalee de la Forêt. I created this channel to share trusted herbal wisdom, so that you can get the best results when relying on herbs for your health. I love offering up practical knowledge to help you dive deeper into the world of medicinal plants and seasonal living.

Each episode of the Herbs with Rosalee podcast is shared on YouTube, as well as your favorite podcast app. And to get my best herbal tips, as well as fun bonuses, be sure to sign up for my weekly herbal newsletter at the bottom of this page. Okay. Grab your cup of tea, and let's dive in.

I'm so thrilled to bring you this conversation with Maia Toll. Maia is full of wisdom and insights, and this interview is no exception. Maia is the author of the best selling and award-winning Wild Wisdom Series, including The Illustrated Herbiary, The Illustrated Bestiary, The Illustrated Crystallary, and The Wild Wisdom Companion.

The seed for the series was planted when Maia apprenticed with a traditional healer in Ireland, where she spent extensive time studying the growing cycles of plants, the alchemy of medicine-making, and the psycho-spiritual aspects of healing. Maia's books build on this foundation, eloquently translating patterns and metaphors from the natural world to help modern seekers understand and grow within their lives. She also owns an herb shop called Herbiary, with locations in Asheville, Philadelphia, and online.

Welcome to the podcast, Maia.

Maia Toll:

I am so thrilled to be here, Rosalee.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Oh, I'm so excited to have you here. We've chatted before. This is our first video call conference. I feel like I've seen you a lot online, too, so it feels like here's this familiar friend popping on the podcast. I'm so glad you're here.

Maia Toll:

I'm thrilled to be here. It's really funny because I do a lot of teaching by video, people recognize me and they have that sense of the familiar. I've had people walk up to me in restaurants and just start talking and I'm like, who are you?

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah, yeah. Famous within the herbal world. You're great. Well, we'll talk a lot about your books, but yeah, you are a prolific author. Excited to jump into that. Before we do that, I would love to hear how you found yourself on the herbal path.

Maia Toll:

Yeah. I think, like a lot of people, I got sick and western medicine didn't know what the heck to do with me. It was kind of the beginning of a healing path. Then herbalism came in later. When I tell the story, people often say, "Oh, so you got sick and herbalism healed you." No. A whole combination of things worked. I think we don't know whether I have Celiac's or not because I have not been eating wheat or gluten for about 30 years now.

Figuring out that that's what was wrong was the issue that started me exploring homeopathy, and herbalism, and dietary changes. That wasn't really a thing at that point, to just pull an entire food group out of your diet. The doctor has since said to me, "Oh, let's see if you actually really have Celiac." I was like, "Okay, great. I'm curious." He says, "Okay, so go eat wheat for a month." I'm like, "Are you crazy?" I'm like, "You want me to make myself sick, so that you can confirm that I'm sick in the way that you think I'm sick?" No.

That was the door, and then from there, like years after that, I had an opportunity to take an entire year off and do whatever I wanted. I had a house that I had bought for a song in a town that was just kind of down on its luck, and then a big museum from New York City decided to open an annex in that town. All of a sudden the property values went through the roof. I turned around this house that I think I paid 87,000 for it. I turned it around for four times that.

I was a teacher at the time and not used to making much money at all. All of a sudden I had what for me was a fortune in the bank. I said, "Okay, you get a year sabbatical. You can do whatever you want." I made a list of possible things: pottery, weaving, herbalism, like all these things I wanted to learn more about, but hadn't had time, and started just doing searches for teachers and schools.

I ended up in Ireland for a year, apprenticed to a traditional healer. That was the beginning of the herbal portion of the program. It started with the getting sick and starting to explore all those different ways of being well.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I love your story so much. I've heard it through reading your books and through hearing interviews with you. I think there's a lot of us, me included, who would love to go to Ireland for a year and study with a traditional healer. One sense that I get from that, Maia, and that's where I feel a lot of camaraderie

 with you, friendship with you, what is the word? Something like that... is your seasonal rhythms. Some people learn herbalism as this thing that's so separate from nature, which is fine. A lot of people start that way, then get involved more with the nature connection, seasonal rhythms.

I have that sense from you that that has always been a big part of your herbalism, and the way you practice, and the way you work with herbs, which is something I, of course, deeply love. I love this picture I painted in my head of Maia in Ireland studying with a traditional healer. I know it wasn't always easy, but that sense of being there, being connected to the land, the seasons, and nature.

Maia Toll:

Yeah. That was the gift of that time, there was nothing else to focus on. I think a lot of times, we study something and the rest of our life is ongoing. We're still immersed in our own rhythms, whatever they are, whether they're work rhythms, or school rhythms, or family rhythms. The rhythm of whatever we're studying, it doesn't get to kind of take over our heartbeat. It's kind of like our heartbeat beats at its normal pace, and then we study this other thing on the side. By going to Ireland and being immersed in my teacher's world, that rhythm shifted. It wasn't easy.

I have always been pretty intellectual, like pretty ... how do I say this? I want to know the facts. I'm a Capricorn rising, like, give me the hardcore stuff that's going to last forever. I've come to see that folklore actually is that, that the truest stories we can tell are the fables and the fairy tales that many people can relate to. Going into my Ireland time, I was coming from a heavy-duty academic background. That sliding into a seasonal rhythm instead of an academic rhythm, that took a lot of self-coaching and mini temper tantrums, and all the things that we do when we're shifting, and it's uncomfortable.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. Well that is maybe where our camaraderie, I remember the word now, comes from also, because I had a very similar thing. I love facts, I love practical stuff. For me, herbalism has been a series of paradigm shifts of sinking ever deeper into just having this new world open before my eyes. I hear that in your story too.

Maia Toll:

Yeah. Yeah.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Well, I'm so excited that you chose thyme, because thyme is easily one of my most favorite herbs. I love it in so many ways. I can't imagine winter without thyme, actually, because I love, there's something about thyme in soup, most soups. Obviously not all soups are the same, but for me, most soup is not a soup unless there's plenty of thyme. Just such a comfort to me. I'm excited to hear what you have to share about thyme.

Maia Toll:

Yeah. I was thinking about this, like trying to remember when it kind of seeped so deeply into my consciousness. My teacher, and I do just want to kind of mention, I used to start anything like this, by kind of giving my lineage and naming my teacher. I've actually very purposefully stopped doing that, because it's one thing when you're teaching like 10 people. It's another thing when you're doing video for thousands of people. At a certain point, it becomes like a privacy issue.

It's kind of the flip side of the respect is that she is now my teacher instead of her name. My teacher used thyme, it was one of her go-tos for any kind of virus or bacteria. One of the things that was really foundational in Ireland was we used what we could grow or what we could wildcraft. There was no black cohosh in the repertoire. It doesn't grow there. My teacher at that stage didn't have a lot of extra money for buying herbs from overseas and things like that. We were using what we could grow or what we could gather.

Thyme was a really important antiviral antimicrobial in her toolkit, but it wasn't her go-to. She tended toward... dandelion and nettle were in everything. A formula did not walk out the door that didn't have usually both of those herbs in it. Thyme really just rose up for me. I think I really vibe with the Mediterranean basin plants. My family's Jewish, maybe there's something in that ancient, ancient, ancient DNA that comes forward. Thyme has always been one that's spoken to me.

Intellectually, part of it is it's antimicrobial and antiviral. A lot of times, you don't know what the heck you're dealing with, and you're not going to be able to figure it out. You're just like, "Okay, great. Use thyme." I think people use oregano for the same reason, but I find oregano kind of like thyme's harsh cousin.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

That's a really good way of saying that. I feel the same way. I love oregano for all its wonderful gifts, but there's something about thyme that is just, it's not that it's weaker. It just has the taste and the feel of it is just more smooth.

Maia Toll:

Yeah. It's less brash. It's not going to hit you over the head just for fun. Oregano kind of reminds me, I don't know if you have this person in your family, but when I was a kid growing up, I had the rough and tumble cousin who would whap you on the back of the head and stuff like that. Oregano reminds me a little bit of that, friendly and cheerful, and the big golden retriever that might knock you down, whereas thyme is equally potent, but less of that kind of knock-you-over.

I reach for thyme often, especially ... I was a clinical herbalist for over a decade, and the more you are working in something, kind of the deeper your knowledge goes. I was working with probably over a hundred plants on a regular basis. As I've kind of reverted to just a regular herbalist, I find that, first of all, I don't have the huge apothecary on hand anymore. Also my knowledge of the things that I'm not in touch with daily has definitely waned.

Thyme is kind of the regular friend and anytime anything comes up, that's what I reach for. My favorite little thyme mini moment was I got a call from my mom and she said, I forget where she was going, but she's like, "I'm going to have to cancel my plane tickets. I have some kind of weird stomach bug." My mom will do what I tell her, but she's never studied herbs. It's not her thing, but she's seen it work enough that she'll follow instructions. I said, "Mom, do you have any thyme in your spice cupboard?" Now you have to understand, my mom has McCormick spices from like, 1972.

They don't even use the same label anymore. My mom pulls out her ancient, ancient, little bottle of thyme. I said, "Okay, make tea with it. It's going to taste like spaghetti sauce, but just drink it." She drank two cups of tea, and apparently things were heading out in both directions. She called me like three hours later and she said, "It stopped. I'm fine." Thyme does not let me down. It's a good one. I feel like, because it can be used for respiratory, for digestive, for, I don't know what the hell it is, let's throw some thyme at it. It's the one I reach for.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Oh yeah. That's one thing. As many culinary herbs, it could be dismissed as a culinary herb, but it has such a potent punch to it. Energetically, thyme is so spicy. It's hot. I remember, I think it was Todd Caldecott, he once said in an interview or something, that thyme is the cayenne of the north, in that it grows very far north, latitude-speaking, but it is such a spicy hot plant.

I've been lucky enough to spend some time in Ireland, not yet a year, but some good time over there, I do love it so much. I became obsessed with taking pictures of the mountain thyme just growing out of rocks, like right on the seashore. I'll try and find some of those photos and put them up here. It is such a potent, spicy, energetically moving, which is when you're in Ireland, and it's moist and boggy, and damp, and cold, for a lot of the year, it's such a wonderful match for that.

Maia Toll:

Yeah. I'm just thinking about the cayenne of the north. It's really interesting. I actually have a nightshade allergy, and can't do cayenne. I'd never thought of thyme as kind of replacing that in my arsenal. I do use thyme and ginger that way. Where someone else might throw a pinch of cayenne, I'll throw some thyme or some ginger just to keep the blood moving, get the heat moving.

Interestingly, I have found in practice, okay, you put it in your mouth. You're like, "Yep. Spicy." I have found in practice that when I use thyme in formulas, it reminds me a bit of peppermint. It almost modulates itself. If you think about peppermint, you can drink peppermint tea in the morning to perk you up. Then you can drink peppermint tea in the evening to put you to sleep.

It's a little different than amphoteric. It's almost like the herb is self modulating a little bit. If you picture a coin, it's on the edge of the coin instead of on one side or the other, and it can flip either way. I feel like thyme can do that. I don't worry about thyme overheating someone. You would think that I would, because I'm also resonating with you saying it's the cayenne of the north, but I just haven't found that in practice. I think that there's a little bit of a menthol kick in the back of the taste of thyme. It's almost like icy hot. It comes in hot, and then it has the cool kick behind and it balances itself.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. It's interesting. I've never thought of it like that because I do think of it as spicy. As you say that, I've also not seen it to be aggravating. I think of it more as stimulating, like it gets things moving. I rely on it a lot for respiratory congestion. It's one of my favorites for that, or just that beginning stages of a cold or flu, or just any time things feel like they're starting to come in and just solidify and become stuck. Thyme is such a great mover.

Maia Toll:

Yes. It's funny, when I was thinking about recipes, because I was like, oh thyme, it's got to be thyme when you asked me one herb. It didn't occur to me to share this. I'm happy to share it. Also, this is the flu tea that I designed for our shop. It's just elderberry, hibiscus, and thyme.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Oh lovely.

Maia Toll:

Following up on what you were just saying, I feel like it stimulates the elderberry. It's almost like the train that carries the elderberry deeper in. It loosens things up. It gets things out of the way so that the elderberry can move in. The hibiscus in that blend brings in a lot of vitamin C, plus it's just pretty and tasty, which is important when you don't feel well.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. Yeah. That's such a wonderful combination. I'm going to make a variation of that. I'm getting on a plane soon, and that just seems like the perfect before-plane tea as well. Keep things moving, keep things strong.

Maia Toll:

Yep. It's a good one. I also, sometimes when I travel on a plane, I will bring a little bottle of thyme essential oil. Usually for something like that, I'll bring like a thyme linalool instead of a red thyme. Just something that's a smidge gentler, so if I'm opening it on the airplane and sniffing it, people aren't like ...

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Good tip. Well, let's talk about your recipe, which is thyme za'atar, I'm excited for this. I love za'atar. I make it all the time. I actually do often make it more with oregano. I'm really excited to try this version with thyme, since I love thyme so much.

Maia Toll:

Yeah. I started eating za'atar... My sister married an Israeli. I think he would even bring it. It's a spice that in his family, in Israel, they literally don't leave home without. When he would come to the States for a couple months, he'd bring za'atar with him. I started eating it with them, not consciously realizing that it was thyme, but just having that same affection and draw toward it. Then once I realized it was thyme, I was like, "Oh, this is absolutely the best."

Then when I began to understand how you make it, you actually make it with fresh thyme, not with dried thyme. I was like, "Oh, this is such a great way to get that really fresh, potent, thyme into your system," but it's just a spice blend. It's just like a sprinkle that you can put on some toast with olive oil. If I make garlic bread, I put it in there. I put it on pasta. I put it on fish. You name it, I put it on. Any kind of veggies, any kind of salad. That's the way they use it in the Arab countries. It's sprinkled on everything.

It's really simple. It's just thyme, a little bit of salt, sumac, which this is not the same as the sumac that we have here in the States. Don't sub it, because you will poison yourself. This is another Mediterranean herb. It's related to the sumac that we have here. The white berried sumac is poisonous, and that's what we have in the States. This is a red berried sumac. It's a relative, but it's not the same thing.

I usually just buy the sumac as already powdered, chop up the thyme, put in the sumac, put in some salt, mix it all together. Sometimes I add some dried garlic. Sometimes I don't have sumac, and so I want to replace... Sumac has a tart taste. So sometimes I'll put a little lemon in, or if I'm going eat it right away, I'll chop up some wood sorrel, because that's really lemony.

Some of it is shelf stability. Am I eating it right away and just making a smidge? Then the final ingredient is sesame seeds. I just buy them toasted already, so that's not another step in the process. If you buy the pre-powdered sumac and the toasted sesame seeds, this recipe takes a minute and a half.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Love it.

Maia Toll:

Yeah. Yeah. Feel free to change the proportions and stuff. There's a joke in my household that I've never followed a recipe twice. I actually had to kind of make up this recipe for you. I was like, "Ooh, what do I do?" The last time I went to Israel, I brought home so much za'atar. I brought home Hyssop za'atar, and Lebanese za'atar, and 57 million kinds of za'atar.

I haven't even made it recently, because I have enough for a lifetime. Play with the proportions and do it to suit your taste. This isn't even done to my very current taste buds. This is more like recreating, because I haven't made it in a bit.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. Well it is such a fun one to play with, as you said, and so fast to come together. Whenever I get an especially beautiful loaf of bread, or some new olive oil, that's kind of like my go-to, it's just like immediate in my mind. I'm just like, "Okay, I'm going to make some za'atar and try it out," and putting it in soups and salads, all of it. It's one of those things that if you always have it nearby, then you're always getting this wonderful, delicious flavor punch with your meals.

Maia Toll:

Yeah. It's great for omelets. It's honestly one of those, I can't think of anything that it's not good on or in. Maybe something sweet.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. Maybe.

Maia Toll:

I'm just thinking, Rosalee. I'm like, Ooh, but what would happen if you put it on lemon sorbet?

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Ooh, that sounds really incredible, actually.

Maia Toll:

Right? Like salty, sweet lemon thyme?

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. We're going to have to try that. We cannot just talk about it.

This message is for the listeners. As you probably know by now, I love to share recipes when we talk about these plants. Recipes are a wonderful way for you to get involved and create your own experience with herbs. It's one thing to hear cool facts about thyme, but an entirely other thing to form your own relationship with this plant, through observing, through tending, and of course, through tasting.

To help you get to know thyme more deeply, Maia is sharing a thyme za'atar recipe. I make recipes of this blend all the time, and I love it so much. I'm excited to hear what you all think. You can download your recipe card by clicking the link above this transcript. 

Maia, do you have anything else to share about thyme with us?

Maia Toll:

Yeah. I think one thing that I would love to just warn people about with the thyme essential oils is the red thyme is super strong. If you're a person who steams, I would either use the linalool, or if you put your red thyme into your bowl of boiling water, just step back from the bowl for a couple minutes, let those first volatile oils come off.

I'm the person who has the towel ready and I'm going to get under there and get all the best oils right from the very beginning. I've actually burnt my lungs so that four days later, they still hurt from one drop of red thyme in the boiling water and just getting under there and breathing those initial fumes. It's one to be careful with. You can even just use thyme from your garden in a steam instead of going all the way to the essential oil, if you want to gentle it up.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. Do you have thyme as a tea, as a simple or do you often combine it with other ...

Maia Toll:

Okay, I'm going to tell you the weird thing I do.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Okay.

Maia Toll:

Thyme tea tastes like spaghetti to me, but for some reason I feel like it mixes really well with apple cider. Yeah, apple cider. In my mind, I had said apple vinegar and I'm like, no, you mean cider. I said cider. Yeah. There's something about the thyme. Maybe it's that lemon and thyme is the same as the apple and thyme. It does something similar. A lot of times if I make a simple thyme tea, I'll mix it half and half with apple cider.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Ooh, that sounds yummy too. It's like a hot cider spiced with thyme.

Maia Toll:

Yeah, and you can do it hot or you can do it cold. Either way.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yum.

Maia Toll:

It's weird, but good.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. One thing that just occurred to me, earlier we were talking about how it's kind of like a modulator and it kind of goes either way and helps modulate other things. I was thinking, when I get sick, I'll often eat a lot of raw garlic. Raw garlic on its own can be very upsetting to my belly. What I've learned over the years is I'll make like a garlic butter and put it on bread. The bread helps as well, or veggies, just to kind of have something else that's not raw garlic on an empty stomach. When I add thyme to it, thyme takes away that queasiness that I get with the raw garlic.

And so I was just thinking, that's just something I've learned to do, something I've done for years. It kind of lends itself to that, how it just kind of helps it go either way, and it just softens things. Yeah.

Maia Toll:

Yeah. Okay, first of all, thank you for that tip because I can't do raw garlic, so I'm going to try that. It's really interesting because when we think of the cayenne of the north, I'm not going to stop saying that, we think of that really crazy spiciness. Then when you walk outside and you find a little mound of thyme, it is soft and gentle. It's not a big look-at-me plant.

It's not making a big fuss. It's just kind of creeping along, holding down the soil. The growth habit of it is kind of gentle. Its presence is gentle. When you sit with it, you don't have this kind of whammed over the head feeling from it. It's just interesting to me to think about what the technical energetics are, versus what the experience of the plant is.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. This is such a great conversation. I feel like I'm thinking about thyme in all new ways. That's so fun to learn about an old friend and get a deeper perspective, which with plants happens to me all the time.

Maia Toll:

All the time.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. Was there anything else that you'd like to share about thyme?

Maia Toll:

I think we're good.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Okay. I'm super excited for your new book, Maia. I have all of your other books. The Herbiary, of course, is one of my very favorites and I also have loved the Bestiary and the Crystallary from you as well. This is the fourth installment and I am so excited. I pre-ordered it months ago, of course.

Maia Toll:

Thank you.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I'm subscribed to your newsletter, and as soon as you said it was coming out, I was like, "Yep. I'm going to be getting that." Easy does it, right there. I'd love to hear more about the book.

Maia Toll:

Well, this book, going right back to where you started, the conversation focuses on the rhythms. It focuses on the rhythms of the year, and the rhythms of the plants, and the rhythms of the sun. My goal is to help people find that rhythm in their own life. It's not as pointed towards individual plants, animals, or crystals, but instead how to use the plants, animals, and crystals, and the energy of the seasons themselves to find your rhythm, to find your comfort, to find your balance.

I have my author's copy. This has just been such a crazy thing with this book, for those of you who have ordered it early, and have watched the dates change in your shopping cart over the months, I'm terribly sorry. I mean the whole industry's been having trouble, but they're here. They're actually here, and they're starting to ship to the stores. We're getting there, but I got my author's copy.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Ah, it's just beautiful.

Maia Toll:

Yeah. One of my very favorite ... it's so funny. The graphic designer suggested this, and I love the woman, she's not the illustrator, she's the person in charge of putting the book together. I adore her. She had this idea and she seemed so excited about it. I didn't want to say, "That's kind of odd." What she wanted to do was to put these pockets in the book. I don't know, let me see if I can stick my finger into it so you can kind of like see that it's a pocket.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Oh, yeah.

Maia Toll:

Right. I created exercises where you put a letter to yourself in the pocket, and then you can come back the following year. My thought with this is I want people to not just read it, put it down, and go away. I want this to become the ongoing guide that you return to and you go, "Oh, what's changed since last year? Am I still feeling the way I did the year before?" These pockets almost let you scrapbook.

I was showing the pockets to someone the other day and I was like, "Oh my God, it would be so cool to give this to someone else and put a note for them, for each of the seasons, in the little pocket so that they would find in them later." I'm kind of tickled. The book process is fascinating, because whoever you are, the author comes up with this book, and then you bring it to the team at your publishing house. Who knows what's going to happen then?

Rosalee de la Forêt:

So true. Yeah.

Maia Toll:

You end up with pockets in the middle of your book and then you end up writing to the pocket, because you don't want to say no to the designer that you love. Then it just comes full circle, and all of a sudden you love the pockets. I don't know. I feel like everything reflects everything else. That full circle of the book writing, it's the same that we're doing with the year. We're just coming around and seeing it from a different angle, as we move around the wheel of the year.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Those pockets are brilliant. I think that is so cool.

Maia Toll:

They're really beautiful. They're all different from each other. I'm just trying to find the winter one because it's kind of awesome. Oh goodness, I'm having trouble with this camera. Yeah. Yeah, it's a really exciting book for me. Then at the end of each chapter, you do have cards, like that happened with my other books. I explore archetypal symbols for each of the seasons. This is the mermaid, and this is what's on the cards.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Oh my gosh, I can't wait. I'm so excited.

Maia Toll:

Soon, like super soon at this point. Yeah.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah, what a wonderful addition. Again, I'm just still struck by those pockets. That's so cool, because what I find from your books is there is so many layers of wisdom, and also it's something that you could read from cover to cover, and also very much meant to just be a one off.

I find when I do that with your books, because I read the same ones over and over at different times a year, it just has different ... it hits me at different times. What I need to hear is in there in a different way. I like that, that this book is really about you keep visiting it over and over again, because that is the thing about the seasons. It's our journey through them, and it's a continuing spiral, not a linear process.

Maia Toll:

Yeah. I think that if we allow ourselves that, if we step off the linear timeline and into the cyclical timeline, then you're allowed to go back, which on the linear timeline, you're not supposed to do. On the linear timeline, it's almost a sign of failure, that you are returning to an earlier point in the timeline. It's part of this drive we have, this forward momentum. We're not supposed to go back, whereas once you step onto a cyclical timeline, then of course you go back. You have to go back, there's no choice.

It's like, who are you in this place once again? How have you changed? How have you grown? To me, it just offers so many opportunities to know yourself, and because we're people who work with plants, to know the plants that are growing out in the world, and how you are relating to them in the different seasons and how they're relating to you.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Absolutely. To me, that's the juiciness of herbalism. I think if I had only studied herbalism as a pharmacology, where no connection to the plants themselves, no connection to the seasons. I don't know that I would've been long for that.

Maia Toll:

Yeah.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Whereas this, all that we're discussing is really what is the joie de vivre for me, it really brings in what's so essential and so important, has made my life so much richer because of it.

Maia Toll:

Yes. Yes. It's interesting, because we had kind of set up to talk about what has this study, this practice, brought into your life? When I was thinking about it, it's everything that you and I have been discussing up until this point in the conversation. It's the paradigm shift. It's the turning your expectations right over, and it's this joy and wonder in the daily.

I'm always saying to my book agent... This magic stuff, this witchy stuff, it's really no different than what Brene Brown is doing. It's a path to happiness, and wonder, and joy. I think that sometimes that message gets a little lost, and it becomes just a path to healing and to wellness. We forget that true wellness is wonder and joy. It's knowing that you're connected to the world, and feeling secure in that connection.

That's what healing really is. It's a rooted thing that's reaching for the sun. It's not some disconnected, disembodied thing that happens to you in your body.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

That is so true. I often think of that as in visuals in my mind. It's this visual of somebody in a Walgreens, buying a pink syrup or some pills, and taking them, and then that's health and healing in some paradigms, versus me walking outside, visiting with my elder shrub, gently harvesting some of the berries, giving thanks for all the beauty around me, bringing that back home, making my own medicine, which is so empowering.

All of that is the healing for me, just like you said. It's just I think the more folks that find that they're dissatisfied with the, maybe I shouldn't pick on Walgreens, but with the drug store experience of just buying this thing separate from you. How much healing is really in there?

Maia Toll:

Yeah. Yeah. I do want to point out, I think it's so important. One thing that I know I did as a young herbalist, and I've seen other young herbalists in this mindset, is that herbs are everything, that this disconnected pharmaceutical experience should never happen. Whenever you get to never, you're not in a good place. I don't care what that never is. Once you get to never going to happen, you're out of balance.

I think that it's so important to remember that we are not the first people to use herbalism. Herbalism has been being used for thousands upon thousands of years. During that time, there have been some God-awful diseases that have sometimes gone around for over a century. The bubonic plague came, and then disappeared for a while, and it came again. The herbalists back then were just as good, if not better, than us. There were things that they couldn't figure out how to resolve in a good way.

Sometimes pharmaceuticals fill that gap. I love talking about the joy of the connection with your medicine, and the healing that comes from just walking outside. Most of us don't, having the relationship with the plant that you're going to get the medicine from. I also know for myself, I went through a decade of migraines where literally, I was vomiting 12, 15 times, shaking from head to toe, and refusing to take anything except herbs. During that time period, I tried every single herb in the book. I tried it in every form. It wasn't working.

From a further along perspective, I now look back at that particular self and I say, "Oh my God, you poor thing. I let you get so traumatized for what essentially at that point was a belief system, instead of allowing the abundance of our human experience to give me what I needed in that moment."

How many days or weeks did I lose, where if I would've just taken the damn Imitrex, I could have been outside enjoying the herbs instead of in my room with an ice pack and an eye shade on my head. I also just want to remind people who are new to this path, don't let this become some weird cultish belief system that may or may not be serving you. Use your rational brain, as well as your intuition.

I traveled to Peru, I was asked to teach. This was an amazing opportunity. I was teaching in the Amazon alongside a shaman and a representative of the government who was studying plants for scientific medicinal purposes. I'm deep in the rainforest and I get a bladder infection. I was like, "Hey, I'm in the rainforest. Yay. There's got to be something here." I went to the shaman and I was like, "Hey, I need some help." He said, "Hmm," and he turned to the scientist, and they conferred in a language I didn't speak.

The scientist said to me, "What you need is not in this part of the jungle." I was like, "I'm in the rain forest, I'm teaching herbalism. There's got to be something." The shaman said, "Well, I'll make you some drinks in the morning, and we'll see if it clears up." For a couple days, he would make me basically cucumber, cucumber juice, to kind of cool it. It was not clearing up. One of the other women on the trip had antibiotics with her and she said, "I have antibiotics." I was like, "No way, no. Not doing it." The shaman happened to overhear the conversation. He came over and he was like, "Yes, you're doing it."

He took the antibiotic from her and he held it in his hands and he blessed it. Then he handed me, he said, "You take," and it was such an important lesson. We've got to find balance, and we've got to use the resources available to us in the moment. We can also do it in a way that makes their energy positive, or at least neutral. We can bless a pharmaceutical pill. We can take out the little orange bottle and put it under the elder tree and ask for her blessing. As you're working through your herbal journey, don't go to extremes. I think, just find the middle path.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. That's a very wise reminder. I wholeheartedly agree with that, Maia. Thanks for sharing.

Maia Toll:

Yeah.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I just can't wait for the day we have truly integrated care.

Maia Toll:

Right.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Where it's not just one or the other. I do get annoyed sometimes when people, like my friends and people I can get annoyed at, think that I'm opposed to western medicine or opposed to things like that. My husband recently really hurt his foot and he went to the doctor, thinking it might be broken. It wasn't broken. The doctor told him take a bunch of ibuprofen and Tylenol every six hours. That was all he gave him because that was what he wanted to do.

I was complaining to someone like, "Can you believe that? That's what they said." The person was like, "Well, ibuprofen isn't bad. I don't think you should be against ibuprofen." I was like, "Wait a second. I'm not against ibuprofen. I'm just against that as a first call on this. Let's try other things. If that doesn't work, maybe he wants to choose to take ibuprofen. Fine with me." I really want to see more integrated care where we have options, not just one or the other, and we come up with a plan that makes sense. An evolving plan too.

Maia Toll:

Yes, yes. Right. How many people do you know that have been on the same medication for seven years, and they don't remember why they're taking it because the plan doesn't evolve. I think that evolution is so important, but it's going to take a change at the learning level. In order for that kind of integration to happen, we need doctors who understand both.

Actually, I had one in Philadelphia. She was German. She would give me homeopathics. Before, she'd say, "Okay, here's the homeopathic. Try this for five days and then move on to this other thing." I think it's just going to take a different kind of training in the medical schools. Some of it's happening, but it's so minuscule and it's so not comprehensive. It's like one little course, and usually the nurses take it, not the doctors.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Right. Just have to hold it in our hearts and keep showing up with our herbal-ness and other all means and show options.

Maia Toll:

Yeah, yeah.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Well, if we are ending with our conversation, I do have one more question for you. It's been one I've been asking everybody in season two, and it's been really fun to hear the responses from everyone. That question is, what in your herbal path has been surprising to you? Something has jumped out of you as like, wow, I wasn't expecting that.

Maia Toll:

Yeah. I think for me, it's actually everything we've been talking about. It's this idea of the rhythms, and how those rhythms then take over your entire life. When I went to Ireland, I was just a teacher taking a sabbatical year. I figured that I would go back to teaching second grade, fourth grade, whatever I was going to be teaching that year.

It never occurred to me that this kind of time out year would end up changing the whole way my brain worked, and the whole way that I saw life, and the way that I approached things, and what I wanted to do for a career. For me, herbalism changed everything. That was a total surprise. That wasn't where I thought I was going.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. That is a big surprise. It is interesting that so often the plants, I feel like that story is not uncommon. I definitely relate to it as well. The plants, they reach out, they grab us. Really I'm saying plants because I tend to be herbal-centric, but really the land reaches out and grabs us, and we form those relationships. There's just really no going back after that.

Maia Toll:

No, there's no going back.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Well, thank you so much, Maia. Thanks for being here. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. I am so excited for your new book, and just really pleased you were able to spend time with me and all of us today.

Maia Toll:

Yeah. Thank you so much for having me, Rosalee. This was awesome.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Thanks for watching. Don't forget to click the link above this transcript to get free access to Maia's thyme za'atar recipe.

You can also visit Maia directly at MaiaToll.com. I highly recommend signing up for her newsletter. I'm subscribed myself.

If you enjoyed this interview, then before you go, be sure to subscribe to my own newsletter below so that you'll be the first to get my new videos, including interviews like this. I'd also love to hear your comments about this interview and this lovely plant.

I deeply believe that this world needs more herbalists and plant-centered folks. I'm so glad that you are here as part of this herbal community. Have a beautiful day.


Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Heal and co-author of the bestselling book Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine. She's a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and has taught thousands of students through her online courses. Read about how Rosalee went from having a terminal illness to being a bestselling author in her full story here.  



Choose the best herb for you!

The secret to using herbs successfully begins with knowing who YOU are. 

Get started by taking my free Herbal Jumpstart course when you enter your name and email address. 

By signing up for my free course you’ll also be joining my weekly newsletter where I send my best tips and herbal recipes. I never sell your information and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.

Information found on this website is meant for educational purposes only.
It is not meant to diagnose medical conditions, to treat any medical conditions or to prescribe medicine.
Copyright 2010-2022 www.HerbalRemediesAdvice.org by Rosalee de la Forêt
Affiliate Disclaimer