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Rosalee: Hello, and welcome to the Herbs With Rosalee Podcast. I'm your host, Rosalee de la Forêt. Today, I'm delighted to be here with Selima Harleston Lust. I have been enjoying following Selima on Instagram a lot lately and then a podcast listener recommended her as a guest. So I reached out and I'm thrilled that Selima agreed to be here. Selima is a wife, mother, survivor, and co-founder of Iwilla Remedy, passionate about helping people travel the most graceful path from illness to wellness. Selima bridges the gaps between your body, your consciousness, and your soul’s evolution. As a clinical herbalist, medical astrologer and spiritual teacher, her approach to wellbeing is deeply rooted in establishing relationships with plant medicine, practicing proactive spiritual alignment, and utilizing emotional alchemy to help people reclaim their power after trauma, as well as to uncover the spiritual root cause of physical pain, illness, and disease.
In her signature online mentorship, herbal medicine for the soul, she teaches adults how to reclaim their wellness naturally while addressing the emotional root cause of pain using the CALYPSO Healing Method™. Selima has given motivational talks at the Black Urban Growers, Sex Down South, and the NYC Spiritual Herbalism Conferences. She's a proud graduate of Spelman College (BA), Teachers College Columbia University (MA), the Peace Corps, and Sacred Vibes Apothecary Herbal Apprenticeship. Welcome to the Herbs With Rosalee Podcast, Selima. Thanks so much for being here.
Selima: Thank you. I'm excited to be here.
Rosalee: Well, we've already been having a great chat, so we're going to continue our great chat here. And I'm excited to hear more about your path and how you found yourself on this plant path and, something that I'm also especially interested in, is that you talk a lot about energetics, that beautiful art of matching plants to people. And so I'm hoping that you can weave that in, too, as we hear about how you got started on this path yourself.
Selima: Yes. I started probably similarly to a lot of people in wanting to address my own health concerns because I was going to the doctor for what I thought at the time were simple issues: digestive issues, I had chronic hip pain, back pain, like it was all of this stuff that I thought could be easily corrected. And we just kept getting bottles of stuff and I was going to the chiropractor three times a week. I mean, I was in my early twenties and being told that I'm going to have to go to the chiropractor for this amount of time for the rest of my life. That didn't make any sense and it was actually my wife, Tami, who kind of broke the cycle for us, where she was like, "we are spinning our wheels with this system, so let's figure out how we can heal ourselves, how we can address our own issues naturally."
And she started like many people do, you just get on the internet and you start Googling, what can you take for X, Y, Z? And we had some success. We were definitely feeling improvements in our health. And at the same time, we had changed our diet, started moving more, so there were lots of changes that were happening at the same time. And we were, I don't know if you want to call it couraged or just blind faith or ignorance, we launched our company of body care and started selling and making some of the products that we were using ourselves to our community. And it was about a year in that we realized we had no idea what we were doing. And that's when we were like, we need to really learn from someone because having a Google degree is not going to make this sustainable.
And that's when we found -- at the time we lived in Brooklyn -- and we discovered Karen Rose of Sacred Vibes Apothecary and studied with her and her apprenticeship program for three years. And it was just a really pivotal time in our lives. We learned so much, we really learned the foundations of herbalism and what that means and how this isn't like modern medicine that just matches drugs with symptoms. Like you really have to understand people. And I think stepping out as an herbalist where you feel okay, and I've done my training, I'm ready. I can do this. I have the books, I have the library.
And then, when you actually start working with people, that integration, that's really what it is. It's like that process of integration and really feeling like you understand this work. That can be a bit shocking too. And so one of the most recent posts that I have on Instagram is talking about one of those first clients and how I had to go through iterations, seven iterations of making her medicine, because I was not understanding her. And until I understood her and it really was through this process of listening to her feedback and what she was saying and how it felt in her body. But yeah, it was a key phrase that she said about it feeling like fire, even though she checks all of the Kapha boxes, but saying internally that she feels like fire. I was like, "Wait a minute. That's not supposed to happen. It's not what the books say."
But that illuminated, that was a light bulb moment that helped me really understand who she was. And then to craft medicine that was more tailored to who she was finally worked. And you just get so thankful that people stick with you in the beginning for so long.
Rosalee: Yeah. I feel like I have like a cheeky question for you. Couldn't you just find the herb for her illness, Selima? That was a good question, this-for-that kind of thing, you could have just done through that.
Selima: Right. Which is the question that we as herbalists and practitioners get all the time, like what herb can I take for this? And it's a tough question for us. And it's really complicated. It's really complicated to answer.
Rosalee: It is. And you mentioned that going to the doctors for digestive issues and how you just felt like you were just going round and round with that. And you said, you thought it was a simple thing with digestion. And then, it's like as you get deeper and deeper into that and seeing that there's so much more to it, not just like the thing we take, but it might be the things we eat. It might be our state of mind and how complicated that can be. So when people approach a practitioner, and say, what herb is good for IBS or what herb is good for constipation? that there's just not that this-for-that thing.
Selima: Not at all.
Rosalee: So I love that you had the support from your wife, Tami, while you were going through your illness. And then I also love how you just dove into herbs; you're like, I found something that works. I'm going to recreate it, share with people. I love that attitude of all right, moving forward, going all in. And then you did the apprenticeship. I mean, that's no small commitment right there, a three year apprenticeship. Is there a point where you were like, wow, this is not where I thought I was going. And now here I am just entrenched in it.
Selima: Yeah. We thought that we were just doing this for us. And then, it's just these doorways kept gradually opening at the same time that the doors in what I thought I was supposed to do were closing. So my plan was to be in arts administration, to be in the arts, be in entertainment. I had been on stage since I was five years old, performing and singing and dancing and thinking that that was my career path. And all of those doors were just kind of closing. And it's funny when that happens, because you try to trick the universe and be, well, I'm just going to go this way and it doesn't work. And so at this same time, these doors are closing and this healing path is opening, but I'm still not fully embracing or accepting it. I'm just, okay, this is something that we can do because we've had success, we can share it and we can see where it goes.
And in the middle of the apprenticeship, my childhood trauma that I experienced really resurfaced. And it's not that I was ignoring it. I knew that I had a traumatic childhood environment, but there were other things like having experienced sexual trauma that I just didn't know what to do with. And I feel like a lot of people were at that place where it's like, I know that I have this experience, I don't know what to do with it. And the plants were so graceful in helping me to hear my inner voice, so that I hear my steps that I'm supposed to take on this healing path. And so I just kept going with it. Even when we were done with the apprenticeship, I just found myself still in the kitchen, making plants, still in the book just researching plants, even before seeing clients, just like, I'm still in this. And it was probably years later, honestly, that I fully embraced it and said, oh, okay, I'm an herbalist. Like, all right, I get it.
Rosalee: I like that. It's like the plants were tugging you, tugging you, tugging at you and holistic healing is tugging you. And then it was really just you realizing, oh yeah, okay, I hear you.
Selima: I hear you, right. It's like they gathered me. It's a call and it's a response. And so we can have this inner passion but not even realize it. And we can have this purpose and this calling, but we have to accept the invitation. And plants are really, really beautiful at the patience that they extend to us.
Rosalee: All right. Selima, before we get to your chosen plant, burdock, which I'm super excited to talk about, I just have an odd question for you. I'm curious about the answer and I think others will be too. When somebody writes you in any way shape or form and says, what herb is good for blank, whatever that might be, headaches, eczema, heartache, whatever that is. What is your response to that?
Selima: It's such a tough question. And I always freeze at the keyboard too, because my mind just starts going and it's just like, oh, if it was simple, I would be able to just type back and say take this, but nothing is simple. And so I really just try to respond and explain that herbs aren't one-size-fits all. And that as a practitioner, there's a level of responsibility. I wouldn't want to recommend something to you that is going to cause harm. And that's my greatest fear, for me to say, take this. And then now I feel responsible if something bad were to happen. And also just like I tell people, I don't have enough information about you, your constitution, your diet, your lifestyle, your mindset in order to make a safe recommendation. And then I invite them to just look at the information on the program that I offer. Because it's a really good explanation around how truly mind, body, spirit, how it's all interconnected.
Rosalee: Yeah. It's like that question, there's a mindset there of when someone asks that question, and I don't say this like I'm superior, because I've been in that same place of just like, we're trying to treat illness without looking at the person, which is what you're describing. Because how do we look at the person? But yeah, it's just an interesting thing, because the people ask the question without recognizing the complexity underneath it. So I really like your response and that's something that I see you frequently post about. So I wanted to hack.
However, shall we dive into burdock, Selima? I'm curious, how did you come up with burdock for a plant to discuss today?
Selima: Burdock is one of my first loves. Within the apprenticeship program, we spent time with a plant and burdock was my chosen plant to have a walk with. And so I call that process for myself, a plant communion with, and the best way I can describe my experience with burdock, because it's a visual that comes to mind. It's really almost like I was in an ice cube and burdock helped thaw me out. I felt very robotic, like from the way in which childhood trauma impacted me, the most was probably being just emotionally shut down. Very cold. I could lean to like being mean, right? Like that's easy because that's a defense mechanism, in terms of not allowing people to get too close, but I did, I felt, and I would say this, even in our wedding vows and it's like, I just felt like a robot, like I was unfeeling and just did not know how to tap in and burdock helped to soften all of that hardness.
And that to me is the most beautiful conversation that we can have about any relationship that we develop with plants. It's like, how do they help us deepen our relationship with ourselves? And it was during the time of working with burdock that the resurfaced memories of being raped rose to the surface, but it wasn't so shocking. It was in this, in the back of my mind, this lingering feeling. I said to a college mate at 18, I was like, I think something else happened to me, but I'm not ready to know what. It was during building that relationship with myself through burdock that I thought I figured that out. And it wasn't this anger releasing process. It felt more like relief, that it's like, finally I know everything that I've experienced and now it's this greater question of, okay, well what do I do about that? And so that became, approaching my abuser and really just stepping in, just stepping more fully into who I wanted to be as someone who could feel again. It's hard. I feel there's so much more that I could say, but it's like, you can't fully grasp it until you really work with a plant in an intimate way that you see yourself through a new lens.
Rosalee: Yeah. That really just so powerfully speaks to that deep, complex ways that plants heal. And again, I think of the questions that I often get and one of the questions I get that picks at me a bit is and again, it comes from this place, if somebody's just starting out, I asked the same question, but it's, what is a plant good for? What do you use it for? And it's just like, do you have several days?
Selima: I know.
Rosalee: Like really in that the gifts because there's really no simplicity to any plant. We can have simplicity in our own knowledge, but it's not reflected in the plant. And that's a really just profound gift and beautiful sharing of what you received from burdock.
Selima: Thank you.
Rosalee: And what are ways that burdock continues to speak to you today in ways that you work with it?
Selima: I think that it's always still that plant that when I'm feeling stuck, that I will turn to. And also when I feel like, again that lingering feeling, like I know this is about something deeper and I want to understand the deeper layer of it. What's at the root of this. The burdock, it being a taproot, it really penetrates, it penetrates the earth, it penetrates our inner soil and helps us to acknowledge. And it's always like that with plants, it's always graceful and compassionate. It never feels like this harsh process in which you can feel violated, right? Sometimes people violate us but plants don't do that. And it's this envelope that opens, it's this invitation that says that you can go into this deeper work and you are equipped. And I am here by your side as an ally, as a friend, as a companion and I'll keep taking it until you see yourself slowly just walking across the threshold into deeper truth about you.
Rosalee: I love all that imagery that you're talking about just in relationship to the actual plant. Like when you said, I use it when I get stuck, I think of the burrs, those burrs that will stick, but I love that taproot imagery as well. It is such a grounding, deepening plant, I think just harvesting your first or 50th wild burdock root. I will just say I've not harvested 50 of them. I've harvested enough to know what a big deal it is, but it's an experience, like that's a learning experience in itself, like what that is to dig that deep into the earth and see how burdock survives and sometimes in really hard impacted soils. And it's not fooling around with its roots.
Selima: And I feel like that's exactly what's happening with us, especially when people experience trauma early on, like that's impacted emotional tension and emotional turmoil, that it's like we need some other tools in order to penetrate this. And burdock is one of those brilliant tools that can just help us get to the root and just chip away at the many layers that trauma leaves us with. Like trauma just creates these layers of armor and burdock can gracefully help us shed those.
Rosalee: Do you see a relationship between the burdock and helping with trauma and its effects on the liver? Just throw that out there.
Selima: I mean, yeah, absolutely. And especially with, I mean, anything, I feel like that works on the liver, works on the blood, cleanses the whole system, and we know that the liver can be the seat of anger. It was one of those things when I was working with burdock that it didn't ... I couldn't even identify at the time with anger. That's how emotionally rigid and how contained, I just felt very contained in this emotional box. And so I wasn't very much identified with anger until I started working with burdock and also give myself the permission to feel angry where I just wanted it. Maybe it's the passion in me. I just wanted to skip to the compassion and be like, no, I don't need to tell my parents, they're retired. They're living their life. I don't want to disrupt what's going on with them.
And it's just like, no, we're not going to do that. But there needs to be acknowledgement of the wounds that were created. And it felt like handing a package back, like something that was sent to me. And it's like, now I'm giving that back to you. And that's what the acknowledgement felt like. And then being able to see, it took a while, but to see the many ways in which I was demonstrating anger that I had to be truthful about. Like I'm demonstrating it within my interactions with people, but it's not about them, right? It's like, what is this triggering within me? And having to be honest with myself about like, oh, I am kind of pissed off about that.
Rosalee: I'm wondering, how do you like to work with burdock? What kind of burdock medicines do you make and how do you like to take them?
Selima: I always have a tincture of burdock and I'll definitely put it in broth, put it in soups. I will stir fry fresh burdock. And I love hot chocolate. Like in the fall, in the winter, making hot chocolate. And there's so many different ways. There's so many variations of which I can make the recipe, but I like my, I call it Liver Love Hot Chocolate. And it's primarily with burdock, which you can play with. You can add roasted chicory. You can add roasted dandelion, cinnamon, sugar, your preferred sweetener, milk or water combination of both, your preferred milk. Everyone has preferences. And I like to drink it at night and it just, oh, the sleep is so good.
Rosalee: Yeah. So this recipe that Selima is describing is luckily being shared with us all. So thank you, Selima, for that. And yeah, so many variations. I know that people are going to love this recipe and I love how the roots and the recipe like burdock and chicory and dandelion. There's like a very grounding centering aspect. It just brings the richness of the cocoa really to life as well. So it's a fantastic recipe. Thank you so much for sharing that with us.
For the listeners, as you probably know by now, I love sharing recipes when we talk about these plants, because recipes are a wonderful way for you to get involved, to create your own experience with herbs. Because it's one thing to hear about someone else's relationship with burdock or hear even facts about burdock, but really this is an entirely different thing to form your own relationship with this plant through your own observation and tending and tasting. So Selima's Liver Love Hot Chocolate recipe, which does have burdock, chicory, dandelion, cinnamon, cocoa, and other delicious things is so fabulous. And you can download your recipe card using the link above this transcript. Do you have any other thoughts you'd like to share about burdock with us Selima, before we move on?
Selima: I don't think so. I really like it for people to explore the relationship with individual plants themselves. I deeply, deeply, deeply feel that each plant has specific medicine that will be revealed to each person. I deeply, deeply feel that and know that. And so I want people to explore and to see what the plant is going to extend to you because the medicine that it offers you, like, yes, we have all our constituents and we have our actions and our benefits. We have all of that, we have science, yes, but none of that's going to speak to what you're going to learn about yourself through your relationship with this plant.
Rosalee: I love that invitation and this autumn time is really the perfect time to get in touch with these deep roots, like burdock. And thanks for mentioning you like it as a tincture. And I think it's increasingly available fresh in grocery stores, Asian grocery stores, health food stores. So be sure to look for it there, too. And as you work with burdock, we'd love to hear in the comments below about your experiences and insights with this fabulous plant. Alright, the last question I have for you, Selima, is one that I'm asking all of my guests in season one. And that question is, with all of the challenges that we're facing today, what are some of the ways that plants instill hope in you?
Selima: That's such a good question. Plants, because we have to talk about how they support us. Of course, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and they provide us with relief. So much relief, especially physical relief from physical pains. And so the hope that plants instill in me is that when you experience relief, that there's a new conversation that happens, which becomes what are you going to now do with that relief? I always think of it as space. Like you now have space inside of you and what are you going to choose to fill that with? And hopefully the choice is always in some form or way aligned with love, with deeper compassion, with understanding, with acceptance, with greater awareness, with all of these things that we can cultivate within ourselves that help us not only to have a better relationship with ourselves, but a better relationship with our world and with the world as a whole.
There's again, it's that invitation, it’s that open envelope that plants are, they deepen our awareness if we allow it, but again, they don't violate. So, it's like, okay, I'm here and we'll work with you in the way in which you allow, but there's more…and there's always more. And if we can accept that call and do it individually, our world will be better. We will make different choices when we are more aware of our behaviors, our wounds, when we are deliberate about healing them, about showing up in our next interaction, just in a better way. There's no definition of what better looks like; that's based on where you are, that radiates out. That's more powerful than any of the things that are going on, is our power to individually show up and change who we are in every interaction and let our changes be in alignment with love.
Rosalee: It's so beautiful, Selima, that's just such powerful stuff that really gets to the heart of plant medicine in so many ways. And I see that in the message that you're sharing with us today, but also in your own lived experience of just those really deep ways that plants heal on so many levels. And I think of you, I think of me in our beginning of, like I have digestive problems, what herb is good for that? And that was the question. And then look at where you are now sharing this just incredibly powerful message. And I know helping so many people on very deep levels through your programs and through all of your offerings. So I'm so thrilled that you're here. I'm really honored that you shared so much wisdom with us. And I'm really excited for people who may not know of you yet to really be able to dive into your offerings and get to experience more of this wisdom from you.
Selima: Thank you. Thank you so much. This is a joy.
Rosalee: I'm so happy to have you here. Thank you so much, Selima. Don't forget to click the link above this transcript to get free access to Selima's Liver Love Hot Chocolate recipe. You can also visit Selima directly on Instagram @iwillaremedy. Before you go, be sure to click the subscribe button below so you'll be the first to get my new videos, including interviews like this. I'd also love to hear your thoughts about this interview and your relationship with burdock. So leave your comments below. I deeply believe that this world needs more herbalists and plant-centered folks, and I'm so glad that you're 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 Healand 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.