Grindelia with Lisa Ganora


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Grindelia, or gumweed as it's sometimes known, is a warming, aromatic expectorant, a smooth muscle relaxant that can soothe a spasmodic cough, and it's abundant in many landscapes. Please join me for a discussion about this plant of many gifts with Lisa Ganora, who is delightfully energetic and obviously thrilled to share her abundant wisdom. You’ll also receive Lisa’s detailed recipe for Grindelia Respiratory Elixir.

For those of you who don't know her, Lisa began studying herbal medicine in the early 80s. After practicing as a Wise Woman tradition community herbalist, wildcrafter, and medicine-maker for a decade, Lisa returned to school at UNCA and graduated summa cum laude with multiple awards in biology and chemistry. After graduation, she focused on exploring herbal constituents, pharmacognosy and phytochemistry, in the context of Western clinical herbalism and Vitalist therapeutics. In addition to founding and directing the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism from 2012 to 2020, and managing Elderberry's Farm, a Rocky Mountain herbal education center in Paonia, Colorado, Lisa has also served as Adjunct Professor of Pharmacognosy at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, and has lectured and taught classes at numerous schools and conferences around the world.

She is the author of Herbal Constituents, in its 2nd edition, a popular textbook on herbal phytochemistry for natural health practitioners, which is used by schools and universities worldwide. Lisa also teaches distance learning courses on herbal constituents and pharmacy and formulates botanical and CBD products for the dietary supplements industry.

Listen in for:

► How the cacao tree, a friend’s advice, and dandelion root got Lisa started on her herbal path

Why Lisa uses Grindelia in respiratory formulas and how it can serve as an alternative to oshá

Why it’s valuable to know the constituents of a plant and how to extract them 

► How we are all inextricably connected, from the standpoint of chemistry


I was so thoroughly enjoying all that she had to say that I let the conversation meander longer than usual. As you listen to Lisa’s many pearls of wisdom, I think you'll agree it was a good choice. I’m delighted to bring  our conversation to you today!



-- TIMESTAMPS -- 

  • 00:01:26 - Introduction to Lisa Ganora
  • 00:03:20 - How Lisa was first introduced to herbs
  • 00:07:56 - How Lisa’s first herbal experience as an adult led to her returning to college
  • 00:11:57 - Lisa and Rosalee discuss Grindelia spp. (or gumweed)
  • 00:13:23 - Why Lisa uses Grindelia in respiratory formulas and how it can serve as an alternative to oshá
  • 00:17:25 - What is the sticky substance excreted by Grindelia buds and how does it function?
  • 00:19:29 - When to harvest Grindelia
  • 00:19:49 - How Grindelia “goo” works in our bodies
  • 00:23:34 - Formulating digestive formulas and how these formulas interact with the nervous system
  • 00:28:02 - Why Lisa works with elixirs for certain strong-tasting herbs
  • 00:31:57 - Lisa’s Grindelia Respiratory Elixir recipe
  • 00:41:45 - How you might mix and match herbs when making elixirs
  • 00:44:05 - Why it’s best to get your Vitamin C from whole-food sources
  • 00:46:45 - How honey and alcohol complement each other’s qualities in elixirs
  • 00:47:15 - Ideas for working with elixirs
  • 00:48:51 - There’s always something new to learn about herbs
  • 00:49:47 - How Lisa likes to think about working with herbs
  • 00:52:12 - Lisa’s book, Herbal Constituents, 2nd Edition: Foundations of Phytochemistry
  • 00:56:28 - Why it’s valuable to know the constituents of a plant and how to extract them
  • 01:00:26 - What is an herbal ally?
  • 01:01:55 - Why embracing individuality is one of the keys to getting results when working with herbs
  • 01:05:27 - How we are all connected to each other and the world around us
  • 01:09:32 - Changing habits of perception about plants
  • 01:10:21 - Becoming a part of your environment
  • 01:15:24 - Never say what a plant can’t do
  • 01:16:12 - Lisa shares her current projects and expands on the value of understanding herbal constituents and how to extract them

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Connect with Lisa


Transcript of the Grindelia with Lisa Ganora Video

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Hello, and 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 Foret. 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. Also, 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 am so thrilled to bring you this conversation with Lisa Ganora. As you're about to find out, Lisa is delightfully energetic and is obviously thrilled to share her abundant wisdom. I was so thoroughly enjoying all that she had to say that I let the conversation meander longer than usual. As you listen to her many pearls of wisdom, I think you'll agree it was a good choice. For those of you who don't know Lisa, Lisa Ganora began studying herbal medicine in the early 80s. After practicing as a Wise Woman tradition community herbalist, wildcrafter, and medicine-maker for a decade, Lisa returned to school at UNCA and graduated summa cum laude with multiple awards in biology and chemistry. After graduation, she focused on exploring herbal constituents; pharmacognosy and phytochemistry, in the context of Western clinical herbalism and Vitalist therapeutics. In addition to founding and directing the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism from 2012 to 2020, and managing Elderberry's Farm, a Rocky Mountain herbal education center in Paonia, Colorado, Lisa has also served as Adjunct Professor of Pharmacognosy at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, and has lectured and taught classes at numerous schools and conferences around the world.

She is the author of Herbal Constituents, in its 2nd edition, a popular textbook on herbal phytochemistry for natural health practitioners, which is used by schools and universities worldwide. Lisa also teaches distance learning courses on herbal constituents and pharmacy and formulates botanical and CBD products for the dietary supplements industry. Welcome, Lisa. I'm so glad you're here.

Lisa Ganora:
Thank you, me too, yeah.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Well, I want to hear how you got started on this plant path of yours and basically what at all has brought you to us today?

Lisa Ganora:
Oh, my goodness. Started on the plant path. So, not that my dad was an herbalist, right? But my dad was from the Ozarks and that was the first time I heard anything about, "Oh, you can use a wild plant," He was like, "Hey, you want to go dig some sassafras roots?" And I was like, "Sassafras roots? That sounds cool." So, there was this little tiny survival of the old time knowledge going back in my family. And I was just super attracted to that. When I was a kid I used to, I don't know, play. I don't know what I played, but I used to play in the woods a lot and mess around with plants. And I didn't know what I was doing. But then kind of got into the conventional world and went off to college and nobody talked about any of this stuff at all. And there's this big gap. And then, actually, who got me, eternal gratitude to the cacao tree who got me into, and the dandelion root by the way, was I was doing the starving artist thing in Provincetown, Massachusetts, trying to figure my life out in my early 20s, and my this and my that.

And I kind of got myself addicted to Belgian baking chocolate. So, I would go and get a big old chunk of it, you know how they had these bars, and I ate the whole thing and I'd be like, "Wee, this is great. I'm awesome. Let's create a bunch of stuff. I feel good." And then two hours later, it was the crash. The crash off of the... and there was sugar in there of course, as well. And then I would crash and I would be like, "My life sucks. I don't even know." Depressed, depressed. And not being educated about health at all, it took me a while to notice that pattern, right? That reactive hypoglycemia, right? And after a while I was like, "Hey, when I eat all that chocolate, I feel like crap two hours later. And maybe I shouldn't do that."

So, I tried to stop on purpose and I couldn't stop doing it, no matter what I tried. I'd just go and do it over and over again. And I'm like, "Why can't I stop doing this? And oh, maybe I'm addicted to it. Maybe I'm addicted to it." Of all the things to get addicted to, minor on the scale, but still, it was like I couldn't quit. And so, I talked to a friend of mine who was recovering from alcohol addiction and she's like, "You should try dandelion root." And I'm like, "You mean the weed? What?" It was the first time, as an adult, anybody had ever said anything like that to me. So, I thought it was super weird, but I was like, "Well, I like to try things, though, and doing experiments."

So, I did. I went and I bought some at the little old health food store that I was totally scared to go in there, because I don't know what I thought that was going to happen. But I went in, I got some dandelion root and she said, "Brew it up and then when you want to go get your chocolate, drink a cup of this instead, and then just don't don't battle yourself. Just do what you got to do," right? So I was like, "Okay." So I drank it. I went and got the chocolate. I ate half of the bar instead of the whole bar, and when I got to half, my body was like, "You don't want this." And I was like, "Oh, cool." And then the next time it was a little less. And the next time it was a little less, and a little less. And finally I wanted the dandelion root and I didn't want the chocolate bar. And it wasn't me doing it on purpose. It was just my body was like, "This is what we want." And I was, "Wait a minute that actually worked. That actually worked. What is this? And this isn't supposed to be a real thing. This herbal medicine, that's supposed to be superstition," right?

This is 1985, I think, or 6, maybe. But when something works, it works, it's obvious. And I'm like, "Okay, I need to know more about this." And I was super intrigued and fascinated. And so, I just started finding whatever. There were two or three herb books or something. It was before the herbal renaissance really, or right at the beginning. And so I just started following people around and reading everything I could and me trying to meet herbalists. And it just went on from there, because it's an endless fascination really, because you learn one thing about herbs and you're like, "Wow."

And you try it and it works or you make something. And then it's like, "What next? What next?" And there's this huge number of plants. And I kind of just really got into it. I started hanging out with traditional midwives in Massachusetts and learning a bunch of stuff from them. And yeah, that went on and on. And then I moved to the Southern Appalachians about 10 years later, and still a bit of an herbal tradition alive there and quite a few herb teachers and kind of got into that world, learning the Appalachian plants, medicine-making, wildcrafting, started mead-making, started making herbal medicinal mead, which is really fun. And at the same time, I was kind of reviving my old interest in chemistry. So, because in high school I was a chemistry nerd. I was one of those kids who'd sneak into the lab at night and do experiments and stuff.

Yeah. So I thought, "You know what? These worlds can come together," because plants are making phytochemicals. That's what they do. Phytochemicals aren't something somebody invented in a laboratory. It's something that a plant has created. And so I was like, "I think I'll study that and see how I can bring that together with this being kind of a hands-on practical herbalist." So, I went back to college at UNCA in Asheville and made everything. And I was definitely the weirdo at the school, too. It was great. I mean, there probably was more than one, but I was a weirdo in the science department, because I was like, "What about herbs? What about herbs?" And at that point they were, "Okay, well, phytochemicals." So, but I did a bunch of chemistry and made it all about medicinal plants however I could. So yeah, that's how I kind of came together with that. And then, they actually have a medicinal plant research center there now. Ding.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Oh, really?

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah. Finally. A decade after I left, but that was really fun for me, because I got to indulge my scientific side and my nerdiness, along with just this really hands-on, deep relationship with medicinal herbs and practical herbalism. So, short story, long story short.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
That's a fantastic story. I don't think I've ever heard chocolate addiction being the gateway to being an herbalist. So I love it.

Lisa Ganora:
I know. Isn't it wild? And the dandelion root. And I mean, such a simple herb. It's like the most familiar herb ever. Everybody knows dandelions. But it had so much power for me. And I was just like, "Well, if a dandelion can do that, what can all these other herbs do?"

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. Truly a gateway herb in that sense. I love, too, that you had this situation where this person recommended it and you're like, "Uh?"

Lisa Ganora:
I was super skeptical.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. And then you became that person, studying phytochem. Tables turned.

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah, I'm one of those. So, yeah. Dandelions. They're still amongst my most favorite herbs, because there's just so many different things. It's like when you're first learning herbalism, you learn, "This herb is good for this." And with dandelion, it's basically good for everything in some way, you know what I mean? It's got so many different actions and virtues and thing that it can do that, I don't know. I have a yard full of dandelions now. It just makes me so happy.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
I was going to say, and they're so plentiful. So, they're so accessible, which is something I love about the plant that you chose to share about today, Grindelia. I'm so excited that we're going to talk about this. It's a plant that I honestly don't turn to a lot for medicine, just because I don't. But it's a plant that I love finding.

Lisa Ganora:
Oh yeah.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Whenever I find it out, there's just those flowers and then the buds and the gumminess. I've spent a lot of time just hanging out with Grindelia, because I think it's such a cool plant.

Lisa Ganora:
The aroma is amazing, too.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
It is.

Lisa Ganora:
Even when they're dead in the winter, like right now, they're dried out, you can crush one of them up and it's like, "Oh," it's still there. It's got so much essence that it... yeah. I didn't learn that plant until I moved to Colorado, right? Because maybe it was in North Carolina, it's pretty widely distributed. I mean, I've seen it in the Pacific Northwest, where it rains ever so much. But I didn't know it when I was in North Carolina and I didn't know it in New England either. But I came out here and it is everywhere. On the Front Range where Denver and Boulder is, and even over here, we're on the Western slope. Everywhere. Super abundant, right? Which is delightful because that's the kind of herb you want to harvest, one there's lots and lots of.

But yeah, that's a spectacular herb, actually. It's one of those that I put it in respiratory elixirs, which you have a recipe for, because it's really warming, first of all. And it's mucolytic. It dissolves the mucus and it's expectorant, so it just helps you cough all the guck out. So, we've been using that a lot with the virus that everybody knows, and it's amazing how it opens your chest up. And I think there's some really good products made with it on the market now, too. So, it's got this warming, clearing sort of aromatic character to it. And that's how I've really become familiar with it a lot over the past couple of years, that way.

And what I like to do with it actually, is I like to use it instead of osha, because you know how osha has a really similar character. I mean, it's different, because osha is a Apiaceae family. It's parsley family or whatever. And the Grindelia is an Asteraceae. So, they have really different sort of base characters to them. But both of them are really warming. They're really aromatic. They're really penetrating, right? And they're really just opening when you have congestion and tightness in your chest and stuff. But the cool thing is Grindelia is super abundant, right? And it just grows. They call it gumweed, probably one reason, because it's so abundant. Whereas osha is not that abundant at all. It's not exactly technically endangered, but I don't personally harvest it, because it's a huge sacred medicine for multiple different indigenous peoples and for bears, right?

And it's just such a powerful entity. I sit with it. I'll nibble the leaf. I eat the leaves and stuff, but I never dig Grindelia. And I just feel like it's almost botanical appropriation for me to dig Grindelia, I mean, to dig osha. So, that's a really cool thing about Grindelia is it's an excellent substitute for osha. And I feel like osha is like some kind of spiritual being to me. I mean, that's a powerful plant. And I just go up and there's a lot of it that grows up in the Aspen Forest up around here, a little up higher. It's pretty abundant up there, but I don't dig it. I just feel like, "No, no, not for me."

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. I feel the same way. It grows up here in the Alpine as well. And-

Lisa Ganora:
Wow.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
... it's such a sensitive ecosystem.

Lisa Ganora:
Where are you?

Rosalee de la Forêt:
I'm in North Central Washington.

Lisa Ganora:
Oh, okay.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Right in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. Also dry. Not as high as you, but kind of considered high deserts. Yeah, so we can go up and find it. I'm with you. I like to sit with it and enjoy it. But I use Elecampane...

Lisa Ganora:
See, me too. Yeah.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah.

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah. Yeah. Elecampane and Grindelia have a lot in common, actually. And I've used both of those. Sometimes I mix them together, because yeah, Elecampane is this big, robust Asteraceae. It's just like, "Wah." I have a whole box of gorgeous Elecampane root in my walk-in right now, just waiting. Anyway, so they're basically, as far as respiratory stuff, I think they're substitutes for each other. So you could use Elecampane or you could use Grindelia instead of digging osha. And osha just started to really disturb me, because it got way too much attention, even by people who weren't really herbalists. They're like, "Oh, we can go dig some osha roots and sell them at the farmer's market." And I was just like, "Oh, too much, too much digging, too much digging going on."

So, but Grindelia is really interesting, because not only that, it's that sticky stuff, what's it called? It's not really technically a gum, because a gum is like, acacia gum or, I don't know, gum tragacanth or whatever, a gum is a water-soluble substance that comes out certain plants, but actually the stuff that comes out of Grindelia is very sticky. It's like a terpenoid, resinous goo almost. And it's mixed in with some other constituents and monoterpenes, which are the real aromatic essential oil ones that you smell. So, technically not a gum, but you can see why they named it a gum, because it's sticky, right? It's super sticky. If you're harvesting Grindelia you're like, "Oh, can I pull my fingers apart?" You take some little alcohol wipes or something with you to get it off. But it's got that sticky stuff and it oozes out of the flower buds, right?

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. Do you know why that is? In terms for the plant's benefit? I've just wondered that for so long.

Lisa Ganora:
Man.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Because it doesn't eat insects, right? It's not that kind of plant, as far as I know.

Lisa Ganora:
As far as we know. But I mean-

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Obviously, it must be some kind of protective or something?

Lisa Ganora:
Something's going on. They have discovered several more insect-absorbing plants lately. So, I wouldn't put it past it. I haven't seen evidence for that, but it wouldn't surprise me, but yeah, I'm not really sure if it's a way to... because it blooms when it's hot outside, right? It's a summer bloomer. So, maybe that sticky gum is hot holding the aromatics in and releasing them and they're traveling through the air and doing something. I don't really know. I haven't ever seen information on that. But it's such a dramatic exudate. I mean, there's a lot of it. It really gushes that stuff. So, when I harvest, I get the green flower buds when they're just shiny and covered in that white stuff.

And then I'll throw a little bit of one or one or more, a few, several yellow open flowers in there, in the tincture or whatever, just to get the energy of them in there. But it's really that sticky goo, which actually has been studied quite a bit. They use it in Europe a lot more than Western herbalists are just kind of starting to pick up on it. And Michael Moore was teaching Grindelia way before I knew anything about it, but it's not that well-known. But I found that multiple scientific papers, from sort of places around the Mediterranean and the Middle East and stuff. And so, they've looked into it quite a bit. And that sticky goo has antiseptic properties, what a lot of people call antibiotic, they really mean antiseptic, because antibiotic is very particular sort of systemic effect. But antiseptic is more contact antiseptic.

So, when you take it, first of all, it encounters your lymphatic tissue in your throat when it's going down and it has antiseptic activity there. And then it also has some where it travels to your bloodstream, it has a little bit of an antibiotic-like character also. But when it encounters that lymphatic tissue, it's really interesting. That activates your immune system, right? Because your lymphatic tissue in your throat actually samples all the different molecules that are going down there, all the different phytochemicals, and all the different bacteria and viruses and whatever. Your lymphatic tissue is always checking in and then it's telling the rest of your immune system what's coming and what you just got exposed to, and then you get this immune response stimulation and activation. So, there's some of that stuff going on.

Also, it's a smooth muscle relaxant. So, the smooth muscle that we're talking about is the bronchial muscles, because when your lungs are tight, or even it's been used a lot in the past, actually, for asthma, which makes sense when you think about what I'm saying right now... it can really relax those breathing tubes and the muscles that can tighten them up or loosen them up. So, it's a bronchodilator, smooth muscle relaxer, so that really helps. And you can literally feel it with Grindelia. It's almost like you take it and you just want to take a nice big breath and everything opens up more. So, that's really nice. Antispasmodic, smooth muscle relaxer. It's really good if you have kind of a cough that just keeps going and going and you're like, "Just stop coughing already." And spasmodic coughing. So, it has a lot, a lot of really helpful features for respiratory infections and respiratory tightness, but it's also a digestive bitter, which is really cool, right? Have you ever used it that way?

Rosalee de la Forêt:
I have not, but that is one of my favorite ways to work with Elecampane.

Lisa Ganora:
See.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Elecampane has that bitter pungent. Whenever that bitter pungent flavors go together, to me, it's screaming, "Digestive, digestive."

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah. Yeah. They're like buddies. They're super similar in a lot of ways. And Grindelia's interesting, because I went on this crazy Grindelia research tear one time, because I wanted to learn more, probably when I was writing the book again, it's like... because this is the one that I found a lot more information about 10 years later. Yeah, one of the ones, but it's used in a lot of traditional bitters formulas, as it turns out, from old world bitters formulas. And there's liqueurs that have Grindelia in it. And I was just like, "Oh, wow." So, one of the things that I do is I do formulation and product development for different companies. So, I was working with this one company on a pair of bitters formulas.

And I was like, "Ooh." We did this whole organoleptics thing. Organoleptics is where you use your senses, and smell, and taste and everything, to really dial into the actions and the energetics of the herb. And did this. So, it was super fun because we had like, I don't know, we had about 30 different herbs that we were like, "Okay, let's really chart out all organoleptics for the individual herbs." And then that helps us understand how to formulate something that makes a nice formula, number one, that works and everything, but also that tastes really good, right? And, oh man, I love herbs that are used in bitters formulas. Like, Angelica. Get out of here. That's a magical being, because it's bitter, but it also has these beautiful aromatics going on. And Grindelia is kind of like that, but it's more deep earthy, sort of. Angelica's angelic. It's perfectly named, right? It's like, (singing). And Grindelia's more like (grunting). It's very rooty and earthy. Elecampane's similar, right?

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah.

Lisa Ganora:
But it has that bitter, and then it has that beautiful aromatic thing too. So it was just really, really fun diving into the organoleptics of it. And the cool thing about it is, and a lot of people don't think about this, but when we talk about a plant as a digestive bitter, it's also a nerving relaxant, right?

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah.

Lisa Ganora:
Because bitter is what signals your digestive system to get... Even I'm salivating as I speak, right? All I have to do is talk about bitters. I'm like, "Oh, excuse me." But it activates that digestive process, right? When you taste it or even when you just think of it. And then, so that's part of 'the rest and digest' function of the nervous system, right? Which is the nickname for the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system. So sympathetic, it's weird. It's like they named it wrong or something, but the sympathetic nervous system is the fight or flight thing. You're stressed out or something scares you, and the adrenaline starts going and the cortisol, the stress hormones, and you're driving and you're like, "Ah!" And so, that's the fight or flight sympathetic branch of the nervous system. But 'the rest and digest', the relaxing branch of the nervous system is the parasympathetic. And that's what bitters activate. So, experiencing a bitter, not only does it get your whole digestive system ready to accept and deconstruct your food so you can absorb all your nutrients, but it calms your nervous system, right?

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah.

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah. And so like a lot of-

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Other side of the coin kind of thing. It's like, "All right. We're going into this mode."

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So, that's why I'm just crazy in love with bitters. I don't know.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
I am, too. I am very obsessed with bitters myself. And that's when you mentioned Grindelia as a bitter, in bitter formulas, I think that is maybe what I've been waiting for, to really dive into Grindelia, because I spend a lot of time make bitter formulas and I'm excited.

Lisa Ganora:
Oh, cool. Yeah.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah, yeah. It's fun to play with. I mean, and it is that resinous sticky stuff. So, when you tincture it, everybody's got their own little tweak on it, but I don't know, like, 70, 75, 80% ethanol in your menstruum, hydro ethanoic solvent system, in other words. Hydro for water. Yeah, I usually do it around 75% when I tincture it, but it's a range. You can wiggle around in there, but you kind of need more ethanol to get that resinous goodies out. But it tinctures up really nice. So you can, just like you'd make any other tincture with a sticky factor taking into consideration.

Yeah. Speaking of making medicine with Grindelia, I want to hear about your Grindelia elixir, because this seems like a really cool way to make medicine with Grindelia.

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah. So I got into this elixir thing, oh my gosh, believe it or not, this was, had to be a good 10-plus years ago when somebody was like, "Can you make cannabis taste good?" And I was like, "That's an interesting question." This is the early days in Colorado. And so, I went to the old pharmacist book and I'm like, "How do you a resinous, sticky substance that doesn't taste good... what did they do?" And they had this whole art of creating elixirs, right? So, I read up on all that. This is stuff from the 1800s, from the physiomedicalists, the eclectics mostly. There's a whole book, was it John Uri Lloyd wrote this whole book called Elixirs, right?

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Oh, really?

Lisa Ganora:
And I was like, "Wow," because back in those days they used a lot of challenging flavors, and alkaloids, and some pretty intense plants, and they wanted to make it taste good. So, they would either make a syrup... and they used sugar in those days, right? Because that was a different era and sugar was exotic back then. It was hard to get. It wasn't in everything like it is now. So they would make syrups or they would basically make elixirs, which is a combination of tincture and syrup, right? So I looked at all that and I'm like, "Well, what if you would just kind of use honey instead of sugar?" And then I was like, "Okay, so tincture plus honey, that's a pretty good mix. You can get them to play together to some degree." But then I was like, "Well, what if instead of just using honey, you actually infuse the herb into the honey and make an infused honey?" Because I kind of got that idea from Paul Bergner, actually, in a little bit of a different format because he was teaching back in the NAIMH days in Boulder, he was teaching how to make honey paste, right? Which is where you put powdered herbs into honey in certain proportion, certain temperatures, a few things you do to get it right.

And it's kind of like an Arabic-style honey paste. And I was like, "Well, what if you actually infuse the herbs into the honey?" Like you would make an infused oil, like you would infuse your comfrey, or your chickweed, or plantain, or whatever into oil, like olive oil or something. I'm like, "Can't you just do that with honey?" So I started experimenting with it and there's certain herbs that just... honey is kind of mysterious. People always ask me, "Well, what's the science on extracting herbs with honey?" And I'm like, "I haven't found any."

Rosalee de la Forêt:
It's a mystery.

Lisa Ganora:
I just do it. And then I do my organoleptic afterwards and see how it turned out. But honey extracts certain herbs really, really well. And Grindelia is one herb that just loves to exude its constituents out into honey. And Grindelia's really strong tasting if you just straight up make a... I have to laugh, because in some books it's like, "Well, people used to use it for chewing gum." And I'm like, "Somebody may have told you that, but..."

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Not pleasant.

Lisa Ganora:
I tried it once and it was a bad idea. It was a bad idea, right?

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Gummy.

Lisa Ganora:
It just totally sticks-

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Covers your teeth.

Lisa Ganora:
... to your teeth. And it's almost like a slightly acrid, really hot, super intense flavor, super bitter. It's like, "Yeah, don't do that. If you see that in a book, don't do that. Don't do that." Right? Oh my God. Not chewing gum. But even when you tincture it, the flavor's really... it's a strong herb. That's one reason I love it too, because it's like, "Wow," you don't need very much of it to do the job. But when you infuse it, when you use the honey to actually extract it, then you pick up almost the more pleasant version of Grindelia. You still get a lot of the activity and the flavor, but it brings out the tastiness in the aromatics and the flavor. And honey is just so soothing and warm. And you can use that honey, you can make Grindelia honey and you can use it in oxymel, or you can use it in elixir, right? So oxymel is you do a thing with vinegar and you do a thing with honey. Do an extraction with vinegar and extraction with honey and mix them together.

Or you can do the tincture and the honey. So, what I'll do, you can either make a single herb elixir, where you tincture the herb, and then you honey-extract the herb, and then you mix them together in the right proportions, which is in the recipe. It's all written down there. So, that you want to end up with 25% alcohol at the end to keep it for stability, so it doesn't turn, which, ironically, one of the very few infused honeys I've had that ever grew mold was Grindelia.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Oh, really? Huh.

Lisa Ganora:
I know, which is so unexpected. I don't even understand why that happened. But, so if you get that 25% alcohol in at the end, it preserves it. Even though I keep mine in the fridge, because I keep everything in the fridge, because I'm a fridge freak, and then it'll stay good for years. But so I do the tincture. I forget what percentage I wrote in the recipe. It might have been 75, because that's what I usually do. 75%. And then I do the infused honey, which is basically really easy, actually. It's not too hard to do that. It's messy, super messy, but you put your Grindelia buds in, I like to use one of those big Visions cookware, you know what I'm talking about? Those amber glass pots? Yeah, those things. Man, I love those. And you just put however many Grindelia buds you have in there and just basically it's volume. So, one to two. One part by volume of Grindelia. So, if you have a cup of Grindelia buds, you're going to use two cups of honey and just cover them. And then, get ready for the sticky fun. Get some dedicated wooden spoon or something. And you put it on low heat.

Honey likes about 130. It's kind of the ideal temperature for infusing into honey. And you can use a thermometer if you want. Or this is so cool. I wish I had a vessel I could kind of show you with. But if you hold onto the vessel, if you can hold onto it for like, "One, two, three, okay, it's hot," about three seconds, that's about 130. But if you go to touch it and you're like, "Ooh, it's too hot, then that's too hot." So, you can kind of guess 130 by if you could hold onto that glass pot or whatever for three seconds before you have to let go.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
That's a very practical tip, Lisa. I love it.

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah. Yeah. I know because you don't always have your laboratory thermometer there or whatever, right? So 130 to 140 is a really good infusion temperature for honey for most things. And with Grindelia, five or six hours, actually, at that temperature seems to make a really good... it's almost like, did you ever have somebody, you ask them, "How do you cook that? How do you know when it's done?" And they're like, "Well, when it smells like it's done, it's ready." And you're like, "Oh my God." When you're first learning a recipe or something. But it does take on a particular aroma. It's interesting, an infused honey will smell better and better and better and better up to a certain point. And then it'll start smelling like, "Oh, my honey is too hot. I'm overcooking it." I don't even know how to put it into words, but there's this particular aroma where you hit it where you're like, "Oh, I should stop now." But with Grindelia it's usually about five or six hours. You don't let it get too hot. You have to tend it.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah.

Lisa Ganora:
It's one of those things where you can't just set it, run off, and do things in the garden or whatever.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
No. You'll regret it.

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I've boiled it. Oops. I've done that once or twice. But you have to stir a lot too. When I'm doing infused honey, I try to set a timer, right? And 20 minutes, 15, 20 minutes.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
To come back and stir.

Lisa Ganora:
If possible and just give it a stir. Yeah. Because you can scorch the bottom if you're not careful. Some people like to do it in a water bath so that they don't scorch it, which is really, really reasonable, I think. I'm just kind of a little too lazy to set up the whole water. I like to stir things. Putting your attention and your energy into it. But after about five or six hours, you've got all the goodies out of those flower buds, those Grindelia buds, into that honey that you're going to get. Some people do cold honey infusions, but I feel like it's-

Rosalee de la Forêt:
I was just going to ask you about that.

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah, I don't know, man. It takes so long. The heat doesn't hurt it, as long as you don't use the heat too high. Because heat always helps accelerate. Not always, but almost always helps accelerate extractions, right? That's what you're doing when you're making something. It's an extraction. You're pulling the constituents out into the fluid, right? So, as long as you don't heat it above 130 is ideal. 140 is okay. That's the range.

But a lot of people are like, "Oh, you can't heat, honey. It'll kill the enzymes." And I'm like, "Well it does. But in this case, you don't care. You don't need the honey enzymes. You're using the honey as an extraction fluid," right? When you want enzymes in the honey is when you're using it as a topical wound healing. That's when you want the enzymes, because some of those enzymes actually make hydrogen peroxide. That's part of their antiseptic action, right? So, you do denature the enzymes, it's called technically, but it doesn't really matter. So, it's okay to heat the honey like that. And then some people are like, "Oh, well heating honey makes it toxic," right? And I'm like, "Well, it depends on how hot you heat it and how long you do it for, actually." So, there's always an 'it depends' in chemistry. It's like, "And the exception is, and it depends," because plants are complex.

But if you keep it to that temperature range and that time range, what's the stuff called? I used to have this word in my head. It just flew away right now. But there's a particular chemical that is made when you overheat honey for too long. And it's definitely something, it's not good for us. We don't want it. But doing the honey infusion like this, you don't get to that point where you really start making a significant amount of that stuff. So, it's totally fine to do this. Yay. And it works really, really nice. The amount of time you do it with varies by plant, though. So, say if you're doing this with elderberries, making an infused honey, it's only two to three hours. And it's super purple. And then if you go too long with it, the purple goes away.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Hmm. Interesting.

Lisa Ganora:
Don't ask me why. I don't know that one. But yeah, I scared the crap out of myself doing that one time. It's like, "I ruined it all," but I didn't actually ruin it. The weird part is, I know I'm digressing, but we made mead. We made mead out of it. It turned amber. It lost all the purple.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Oh interesting.

Lisa Ganora:
But then we fermented it, like alcoholic fermentation, and it turned purple again in the bottle.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Whoa. Interesting.

Lisa Ganora:
I know. That was cool. But juicy berries, a couple hours. But it takes a while to coax those gummy goodies, those resinous goodies out of the gumweed. So, then we make the infused honey and strain it out and it gets really runny too. It's not like it was before you infused it, because I think a lot of that resinous goo just kind of melts into the honey as you're doing the infusion, right? So, it's a lot more fluid. It's a lot more liquidy than it is than just plain honey is, which is really, really interesting. So, I make that and then I have Grindelia tincture that I made earlier, which that's another thing I like. I have some tricks for making tinctures. I can make a really good tincture in like, 15 minutes.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Oh.

Lisa Ganora:
I know. You're not supposed to be able to do that, right? I learned that in a analytical laboratory in North Carolina. It involves blenders and Vitamixes and things, and some math, but you can do that. So, you make your tincture separately, however you make it, then you strain it out, and then you mix it with the honey. And how you end up with 25%, I think I put that in the recipe, right? There's a little bit of mathing around that you have to do with that. Because you think honey is 0% alcohol, right? So, if you mix it with your tincture in equal amounts, equal amounts of tincture plus honey, it's going to be half the alcohol that you started with, right?

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Right.

Lisa Ganora:
So, if you start with whatever half of 75 is, 37.50% alcohol, 37.5. But the cool thing with elixirs is you can mix and match, right? So, you can use different tinctures and different honeys, right?

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Right. You could have Grindelia honey with elderberry tincture. That is amazing.

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Or vice versa. Or any number of them. So, a project that I did with one of my apprentices, this was super fun, this past May I think, was we decided we were going to make a respiratory elixir, right? With five different tinctures. I don't remember what they all were right now, but I remember there were five different tinctures, and I think two different infused honeys. So, it's actually a whole formula. And we use five separate tinctures with five different alcohol percentages. And there's this kind of calculation that you can do. It's fun with math. There's a worksheet. So, you can actually figure out, "If I combine this many mils of this tincture that's 40%, with this many mils of that tincture that's 80%, and blah blah blah. And you can figure it all out and know and tune it in so that you end up with enough alcohol in there to preserve it, right? Because that's your ultimate goal. Some people say 20%. But I like to err on the side of caution.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
I'm the same way. Yeah.

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah. Yeah. 25%, you're pretty good there. So, it's kind of like one of those advanced herbal pharmacy things that you can do, but it was such a fun project, because we got to make all the different infused honeys. I think one of them we used was Rowanberry honey, which Rowanberry is mountain-ash, Sorbus Americana, or something, I think? Rowanberries are super interesting. That's another one that I'm just like, "Are you kidding me? They're definitely a super food," right?

Rosalee de la Forêt:
And so another abundant one, as well.

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah. I mean a tree just... a lot of places they're planted as ornamentals or street trees, right? And you can get them wild too. But yeah, I'm crazy for Rowanberries right now, because it's kind of like when you think of vitamin C, everybody's like, "Oh, I'm getting sick. I need vitamin C." It's like Rowanberries have vitamin C, but they have all these synergistic companion molecules, too, right? So they have all these flavonoids and these carotenoids and all these other organic acids. Things that make your vitamin C work even better. Nature doesn't make vitamin C all by itself.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Right.

Lisa Ganora:
That's a human thing. We're like, "Oh, let's synthesize it." Most of it's made from corn, surprise. Put it in a pill. But in nature, plants, they always make this huge number of synergistic or related constituents together. And they work better together. Any study that's ever looked at that finds this effect. Synergy is huge. So, instead of just vitamin C, something like Rowanberries just give you that whole like, "Oh," immune system support and anti-inflammatory action and all that stuff that you want vitamin C for. So I think we put some Rowanberry in that elixir. And I think, what else do we put in there? Probably some sage, like sage brush, some kind of Artemisia, because out here we have three Artemisias that are pretty common and indigenous to the area. So, I was kind of getting some local plant in there. I don't know. We might have put... I don't even remember. We might have put some elderberry. We might have put some Aronia berry. Have you heard of that one?

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah. Aronia berries. They're hot stuff. Yeah, they're like elderberries, only more so. They're kind of like elderberry's big grandmother or something. So, we put all these different things. I think there were maybe seven different ingredients in that elixir. So it's like you start out making a one-herb elixir to kind of get used to how it works and then you can start turning your elixir into a formula. It gets really fun.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
That's the sense I'm getting. Talking about making fun, potent, herbal medicine that's going to be so wonderful for the respiratory tract.

Lisa Ganora:
Oh yeah. Yeah. And it's so soothing too, because alcohol is a hot substance, right? When you talk about energetics, alcohol is super hot. You just squirt some Everclear into your mouth, you're like, "AH! Fire."

Rosalee de la Forêt:
You're like, "Oh, this is burning my lungs right now."

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah. But it's very penetrating, too, which is a great way to deliver herbal powers quickly. So, the nice thing about it is the honey really modifies the fire of the alcohol. It smooths it out and it cools it down. Corrigent is the old word for that, right? Something that modifies or balances the energetics of something else. And so, it's really nice to mix a tincture with the honey because the honey modifies the fire of the tincture, and the tincture makes the honey more dispersing, more penetrating. And it's a beautiful... I love the mixers. It's almost like you're tempted to take a little too much of them because they taste so good. You're like, "Give me another spoonful of that. Put it on the ice cream. So, you can actually mix them with bubbly water. You can make an elixir and mix it with fizzy water, with carbonated water, whatever. And I mean, it's tasty. It's like, "Who needs cocktails, man?" Just make your elixir and pour that in your fizzy water and stick a lime slice on the glass there. You're good to go.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Well, it seems like Grindelia is a wonderful herb for people who haven't made elixir before, or even if you have, it's going to be a wonderful herb to play around with, because, as you mentioned, it's so abundant and has so many gifts for us right now. So, for those of you who would like to download your free recipe of all of the explanations that Lisa shared with us, she's written it all up and you can download that when you click the link above this transcript. Thank you so much for sharing that with us, Lisa.

Lisa Ganora:
Absolutely.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
So, you mentioned Grindelia. Obviously it has so many gifts for the respiratory system. You mentioned it's also wonderful for digestion. Do you think those are two main ways that you work with it? Or is there something else you'd like to share?

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah. I mean, that's pretty much what I've done with it. The funny thing is it's like, man, I've done this for more than 30 years now, right? And when you start out learning an herb, you learn the most common uses of it, right? The most prominent things that it does. But there's always more. There's always other things it can do. And Grindelia, I'm sure there are other ways people have used it, but those are the two that I actually have experience with and pretty much what I do with it, but I never say anymore, "Oh, this is what it does and that's it." Because I'm continually surprised by new things herbs do with people. You'll talk to some herbalist and they'll be like, "Oh, I do this with that."

And I'm like, "Wait, you do what? With that plant? How does that work?" And then they tell you about it. And so, I'm sure there's other things it does too. I mean, oh, one of the things, I haven't used it this way, but when people write up about it is they use it for urinary tract infections, which makes sense too, when you think about its actions, right? Because I like to think, instead of thinking, "This herb is good for this condition," I like to think, "What actions does the herb have? And then what actions do you need with this condition?" Right? So, if you have antiseptic activity, that's kind of for a UTI, for a simple urinary tract infection or whatever, people like to use yarrow, right? Urinary tract antiseptic. They like to use uva ursi, which is a urinary tract antiseptic, right? And Grindelia, if it's an antiseptic for the respiratory system with mucus membranes, you have mucus membranes in your urinary tract also. So it's working on the same kind of tissue. So it's like an antiseptic. And as it moves through your body, some of those constituents are concentrated in the bladder, right? Because the kidneys take them out of your blood and they send them off to be excreted. So, it gets delivered to your bladder basically.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Right.

Lisa Ganora:
The body is so clever. I love it. Yeah. Physiology. Oh my gosh, don't get me started. But the antiseptic properties that work in your lungs, also work in the urinary tract, right? So some people will use it instead of yarrow, or along with yarrow, or instead of uva ursi, or Pipsissewa, or whatever, or berberine-containing herbs, like Oregon grape, or what do they call Hydrastis? Goldenseal. Those bright yellow herbs, the berberine herbs. So, it's got that same kind of... it discourages bacterial growth and bio-films in the bladder and helps with the UTIs. And it's a smooth muscle relaxant, right? So you don't get that... when you get a UTI it's like-

Rosalee de la Forêt:
That's the worst.

Lisa Ganora:
... "Oh, God." And it's like you get these little teeny, awful cramps in your pieces and parts down there and it burns and everything. So, yeah. I can see why it would be really helpful to use in a formula for a UTI as well, although I haven't done that yet, because I'm kind of hung up on my favorite UTI formula, right? The classic nettles, yarrow, marshmallow root, uva ursi, and rose hips. Works great. Yeah. So, that's one thing I've heard people doing with it. Top three uses. I'm sure there are others. Yeah, aren't occurring to me at the moment.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
A wonderful way to get started with getting to know Grindelia.

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah, for sure.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Well, I'm very excited to talk about the recent release of your book, 2nd edition of Herbal Constituents. So, I feel like to introduce this book, I'm going to maybe say something that you are the last person I should say this to. But, phytochemical study of herbs is not my favorite.

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Which is why your previous, first edition, and this edition, is one of the most valuable books that I own.

Lisa Ganora:
Oh. Thank you.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
And I was telling Lisa before we joined, that my last book was just all marked up with all sorts of stuff because these things are things that come in through one ear and out the other for me. And so, I need a reference book. I want to know this stuff. I read about it. And, as is obvious, you're this heart-centered herbalist who loves the herbs and loves the actions and loves the beauty of them, not just this kind of rote scientific approach. And that comes through.

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah, which can be terribly boring. Seriously. Sometimes.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
It's an incredible reference. It's an incredible reference book. And it's what you need to know, and it's in a way that I can understand it, which is something I really appreciate.

Lisa Ganora:
Awesome. Yeah.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
And this is, I mean, it's truly one of the books that gets off the shelf a lot, because I need it as a reference book.

Lisa Ganora:
Nice.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Continuously.

Lisa Ganora:
Well, my life's purpose has been fulfilled. That's great. Now, I'm laughing because I had the most boring organic chemistry teacher that a person could possibly have when I was in college. It was just like, (mumbling). Really fast and you're like, "Oh my God. I'm going to fail organic chemistry. This is horrible." So, I literally had to teach myself organic chemistry, because it wasn't happening in the classroom. And I did it visually, because I'm actually a visual thinker. I'm not very abstract in my thinking. I'm visual. And one of my jobs in college was actually I was a tutor for art students who were taking chemistry classes.

And so, I had to develop all these ways of seeing and imagining like, "What's going on in the world of chemistry?" So, it was kind of an interesting approach that way. And before I went to college, I'd been an herbalist, kind of village herbalist, wildcrafter, et cetera, for a good 10 years, maybe more, before I went back to study the chemistry again. So I had a good big picture context, right? So it wasn't just like, "Oh, all these chemicals are in medicinal plants and these studies say they can do this." But I actually knew how the plants worked.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Right.

Lisa Ganora:
So, I had a way to interpret that kind of information that made sense in the way herbalists would use those things. And so, when I got out of college, I was like, there are no good books for herbalists about this topic. There were some books where people made a valiant try. And they were pretty good, but having that dual perspective of being a hands-on practical herbalist and then being trained in chemistry, I think it was bringing those two things together. And I was teaching classes on this subject by then, and people are like, "What books should I buy?" And I'm like... yeah, because there were technical books about it, for pharmacognosy and medicinal plant chemistry and all this stuff. But they were PhD-type stuff and the language, and you're like, "Nobody can understand that unless you're trained in that world." And then there were a lot of really good herbalist's books who didn't quite see into it with the kind of depth you need to understand what's going on.

So, that's why wrote that first edition of the book. It's like, let's take this information and give it to herbalists in a way that is practical or that can be practical, that can help you understand the plants better, number one. And number two, help you understand how to make better medicine, right?

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. Yeah. That's key.

Lisa Ganora:
... with the plants. Because that's the really, really useful thing about this. If you know something about the constituents that are in an herb and how to extract them, because it gets very specific, it's different for different constituents, then it's like, "Oh, should I tincture in this plant? Should I make a decoction of it? Should I extract it with glycerin? Can I make it into an elixir? What do I actually do to get those activities? Because the actions of an herb and the energetics of an herb correlate with the phytochemicals, right? So, when I look at phytochemicals or constituents in an herb, I don't see these abstract things. I see, literally I think they're plant spirits, because phytochemicals are not objects. They're energy patterns, right? And when you get really down into the world of chemistry, it gets weird and cool and interesting. And it's a very vibrational world. And so, to me, a molecule, I call it a pattern of energy in relationship.

Because phytochemicals have patterns. They're patterns. You can draw shapes of them. You can be like, "Oh, there's a flavonoid." They have a structure, they have an architecture. And those things are made of atoms. And the atoms are having a relationship with each other. And it's an energetic relationship. And it's called bonding, right? But it's not an object. It's mostly energy and different patterns of vibration. And those are signals, right? Patterns of energy or patterns of vibration are signals. That's what we're using right now to talk to everybody, right? There's the signals. This is like the internet. Radio signals. Television signals. All that stuff is patterns. Patterns of energy. Music is a pattern of energy, right? It's a sound wave vibration. And molecules are too. It's just like you've taken that idea and going down into the tiny, tiny world with it.

So, patterns of energy are signals and signals carry information, right? So, herbal constituents are patterns of energy, right? Or molecules that a plant has made and they have information. And when we take them into our bodies by taking the tincture or drinking the elixir or whatever, information is delivered to our system, which is also made of molecules, which are patterns of energy, which are vibrational system, and there's a response to the information that comes in, right? And if it's a healing herb, a healing phytochemical, the response is you shift some kind of physiological thing and you end up having better health, right? But you could say the same thing if it's a toxic phytochemical, which some plants can kill you. So, some information patterns or some molecules, they could go into your system and be like, "Shut down, stop working." Those are poisons, poisonous plants. So, that's not the ones we ingest.

But when I start looking at the constituents of the phytochemicals that way, as information transfer to adjust processes, it starts making so much more sense, because now it's an activity thing. It's like the plant has actions. The body has a response, right? And it's energetics. So-

Rosalee de la Forêt:
And it's a relationship there.

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah.

Lisa Ganora:
Exactly.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah.

Lisa Ganora:
It's a relationship between the plant and the person, right? It's not just like, "This herb does this," right? It's like, "This herb does some version of this for most people." But for you, what is the particular relationship between you and this plant? And if you have a particularly harmonious or empowering or healing relationship with a certain plant, then that plant is your ally, right? I mean, certain plants, certain people really resonate with, you know what I mean? And this is an interesting thing, because when I teach class at CSCH we do this whole intro, to vitalist herbalism thing. And one of the things we do is plant provings, right? Calm provings. And it's like, you'll get 30 or 35 people in a room and I'll put some tincture, lobelia is a fun one to do, very dramatic. But anything, any plant or an infusion we'll use or something. And we pass it around and everybody gets some and everybody will get into a quiet, receptive, meditative state and then we'll ingest it and we'll taste it, and we'll kind of write down all of our impressions and we're like, "Oh, where is it on the temperature scale? Is it warming to cooling?"

Because it's a continuum, right? "Is it moist to dry continuum?" There's this thing called diffusive to permanent, it's old physiomedicalist language. It's like, "Is it immediate or does it take longer to develop? And where does it go in your body? How does it feel? Does it influence a particular area or structure more? Does it sink in or does it expand?" So there's all these ways that we perceive the energetics and the actions of the herb. And if you do it with a large group of people, multiple times a year, for X years, you see what the variety of response to that herb is, right? And it's not always the same for everybody. There's a core of people who get the, "Okay, this herb is usually experienced as warming and drying and diffusive and bitter," or whatever.

And it'll be like, most people get that, but there's always a significant number of other people who have different perceptions and experiences of the herb. And they're having different responses to the herb, right? Because their system, the vibration of their system, is responding differently to the vibration of the herb. So, that individual relationship is huge in herbalism. And I think that's something people might miss in the beginning when they're first learning herbs. They're like, "This herb does this, that herb does that, this herb does this." And then they try the herb and it doesn't do that and they think something is wrong, when actually you're experiencing the individuality.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah.

Lisa Ganora:
And I think most of us have been sort of educated to expect consistency in the pharmaceutical world. Like, you take an aspirin, it makes your headache go away. But it's not like that for everybody. That variability exists with all kinds of therapeutic agents. Medications, pharmaceuticals. A certain number of people will respond a certain way to a medication, but then there will be those other people who either have an adverse reaction, or they're allergic to it, or it just doesn't work for them, or maybe they're super sensitive to it and they only need half the dose or whatever. And that's just biology. I mean, it's variable.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
I'm so glad you brought this up, because this is something I've been reading about lately. In the context, I've been reading about how English can be a noun-based viewpoint and how those of us who speak English as a first language tend to think of things as nouns, versus other languages and perspectives tend to see things in relationship and see things as verbs, where we see nouns. And in the book I was reading, it talked about how chemists and physicists are looking... like, 'atom' used to be, well still is by a lot of people, considered a noun, but just as you were talking about, which you also talk about in the introduction to your book, is that relationship and that bonding and there's this activity there, and it's not this noun stable thing, but it is this active relationship-based. So, I was hoping to bring that up in this conversation. I didn't know how. And you just brought it up beautifully and in a really beautiful way.

Lisa Ganora:
Well, there you go.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
So, thank you.

Lisa Ganora:
That's true though, isn't it? English words, it's like the language that we're using really kind of can limit our perception and our understanding of things, too. And English is really good at objectifying and dividing. What was the word? Oh gosh darn it, there's a word for that, it just skipped my head. But it's very good at making fine distinctions, like this and this and this and this and this, which is probably why it's like the lingua franca science. Scientists used to communicate in Latin until that got old fashioned and now it's English. It's really good at certain things, but it isn't as good as that relationship activity beingness, yeah, sort of thing. I like to tell people this when we talk about vitalism, what's vitalist herbalism? It's like, "Okay, what is this situation? What are the origins? How does this affect you? What's going on in the realms of the spiritual, emotional, psychological, physical, environmental, community?"

Those are just words, right? Those are words that divide a unity. All of those things are all in there together, happening simultaneously, right? energies, vibrations, chemicals. You can't really divide it in real life. We're just dividing it with language so that we can look at it from all these different perspectives. So, when I look at a nerve and I see phytochemistry and I see actions and I see energetics and I see the plant spirit, it's not separate for me anymore. It's just different ways, different perspectives of looking at what this living, intelligent entity, this beingness, being Grindelia... that's actually a great title for something. Being Grindelia.

Oh, I should use that. It is. And then the separation between different beings kind of dissolves too, right? Because you can look at it as a flow... this is so interesting. You can look at it as a molecular flow. Like, when you drink something, anything, it's like the molecules of it are flowing from the plant into you, right? And then out of you, into some other aspect of the environment, right? And breathing. Plants and humans are doing... Plants breathe out oxygen. And they breathe in carbon dioxide, right? Humans breathe out carbon dioxide and we breathe in oxygen. It's like, if you look at that for a second, you're like, "Oh, all the plants and all the animals are just breathing together in this yin and this yang thing," right?

It's like, we can't breathe without plants and plants can't breathe without humans or other animals. So, if you look at the way constituents and molecules flow between beings, then it gets really interesting. And then you think about the microbes, right?

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Right.

Lisa Ganora:
Like the microbiome. What are we supposed to be, like 90% bacteria? What am I again? A walking bacterial colony. Cool. But the flow of molecules between the plants and the air and all the soil organisms and the mycorrhiza. Plants have a microbiome too. It's not just a human thing. Like those symbiotic gut bacteria that we have, we're covered in bacteria, but they're everywhere, right? And so, same thing with plants and herbs. And they just flow. The molecules just flow between all these different life forms. And you sit back and you look at that and you're like, "oh, it's not like this organism, this organism, this organism, this organism, that organism is separate entities," because we're not. If you look at it on that level, we're completely interwoven. Completely interwoven web of life. Yeah.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. Very well said. And something we can say, and I know for me, it's something I have to keep revisiting over and over again. Because it's almost like I have to deconstruct any object noun-base separation that I grew up with to really appreciate this in interactive relationship, interdependence that's happening all the time, whether I consciously recognize it or not.

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah. We're definitely taught not that way. We're taught in that separating way. And it just becomes kind of a perceptual habit and a mental habit. Perceptual habits are fascinating actually, because I grew up thinking, "Oh, a plant is an object." It was even an 'it'. We even called animals 'it' back then. "Oh, there's your dog, it," blah, blah, blah. Now it's like, "Oh, he or she," or blah, blah, blah. We recognize their beinghood. But a lot of people grew up, including myself, grew up being like, "Plants are just things. They don't have a consciousness, they don't have an intelligence, they're just convenient things that we use for our life." And it's like, "That's a very limited way to have a relationship with plants."

So, looking at things from this perspective, really, I don't know, I think about this a lot. Because now, at Elderberry, so I got four acres. And we got these big herb gardens, these big trees, and some fruit trees, and all these plant communities all around here, and we're right up against a riparian area. So we got this whole gorgeous, swampy, loveliness going on. And then over here there's pinyon-juniper and sage brush hills. So, it's kind of a lot of different plant communities come together right here, plus all of our cultivated stuff. And I was thinking about this the other day. It's like when you actually live in a place for years and you compost all the food that you eat, and all your composting goes back into the land, you're establishing your place in the whole microbial community that's there, right?

And in that you're digging in the dirt and you're wiping your dirty hand. You're pulling up a nice carrot and munching on it and you're eating bits of the soil. And you really become a part of that environment on a very deep level. And when you think about this molecular flow, in modern life we tend to be much more removed from the land. A lot of us live in a house or an apartment or a city or something. And you won't have this continued, ongoing, deep relationship with the molecular ecology flow that's going on there. And I've been here almost six years now, and it's the longest place I've ever really settled into one particular piece of land like that.

And it's just interesting to think about it. You become so connected and kind of it moves you away from that division lifestyle that we tend to experience that's really in our country. And it puts the human back into the relationship with all the other organisms in a particular place. The chickens, little monsters. Chickens are hard on herb gardens. But yeah, the horse. So we're composting our local manure now and all this stuff. So, I'm not sure where... it's the connection thing. Yeah, I think that's something people, even if we don't know we're missing it, we feel the emptiness and the absence of it, you know what I mean? I think that's one of the underlying problems that our society has is many of us, or most of us, are radically disconnected from a particular plot of earth. And finding a way to somehow reattach and reintegrate into that really complex interconnected system with all the microbes and plants and animals and insects and medicinal herbs and all of that, I think it's profoundly healing, too.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. I absolutely agree. I feel like that's the space of my life that really feels, right now, kind of the most alive and the most enriching, is that experience finding myself back into this place.

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah. And it's so funny this time of year, too, because it's under ice.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah.

Lisa Ganora:
I do a lot of computer work and connecting with people over the internet and stuff this time of year. But yeah, we've got the seed catalogs out already.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. I do, yeah.

Lisa Ganora:
The gorgeous seed catalogs all over the dining room table. We're starting to think about, "Oh, what should we plant this year?" And that kind of thing. And yeah, this time of year it's funny out here, because the climate is super variable where we are. It can be freezing cold. It can be super hot. It can be totally dry. It can be soggy. Colorado, it's like, "What next? What do we have on the menu today, Colorado?" So, it's a really interesting environment. Some plants really like to grow here and some plants are like, "Are you kidding me? I don't think so." But what's super weird is I got pokeweed to grow here.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Oh, wow.

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah. That's not supposed to happen.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. Yeah. What zone are you in? Do you know?

Lisa Ganora:
Oh, I keep forgetting. I don't know. It's where it's about 5800 feet, 5600 feet. But it's pretty gnarly here.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah, that would make you zone three or so, that'd be my guess.

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah. It might be. It'll drop 40 or 50 degree temperature from day to night is not unusual. Yeah. It's pretty wild. It's exciting, actually. I love it. I'm like, "Oh, Rocky Mountains. Wee." But yeah, the pokeweed, that's one of my favorite herbs. That's a powerful plant. I wrote a thesis on that in college. Because-

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Oh, wow.

Lisa Ganora:
... it's everywhere in North Carolina.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Right.

Lisa Ganora:
Super abundant. And I moved out here and I'm like, "Oh, we don't have pokeweed." And then I was like, "Maybe I could get it to grow." So, I tried for a while and failed. And then I finally figured out what it wanted. And I've got some good ones now. I had more berries than I could use last year. So, never say what a plant can't do. That's my motto. "Oh no, you can't grow that here. It can't do this. It can't do that." And you're just like... yeah, it wouldn't surprise me.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Well, so you're dreaming of next year. Do you have projects you're working on? Classes you're teaching?

Lisa Ganora:
Always. Isn't that the beauty of herbalism? You never run out of stuff to do, right? New things. Yeah, we just put together an online course, which I'm super excited about. When are we supposed to?... It's about two or three weeks out we're going to release it. And it's called Make Better Medicine: Solubility and Extraction.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Oh, cool.

Lisa Ganora:
So, it's fun. That's one of the funnest things about herbalism is making stuff. Everybody loves to make stuff. So, there's a lot of herbalists who understand like, "Okay, I know how to make tinctures. I know how to make infused oils. I can make a salve, I know how to make an infusion, a decoction." So they kind of have the practical. They get that and they have a lot of good recipes. But what this is, is kind of looking behind the curtain and seeing why you're doing that plant that way.

It's like Grindelia. It's like, why do we use 75% ethanol to extract Grindelia? Why not 30? Why don't we just do it with glycerin? Why are we doing it that way? What's actually happening? And so what that's about is solubility. Solubility is which constituents are you going to pull out of that herb with this fluid that you're using, right? And so we can use different fluids. We use water. We use different percentages of alcohol and water, or ethanol and water. We use glycerin. We could use honey as a fluid. Vinegar, right? Is another extraction fluid. I'm sure you could come up with some other things. But it's like, why are we matching that menstruum or that extraction fluid or that solvent, is the technical word for it, why are we matching it to this herb? What's going on there? What is it taking out of this herb?

That's where understanding some stuff about constituents gets really handy. And what about time? Why do we do certain things for a certain amount of time? Is it better to do it longer? Is it better to do it shorter? Does it matter? Temperature? Right? So there's all these things that influence your extractions and how good it's going to be and how concentrated it's going to be, and therefore how effective it's going to be, right? And are you getting the constituents you think you're getting, right? So, temperature can be a big one too. Like with the honey infusion. 130 degrees. Perfect. Too hot, you're starting to scorch your honey, making it a little like burnt sugar, not cool. If it's not warm enough, it's not going to extract as thoroughly.

So, there's things like agitation is the technical word for shaking something, right? That's like, "Oh, should I shake that? Should I shake it a lot? If I shake it more, will it be done sooner? What's going on?" What is actually happening when you get your jar of tincture and you're like, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom? Or what if you're tincturing something in a Vitamix or with a stick blender or something? It's really a lot of motion going on in there. What is that? Why does it matter? What effect does it have? Stuff like surface area. How finely should I chop this thing up? Do I need to make itsy bitsy pieces? Should I powder it? Should it be fresh? Should it be dried?

So, all these things that are behind the processes that you use in making a medicine, you can think, you can look at each process that you're doing, and then you can kind of look at what that actually represents and what's behind it and how that's affecting the efficiency of your extraction, right? And so, it'll be different with every different herb, right? Because different species of herbs, they have different... I call it the plant matrix, right? So, the plant matrix is the actual physical body of the plant, the plant material. And if you think of something like a beautiful... oh my God, roses. I love roses. We have the most beautiful yellow rose patch. But if you think of rose petals, how silky and soft and delicate they are, and then you think of something really tough, like an Elecampane root, the physical character of those things are so different, right? They have a very different plant matrix.

The plant cell wall material, what the plant is actually built of. It can be super, super different with different things. Or a rose hip is really, really, really different than a dandelion flower, right? So, what are the effects of the plant matrix, right?... on your extraction and what you're getting out of that plant? How do you kind of work with that, too? So, of all of these factors, your solvent... There's a molecular phenomenon called polarity, which I won't go into deeply here, but that's kind of one of the main things that determines what solvent is going to pull what constituents out of a plant, right? So, polarity, temperature, time, pressure, agitation, surface area, plant matrix, all this stuff, if you think it through, if you understand what it is, in a non-mathematic way, and you think it through, then you look at your medicine making process and be like, "Oh, what if I did this?"

Right? And it gives you tools for intelligent experimentation, which is really fun. And you're like, "Oh, I learned to make this extract this herb with 30%, but if I extract it with 70% and maybe if I even heated a little bit, and I do it for this amount of time, then I'm going to get more of these constituents out, and that's going to make it better at doing the thing I want it to do." And so you start thinking, you start with a recipe, and then you start kind of digging underneath and seeing what makes that a good recipe. And then maybe even dialing in some of those things to make it an even better recipe. So, it gives you a lot of creativity tools for medicine making. So yeah.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
That's going to be a phenomenal course, Lisa.

Lisa Ganora:
I know. I'm so excited about it.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah.

Lisa Ganora:
And it was so much fun to make. We did all these crazy demos...

Rosalee de la Forêt:
I bet, yeah.

Lisa Ganora:
Because a lot of this stuff, I don't know, man, the way they teach this stuff in college just makes it harder. I think they do this on purpose. They're like, "Let's see who can do this." And it can be very useful and very practical stuff. And that's kind of my mission is to take that kind of stuff and make it relevant and make it useful and make it important for herbalists. Because when you start making medicine at first, right?... you're like, "Oh, I made a pretty good tincture." And 10 years later, you've really got that dialed in and you make a really good... doesn't take 10 years, necessarily, but you know what I mean. As you apply your experience over time, you make something better, and better, and better, and better, and better.

So, this course is kind of a way to accelerate some of that. So it's like, "Hey, if you do it this way, you'll get a more awesome herbal medicine." So, yeah. I'm excited about it. So, that's one thing we're working on. And actually, that comes out pretty soon. And a lot of the stuff in it is kind of a more practical application of some of the stuff that's in the book. The book really goes into what's behind the curtain with all this stuff, and this is more of a hands-on kind of interpretation of it. But then in June we're doing a workshop, an herbal pharmacy, Make Better Medicine herbal pharmacy workshop at Elderberry's in Paonia.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Oh wonderful.

Lisa Ganora:
So, yeah, and we did this last year too, before we wrote the course, and it was super fun, because we take four days, I have this new herbal laboratory that's almost finished, pandemic-style, right? It was supposed to be finished in May. We're close. But we have this beautiful maker space and it's just really fun to kind of study up on this stuff and actually come and do it with a bunch of people and camp out and have a good old time sampling the medicinal needs around the fire at night.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Lovely.

Lisa Ganora:
Such things. But yeah, we make instant tincture. We make instant fresh herb tincture and instant dried tincture and we'll be making oxymel, double-infused fire cider, and we'll be making elixirs, and I don't know what else, and just some more next level kind of stuff. So, I'm really excited about that. And yeah, that's the two big things coming up in the herbal world. And I'm teaching at a bunch of conferences this year too. So, I'm not running an herb school anymore, so I don't have to be there doing the administration stuff all the time like I was. So, going to do some more conferences, going to be at Midwest. I'm really excited about that one. Midwest Women's Herbal. Doing a bunch of online stuff. So yeah, I get bored easily. So, I do a lot of things. I'm training a mustang right now.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Oh wow. Wow.

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah, I got myself a Mustang, such a sweet horse. But, man, wild horses, man, they're wild. They are wild. Admirably so. Yeah, and getting ready for the garden season. I mean, that's huge, because we're putting in drip irrigation this year.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Oh, we are, too.

Lisa Ganora:
Hot air, dry air. Oh, you are? Oh, awesome. We should compare notes. Yeah. I've never done this before. I have no idea what I'm doing. I got advice from somebody who really does. So, I hope that goes well. So yeah, we're trying to adapt to the hotter, drier, by getting our water systems dialed in.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yep. Us, too. Yeah.

Lisa Ganora:
Yeah. Doing some product formulations and I don't know, all the things.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Well, Lisa, thank you so much for joining me and for such an entertaining and informative conversation.

Lisa Ganora:
Yay.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
And thanks for so generously spending your time with us and all your wisdom.

Lisa Ganora:
Absolutely.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
It's been really lovely.

Lisa Ganora:
You're so welcome. Thanks for having me on.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah.

Lisa Ganora:
I love talking to people about this stuff. I really do.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Oh, really? I couldn't tell.

Lisa Ganora:
It's so exciting, though. There's just something about herbalists. I just met somebody the other day on the phone, some herbalist, never met them before and we were just like, (yapping). After like a whole hour, nonstop. And it's just like a tribe, so. Yeah.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. Absolutely. Well, I have had such a lovely time and I'd love to have you on again sometimes, so.

Lisa Ganora:
Absolutely.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Have you back. Thank you so much, Lisa.

Lisa Ganora:
Yay. Thank you.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Thanks for watching. Don't forget to click the link above this transcript to get free access to Lisa's Grindelia elixir. You can also visit Lisa directly at herbalconstituents.com. If you enjoyed this interview, then before you go, be sure to subscribe to my 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 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 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.  



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