It’s always exciting to hear about a little-known herb with powerful medicinal action, especially when it also happens to grow abundantly. And that’s what you have to look forward to in this conversation about how to use ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) with Val Alcorn!
You’ll also receive Val’s recipe for an Upper Respiratory Tincture which contains ground ivy. This is a formula she describes as ideal for “heavy, stagnant congestion and/or pain in the upper respiratory system.”
By the end of this episode, you’ll know:
► Are there ever any advantages to invasive plants?
► Why look at how herbs were used ancestrally?
► How following your curiosity and intuition can lead to powerful medicine
If you don’t already know Val, she is an herbalist, herb farmer, writer and artist living on Anishinaabe land in what is now Michigan. Her goal is to connect people with the stories and the medicine of the plants so that we may heal body and spirit with curiosity and reciprocity. She crafts a variety of herbal tools and goods with a focus on herbal bitters and runs a brick-and-mortar store in Gladwin, Michigan.
I’m so grateful to share our conversation with you today!
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This is an ideal tincture for heavy, stagnant congestion and/or pain in the upper respiratory system. Ground ivy helps to drain mucus and relieve allergy symptoms, while barberry supports immune response and mullein lowers inflammation.
Rosalee: 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 Forêt. I created this Channel to share trusted herbal wisdom so that you can get the best results when relying on herbs for your health. I love offering up practical knowledge to help you dive deeper into the world of medicinal plants and seasonal living.
Each episode of the Herbs with Rosalee Podcast is shared on YouTube, as well as your favorite podcast app. 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’ve been following Val Alcorn for several years now and I’ve been continually impressed and inspired by her connection to the land she lives on and the seasons. I’m especially thrilled that she’s a guest on the show because she’s sharing about a little known herb, which is always exciting.
For those of you who don’t know Val, she’s an herbalist, herb farmer, writer and artist living in Anishinaabe land, which is now Michigan. Her goal is to connect people with the stories and the medicine of the plants, so that we may heal body and spirit with curiosity and reciprocity. She crafts a variety of herbal tools and goods with a focus on herbal bitters and runs a brick-and-mortar store in Gladwin, Michigan.
Welcome to the show, Val.
Val: Hi. Thanks so much for having me.
Rosalee: I’m totally just thrilled to have you here because I’ve been following you for so long on Instagram and that’s been fun. Actually, I’m going to leave all of the ways I’ve been following you. I think it’ll just naturally come through the conversation. I’m really excited to have you here. We’ve never met, so this is our first time.
Val: Yeah, and likewise. I’m a huge fan of you. I carry your books in my shop, my brick-and-mortar shop, too and those have been indispensable for helping people starting to work with herbalism and all that sort of stuff, so yeah, this is a huge honor.
Rosalee: Thanks. I know very little about you when it comes to your origin story and your plant path, so I’m excited to hear what got you into the world of herbs.
Val: Absolutely. Well, it’s definitely been a long journey. I know some people are born with this feeling they know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing in life. This is what I want to do. Even as kids they have the desire and that wasn’t really how it was for me. I’ve always had a very strong connection to the land. I grew up camping, swimming in the lakes, the rivers. I’m here in Michigan on Anishinaabe land, and so we’re just brimming with forests and lakes and rivers and water and all of those wonderful natural resources. I always felt really strong connection there, but growing up in the Midwest, you know working with plants as a career was never really on my radar. I didn’t know that was even an option for me so I kind of ventured toward my other passion, which is art and creativity.
I went to college for digital media. I started working at a large advertising company and within two months of graduating college and working there, I knew that this was wrong, like this was wrong, wrong, wrong. It did not feel good. It did not feel right. Also, I was dealing with some health issues at the same time, too, so I just felt really heavy. Sometimes I feel like when you’re in such a heavy space and you can’t find a way out, really, the only way to get out of that is to physically leave your environment and just do something completely new. My now husband and I sold everything we had and moved out to Colorado with just two cars and two cats, and they were not happy about it. We moved to Colorado and I just did random jobs to see where I fit in, where I belong. Of course, Colorado is just amazing. It’s beautiful. It’s brimming with the holistic wellness industry, too, so I started getting into that.
Meanwhile, though, I was still dealing with all sorts of health issues. Finally, a co-worker of mine told me to, “Hey, go see a naturopath. See where that leads you,” and that changed my life because I had seen so many traditional, conventional doctors that didn’t give me really any hope at all. This naturopath sat down with me for 90 minutes in our first meeting just going over everything. I finally felt seen, and then also, the next meeting, he found out exactly what was going on with me. He was able to help with herbs and with diet. It changed my life. I knew from then on that this is what I had to do for the rest of my life is work with the plants and help people connect to plants.
I knew also that back in Michigan we really don’t have that many resources for stuff like that like you do on the East Coast or the West Coast or Colorado, those sorts of areas, so we moved back here and brought some of that with us. We started, my husband and I—mostly me, but he’s definitely a backbone, he helps me with everything—started my own brick-and-mortar here as well as an online shop and been doing that ever since.
Rosalee: That definitely fills in some blanks for me, like how your bitters packaging is so original and it just pops. It is such a cool overall feeling, so background in digital media… I’m guessing that that helped with that?
Val: Yeah, for sure.
Rosalee: I’m curious. How did you choose Colorado? Was that like close your eyes, point on the map? How did that come about?
Val: You know there are some things in life that I look back and I’m like, “How did that even happen?” or “How did that start?” and I really can’t give you a good reason to why I knew. I don’t know. I really don’t know. We both wanted somewhere just completely different. It was either Tennessee or somewhere out west, but we really honed in on Colorado for one reason or the other. My husband ended up finding a job out there first. We just went with it. Obviously, we were young at the time. I was just out of college. We didn’t have a lot of ties so it’s much easier to just sort of uproot and leave everything behind and start new. Sometimes you just need that new start and Colorado was the absolute perfect place for that and it still holds a really, really special place in my heart.
Rosalee: We were talking before we went live here about how much I hate humidity, so as someone who detests humidity on all levels, I highly approve of the high deserts.
Val: Yeah, weird. I love New Mexico too, like Santa Fe, Taos… just that whole area are also some of my favorites, which is so random since now I live in the forests and the most humid climate ever, but I love that environment, too. It was so crazy just leaving the door open at night and not having to worry about mosquitoes or bugs coming in. It was a wild experience.
Rosalee: Well, I’m really excited for the plant that you chose today, ground ivy. It’s a plant I don’t know much about beyond the quick basics you mentioned here and there, but I did look through some books. I thought maybe I’ll just learn a few things so I don’t look totally ignorant while interviewing Val. There’s really not a lot out there besides a couple of commonly quoted things, so I’m really excited to hear what you have to share about ground ivy and we can start wherever you want.
Val: I really wanted to talk about this plant in particular, not only because it is a little obscure, which I’m always interested in, but also because it’s been really useful for me and my practice, especially this year, too. Ground ivy is a pretty invasive plant here in North America. It kind of just creates this really thick carpet in sunny and also shaded areas. You can find it in the woods and some shaded areas and fields as well. It just does its thing. It’s in the mint family so it does spread by those runners as well.
What’s interesting about ground ivy, though, is it doesn’t have that very aromatic smell like most mint family plants. It’s like self-heal where it does have those volatile oils. You can definitely tell that they’re still part of the same family. It’s not grassy, like you would a different herb. You can definitely tell they have those volatile oils but it’s not super aromatic like peppermint or lemon balm, things like that.
I really love ground ivy here. Because I actually live in the forest, it’s super easy to grow in the woods. It’s a great ground cover as long as you can sort of corral it into a specific area, too. It’s also an edible plant as well. When it flowers, you can use the leaves and the flowers for spring salads with garlic mustard or violet leaves or whatever. It’s super tasty. It’s full of nutritious value as well, so that’s really fun.
Medicinally, what I really love about it is its action as a sort of upper respiratory herb. It’s very hot. I won’t say very hot. It’s generally hot, drying. It’s also bitter as well and that’s more useful for the digestive issues, but for the upper respiratory system, this is great for those stagnant fluid issues here where you get those sinus headaches that just feels like you have a wet washcloth tied around your head and there’s just all that pressure. Earaches, as well. Some people who have tinnitus where it’s caused by that stagnant fluid in the ear have found great relief from that. Also, sinus infections, in general. It’s so wonderful to drain those lymphatic channels, as well as reduce inflammation. It’s a natural antihistamine, which is great for allergies as well.
People who have come into my shop who have never used herbs before, who are already a little iffy about it in general, started taking this tincture—and this is part of the upper respiratory tincture that I know you’ll share later, maybe we’ll talk about it—but they’re amazed because it starts working within the first day. You take it multiple times throughout the first day and it just immediately starts draining, starts helping that really tense, wet, stagnant state in the upper respiratory system.
I’m really just interested in these sorts of plants because I feel like everybody is so excited about the exotic plants, the adaptogens, those buzzword herbs. Sometimes I feel like the most common plants are sometimes the most powerful at times, too. Especially invasive plants, why not use those more? I feel like it’s a win-win for using that in herbal practice as well. Plus, you know I’m always drawn to herbs that are part of my ancestry in Polish and German as well, and that’s been used since the Middle Ages much more than nowadays. That’s a general overview, but yeah, I love ground ivy.
Rosalee: Will you share the botanical name just for clarification?
Val: It’s Glechoma hederacea, I believe. Let me just double check there. Yeah, Glechoma hederacea. And that, like I mentioned, is part of the mint family. There are some lookalikes. There’s henbit and purple deadnettle as well. Those don’t spread by runners, so it’s a little bit easier to tell ground ivy apart. There’s a name from the Middle Ages that’s called, crown of the earth, because it kind of crowns from the ground and spikes up like in a little spray of purple and sort of those heart-shaped lobed leaves as well. It’s a beautiful plant. It does have purple trumpet-like flowers like henbit and purple dead nettle as well. Definitely, those runners make it a little bit easier to tell, at least for me.
Rosalee: That’s a good tip. When do you see it starting to pop up where you live?
Val: Here in Michigan, at least where I’m at in Michigan, it’s about 5a hardiness so it does take ‘til about May even June to start flowering. It will pop up in late spring, at least where I am.
Rosalee: Do you have ideal harvest times for it? Or do you harvest anytime you see it?
Val: Most herbalists who do work with ground ivy prefer to use it fresh, especially in the spring when it’s nice and vibrant. As soon as it starts flowering is usually when I use it, but I have also harvested it late summer when I’m in a pinch and need a little bit extra as well. I found it to work just as well. It gets a little leggy, but I do find that it’s still very potent to use at either time. I did dry some this year. I haven’t tried to use it yet in a dried form, but I think that should work, too. If I had to prefer, I would definitely go with the fresh herb.
Rosalee: And then prepared as a fresh plant tincture, specifically?
Val: Yes, I do use it as a fresh plant tincture. In some medieval texts, they will use it as sort of a topical infusion. They used to put it on the head for sinus issues. They used to say that ground ivy got rid of bad humors in the heads, sort of those colic humors, as well. It’s really interesting. There was one specific preparation where they would combine ground ivy, celandine and daisy, as well as sugar and rose water all together, apply it to the eyes with a feather and that was suppose to cure pretty much any eye issue, like webbing, pain, even blindness. Of course, I cannot attest for any of these, but I just find it very interesting. Again, that’s just all in that upper respiratory, head region that it’s really great for. They do also have instances of using it as an infusion for urinary issues as well because it is also a diuretic. Using lymphatics and diuretics for urinary issues is always great. Because it is bitter, like I did mention, some people will use it as sort of a digestive herb and probably combine it with some other herbs to stimulate that digestive flow. It’s supposed to strengthen kidneys as well. People with back pains and stuff, they’ve used it for that too. But definitely, the main thing I use it for is the head region.
Rosalee: I love all the possibility there, like you said, with an invasive plant that just grows everywhere. Just the potential of being able to start working with this plant more and more and bringing so many of its gifts to life that we might have to re-find what might have been lost over time.
Val: Yeah, it’s potent. You can definitely tell as soon as you make that fresh plant tincture, you can tell this is strong medicine. I think we need to look more into stuff like that. There haven’t been a lot of studies into the actual scientific chemical composition of the plant, but we do know it has volatile oils. It has triterpenes and phenolic acids as well. Those are maybe some starting points to where we can determine more how we can use it as well. I think probably the best way we can see how people have used it in the past is more medieval texts, of course, with a grain of salt and then seeing where curiosity takes us and go from there as well. I also think it’s just really fun to think about applying herbs in different ways, like with feathers and all those sort of things. All those medieval texts are super interesting. Who’s that herbalist? She was a mystic and an herbalist. Hildegard von…
Val: Yes. She actually wrote about ground ivy as well. She talked about using it as an herb to help with obstructions of the liver and the spleen as well. There’s definitely a lot of big herbalists in that time that have talked about ground ivy. It’s just a matter of digging it up a little bit, too, and of course, experimenting because as far I’ve seen, I haven’t really come across any contraindications for ground ivy so I feel like it’s a pretty safe herb, at this point, to work with. I have heard that cattle or livestock… it can be slightly toxic to them. If you do have domestic animals or livestock, just keep it away from them just to be safe, but for humans, it seems to be pretty safe from what I’ve seen.
Rosalee: On the wondering realm, it makes me think about because it’s same plant family as self-heal, how you mentioned self-heal and ground ivy have volatile oils in them even though they’re not super aromatic. Self-heal, historically, was used a lot as a hydrosol. It’s really applauded for that so I wonder if ground ivy hydrosol, what that might be like.
Val: I did read somewhere where they tried a distillation—and this was again, back in the 1600s—a distillation of the ground ivy, but then it didn’t really elaborate as to if it worked, if it didn’t work, how it worked out. I would imagine you can make hydrosols out of pretty much most mint family plants. That would be really interesting to try out.
Rosalee: I would love to talk more about the tincture recipe that you’ve shared with us and the plants that are in there and anything else you’d like to share about that.
Val: This is a super simple, but very, very effective tincture. Like I mentioned, I have done—I can’t keep it in stock on my shelves here at our brick-and-mortar store. We are in a small rural town. People are very skeptical about herbs and things like that here, so if people like that are—and I love them so much. I love this community. I really do, but if they’re into this you’re golden.
It is a ground ivy, fresh ground ivy. It’s also two parts ground ivy, two parts mullein and one part barberry. I really love ground ivy as one of the main components of this blend, again, to help drain as a natural antihistamine and dry up—those hot dry actions dry up any stagnant fluid in that area. I do like to add some mullein as an anti-inflammatory just so that the hot dryness doesn’t become overpowering in the blend as well. Of course, mullein, another really safe, very common plant that you can use and most people know for any respiratory issue as well. I find that to be sort of a great balancing plant to ground ivy. I do add one part of barberry as well and I do have to say maybe I use too much barberry, but I put it in so many of my tinctures. It’s ridiculous. I’m obsessed with it, especially any tincture where the immune system needs a little boost as well. I like to add it into that blend specifically if there is any sinus infection or anything present, because barberry is specifically indicated for the upper respiratory system or at least one of the areas that it’s specifically indicated for. It has berberine which is like that natural antiviral, antibacterial compound and it’s really great against antibiotic resistant bacteria and those sort of things as well. It helps to pack a really powerful punch.
What I have on the bottle and what I tell people on how to take this, is to take it multiple times throughout the first day as soon as you start feeling any sort of earache, congestion in this area at all. I think you take it about once every 15 minutes for the first hour, once in an hour for the first day and then afterward you can take it two or three times a day as needed. But honestly, most people don’t need to take it past four or five days, tops. You can definitely feel the main action of it happen within the first two days because it’s a really potent tincture as well.
I have had—and I can’t, again, attest to this—but I had a lady start giving it to her dog because he was having terrible allergy issues and stuff. She always messages me about how grateful she is for this tincture. Again, I did not tell her to do that, but she has given it to her animals as well.
Another great story is a lady who came in and she was having really bad migraines. She was going to buy a different tincture for migraines as well. Anytime anybody comes in with headaches and migraines and things like that, I want to know a little bit more about it as opposed to just giving a general migraine herb or tincture. I was like, “What’s the cause? Are there any triggers for this migraine?” She said anytime she cut the grass, she would get these terrible migraines just because of allergies or anything like that, and so I instantly directed her to the clear head tincture, that’s what I call it, but it’s the ground ivy tincture. Ever since then she just takes it before she starts cutting the grass and doesn’t have any issues with that at all, and that’s really helped her.
Also, just throughout the winter, for some reason, sinus infections have been really, really just rampant, at least in this area, so people come in all the time to get that and help jumpstart the immune system as well. That’s been just indispensable, at least in my practice as well and for myself. I love it.
Rosalee: That’s a fantastic formula. Since you’ve shared this tincture formula with us, I’d love to talk about your bitters formulas for a bit because that’s something that you’re known for, your Woodspell bitters. Here’s my first question – Why the fascination with bitters? And maybe hear about some of your favorite formulas.
Val: This is another one of those situations where I look back a few years later and I have no idea how that came about or why specifically I was drawn to that or called to that sort of path. It kind of just happened when my husband and I were on our honeymoon in Durango, Colorado. I went to an apothecary, Dancing Willow Apothecary. Shout out to them. They had a book by Guido Masé called, DIY Bitters, and I just became obsessed. I was immediately drawn into how complex and complicated bitter plants are and also, how much of an ancestral plants these group of plants are because back when plants and humans first came about and started commingling, all plants were poisonous. All plants were very, very bitter and so, us humans had to co-evolve with plants so that we could digest those bitter compounds.
I believe we developed 34 bitter taste receptors as opposed to three to four sweet, sour, umami taste receptors. This is a very old flavor, very old compound so I feel like there’s just something very grounding and rooting about working with bitter plants. Again, they’re so complex. You have sour bitters. You’ve got pure bitter. You’ve got salty bitters. You even have a little bit of sweetness to certain bitters as well. I thought it was a really cool challenge to try and play with a plant that you wouldn’t necessarily want to taste or play with and somehow make it interesting, make it appealing for people to start incorporating into their lives, because again, our modern diets, we’ve nearly completely eliminated all bitter things. But the fact that we co-evolved with these bitter plants for thousands of years means that there’s a reason that we’re meant to ingest bitter plants.
Of course, we know the benefits of bitters. It helps to jumpstart digestion. It’s great for the liver, to detox via the lymphatic system as well. I mean, 70% of our immune system lives in our gut. We’ve got neurotransmitters in our gut as well, so just taking care of the digestive system is completely essential to just general, overall wellness. So many people are dealing with gut issues in general, so bitters I feel should be as essential to our wellness routine as probiotics. It just seems like those two should go hand in hand. As well as prebiotics as well, but my bitters blends do contain those prebiotics herbs like dandelion root, burdock root. Yes, I think it’s really easy to make a really great tasting tincture or herbal preparation of rose or lavender. I thought it would just be so fun to work with different—those more complex plants as well and see how that works out.
Actually, when I started my business, I only launched four products. I had a salve and three bitters and that was it and really haven’t expanded too much from then just because they’re just so great! I love them. One of my favorite ones is my Baba Yaga Bitters. That’s one of the first ones that I launched. One of the ways that I come up with formulations is not only that scientific approach, but also from folklore. I get a lot of inspiration from stories and mythology and my own roots as well. I was just fascinated by this crone, this hag, this really sort of fierce woman who could be really volatile and eat children, but also guide travelers, as well. How cool would it be to take her bitterness, encompass that – those bitter herbs – but also her wisdom, her guidance into more of those grandmother-like herbs like rosemary, sage, tulsi? Of course, scientifically or medicinally, we know that sage and rosemary are great for memory and focus and all of those sort of things. I feel like those more aromatic plants in the blend really help to channel her wise grandmother wisdom as well. I just find it really fun to play with the creative side, the folklore, and then also more of the medicinal traditional scientific approach to blends as well.
I get a little obsessed with making these sort of things as well if you can’t tell. I think bitters also are just becoming more and more known, more and more popular nowadays as well. Bitters used to be an essential household item in most homes before modern medicine came about, before prohibition. Prohibition sort of cut out bitters in general, whether it was medicinal or for the cocktail scene. I’m trying to encompass that bitter renaissance. I had a store tell me once that bitters just don’t sell, like it’s not going to work, but here I am four years later and it’s working, so it’s been a great journey.
Rosalee: I really love what you shared about your formulation techniques and your connection to your ancestral lineage and playing with that creativity. When you talk about that it really, to me, that is medicine. You’re not just like, “I’m going to take a bunch of stuff and throw them in a formula together.” There’s so much thought that goes into it and intention. That’s a really beautiful sharing. And I love… I think, Val, something I’ve just been loving about you for a long time now is your combination of your connection to your ancestral lineage and also that throughline of the connection to the plants that grow around you as well.
Val: Thank you so much. I appreciate that. Like I said, it’s more of an obsession sort of thing to where I want to scrutinize every little decision that I put into making these blends. Also, I’ve found through working with all the plants, the more I can get down to the core plants that I need to use in a blend, the more powerful the blend, too, like the upper respiratory tincture with the three herbs.
With the bitter blends, I have a very specific roadmap for how I formulate the blends. I start with those really bitter, very potent bitters and then you add on some of the more prebiotics, mild bitters, and then any complementary aromatic bitters to stimulate and warm the gut because I feel like a lot of bitter herbs are cooling and drying so you want to balance that with some pungency, and then the aromatics as well.
Of course, weaving in the story. I look at it from as many different perspectives as I can, as well. I think, especially as you’re starting out in herbalism, the tendency is to throw every single herb that you can at a tincture, try and see where it goes and just expect that it’s going to work. I think over the years, I’ve really been able to sort of at least try to finesse a little more and try and remove. Instead of just adding in, see what I can remove because I feel like when you get down to that core essence, that core group of plants, that that really what makes a blend really powerful, too.
Rosalee: I love all of that sharing, Val. I, too, am obsessed with bitters and Guido.
Val: Yes, yes, huge inspiration.
Rosalee: That is a fantastic book. I appreciate all of them.
Val: I would not be doing what I’m doing if it wasn’t for him and all the work that he’s put into the bitters studies and all of that goes into it. He’s got many books on—released a few books on bitters and he teaches about it. I highly recommend checking out their bitters, too, because they’re amazing.
Rosalee: Another thing I wanted to highlight is your YouTube channel, which I know you don’t have a ton of videos on there, but I just listened to your interview with Nathan Wright, who I hope to have on the podcast one day. That interview – I loved it.
I also wanted to highlight one of the favorite things I’ve received from you, which is that video of your garden in the springtime. That was a really cool video showing your Michigan garden. I’m assuming you used a drone to do some of that. It was just really well done. The whole time I was watching it, it was such a cool thing. I think as someone who loves to garden and loves my own garden, it’s so cool to get a garden tour, especially on lands that look so different than mine.
Val: Thank you so much. Definitely had a drone. My husband flies the drone. I don’t even want to go there, but I do get kind of obsessive about that stuff too because the creative side of me still gets reign when I’m creating content or doing labels or website stuff or whatever, so I appreciate that. I don’t really do a whole lot on my YouTube, but it’s always a goal to do more. It’s good to know that you enjoyed that.
Rosalee: I did, absolutely. Not to put you on the spot, but that was an early spring video and you might have mentioned that you would do another one at a different time of the year? So, if you just add that to your list? I’m on the edge of my seat, Val. I’m waiting.
Val: I know. That’s just like a small part of the garden, too. I’ve actually been working, I feel like for the past three years, on a one acre space in front of our house that’s sort of a mixture of trees and open area. The only issue is that we have a huge—so, we live in the forest but we also kind of live in a swamp which makes it very difficult. It’s very low land. We have a huge depression in that space so I really want to try and excavate that to make it sort of an irrigation/drainage pond to hopefully help concentrate the water in that area; that way I can grow more herbs around there. I will keep that in mind. I definitely, you know, I would love. I would love to do more video content and things like that because I do feel like it’s kind of lacking in the YouTube space for herbal content in general. I love gardens too. Besides formulation, I think growing the plants is, by far, my favorite, favorite thing to do in this realm.
Rosalee: I love all the ways that you express your creativity through the plant world. I know this year you came out with something that’s really cool, so if you want to take this segue into Lunica, I would love to hear about that.
Val: Thank you so much. This is one of the most creative and also exhausting projects I’ve ever done. I did not know what I was getting into, but it was so fun. It was so creative. It was kind of like just my mind, all of it, onto the page. Basically, the Lunica planner is a yearly planner that’s land-based and it’s based on the seasons. There it is right there if you’re watching on YouTube or wherever you post this. I thought that there was a lot of really great astrology planners out there, but I’m not—I know the basics of astrology. It’s not something that I follow fully, but I really wanted a land-based planner that would help you live in the moment, live in the season, in sort of quick, digestible ways.
I wanted to include seasonal recipes. I wanted to include plant profiles. I wanted to include places for you to journal and garden planning and all of those things, but also leave room for your modern day tasks as well. Because we live in the modern life, I know I can’t function without writing down all my tasks and everything I need to do for the day so I thought it was really important to just combine all the things and put them all in one place. Personally, maybe selfishly, just to have all the things that I love in one area and to keep my mind organized as well.
One thing that I also wanted to explore with this planner was gardening by the moon, which I’m fascinated by. I have delved into that over the past few years, and I found it a really sort of powerful way and useful way to garden as well. Not only does it produce more resilient and potent plants, in my opinion, from just my experiments, but also it just gives you that ancestral connection to your roots, to the plants, to the earth as well because all of our ancestors used to garden by the moon. The first documented report of using astrology was for agriculture. I think diving into those little aspects of our lineage can really help us connect to ourselves and to the earth as well. I make it super easy for people. I have an overview of how to moon garden but then on each day, I also write down what the best task is for that day in case you don’t want to do all the calculations and things like that, and of course, have all the moon phases and all that. I’m already dreaming about next year’s planner as well. I’m really excited about it. It was a really fun, fun project.
Rosalee: I picked it up, actually, and was especially interested for the moon gardening. I’ll be honest. For me, I’m just lucky to get what I get done when I get done… when I do get it done, but I’m definitely intrigued more and more. It’s also been kind of just a mental process of just thinking how can I rearrange my life to prioritize gardening by the moon instead of the other way around, like fitting it in when I can? That’s a process I’m still working on. I’m not there yet but I thought this will be fun. I love the planner so much and this episode is posting in February, so this is, you know, pick it up right away to get your copy.
Also an interesting thing, years ago, Rosemary Gladstar, I was at a talk of hers. She said—I’ll just have to paraphrase this—but she said, “You know, there’s been times in my life where I thought I’m just so smart. I just came up with this thing,” etc., etc., “and then I go to a conference and all the other herbalists are thinking about the same thing!” She realizes it’s just part of the herbal consciousness. Even my interview with Guido last year, speaking of Guido, he also talked about this, like kind of our consciousness. With that in mind, this year, I’m teaching a seasonal celebrations class as part of Rooted Medicine Circle, but it’s so much in line with the things that you have in here because it’s land-based. I really love that about this planner – is the land-based connection, self-reflection and finding what it means to have celebrations. For you, what does that mean? I love the planner. I love that you did—I can tell so much work went into it. Not just the writing of it and the dreaming up of it, but even just the creating of it. I’m guessing you used your digital background for this. You self-published it. I mean, just to lay it out and have it all work. That process is just really fascinating to me and I know that it takes a lot of work.
Val: Yes, absolutely. That was one of the things I love so much about it – is being able to incorporate all those different parts of me. You know, my design background… I spent a few years just doing layouts and sort of those technical design fields as well as working with the digital art side for the cover and the little drawings inside too. It’s really just a combination of me into that process. It was really fulfilling as well.
Kind of going back to what you were saying about fitting gardening by the moon into your daily life, I totally 100% relate to that and that’s why I wanted to do this planner too because I have sort of delved into different methods of gardening by the moon, like biodynamics. There’s some astrological methods. Everybody has a different way of gardening by the moon, basically, but I found biodynamics to be completely overwhelming. There was just too much going on. For some people it works out really well, but I just wanted something that was really simple, really connected to my ancestry, to the moon, to things that work, as well. That’s why I wanted to put down exactly what task that you should focus on for each day to hopefully make it a little easier for people to be like, “Okay, instead of trying to run around and do all of these things in the garden, instead I’m going to focus on this one task on this day because this is going to be the most beneficial for my garden at this time.”
What I love, too, about gardening by the moon is that there are certain days that we’re required to rest and days of the new moon or on the quarter moon. Some people will say to rest on the full moon. Some people do like to harvest on the full moon, so you can do either/or. I think it’s really important, too, to have that permission to be able to rest and just celebrate and enjoy the garden as well. That’s what I love about gardening by the moon, too, is it really gives you a sort of a roadmap for how to navigate that. Of course, you know nobody’s perfect. There’s plenty of times where you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do, but I thought it was just an interesting way to give you some little breadcrumbs, a few steps to start going in that direction. That was my goal, at least.
Rosalee: I’m super excited. It’s well done, beautifully done
Val: Thank you.
Rosalee: And I’m excited that you’re already thinking about next year, too.
Val: Yes, yes. It’s super fun, too, because I actually—like you said, it was self-published. I had a friend of mine who I used to work with. She now owns her own print shop. She’s local so I was able to do all of the planners through her, support her business, as well. I wanted everything to just be really local, really grassroots, as well, so that was so fun to be able to work with her and support her business, as well.
Rosalee: That’s wonderful. For everyone interested in Lunica, interested in Val’s bitters, and also, your newsletter, you can sign up at woodspells.com. I have been on your newsletter for quite a while now and I love it. You just recently sent out something about going out to the pines and harvesting resins. Such beautiful writing and always that land-based connection to the living world around you just permeates everything you do, so I highly recommend the newsletter as well.
Val: Thank you so much. I definitely feel like I’m being called more towards the newsletter. I feel like lately, social media has just been kind of exhausting. I still will 100% always be there, but I feel like I put more of my effort lately into the newsletter. I’m trying to get it to a weekly newsletter as opposed to a monthly newsletter, but I’m getting there.
Rosalee: I look forward to that. Well, Val, that leaves us to our last question which I’m asking everyone in Season 7, and that question is – What advice do you have for people who are just starting out on their herbal path?
Val: I want to say that I completely relate to how overwhelming that can be, but I think the best advice is to remember that the world needs whatever medicine that you have to offer, that you’re being called to make, because this can be a challenging field to work or make a living in. I completely understand that, but it is one of the most rewarding things to be able to do.
Whatever you’re called to, whether it be to make products, to do consultations or teach classes or how many of the many, many ways that come about from working with plants, it’s so needed because there’s someone who’s either healing or benefitting from your medicine or who will in the future benefit from your medicine. When times get hard, I just want you to remember that the world needs what you have to offer. Just keep going because we need more healers here. I think one of my teachers once said that her dream was to have an herbalist in every county and I thought that was just so—like I got shivers. That’s the dream right there – is to have people on the ground who are able to spread this really accessible medicine to people. It’s so, so needed.
Also, just follow your curiosity. There’s a reason why certain things are calling to you. That’s not chance. That’s not some random, fleeting thing. There’s a reason why you’re called to a certain path, so just follow it. I know it can be overwhelming with trying to remember the details, the actions, the constituents. I’ve been there. I still get there but just remembering to go back to that curious sort of intuition that we all have, is so powerful and it really just keeps you going and keeps you excited about it. Also, I think intuition is one of those things that we’ve completely just forgot about and… Thoughts, science and all of that is the law, and like… that… nothing else. But tapping back into that intuitive, curious, playful side, I feel like is how you can succeed in this field, at least.
Rosalee: That’s a beautiful sharing, Val. I can see how it really just comes from your direct experience. You’ve shared your unique way of being an herbalist, how your curiosity has sparked your path along the way and all of it. That’s very well said and it’s great to hear advice. We just heard how that manifested for your whole path, so it’s wonderful.
Val: Sometimes it doesn’t make sense. Like I said, I have no idea why I just resonated and went towards bitters, but this is what I’m doing now. Sometimes you got to trust that gut feeling. There’s a reason.
Rosalee: So true. Well, thank you so much, Val, for joining us today. It’s been a pleasure to meet you and have this conversation.
Val: Thanks for having me. This is great.
Rosalee: Thanks for watching. Don’t forget to click the link above this transcript to get free access to Val’s recipe for an upper respiratory tincture. You can find Val online including her website, woodspells.com. See the show notes for handy links to all her websites and social media.
If you enjoyed this interview, then before you go, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter below so 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, little known plant.
I deeply believe that this world needs more herbalists and plant-centered folks. 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.