My guest today, Sajah Popham, has so much wisdom to share about how to use wild lettuce for pain relief!
Wild lettuce is one of those herbs that is both underrated and overrated. There’s a lot to understand to be able to work effectively with herbs for pain relief, and wild lettuce is no exception.
By the end of this episode, you’ll know:
► What kind of pain wild lettuce is particularly well-suited to help relieve
► What strength and dosage of wild lettuce is generally needed for pain relief
► Two different methods you can explore for creating a potent wild lettuce extract (or homemade tincture)
You’ll also receive instant FREE access to a recipe card for Wild Lettuce Tincture.
If you’re not already familiar with him, Sajah Popham is the author of Evolutionary Herbalism and the founder of Natura Sophia Spagyrics and the School of Evolutionary Herbalism, where he trains herbalists in a holistic system of plant medicine that encompasses clinical Western herbalism, medical astrology, Ayurveda, and spagyric alchemy.
Sajah’s focus is the development of a comprehensive approach to herbalism that balances the science and spirituality of people and plants. He believes in healing the whole person with the whole plant, that our body, psychology and soul can be healed with the chemical, energetic, and spiritual properties of plants.
I’m so happy to share Sajah’s wisdom with you today!
-- TIMESTAMPS -- for How to Use Wild Lettuce for Pain Relief
01:18 - Introduction to Sajah Popham
04:31 - How Sajah got onto an herbal path
10:11 - What are spagyrics?
15:57 - How Sajah combines medical astrology with his approach to herbalism
24:00 - Why Sajah chose how to use wild lettuce for pain relief for this discussion
25:28 - Healing properties and main actions of wild lettuce
30:07 - How to use wild lettuce for pain relief
33:46 - Working with a Soxhlet extractor for a highly potent extract
37:21 - What are common reasons why wild lettuce doesn’t work as expected?
40:43 - Recipe card for Wild Lettuce Tincture
44:32 - Sajah’s current projects
46:47 - Why applying the allopathic way of thinking to herbal medicine doesn’t work
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 super excited to bring you this interview with Sajah Popham. I've known Sajah for many years and have loved watching his school and herbal product lines develop over the years. And as you'll hear in this interview, Sajah and I share a lot of similar views about the heart of herbalism and you'll find he has some very unique ways of putting it all together. For those of you who don't know Sajah already, he's the author of Evolutionary Herbalism and the founder of Natura Sophia Spagyrics and the School of Evolutionary Herbalism, where he trains herbalists in a holistic system of plant medicine that encompasses clinical Western herbalism, medical astrology, ayurveda and spagyric alchemy. Sajah's focus is the development of a comprehensive approach to herbalism that balances the science and spirituality of people and plants. He believes in healing the whole person with the whole plant; that our body psychology and soul can be healed with the chemical, energetic and spiritual properties of plants. Well, welcome to the show Sajah. I'm so thrilled to have you here finally. Feels like a finally.
Yeah. Oh, I'm so honored to be a part of the show. Thanks for having me Rosalee. It's good to see and chat with you again.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. Likewise. Do you remember how far back we go? I was trying to think of that today, but it keeps changing. It's at least a decade though.
At least a decade. I mean, I think, well, were you at the Northwest Herb Fair that Michael Pilarski 'Skeeter' put on like all those... Because I remember that's where I met John Gallagher.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
That's where I kind of met John Gallagher too.
Okay. Yeah. That was like the life-changing herbal fair for a lot of folks, I think.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. I think it was, yeah. There was that, because we were kind of doing the west coast conference circuit for a while.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
There was that. And then I really remember you and Whitney from the Montana gathering many, many years ago as well.
Yes, yeah. Some good ones out there in Montana.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. But I knew I must have known you before then. Because this is my memory. We had been driving and driving and driving, getting all the way to Montana and I showed up at the conference and I had that buzz of I've been driving for too long buzz. Yeah. And just... I was just like... And I remember I knew you, like, I remember that and I remember going to your booth and you had a lemon balm spagyric and you had the little testers out. And so I walked over and put a drop or two on my hand and licked that off as herbalists do. Yeah. And it was like, oh, I just felt like I had come back into my body finally. And so I have that very clear memory, besides hanging out with you that conference.
Nice, that lemon balm's spagyric essence is really profound and just a few drops like that too. It's like, wow. It works really fast.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. I remember that. I will never forget that because I really did feel it. But obviously you were an herbalist long before that, so I'd love to hear what got you into all of this.
Yeah. Well boy, it sure isn't... It's kind of a crazy story, I mean, because ever since I was a little kid, I always wanted to be a doctor, like I was four or five. I wanted to be a doctor and throughout my childhood it kind of changed a little bit, what kind of doctor I wanted to be. But when I was in high school, getting ready to go into college, I was on track to be... I was kind of tossed between either a neurosurgeon or a cardiovascular surgeon and I was on that track to go to conventional medical school and I moved out and was just going to whatever community college, trying to get some local residency in California.
And I ended up... It's actually my stepmom bought me this book about herbs and healing and it was kind of like, I don't even know what book it is anymore, but... And I remember getting really interested in it and I was kind of... my lifestyle was really changing, getting less conventional, a little more hippy dippy, more alternative stuff, and I kind of felt like I just don't feel like conventional medicine is really the way for me, and I grew up in a household where there's a lot of folks with a lot of serious health problems and I really saw my family kind of get worse by conventional medicine.
And so I kind of had this little disillusion around it and ended up finding Bastyr University and their herbal sciences program and was like, this light bulb just went off and I was like, "That's the path. That's the path for me." And still wanting to heal and help people, but wanting to do it in a natural and a holistic manner. For me, that was really kind of the beginning of my plant path. And Bastyr, of course, was this huge door opening kind of environment to be in and being introduced to things like ayurvedic medicine and Chinese medicine and Tomsonianism and eclecticism and physio-medicalism and homeopathy and all the different aspects of herbal medicine from across the world in different traditions. And I think for me... What I really... Kind of my focus ended up becoming was... On the one hand, at Bastyr we're learning a lot about the science of herbal medicine.
It's like their constituents and their biochemical mechanisms of action and how they influence the body on this very kind of biochemical scientific level, as the herbal science program. But for me plants and nature and herbal medicine always just felt like a deeper part of my spiritual path. For me, I always considered myself like, I guess for lack of a better term, like a spiritual seeker, like wanting to know who I am and why I'm here and what is this life and how can I be a better person and wanting to understand life spiritually. And for me, that really was kind of born through my time in nature. And so the plants inevitably kind of became a part of that. And as I worked with herbal medicine, I found that they were healing me in ways beyond just helping my symptoms go away.
They were changing me as I developed relationships with plants, I kind of would emerge out the other side and with more insight into myself and understanding of why I am the way I am, how I can be better and that was healing. And so for me, it kind of turned into this while there was the science part over here and the spiritual part over here and there wasn't really a whole lot of connective tissue between them. And so a lot of my focus on my plant path has been striving to unite science and spirituality in plant medicine and having a model and approach that could really speak both languages. Because oftentimes they kind of seem to butt heads and I don't really think it has to be that way.
I actually think they're quite complementary. That has led me down all sorts of different avenues. And I think the big ones for me was really the alchemical tradition and spagyric model of herbal pharmacy. And coupled to that, the medical astrology as a very, very profound and deep medical tradition in the European medical system. Yeah, that's kind of a little bit of my story and how I came to herbal medicine and kind of what my orientation with it all is.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Hmm. Thank you for sharing that Sajah, we are so much on that same path, which is something I've long recognized in our work, that bridging of those different worlds and wanting those, the plant medicine and science to all be an interrelated whole that we get to present. And what strikes me is just how that can be this large umbrella for many of us herbalists striving for that, but how we do it in such unique ways. And you mentioned spagyrics, alchemical process, astro-herbalism. I wanted you to talk... I would love it if you just talked more about those just a little bit, just for folks who don't know you, because those are... You just do it in such a unique way that if someone's not already familiar with it, that I think that's pretty interesting to hear about. Maybe start with spagyrics since we mentioned them already and just what are spagyrics?
Yeah, sure. Spagyrics is a branch of the alchemical tradition that specifically focuses on plant works, meaning it's essentially a model of herbal pharmacy that is focused on separating and purifying and recombining. What in alchemy I'll referred to as the three principles in plants. They're called sulfur, mercury and salt; or the soul, the spirit, and the body of the plant and the whole orientation of the alchemical tradition really as a whole is our spiritual development. The point of alchemy is to have a deeper understanding of nature. Nature externally, life, the cosmos, as well as our own nature internally and seeking union between the two. And in that way, we become more illuminated beings, so to speak. Not to sound too woo-woo about it. But that's kind of some of the older terminology that's used. Alchemy is, on the one hand it is a spiritual path, but on the other hand it is a chemical path.
It's a way of understanding nature and working with nature to craft medicine that is healing on all levels of being. That's healing the body, that's healing the mind, it's healing the heart. And ultimately is serving in the growth, the development, the evolution of the soul. What does that mean? Well, just becoming the best versions of ourselves. Healing our past traumas. We all have patterns of thinking and patterns of feeling that maybe aren't so good or aren't so healthy. There's things that we all struggle with as humans and the whole orientation of alchemical medicine is to heal the whole person. And in Spagyrics, we focus on healing the whole person with the whole plant. And I think that's a really important concept because we all, most of us, want to be holistic herbalists. And to me to be holistic means we are addressing the whole person.
We're not just a symptom, we're not just a disease. We're not just a body. We are emotional beings. We are psychological beings. We are spiritual beings and plants too aren't just chemicals. They're also not just an energy and they're not just a solar spirit. They're all of it. And so the premise of spagyric pharmacy is to craft a medicine that is a concentrated essence of that plant, the wholeness of that plant that has the chemistry of the plant, that has the energetic properties of the plant and has the spiritual properties of the plant all contained into one. And the effects of... There are a variety of different forms of Spagyrics, but their effects are really quite profound in the way that they are very concentrated and the way that they are uniquely prepared.
They're just really quite profound in the way that they heal. And we have been, obviously I've been using spagyrics myself, crafting them for... Well, I guess how long has it been? It's been close to 15 years now. I think. Wow, that's kind of crazy. That's been that long. I guess I haven't done the math in a while, but yeah. And so using them myself, crafted hundreds of plants into spagyrics and primarily used them in my clinical practice, as well as offering them to the greater herbal community, through our spagyrics product line. And just the feedback that we've received from people that work with spagyrics. We hear some really interesting stories, of the struggles that people have been able to overcome, whether that's physical stuff, spiritual stuff, psychological, emotional stuff, getting over traumas, things like that. It's really, really beautiful to hear those stories.
And I think, I feel like this is a time where that's the kind of healing a lot of people are looking for. And if they're not maybe looking for it, like maybe it is, but they don't know that's what they're looking for. They want more than just a bandaid, they want a deeper level of healing. They want a change, they want a deeper connection to themselves. They want a deeper connection to nature. And I think just with the craziness of the times that we're in, I feel like alchemy is really kind of coming more to the forefront. A lot more people are aware of it. Spagyrics is becoming a much more of, I guess, a household name in the herbal community. I mean, a lot more people know what they are now than when I first got into it. It is growing in popularity. And I think it's for a reason, I think it's because they provide a form of feeling that's really needed at this time.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. Thank you. That was a very beautiful introduction to spagyrics.
There's so much more that could be gone into, but that's kind of a good version.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
And how about astrology too? How are you combining herbs and astrology?
Yeah. They say in alchemy that astrology is one of the sister sciences to the alchemical tradition. And my teacher in alchemy and spagyrics, a man by the name of Robert Bartlett, he's an amazing, amazing human and teacher and alchemist. And he says that the production of a true spagyric medicine is not possible without the use of astrology. And essentially the way that the astrology kind of comes into spagyric works, and there's kind of two sides of it. There's the way we use astrology to work with the plants. And then there's the way we use the astrology to work with people, which is the branch of medical astrology, which is really a whole model of anatomy and physiology and healing. And that's old and very also profound and very effective. But in the realm of plants, the way that the astrology is used is through timing when plants are harvested, when they are prepared, when the different steps in the spagyrics process are undertaken, like distillation or fermentation or calcination or disillusion, it's all timed in accordance with the planet that is corresponded to that plant.
A plant is said to have a relationship to a certain planetary force based on the properties of the plant, its organ affinities, its shape, its color, its texture, its growth cycle, its energetics, its medicinal actions, things like that. A plant corresponds to a certain planet. And then when we gather the plant and process the plant, when that planet is at its peak influence, so that when you are preparing it, you're not only harvesting the plant, but you're harvesting that planetary power within it. And so this is... It's actually really similar to, and some... This is kind of, I think a good analogy, how in Chinese medicine, they have their way of understanding the energetics of time. And the way different elements and different organ systems are kind of at their peak at certain hours of the day. The same is true with ayurveda.
They say different times of day are governed by Vata or Pitta or Kapha, the seasons. And a lot of folks don't think that in the Western model that we have kind of this energetic understanding of time, but we do, it's just based on the sevenfold pattern of the planets, rather than the fivefold pattern of the elements or the threefold pattern of the, in ayurveda, the doshas. It is a way of utilizing kind of the unique energy that's flowing through a certain space at a certain time and kind of harnessing that potency. It's more of the esoteric aspects of it, but I have found that it actually is very physical too. I've harvested plants at their planetary day and hour and noticed that that plant, harvested at that day on that hour, that, if it's a bitter plant, it's more bitter; if it's an aromatic plant, the aromatics are stronger than if I harvest it just at whatever random time at whatever random day.
I have noticed after doing this for a really long time, that even just tasting the raw plant after harvesting it and maybe trying it a few days later in the middle of the day or something, it's like, "Oh, that's not as bitter as it was when I did it at that right time." There's something to it. And a lot of people that are really maybe scientifically oriented are like, "Well, that's BS, or how is that even possible? Or how can you explain that scientifically?" And I'm like, "Well, I don't know." Like, "I don't really know the rational explanation of it. I just follow the tradition and have noticed that it works." That's kind of the way it works with plants, with people. It's the branch of medical astrology, which is a huge topic, but it's basically a way of, I like to think of it as another tool in our toolbox for holistic assessment in the same way that we do an intake or an interview, we maybe assess the tongue, we assess the pulse.
Some people do facial assessments, some people do iridology. Some people do reflexology. Medical astrology is just another one of those. What I like about it, is that all of the archetypes in astrology, the planets, the elements, the signs, they all have physiological rulerships; organ systems, tissues, physiological processes, patterns of excess and deficiency, certain diseases that they tend to generate as well as specific kind of healing properties that they have. And also as most people know, these astrological archetypes also relate to psychological and emotional patterns, and they also relate to kind of the processes that the soul goes through in its evolutionary development. Why I like that is because the medical astrology pattern allows you to start to see the connections between those. It's not like, "Oh, I've got this physical problem over here. And I've got this psychological and emotional thing over here, and it's something totally different."
And it unites them so that you can see, "Oh, this physical dynamic is directly correlated to this psychological, emotional or spiritual dynamic." And so then you can select your remedies in a way that, again, targets the wholeness of the person. I like it because it's a very integrated model, the way we understand the plants, the way we understand the people, the way they're assessed. And then into the way the plants are prepared into a medicine, it's all kind of in one cohesive model. Yeah, that's just a little bit on the astrological side of things.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
I'm really getting that sense of just wholeness from you Sajah, whatever you're doing, you're really seeking wholeness for plant medicine, for people healing, all of it.
I would say that's a really good, if we had to... If I had to use one term, I think wholeness is a really good way to describe it because I think ultimately I think that's what we're all looking for. We're all looking for a sense of wholeness within ourselves. And I think that's what a lot of healing is about, is kind of reassembling that wholeness within our life.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. Beautifully said. Well, I'm very excited that you chose wild lettuce for today, and I'm really looking forward to chatting about wild lettuce with you. And my excitement, I think, stems from... I think this plant is both underrated and overrated in that I don't think a lot of people turn to wild lettuce for medicine, for healing. And it has so many virtues and gifts, but then lately in the past couple of years, you've probably seen this, the memes that go around that say that "Wild lettuce is as good as morphine for pain relief." And kind of making these wild claims about it that I don't think hold up either, but it's like every time it goes viral, you just see it shared everywhere. I'm excited. I'm really excited to hear what you have to say about wild lettuce.
Yeah. Well, boy, those folks better be careful what they say, because you don't want wild lettuce to start getting on the scheduled list and maybe legal. But yeah. Well, a little background, the reason I wanted to talk about wild lettuce, it's a remedy that I personally work with a lot. I am a sufferer of chronic pain. I have a pretty, pretty bad spinal cord and degenerative spine disease and am in a pretty significant amount of pain, like a lot of the time. And so for me, the whole category of herbs in the anodyne or pain-relieving nervous system, hypnotic, sedative/antispasmodic world are, this is like a category of remedies that I personally feel pretty acquainted with and have a lot of experience with. And so wild lettuce is one of those. And it's funny because, like you're saying, it's one of those herbs that you read about and everyone says it's like one of the best herbs for pain.
And it kind of is talked about in some ways as a narcotic, but then a lot of people's experiences of it is not like that. And a lot of people were like, "Eh, it's actually not very effective." And so I got really curious about this herb. I've gone pretty deep into it. I thought I'd share a little bit about it. Kind of the way I like to talk about plants is kind of first, before I talk about how it's used, I like to really share a little bit about kind of its core properties. Talking about wild lettuce, the main species used is lactuca virosa. I've been using lactuca serriola more just because that's what was kind of growing in my area, but they're pretty interchangeable. And it is... The taste of it is, it's a bitter herb.
This is just straight, pretty pure bitter remedy. Its primary affinities in the body would be for the nervous system coupled with the musculoskeletal system. And as it being such a strong bitter, it's definitely having an influence on the liver. And probably to an extent through the digestive system. I don't really think of it so much as a digestive bitter, but it's so bitter. It probably stimulates digestion to a certain extent, but that's not really how I use it. It's like a side benefit, I guess. Then main actions. Being it... This is considered an anodyne herb, meaning that it is pain relieving and that's such a general like... pain relieving, what does that even mean? We can be in pain for a lot of different reasons. I feel like it's really specific to add subdivisions of what type of anodyne a herb is.
Because, for example, turmeric could technically be anodyne, if you take enough of it. It lowers your inflammation and you're in less pain. Black cohosh can be called an anodyne because it's very antispasmodic but turmeric and black cohosh are very different types of anodyne. For me, wild lettuce is anodyne because it is a nervine hypnotic. And what that means is that it is a sedative for the nervous system and in a stronger way, like I think of degrees of nervines. You have nervine hypnotics, are kind of the strongest ones. And then you have nervine sedatives or nervine relaxants that are milder ones. Those are the ones that you can use throughout the day. And you're not going to get groggy or sleepy from it, like lemon balm or catnip or milder ones. Whereas, the hypnotics are the stronger ones. If you take enough, you'll start to feel tired like valerian and hops and things like that. I place wild lettuce in that more of hypnotic category. I also find that wild lettuce is a really great antispasmodic or spasmolytic.
Those are the main properties that I think of when it comes to wild lettuce. And I mentioned affinities: nervous system, musculoskeletal, liver and digestive to an extent. I also find while lettuce has a pectoral affinity, like it kind of has this relaxant quality in the upper chest. And in that way, I actually have been using it a little bit more in spasmolytic cough formulas to help relax tension in the bronchials. And it's actually really quite effective there when coupled with other expectants with maybe a little bit more of a focus on the lungs, but I have noticed it does have a bit of a pectoral affinity. Okay, so there's the taste, the affinities, the actions. Now energetics, this is a cold plant for sure. Most plants that have such a strong, pure bitter taste like this are pretty cooling, which is good to keep in mind and then drying to the moisture quality and then relaxant to the tone of the tissues.
That's kind of the energetic profile. If we were to translate that into kind of ayurvedic terminology, we would say it cools an excess of pitta. We would say that it dries an excess of kapha and that it relaxes the tension of vata. But for the most part, this plant can be very aggravating to vata because it is very cold and because it is drying and vata tends to be cold and dry, but they tend to be nervous and tense too. That's kind of the tricky thing with a lot of nervine herbs; vata really benefits from nervines because they're tense, but a lot of them are cooling remedies. Sometimes that's why formulation can be really nice. How do we use wild lettuce? Well, I like it for pain and I like it specifically for musculoskeletal pain in the form of tension, constriction, spasm, and as an acute for trauma or severe injury. If someone's... If they injure themselves severely, you can give it in a way that will help to dull that pain down a little bit. Is it as effective as morphine? Definitely not.
I'm just going to be really straight up and honest about that. It's not as effective as morphine. Wild lettuce does exude a white latex from the fresh plant that is... It looks like, papaver somniferum exudate. The opium poppy, when you scar the pods, it exudes a white latex. Well, wild lettuce kind of has a white latex that looks like that, but it doesn't have the level of alkaloids that opium poppy has in it, no way, but it does have compounds in that latex that are anodyne, pain relieving and antispasmodic. So in terms of musculoskeletal pain... Here's the thing with wild lettuce is that I've heard from a lot of people, I've read a lot of stuff and a lot of people really deem this herb as ineffective.
What I have found in my work with this plant is, wild lettuce, I don't think is really worth much of anything in a dried format. I think this plant is definitely best used fresh because you want to capture that latex while it's fresh. There's something about when it is dried that I think renders it significantly less potent. I've made preparations of it from dried material. I've made preparations of it from fresh material and the same weight to volume measurements and found the fresh to be much more effective. But here's the thing: you have to make this herb really strong. This is, in my opinion, not a take 10 drops, take two drops, take... This is like take five milliliters of tincture if you really want to get an effective pain relief. And not even take five mills of a one to five strength ratio.
For those of you maybe not familiar with that terminology, a tincture ratio tells you how many grams of plant material you receive per how many milliliters of the tincture. So for example, a one to five, if you take five milliliters of tincture, you'll be getting one gram of plant material. It's kind of a pretty standard ratio for a decent amount of herbs. For wild lettuce I have found that a one to five is ultimately not really that effective. My whole thing has been, okay, how can I create a really concentrated wild lettuce tincture, like one that will actually really work? And so in the alchemical tradition, there's a certain... Well, it's more in the more recent stages of alchemy, in the last 100 years or so. There's a certain piece of equipment called a soxhlet extractor.
And this is just a piece of glassware and that's spelled S-O-X-H-L-E-T. I believe it was developed by a German chemist. And basically what it is, is you have a flask of your menstruum, your alcohol. And on top of that, you put your soxhlet extractor, which is basically like a tube that you pack all of your herbs into. And then on top of that, you put a condenser, that's just a piece of glassware. That's got cold water flowing through it, that basically its job is to condense a vapor back into a liquid. What you're doing is you're gently boiling the alcohol in the lower flask. It volatilizes into a steam, it kind of moves up the side arm, it hits the condenser and it drips back down onto your plant material and it fills that whole column up.
And once that column gets full, there's these little capillaries in there that create a pressure, kind of a vacuum pressure thing, that sucks all of that menstruum back down into the boiling flask, and then it re-circulates back up. This is a way of kind of circulating hot alcohol through your herb over and over and over again. And essentially you can do that until the alcohol coming out of the main Soxhlet is running clear, which is indicating that essentially the plant material is spent. So what I was have been doing is, okay, I'll run that soxhlet for maybe a day and then empty it out, pack more herbs in, fire it up and circulate that same tincture through it again, empty it out, put more herbs in; and do that over and over and over again until I will get something close to a one to one strength extract of that tincture. That would be for every one milliliter of tincture, you're getting approximately one gram of herb; and one mill is about 30 drops, or a dropper full is roughly one mill.
And that's also referred to as a fluid extract. And I have found that a one to one extract of wild lettuce, of fresh wild lettuce, and typically gathered right around the flowering period, right when it's going into flower the latex is running really strong there. I found that makes the most effective wild lettuce tincture. I actually really pretty severely injured my back again this winter. And, literally, I was walking on a cane. I couldn't put my pants on. I couldn't put on a pair of socks. I could barely walk. I was really, really bad. I was in a lot of pain and I was taking a five mill dose of that wild lettuce, probably every three hours. And typically after maybe three doses, I would be experiencing pretty effective anodyne effect from that plant.
That's like 15 mills over a period of a few hours. Of a one-to-one tincture. I think where people maybe don't have good results with this plant is because their remedy is not strong enough and they're not taking enough of it. And that's been my experience with this plant. The thing about taking it in that dosage though, is that you will start to feel groggy for sure. But when you're in that much pain, that's kind of what you're going for. You want to have maybe a little bit of detachment from the pain. You want to feel relaxed. You want your muscles to relax. You want everything to kind of open up and settle down. And for people in chronic pain, it interrupts sleep a lot. Every time you shift, you get a jolt of pain, you're going to wake up and that is going to really get in the way of the healing process. That's also why I like making this plant quite strong so that people can get a good restful night's sleep.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Wow. Thank you for sharing that. It was very interesting, that very intensive medicine making to get that really strong medicine. I'm curious, have you ever used that externally or is it mainly internal that you're using that?
No, that's a good question. I actually did play around with using it topically a little bit and I did find it helped a little bit, but what I find with the wild lettuce is... I think the way it's working on the nervous system has a lot to do with that antispasmodic effect. Antispasmodics are interesting because I find some seem to work and this is just whatever my theory or way of thinking about them. But some seem to work directly on the muscle, whereas others seem to work more on the nerves and then, through their action on the nerves, the muscles relax. I mean, I'm sure they're all working on the nerves to an extent, but that's just kind of the way I think of them. And I feel like, wild lettuce, there's something that it's doing in the nervous system that is contributing to that really strong antispasmodic pain relieving property that I find internal use attends to that a little better.
But I did find that it would definitely locally relax a twitch. I had every now and then my... I get this twitch on my left shoulder blade, keep me up, as I feel like I got this little butterfly fluttering environment and I put some of that on there and it made that little muscle twitch go away. Where I was like, "Oh, okay, well that definitely was working." But for really severe muscle spasm, that's really painful. I prefer it internally, but you can definitely put it on topically as well. And the other thing I would say is that a tea of this remedy is, again, not really that effective. A, it's really tough to drink because it's super bitter; and B, the latex and a lot of the constituents in this plant are more alcohol soluble than they are water soluble.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Hmm. Well, I'm excited to work more with wild lettuce after this. I also can have similar back problems where putting on socks is not an option. That's very interesting to me and wild lettuce grows all over my garden so I'm pulling it constantly; which I actually love it, growing in the garden, because my chickens love it.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
I hand it to them and they just go crazy for it.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
But I'm ready to pull some of my own and use it myself. And for those of you who, like me, are not ready to jump into the soxhlet extraction method, I'll share a recipe that I have permission to use from 7song where he's using a one to two ratio with 95% alcohol and doing a double maceration. It's not quite as strong as what you're describing Sajah, but it's getting a lot stronger than a folk method of just kind of throwing some plants in a jar with some Brandy is going to get you, so this is more measured out and getting that higher strength tincture to get those better results.
Yeah. And I think one thing too that I always recommend with aerial parts of plants and making remedy from it is, it's really good. And the way I do it is I really like to make sure to process it down as fine as possible. Sometimes folks will just kind of roughly snip it up with a pair of Clippers and that... I mean, I think that's okay, but I think it's much more preferable even at home, like if you've got a little food processor or something to run it through a food processor with an escalator or something to try to get the plant material as fine as possible. And that way you're able to get much more plant material to a little less alcohol and thereby having a little bit of a stronger remedy there.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. I agree when it comes to those fresh plants, there's nothing I do fresh really anymore, especially the aerial portions, without a blender or food processor, because there's really no way to get that ratio. Otherwise, heavier things like berries, they can work out without a blender, but yeah, those aerial portions.
Well, and the other preparation that I'm really curious about and I've been wanting to do a little more research on it is they call... In the old days they used to call the wild lettuce, latex lacterium. And I believe that was a particular form of medicine. And I don't know if it was like a Lloyd brothers preparation or an eclectic specific medication, or I don't know... I need to do a little bit more digging, but they had a way of working with wild lettuce to create lacterium. And I don't know if they were doing it kind of the way people do with papaver somniferum where there's just scoring the plant and scraping that wild lettuce latex and just tincturing that, and it sounds like an insane amount of work, but that's something... I'm just mentioning lacterium for anyone that a little bit more...
There's kind of some interesting stuff on that I personally would love to kind of figure out how to make that, because anything that really works for pain is good to know about and good to have on hand, especially for those that really don't want to go the conventional route and taking NSAIDs or getting put on prescription opioids, I think our herbs do have capacities that are very, very good, but a lot of times, yeah, they aren't as strong as those prescriptions. What can we do to kind of find a good middle ground there? And I think that's a good thing to know about as herbalists.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
It really is. Beyond that lacterium I think they took that white sap and they put it into a pill somehow. Like they were somehow making it into this almost a... I don't know, I don't want to say a hard substance, but that's what I remember when I read about it is like they make it into a pill of some kind.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
That would be interesting. Now I have to go figure that out, but yeah.
And you don't have to take super bitter wild lettuce tincture, which for some people's hard to get down. Especially at five mills. It's like, "Whew." Bet it sends a shiver down your spine.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Well, Sajah, I'd love to hear what projects that you're working on currently. What do you have in the works?
Yeah, well, I've been running my school for the last... I guess it's probably been close to eight years, 10 years, something like that. And some of the content and some of my online courses at this point, are starting to feel a little bit outdated. I'm actually getting ready to reshoot some of my online courses. I've got a really good buddy, who's a videographer and he just helped me set up a really cool set that looks like an old alchemical apothecary look. And so we're getting ready to... I'm getting ready to do a lot of reshooting of some of my online courses, which I'm really excited about. And so, yeah, that's been kind of a project and then we actually very recently just kind of reopened our spagyric product line. We had a lab down in Southern Oregon when we lived down there and everything was cruising along.
And then we up and moved back to Washington and haven't really had a facility since we moved up here three and a half years ago. And finally got our facility built out and back in action making our spagyrics and kind of ended up revamping the whole thing and changed the name and new labels. And we finally got a legit website up. And so that was really a lot of work, really big project, but I'm really stoked to kind of have a lab again and get back into making remedies and being able to have them available for people to work with. Yeah, those have kind of been the big ones lately. Aside from having a toddler. It's no project, but sometimes it feels like.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Absolutely. Well, the last question I have for you Sajah, is a question I'm asking everybody in season five and that is what's one way that you feel like herbalism is misunderstood by the general public? One way that annoys you let's be honest, or just one that you wish could change, something along those lines.
Yeah. Well, I mean, it's a really good question. I mean, I think there's a handful of ways that herbal medicine is probably misunderstood by the general public, but I mean, and there's spectrums of the general public, there's like the general public that just thinks herbal medicine is complete bullshit. And then on the other side, there's the general public that's like, "Oh yeah herbs, that's like homeopathy." But I think one of the things that, to maybe speak to the folk that are at least open to the idea of herbal medicine, I think one of the biggest misunderstandings is that herbal medicine is, really it's just like a natural alternative to over the counter prescription medication. And what I guess what I mean by that is that they're oftentimes thought of with the same kind of thinking as allopathic medications and which is, "Oh, I have a headache, so I take an aspirin, but I'm going to be an herbalist so I'll just take willow bark instead."
Or, "Oh, I have inflammation. Rather than taking the ibuprofen, I'll take the turmeric instead." And it's kind of this one to one replacement and it's the whole... And we've talked about this a lot, is the use this herb for that symptom mindset. And it just doesn't work. And it's one of the biggest things where folks are like, "Oh yeah, herbal medicine. Well, I tried willow bark for a headache and that didn't do anything." And it's like, well, in herbal medicine, a headache's not just a headache. There's like whatever, how many different kinds of... There's hot headaches and tension headaches and cold headaches and headaches due to all kinds of different things going on in the body. And so with herbal medicine, we look at things through a really different lens than allopathic medicine does.
And we don't just look at the symptom and we try to look at the whole person and the plants. In order to use a medicinal plant effectively, we have to know it beyond what it's good for. That's my belief at least. I don't think, for people that want to be an herbalist, I believe that if you want to be working with medicinal plants, you want to help other people with medicinal plants, your knowledge and understanding of that plant has to go beyond just the symptoms it treats. You have to understand how that plant is working inside of the body on as many levels as possible, because there's a lot of nuances to herbal medicine. I mean, a plant is significantly more complicated than a drug. A drug's one thing. It's one compound. Look at yarrow, how many constituents are in yarrow?
I don't even know like hundreds, maybe thousands, I don't know, but it's a lot. And there isn't really any way that we can understand how yarrow works just based on its chemistry. We have to look at it through a different lens. And so I think that's kind of one of my biggest things with herbal medicine is that we can't apply the allopathic way of thinking to herbal medicine. It just doesn't work. And that's where I feel like, the more modern, I guess, biomedical model of herbalism, it's good. It's interesting. Like it's great to know about plant chemistry and their pharmacological mechanisms of action and what they're doing in the body. But we can't...
And I remember Paul Bergner said it. He said, "If you try to..." And I'm not going to quote him perfectly on this, but essentially what he said is, "If you try to be a clinical herbalist just using plant constituents in the biochemical model, it's going to cripple you as a clinician. You can't really do it. We have to look at and understand them through different lenses." And I think that's where our rich herbal traditions come into play, of looking at their actions and looking at their energetics and looking at the way they influence the body before we really even knew anything about sesquiterpene, lactones and alkaloids and stuff like that. I think that's what I got to share on that.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Oh, thank you Sajah. That's a powerful ending to a whole conversation that was full of so much wisdom. I deeply appreciate you taking the time to be with us and share so much.
Oh, thank you Rosalee. It's a real honor to be on your show and I just really appreciate you a lot and everything that you're doing to make a good impact on people walking this plant path. I always think of you as just a really good ally and just a good one. It's a real pleasure to have a chance to share and chat with you. It's been nice to chat with you today.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Aw, thank you so much, Sajah. Thanks for watching. Don't forget to click the link above this transcript to get free access to a detailed handout on how to make a really strong wild lettuce tincture. You can also find Sajah at evolutionaryherbalism.com, naturasophiaspagyrics.com. 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 plant. I deeply believe that this world needs more herbalists and plant centered folks. I'm so glad that you are here as part of this herbal community. Have a beautiful day.
Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That 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.