Walnut Benefits with Nina Lawrin

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  • 00:00 - Introduction
  • 03:08 - Nina’s journey to working with herbs
  • 10:27 - Nina shares her familial ties to walnuts 
  • 13:15 - Nina’s thoughts about the cultural significance of food plants 
  • 14:55 - The Ukrainian walnut torte traditionally made for celebrations
  • 15:45 - Why it matters to make plants part of everyday life
  • 17:28 - The health benefits of walnuts (Juglans regia and Juglans nigra)
  • 26:31 - Nina’s Raw Vegan Walnut and Coffee Cheesecake-Torte recipe
  • 30:55 - Nina shares her current herbal projects
  • 34:01 - How herbs have surprised Nina
  • 37:47 - Learning a new language as a metaphor for getting to know herbs

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Transcript of the Walnut Benefits with Nina Lawrin Video

Rosalee: Hello, and welcome to the Herbs With Rosalee Podcast. I'm your host Rosalee de la Forêt. I'm very excited to share this episode with you. Today's guest shares a lot of wisdom, heritage and a deep, obvious love for plants. Nina Lawrin is an ethnobotanist, urban forger, permaculture designer, artist and folk herbalist. She is the owner of Loveren Collections, an experience dedicated to education and reconnection to nature through everyday wild perennial foods with an emphasis in the Midwest, Eastern Europe and Southern Africa.

Her brand, Everyday Forage, provides wild perennial foods to Chicagoans and Michiganders through seasonal subscription boxes. Nina completed her Master's Degree in ethnobotany from the University of Kent in the UK. Her dissertation focus was on ecological knowledge retention of culturally salient food plants within Ukrainian immigrant communities in the US. Nina is a Fulbright alumna to Namibia and serves as a Fulbright alumni ambassador. She has worked alongside numerous farms and permaculture sites, including Eloolo Permaculture Initiative and Damaraland Farming Cooperative, cultivating their waste streams to share and create non-toxic, research-driven site-specific artwork. She started her foraging journey learning from indigenous San community in Namibia and Botswana in 2016. Nina is a proud certified tree keeper with Openlands #1248, a certified permaculture designer and just a general foodie at heart. Welcome to the Herbs with Rosalee Podcast, Nina.

Nina Lawrin: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

Rosalee: It's such a pleasure, and remind me where you're calling in from today?

Nina Lawrin: So I'm actually calling in right now from Madeira Island in Portugal. And this year, despite the pandemic and a lot of very intense emotions and occurrences in life, I found myself traveling more than I have in the last few years. And so I was actually doing some ancestral work in Europe, so in Ukraine and then in Germany, and from there, I headed to Madeira and I'll be back in the United States in a couple of days. The sun is quite intense here, but I'm calling in from Portugal right now, trying to work on my Portuguese.

Rosalee: Oh, fabulous. So you mentioned that the Atlantic Ocean was just out the way, so lovely. Well, I'm really excited to hear more from you about your story and how you got into your whole plant path and journey. You have so many interesting projects and interests in your background. So I want to hear more, how that all happened for you.

Nina Lawrin: Well, it's such a great question. I think it's a very long and winding road that, in my mind, I keep thinking it should be very direct and very simple, like, this was it. But I think like a lot of folks, growing up being close to trees and to plants and to the water, it's been a place of comfort. It's been a place where I just always felt I can be myself and show up. As I grew older, I think I had certain expectations culturally and on myself as well, that that kind of took me away from the land. And it definitely brought me to cities and, yeah, living a very “convenient” lifestyle: grew up purchasing food from the grocery stores, but I always had a curiosity and always just felt really good being near the forest.

And I remember, embarrassingly, in high school, even those tests where you had to fill out everything you like and they kind of guess or place you based on your personality, what's suited for you. And I remember I got forestry, a forester, and no one else got that. And I felt like, oh, I should be a doctor, should be a lawyer. And I grew up in this very small Ukrainian community and in the diaspora within Michigan is where I'm originally from. And yeah, I kept thinking, nope, nope, I'm going to be something else. And through illness in my early twenties, I actually had to slow down and reassess how I was living my life. I have a background in visual art and so after years of biology and really enjoying, I guess, plants and animals, but also realizing this in the university this wasn't really where I was fitting in, I started pursuing an art career in painting and I focused it on oil painting.

I loved printmaking. I loved it all, the process of it. But also, my body couldn't take the fumes and the different materials. And so in my early twenties, I got very ill. Coming from a medical family, as well, I got all the amazing hookups, but then a lot of the specialists didn't really know what was going on with me. It was everything from carpal tunnel to Raynaud's to rheumatoid arthritis. And there's a whole cocktail of medications that folks offered me. And in my gut, I knew that that wasn't the path I wanted to take. And while it was difficult to go against both what my family thought was best for me, as well as professionals, I took a step back and just started assessing how I was living and this very fast-paced life.

I lived in Chicago then, for about 12 years. And it was from that experience that I started changing things around and I was very grateful and lucky to have done art restoration in Italy. And that was kind of the first inkling – of looking at pigments and looking at different tempera; historically, how painters use the earth and plants within these works and really uncovering these very old paintings and building them back up. I was able to see the fibers within canvas and the different pigmentation and through there, I started working more with site-specific plants, so from the Midwest. And then I was very grateful to receive a Fulbright grant within the arts that allowed me to live in Namibia for about a year.

And by a chance encounter, I met with the Khoisan. And so these are Namibia's “hunter gatherer communities” that still have this intimacy with the land. And it was through meeting them that… I really didn't know at the time how much this interaction would change my life completely. And when I came back to the US, to Chicago, it was, again, this disconnect and the sadness that started creeping in. And it, again, forced me to walk outside with our beautiful doggie. And she was taking me for walks more so than me taking her and reassessing and looking at plants and really just taking the time to connect.

And through that, it was just a deep dive in really focusing in on Midwestern plants and plant relationships and connection. And having extreme bouts of anxiety, especially being back in the United States, more so than anywhere else. Really trying out different plants and different methods to help assist me to live within these spaces and, in turn, wanting to share and create spaces so other people can also connect. And so it's been a very long, windy road. But yeah, that in a nutshell is kind of how I came through inspiration, through sharing of others, through illness and through having the courage to just slow down and really listen to what my body was saying and what my heart was saying, which oftentimes I didn't always do.

Rosalee: That's a beautiful story of how the plants caught your attention. I see so many similarities in that I was also sick in my early twenties and I also went to doctors and was not really… They kind of didn't have a lot of solutions for me. But even the ones they had, I was like, yeah, that's not really me. So it's interesting then that I just feel grateful and I hear it in your words too, about finding plants and finding another path and another way at a time when we really needed it to.

Nina Lawrin: And to this day, too, through transforming my relationship to food, plants and that essence as well, as well as really detoxing my home environment. My hands now, they're okay. They're fine. That's where I felt the most pain was through my hands up into my elbows. I couldn't move them, they were incredibly cold and I'd wake up sobbing because I couldn't even hold a cup of tea in the morning. And so everything from paraffin wax to try to stimulate the circulation and… It was just toxic overload at the end.

Rosalee: Well, thanks for sharing your story. And I'm really excited to talk about walnut benefits with you today. I have to say, it's not a plant I have a lot of familiarity with, beyond the yummy nut. So I'm excited to hear and for you to share with us.

Nina Lawrin: Yes, yes. So walnut has a very personal, I guess, sharing and story in my life. And when we're thinking about a plant to be able to share with you all today, I immediately was drawn to tree and tree medicine. And so I first thought maybe Hawthorn and Linden, I can tell you, was just my favorite, too. I love all these tree medicines. And then you're living in the urban space. Oftentimes trees are some of the most accessible plant connections that we can have because of the filtration system itself. And so I think just naturally I was just more drawn to trees and I initially thought Hawthorn, but then I was in Ukraine. And so this whole year has been this ancestral lineage reconnection for me.

And like I mentioned, I grew up in a small Ukrainian community. Three of my grandparents immigrated from Western Ukraine right after World War II. And they all have their own really intense stories of how they came to the US and being displaced people and refugees. And then my one grandma was from Germany and my grandpa ... so walnuts really affiliated with my grandpa and when I think about plant connection, I think that he's been my huge inspiration at the time that I didn't really realize growing up that he was my main kind of focal point that had this relationship with plants. And so when we talk about the stories, it's the hindsight, right? It's like, oh my connection with my grandpa and his connection to walnut and his connection to the forest has been coming up more and more in my life, which has really been surprising.

So he was from a village called Banya-Bereziv in the Carpathian mountains of Ukraine. And when I was making my way, I was in the main city called Ivano-Frankivsk and I just remember showing up in Ukraine and into this city area and there were just all these walnuts everywhere. And it was that moment that it all made sense to me, all of the stories. So my grandpa immigrated, he would go back and forth when finances allowed him to be able to go back to his family and help support them in Ukraine. And I remember growing up and he always had this big bowl of walnuts, right there when you walked in; on the side, on a dresser, there was this big bowl of walnuts. And he had all these walnut trees.

And I remember, growing up, being told that they're from Ukraine and he actually brought these nuts over. And while I was in Ukraine, I realized, oh, because they're everywhere here. And I realized about the cultural importance of the foods that we eat and the access to them and these reminders of home. And even through immigration, how these culturally salient plants come and move through us and as we move throughout the world and we move throughout these different spaces. I know that there is some definite controversy around invasive species, as well, and native species and bringing plants over and whatnot. But I do think that there's this very interesting notion that plants grow with us and they transform. And even as our climates are changing, the benefits of having this variety and really having this connection to plants through conservation and through remembrance, oftentimes through food.

And so as my healing journey, a main portion of it was through food. It was really interesting that my grandpa – his main plant species that he brought over was walnut and in turn had this very interesting relationship to squirrels, the battle. So, again, it becomes this entire interconnection outside of just our human connection, but through plants and through animals and the very genuine and ingenuine methods that we're able to live with one another and also some of the competing aspects with walnuts. 

And so, in the Ukrainian tradition, for celebratory foods in Christmas time, as well as for weddings, there's this walnut torte that we would always have. And so, if you can imagine this very thin layer that takes nine, ten hours to make. Really laborious, beautiful creation of love, basically, for celebratory foods, really for Christmas and for weddings. And it's this layered walnut with this almost cream filling in the middle.

So there's these very thin layers and cream filling and this apricot jam in the middle. And then it's covered in this dark chocolate ganache. It's very decadent and delicious and it comes only a few times a year and we would have it yearly as a family. 

And oftentimes for me, the way that I associate plants is through my everyday living. And it's very accessible and easy to look through a book through different herbal actions and you can know all these different plants. How they're incorporated in one's life is what's really interesting for me personally, and how plants show up in general in our lives. And so as we kind of talk a little bit more about the fun medicinal properties of walnut itself, I really enjoy echoing back into how this has affected my family and the people who are with these plants.

And so my grandpa, he had this addiction. He would always just have his bowl and he was so strong, he could crack these nuts with his hands. He was so strong and he had a nutcracker, too, but he would sit there and crack it and pick out the meat of the nut. And the meat of the nut itself is high in omega-3. It's really great for brain health, cardiovascular health, or health in general. And in Ukraine, as a general health, people just kind of munch on nuts. I know in the States, I know kind of as I was growing up, we had a little bit more trail nuts and stuff like this, which was interesting with the M&Ms or something else.

But in Ukraine, it was just primarily these nuts, and walnut is one of them. And I started doing some more research into this because walnut, outside of these very traditional ways of consuming it during holidays, it hasn't been this ongoing relationship with walnut. And so I did read that there's recommendations of having at least three pieces of the actual nut itself daily, soaked in water and having it to be able to promote brain health, as well as heart health. I took a deeper dive into more of the research. And there's actually some studies in 2020 and one that just came out last year as well, that I wouldn't say “proving,” but they draw complete parallels to walnut and to consuming walnut to preventing Alzheimer's and to preventing mild, cognitive deficiencies and stuff like this.

And so something as simple that you can take for granted is walnut that – “Oh yeah, it's in that, whatever, maybe we have it sometimes” – can be part of this medicine in this process. And echoing back, so my grandpa, he's always eating these nuts. And my grandma came from Germany, didn't have the same relationship to walnut. And my grandma, she ended up actually passing away from Alzheimer's and she had diabetes, as well. And so there's been more studies, which I'm happy to send you too if people are interested in the link below or something, if they're interested more in the scientific data, that link, the benefits of consuming walnut for diabetic health, for brain health and for heart health [See Chauhan, A., 2020. Beneficial Effects of Walnuts on Cognition and Brain Health. Nutrients. Vol 12 (2): 550. And Guasch-Ferré, M., Drouin-Chartier, J.,Ruiz-Canela M., Razquin C., Toledo E. 2021. Walnut Consumption, Plasma Metabolomics, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease. Nutrition. 151(2): 303-311.]

And for me, I was always just kind of blown away that this plant has been there all along and it's just that the practice of consuming that was so different because of two different cultural backgrounds.

And I don't know, I felt very humble, too. Again, there's been time and time again, that plants have come into my life where I didn't know that perhaps I needed their support. But most definitely they're there and then the more soft I became and the more intuitive and received a lot of their support, the healthier and healthier I became throughout this process. And so it was just more reflective of how ironic it was that perhaps my grandma could have received some support if that was part of her cultural food way. And yeah, it's just the irony in a lot of it.

But walnut, in general. The leaves, the smell of the leaves itself crushed is this citrus kind of smell. And that could be infused in oil as well, and be able to be incorporated into salves. Walnut, I think, has a little bit more of this stronger potency. It's not necessarily maybe a chamomile or something, or the chamomile is also strong, but very specific. And so walnuts are very specific and it wouldn't be something that I would necessarily use every day. But then I also felt challenged by that, too – of, why not use walnut as medicine, actually using the food daily to be able to support brain health? And do I need to go into some sort of exotic plant that's not necessarily growing here like Bacopa or Gotu Kola or something like this, where I have walnut right here.

So it's had me reflecting again, as well, of how can I also use it? So walnut itself, the leaves are antifungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial. It's great for athlete's foot. So you can imagine just infusing it into some oil and some salve and being able to – if you're working outside quite a lot and a little bit in hiking boots and sweaty like I am most of the time, if there's any kind of fungal growth, that can be used for that. 

Another very ironic, very interesting synchronicity with walnut that has happened in my family as well has been while I was in Ukraine. I have a little niece, my sister has a daughter who's two years old and, oh, she's lovely. She's wonderful. And she loves animals and she loves going to the petting zoo and she loves the cows and she calls them the moo moos and gets so excited.

And I found out a little bit through the grapevine through my other sister that my Eliana had ringworm. And it was from this interaction with these animals. I spoke with my sister and they were giving her a specific medication that I still would like to look into to see if there is some parallel between walnut and this particular medication. But this medication was giving her just really gastrointestinal issues. She wasn't doing so well with it. And walnut came to mind again, and my family in Ukraine, I ended up finding distant family in Ukraine while I was there. They lent me some other medicinal books with Ukrainian remedies. And I was looking through there as well and walnut's very heavily used in Ukraine as food medicine, but also as more within a salve, an oil, a tincture.

And what I found was interesting was that walnut, the hulls that could be steeped into some sort of liquid or into an oil, it can actually be used topically for ringworm. And right away with my sister, it was already a little bit later in the process. So I can't report back to say if that worked or not. But it was also very interesting that, again, walnut has been popping up and a ringworm does not occur all the time, especially I think for folks living in urban US. But I found it very interesting that walnut, again, popped up and could be used in that capacity as well.

Rosalee: Yeah. I love so much of this, Nina. The richness of the family connection and heritage and then the medicine that comes from it. And I love how you spoke about the simplicity of the medicine to eating tree nuts today and using things topically. And like so many plants, walnut has so many gifts. I really love, you said it so beautifully, not just the herbal actions, but for you, the family history and the connection there as well.

Nina Lawrin: Yeah. And there's so many fun ways to use walnut, as from a natural dye, whether it's a hair product, or if it's through the art world, as well. In the Midwest, it's also used quite readily. Indigenous communities have used walnut for so many… from fishing practices to… The root itself has juglone in it, so it's this protective space for it to be able to grow. And so, when you're looking at these different types of growing practices and how was that incorporated into our lives as medicine, as well. But what I found interesting, so in the Midwest, in Michigan ... So my grandpa was also very much wanting to be up in the Roscommon area where there's this old growth pine forest, which I didn't really realize, again, echoes a lot of the Carpathian mountains in Ukraine and… There's ice cream. There's this walnut ice cream that's just, have you tried it before? Have you had it?

Rosalee: I've had walnuts in ice cream, obviously, but I don't know. It's just made of walnuts?

Nina Lawrin: Yeah. It's just churned walnut ice cream. This is the first time I actually revisited since I was a young child back to that area was last winter before leaving to finish my dissertation and finish my studies in the UK and then going to Ukraine and Germany. And it was cold out, so there wasn't any of the ice cream available, but I'm curious when I go back to be able to try it. And there's just fun ways to be able to incorporate it, even as someone who cannot have dairy, especially in the US, as a thickener to different types of meals.

It doesn't have to be as straightforward as here's the three halves, so then in the morning you take your supplements and just pop them in. But you can if you want, it could be very simple. But there's really beautiful and decadent ways that you can incorporate as a food and, yeah. Looking at plants as medicine, as food, I think, it's really vital to kind of shifting the perspective of kind of this one pill wonder kind of ordeal and really having this building practice with plants and looking at our health through food as well.

Rosalee: That's a beautiful way to put that. It seems the perfect segue into your recipe, which I know is going to cause a lot of excitement and our whole team here at Herbs With Rosalee has been discussing this recipe and how amazing it looks. So I am so excited to try it. I'm not really the cook in our house. So I printed off the recipe and gave it to my husband and said, “Anytime.” So yeah, let's talk about your recipe you're sharing with all of us.

Nina Lawrin: Yes. It's a gluten-free and vegan walnut coffee kind of take on the Ukrainian torte. And when I kind of inserted the coffee aspect of it, I was finishing up my dissertation so I think some of it needing a little bit more of a stimulant. But the coffee can also be substituted with an apricot preserves, which is really nice and also a coconut whipped kind of cream and stuff like that on top. So it has a little bit more of the genuine taste of this Ukrainian Christmas torte. This is cheesecake. And so this is how I've been able to consume a lot of different tastes from home, from my lineage, as well, that have a lot of gluten and dairy that I can't have because of illness. It's just very simple to make.

I've been making kind of these vegan cheesecakes for some time now. And what better way to incorporate walnuts then into this beautiful crust and also incorporate some other nuts as well. It is higher in fat, but I think for dessert, I think it's really something special and something really delicious that can help your brain, as well. I tried making it for my family one time. Sometimes in the summertime, more so than anything, because I like eating them a little bit colder, so almost an ice cream. But you can also have them during the holidays, as well. And it's just a fun way to consume walnuts.

Rosalee: Well, I'm really excited to try it and I appreciate that it's dairy free. I happen to love dairy, but my husband doesn't digest it well and he loves cheesecake. So I just have a feeling this is going to be our new favorite recipe.

Nina Lawrin: Oh, good. Yes. Please let me know how you like it. Because I've been making different variants of these cheesecakes, especially in relation to my hormonal cycle, as well. So oftentimes, during my menstrual cycle, I'd make almost a beet cheesecake like this, and I also really enjoy that. And so it's kind of a fun base that you're able to layer in different aspects and walnut is one of my favorite bases on the bottom layer. So I think it's a great way to consume a little sweetness.

Rosalee: It sounds absolutely wonderful. Well, for the listeners, as you probably know by now, I love to share recipes when we talk about these plants, because recipes are really a wonderful way for you to get involved and create your own experience with herbs. Because it's one thing to hear cool facts about walnuts, or even hearing Nina's beautiful family history about walnuts. But it's really an entirely other thing for you to form your own relationship with this plant through your own tasting, observing and making fun treats. So what better way to do that then with Nina's recipe for raw, vegan walnut and coffee cheesecake-torte. This is a simpler twist on the traditional Ukrainian walnut torte and it's gluten-free and dairy-free. You can download your recipe card using the link above this transcript.

Okay. Nina, I hope we still have listeners with us and they're not all off making that recipe. I bet some are, but I'm looking forward to our continued conversation and I'm really excited to hear what you have to say about this. Because one thing I love about herbalism and plants is that we all bring our creative and unique ways of working with plants and I know you have a lot of cool projects going on and I'd love to hear, what's going on with you right now? What ways are you working with plants right now?

Nina Lawrin: So for the different projects and stuff, it's constantly ongoing and international projects running all the time. But for folks who are in the Midwest area, in particular in Chicago, as well as in Michigan, I'll be offering a couple of urban foraging courses so that there's a little bit more ease and identification. 

A course I'm really actually excited about, it starts October 9th, is an online course that's open internationally. That's based around plant connection, with specific emphasis on European ancestry and lineage.

And so I'm really excited because I know that there's a couple of folks already joining from Namibia and from Ukraine and from Germany, as well. And so being able to have folks in the US kind of join in on this conversation will be really lovely. And I think it's special for me to be able to host a space, to be able to offer these types of connections globally, even though we're all kind of sitting in our computers and in this one space. I think it's quite interesting to see it as interconnectedness. 

So we'll be covering five different plant families and plants in general, and having a deep dive with each plant specifically. And yeah, there's going to be opportunity to be able to kind of unfold and uncover a lot of ancestral lineage, but also with migration of the plant itself and how we can really work with one another within the landscape that we are in, as well as with local and indigenous communities. So I'm really looking forward to it and I hope that you all can join us.

Rosalee: Yeah. That sounds really wonderful, impactful and deep and rich, which is just something I keep getting from you. All right. Can you share the plants in the course, or is that a surprise?

Nina Lawrin: It's a little bit of a surprise. I'll be posting a little bit more of the families. But I'm curious though, because a lot of is a base, but it's also kind of collaborative because a lot of folks… If we're looking, for instance, at walnut, folks in Namibia have a totally different relationship to walnut from their ancestry within Germany and within the Netherlands. And so while there will be a base, it's a very fluid course where it will be a little bit more collaborative depending on who is with us.

Rosalee: Oh, that sounds really fascinating. And really, I like how you're saying, we're going to get together with people from all over to discuss what that means for all these different peoples in the world. So yeah, that sounds really wonderful. Thanks for sharing about that.

Nina Lawrin: Yes, of course.

Rosalee: Yeah. Well, the last question I have is one that I'm asking everyone in Season Two. And the question is, what's something you've learned or experienced in your herbal journey that's surprised you?

Nina Lawrin: Yeah, that's also a great question, Rosalee. Honestly, I never really knew how impactful plants in general would be in my life. I never knew how supported and fulfilled I would feel. I never anticipated that type of connection. And I think that my grandparents, for instance, I think that they already knew that; that was very normalized because they grew up with these types of connections and this type of relationship, and some of it was definitely due to economics and access.

But I think for me, not growing up necessarily with the type of intimacy, I was just more surprised with just how calm and how much of a spiritual journey this has been for me. I never really intended for it to feel so trusting and so fluid and it was more, very practical: I'm sick. I don't feel well, what can I do? But slowly, slowly, it started growing. It's really just been surprising me how many times on this journey I've been asked to kind of take that leap and to trust.

And being so scared doing so, but always, whether that's moving or traveling during a pandemic, always feeling the sense of calm and connection, because there's a plant ally that I remember, that I came across, that I introduced myself to and that there's this ongoing relationship, whether I'm in the Midwest or if I'm in Europe or if I'm in Namibia or Southern Africa. There's just this constant support.

And it's probably upon an essence of what an unconditional love and relationship would feel like, that it's mutually beneficial, but it's also… Just seeing these plants, without knowing a certain language or anyone there, there's someone that I know. They became like friends and – they became friends, not even “like” friends. They became my friends and I didn't expect that. I really just did not. I think that's been the most surprising thing is really acknowledging that they are beings in and of themselves and that we are connected. So I think that's been my biggest and most impactful surprise.

Rosalee: I'm so glad you shared that experience. I've been thinking about this so much, that exact same thing. And from my perspective, as a teacher and… I have people come in and their question is, you know, what herb is good for my headache? And obviously, that's what motivates a lot of us. If we have illnesses, we want to get better. So we want to know what herb is good for that thing and how that's such a tiny, tiny little percentage of what herbs really can enliven in us and what they can bring to our life. And your whole… everything you shared is really an example of that. It's not just, take walnuts for brain health. It's this feeling of connection. It's this wonderful food is medicine, it's heritage and it's friendship, too. I've randomly thought about this just the other day, too.

I've been thinking a lot about language, because I speak French and Spanish and I'm really studying French a lot right now and really working towards fluency. And I was thinking about how some people go on a trip and they'll learn how to ask for the toilets or ask for change or the bill. They're learning tourist phrases and how there's that level, which is kind of the same level of, “What herb is good for my headache?” or something like that.

But when you learn another language, it's this whole – you become another person in order to learn that language. You learn so many things about culture, different phrases, your brain rewires to understand other languages and the different ways of thinking. And anyway, that's kind of tangential, but as you were speaking, I was like, wow, this is exactly what I've been thinking about. There's the surface of this mechanical, what do herbs do? Or Où sont les toilettes?, where are the toilets? And then there's this, just the iceberg, I guess. And there's this incredible richness and fulfillment that exists underneath and not everyone gets there, but it's so exciting to see people make that transition.

Nina Lawrin: Yes, most definitely. And thank you for going on a mini tangent with me because I've been tangenting this whole time. But like you said, too, with language, it's a different language with the plant itself. But for me, it's also why in Portugal, I'm learning Portuguese, as well. And in Namibia pushing myself and knowing that German for Germany; it's a former colony of Germany. But to learn Otjiherero, Oshiwambo, Afrikaans, Khwedom, the different San languages, because the more that we understand the actual human language, as well. It's a whole other realm and world to be able to connect with plants on that different level and understand the relationship between communities and the plants.

And so just as a side tangent, in Ukraine, there were three or four different words for blueberry and… Looking at culturally significant plants and foodways, that's a huge indicator that everyone knew these, depending on wild or cultivated. And also, to go back to walnut, even walnut itself in Ukraine, there's different words for how you make vodka. So you have vodka with Russia and as well in Ukraine, but Horilka… the walnut itself, the hull, is infused in the spirit. And so that gives it the taste and it gives it the medicinal properties and it makes it very specifically Ukrainian.

And then there's yet another word that if you make it a home brew, but it's very specific with walnut. And it's very interesting that all these different languages and words for a very specific plant can really give indication of the process of connection, of where it's harvested, how it's harvested, the time of year. That's right now where kind of I'm at, is kind of in this nuanced, being able to identify walnut, be able to have a relationship wherever I go with walnut, but then now it's this very nuanced, very culturally specific usages. But that language around the plant as well. And so I think that's what's fascinating. Five different languages, you inspire me. I hope I get there.

Rosalee: I love that when you're talking about the names, because I've heard this before. It's the more names you have for someone, the more relationship that involves. I think of my husband, I rarely call him by his given name, but he has 20 pet names.

Nina Lawrin: Or when they're in trouble or something, there's a specific name.

Rosalee: Yeah! Well, Nina, thank you so much for joining us. You shared so much beautiful wisdom about walnuts and heritage and even the plant human relationship and how deep and fulfilling that can be. I really appreciate you taking the time to be with us.

Nina Lawrin: Of course. Thank you so much. I really feel just honored and humbled to be here with you, so thank you.

Rosalee: Don't forget to click the link above this transcript to get free access to Nina's raw, vegan walnut and coffee cheesecake-torte. You can also visit Nina directly at loverencollections.com. Before you go, be sure to sign up below so that you'll be the first to get my new videos, including interviews like this. I'd also love to hear your thoughts about this interview and your relationship with walnuts. Leave your comments below. I deeply believe that this world needs more herbalists and more plant-centered folks like you. I'm so glad you're here as part of this herbal community. Have a beautiful day.

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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.  

Choose the best herb for you!

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

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

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

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