Tending Seeds Transcript - Episode 33
Herbal Support for Your Body Systems with Leah Larabell
Sara Schuster 0:08
This is Tending Seeds, a podcast about my adventures and homesteading and herbalism. I'm Sara Schuster, and I'll be your host. Thanks for being here today.
Hey, friends hope you're doing well out there as fall really starts to come alive here. We had our first frost last week here at the farm, though just about everything pulled through. I even have some tomato plants still chugging along, which is kind of a surprise at this point in the year. And lots of autumn tasks are on the to do list, including planting garlic here pretty soon, probably around Halloween if I get to it. My goal is though I always try to get that in the ground by the middle of November. Things here on the homestead are feeling really good. The sunroom is coming along. And I think we're going to make it for my goal to have it completed before cold weather truly arrives here. So that will be exciting.
And we're also working on some drainage issues up near the house, especially a fenced in area that we let the dogs out into last winter here was so rainy, I mean, it felt like four straight months of rain, and the ground back there just turned to mud, which was not so nice for the dogs to have to deal with. And also not nice to deal with cleaning up after them whenever they came back into the house. So hopefully getting a French drain or something else put in there to handle that situation. I still bring in herbs from the farm and veggies from the garden, fall greens are starting to look really good. And I've also had a really nice here for persimmons from the trees that grow along our property line. This is actually the best harvest of those that I've gotten in the time that we've been here. So that has been exciting as well as delicious.
Now on to the rest of our episode. Today, I am so happy to bring you an interview about an aspect of herbalism that I think should be talked about more. And that's flower essences. My friend Dan Moak of Dandelion and Crow is going to share with us about what exactly a flower essence is, and even talk us through how to make some ourselves. I think making flower essences is so accessible and a wonderful way to begin working with plants. I hope y'all enjoy this conversation.
Nan Moak is a witch and earth worker who harnesses the rhythms of the Earth and Moon to create plant medicines for whole body support, protection and healing. She is a Scorpio sun Pisces moon and cancer rising. She lives in suburban Mississippi building relationship with the Choctaw land that is slowly receiving a reckoning from generations of white supremacy. She lives with her increasingly progressive husband and two kids that she is currently attempting to homeschool. She believes in the unseen and the magic of the earth. Thank you so much for being here, Nan, it's so great to talk to you.
Nan Moak 2:48
It's so great to talk to you. Thanks for letting me come on.
Sara Schuster 2:51
Yeah, I'm delighted to have you. So for our listeners, I met Nan a few years ago at an herbal conference, where we were both doing like a pre workshop, pre conference workshop on stone medicine, led by Sarah Thomas. It was a really wonderful hands on class where we got to do these really interesting stone meditations and both give and receive stone healings. And Nan was the person who I was partnered up with. And so it just turned into this wonderful friendship and we found out you know, we were both bioregional herbalists, you know, living in the south, we just really connected and hit it off. And so we've stayed in touch ever since. And so Nan, I know, you know more of your story, obviously. But for our listeners, can you maybe start by telling us what first drew you to herbal ism and the plant path?
Nan Moak 3:42
Yes, and I was so lucky to be paired with you that day. Oh my goodness. Okay, so I was very into going to the farmers market and whole food and buying locally. About seven to 10 years ago, I met the very first herbalist I've ever met at the farmers market. And it was Lindsay she had an apothecary called Sweet gum apothecary here in Mississippi. I used her products for years. And then about three years ago, she decided to up and leave and move to California. But before she moved, she was super kind and tall. Any of her clients that were to to take a course over a few Sundays in the spring at a state park. And she told us all the things and my eyes were opened because I've realized how easy it was and how it could really get into it. But the best thing our the most like the most important thing that she taught us was her approach to herbalism and how it was for everyone and I just remember sitting in one of her classes and she's just sharing all of her recipes, all of her tricks of the trade and you know, we pay for the course. But I feel like she was just so free with her information. It just, I'm really glad she was my first experience with an herbalist because I feel like that approach, it's, I feel like herbalism is for everyone, it should be free. I mean, of course, we should get paid for our time. And the work we put into the product, but it is for everyone, and it should be priced that way.
Sara Schuster 5:22
Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, it's called the people's medicine for a reason. And that's, you know, it's really wonderful that you met someone who was so willing to be so open, you know, yeah, this is, you know, a rising tide lifts all ships, right. And like, this is information and knowledge that we, we used to all have, and it's so great for us to be adding to it. So one of the areas, you know, I love looking at everyone's herbal businesses and herbal offerings. And I know, it's so easy to think that Oh, the market is, quote, unquote, saturated, and it's all been done. But then once you actually start looking at what people are doing, you know, most people once they've been doing this a while, they really find an area that they want to focus on, that really, you know, that it can becomes like a neat and niche market for them. And one of the things I've loved looking at your offerings is this emphasis you have on flower essences, and it's just so beautiful. So, you know, for those those who might be completely new to that and don't know what that is, can you tell us a little bit about, you know, what is a flower essence?
Nan Moak 6:24
A flower essence, Yes, is the vibration of the flower or the plant, the plant power? It's the plants energetic power and dosing form. That's how I explained it. And it's like more of a higher concentration of the life force of the plant than maybe a tincture, or plant extract is. And it works on the vibrational level rather than Well, that's how I explain it. It flower essences work. vibrationally read and tinctures can usually help physically. Does that make sense? Is that a good explanation as to what I say?
Sara Schuster 7:03
No, I think that's great. So yeah, how I normally try to explain it to folks is that we have different layers to ourselves, we could have physical ailments or things going on, or we could be having emotional ailments, or we could be having spiritual ailments. And so for you flower essences you think would be addressing, like, which levels of that?
Nan Moak 7:26
definitely for sure emotional, spiritual,Yeah. Yes, it's all about intention, really, I think,
Sara Schuster 7:35
Hmm, what pulled you you know, towards that, because this is such like a large part of your practice, like what was so interesting to you about it
Nan Moak 7:44
well really the plant relationship where I'm getting to know the plant, and I feel like the plant is getting to know me by wild harvest, and make all kinds of things. But you know, I was growing a bunch of stuff in my yard. And to get to know, each thing, I saw, like a really easy and quick way to do that, and quick, and that it didn't take a long time to make a flower essence, I would do that. And that's how I've gradually gotten to know the majority of plants in my yard.
Sara Schuster 8:16
That's beautiful. And, yeah, it is really interesting that you can, you don't have to work with a large amount of the plant material in order to make an essence. And I've even seen some folks where they're not actually even harvesting any of the plant, which if you're working with anything that's you know, endangered or at risk, then that's really wonderful to be able to do that without, you know, impacting the plant itself.
Nan Moak 8:39
Also poisonous plant medicine, you know, if you're, when you get your eye and you don't really trust yourself to use the actual flower, you can get close to it
Sara Schuster 8:49
it. Right? So yeah, some of these other plants out there that are either, you know, very low dose or only kind of more advanced herbalist to work with, or even ones that like no one should really be working with, you know, and adjusting. Because when you're using a flower essence, right, you're not actually putting there's nothing of the plant, or how do I say this? You're not actually putting physical material from that plant into your body, right? That's why Yes, okay. Yeah, I know, it's like, well, yes, there's something of the plant in the house. Yes. It's hard to explain, but yeah, see it? Right. You can't see it. It's not there. It's, it's not gonna show up on you know, a lab test or something. So yeah, and Okay, so one of the things for those who are maybe gonna go look at flower essences for the first time. One of the things I've seen when we talk about flower essences, is sort of these three kind of like levels of how they can be bottled and offered to people. So I've seen you know, like a mother essence versus a stock bottle, and then even a smaller thing than that something sometimes called like a dosage bottle. So I feel like this can be a little bit confusing. Could you maybe break that down for us and explain that, to the best of your knowledge
Nan Moak 10:04
to the best of my knowledge, I wasn't how I was taught to make flower essences to create the mother, which is the main thing, and then use drops from the mother into your dosage bottle, which is what I would sell or give to a friend or take for myself, I would not take the mother mean, only because that's what I was taught and then have since then read lots of books. And that's what they tell you to do. I feel like the flowers themselves are really powerful. And I think that's what's done. What do you think?
Sara Schuster 10:37
Yeah, that makes sense to me. And and yeah, that's my understanding as well is that you have this like mother essence, when you first make your flower essence. And so we call that the mother essence that you start with sort of like the mother that you have in like vinegars and things like that. And we're like, this is sort of like the energy that you've captured. And then, like you said, it's very powerful, very concentrated. And so then you're able to take that and sort of dilute that down gradually to a smaller bottle for people to actually work with. Does that make sense?
Nan Moak 11:10
yes. Okay. Explaining said it. Yeah, definitely.
Sara Schuster 11:14
Yeah. So and that's another thing I really like about it. That is because, you know, again, you're working with a small amount of plant material to make that essence. And then you even once you've made that initial mother essence, then you're able to work with that and dilute that down into like a stock bottle and or then down into like a dosage bottle as well.
Nan Moak 11:34
And that goes a long way. Like, if you're making some for yourself, you can put it in a spray bottle and mist yourself with it, stick it in the bath, you know, and then take it by mouth. So I mean, right? A little goes a long way. I just think it's beautiful. And I love that the mother is called the mother.
Sara Schuster 11:53
Yeah, it's lovely. And, and that, yeah, some of the essences that I work with, you know, you're only taking five drops or 15 drops, you want to just, it's really beautiful. You know, I love I love this work that you do, you know, with flower essences. And then one of the other things that we have sort of bonded over in our friendship is our love of falling lunar time, more than like the standard calendar, and just really letting the moon cycles guide our medicine making. So I was wondering, you know, can you talk a little bit about how you do that in your own practice with letting the phases of the moon of the moon and also I know the astrological seasons, kind of guide your essence making?
Nan Moak 12:35
Yes, really like the moon phases my day. So I don't really know how to explain it other than like, I really pay attention to it. I'm always looking to see where the moon is in the sky. I when I make things I always write down the sun and moon, astrological signs. And I find that often create things on the new moon. I mean, I make a note at every phase. But I mean, that's, that's the big one. But I know you gave me this question in advance. And I was like, Oh, don't say any of this.
Sara Schuster 13:13
Well, I know, I know, when we were talking, you were sort of like a lot of it's very intuitive for you. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that, that you're encouraging people to develop these relationships with the plants and with the outside world and to be aware of the moon. And so you know, there may not necessarily be a specific thing that you can say like, this is why I do it this way.
Nan Moak 13:33
Yeah. Well, it's definitely intuition and energetics. Like this past full moon was it the Libra Full Moon, like I was feeling that big time. Like I wanted to be making stuff and I wanted to be in it. And then sometimes there's new information. I don't want to do anything and I think that's okay, I think we have to listen to our bodies, and to our just a whole rhythm and just roll with it.
Sara Schuster 13:57
Definitely no, I agree. 100% I mean, and there are times for option and there are times for rest. And so I think you have to listen to that. And I always encourage you not to go off on a tangent here but I always encourage people to track if they're dealing with any sort of health issue or energy issue to sort of look at like how they feel across like several lunar cycles and you can often find that you have your own specific rhythm that works for you.
Nan Moak 14:24
Yes, yes. And and what I mean for me what astrological sign works well, with what I made up with Anna pan Oh, man, I can tell you what they are. I need this. I have tracked it. And I can tell that Gemini season and Libra season and tourist season are my my creating jams. That's where I get a lot of stuff out. And then the rest of it is relative I get lucky if I get something put out.
Sara Schuster 14:55
No. I and yeah, and that's the interesting thing, right. It's everyone's sort of has their own season that you look back at. And like, I've worked so many, you know, different jobs and careers, like teaching and stuff where summers were like my offseason from work. And so I get like very energized during the summer because I'm used to that being quote my time, but then I'm, I'm a Libra son. So I got really excited around my birthday. So like this time, you know. And I know you have a birthday coming up as well on this next full moon
Nan Moak 15:28
Actually, I'm so excited. I mean, I you know, it's like a full moon on Halloween every, like two to three times a century. I looked it up because I just had to know. So I know. I hope I feel good.
Sara Schuster 15:45
I have a feeling you well, you'll have an accent. So could you maybe just walk us through because I'm hoping that people will go away from this interview feeling excited and wanting to play with making some of their own flower essences. Yeah, and I love that it's a very low bar to entry. There's no like special equipment you need or anything like that. So yeah, can you kind of walk us through? Like, what do people need? And maybe talk us through how to make a flower essence?
Nan Moak 16:17
Yes. Okay, so you need a sunny day. And I recommend that you get permission from the plant that you want to work with. Like, if you are actually taking flowers from that plant, I would ask it if it was okay. And I always like kind of like this what I'm doing, I hope you're okay with it. Also, if it's a plant that doesn't have a if it's like sickly, I would recommend not not taking anything off of it and letting it get well. You know, that is flourishing, flourishing plant. And then you need a clear glass crystal bowl, and then some water. It's recommended to use spring or distilled water and brandy to preserve it with. That's all you really need. And then a bottle or jar to keep the mother in.
Sara Schuster 17:05
Right got so, so easy. So yeah, so can you maybe pick like a plant that maybe you've made an essence with recently, and kind of just walk us through the process of share, share, share getting everything? Cool?
Nan Moak 17:17
Okay, so, um, let's talk Black Eyed Susans because they just finished at my house. So they were in abundance. So I didn't feel guilty, I feel guilty about taking stuff or you know, that's a really good idea is to leave an offering. I learned this from one of my plant teachers. So I have a jar of like lavender buds, and I try to keep them in my pocket. And so if I'm taking anything, I try to leave a little bit and say thank you. Yes, so I got one of my Pyrex glass bowls, and I filled it with some filter water, you know, what else works is rainwater too. So I put a clip a few days ago with my black eyed Susan flowers, like two or three, and put them in the bowl and set it next to where they were growing in the sunshine. And I would leave it in the sunshine two to four hours. And this has to be it's really hot. So a lot of the water in the summertime is going to evaporate. And so it I use a lot of reusable jars that as you know, cleaned from pickles or whatever. And so I pour the water into that after watering the flowers out. And I like to put my flowers and just like a collection bowl, and then at some point I'll burn them in a ceremony or something. You know, that's my plan anyway, probably on Halloween, I've been collecting our essence flowers all summer. So after you bring it back in, you put the water in a jar and then I usually like half it with brandy, or at least you know a quarter of it with brandy so that it doesn't go bad. And then that your mom can be sure and put a label on it. So you know.
Sara Schuster 18:58
Oh, yes. Every herbalist has done this. *laughs*
Nan Moak 19:06
I can't tell you how many times I've done that. I won't. I won't tell you. Like I'll sit it down to like, I won't forget what I did with this. And then no terrible.
Sara Schuster 19:15
It's happened to all of us. And if it hasn't happened to you. Yes, we use our word for it. Please label your jars. You will find it in the back of the cabinet two years from now and have no idea what
Nan Moak 19:26
yeah, I feel so guilty when that happens. But yeah, and that's it. And then um, do you want me to tell what you do with a mother like as far as putting it in a bottle for use?
Sara Schuster 19:39
Sure. Yeah, that'd be wonderful, please.
Nan Moak 19:41
So I use half an ounce and dropper bottles and I put mostly water and then a little bit of brandy on top. And then I usually do like three or four squirts of the mother into that into the dropper bottle and then shake it up and label it. Use as needed.
Sara Schuster 20:00
That's wonderful. Yeah, I love that. So simple to do and no special equipment, no special tricks. And it doesn't take a lot of plants, you know, plant material to work with an essence. So, yeah, just some good time and intention and lots of intention. Definitely. Right. Yeah. So I know you mentioned, you know, you talked about this essence you made with black eyed Susans? Are there any other plant allies that you're feeling really called to work with right now during the seasons?
Nan Moak 20:28
Yes, two and they kind of go together. I'm working with a marshmallow essence. I made it like last summer, but I you know how sometimes you'll make stuff. And I don't know if you do this, but I'll put it up and be like, I'll get to that. Well, it showed itself to me and um, and so I was looking it up. And one of my books like, oh, what can I use this for? What's it trying to tell me? It's his it's so appropriate, because it was for if you're isolated and feeling cut off, and it's good for openness. Yeah, that kind of made me cry. And then I recently had a reading and the plan that came through in the reading was nettle, which I've been working with all summer, like mostly in teas, for myself, and but then the reading it was like, Oh, this will be good for emotional and spiritual nourishment. And so then, like, I like to deep dive like oh, this plant showed up. Sometimes I can just take it for what it is, I have to like, tell me more, tell me more. And so I looked in Maia Toll's Herbiary. So it was saying how nettle is to get you to pay attention. And to know the details on I was thinking about how it's important to know Well, I think she said, how it's important to know the names of plants because you know, nettle, you would think it was just wretched because it stings you and stuff, unless you really know like, the name of it and the power of it nutritionally, and obviously, in other ways. So and she also talks about how to be to pay attention to those who are invisible to you. And I have a really good as a Scorpio to write people off. And isolation has worked really well for me. So I feel like I'm called to give people a chance, again, if I if I'm A for apple to venture back count. And
Sara Schuster 22:25
I'm sure we're all feeling kind of isolated this year, right?
Nan Moak 22:27
Yes, yes. But I just thought they were interesting that they both talked about people. And yeah, that's how I took it. That's what I was getting out of it. The message?
Sara Schuster 22:39
Oh yeah. It's always so funny when you start to see the connection start to form or like, it's, it's never just like one plant that pops up. Like, it always brings some friends. And they're always kind of having that same message for you.
Nan Moak 22:54
It's always great. I feel like it's because it takes me a while to get the message. And so they just keep saying I told you this, I don't do this.
Sara Schuster 23:03
Right. In case we don't get it the first time. They're willing, yes, it more than once, which we'll never forget it.
So this year is kind of wrapping up. You know, it's been so amazing to watch your practice grow for herbals and working with the plants. And so just wondering if you know, just if you could speak to maybe, if there's anything you're excited about right now for future future possibilities, or if you have a hope for maybe what your practice looks like either a year down the road, five years down the road, just anything you feel called speak to.
Nan Moak 23:37
Well, I'm taking a Reiki training for the first time starts tomorrow. I'm really excited about that. I mean, really know what Reiki is, but the teacher that I love is teaching it. And it was very affordable, and it's online. So and I need something to do with my time. And so I'm I'm very excited about that. So I'm hopeful about that. One thing I will say that has been really nice about the pandemic for us is that I had to pull my kids out of school here there for multiple reasons, but my daughter is a tween and really likes to be talking to her friends. So now that she's home schooled, we have to spend more time together and she's shown an interest in the Wheel of the Year. And so we have had a lot of opportunities to do things together. Like we made a an incense together on the equinox and I think we're going to make a witch ladders this week, which is homeschooling at its finest I'm super excited about that.
But as far as my practice, girl, I don't plan things. So I'm just hoping that I'm able, the listening becomes easier in the next year. You know, like that relationship with listening what to what the earth is trying to tell me and how I can help Hold it in it or them and then me. And then long term, I would love to see people again, and would love to work with people. And I would love to hold some sort of like, workshop at my house. I'm always wanting to do that. And I think it was like on the track to it. And then the pandemic.
Sara Schuster 25:19
beautiful. I'm sure you'll get through those things. It's so lovely. You're getting to spend more time, intentional time with your daughter that way that's really beautiful. and nice. Last question, as we wrap up any advice for you know, new herbalist out there either in general or specifically about flower essences that you'd like to share?
Nan Moak 25:41
Yes, in general, and about flower essences, I would say experiment and listen to your gut, take a class read a book, but mostly just trying things. I mean, once I realized I didn't have to, like, follow recipes specifically for everything and just, you know, try new things. You never know. What will work and what won't work. And you're going to make mistakes. Obviously, that's what everything.
Sara Schuster 26:06
Yes, most definitely.
Nan Moak 26:08
Yeah. Yeah. But I'm like, that's the most valuable lesson. It's like one of the most valuable lessons I've learned just to try to experiment, think about, like, you know, what, two plants would go together? Because, you know, like, in the beginning, you're learning like what this works for, and this works for, but I think formulas and putting things together is really fun.
Sara Schuster 26:31
You know, No, I completely agree. And also, Nan has been kind enough to put together a little one page PDF for us for instructions for making flower essences. And so we'll have that to share an offer for y'all. Because Yeah, we really hope that everyone will maybe start making some essences of their own to work with for the rest of this year. But Nan, thank you so much for joining us here today. It has been so wonderful to talk to you and which is really appreciate your time and sharing all this knowledge.
Nan Moak 27:06
Thank you, Sara, appreciate you very much.
Sara Schuster 27:14
Isn't Nan awesome? I know she and I both hope that you will be inspired to try out making some flower essences of your own after this interview. If you're still feeling a little unsure about the process, make sure to download the helpful direction sheet that Nan put together for our listeners. There will be a link to that in the show notes for everyone. And check out Nan's work as well. She is on both Instagram and Etsy as dandelion and crow. As always, if you are enjoying the podcast, please share it with a friend to help us reach a wider audience. And if you are able to please consider supporting me over on Patreon so that I can keep creating content here. I really appreciate all of you so much who have signed up over there already. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. If you have any comments or questions, you can reach me over on Instagram at Fox and elder or through the website at Fox and elder.com. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time, keep your hands dirty and your heart open.