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This episode is one of my favorites from all of our guest episodes, because I get to geek out with a fellow herbalist about plants! 🙂

On What’s the Juice, we feature practitioners and guests of all kinds — but there’s a special connection that happens when it’s an herbalist to herbalist and conversation. Choosing to go the herbal medicine path means that you aim to get to know plants at their deepest, most subtle levels (as you also get to know yourself better, through them). You meet the plants physically and energetically. The first time you taste each medicine that you ‘meet’, you’re looking for clues from your senses about how the herb will interact with you.

You listen for specific feelings about indications, and look to the inklings-turned-firsthand-experience of those who came before you. It’s often a more intimate experience than studying from a textbook (which is also involved, just to a lesser extent than learning from your community). I find that herbalists interact with each other, and the world of natural plant medicine, in such a magical, intuitive, and eclectic way.

Today I get to interview Traci Donat — owner of Simples Tonics in Los Angeles — to talk about the most nourishing way to get started right in your kitchen: by making herbal infusions. We go over the top plants we like to use and what each of them benefits most (for example Schizandra infusions for ‘leaky energy’ and ‘mental diarrhea’ where the brain can’t fully “form” thoughts, Oatstraw infusions for dry skin and joints, and Burdock infusions for liver and lymphatic health). More than anything, we emphasize how simple it is to steep these herbs in a mason jar overnight and reap the incredible nutritional benefits.

I also wanted to use this episode as a chance to give you a mini herb 101 class – a welcome to the world of herbalism for those who are wanting to learn more! So, I’m going to give you a rundown of some of the basics so that you know what to look for as you’re beginning to explore plants in your kitchen and medicine cabinet.

There are several ways herbalists get intel about an herb and what it can do for the body.

You want to pay attention to:

• the herb’s “class” or action

• the energetics, which you can observe using organoleptics (using your senses like smell and taste – is it bitter, spicy, salty?)

• the “doctrine of signatures

HERB CLASSES (a snapshot):

Herb: Motherwort

Class: Nervine

Nervine: An herb which affects the nervous system; there are different classes within this–a relaxing nervine (valerian), stimulating nervine (cacao or kola nut), tonic nervine (wild oats). A neurotrophic nerving is one that is nourishing and tonifying (strengthening/repairing) to the nerves. Motherwort is a relaxing nerving that has an affinity with the heart and is excellent for physical heart symptoms like palpitations but also energetic and emotional heart symptoms like sadness, melancholy, feeling lost or alone.

Herb: Mugwort

Class: Bitter

Bitter = Herbs or foods that taste bitter and activate the appetite and digestion. Indications: Weakness of the digestion, chronic illness, nervous system weakness, stress, lowered hydrochloric acid output in stomach, poor protein digestion, etc.

Herb: Oatstraw 

Class: Demulcent 

Mucilaginous/Demulcent Herbs = soothe irritated or inflamed tissue or mucous membranes. Indications: Ulcers, sore throat, tonsilitis, bladder infections, inflammation or heat in the upper respiratory tract, bowels.  Also a bit of a nervine and vulnerary – an herb which stops external bleeding and promotes the healing of wounds. 

Herb: Chickweed 

Class: Aquaretic/nutritious diuretic, vulnerary 

Aquaretic = A gentle potassium-sparing herbal diuretic, such as dandelion leaf, that increases the body’s output of urine, helping to relieve edema.

Herb: Schizandra 

Class: Adaptogen = An herb that helps the body adapt to stress, increase endurance, speed recovery from illness and work, and strengthen immune function.

And astringent =  tannin-containing herbs that contract tissues, removing moisture (drying), cross-linking proteins.


What will the taste tell you? In the episode we riff for a minute and mention that salty immediately tells you it’s mineral rich and helps the kidneys, like nettle. Bitter immediately tells you – this supports digestion and the liver. If your lips/mouth pucker up – it’s astringent and tonifying/tightening to tissues which is very helpful in leaky gut for example.

Then I go through the list of the 5 flavors in a little more detail, starting right back at one of my favorite flavors, BITTER plants.


  • Bitter herbs are cold, dry, and light.
  • They resonate with the heart, small intestines & liver
  • Their element is fire.
  • They have a cooling, downward ,drying, detoxifying, anti-inflammatory. By “downward” I mean that they direct energy back down. Think digestion, elimination, things being processed downward and leaving the body. Bitters are good to take when you’re hiccuping to redirect the stomach Qi back down.
  • Bitter flavored plants reduce heat and inflammation or feelings of heaviness and lethargy. Very detoxifying so they need to be balanced with warming carminatives.


  • Pungent herbs are hot, dry & light
  • They resonate with the lungs and large intestine
  • Their element is metal
  • They are generally stimulating, warming, and drying. They promote DISTRIBUTION and circulation. Not a downward movement like bitters, but a dispersive movement in all directions like we need for proper blood and lymph circulation. 
  • Because they disperse, they relieve stagnation. Good when heat is trapped in the middle – pungent aromatics like Myrrh or Rosemary help to disperse heat from the middle into the extremities for cold hands and feet.
  • Pungent herbs can increase metabolism and stimulate expectoration.


  • Sour herbs are hot, wet, and light
  • They resonate with the liver and gallbladder
  • Their element is wood
  • In Ayurveda, sour leads to the desire for more. Helps with lack of motivation, inspiration, and focus. But if you have too much sour you have too many thoughts/overthinking.
  • Sour herbs are moistening to local tissues, increase saliva
  • They are cooling initially, but constitutionally heating (like lemon)
  • Sour herbs cause contraction of tissues and strengthen mucus membranes.


  • Right off the bat you know they’re mineral rich.
  • Salty herbs are heavy, hot & wet
  • They resonate with the kidneys and adrenals
  • Their element is water
  • They are generally heavy, grounding, moistening, soothing, warming
  • Salty herbs are nutritive and building, strengthening to bones and teeth
  • Small amounts hydrate and moisten the body. Large amounts act as a laxative and diuretic as they lubricate intestines to induce bowel movements
  • They also tend to relieve stiffness, dissipate accumulations, and soften hardness and cysts.

5. ASTRINGENT (which is kind of a continuation of sour so there will be less info here)

  • Astringent herbs are generally cooling, dry and heavy
  • They tighten and tone tissue and are to be used when tissue is lax
  • For example, they’re perfect when you have diarrhea – schizandra will quickly tighten up the bowels
  • Red Raspberry Leaf which is in my Natal Nourish fertility support formula helps to tighten and tone the reproductive tissue and muscles and in the uterus
  • Astringent herbs help to heal wounds and reduce excessive bleeding whether they’re used internally or externally.


  • Sweet herbs are wet, cold, and heavy
  • They resonate with the spleen and stomach
  • Their element is earth
  • They are generally building and strengthening
  • Sweet herbs and medicines lubricate and moisten, like raw honey which is a sweet-tasting medicine on its own or even potentiates the action and direction of the herbs it’s combined with
  • Sweet herbs nourish the blood, promote calmness, centering, and grounding
  • They soothe inflammation and can slow down acute reactions (including emotions) which is why we crave sweets when stressed

Tasting the herb alone and looking for these flavors is a part of herbal medicine called “organoleptics.” This alone can tell you so much about the medicine of the plant. One of my favorite things to do when meeting a new herb for the first time is to sit there and taste it a little bit at a time whether with a few drops of the tincture or a swig of tea.


This is the last way you can tell what a plant does and how it benefits us and the world, by looking for signs and signals in its appearance that may hint to its usage.

For example:

St. John’s Wort, solar, opening

  • Brings light to the psyche
  • Warm, solar, loving energy
  • Helps with the solar plexus, confidence, motivation, drive.
St. John’s Wort is native to Europe and naturalized elsewhere. In 1793 the first specimen in the United States was collected in Pennsylvania. The Greek physicians Galen and Dioscorides recommended it as a diuretic, wound-healing herb, and treatment for menstrual disorders. During the Middle Ages, remarkable, even mystical properties were attributed to it—St. John’s Wort was thought to be best if harvested on St. John’s Day, June 24. Traditionally it was used for wound healing, especially for lacerations involving damaged nerves, and as a diuretic, astringent, and mild sedative. Now used for mild to moderate depression, in clinical trials, patients who took Hypericum extract felt significant improvement in depressive mood indicators such as feelings of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, and uselessness, as well as fear and difficult or disturbed sleep. St. John’s wort extracts may interact with conventional drugs

There’s so much more that we cover in our conversation in the episode, including the very first herbs we “met” when first studying herbalism, so I hope you enjoy the episode and learn a ton along the way. 





Tammi Sweet:

Susun Weed:  

Herbs for the child-bearing year:

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  • Barbara Madimenos says:

    Can we just say that this episode has made me want to go back to school for the 4th time? haha
    Favorite episode so far, I learned so much!
    Absolute knowledge bomb <3

  • Mer Bro says:

    LOVED this episode. I am excited to explore these recommendations.

  • Rose says:

    Olivia! You are a blessing! I was raised practicing natural folk medicine and herbalism, I love how you incorporate TCM and Ayurveda with western knowledge. I have been following your work since 2013, what you are sharing is profound and revolutionary, I love how you organized and presented this information. I just applied to herb school and was offered an interview, cross your fingers for me fam! xo

  • Hélène says:

    Hi ! Here in Europe it’s difficult to find oatstraw so I want to be sure that I am ordering the right one. I find “green” oatstraw and “yellow”. Is there a difference ? Which one are you drinking ?
    Thank you ! I love your blog <3

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