In today's podcast Mason chats to Susan Van Daal. Susan is a passionate practitioner of the Ayurvedic healing sciences. Susan believes that the "potential for healing lies in understanding nature, connecting with nature and adjusting to nature.“ Specialising in digestive health, with a focus on food as medicine, Susan incorporates her knowledge in the areas of Qigong, postnatal care, the emotional freedom technique (EFT) and biochemical science to guide her clients on the path of their own good health.
Mason and Susan discuss:
Who Is Susan Van Daal?
Susan van Daal is an Ayurvedic practitioner, doula and founder of Inanna care. Inanna care is the embodiment of her call to inspire vital living, health, and longevity. Susan guides people through the healing of digestive disorders, such as IBS, Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's and supports women through different stages of feminine health: from fertility through pregnancy, birth and postpartum. A significant vector of her work is healing through food and plants as medicine. Her ambition is to transform other people’s lives by sharing nature’s laws and rhythms based on Ayurveda.
*A few of the Ayurvedic terms Mason asked Susan to pronounce in the chat:
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Check Out The Transcript Here:
Mason: Hey, everybody and hello to you, Susan. How are you?
Susan: I'm good. I'm losing my...
Mason: Thank you for inviting me into your home. So, Susan Van Daal, you're up here in the Topanga Hills. Well, I'll let you explain what you do, but where do you have your Ayurvedic practitioner clinic? Are you working out of here or are you nearby?
Susan: Yeah, I work from home, but I work also as a doula, so then I'm visiting clients. I give massages at people's place, but most of the sessions I do actually through Skype now, if I'm not working in postpartum areas.
Mason: Okay. This conversation's just blown out into so many different areas that we're going to be able to go at it from. Just to give everyone a world... you're from Netherlands. Whereabouts are you?
Susan: Yeah. I'm from a small town actually in the south of the Netherlands, which I've lived in for quite awhile. Then I moved to Lisbon and now I came here in half a year ago, building up my practice here.
Mason: Okay. And you were practicing in those places as well?
Susan: In Lisbon, I had my Ayurvedic practice, yes.
Mason: Okay. Where did you study?
Susan: I'm still studying, because I think it's a more lifetime commitment. I think that you...
Mason: Good, trick question.
Susan: Exactly. Once you start Ayuveda or yoga, whatever the sutras are endless. So I can keep on studying forever-
Mason: Yeah, and a better question is, what's been your track and your inspirational path to learning so far?
Susan: I think my personal experience was really the trigger to go down this route. I mean, nine years ago, I got an autoimmune disease, ulcerative colitis, and I came in touch with this book, it was called, just David Frawley, a book about Ayurveda and herbs. And I came in touch with Sankhya philosophy and felt really for me-
Mason: What philosophy was it?
Susan: Sankhya philosophy is one of the six Hindu philosophies of how matter or substances are created and how the universe exists. And it was not even related to my disease, necessarily, not directly, but it opened up a certain, whatever, channel. I don't know what it was. But it was familiar like, "Okay, this is truth. This for me true." And-
Mason: But you went from a static mental model of what it was going to look like for you with an autoimmune disease, kind of like-
Susan: Yeah, I was in Western and Western process and doctors had said, "Well, you need to take this medication for the rest of your life."
Mason: You were like-
Susan: And I thought, "Well..."
Mason: It's such a common story, but and at the same time very unique. And, obviously, as you know in your experience, you go from you've bought into an official story that you're getting from an industry or a culture, which doesn't even have to be sadistic in nature, it's just their official story and their world. And, boom, and all of a sudden you crack the egg with something like that on your own.
Susan: Exactly. I was reading that, how that [inaudible 00:02:22], so how consciousness and matter came together and how that's actually the subtlety of our existence of the universe. And then I thought, "Well, if this is how life is about, then I should connect in a different way with food, with my lifestyle, because I was not living a very good lifestyle. At the moment, I was studying and enjoying whatever, everything.
Mason: Yep, partying.
Susan: Food, parties, and everything. And it was just a radical shift, the book was more like kind of a spiritual awakening or something and triggered me to go more into the Ayurvedic philosophy. So first I started to study myself. For a few years I was just reading books and trying to heal my own foundation and basically I'd gotten really quite far with that. Then I thought, "No, I really need to change my life and help other people with the same kind of conditions." And then I started to study with a few Indian doctors, Dr. Shailesh, he's based in Pune, and then-
Mason: By correspondence, or?
Susan: No, I started at the Academy of Ayurvedic studies in Holland and they were collaborating with these two Indian doctors. Yeah. And then I continued afterwards.
Mason: So, I know we can go down a rabbit hole on this, with the autoimmunity-
Mason: From your perspective, coming at it from an Ayurvedic lifestyle and medicine approach, herbal approach, were there... I know, and we've got a very high IQ listener here, so, permission to simplify. They know how huge it is to shift something like that and to get to the point now whether you feel like you're clear or in management more it'd be great to hear as well. But what are some of the pillar steps for you that you took in to get on top of that?
Susan: Yeah. So it's like a process that took a few years, right? I couldn't change... although I quit it almost after a few months that I was working with some sort of Ayurvedic principals I could equate with the medications. But it's longer transition that I've been going through, of course, and I think it will end when I die, of course. So, it started, I think, to take out some elements of my diet. Mainly the standard things like dairy, meat, things that are hard to digest, because ulcerative colitis is a-
Mason: Do you want to explain it a little bit? Yeah.
Susan: Yeah, ulcerative colitis is inflammation of the large intestine. It's fairly similar to the disease of Crohn's, but then Chron can expand also to small intestine, stomach, and everything. So ulcerative colitis is only in the large intestine. So, yeah, the first question that I asked seeing the doctor, I was like, "Okay, the food, maybe, that I eat might affect my intestine, right?" And then he said, "Oh, it's not scientific. No food for that."
Susan: And then I started to read about these things and, for example, pork meat sits for like 72 hours in your digestive track before you eliminate it, compared to 18 hours that fruit takes, for example. So, from that perspective, actually, it's almost like a biochemical approach, right? You just look at what does this substance do to your body and how much effort and energy does the body needs to put into it to digest it? And you can have a-
Mason: Well, especially if you're in a place of deficiency and inflammation.
Susan: Exactly, exactly. It's not meat or dairy at all, it just means that you need to select the foods carefully that meet your digestive fire.
Mason: I hear some things. I pick up some Ayurvedic [crosstalk 00:05:31]
Susan: Yeah, yeah. I was doing a [inaudible 00:05:34] maybe I'm maybe a little bit drifting off.
Mason: That's okay, I mean, diet of course was that first step.
Susan: Diet was the first thing, and then of course meditation, having a routine. Routine was maybe the most important thing. Having dinner [inaudible 00:05:45]
Mason: What's that?
Susan: Kind of like a famous thing in Ayurveda is actually how you organize your life, your routine in the morning, especially. How to tune into circadian rhythms so you wake up at a set time at Brahama Muhurta, the most ideal time to wake up so actually around sunrise.
Mason: Was that term, what was the word you that just used?
Susan: Brahama Muhurta? That's the time before the sun rises, basically, because then the energy on earth is different.
Mason: The hive mind hasn't awoken yet.
Susan: Exactly. So if you wake up then, meditate... Nowadays I include different modalities. I don't believe that you just have to stick to just Ayurveda and yoga because yoga and Ayurveda are related. So I include a lot of [00:06:25] in my practice because for me, that's the most soothing practice I've encountered. And I'm a Vatta-Pitta, I need to have very soothing practices in the morning. Yeah, to calm to start the day in a peaceful and mindful way.
Mason: I'm curious about your being a practitioner now. So you've gone down that route where you are helping and creating.
Mason: You've experienced it yourself. I'm sure you have practitioners, especially going down you had that route. It sounds like you really took it on yourself. You had your structure, so you're in a healing pattern, you limited your diet for a few years while you were healing, you had a structure for a practice in the morning while you were healing. Now, you'd be utilizing those in your practice but yet you're stepping beyond that place where you're needing to consider yourself somewhat of a patient or treat yourself because it's appropriate for times. I'm always fascinated when you've been through it and then you have patients. What I see so often is practitioners then getting trapped in, "This is how now your lifestyle needs to look for the rest of your life." And there's a bit of a stunting in staying in that, "Well, I'll always be a patient." There's a subtle fear.
Susan: Oh, yeah.
Mason: You know what I mean?
Susan: I understand exactly what you mean, yeah.
Mason: So I'm just curious because you're in it.
Susan: To be honest, I really don't consider myself as a patient anymore. I don't know I that's the question.
Mason: No, but that's what I get. You're not. And so that period when you were healing, healing, healing, healing and then with say, your diet or your rigid practice that is required, then how did you successfully bridge over into a lifestyle that was more dynamic?
Susan: [crosstalk 00:08:02] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I understand what you're saying. You mean what it took from me to get to that stage.
Mason: Either that, or how do you then inform your patients of that process?
Susan: So, I work with people, or I'd prefer to work, it's not always working like that, for a couple of months. Especially when you need to heal severe diseases like ulcerative colitis or something. You need to work for at least three to four months or maybe six sometimes. And I always tell them, "It's a process," right? And now I might recommend to eliminate pork or meat, more heavy meat, from your diet, but this is temporary, you know? It's just to get rid of excess amount. That's what we talk about in Ayurveda when you have a buildup of toxins in your digestive tract. It's more like mucus, kind of, sticky substance that stays in your large intestines. And that can permeate through the intestinal wall and then interfere, actually, with the proteins that are running through your own blood, your own proteins. And then they start to fight because your body cannot recognize any more which proteins are yours or from undigested.
Susan: So, I really believe that it's all a temporary imbalance and that you need to go through this stage of elimination and detoxification. And then afterwards, when the symptoms diminish or even are gone, then you need to start build up with Rasayanas, for example.
Mason: Rasayanas, yeah.
Susan: Rasayanas. Yeah, and then I'd think then you can also become a little bit more... You always need to be mindful, I think, what you're eating and how you're eating. And, or course, at the same time, you need to allow yourself, also, to relax and not to create this mental thing about food because that's a very tricky thing and there is a very fine line between these two.
Mason: Well it's interesting you bring up the Rasayanas there, and I feel like in Rasayanas I think everyone, if you've heard the [00:09:44] episode I go over this a lot more, you might be able to learn a little bit more, but it's not about the fact that we're just like, "Now you just take Rasayana herbs. Now you take tonic herbs." It's more about the philosophy that revolves around that. It's a philosophy when you go from being sick, because, I don't know why, just bear with me as we go through this, but I feel like it's something that a lot of people would really appreciate hearing again and again and again and again. Because, you know, I just came from that mindbodygreen Revitalize weekend, right? And it was great, you know. When I'm hearing people on stage, I'll take everything with a grain of salt at all times while still respecting peoples' work heavily.
Mason: But there was this one really well regarded MD doctor, it was basically he's just like, "Look, this is how I am with my patients. It's no spinach, no meat, no nightshades, no grain, no quinoa, no chia..." So it was very lectern-based. Anyway, it was just like the whole argument of a gorilla gets all its protein from vegetation, That really old kind of thing. And then just telling everyone they should be having tons of olive oil every day. But anyway, he was a keynote, right? I was sitting there going like, "This guy gets people who are very sick and tries to get them well and is then very confused about the fact that people need to then branch out and open up after that fact and not remain on this "I'm sick" diet."
Susan: Exactly, yeah-
Mason: So, this is where I get the sense that you're going through it with Rasayanas. So what's the intention there? Because you're trying to get well when you're sick, then when you're essentially well you don't have a reframing that occurs. So you're still just trying to stay well and that dictates something, there's no momentum. But it's confusing with Rasayanas, I think at the talk you came to the other night, because you were there it reminded me to mention it, with the Rasayana intent of taking an herb like Shatavari and Ashwagandha to bring spontaneous joy, allow spontaneous joy to emerge from the body. It's a very subtle intention, yet it's one that you can wrap your head around long-term, right?
Susan: It is like a bill is a nourishing thing. It's more like, "Oh, I'm taking care of myself and my body." It's not like, "Oh, I need to..." I mean, it's more like, indeed, what you're saying. That's a good perspective, actually, to look at it from a pleasure kind of side, rather than, "I need to heal," or something. But in the stages that I go through with most of my clients, first there's kind of a lot of elimination. So maybe, also, you can lose maybe a little bit of body weight or something.
Susan: And then you need to build up the tissues again, which is also a very nourishing practice and I would not see it as "You're still sick." I would say like, "Oh, you're taking care of yourself and you understand your body better and what is compatible with your body." And not like, "Oh, I eat maybe now french fries. So I know maybe tomorrow I might have some discomfort, but it's fine. It's fine and I know how to counteract that the day after," or something. More to understand which foods affect your body in a certain way, which is all fine, without any judgment. But then also learn from it and be mindful like, "Okay, I do this and I enjoy it, and I'm fully present in that and enjoying it. And then after, I might use some herbs or something or another [00:12:58] diet to balance it out [inaudible 00:12:59]."
Mason: Yeah, you've got tools, right?
Susan: You have tools, you have tools, yeah.
Mason: You've got tools and then you embody some of the tools and then, as you go forth, you get to explore different intentions. And you've got such a vibrant lifestyle, I think. I love practitioners. And there's so many emerging that just embody... Because you need to teach that bridging, I'm getting a sense of, that bridge from, "I'm sick" towards like, "All right, now were healing. Now you need to take it on yourself." I feel like a practitioner needs to maintain that and communicate it via osmosis, that ownership and sovereignty they have within themselves, so the patient can see, "Right, now I've come to the end of my journey. I can see through the corner of my eye what the next step is," and then they can move beyond that paradigm.
Mason: I want to go into herbs. We've had a couple chats about the herbaceous world around us, including having more and more experiences just over the past weekend, where you're deepening your relationship and entwining and little bit more. I'm going to leave it very open-ended. Where did that love affair with especially herbs begin for you personally? And then let's start diving into the way you relate to herbs through Ayurveda.
Susan: I think my deep respect for food and for herbs came from my own experience and I think, too, deepening my meditation and some other spiritual practices and learning from Lakota elders from different tribes and how they relate to herbs and how they treat the plants. Because, yeah, you have vegan people... I'm not against vegan, I'm not necessarily in favor of it. I think everyone needs to decide what feels best for their own body. But what you see, for example, that the Lakota tribes, they treat plants in the same way as they treat animals. Also in Ayurveda there is the concept of [00:14:40], the soul of the plant. You can call it "soul," you can call it maybe, "consciousness" or "higher intelligence" resonates more with some people. But-
Mason: And with the veganism thing, you're talking about the fact that plants are conscious?
Susan: Always a sacrifice is made for your meal, even as plants like, effect on the environment. I mean, yeah, of course meat has a bigger impact on the [crosstalk 00:15:03]
Mason: Well, meat has such an in-your-face impact.
Mason: There is a central nervous system that we can relate to. Yet we can't relate to the pain and emotional receptors of a plant.
Susan: No, exactly. But I think, too, this learning with different tribes and not just with Ayurveda, but more indigenous tribes from the Amazon or something. I felt that plants have a spirit and that you can connect with it. There is a reason why in Ayurveda we're singing mantras when we prepare herbal decoctions or infusions or whatever. And why also, in the Amazon, they are connecting with the plant by singing whatever [00:15:40] or whatever to it. And I have felt it doesn't matter if you believe if there is this higher intelligence in plants or if you see that your mind is connecting in an intentful way with the plant. And that helps the acceleration of the healing, you know? I think it can work both sides. It doesn't matter how you explain it.
Susan: But for me, with my meditation practices and other practices I've learned, I've cultivated a deep respect for plants and herbs, yeah. Because it has helped me in a symptomatic, very clear way. It just improves my life by smudging, working with cedar, different types of cedar and sage, and see how it changes my energy, the way how I feel, literally. And also I can see, for example, in post-partum, if you work with certain herbs and you come into the room with a woman who just gave birth, you feel that the aromas all the senses are stimulated by plants. And it's, do you say "undeniable?"
Mason: It is "undeniable."
Susan: Yeah, I mean, it's so present.
Mason: In terms of ingesting the herbs at the same time? Is that what the example's there? Especially with the sage, of course. I feel like what you're talking to is a fanaticism in the medical system around herbs and drugs is, "Go, go, go, go, go, quick, quick, quick, quick, quick, quick. We don't have time for that, you know?"
Susan: Quick fix.
Mason: Yeah, quickly. And that's just hocus pocus bullshit.
Susan: Yeah! Yeah.
Mason: And if anything, as you said, whether you believe that here is a consciousness or a personality and an energy, you know... I'm sure with herbs you're using for treatment, you might be using teas or powders or capsules or something in that sense. It doesn't detract from that fact that slowing down and having a little bit of a connection, whether you're in the harvesting process or the usage process, I think what it does, and what you're speaking to, is as you slow down and you connect that little bit, I think that's the space where what I call the "placebo" is activated.
Susan: Exactly, yeah. You could see it like that. So, even if it's just smelling the herb before you take it or just ask to help, I mean, yeah maybe it sounds a bit out of air, but I really believe it, that if you ask for... No, maybe if you're like really trying to connect with it, and not just like, "Okay, I use it as a, whatever, it's there." If you use it with a certain intention and with a certain respect, yeah, it's a really big difference if you take in herbs in that way, rather than just on the go, in the car, and I take a few capsules because I need some supplement, or something, some minerals.
Mason: Give me, give me, give me, give me-
Susan: Give me, exactly. Yeah.
Mason: Were there any herbs in particular? I'm sure it's many, and I know it's not about just one herb, but there are any herbs that really swept you off your feet?
Susan: Yeah, like Boswellia Serrata.
Mason: [inaudible 00:18:15]?
Susan: Frankincense. Yeah, also already its aroma is super strong. But I also felt, after working it for a month doing mono diet and then just trying to ingest it and try to feel what's happening with my body-
Mason: Explain the mono diet.
Susan: Ayurveda, there are some fasting methods. But for certain types of people like more Vatta dominating people, predominately Vatta types, fasting is not always the best thing because it can disrupt their digestive fire and everything and make them less grounded. So then you have mono diet. You eat three times a day, basically the same meal like, one type of grains, most of the time it's kitchri, but you can use one type of grain if another grain appeals more to you, I'm not very rigid around that.
Mason: Including the herb at the same time?
Susan: I take it before eating the food. I take ingest it before.
Mason: That's kind of like your [00:19:04].
Susan: Yeah, kind of, and I did that also. I mean, I wish I did it with all the herbs that I'm using. But this is a long lifetime practice to connect with herbs on a more deeper level than just in a mind, how do you say, it ventures from...
Mason: Like a materia medica sense?
Susan: Yeah, exactly More from a mind perspective rather than really feeling into it.
Mason: Yeah, that's beautiful, I like-
Susan: Also that devadaru seed is actually the Himalyan ceder wood.
Mason: What's it called?
Susan: Cedrus deodara. In Sanskrit it's devadaru I had also incredible experiences with that because I was reading in the sutras about it, what kind of effects it would have, and then [inaudible 00:19:43] more biochemical approach. But then, when I was using it, I realized that, because it was actually in the ancient text it says it's heating to the body and I have a high Pitta, so high heat in my body. But I was working with it and then I felt like, whoa, I don't feel that aspect of it. So I think it's also very important to sometimes detach from all the knowledge that you have. Is it not that Lao Tzu once said that you need to get rid of everything that you learned in order to really like-
Mason: That's frustrating.
Susan: It is!
Mason: Like, when you feel kind of like, "Gosh, I know my shit." That's why I think it's like, whether you're someone like myself, who was previously like, "No, I'm not going anywhere near that practitioner realm because I want to guard the image that I have" or if you're a practitioner that's like, "No, I know the energetics, I know that this one's heating and that one's cooling and that that's a heating disease so you use a cooling herb." And that is sense where there's no nuance in both cases. It's the ultimate maturity, right? To be like, "Cool, I know a lot, but I know nothing. And I'm willing for it to be colorful."
Susan: And to open up to the experience, right? Without any preconceptions that you have. Just, okay, let's allow yourself to let the herb do it's work and then see what's happening. If it's expanding, or is it contracting? Whatever is happening in the body. It's so fascinating. I love to work with it.
Mason: Unfortunately, you're going to have to look outside of the box sometimes in order to get the most amazing results. That's kind of like I felt in my beginnings because, especially in the beginning, I was such in that multidimensional world. I felt like a tripper. I couldn't quite connect it to a symptomatic response which would ground this way of approaching. I was just in that instinctively feeling, "I think you should go and explore this direction of health. I think you really need to work on your skin and detoxifying your skin" or "I really think you need to be working on your estrogen." And just take these long-winded parts connecting it to whatever the symptomatic response was. And I think everyone, especially in the medical and practitioner community, doesn't trust that instinct that emerges.
Susan: I really fully agree. I think so. Because we are so trained to look at herbs into that system that I have a lot of respect of this heritage of all this kind of knowledge, but then-
Mason: Of course. It's beyond useful.
Susan: But still, for me it's very important what my own experience is with a herb. And that can only build it after months of using it on a consistent basis.
Mason: Before I ask you about being a doula, is there some other herbs that you use in practice that you just want to give a little shout out?
Susan: So you asked also something about what my relationship was with Ayurveda and herbs. I feel nowadays I really want to explore the herbs that grow around my surrounding, right? In Topanga. So what is growing here and what helps me here, rather than just working with the traditional Ayurveda herbs. Although, I feel if you're talking about Rasayanas, it's for me very difficult to find the same kind of quality, that nourishing tonic kind of, more what you talk about tonics. I think the tonics and Rasayanas are very similar. And I feel like, in that aspect, I didn't encounter yet the same kind of quality and profoundness of herbs in my own area. So then I reached back to indeed Ashwagandha, Shatavari, Amalaki, Triphala, like whatever, these kind of more-
Mason: Triphala, delicious
Susan: They are so delicious. Everyone loves it. Maybe then capsules is sometimes the right thing.
Susan: And Mustaka whatever, Brahmi, these kind of things, feel very profound. But, for example, if I have a client or something, or even myself, a UTI, for example, a quite clear symptom, then I would really recommend to just use Uva Ursi or burdock or marshmallow or other kind of herbs.
Mason: Right, well that's it. Yeah-
Susan: Sometimes the symptomatic approach is not-
Mason: Well, it's ideal. Just like, I'm not sure what the other classifications. It's a bit like a Rasayana has its own clinical intent. We know what Ashwagandha does. But if the whole, "Oh, they're adaptogens, you can use them for anything at any time," it's not... Like, a Rasayana mostly, a tonic, is to strengthen the body, make it resilient, allow spontaneous joy to come forth because you know the system is calm and you can work on yourself. And that's why that's the superior herbs and tonic herbalism. That's they're intent.
Susan: Are you nourishing the Qi, right? With tonics.
Mason: No, not necessarily, I mean, with a herb like astragalus, is pure Qi. It's a Qi tonic, so you're nourishing lung and spleen, right? And so it's tonifying from that angle. And in terms of everything building and sealing, it's just not quite the case with a tonic. It's like it's too much of a broad brush, over a tonic. No, we only use tonic in times of sickness to build back the body after it's been emaciated. Whereas, if you then get an appropriate dose and keep your finger on the pulse of your own energy, the whole point is that you're strengthening systems of the body so they can do what they need to do, rather than just purely tightening and toning the body or the system. You know, of course Cordyceps in instance of autoimmunity as is Reishi, has been shown to be bringing back the capacity for T-cell regulation to return and so we see autoimmunity or antibodies implicated decreasing.
Susan: Similar effect as [inaudible 00:24:51].
Mason: Yeah, exactly. In particular instances. But, I think that's where people don't realize that there is those tiers. So that's the superior herbs and then in the regular herbs, like [00:25:02], and, as you were talking to there, herbs that I used to treat symptoms specifically, and they have a slight toxicity about them.
Susan: Yeah, so you need to use it, indeed, for a limited period of time.
Mason: For a limited time-
Susan: And that's prefect-
Mason: Rasayanas and tonics, I feel like they're just nontoxic. Which people think, "Oh my god, I can have them as much as I want?" No, that's not the case.
Susan: No, no. Exactly, exactly, exactly. And from an Ayurvedic is always because Rasayanas are a little bit harder to digest, in general, than other herbs, so from that aspect Ayurveda always would include some sort of [00:25:37], that's what we call [00:25:38] as a vehicle that you ingest a herb with. So like some sort of substance that can be like gi or aloe vera that helps to-
Mason: Did you say, "aloe vera?" for a Pitta?
Mason: For someone inflamed or [crosstalk 00:25:50]. Aloe vera's one of my favorites, I grew up with it.
Susan: Or with a ginger decoction or something that helps the digestion of Rasayanas-
Mason: I think that's a crossover. Humans necessarily created a hot elixir for themselves, or they would pair the herbs with a delivery system, quite often a flavoring, or a fat-like gi, or whatever it was, in order to buffer the releasing of all the medicines. And especially ginger, an absolute perfect example of the amount of, especially paired with licorice, the amount of blends in TCM that are just rounded out with ginger or rounded out with mint. These herbs, they weave everything together, you know? Especially licorice, it's just the ultimate weaver-
Susan: Is licorice more well known for that property than ginger in Chinese medicine?
Mason: Yeah, licorice I believe is the most used herb in Chinese medicine.
Susan: Interesting, so that's maybe the ginger of-
Mason: It's the great magnifier. But it's a wonderful Qi tonic at the same time . And so it's a digestive... You know, so much starts with digestion, ama, spleen. It's like Hippocrates, "All disease begins in the gut. All disease, then, ends in the gut."
Susan: Exactly, yeah, I really believe that.
Mason: Yeah, so from Taoist perspective, we're trying to maintain our vital Xing. I'm not sure what is like-
Susan: That would be [00:27:02] I think in-
Mason: [00:27:03]. But, it's like yes, your [00:27:05], Xing, like a pilot light, I'm not sure if this is the same correlation, a pilot light for ama. But, it's like these are kind of like the pilot light for the spleen, and therefore cooking the pot of the stomach, right?
Susan: Hmm. That's interesting.
Mason: Everyone, continuously, we need to restore the Xing first in the West from, this is just my perspective, it's not definitive. But then, you need to psychologically make the transition towards managing your Qi, digestion, and your breath. And so the focus, to keep our finger on the pulse in what we're talking about, getting to a place where you're no longer exhausted or sick. You're watching yourself in the way that your capacity to digest and your capacity to utilize your food and breath, or lack thereof, and stay warm, continue to circulate and stay somewhat in harmony emotionally. That's all kind of comes back to the spleen.
Mason: And so, when you see one of the primary spleen and Qi and harmonizing tonics is licorice, there the proof is in the pudding that long-term it's that middle ground where you can sit really long-term, keeping your finger on the pulse, and it gives you a real long view of your life. It's like a real tortoise and the hare, an amalgamation of both. And I feel like I hear ama being brought up so much, and unless you've embodied your ability to take responsibility for yourself once you've healed, I feel like then you can reapproach digestive Qi, digestive capacity, and ama with a whole new light. You don't feel like you're sick and you're just limited.
Susan: Yeah, that's very true.
Mason: This is the reality, yeah. You want to elaborate on that?
Susan: Elaborate on that? No, I think I agree, yeah, what you're saying. I mean, I don't know if the spleen and the ama... I mean, the ama is a result of indigestion, right? So I think where the focus in Chinese medicine is on the spleen, I think in Ayurvedic it's really about the stomach, the small intestine, the large intestine, that area more.
Mason: But it's the same world, just different points of view.
Mason: So, I'm really curious about what talked you into being a doula, as well.
Susan: Oh, yeah.
Mason: It comes up so much on this Podcast, you know? Just that sacred space and that sacred realm that I didn't realize we were going to be heading into that direction. And yeah, just go nuts.
Susan: Part of my Ayurvedic training included some post-partum work, and I started, basically, just to help first friends that gave birth. And I came there and then I had such a profound experience with one of my friends that had a very tough labor. And then I started to give her a massage. And in Ayurveda there's this concept of that the soul of the baby and the could of the mother are connected for the first two years of their lives. And I experienced, at least in this first few weeks of the life of the baby, I felt like as soon as the mother was nourished and taken care of and relaxed, as soon as I started to massage her for example, the baby started to calm down. For me, it was like, "Whoa, this is quite profound." [crosstalk 00:29:56] or something. It was just amazing to see the effect and that's where it came from that I wanted to focus more on that transition that women are going through when they gave birth.
Mason: Looking at post-partum, fourth trimester, what's your approach?
Susan: You mean for the women that I supported? I mean, what my approach is? I mean the fourth trimester, yeah, in many indigenous tribes and cultures, or ancient cultures, that fourth trimester women need to be taken care of and nourished by family or friends. And that's what I would like to being a little bit more in this modern society. I think more awareness of that transition that women are going through and that fourth trimester is almost even more important. Because you see often women are pregnant and then there's a lot of attention in these first nine months. And then the baby's born and then I think, "Okay, the baby's born."
Susan: But I think it's very important to support women in this period afterwords because, I mean, one in ten, I think it was one of the statistics recently published, that one in ten women get post-partum depression and these kind of things. And it can be very well treated if there is the right attention and support for these women. There is this hormonal imbalance, of course, that can be treated with herbs, for example, Vitex is very good for that, mugwort-
Mason: Vitex is magic, yeah.
Susan: Balances mood. And also like when people go through miscarriages it's very important that women have support in that recovering. It's such a transformative thing, spiritually, emotionally, physically-
Mason: Are you personalizing a lot of the herbal approach post-partum? Or are there herbs like Vitex that you feel are quite across the board, essentially appropriate for most people?
Susan: Yes, I have to say yes. Although I know Vitex is a little bit heating but I've really seen good results in many cases-
Mason: Yeah, it's like keep your finger on the pulse.
Susan: Yeah. And Borage oil, for example, is very good, I think. It has an antidepressant-like action. Giving massage for that, I know that in traditional Ayurveda they use [00:31:53] after pregnancy. But Borage, I have a personal connection with Borage oil.
Mason: What's the practice where you're just oiling yourself up?
Susan: That's called a [00:32:03]
Mason: A [00:32:03].
Susan: Yeah, and that's very important after giving birth because the nervous system and everything needs to calm down.
Mason: I mean, [inaudible 00:32:10], my fiance, when she gets the chance, she practices that and I can always get the sense of absolute parasympathetic emerging. I mean, I can't believe-
Susan: It's very soothing.
Mason: Yeah, I mean, I can't believe we don't... When there's an athlete that's done an ultramarathon, there's so much focus placed on their recovery in order to get themselves to be able to compete again. And for themselves, they're... But culturally, I think this is obvious to everyone that's going to be listening, but culturally that fourth trimester we completely underestimate just how much you need to regenerate after birth. Far out.
Susan: Completely, yeah.
Mason: Okay, Vitex, any other general, obviously this is general-
Susan: Abhyanga is one of the most important, I think, practices. But also to bring in some devour of an aroma or sage baths or some sort of more rituals of something to honor that stage of a woman's life. I think it's very important. And just holding space for women in that period is very important. I mean, it's all a combination of things, of nourishing food is also very important. Suggest food that gets [inaudible 00:33:19] for them, herbal soups but also bone broth, they need to build up-
Mason: Build it back.
Mason: Is watermelon seed a thing in India? I might have made that up. Completely.
Susan: Watermelon seed? Especially in post-partum or?
Mason: Yeah, I mean I just remember looking through all the post-, this is almost three years ago, looking at them all, of course, it's like wherever you're at it's nourishing Xing-building herbs a lot of the time or broths and soups. Soup are nourishing. I'm sure it was in China, it's pork after birth, you know? And in India it's many things. But watermelon seeds, I was like, watermelon seeds [crosstalk 00:33:52]
Susan: I didn't hear about this. So I haven't learned about [crosstalk 00:33:56]
Mason: I was like, you know, sometimes you get into that frame of mind you read something you're like, "Okay, cool, I'm down."
Susan: "Yeah, I need to do that."
Mason: "Yeah, okay got to do pork, and I've got to do watermelon seeds, I've got to do Cordyceps, I've got to do that..." And you're like, "Okay, no, maybe I can just drop a couple of these and get back to what the real intention is here."
Susan: Yeah, exactly. And Shatavari is the most famous one.
Mason: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Asparagus magic.
Mason: Well, it would be interesting to get your two cents. When women ask from our collective what's going to be useful, quite often Reishi's one that's there to be considered. It's got the, I don't know what you'd call it, the brand? Around being good for sleep, but essentially, it's a Shen tonic. So, the calming the mind, maintaining adaptability of the mind in unifying with the body, so that you can continue to develop your conscious awareness of what's going on. So number one, essentially, because you're changing so heavily and if you've got stuck mental patterns that you haven't dealt with during that child-bearing stage, you'll get stuck in quite often depression can emerge, so on and so forth.
Mason: Shatavari, from the Taoist perspective, is considered one of the most beautiful Shen tonics. Reishi gets in and really can change your direction. Shatavari in my experience creates this atmosphere and this adapting atmospheric pressure for your mind and for your consciousness, which is just really beautiful, present space. The Taoists, their main intention for long-term for using it was to enable you to fly. To fly with your consciousness and fly with your dreams and be free, right?
Susan: And can see it from the perspectives as Shatavari is working on the blood, right? And the blood and Shen are very much related?
Susan: So I can imagine that case is the seed of the Shen right? So, if the blood is built, and good, and especially very important after post-partum, right? That the blood is built again, and nourished.
Mason: Obviously so much of yoga is-
Susan: And raspberry leaf.
Mason: Oh, raspberry leaf
Susan: [crosstalk 00:35:51]
Mason: And nettle.
Susan: And nettle, indeed, yeah. I've been now reading a little bit into the blue cohosh thing and that's what I find biggest in the Native American traditions, blue cohosh was used to, even in giving labor, to dilate the birth canal. But then I reading like what kind of pop med studies.
Mason: Pop med?
Susan: Yeah, studies like more biochemical approaches and then they show that it can create some birth defects or something. So I'm still figuring out what I feel for that. I didn't feel confident yet to prescribe that herb. But, anyway, I really feel like those Native American traditions, they have a deeper understanding, maybe, than some scientists nowadays have. You never what agenda is behind a study. So that's a bit of a tricky thing sometimes with herbs.
Mason: Yeah, it's a double-edged sword.
Mason: Because sometimes we find out these amazing little nuances from herbs from these studies and sometimes, of course, people are like, "Oh my gosh, this herb is really toxic to the liver. Oh, I'm never taking it again." You'd look at the dose that they gave the rats and it's just unreasonable.
Susan: Yeah, exactly! Or they just extract one compound, right? And then they magnify that thing. And that's, I think where Chinese medicine and Ayurveda meet, is that we look at plants as a holistic being, right? Nothing is like for no reason there. So everything is working together, all the compounds, and they interact and they create synergy together and that's how it affects the body and you cannot really just extract. That's also, they never found, I think, in ginseng the active compound, right? If I'm not mistaken?
Mason: Ginseng asides are being variously discovered and they're trying to attribute different aspects to those compounds [crosstalk 00:37:21]
Susan: But they can never extract, right? They could never extract the particle of the herb that was the-
Mason: No, they don't know what it is.
Mason: It's like with St. John's Wort. Different countries associate different active constituents to be the primary. And that's just my favorite example. There's so much of Chaga mushroom and Reishi mushroom that haven't been identified yet. And we could assume the same of majority of herbs. And I like what you said. With pregnancy especially, it's like, "Are these herbs safe during pregnancy?"
Susan: Yeah, it's even more important than treating individual clients. I mean, I feel more confidence prescribing a herb when it's just small infection, of course, than when it's a pregnancy concerned or even childbirth. I mean, yeah-
Mason: Of course, I mean-
Susan: Such a fragile state.
Mason: Well, it's a fragile state but I think the difference when we look traditionally, they had a different understanding. And I think they had a different understanding because they slowed themselves down. They understood in their administering. Some people will be like, "Oh, they used Eucommia bark and Reishi in pregnancy traditionally. So they're cool to go." And it's like, "Well..." If you look especially at any point you introduce something slowly, so you can take that pause that we were talking about earlier, the awareness of the herb, allow yourself to experience it.
Mason: Now, then the other thing that comes about is the fact that you were saying "herbal interactions." So, some herbs are friends, some are enemies, some lift each other up, some dampen each other, some kill each other, and some are complete servants to others. Although it seems complicated, it's generally not. Especially in a Rasayana or a tonic herb perspective, it's like a do-it-yourself at home experiment. It gets a little bit trickier when you get down into treatment herbs. But, at the same time, in the instances of herbal application during pregnancy, traditionally, they knew that slow response and indifferent states herbs were going to have different reactions with each other. And so they just took it slow. They just went and started with minute amounts, or they knew each other so intimately that they went, "I know this herb and I know you, you're going to get along really well."
Susan: Yeah! And I also think they were way more conscious about the setting, what they created around how they administered it. And I think the setting is very important also.
Mason: What kind of setting do you create?
Susan: I mean, I'm not like a birth doula, right?
Susan: Sorry. Okay.
Mason: Yeah, just like in general, creating that healing environment, especially post-partum. You've talked about aromas-
Susan: Yeah. It depends what the woman needs in that specific moment, right? So sometimes it's just listening. But, I mean, there's always an aspect that first checking in, what are the needs at the moment? Does she need protective sleep? Is the main priority? But then still, I'm bringing in essential oils or some baths, sage baths or something else. That connects them more with it's a sacred space and time in life, right? So that connects them with, a little bit more, with their body and it brings them back to their heart basically.
Mason: And what you were saying in terms of just asking, I feel like that's-
Susan: Checking in.
Mason: Just checking in.
Susan: It's very important. Maybe she didn't eat for six hours or something. So at first we'll prepare some food, you know? It depends. I always, every time when I visit, it's bring in in some sort of connection with a herb. It can be essential oils, just bring a diffuser. Can be like an oil that I've prepared myself. Mugwort or Borage or whatever.
Mason: Oh, so good.
Mason: That must be fun work.
Susan: It is. For me, the doula work brought in all aspects that I really love. This deeper connection with one person, or actually a family. And I like to cook, I like to prepare herbs. What I like in the doula work is that I prepare the oils myself. It's more like a personal longer-term connection that's built. That's what I really like. And the effect that you can see.
Mason: Yeah, that's so real. So non-superficial
Susan: Yeah. Yeah. And it's very humbling. I mean, the only thing that you're doing there is to serve and checking what does the person need? You know? And, I don't know, it's just beautiful.
Mason: So, before we completely rewind, first of all, what are the two... So, we're in your room up here-
Susan: This is mugwort [inaudible 00:41:24]-
Mason: So you've got a mugwort brew.
Susan: Tincture, yeah.
Mason: Why is it a-
Susan: It's a tincture.
Mason: What's the menstruum?
Susan: You mean this [crosstalk 00:41:30]? It's like 40%.
Mason: It's kind of vodka.
Susan: Yeah. Yeah. I just, yeah. I could only find this online to buy a high percentage but I think it's fine.
Mason: Yeah, 40% gets the job done.
Susan: And this one is royal [inaudible 00:41:40] it's like a good kidney tonic. It works. So this is, I just forawrd these herbs.
Mason: From the area? What was that other one, sorry?
Susan: Royal [00:41:48]
Susan: It's used by the Chumash Indians for kidney disorders. It's a kidney tonic. Also a bit of a diuretic. Help with a little bit with UTIs and these kid of things. And because the tincture is fast-acting so it works on infections quite well.
Mason: Just bringing it in to land, are there any texts or YouTube channels or anything that you'd like, or have you got any resource, if anyone wants to go bring a little bit more of the Ayurvedic practices into their lives? Especially-
Susan: Yeah, I mean, I really try to combine to balance out a little bit the ancient text with just biochemical studies, like modern science. So the ancient text that I use is Charaka Samhita. Yeah, it's I think the most fundamental text that's written about it. And then Ashtanga Hridayam is a little bit more easy to understand. So I think maybe you start with Ashtanga Hridayam. Yeah, it' describes basic principals of Ayurveda. And some people like argue a little bit against a modern interpretations, but I like the books of [00:42:53] a lot, and David Frawley. I like it. I mean, I think-
Mason: I know David Frawley. Michael Tierra's got a good book that came with his course called The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs that was really nice as well.
Susan: Who, sorry?
Mason: Michael Tierra.
Susan: Michael Tierra.
Mason: Yeah, he's interesting. He's doing a lot of what a lot of people are doing. Doing a lot of bridging and helping people interpret Ayurvedic TCM and Western herbalism and saying where they cross paths.
Susan: Yeah, that's interesting. And Robert Svoboda.
Mason: Svoboda, okay.
Susan: Yeah, he has interesting... And actually one of my teachers is Atreya Smith, and he has also for me very easy to understand interpretations of Charaka Samhita. So, one of his book is Dravyaguna for Westerners. That's one of the books that I use most oftenly because he uses Western herbs and has Ayurvedic monographs of them.
Susan: So very, very useful, yeah.
Mason: Beautiful. We'll get those in the notes. It's 11:11am. That sounds like a perfect time for us to wrap it up. Thanks heaps for coming on. So, yeah. Your website, best way to connect with you?
Susan: Is inanacare.com
Mason: How do I spell it?
Mason: Perfecto. We'll put it in the notes plus all those texts that you were talking about. Thanks so much for coming on.
Susan: Thank you too, Mason. Was nice.
Today we've got Shen, the magical third Treasure of the very famous Three Treasures, on our mind. Known as Jing, Qi and Shen, these Treasures explain the energies that make us, the human!
Recently I had the pleasure of writing a piece for Avena Journal. This journal is for medical herbalists so I got to dive right in to some impressive research. Hope you enjoy, Mase