[Transcript] – Evolutionary Herbalism: Part 1 – The Fascinating Science, Spirituality & Medicines Of The Plant Kingdom With Sajah Popham.

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Transcripts

From podcast: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/article/anti-aging-articles/evolutionary-herbalism/

[00:00:00] Introduction

[00:01:07] Podcast Sponsors

[00:03:27] Guest Introduction

[00:06:24] How an Evolutionary Herbalist Describes his “Day Job”

[00:10:06] The Study Environment at Bastyr University

[00:12:54] How a Disconnection Between the Human and Plant Kingdom Has Helped to Create Some of the Chaos We See Today

[00:17:29] “Vitalism” and Its Connection to Evolutionary Herbalism

[00:23:38] Can Plants Be Misused as Is Often the Case with Pharmaceuticals?

[00:28:49] Molecular Herbalism Contrasted with Evolutionary Herbalism

[00:34:26] Podcast Sponsors

[00:36:20] How Plants Have Their Own Electromagnetic Field

[00:39:51] How Plants Have the Same Senses We Do

[00:45:17] The “Song” of a Plant

[00:48:48] The Doctrine of Signatures and How Sajah “Gets to Know” a New Plant

[01:03:04] What Sajah Thinks of AI Related to Plants

[01:07:06] A Sneak Preview of What's to Come in Part 2 With Sajah

[01:09:47] End of Podcast

Ben:  On this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast.

Sajah:  Our whole existence is utterly dependent on the plant kingdom. We can't survive without the plants. Every single breath that we take is the gift of the plant kingdom. Conditions that kill Westerners cut the inflammation out, prevent chronic disease, but they don't ask the question, why is the inflammation there? Many argue that they're more intelligent than humans are because, let's face it, they're doing a much better living on earth than we are.

Ben:  Health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and much more. My name is Ben Greenfield. Welcome to the show.

Well, this is going to be just a great episode. I read this book called “Evolutionary Herbalism” and it just absolutely blew my mind. I got today's podcast guest on for a two-parter because it's just so fascinating, everything he goes into in this book.

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Well, folks, some time ago, I interviewed a guy named Gordon Wilson on a show about the environment. It was actually entitled “A Biblical Approach to Environmentalism and the-so called Dominion Mandate.”      And during that interview–and I'll link to that interview in the shownotes for this podcast, which are going to be at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/herbalism. That's BenGreenfieldFitness.com/herbalism, spelled with an “H” of course. Anyways, in the interview with Gordon Wilson, I mentioned this book called “The Lost Language of Plants” by author Stephen Buhner. Really good book. It describes the innate itelligence built into the plant kingdom–did I just say itelligence? Intelligence, innate intelligence built into the plant kingdom, and the loss of this natural connectivity that we, rational and scientific modern humans, have developed when it comes to the plant kingdom, and kind of like the disconnect from the sacred intelligence of plants that has resulted as a part of that.

Well, since then, I've just continued to study the plant kingdom like way more than just my little app identifier for plants, or taking my kids out plant foraging. I've been reading a lot of books about this idea behind the sacred intelligence of plants, and the spiritual, and medicinal, and other little known aspects of the plant kingdom, trees, leaves, roots, herbs, flower, flower essences, essential oils, plant medicines, you name it. And one really good book that I came across along the way is called “Evolutionary Herbalism: Science, Spirituality, and Medicine from the Heart of Nature.” And this book is written by a guy named Sajah Popham.

And Sajah is an evolutionary herbalist. That's what he studies. He has degree in herbal sciences from Bastyr University. He studied herbal traditions all over the world. He studied with a bunch of North American particulars, top clinical practitioners. And then, he's woven all that together into traditional clinical Western herbalism, Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, astrology, and a whole host of other tactics. And the result of his work is this book “Evolutionary Herbalism,” which just absolutely fascinated me. I mean, if I have so many pages turned over in this book and learned. I feel like I went through a college degree in plants, and plant medicines, and plant oils, and plant essences, and how plants interact with the unique different types of the human body. It's just a great book, but there's lots of stuff I want to delve into in this book. So, I decided to get Sajah on this show. So, today, we are going to geek out hardcore, and we actually have two podcast episodes planned because we have so much to talk about. So, again, the shownotes are going to be at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/herbalism, where I'll also link to this fantastic book, “Evolutionary Herbalism.”

Sajah, welcome to the show, man.

Sajah:  Thanks so much for having me, Ben. It's a real honor to be on your podcast, and thanks for all the kind words about the book, too. It was a real labor of love and always just happy to hear when someone picks it up and reads it.

Ben:  Yeah. And I mean, your day job, I don't know, maybe I'm just fantasizing about you wandering around the forest in a toga and sandals with the leather satchel at your side, picking away at things with a pocket knife and tasting them as you described in the book a little bit. But I'm just curious about what the day job of an evolutionary herbalist looks like. And I'm going to break the golden rule of podcasting and ask two questions in one, but I'm also just curious how you got into all this in the first place. And we have time. You might rabbit hole a little bit, but fill me in on what you do and how you got started in all this in the first place.

Sajah:  Yeah. Well, I think for me, in terms of how I got into all of this question, I've always wanted to be a physician ever since I was a young child, always wanted to be a doctor. I was really on track to becoming a neurosurgeon or a cardiovascular surgeon. I would say in my late teenage years, early 20s, just really felt a deep connection and resonance with nature and the natural world, and adopted much more of I guess what most folks would call an alternative, more of an alternative lifestyle in terms of just organic food, and trying to live sustainably, and working with the herbal medicine, and things like that.

And that was really where my path turned, down that path of really exploring herbalism and holistic medicine as opposed to the more conventional models of medicine. That ultimately led me to attending Bastyr University up here in the Pacific Northwest and doing their herbal sciences program. And that was really just a whole lot of doors opened up for me when I was at Bastyr exploring different traditions and cultures of plant medicine from around the world, and seeing how profound not only were these systems of medicine but their philosophy and approach and understanding of life. And that there was innately a spiritual orientation that I found almost universal amongst traditions and cultures of plant medicine that resonated with my more earth-centered approach to I guess just life as a whole and my own personal spirituality, and belief, and way of seeing things.

So, yeah, that just led one thing after another. Really, for me, I would say the orientation of my work has really been focused around seeing that these medicinal plants are not just conglomerations of biochemicals that interact with our biochemicals that have healing results in that way. That's one aspect of medicinal plants, and that's what the scientific approach to seeing plants is. But to me, there's a much deeper level of healing that happens with medicinal plants that touches the level of the mind, and the heart, and the soul, and really changes who we are. I mean, I think as I traveled around and taught at a lot of conferences and workshops all across the country, I always ask this question like, how many of you feel like you're a different person since you got into herbal medicine?

And pretty much, almost everyone raises their hand. And it's like, well, what is that? What is that transformation? What is that deeper level of connection to who you really are through these medicinal plants? What is that and why can't we serve our clients in that way, too? And so, that really for me is a big part of the evolutionary approach is helping people reconnect with the truth in their heart, the truth of nature that is a part of them. And alongside that goes the physical side of health and the emotional mental side of health and everything in between.

Ben:  I find this idea of just like studying herbal sciences at university like Bastyr. Just fascinating. Well, when you're enrolled in a program like that, what's it actually looked like? Do you spend the day in a lab breaking down plants? Are you more kind of like out in the field tasting, and testing, and pulling, and investigating? Or what's the actual coursework look like for something like that?

Sajah:  It's a little bit of both, actually. I mean, as the name implies, it was herbal sciences, so it was a very scientifically oriented program. It was actually not a clinically oriented program because you can't really get into clinically oriented programs until you're up at the master's level in terms of like a college degree. And so, it was pretty much all of the different sciences surrounding plants, as well as people. So, we did organic chemistry. We did three-quarters of biochemistry and added three-quarters of anatomy and physiology, couple quarters of botany, and plant identification. We're looking at plants under microscopes and figuring out more of the anatomy of plants.

I mean, I honestly personally really didn't like that part too much, but yeah. So, there's a lot of different sciences around plants. And then, of course, my favorites were we had our Materia Medica classes and we studied plants by families. So, it was really based on the seeing patterns of plants, and their morphology, and their growth dynamics, as well as their medicinal properties based on the families of plants, which is very interesting where you see these whole botanical families that a lot of the remedies in those families share similar medicinal properties. So, that was a really unique attribute of the program. Of course, a lot of medicine making. And I did a lot of extracurricular stuff there on formulations, therapeutics. I did some shadowing of naturopaths when I was there, just because for me, I was really on more of a clinical track and really wanted to understand like, okay, how do I actually use this to help people and not just understanding their biochemical mechanisms of action?

Ben:  Yeah. It's really, really cool that you can actually go to a program where you're just immersed in studying plants at that level for that period of time. And I really want to take a little bit of a deeper dive into why this is important. And you alluded to a few things about the relationship between humans and plants, and that sacredness that is involved between us and how we can do everything from entering to an altered or elevated state of consciousness to heal the body, to induce states of relaxation, or excitation, or other elements of healing that you talk about in the book.

But you say in the book that–I think the way that you phrased it is all the chaos and imbalance in the world that we're experiencing, that we have experienced for some time, that that's in due part to the relationship between humans and plants being unconscious or disconnected for so long. So, can you expand on what you mean by that? Because I'm just curious, how is it for a human to be connected to the plant kingdom and what happened to disconnect us?

Sajah:  There's so many layers to it. I mean, I think our ancestors had a much closer connection with the earth and with the elements of life that keep them alive every day. You cut the firewood, build your fire. You go out and harvest your plants. You are attending to the plants that your animals are eating in which you're eating those animals. There was an immediate direct connection and relationship to the earth, to the plant kingdom, to the elements that give us life every day.

And in our modern world, we don't have that. We go to the store and we buy food that comes in a package. We buy medicines that are into tiny little pills or tablets that you don't see. Even the herbal medicines, a lot of times, you don't see the leaf, you don't see their root, you don't see the flower. There's this innate disconnection. And I think when we think of human beings, it's like our whole existence is utterly dependent on the plant kingdom, like we can't survive without the plants. Every single breath that we take is the gift of the plant kingdom. They exhale oxygen and inhale carbon dioxide. And we exhale carbon dioxide and inhale oxygen. There's this constant moment-to-moment reciprocal relationship with the plant kingdom that we're utterly dependent on.

All of our food comes from plants or comes from animals that ate plants. All of our structures, look at every home, pretty much every home that we're dwelling, that we live in, comes from wood, from trees. I mean, of course there's a whole lot of other stuff in there, but the core structure of it is still in many cases from the earth. And so, I guess to me, I see that a lot of the sickness and a lot of those struggles that people face in this modern world, the stress, the insomnia, even like the inflammation, and the anxiety, and the depression, and a lot of that stuff that people struggle with in their health, I'm not saying all of it, 100% of it is due to this.

But I do think it's a major contributing factor, is because of the disconnection between humans and nature. And it's affecting the health of the individual, it's affecting the health of the planet as a whole, and the ecosystems. You can't really separate the person from the planet. When the planet is sick, we are sick. And when we collectively are sick, the planet is sick because they're inseparable. I really feel strongly that it is the humanity needs to just recognize that, recognize that importance of our connection and relationship to the natural world, and respect it, and see that we're a part of it. And that when we damage it, we're actually damaging ourselves.

Ben:  Yeah, it's interesting that we have to actually fabricate things like shinrin-yoku or Japanese forest bathing for stressed-out executives. But it is true, this goes way back. I mean, I think it was like Cyrus the Great. The gardens in Persia were literally built to induce calm in people who were living in like a busy post-industrial, not post-industrial but a busy city. And Paracelsus, I know he said back in the 16th century, that really good Swiss-German physician, that the art of healing comes from nature, not the physician. And I think a big part of this, too, from a medicine standpoint, and from a stress control standpoint, and from a sleep standpoint.

I mean, I pinch myself every day that I get to wake up because I live not far from you, honestly, in the Inland Northwest. I'm probably like five, six hours from you in the forest. And just be able to wake up and go outside barefoot in lush green grass and be surrounded by greenery and be able to step outside each day into that. I'm not saying that to rub it in people's faces because you can hang posters on your wall and put plants in your office, and have green spaces in your backyard and in your corporate setting that allow you to tap into this same thing. But yeah, it just seems like we're so disconnected from just something as simple as real, not plastic, but real plants that's around us.

And then, in the book, you begin to tie all of this into some pretty, what I would consider to be like advanced or less well-known forms of medicine. And I think one of the first things you talked about that I really liked was this concept–it's not necessarily only form of herbalism, but it's a concept you described in the book. I believe you say it's a vitalist model of medicine, like vitalism. And I'm curious if you could describe what vitalism is and why you begin to describe that so early in the book.

Sajah:  Yeah. Well, vitalism is a very important concept in traditional systems of plant medicine. And while it may not be termed as such in all cultures, when we really look at what they're saying, we can see that they are all in their own unique ways, vitalist. Which really is looking at nature, looking at plants, looking at people, and understanding that there is an intelligence within that, that there is an innate intelligence within a plant. There is an innate intelligence within the human organism within the body that is at play. And vitalist systems of medicine really work with that vital intelligence, not against it.

So, I mean, a really great way to illustrate this in an example is the simple physiological process of a fever. So, when a pathogenic microorganism gets into the body and there's an environment within the body that is hospitable to that pathogen, it sets up shop, it starts reproducing the human immune system, recognizes it, responds to it, and goes red alert, and signals the hypothalamus. And it shuts the pores of the skin down, it increases the internal body temperature, and all of a sudden, you get a fever. More often than not, the immune system has the ability to read the protein structure in pathogens and bring the fever up to a level that will denature that protein, and thus, render that pathogen dead basically or ineffective.

And so, that is an intelligent response of the body. Obviously, it doesn't feel good when we have the fever, but the fever is not the enemy. And I think this is a very important differentiation between vitalist medicine and allopathic medicine where a lot of times, allopathic medicine sees the fever is the enemy. We got to get that fever down. So, take the ibuprofen, take the aspirin. That's because obviously, like I said, fever makes you feel like crap. No one likes to feel a fever, but that fever is working. That fever is a very intelligent physiological response of the body. It is a vital response.

Whereas in allopathic approaches to medicine, we oftentimes suppress. We take the fever away. We take the inflammation away. Whatever uncomfortable symptom, we take it away. A vitalist approach looks at and asks the deeper question, why is that symptom there? What's behind the symptom? What's behind the problem? What's underneath of it? What is the root cause? And we want to try to work with that, not against it. And so, for example, in herbalism, we have this great category of plants called diaphoretics. And diaphoretics will generally help the body work through that fever through stimulating peripheral circulation, opening the pores of the skin, relaxing the capillary beds so that blood can flow to the surface. Sometimes they actually heat you up a little bit more. So, again, it's helping that fever do its job more effectively.

So, you're moving with the vital force, not against the vital force. And many cultures see that this is a much better approach to healing a person because we're not fighting with nature, we're working with nature. And that tends to promote a much more healthier individual, promotes longevity in the long haul because we're just helping the body do what it already knows and needs to do rather than suppressing it. Let's say if you suppress a fever, it's very easy to turn up one or two-day fever into a five to seven-day fever just by constantly suppressing it. Every time you take that aspirin, your fever goes down. Well, that fever is down. That virus or that bacteria or whatever it is, it's reproducing. Fever starts to come back up. We don't feel good, pop another one, fever suppress. And it's just making it go longer and longer. Where if you just let your body do its job, it clears it out generally very quickly.

So, I think that's a really good way to visualize and understand what vitalism really is all about, and lots of vitalist traditions. Homeopathy is a vitalist tradition. Ayurveda is a vitalist tradition. Chinese medicine, totally vitalist. Tibetan medicine, physio-medicalism, eclecticism, homeopathy. Many folk's traditions are very vitalists, too. So, they may not use the word vitalist. Maybe they use the word she. Maybe they use the word energy, whatever it is, many different ways of talking about the same thing.

Ben:  Can't you in the same way that you could with pharmaceuticals though like support the wrong physiological function with plants? Because I think the way you described–and maybe you can give an example like some plants support dampness and some dryness, some heat, some cold. You talk about the relationship of the vital elements of plants to all the planets like the sun and the Mercury, and Venus, and the different elements like earth, and fire, and water, and air. And then, even the principal elements like salt, and mercury, and sulfur.

And in the book, you lay out how the plants interact with those three architectures of the vital force like the planets, and the elements, and the principals. But couldn't you act incorrectly with plants in the same way you could act incorrectly with pharmaceuticals when it comes to harming or suppressing something that shouldn't be suppressed? Or do plants act more like, I guess, adaptogens to just support what needs to be supported when it needs to be supported, if that makes sense?

Sajah:  That makes perfect sense, and it's a really good question and a really important question because I think that can be a very easy misunderstanding that people have about herbalism in plants, is they just think, “Oh, these plants, they're just balancing.” So, whatever you got going on, if you just find the herb that's good for that, it's going to help. And that's not true. Herbalism is much more complex than that. It's one thing that I'm always a little bit up on my soapbox about in the sense of there's this concept of the phrase good for. It's like the one thing people always ask, what's it good for? What's that herb good for? What's it good for? And I'm like, “Well, what are you good for?”

It's not a good question. It's kind of an offensive question if you ask a human what you're good for. But we do it with plants all the time. So, to me, the bigger question is more, who are you? Plants have these very specific actions and properties, and they can be misused in a very similar way that a drug can be misused. I mean, we're talking about fever. You could take something like willow bark and meadowsweet and suppress that fever. Just probably not as effectively as you could by popping a couple aspirin, but it'll still happen.

Ben:  But you're saying you wouldn't want to suppress the fever or something like that. You wouldn't want to get a fever and just like run out and find plants that would suppress a fever?

Sajah:  Correct. I mean, it depends. I mean, if the fever is getting dangerously high, then yeah. I think there is a time for all approaches and interventions. And I think modern allopathic medicine is really great in terms of trauma, and emergency medicine, and things like that. And some of the things that they can do are way better than what an herb can do. I'm an herbalist to the core and I admit it that there's some drugs out there that do things way better than a plant can do, especially for very acute serious situations. But I think for more chronic conditions or a lot of just the main health stuff people struggle with day in and day out, I think plants do a much better job than many over-the-counter and prescription drugs and do so much safer as well because they don't have the side effects that a lot of over-the-counter and prescription medications have.

So, yeah. I mean, it is totally possible though to suppress a symptom with an herb in a very similar way that you suppress a symptom with a drug. And sometimes you just get the wrong remedy. I think a big herb in the last number of years, everyone is always popping their turmeric for inflammation.

Sajah:  Well, curcuminoids or turmeric, yeah.

Ben:  Curcumin, yeah, the 95% standardized extracts of curcumin and turmeric, and things like that. And it's like the big thing for inflammation. And everyone says, “Well, inflammations at the root cause of most of the chronic health conditions that kill Westerners. So, cut the inflammation out and prevent chronic disease.” But they don't ask the question, why is the inflammation there? And one of the things that gets very easy to overlook, especially with turmeric, is that this plant you were mentioning kind of the energetics of the herbs, which is another essential aspect of vitalist traditions, we don't just see a plant working through it as a chemical. We see that the plant is working through the way it's adjusting the ecosystem of the body, warming it up. Is it cooling it down? Is it moistening it? Is it drying it?

A really good example of energetics is with a cough. A lot of people can hear or feel the difference between a really dry coughing or really wet cough. It's energetics. Some herbs are good for coughs that moisten the lungs. Some are good for coughs that dry the lungs. Well, the thing with turmeric is it's a really dry plant. And so, it's great for the joint pain that's puffy, and swollen, and inflamed, and damp, and full of fluids, and things like that. It's excellent, but for someone with a really dry, creaky, lack of synovial fluid in the joints, and it's breaking down, and things like that, that turmeric is really not a very good option there based on the energetics.

So, that's one thing that vitalist cultures always do is they don't just look at the symptom, they look at the whole person, your constitution, the state of your tissues. We're not just going to say, “Oh, you have this disease and this herb treats that disease.” It's like, “Well, know how were you uniquely manifesting these symptoms or diseases and what herbs match you, not your disease.” And so, it's much more specific.

Ben:  Now, molecular herbalism. You talk about that in the book. And if I understand correctly, that's just basically the opposite. That's to instead of taking the vital essence of a plant as a whole, it's basically a little bit like what you described, just stripping it into a bunch of components like taking lycopene in a supplement as opposed to eating a whole fresh or cooked tomato or something like that. Is that correct understanding what molecular herbalism would be?

Sajah:  Yeah, and that's my way of defining what I see is the more modern phase of herbal medicine. It's a very scientific approach, very molecular approach. It's a way of looking at plants that sees, okay, these plants have chemicals in them that work with the chemicals in our body, and that's the way they heal and it stops there. Molecular herbalist usually doesn't really acknowledge the vital force of a plant, the vital force of the body. They see disease as really being on this molecular level, molecular lesions or biochemical imbalances. And oftentimes we'll probably be more oriented towards, yeah, like you're mentioning, isolates, using a curcumin instead of a turmeric, using boswellic acid instead of a frankincense, using, like you said, lycopene instead of the foods and things like that that are high in that.

And I don't want anyone to misunderstand me and think that I'm anti-supplements. I do think supplements have their place. It's just our culture, and world, and the state of human health is such that sometimes we need to have more drastic interventions. Like I recently had a client that, boy, this person is in so much pain, and has so much inflammation, and so much going on that–yeah, it was like, I think it would be–this is a situation where we need to get you able to even move and sleep at night. You're in so much pain. Let's do a little bit of curcumin and boswellic acid to get that inflammation down. While at the same time, we're addressing core root causes like time to eliminate the intolerant foods that are probably leading to this systemic chronic inflammation.

So, I think there's approaches where we can–and this is always the edge that I'm dancing of how to be holistic, how to get to the root cause. But at the same time, I feel like I took an oath to alleviate human suffering and I don't want people to be unnecessarily suffering because I'm rigid and say, “No, you can't take curcumin because it's an extract of a whole plant.” It's like I really try to be very open-minded and flexible in my approach to herbal medicine.

Ben:  Yeah, because the entire supplements industry really, and I've used certainly and seen of course plenty of PubMed research on really impressive and efficacious supplement formulations. But the lion's share of I guess the modern supplements industry, unless we're talking about some kind of functional foods powder that's incorporating all elements of the plant, or something like Dr. Thomas Cowan, who's a student of Rudolf Steiner, which I think you've also studied up on quite a bit as well, he's got his vegetable powder extracts like organic heirloom vegetables from the fruits, and roots, and leaves, and stems that have been blended together in certain ratios. And so, I would say there's certain elements of the supplement industry that used more of a vitalist approach. But there's some efficacy, I suppose, in a molecular approach, but it sounds like when we look at treating the whole person, in many cases, you have to use or at least have an understanding of the entire plant itself.

Sajah:  Absolutely. I mean, we can't understand the way in which a plant heals just by looking at its chemicals, and how those chemicals interact with our biochemistry. It's just impossible. The plants are way too complex. I mean, take yarrow.

Ben:  Yarrow grows all over my property, by the way. So, I love to see you talk about that in the book. And as a matter of fact, after reading about all the properties of yarrow in the book, which I was really only familiar with in the past, is something I could rub on my skin when I was walking through the forest as a pretty decent mosquito repellent. And it actually works well for that in a pinch. It has kind of like this minty type of essence to it. But after I read about all the other properties, especially related to these times, and COVID, and blood clotting, and a lot of the effects on blood health, I wound up harvesting a bunch of yarrow, and then I dried it. I just used the sun because this was during a heatwave.

So, I just laid it all out under the sun and dried it out, and then pulverized it, and dehydrated it in a blender, and put it in a bunch of Miron glass jars. And I've actually been sprinkling the yarrow extract I made after reading your book on top of my bone broth, because I have a big cup of bone broth at lunch and I love to sprinkle vegetable extracts into it. And yeah, it's a fantastic, tasty way to upgrade my bone broth a little bit. But I derailed what you were saying about yarrow, so go ahead.

Sajah:  No, no, no. It's good. I mean, boy, it didn't make your bone broth too bitter?

Ben:  No, it's not bad. Well, I mean, I don't know. I have kind of a bastardized palate. I'll taste and try just about anything and people are shocked at–well, shove into my gaping maw without deluding it, but the yarrow actually has a nice, pleasant flavor. I like it, about a teaspoon stirred into bone broth, little bit of salt and black pepper, and it's pretty good.

Sajah:  I mean, it's a super useful plant to have around your property, just in the way injury and–it sounds like you got some kiddos, too. So, for all the cuts, and scrapes, and bumps, and bruises, and bleeds, and all that stuff. It's an invaluable remedy.

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I know what I wanted to ask you because I want to get into some of just the fascinating information that was in this book. For example, I've talked in the past before about how the brain produces its own electrical field. And the heart has a pretty powerful electromagnetic field as well. There's lots of study at the HeartMath Institute, for example, on heart rate coherence and the detectability of the human brain and heart electrical field. But you actually get into how plants have their own electromagnetic field, and I was actually unaware of that. Can you get into why a plant would have an electromagnetic field, like how that actually is and if that's ever been measured or studied or looked into as far as like why a plant would produce an electrical field?

Sajah:  And just to give credit where credits do a lot of who I had learned that from was–actually, you had mentioned Stephen Harrod Buhner earlier. So, he has another book called “The Secret Teachings of Plants.” That really digs into a lot of the details on the electromagnetic spectrum, and plants, and their electromagnetic emissions, and how plant electromagnetic emissions have the ability to come into a place of coherence with the human heart. And it's through that synchronization between the electromagnetic field of the human heart and the electromagnetic field of the plant. That is the basis for plant-to-human communication.

And it's really based on a lot of traditional First Nations indigenous people when they are asked, how did you learn about all of your plants? How did you learn how all these plants heal? And they say, “Well, the plants told us.” And all the Westerners, we laugh and scoff and think that's the most ridiculous thing in the world. How can a plant talk? And plants certainly don't talk in the way that we're conversing right now. They speak more through language of feeling. And so, Buhner really digs into how really everything in nature has an electromagnetic dimension to it, and that a lot of communication within the plant itself.

So, for example, when a plant is growing its roots, there will be electromagnetic emissions from the roots that are helping the plant to understand where the water is in the soil, what direction it needs to grow, where the stones are that it needs to grow around. It can sense where it is before the root is actually touching it. So, there's been studies on that showing how the plants are using electromagnetic communication in that way, as well as the emission of certain, not pheromones, but volatile compounds essentially. So, there will be studies showing essentially where there will be a group of plants in the natural environment. A certain pest will land on one of those plants, and when it passed starts eating that plant. That plant sends out an electromagnetic pulse, basically, that then sends out these aromatic compounds that are then communicating to other plants in the vicinity to say, “Hey, there's this pass,” and then those plants will start secreting their own, essentially, pest deterrent chemicals in order to prevent themselves from being nibbled on.

Ben:  I'd heard that before about plants being able to communicate in that way via these organic compounds like essential oils that they release into the air. What I hadn't heard of was that, A, your heart can actually detect the electromagnetic field of the frequency emanated by plants, which says a lot for listening to your gut, for listening to your heart, and for tuning into the sacred intelligence of plants around you. And it's just fascinating when you wonder how much of that allowed our ancestors to intuitively dig into what a plant might be good for and when a plant might help them. But related to this idea of plant communication, beyond the electromagnetic field and beyond the essential oil field that you're talking about, you talk about how, for example, plants can actually, based on sensory awareness, see. Like they can actually perceive light. I believe you described their eyes as being like these billions of chloroplasts, right?

Sajah:  Yeah. I mean, even the most simple answer to that is looking at Helianthus annuus, the sunflower. And it's obviously very clearly aware of the sun and the way the flower head turns and follows the sun all the way throughout the day. The way that the plants will open and close essentially their pores or their stomata based on how much light they're being exposed to. Okay, we need to get more, do more photosynthesizing. We will open everything up to receive more light over. But when everything is open, kind of like us, we sweat, they sweat, they lose much–okay, we're losing too much water. We're going to close those down to preserve more water.

So, there is the way in which they self-regulate. There's all of this internal communication that's happening from within the plant. And yeah, they have all the same senses that we have. They just don't have eyes like we do or ears like we do, but they are very responsive to sensory stimulation, and they display awareness. That's the thing is like plants are aware. It's so easy for us as humans to think, “Oh, it's just sitting there and it just grows. Well, whatever, how smart can it be? It's just sitting there.” But it's like, man, when you really dig into it, plants are incredibly intelligent. And many argue that they're more intelligent than humans are because let's face it, they're doing a much better living on earth than we are because they're at least not destroying their home.

Ben:  There might be some differences in their level of consciousness, but yeah, they certainly–what we know, they can smell like the oils that you talked about. We know they can see based on biophotonic interaction with light with these chloroplasts. I think you get into the book about how they can taste because roots, basically, detect nutrient composition and mineral composition in the soil to sense how much they need to take in to actually fuel the plant. And then, they can touch. Like the roots can feel rocks. They can tell the difference between stone and soil. They kind of like grow in a pattern that traces the root's periphery, and vines, and climbing plants like same things when you're looking like ground-ivy, or hops, or passionflower, who it can grow based on touch.

So, it's fascinating. It makes you think a lot about just randomly without thought, cutting down a tree or even picking a plant from your garden. And I'm not saying people should think about like a clump of kale screaming bloody murder as you rip it from the ground. What I'm talking about is everything about the way that kale had been detecting dirt to the antioxidants it's producing as you rip it apart for a salad to the oils that it releases that could potentially alert the other kale to upregulate their production of plant defense mechanisms in response to being consumed by a mammal and they're eating the salad in the kitchen 100 feet away. It's just crazy how much these things can actually communicate. And then, of course there's the whole electromagnetic piece that nobody seems to talk about, but that also has impact. So, it's just absolutely fascinating.

Sajah:  Sometimes the information about plants being intelligent sometimes makes people feel some way where they're, “Oh, I feel really guilty now picking plants or whatever.” We have to realize that it's part and aspect, a part of, I feel like their purpose on this earth is they have this reciprocal relationship with humans. They just happen to have these nutrients in them, like foods, that we need in order to survive and thrive. It's like that's for a reason. There's a reason behind all of these things. And I always just like to encourage people just to have reference when you're picking and you're growing your food, you're picking food, you're picking herbs out of the wild. It's very important that there's just an awareness, and irreverence, and a gratitude, and an offering made to show that reciprocity that we're not just taking, taking, taking, but we're actually giving something back and really honoring and recognizing the life that is there within the plant. And that that plant is giving its life so that we can have life. I'm thinking more in terms of food, but it's true with the medicines, too, I suppose.

Ben:  Yeah. And we didn't even touch on hearing, the perception of vibrational wavelengths moving through space. I think you get in the book about how roots can produce small clicking sounds when their cells split to communicate. But this is really related to this idea like with ayahuasca, for example. We hear a lot about these specific songs that plants will have sung to them, songs that I think many shamans will say are taught to them by the plants themselves. But you say something about the ability to be able to receive the song of a plant and to carry the song of a plant along with you. What exactly do you mean by that, like the song of a plant? Can you get an example?

Sajah:  It's kind of what you're talking about. A lot of the First Nations people, both in North and South America, and I'm sure in other cultures, really speak highly of the ability to carry the song of a plant, which more often than not, it is something that they are shown from the plant itself, whether oftentimes that would be through a dream or through sitting with the plant for prolonged periods of time. And from the way that Buhner would describe it as it's through a deep level of coherence with the heart field of the person and the electromagnetic field of the plant. And there's a deep level of synchronization that occurs where in essence, the boundary that seems to separate self from plant begins to dissolve, and the consciousness of the plant, and the consciousness of the person start to mingle together.

And this is a thing that Buhner refers to as the pregnant point where you're at this precipice of this breakthrough of communication and communion with the plant. And it's through that that oftentimes the song of a plant will emerge for that person. And it's said to be, in many cultures, to carry the song of a plant is considered the highest honor because it has shared a part of its essence with the person. I mean, there's all kinds of songs for different purposes. There's harvesting songs, there's medicine-making songs, there's healing songs.

Ben:  Yeah. What do they call them in the Amazon, the icaros? Is that what they call them in the Amazon, ayahuasca icaros is what they sing when they're doing like an ayahuasca ceremony?

Sajah:  Yeah. Though the way I've heard a lot of traditional people down there explain them to Westerners, which is really funny, they use this way of describing because they probably figured the only way we get it is if they use some sort of technological reference. They say, “Yeah, each of these icaros, the songs, they're like a telephone number. That song is like a telephone number for a certain spirit of a plant, or an animal, or something, and we sing that song and we're calling that spirit to come and to heal.” And so, there's an aspect of that from the vibration of the song, the melody, and the intention behind that song is bringing the spirit of that plant or attribute of nature there to help to heal the patient that's there looking for healing.

Ben:  Now, when it comes to all these ways that plants can communicate amongst themselves, but also with us, I really like how you get into just like, I guess, beginning to sense plant intelligence. You have a series of practices that you recommend people walk through when they're just getting to know, say, like the plants in their backyard, or their local park, or their favorite forest walk. Can you walk us through that approach? Because you talk about stopping and becoming aware of what you perceive with your eyes, then you move into what to do when you sit in front of it. But walk us through it like an herbalist like yourself would approach getting to know a new plant that you've found or getting to know a few plants that are around you in nature.

Sajah:  Yeah. It's a really good question. And certainly, everyone is going to have their own individual way of going about it. The way it oftentimes this for me is if I'm wanting to establish a connection or relationship to a plant, especially one that I don't know, for me, it always begins with an offering and a prayer. For me, my relationship to plants is a very spiritual thing for myself personally. And I'm not saying it has to be that way for everyone, but the way it is for me is it's a very–yeah, to me, I always, for myself, need to acknowledge the intelligence of the plant, the spirit of the plant, the life that that plant has, the way that it is.

So, for me, there's always this initial offering that is made to the plant to introduce myself to the plant. And I oftentimes will share who I am, why I'm there, why I'm talking to this plant right now. And I'm talking to the plant in the same way that I'm talking to you and all the audience right now. It's not like I'm not getting all overly poetic. I know it might sound really woo-woo to some people, but it's really like I'm just taught the way I'm talking right now. And I just get very real with the plants. So, there's always that offering. And for me, the way that I was taught is that tobacco is always the best offering to make to a plant because it feeds the spirit of the plant, and it's like food for the spirit of the plant. And so, for me, there's always an offering in that way. And then, oftentimes, it begins with the sensory observation. There's a really great tenant in the Western esoteric systems, as well as Western herbalism referred to as the doctrine of signatures. And the doctrine of signatures is essentially learning to read the language of nature through form.

Ben:  I think I know what you're going to be getting at here because I've talked on the podcast before about like a walnut looks like a little brain, or a carrot, when you slice it, will look like an eye, or a pair of avocado is like the testicles and it can indicate what function physiologically that that plant might be good for. But you actually unpack it on an even deeper level in your book, bringing up this idea that what I just described is like a really superficial way to approach the doctrine of signatures. And you have a whole different explanation. And I think one really, really good example that you used is nettle. Perhaps you could walk the listeners through this idea of getting even deeper into the doctrine of signatures using–well, use nettle as an example. I think that was a really good example that you used.

Sajah:  Well, it's a great plant to use as an example because a lot of folks are familiar with nettles. Yeah. And don't get me wrong, the one-to-one relationship of signatures where the plant looks like the part of the body that it's remedial for is absolutely a big part of the doctrine of signatures. I think the thing for me is that oftentimes, that's the only part of it that's taught. And if we only see signatures as the plant looks like the part of the body that it treats, it's very one dimensional, and there's many other layers to this.

So, for those in the audience that aren't familiar with signatures, it's way of looking at the form of something that indicates the function or the internal state of it. And we can read signatures in people, too. That's the whole art of facial diagnostics. Essentially, you're reading the signatures within a person. But so within a plant, like take nettles, for example, well, one very excellent signature of nettles is the environment in which it grows, and this is always very indicative about the nature of a medicinal plant. Where does it grow? Is it growing in the full sun? Is it growing in the shade? Is it in the woods? Is it in the mountains? Is it next to the water? Is it really dry? Where does that plant-like to grow? And I always say that it's often the case, not always, it's not a hard rule, but it is very common that a plant will grow in an ecosystem in nature very similar to the ecosystem within the human body that it treats as a medicine. So, looking at it through the lens of energetics.

So, with nettles, one thing that we see with nettles is that it really likes to grow in damp environments, along the creek beds, rivers, swampy, marshy areas. It also really likes to grow around areas where there's a lot of nitrogenous waste. So, that can be down the hill from the outhouse. For us, it's all around our chicken coop. And what that as the signature of is the urinary tract. That is a very clear signature for urinary tract that's the water element, that it's working on the fluids of the body. And one of the things we see about it now is it's a very strong diuretic. It increases and promotes not only urination, but the purging of fluids from tissues very, very effectively.

So, that's an environmental signature. But one of the ways that I like to use the doctrine of signatures is by–and you briefly mentioned it earlier, is the way in which plant–like the thing about the regular way of looking at signatures is like it's saying, “Hey, plant, how do you reflect me? How do you reflect an organ of my body?” And it's very human-centric. And I think when we're looking at the more esoteric traditions from the West, the alchemical tradition, specifically, we say that the macrocosm is within the microcosm, that the plant is an embodiment of all of the macrocosmic forces of nature. And the way that I oftentimes break that down is on the seven planets, inner planets, the elements, and these three philosophical principles, salt, sulfur, and mercury that you had mentioned.

So, the elements are really easy way to do this. So, if we were to look at nettles through the lens of the elements, we look at nettles and you see, oh, it's like all these really sharp serrated leaf margins. The edges of the leaves look like a sawtooth. And then, it's got all these prickly sharp crystals all over it, and then you touch it and it stings you. It burns and it gets really red, and hot, and inflamed, and itchy, and irritated. So, we just look at that. That is a very clear signature of the fire element. It's intense, and it's sharp, and it's red when you touch it, and it burns and stings.

And in traditions of medicine that understand the elements, they say that fire element governs things like heat and inflammation. And what an Ayurveda that would refer to as pita. It's sharp, it's penetrating, it burns, it stings, it rules the blood, it rules the heart, it rules the adrenal glands. There's all these different at the immune system, immunity and inflammation. These are all things that correlate to the fire element. And when we look at nettles, we see that it has that fire elemental quality in it.

I kind of smuggled it a little bit, but when you look at it from the lens of the planets, Mars is also very fitting there. Mars takes up a lot of those qualities that I mentioned about the fire elements. The Red Planet, it's associated with battle, and war, and intensity. And Mars rules the blood. Nettles is this incredible blood-purifying plant. We use it for what the old doctors called “bad blood syndrome,” which isn't really necessarily the blood itself. It's actually really the extracellular matrix, but they called it the blood. But nettles is also full of iron. The blood is full of iron. Mars is the planet in medical astrology that governs iron.

So, there's this really cool three-way connection between planet and person that really is at the crux of the alchemical tradition, but it's also things that can just be seen through the signature of the plant. So, just looking at the nature of Mars and the nature of nettles, we see this innate connection, this correlation that there's a signature in the plant that refers it back to that particular planet. And this makes sense on this whole other level when we look at, well, the root of nettle is working on the prostate gland. Mars rules the prostate gland. The seed of nettle works on the adrenal glands. Mars rules the adrenal glands. Mars rules heat and inflammation and irritation while nettles treat heat and inflammation and irritation.

So, there's all these layers and layers and layers between the way a plant and a planet and a person are connected, which is a big part of the work that I do with alchemy and medical astrology. It can be really easy in that world to have it be very intellectual and very kind of like arm chair-based. And I always like to really get it practical and real like, no, go look at the plant, touch the plant, taste the plant, because there's a signature right there that will speak to you if you cultivate the awareness to be able to perceive it. And so, I know we went down that rabbit hole ways, but I think that's one of the most important ways for people that are wanting to start to understand the language of plants is to just use your senses to look at it, to touch it, to taste it, to feel it, obviously making sure it's a safe plant to touch and taste and all that stuff.

And that sensory observation is very, very important. From there, I just like to have people to just sit with it. Just sit and meditate with the plant. Do your best to calm your mind, to breathe. Always tell people to stay focused on their breath, and to bring your awareness from your head down into your heart. You want to feel with your heart as if all of your consciousness was in your chest region and it just you breathe in and out through your heart and you're reaching outwards from your heart and touching the plant with your heart, breathing the plant into your heart, breathing your heart into the plant. And what you're doing is you're dropping yourself down into this trance where you're synchronizing the electromagnetic field of the heart with the electromagnetic field of the plant. And you're just writing that same wave together.

And as you do that, there's oftentimes feelings that emerge. Sometimes memories surface. Sometimes interesting things start happening where you are suddenly, as your heart comes into a coherent connection with the plant, your brain entrains with your heart and it's going to use whatever means it can to communicate its meaning to you. So, it's oftentimes through feeling. And oftentimes, that can also surface through memories that trigger certain feelings. So, it's a very interesting process communicating with plants, dreaming with plants, connecting to them on this more, I guess, subtle, esoteric spiritual level.

I had a student a number of years ago. He was like a computer tech guy, lived in the city, and he really didn't believe in this stuff so much, but he had a buddy that was really into herbalism. He was like, “Well, I'll go to these workshops with you, whatever. Probably a bunch of woo-woo BS anyway, but whatever, I'll check it out.” And when this guy started sitting with plants, he had the most profound experiences I've ever heard where he's like, “I touched one with the left hand and one with the right hand and I felt this energy circulating through the plants and me, and I had these visions.” I mean, and that guy now, he grows ashwagandha and ashwagandha farm in Portland, and totally turned his life around, and it's all about the medicinal plants.

I know it sounds really out there and woo-woo, but it's actually really real. And I always love to just encourage people to have an experience of it. But I think there's something that taps us into what it means to be a human when we have a connection and a relationship to another form of life that's not human.

Ben:  Yeah. Now, what though, when it comes to studying plants like this, what do you think about some of these plant identification apps? I've got two on my phone now, the one called FlowerChecker, another one called PictureThis. FlowerChecker is more like a live team of botanists. On the other end, fill you in on the medicinal and edible uses of a plant within about 24 hours after you sent through a photo. It's like a paid $0.99 per ID type of app. The other one, PictureThis, it's artificial intelligence. Like you snap and it identifies it with surprising accuracy. I'm curious, do you consider those to be like a bastardization of talking to plants or learning about plants? Or what's your take on these plant ID apps?

Sajah:  Yeah. Well, I mean, to be perfectly honest, it sounds way easier than keying them out for yourself. I remember being in botany classes and plant ID classes and have to use these very tedious involved keys to figure out the specific species of a plant, and they're very challenging to work with. I mean, in a way, it sounds a lot easier than that because to be perfectly honest, I'm not the best botanist or person at plant ID on like microscopic levels as some are. I mean, I guess I don't know how I feel about it. I've never used any of them, so I'm not really totally sure how good they are. I mean, the one where there's actually real people on the other side. that sounds like it might potentially be a little more trustworthy than just an AI because there are some plants that do look very similar that some of them you really don't want to get the wrong one. It's like you don't want to mistake the [01:04:43] _____ for the Angelica or whatever.

Ben:  Yeah. I've made that mistake before with asparagus versus wild asparagus and almost overdosed on nicotine with–I think it was brassica, some form of asparagus that wasn't really asparagus. My take after reading your book and using some of these apps is I'm a little bit more aware of just sitting with the plant now, of picking it, of feeling it, of listening to it, of even holding up against my body, putting a little bit against my mouth. I guess acting in a more intimate manner with it than just like whipping out my phone and photographing it and sending it off and saying, “Oh, that's a cool Wikipedia page for that.”

It's actually become a little bit more meaningful to wander through the plant kingdom after reading your book and understanding, dude, these things are smart. They can touch, they can taste, they can smell, they can hear, they have an electromagnetic field. There's a lot more to them than just like, I don't know, looking at a person and saying a person is, I don't know, a Caucasian, 30 to 40-year-old male who is an engineer. Yeah, like that tells you a little bit about that person, but if you break bread with them, eat with them, sing with them, walk with them. there's a whole different part of personhood that goes way above and beyond what does this person look like and what do they functionally do.

Sajah:  And I think that's the thing is, yeah, it is good to make sure that you have a good, solid identification of a plant that you're working with. I just don't like it when technology gets in the way of people actually connecting to the nature that's right in front of them. And it just makes me think of like how many times you see families out to dinner or whatever and everyone is just sitting there on their phone or whatever. And I'm like, “What is this? There's humans right in front of you. There's connection to be had right here.” And so, I think it's the same thing with the plants that I would hate. I think technology like that can be very helpful. I just don't want it to make people too lazy and not do the work to really look at that plant very closely, like really get in there. Look at the plant. Get into those flowers. Get into those leaves. I want you to be able to memorize every detail about how that plant looks just in your mind by observing it and not needing to use an app to figure it out.

Ben:  That makes sense. Now, in your book, you actually get into how you actually treat using plants using this type of sympathetic medicine approach, how you type the human being themselves to discover how certain plants are going to work well with them. You get into typing based on what you called the “elemental principles” and talk about how you actually extract what you need to extract from a plant as an evolutionary herbalist. And of course, there's so much there to unpack that what I wanted to do was get the basic overview of why people should even care about this on this episode. And then, in Part 2, we're going to talk about all of the ways that you can actually treat yourself from a practical standpoint and how an evolutionary herbalist like you worked with people from a medicinal standpoint.

But in the meantime, I think anybody who's listening in that's remotely interested in plant foraging, plant medicine, the sacred intelligence of plants, and developing a deeper appreciation for in relationship with plants, I mean, you could be–in reading the book, I felt like I could read as a physician and this could be like a training manual. I also felt like it'll read it as a person like I am, just someone supremely curious about plants all around us, and what I can learn from them, and how they can be used. It's just almost like a field handbook for that, too. So, I'm going to link to all of that in the shownotes at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/herbalism, and also to Sajah's website and more information about him and what he does.

But Sajah, does that sound good to visit some of the more practical aspects of treating someone with plants and some specific remedies and examples in the next show that we record?

Sajah:  Oh, yeah, absolutely. I feel like it's always helpful to–in the alchemical tradition, they always say there's two parts of the work. There's philosophy and there's practice. And philosophy without practice is pointless. And practice without philosophy are just bumbling around and you don't really know what you're doing. So, I always think it's good to balance the two out and felt like I had a really fun opportunity to tread in some of the philosophical waters and the theory waters and things like that. And I feel like we could definitely wrap on some really great stuff in the next episode on some of how all of this is applied practically in terms of actually healing yourself and others with medicinal plants. So, yeah, that sounds like great.

Ben:  Yeah. Okay, cool. Well, we'll do it. In the meantime, folks, the book is called “Evolutionary Herbalism,” talking with Sajah Popham, the author. And I'll link to his website. All the shownotes are at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/herbalism. Thanks for tuning in and have an amazing week.

Well, thanks for listening to today's show. You can grab all the shownotes, the resources, pretty much everything that I mentioned over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, along with plenty of other goodies from me, including the highly helpful “Ben Recommends” page, which is a list of pretty much everything that I've ever recommended for hormone, sleep, digestion, fat loss, performance, and plenty more. Please, also, know that all the links, all the promo codes, that I mentioned during this and every episode, helped to make this podcast happen and to generate income that enables me to keep bringing you this content every single week. When you listen in, be sure to use the links in the shownotes, use the promo codes that I generate, because that helps to float this thing and keep it coming to you each and every week.

When I interviewed Gordon Wilson in the show “Are Christians Destroying The Environment? A Biblical Approach to Environmentalism and the “Dominion Mandate.”, I mentioned a book called The Lost Language of Plants by Stephen Buhner, which describes the innate intelligence built into the plant kingdom, and the loss of natural connectivity we rational, scientific humans have developed when it comes to the plant kingdom.

Since then, I've continued my interest in the, shall we say, more spiritual, medicinal, and little-known aspects of the plant kingdom, including trees, leaves, roots, herbs, flowers, flower essences, essential oils, plant medicines, and beyond. One book I've discovered along the way is Evolutionary Herbalism: Science, Spirituality, and Medicine from the Heart of Nature by today's podcast guest, Sajah Popham.

In Sajah's book, which weaves together herbal and medical traditions from around the world into a singular cohesive model, you're guided from an herbal practitioner's point of view to a comprehensive understanding of the practice and philosophy of healing with herbs.

Sajah presents an innovative approach to herbalism that considers the holistic relationship among plants, humans, and the underlying archetypal patterns in nature. Organized into five parts moving from the microcosmic to the universal, Sajah's work explores a unique integration of clinical herbalism, Ayurveda, medical astrology, spagyric alchemy, and medical and esoteric traditions from across the world in a truly holistic system of plant medicine. A balance of the heart and the mind, the science and spirit of people and plants, Evolutionary Herbalism provides a holistic context for how plants can be used for transformational levels of healing for the body, spirit, and soul. For both the student herbalist and experienced practitioner, Popham's original perspectives guide you to a more intimate, synergistic, and intuitive relationship with the plant kingdom, people, and nature as a whole.

Sajah Popham's mission is to share knowledge, tools, and medicine that promote the healing power of plants —to not just heal our bodies of disease, but to assist in the evolution of human consciousness back into its natural state. His holistic focus is on finding the universal principles and practices across herbal traditions and using plants in a way that not only brings about physical healing and rejuvenation but psychological and emotional health along with spiritual transformation. Sajah holds a degree in Herbal Sciences from Bastyr University and has studied herbal traditions across the world and with some of North America's top clinical practitioners. He lives in the Pacific Northwest forest with his wife Whitney.

Sajah's approach unites traditional models in a way that utilizes the whole plant (chemistry, energetics, and spirit) to heal the whole person (body, spirit, and soul) by getting to the root causes of disease.

During our discussion, you'll discover:

-How an evolutionary herbalist describes his “day job”…06:25

  • Sajah was on track to be a neurosurgeon as a child and young man
  • Felt deep connection to nature, the natural world (alternative lifestyle)
  • This led to a study of herbalism, attended Bastyr University
  • Medicinal plants are not just collections of random chemicals
  • Touches the heart, mind, soul—changes who we are on the inside

-The study environment at Bastyr University…10:15

  • Different sciences surrounding plants and people
  • Anatomy of plants
  • Materia medica(plants by family)
  • Formulations of medicines

-How a disconnection between the human and plant kingdom has helped to create some of the chaos we see today…13:00

  • Our ancestors had a much closer connection to the earth and plant kingdom
  • We buy packaged foods, medicines in tiny capsules; you don't see the root or the leaves
  • “Every breath we take is a gift of the plant kingdom”
  • Stress, insomnia, anxiety, depression, etc. is tied to the disconnect
  • Paracelsus: “The art of healing comes from nature, not the physician”

-“Vitalism” and its connection to evolutionary herbalism…17:30


  • Looking at nature/plants/people, understanding innate intelligence within them
  • Work withthis vital intelligence, not against
  • Physiological process of a fever
  • Allopathic medicine sees the condition as the enemy, rather than the response to an imbalance
  • “Why is that symptom there” vs. eliminating the symptom
  • Not fighting nature, working with nature
  • Suppressing a symptom such as a fever can elongate it in the long run
  • Qi, energy, are alternate ways of describing vitalism

-Can plants be misused as is often the case with pharmaceuticals?…23:45

  • You can't take herbs blindly and trust all will work out
  • “What is this plant good for?” is the wrong question to ask
  • There are some drugs that are far more efficacious than plants in certain circumstances
  • Plants are more effective for chronic issues than OTC drugs
  • Energetics: visualized by a dry vs. wet cough

-Molecular herbalism contrasted with evolutionary herbalism…28:50

  • Molecular herbalism doesn't place as much of an impact on the vital force of nature
  • Disease is viewed on a molecular level
  • Supplements have their place, but we can't be dependent on them
  • Thomas Cowan's vegetable powders(use code BEN to save 15%)

-How plants have their own electromagnetic field…36:20

  • The Secret Teaching of Plantsby Stephen Buhner
  • A plant is formed by the EMF of its roots
  • Volatile compounds
  • The heart can detect the EMF emanated by plants
  • Ancestors could intuitively know what and how a plant could be used

-How plants have the same senses we do…40:15

  • Display awareness in ways humans can't perceive
  • They're perhaps more intelligent than humans
  • Differences in level of consciousness, but plants have senses just as humans do
  • Plants have a reciprocal relationship with humans (don't feel guilty for picking them out of the ground)
  • Reverential attitude and gratitude toward plants and the plant kingdom

-The “song” of a plant…45:20

  • Deep level of coherence between the heart of a human and the EMF of the plant
  • Synchronization occurs, the boundary begins self and plant begins to dissolve
  • Song of a plant emerges for a person in tune with the EMF of the plant
  • Highest honor, as the plant has shared its essence with the person
  • Different songs: harvesting, medicine-making, etc.

-The Doctrine of Signatures and how Sajah “gets to know” a new plant…49:15

  • Begins with an offering and a prayer with the plant
  • Talk the plant as you would to a person in normal conversation
  • Tobacco is the best offering to make to a plant
  • Doctrine of Signatures—learning to read the language of nature through form
  • Plant looks like the part of the body it treats (avocado, walnut, carrot)
  • Nettle as an example:
    • The environment where it grows (damp, nitrogenous waste)
    • Efficacious for the urinary tract
    • Edges of leaves look sharp (fire element)
    • Blood purifying plant (bad blood syndrome)
    • Full of iron
    • Comparison to planet Mars
  • Use your own senses to get in touch with the plant's EMF
  • Meditate with the plant; bring awareness from the head down to the heart
  • Feelings emerge, memories surface, as the heart comes into a coherent connection with the plant

-What Sajah thinks of AI related to plants…1:03:04

-A sneak preview of what's to come in Part 2 with Sajah…1:07:04

-And much more!…

Resources from this episode:

– Sajah Popham:

– Podcasts:

– Books:

– Other Resources:

Upcoming Events:

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