This article is based on episode #30 of A Bridge To Wholeness podcast. You can listen to the episode on iTunes, Stitcher, and on our website.
Jennifer Crisp: We have a really interesting guest with us today. She actually is an herb nerd, and her name is Kim K. Johnson. Kim, welcome to A Bridge To Wholeness with your host Jennifer Crisp. Welcome to you, you are the Herb Nerd. I find that to be quite an interesting title.
Kim K. Johnson: Well thank you Jennifer. I am so glad to be here with you today. Looking forward to our conversation.
Jennifer Crisp: Yes, absolutely. I’m going to read a little bit about you so that people know who you are. You are really passionate about teaching people to own their own health while saving the planet, which I think is really interesting. We usually hear saving the planet, or taking care of yourself, but we usually don’t hear it together. That’s a piece about you that I find very, very interesting. You provide healthy resources and products in your business. When you were younger, you refused to be a nurse … That’s okay. I’m a nurse, but I’m not going to hold that against you. … A teacher or a social worker. When you graduated from high school, you actually became a theater electrician. In 1977 you became one of the first women hired as a Walt Disney World stage technician. Wow, that’s an accomplishment in itself. In 2009 you left that career as a producer for Disney, and you state that you really loved your job at Disney and that it was very incredible, but there were thousands of people whose lives were not as magical. Wow.
You evidently had some type of a health scare or something that you were dealing with and you really wanted to do something about that, so you opened Good Life, which was a bricks and mortar store, correct?
Kim K. Johnson: Yes, in Arcadia, Florida.
Jennifer Crisp: Right, right in 2009. It was a small organic store.
Kim K. Johnson: Yes, with a few antiques on the side.
Jennifer Crisp: Yeah. Then in 2011 you went strictly online.
Kim K. Johnson: A lot of things happened, mother’s health. We had to close the brick and mortar and come back to Orlando, so everything went online.
Jennifer Crisp: Oh, okay. Tell me about that change from being a theater electrician to an herb nerd. I mean, that’s quite a shift in careers.
Kim K. Johnson: Well, the theater technician became a manager, and ultimately a producer at Disney. I grew in my career, I also am one of those people who works until the job is done, and so I found myself putting 80 and a 100 hour weeks in while I was raising my son and dealing with ill elders. I’ve been in that sandwiched group.
Corporate America isn’t always so kind in that flexibility of needs. I became one of those women who thought I could do everything and just do it on a few hours sleep and a lot of prayer. In 2008 at the end of my largest custom event, I had adrenal failure. I literally hit the wall and had adrenal failure. When I went into the medical leave at that time, and I sought naturopath solutions to that illness, because especially in that 2008, we’re talking over 10 years ago, adrenal failure really wasn’t even recognized yet as an actual illness. It was still something like fibromyalgia. We were all kind of whining and the doctors just weren’t paying attention.
At that point is when I really, a lot of things socioeconomically had bothered me about working in corporate America and I didn’t want to move up a ladder where my decisions had to be negative for people, and so it really was an overnight decision. I had a pretty spiritual afternoon experience and ended up renting an antique space in this little town and opening this organic store. At the time, again we’re talking before organic had really become an absolute in people’s worlds, we were still convincing people, or people were still trying to convince people like me that organic had a reason. A couple of years earlier my husband and I had chosen to start reducing the number of chemically based products in our house, so a lot of things were sort of coming together at the same time, my health and looking at a naturopath solution, changing our house to a nontoxic house, and moving into organic diet choices.
Organic was a really big thing for me and it’s why when we opened a store, what we wanted to do was to carry products that were good for people and we felt good for the planet. Herbs just grow naturally without a lot of help.
The biggest part for humans is to be careful not to over use them, over pick them, you know make them scarce. Other than that, the earth pretty much provides the healthy solution of herbs. Then it sort of grew into teas and spices. The whole combination of organic tea, organic herbs and spices has become the full blown set of products that I carry with a few side body products that I’ve found over the years that I love. I think I say in my biography, I graduated from high school in ’74, so I’ve always had this really strong need to fight for people’s rights and conservation. Those were really, really major in my life, in the mid 70s. You had women’s rights, Title IX, a lot of conservation and ecology going on. I grew up in rural Minnesota. There was just a lot that fed into what has turned out to be kind of a lifelong way of life. I didn’t realize that I’d always been looking at herbs and making my own body products until I formalized it. Then I found all those books on my bookshelf.
Jennifer Crisp: I always find that to be so fascinating, right, because yeah it’s very much like that. You kind of do these things, but you don’t really, you’re not really committed to it because life is busy, you were in your corporate job, but it’s the same with me. When I became a nurse, after I became nurse, I realized golly I’ve always been taking care of people. I mean it was just part of what I’ve always done, so it was kind of natural for me to go that route. But I always liked teaching as well, so now that’s part of the reason I do the podcast is because it’s educational. So yeah we kind of find those things and we, like you said, you looked back on your bookshelf and you’re like, oh, I didn’t know I had that, I forgot I had that book, oh wow.
Kim K. Johnson: Oh yeah. On gardening, on making your own body products, on herbs. I mean I have had books since I was in high school that I’d carried around with me all along. I didn’t even get rid of them at different times of sloughing things off, so it was there. That combined with the, I’m also a union supporter. I’ve been a union stagehand in my life. So again, when it came down to knowing that people were not getting paid well enough and I was climbing a corporate ladder and I felt like I was doing it on their backs, those were all things that became untenable for me as a person.
And so it’s just been, as we’ve moved through the last 12 years, finding ways to educate people has become a little more challenging after we closed that brick and mortar. I did some newsletters. Of course there’s a little bit of social media, but the most recent starting of our Good Life Happenings program, which is allowing us to do some workshops and some market events, is now giving me the opportunity to educate. Not unlike you where the education piece was missing for me. It’s just not about selling people products that are healthy. I want people to understand their choices. And not just with what I sell, but just in general.
When you come back to that bigger picture of the government and our corporate food and our corporate pharmaceuticals. All those other bigger issues end up sort of being on the outskirts of why I do what I do.
Jennifer Crisp: And I think that, I think it’s important that you say that because the Western medicine is there for a reason. If we need acute care, we need acute care. If you’re in a car accident or you need to have surgery, thank goodness. But I keep coming back to this message. Almost every episode I do I say the same thing. There is acute care and then there is your health maintenance, your self care, your what it is that you do on a daily basis that helps you to maintain and sustain your health. Incorporating herbs into your life is so simple.
Kim K. Johnson: Well, and it’s those sorts of things that I’m trying to help people understand. I call it my herbal medicine cabinet. There are 10 or 12 herbs that I believe that if everybody had those in their house, it would reduce the frequency of running down to the local drug store to buy an antihistamine, or an antacid, or your Tylenol’s and your aspirins. Those are the sorts of things, at least on the, those are the low hanging fruit for me, for getting people to understand there’s an herb for that. Sometimes it’s so simple.
One of my favorites is thyme mint as a tea. It is a natural antihistamine and it can replace antihistamines and decongestants.
It’s really yummy. I actually have a customer who started drinking that tea 10 years ago. Five years into that she stopped taking her COPD meds. She’s 85 years old. She drinks thyme mint every day and she does not take steroids and all the other things that doctors would have wanted her to. The doctors have to admit, she doesn’t really need them anymore.
It clears up the lungs in the head, and it’s 50 cents a cup Jennifer.
Jennifer Crisp: I mean what did we do 50, 75, 100 years ago.
Kim K. Johnson: Well, that’s why grandma had that herb garden.
Jennifer Crisp: That’s why she had the herb garden. I mean we even have studies on chicken soup and the curative powers of chicken soup. They swear it’s like you’re inhaling the steam and the broth-
Kim K. Johnson: It’s absolutely those things.
Jennifer Crisp: And the herbs and spices that go into that. It seems so crazy, and yet it’s really not. This is one thing I tell people, you know, you don’t realize sometimes that when you have a common cold, instead of running down to the drug store and picking up NyQuil or whatever type of decongestant you’re going to be on, what is something else that you could try at home that would be beneficial. A lot of people are using essential oils to inhale, to break up the mucous, clear the head, et cetera. What are some herbs that we could use, or some teas that we could drink that would help us with a cold?
Kim K. Johnson: My signature program is called HEALTH. How funny is that? That sounds kind of crazy, but its Home, Environment, Alternative, Labels, Teas And Herbs. In each of the segments of the workshop, what you’re talking about is exactly what I tried to do. Just on a really basic level, first of all, go into your house and look at your cupboards. Look at the labels. Find out what’s in your food. Find out what’s in your body products. Look at your cleaning products. Just look at them. Once you’ve looked, it’s hard to not look anymore, first of all.
Jennifer Crisp: What is that saying, once you’ve learned something, you can’t unlearn it.
Kim K. Johnson: You can’t unlearn it. So at least go take a review. Then, you look at your environment. Not just what’s in your cupboards, but do you have a plugin stuck into your wall? Are you going to places that have high perfume scents? Are you spending any time in a closed garage or near petroleum scent? Those are all things that end up in your lungs.
By becoming at least aware of what that looks like, you suddenly become aware that every time you walk into a hotel you are hit in the face with smells, and chemicals, and things that you weren’t even aware you were smelling until we start teaching you to think about what that looks like.
Jennifer Crisp: I want to say it’s so interesting that you mentioned all the different smells because I know that just the plugins, for example, or the room sprays, I learned years ago that the reason they smell good or they help to eliminate odor is because they actually coat our mucus membranes with chemicals that actually stop the olfactory senses from working. So you’re lining your all your mucosal membranes and your lungs and everything with these chemicals. Once I found that out, I was like okay that’s it, that’s the end of that. I didn’t really use them anyway, but I thought well even scented candles probably do some of that as well unless they’re like a soy based candle. But even that is something really simple that we have to just be aware of. We have to just be aware of how these things work on our bodies and inside of our systems.
So I often talk to people about their environment and how their environment itself has such an effect on our physical bodies. So you know, you’re right. I mean petroleum products. When we open the windows of the house that’s wonderful, but if you’re living on a road where there’s a heavy amount of traffic, you’re just bringing in all the fumes. You have to weigh that against opening the windows or having cleaner air inside. There’s a lot to think about here.
But what if we decide we want to incorporate more organic foods and herbs into our lifestyle. How do we start? How do you even, where do you go to get information for that? It’s seems to me it’s almost a daunting task to think oh my gosh I want an herb, but I don’t even know what I want it for. I mean, for me, I do use, for nausea I use ginger. I don’t even think about it. I actually have candied ginger and I just chew on it, and it literally knocks the nausea right out of your system.
Kim K. Johnson: You’re right. It’s a perfect choice. I know people who have been in chemotherapy and it’s the only thing that helps their stomach is to chew on a little bit of that candied ginger.
Anise and peppermint can also be really good for what they call gray digestion, when you just kind of have that ugh feeling.
One of the ways to find solutions would be to reach out to me. That is part of what I am available to my customers for. Or come to one of the workshops that we’re building, in Orlando anyway. I’ve got a series of three workshops that gets you through the 12 herbs for your medicine cabinet.
It isn’t easy, but what’s part of why I’m doing what I’m doing with my market event is because the resources do exist and I think that they have not been brought together well, organized well. Part of my goal is to bring together in an online, as well as maybe a little bit of a print resource guide, those things that already exist locally, what restaurants are using good, healthy food, where can you go to buy the best fruits and vegetables. There’s two organic vegetable and fruit deliveries in Orlando and people don’t even know about them.
It’s trying to bring that sort of knowledge to everybody through my online presence and as well as my events.
Jennifer Crisp: Well it’s interesting because when you and I were children, because we’re about the same age, I remember going to the roadside stands, or even if you went to the grocery store, and if you bought apples or you bought, oranges or peaches, they were not perfect. In fact, sometimes they had a worm in the apple, or you would have a little brown spot. Your fruit went, you had to eat it right away because it wasn’t, it was not shipped across the country where it wasn’t even ripened yet. Everything was local. We just, we didn’t think about produce being pretty, so to speak.
Kim K. Johnson: Sure. Like the heirloom vegetables that we have now.
Jennifer Crisp: Like the heirloom vegetables. That in itself, I keep thinking about the younger generation, because we’re mature women now. I’m talking like 30, the 30 years and younger, they don’t even know what a wormy apple looks like. They don’t even know.
Kim K. Johnson: Well it’s actually funny because the millennial group, my son is 30, and they are actually quite aware and think we’re all kind of nuts for having bought into all of the manufactured products that we thought were great over the last-
Jennifer Crisp: There you go. That’s a great point. That’s a great point. But I know that I’ve also done a lot of research on, because I used to teach, I did nutrition education for people. I know for a fact that if you take an organic apple and you slice it down to a microscopic level, and you take an apple that’s been sprayed 35 to 40 times, because that’s the average amount of sprays that fruit get while they’re growing, first of all, the apple, the sprayed apple is always larger because it doesn’t have an immune, it doesn’t have to fight nature.
So it gets bigger and bigger. The organic apple is usually a little bit smaller sometimes. But when you put them under a microscope, the nutrient content of the organic fruit versus the sprayed fruit is quite a lot more in the organic because it’s immune system has to fight off all the predators. We don’t think about this, but it’s got to be the same with herbs.
Kim K. Johnson: And it’s the chemicals that they spray on everything. Even if, even if you couldn’t make that corollary that organic is always more nutritious, what I can say is it always has less chemicals involved in its creation. But what you’ve spoken to here is one of my big mantras, and that’s know your farmer, eat local, eat what’s in season.
That’s where are our society and our need for constant gratification in the moment has created tomatoes that taste like cardboard because they look pretty and you can use a whole bunch of gasoline and truck them across the country. If on the other hand you learn, and we’ve all got local farmers and local could be a hundred mile radius, but we’ve all got local farmers. Learn who they are. You’ll find that some of them can’t get organic certification because it’s really hard and it’s really expensive, but if you get to know your farmers, you’ll learn that they don’t spray and they have good fresh chicken eggs, and that you can eat better and cheaper if you have a freezer in your garage and you learn where those local farmers are. I believe in eating local and in season.
Jennifer Crisp: And in season. That is a tough one because you have to think about it, we in America have fruits and vegetables year round. Strawberries are not to be eaten in January. I mean there’s a reason for fruits and vegetables in season. There’s a physical reason for that.
In the summertime we need lighter fruits, lighter vegetables because we need to stay so hydrated. There’s just more nutrients and vitamins and minerals in those particular fruits and vegetables that are good for that season. In the winter, we go more into the root vegetables and all those because they’re more warming. They fill us up. They keep us warmer. I’ve always told people, I said don’t eat strawberries in January. Don’t eat tomatoes in January. Wait. Because then when they do come in to season, they taste better. Again, if you can get them locally, that’s even better. If you can do organic and you can afford it, that’s the best, obviously.
Kim K. Johnson: Well, and that’s kind of one of those things that people are, believe that organic is always more expensive, but it isn’t. Sometimes it is, but the reality is that just like anything else, it comes on sale and when it’s in season it’s usually not so expensive.
When you’re trying to buy an organic cauliflower and it isn’t organic cauliflower season, you’re probably going to pay a lot for it.
But right now the cauliflowers I’m getting are so big that I can make four meals out of one of them.
Jennifer Crisp: Exactly. Well, tell us, with the herbs, do you recommend using them just as basically teas, or do you recommend learning to cook with them in your foods? Do you go both ways? I know I have an herb garden. I’m married to a gardener. I mean literally I have gardens all over the place. I can barely keep up sometimes. But with the herbs sometimes, I love them, they’re beautiful, they smell good, sometimes I just go out and run my hand along and smell the herbs, but I don’t always know what to do with them.
Kim K. Johnson: Well it’s a really, really great question. Herbs and spices are really basically the same thing. They come from plants. Herbs are typically more like the seeds and the roots, and they usually think of spices coming more ground and that sort of thing. But the reality is they all come from plants, and in herbs and in cooking you use all the different parts. On a nutmeg, you’re using the seed. On cinnamon, you’re using the bark. In peppermint, it’s the leaf.
But what’s interesting when you start to look at it is that, back to our grandmothers, they knew that all those spices actually had health benefits. Oregano is fabulous if you are getting a cold or you’re trying to fight off those winter-
Jennifer Crisp: Yes. I can definitely attest to that.
Kim K. Johnson: You were talking about chicken soup. Well, most people put some of those Italian kind of, you know the parsley’s and the thyme’s and the oregano’s. Those are all really healthy. It’s more the way that they’re presented. When I use sage to help with night sweats and offer it up as a tea, it’s more like a leaf that’s been cut up. Whereas you rubbed sage that we’re all used to for cooking, it’s just the sage has been handled differently, but it’s the same plant.
Another thing is that it’s not all internal. We were doing a chamomile tea the other day and I forgot to bring my my steeper, so I had to take a paper towel so that I could get the chamomile out of the liquid for drinking the tea. What I had left in my hand was a chamomile compress. Chamomile compress is good for burns-
And for his skin issues like eczema and stuff. Suddenly they’re in my workshop I had this solution I created. You can use herbs in a lot of ways. They make herbal oils. They make tinctures, which is when you have masticated herbs in alcohol for about four weeks and then you get the materials out, and the liquid that’s left over is like concentrated benefit of the herbs. That’s called a tincture.
People make poultices. They drink teas. They use it in cooking. There’s a myriad of ways to incorporate these ideas into your life, which is why I speak to a lifestyle change, I’m not just an herb person. I’m about people owning their own health by making a lot of different decisions along the path on what their lifestyle looks like and the herbs and spices are just a piece of it.
Jennifer Crisp: It’s just a piece of it, but it’s an important piece. I think that the way that we’re so inundated with solutions that are out of the box, they’re out of the box, they’re the cold remedies and all these different things, I mean they have their place, but if you have these things in your home and you begin to utilize them, I think you’re going to start to see a shift in the way you even look at how you’re doing things.
Kim K. Johnson: I agree.
Jennifer Crisp: What other areas can you make changes that are going to be beneficial to your health and more sustainable for you?
Kim K. Johnson: And they mostly don’t have any other kind of side effects. You can’t always say 100% and not all people respond the same way to all herbs. Like anything there could be allergies, there could be issues.
Here’s another thing between herbs and your over the counters. When you get an over the counter, it has one purpose, whatever that is, whatever it is you just bought it for. Whatever herb you’re taking to deal with that same issue typically does a lot more for your body than address that one issue. It has minerals. It has vitamins. It has other things going on. That’s also part of the fun of learning.
Jennifer Crisp: The fun of learning, yeah. With that, I know we’re going to have to start wrapping up. We’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg here. I mean really. I know that you’re going to be working, I know you told me you’re working on some type of a little booklet or a PDF about-
Kim K. Johnson: Oh, the PDF for the herbal medicine cabinet.
Jennifer Crisp: Yeah. tell us a little bit about that and when that might be available.
Kim K. Johnson: Well, it should be out within the next week or 10 days. Probably by the time this is playing it will be posted. It will give everyone the basics on those 12 herbs that I believe everyone should start their herbal medicine cabinet with. It’ll be a really easy way to see what those 12 herbs are and a basic description on how to use them, and what their benefits are, and why they’ve been chosen to be part of that beginning cabinet.
Jennifer Crisp: Wow, that’s going to be really great. Is there a place where we may be able to find that?
Kim K. Johnson: Well, of course I’ve got a Facebook page for Good Life To Go. That will be at least one of the places we’ll post it. My online store is goodlifetogo.net. If you do back slash WP, you come to my blog. It’ll also be there. The third place you can find me would be the Good Life Happenings page on Facebook. That’s more about my events, where my workshops are and where my market is, and information about my events would be on Good Life Happenings on Facebook.
Jennifer Crisp: Those events take place in the Orlando area in Florida?
Kim K. Johnson: Yes.
Jennifer Crisp: Okay, well that’s a good thing to know because those people who are in the Orlando area then can look that up and check that out because this is really, I think it’s just another piece of self care that we’ve lost. We’ve lost it. When we talk about herbs and spices, the first thing people think about is cooking. You know, oh I add this to my cooking, I add that, but this goes so far beyond that. Because we want to get the benefits from these natural plants that earth has given us, right.
Kim K. Johnson: That’s right.
Jennifer Crisp: That’s what it’s about. Really even our pharmaceuticals are based in plant medicine.
Kim K. Johnson: We’ll leave that for another day.
Jennifer Crisp: We’ll leave that for another thing, but what I’m trying to say is unless, yeah because there’s a lot of chemical things going on there, but what I’m saying is we never would have even gotten that far if it wasn’t for plants. Plants do so much for us, but why not go back to the basics and just utilize what it did.
Kim K. Johnson: Yeah, and there’s over a 2,000 year written history on herbs. These are not just recent discovery.
Jennifer Crisp: No. That’s exactly what I’m trying to say. This is well over 2,000 years that we’ve been using herbs and spices and plants, and so coming full circle and coming back to that why not incorporate these into our bodies, into our homes. It just makes sense to me. Remember, it’s more than just cooking, right.
Kim K. Johnson: Oh. You know it really is a lifestyle change when you start to look at it fully. We can all own our own health and we all have choices that we can make along this path. My goal here is just to help people understand and know that they can make choices.
Jennifer Crisp: Oh, thank you so much Kim.
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