Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Recently, we have felt these shifts at an emotional and mental level, but our bodies are moving through these challenges with us as well. When working with my clients and asking how they’re doing, the two words that come up most frequently right now are: stressed and tired. The long-term effects of stress can be extremely depleting for our bodies and our energy levels.

This information is for educational purposes only, please do your own research before incorporating new herbs into your life. Consult with your healthcare practitioner first, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking any medications.


herbal products dried and in bottles Photo by Bundo Kim on Unsplash

Fortunately, there is a whole class of herbs that are able to assist us in times like this! These herbs are called adaptogens. To be considered an adaptogen, an herb has to meet three criteria: it must be relatively non-harmful (meaning minimal potential side effects), it must help the body to resist stress, and it must have a normalizing effect on the body’s regulatory systems. Many adaptogens also have other associated potential benefits, but meeting those three criteria is the main benchmark.

A few examples of adaptogens, some of which you may have come across before, are ashwagandha, ginseng, rhodiola, holy basil, eleuthero, cordyceps mushroom, and schisandra. One note about ginseng is that it has been overharvested to the point where United Plant Savers lists it as an at-risk plant. Fortunately, there are so many others to choose from! Today I’ll focus on two of my current favorite adaptogens to work with: holy basil and schisandra.

Wild herbs and leaves Photo by Svitlana on Unsplash

Holy basil, also often called tulsi, makes a lovely cup of tea and can also be worked with as a tincture or even in your cooking. It has a spicier, peppery flavor compared to the sweet basils we are used to in pestos, and I love to add it to stir fries or soups. It’s easy to grow and has beautiful purple flowers that the pollinators in your garden will thank you for. Besides being an adaptogen, I have also found holy basil to be a great plant ally to turn to when I’m feeling a bit blue and need a boost. It always has a light, uplifting effect on my mood. It’s also helpful for digestive troubles, and pairs well with other herbs such as lemon balm and ginger to settle one’s stomach.

Schisandra has berries that are referred to as the Five Flavor Fruit because they are thought to taste sweet, bitter, salty, pungent, and sour - all at the same time. These berries are most commonly found for sale in a dried form, but the plant is a hardy perennial if you are interested in experimenting with growing your own. I like schisandra as a little boost when I am feeling low-energy and need some help to make it through the week.

Schisandra berries

Schisandra’s berries can be chewed and eaten as is (herbalist Katja Swift talks about eating ten berries per day for one hundred days as she feels schisandra helps her cope with her sugar cravings) or they make a yummy addition to your herbal tea blend. Another fun way to bring schisandra into your life is by infusing a few ounces of the dried berries into a bottle of wine for a week or two, then strain out and enjoy. This is best done with a sweeter wine to complement the sourness of the berries.

If you’re interested in diving deeper into this topic, David Winston’s book Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief is an excellent resource. And perhaps you can enjoy a delicious cup of holy basil tea as you read!

About the Author

Sara Schuster is a community herbalist and medicinal herb farmer. You can find her classes, podcasts, and herbal products at FoxandElder.com.

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Mjolnir

Like many of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films, LGBTQ+ fans awaited the release of Thor: Love and Thunder in open anticipation of the inclusivity that both Marvel and Disney had promised. However, the fans were only setting themselves up for disappointment when the film was finally released.

Despite passionate assurances from studio heads to key actors, Thor: Love and Thunder was NOT spectacularly gay. It wasn’t even that good…

Premiere Night Promises

A bolt of lightning cuts across a rainbow on a dark and stormy night.

Lightning bold across the sky

Photo by Bill D.

Standing on the red carpet at the London Premiere of the film, director and actor Taika Waititi and fellow cast members Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson were offered up the inevitable question: “How gay is the film?

Amidst some laughter from the crowds, Waititi gestured towards Portman to respond. The actress (who plays Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster, throughout the franchise) raised the microphone to her lips and thought for a moment, before delivering a quiet yet fateful: “So gay!

Barely a moment had passed before the gathered fans went wild and Taika Waititi gave his own verdict: “Super gay!”. Tessa Thompson made no statement on the ‘gayness’ of the film, instead opting to swing her microphone around suggestively. As more cheers erupted, a second round of “super gay” slipped out of Waititi’s mouth, before he urged the fans to enjoy the film.

Thor: Love and Thunder’s LGBTQ+ Potential

Thor’s movie-goers were definitely hyped up for a gay extravaganza and they had a specific character in mind. The fan-favorite Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, stumbled her way into the MCU during Thor’s third film, Ragnarok. The Asgardian warrior won many people over with her wit, sarcasm, and pure badassery.

After the events of Avengers: Endgame *spoilers*, Thor Odinson gives up his claim to the throne of Asgard and names Valkyrie as king in his stead. This left many fans excited to see what would become of the character, especially after certain revelations were made at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con:

“As a new king, she has to find her queen. So that’ll be her first order of business.”

With these words, Tessa Thompson threw her LGBTQ+ fans into a frenzy, with heavy expectations for the then-upcoming fourth installment of the Thor films. Indeed, in an interview with the LA Times, shortly before the film's release, Tessa Thompson was asked to comment on the sexuality of her character. She responded with several promising remarks, including “there’s a lot of folks that are righteously very hungry for that representation to exist in these movies, as am I”.

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

So, How Gay Was Thor 4?

To put it simply: not gay at all. Not only did Valkyrie end up without a fabulous new queen, her non-heteronormative sexuality only got the barest mention (a brief line about a previous, now dead, girlfriend). Valkyrie may have made bedroom eyes at some pretty ladies before an action scene spoils the moment, but that’s about as much as we get.

The film does get some credit for introducing a trans character in a minor yet significant role. Thor returns to his people (after a brief stint as a Guardian of the Galaxy) only to find out that the daughter of one of his closest (and deceased) friends is now a boy. The issue is, whether due to personal prejudice or some alien inability to grasp the concept of being transgender, it does take Thor a frustrating few moments to come to terms with the change. And to stop deadnaming.

In fact, the only concession to the queer community was Taika Waititi’s extraterrestrial character Korg finding a husband in one of the closing scenes. This heartfelt moment was somewhat underscored by the revelation that Korg’s entire species is male, meaning he had no other choice but to be ‘gay’.

This Is Not Marvel’s First Queerbaiting Attempt

Close up of an eye reflecting an unknown scene as a rainbow crosses the image.

Photo by Harry Q.

This is, by far, not the first time that LGBTQ+ fans have been sorely disappointed by the workings of Marvel and Disney. In fact, people across many social media platforms have been chiding expectant viewers for once again falling for classic queerbaiting tactics. “Being queerbaited by the MCU is like being a golden retriever with a human who always pretends to throw the ball”, one Tumblr user declared.

Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, was the perfect moment for the MCU to introduce its first lesbian lead. Larson’s character seemed to have an intense relationship with another woman, going so far as to help raise her child (before Larson’s Carol Danvers disappeared from Earth for 6 years). Despite leaning into several romantic tropes, the status of their relationship was never fully fleshed out. However, it was also the franchise’s first female-led superhero movie, so maybe they thought that introducing her as a lesbian would make the film too awesome.

The heavily anticipated Avengers: Endgame was also slated to introduce the MCU’s ‘first gay character'. While many fans were excited, particularly as this would be the second of Larson’s appearances on screen, the big gay build-up was a massive letdown. The film’s director Joe Russo made a cameo as a blip survivor mourning the loss of his husband. A five-second throw-away scene that had no impact on the outcome of the film. Big whoop...

Even when we did see a film with a gay lead, The Eternals, there were also ten other straight leads. At that point, it just seemed more like basic probability than an attempt at pushing LGBT+ superheroes into the spotlight.

Why Can’t Disney Let Marvel Be Gay?

The big problem with allowing a few characters to be anything other than cishet is that there are still many countries in the world that outlaw homosexuality. As much as we like to think that the MCU is being made for comic book fans, we all know the purpose of the films is to make money for Disney. And without certain markets in Asia and the Middle East, Disney wouldn’t be raking in up to (and over) one billion dollars per theatrical release.

Is There Any Hope For LGBTQ+ Fans In The MCU’s Future?

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the second in the much-loved Black Panther arc, will be released in cinemas this November. The studio has confirmed that the film will contain a queer character. Actress Michaela Coel will play Aneka, a warrior, and trainer of the king’s guard. Whether or not her diversity will stand out in the film (let alone endure for more than a 10-second scene that can be easily cut) remains to be seen.


Next year’s The Marvels film, starring Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, and Lashana Lynch may offer the MCU a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of its LGBT+ fans. The studios may feel it’s finally time to offer us the heartwarming lesbian relationship between Larson’s Carol Danvers and Lynch’s Maria Rambeau that seemed to be teased in the first Captain Marvel. Don’t raise your hopes too high, though, as you may yet end up as a stubborn golden retriever waiting for a cinematic universe to finally throw that rainbow ball.