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Bloodroot for Bronchitis, Lung Inflammation, & Ancestral Healing

It’s Indigenous. It’s in the Blood!
All photos © Thea Summer Deer

When does the appearance of a plant become a sign? When we are willing to stop and listen. Mine appeared as bloodroot precisely on the spring equinox. It was a sign that I had made it through winter. And I did not want the unpredictable and erratic spring season to catch me off guard. After a strangely mild winter and an immune challenging early spring, bloodroot reminded me that it was time to support my liver and gallbladder, the corresponding organ system to spring, and the Wood Element in Chinese Medicine.

I have previously experienced descending into illness at the time of spring equinox. In Chinese Medicine, the equinox is a pause between seasons, the standstill point at the swing-of-the-pendulum when our immune system re-calibrates to the changing light. It is a time to slow down and reflect in accordance with the season.

One spring season, when I got caught off guard, I came down with a bout of bronchitis that took me down hard. It would like to have killed me, threatening pneumonia. That incident required that I recommit to living in harmony with the seasons and a re-bolstering of my immune system. Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, is a good ally for those who remained attuned. Arriving healthy at the turn of the season, like Persephone resurrected and returned to the light, we can see that our efforts to attune will pay off.

When spring equinox dawns bright and beautiful, I grab my jacket and head for the woods. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the return than hiking the Blue Ridge through the Pisgah National Forest. Striking out with my son, who has joined me on this day, I make two stream crossings and climb the nearest ridge where views of the mountains were still visible through trees not yet leafed out. The abundant presence of bloodroot, delicate in her ephemeral bloom, was a joyous heralding of spring.

The festival celebrating vernal equinox called Ostara, as the story goes, is characterized by the rejoining of the Mother Goddess and her lover-consort-son, who has spent the winter months in death. With the urging of my son, we walked barefoot down the trail, connecting with the earth and recharging our DNA.

Bloodroot is one of the earliest blooming spring wildflowers and is native to eastern North America and Canada, hence its species name of canadensis. We found it where it likes to grow on wooded slopes above a stream. Deer will eat it in early spring, and anything that deer like to eat usually gets my attention. The flower blooms briefly. And as it fades, the irregularly lobed leaf unfurls and resembles a jigsaw puzzle piece. It is one of the most well-known indigenous medicinal plants in the Appalachians, and it has a long history of use as a respiratory aid.

The flower is beautiful, and its white contrast against the brown, dead, and decaying leaves of an earlier season is captivating. Its flower essence transforms inherited physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual genetic patterns into the light of new potential. Watching my son stepping barefoot into the creek surrounded by these lovely flowers, I said a prayer for the embodiment of our full potential in this lifetime. The energy medicine of bloodroot in the form of a flower essence helps to heal our family lineage and the ancient wounds that live in our DNA. How perfect that my son and I were walking barefoot through the ancestral healing of bloodroot!

Bloodroot is also very useful for treating bronchitis and is effective against chronic congestive conditions of the lungs. In combination with other expectorant and demulcent herbs such as mullein and plantain in a low dosage tincture, bloodroot helps to relieve bronchitis, coughs, lung congestion, and inflammation. It relaxes the bronchial muscles and helps ease difficult breathing. At the same time, it acts as a stimulating expectorant to clear lung congestion, reduces inflammation in the throat and chest, and relieves spasmodic coughs. Sanguinaria’s main herbal actions are expectorant, and antispasmodic. According to David Hoffman, it is one of the best respiratory amphoteric herbs. Amphoteric herbs are normalizers that change and adapt their herbal action depending on the condition.

When harvesting the root of Sanguinaria candadensis care must be taken to wear gloves. The juice from a cut root is caustic and may cause skin irritation. Fresh root poultice is used with caution to treat fungal growths and ringworm. It is also used topically as a salve to treat sores and ulcers. Bloodroot’s alkaloid sanguinarine reduces plaque and gum inflammation when used in dental hygiene products.

Spring is the perfect time to harvest the root when the plant is in full bloom while being mindful not to exhaust the plant population. Once cut, the blood-red root secretes a bright orange juice, hence the name bloodroot. Here in the Appalachians bloodroot is a popular natural red dye used by Native American artists, particularly among the southeastern rivercane basket weavers.

May the ally of bloodroot find its way to you in your time of need. Her flowering essence reminds us of new beginnings in all areas of our lives. As one season, one great cycle ends, another begins, and we are made new. Like Persephone, we will return to the light of knowing that we have everything we need in every given moment and are divinely guided. We are all indigenous to Mother Earth. It’s in our roots. And it’s the blood!  Bloodroot, and the flowering of new potential.

Flower Essence: From the bloodroot plant spirit:

This essence helps to heal the ancient wounds that still fester in the DNA of humans today. Assistance with healing family lineage is of critical importance now. Genetic codes are passed down from parents to children that hold both the memory and the forgetting of who we are. It is important to heal that which enlivens the forgetting and the resulting behaviors and illnesses, so the full potential of each person is free to blossom.

Diana, Tree Frog Farm

Preparation: Tincture made from the fresh root is preferred with the dried root being more suitable for making infused oils and salves. Salves will cause some degree of inflammation and may be an effective external treatment for cancerous growths.

• Fresh root tincture – 1:10 in 50%. Dosage: 10 drops of tincture diluted in water three to four times a day.  May also be used as a mouthwash to treat gum inflammation.

• Dried root tincture – 1:5 in 60%. Dosage: 10 – 15 drops diluted in water three times a day.

• Decoction: 1 teaspoon of rhizome in 1 cup of cold water, bring to a boil and infuse for 10 minutes. Drink 3 x a day.

Contraindicated during pregnancy. Low dose botanical – use sparingly and for short periods of time.

References:

Medicinal Plants of the Southern Appalachians by Patricia Kyritsi Howell

Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine by David Hoffman

Medicinal Plants and Herbs a Peterson Field Guide by Steven Foster and James A. Duke

Wild Roots by Doug Elliott

Wisdom of the Plant Devas: Herbal Medicine for a New Earth by Thea Summer Deer

Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease. Some of this information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. You should seek medical attention at the first signs of an infection and be under the care of and in communication with a licensed physician, even when you are using herbal alternatives. Be sure to disclose any herbs or supplements you may be taking.

This post contains IndieBound affiliate links which also support Independent Booksellers.

Astragalus for Myocarditis, Long COVID, & Immune Support

Astragalus Membranaceus

When I work with herbs, I feel like I’m on a secret mission, called by ancestral voices whispering plant names from somewhere across the veils of time and space. There is much to discover undercover with medicinal roots like Astragalus membranaceus, used since ancient times in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Formerly introduced to Astragalus in herbal medicine school, I began buying the diagonally sliced dried root in bulk to add to nutritious bone broth soup stocks. But it has taken years of working with this herb in clinical practice to begin to grasp its full healing potential.

One client in particular obtained remarkable results from taking an Astragalus formula. She presented with diarrhea that had persisted for three months. And as is usually the case, she came to me after repeated testing and doctor visits. She had been tested for parasites, had extensive blood work, and undergone a colonoscopy. Less than 48 hours on an Astragalus formula, her diarrhea stopped for good. The cause of her debilitating condition turned out to be a round of topical corticosteroids prescribed by her doctor for lichen sclerosis. This client had a history of exhausted adrenals since childhood. She should never have taken a corticosteroid with a known side effect of Cushing Syndrome (cortisol stress hormone imbalance) with diarrhea as a symptom. Astragalus stimulates pituitary-adrenal cortical activity and has been combined with drug therapies to reduce toxicity and ameliorate side effects.

After that experience, I began further research on Astragalus. Its herbal actions include immunomodulator, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, and adaptogenic. Astragalus is a nervous system tonic, immune tonic, and spleen qi tonic (diabetes). Tonics are herbs, that when taken consistently over time, may restore whole bodily systems. Astragalus is also used to relieve diarrhea, and weakness and fatigue, from prolonged illness. The benefits list is long and includes helping regulate blood sugar, improving stroke recovery, slowing or preventing the growth of tumors. Regular use of the root, it has been shown, can prevent kidney and liver damage caused by medication and viruses.

Considered a foundational herb in TCM, Astragalus, in addition to being a deep immune system activator, also strengthens the lung qi and the surface immune system, which is the first line of defense against pernicious influences. It also appears to enhance nonspecific and specific immunity. Astragalus is a beneficial herb for anyone who might be immune-compromised.

While many call Astragalus an immune system booster or immune stimulant, it more accurately enhances and supports immune system function, helping to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, and the viral infection Coxsackie B, which is a significant cause of myocarditis.

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle (myocardium), which is the middle layer of the heart wall. That inflammation can reduce the heart’s ability to pump and cause rapid or irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias). According to the Mayo Clinic, an underlying inflammatory or autoimmune condition can raise your risk of myocarditis. Myocarditis is a concern with COVID-19 vaccination and in long-haul COVID. The risk of myocarditis exists from both the disease and the vaccine. There have also been case reports of myocarditis linked to flu and tetanus shots.

The COVID-19 vaccine can cause inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) and inflammation of the outer heart lining (pericarditis). – Mayo Clinic

Teens and young adults are most at risk. VAERS statistics for cardiac events are high. Understaffed, overwhelmed, and backlogged, the FDA has not analyzed all the data on reports of myocarditis by their projected date of January 2022 before approving the shot for children. There is no incentive by companies to ensure the safety of vaccine recipients because they assume no liability.

In June 2021, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization practices reported a likely link between mRNA COVID-19 vaccinations and myocarditis, particularly in people 39 and younger. A CDC spokesperson told Reuters, “It is true that since 1990 most of the myocarditis and pericarditis reports to VAERS were made after the U.S. COVID-19 vaccination program began.” Myocarditis is a condition that can weaken the heart and affect its electrical system.

TCM understands myocarditis as a disruption of the Fire Element (Heart). Vaccines disrupt the yin Water Element (Kidney/Adrenal) and insult the Kidney jing (ancestral inheritance). A depleted Water Element no longer tempers fire. Fire burns out of control and creates a vicious cycle of depletion. That is where we see the root of myocarditis. Astragalus, however, increases Water’s reserves and supports the immune system to do its job.

Used in China for at least 2,000 years, Astragalus is one of the fifty fundamental herbs used in TCM and listed as an official drug (Radix Astragali) in the modern Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China. It has become one of the primary immune tonic herbs in Western Pharmacopoeia.

Energetically sweet, warm, and nourishing, the dried root is used in soup stocks to strengthen the entire system. Astragalus tonifies the kidneys and adrenals and regulates the body’s immune system responses.

One article published in PubMed.gov says, “ It should be studied as a new drug for the treatment of sepsis.” Septic pneumonia following a cytokine storm is seen in patients presenting at the hospital with severe flu and COVID. Cytokine storms are related to infections as they progress towards sepsis. When the body loses control of cytokine production, the result is a cytokine storm.

Some cytokines make the disease worse (proinflammatory) and need inhibiting. Others serve to reduce inflammation and promote healing (anti-inflammatory). The intelligence of Astragalus does both, as does a normal response of a healthy immune system. Studies suggest that A. membranaceus may control proinflammatory cytokine expression, thus inhibiting the likelihood of a cytokine storm. Cytokines and viruses have a dynamic relationship. Proinflammatory cytokines on a mission to control and eradicate viruses present a threat to the virus and the host.

A cytokine storm from an excessive or uncontrolled release of proinflammatory cytokines results from a weakened immune system that underperforms during extreme distress. Astragalus can benefit many long-haul COVID symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, difficulty sleeping, brain fog, heart palpitations, anxiety, and depression.

I couldn’t possibly cover all of Astragalus’ benefits. But some of its most common uses include strengthening the lungs, diabetic blood sugar control (spleen-pancreas), and protecting against colds and other contagious illnesses. Contraindicated during active infection with a fever, Astragalus is currently being used, however, in many Chinese formulas for active viral infection.

The most common species accepted interchangeably throughout various regions in China are as follows, A. membranaceus, A. propinquus, or A. mongholicus. These medicinal varieties are native to northern and eastern China. The part used is the root, harvested typically from four-year-old plants. Before completely dry, they can be sliced diagonally or lengthwise in the shape of a tongue depressor, which works well for stocks and decoctions, or shred cut for tea, decoction, or tincture.

One of the most important herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine preventively and in the early stages of colds and flu is beneficial and safe. Astragalus nourishes the immune system, helps protect the body from diseases like cancer and diabetes, and prevents upper respiratory infections. It may also have mild antiviral action and help to prevent colds and coronavirus. Immune system cells called macrophages increase after a simple Astragalus decoction.

DOSAGE

Tincture: (1:5 in 40%): 40-80 drops (4-8 ml), 3x/day

Extract: 250-500 mg, or (1:2) 8-12 ml 3x/day

Decoction: Add 2 – 4 tsp. dried cut/sifted root to 8 oz. water. Slowly decoct for 20-30 minutes. Let steep another ½ hour. Take up to 3 cups/day.

Tea: Boil 3-6 grams dried root in 12 oz. water. Drink 4 oz. 3x/day

Capsules: 3-6/day per manufacturer’s or practitioners instructions

Soup Stocks: 1 large slice per quart

Note: The root is also sometimes stir-fried in honey to enhance both its sweetness and tonic properties for debilitated clients

CONTRAINDICATIONS

Astragalus may interfere with drugs that are meant to suppress the immune system. Contraindicated during active infection with a fever.

DISCLAIMER

The information contained in this post is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease. Some of this information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. You should seek medical attention at the first signs of an infection and be under the care of and in communication with a licensed physician, even when you are using herbal alternatives. Be sure to disclose any herbs or supplements you may be taking.

RESOURCES

10 Herbs to Help you Fight the Flu & Coronavirus

• Learn more at Five Element Academy in Hidden Treasure: Kidney Essence & the Water Element, and Heal Your Heart: Nervous System Health & the Fire Element

Please consider making a donation in support of Thea Summer Deer’s work if this information has benefited you or someone you love.

REFERENCES

• Winston, D., & Maimes, S. (2007). Adaptogens: Herbs for strength, stamina, and stress relief. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

• Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Myocarditis, Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/myocarditis/symptoms-causes/syc-20352539

Acute Fulminant Myocarditis Following Influenza Vaccination Requiring Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, by Youn-Jung Kim, Jun-11 Bae, Seung Mok Ryoo, and Won Young Kim, published online Nov. 7th 2018, NIH.gov

Moderna Reveals Slightly Higher Rates of Myocarditis in Young People Who Received its COVIC-19 Vaccine, by Korin Miller, published November 11, 2021 in Yahoo!news Prevention.

Sepsis – a common cause of death from coronavirus, Deutsche Well

Astragaloside IV attenuates inflammatory reaction via activating immune function of regulatory T-cells inhibited by HMGB1 in mice, PubMed.gov

Safe Antiviral Herbs for Autoimmune Disease, posted by Herbal Academy

Huang Qi Tong Bi Decoction Attenuates Myocardial Ischemia-Referfusion Injury via HMGB1/TLR/NF-kB Pathway, PubMed.gov

Viral Myocarditis, NIH.gov

Immunity: The Next Seven Generations

Early in my career as a homebirth midwife and childbirth educator, I questioned the moral and ethical dilemma of whether a newborn baby should be allowed to die from natural causes at home or be kept artificially alive in a hospital. I began practicing midwifery in the mid to late 1970s when free-standing birthing centers had not yet become an option. Labor and delivery rooms became “birthing rooms,” but the sign over the door is the only thing that changed. Practices and procedures that turned low-risk women into high-risk continued behind closed doors.

In good conscience, I could not follow the rules put in place by a male-dominated medical system that put women at risk. For a low-risk woman, giving birth is a natural process, not a medical procedure needing intervention. Women should have the right to choose a home birth attended by trained professionals. A low-risk woman increases her risk factor the moment she walks through hospital doors.

The same rules that increase a woman’s risk are the same ones that require her to birth and raise a child that otherwise would have died of natural causes before, during, or shortly after birth. Some people would agree that raising a severely handicapped child is a hardship for everyone involved and that it places a heavy burden on society and the family. Wouldn’t a year of grieving the loss of her child and bearing the scar left on her heart be better than a lifetime of compromises, suffering, and tears? Are we not more empowered when we trust the wisdom of nature and our inner guidance than white coats who gallop in to rescue us – from what? These questions plague and haunt me to this day.

Practicing out-of-hospital midwifery gave me the freedom to support low-risk women making a personal choice not to give their power away to a mechanistic medical system. The mechanistic model does not address the whole person and demands compliance. That can have disastrous results in a setting where machines dictate what a woman may be experiencing, and the doctor becomes credited with the outcome. A disempowered new mother may not make the best choices for herself or her newborn.

Many of my clients in the late 70s and early 80s practiced east Indian spirituality, yoga, and vegetarianism. We were considered counter-culture, but we laid the groundwork for what would become popular culture over thirty years later, except for home birth.

Fear is a powerful motivator. Western Medicine, and its practitioners, are adept at instilling fear in patients. Many sick people rush into procedures and drugs that may not be in their best interest. FDA-approved drugs kill over 100,000 Americans each year. The FDA pretends to protect the public while harassing those who offer safe alternatives. An even more shocking statistic is that the total number of deaths caused by medical errors in the U.S. is more than 250,000 per year.

Statistics support the safety of homebirth, but fear drives women into the hospitals. Fear also informs legislation that limits out-of-hospital birth options while obstetricians actively seek to suppress home births. Big Pharma educates doctors through its financial support of medical universities and affiliated teaching hospitals while funding research and suppressing safe and effective alternatives that threaten profits. In the last 40 years, what has changed is how powerful the pharmaceutical lobby has become and Big Pharma’s success in gaining control of the mainstream media through its advertising dollars.

“The more we allow the regulation and control of our food and our medicine, the more we lose control over our individual choices and personal freedoms. If we choose to continue to allow ourselves to be robbed of these choices because we fear the processes of life and death, we will lose that which is essential to being human — free will and sovereignty.”

— From Wisdom of the Plant Devas: Herbal Medicine for a New Earth by Thea Summer Deer

As a childbirth educator, I started teaching vaccine awareness over 40 years ago. I gave parents information from both sides of the argument, to vaccinate or not to vaccinate so they could make an informed choice. Today, due to extensive censorship campaigns, this is sadly no longer possible. We have managed to give away enough power to the medical cartel that we are now losing our choices in health care and our medical freedoms. Our health care system is being held hostage by the money interests and immune system hijacked by vaccine profiteers. And it all starts at birth.

Newborns rely on passive immunity from maternal antibodies for approximately three months following birth while being further protected by their mother’s milk. The neonate’s passive and natural immunities may become compromised through premature birth, surgical birth, mother-infant separation, reduced skin-to-skin contact, skin sterilization, and failure to breastfeed. A lack of stimulation, and an altered microbiome after a cesarean section, have a profound impact on a newborn’s immune system. Vaccines launched into an immature immune system as part of an immunization campaign add insult to the injury.

The innate immune system is the defense system with which you were born. Innate immunity involves barriers that keep harmful things from entering your body. These barriers are the first line of defense in an immune response and what is known as the surface immune system in herbalism. Vaccines reprogram, suppress, and override innate immune responses.

The deep immune system in herbalism is called Jing in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Jing corresponds with the Water Element. The Jing forms the essence of who and what we are and governs our reproductive potential and ability to handle illness. Pre-natal Jing is the genetic inheritance we received from our ancestors and what we will pass down to the next seven generations. Our ancestor’s struggles, the diseases they survived, and the natural immunity they acquired are all encoded within us. In one generation, we are at risk of losing this immunity with the development of gene therapies and extensive immunization schedules. Is this how we honor our ancestors? Vaccines disrupt at the level of the Jing. All pharmaceuticals overheat the Liver (Wood Element), which depletes the Water Element.

The Water Element corresponds to the kidneys and adrenals. It is a yin element. Our modern yang-driven society depletes the Jing, exhausts our adrenals, and compromises our immunity, vitality, and longevity. If we do not protect the Jing, future generations will not survive in a sterile, vaccine-dependent world. Other things that repress immunity are fever reducers and antibiotics. If a person is healthy and the body not allowed the fire of fever to burn off pathogens, then an acute symptom turns into a chronic pattern. The fever is not the offender, nor is the infection. They only serve to expel the offender. The offender is not an invader to be defended against.

When illness becomes the enemy, instead of the effort to restore balance to the body, we lose sight of how to guide the body through illness to its healthful conclusion. That is true on all levels when we make anything an enemy to be fought against. We have lost our guides while being taught to live in fear of the wild and unpredictable power of nature. It is a power with the ability heal and transform. Supporting body wisdom to express through illness with Medicine rather than to suppress through knowledge of pharmaceuticals is the difference between healing and heroics. Medicine in this context becomes whatever supports healing: physical, spiritual, or otherwise.

The goal is to see an illness to its natural conclusion, which is a restoration of health, just as the earth is restored after the cold, hard, expression of winter and the erratic expression of spring. The earth doesn’t defend herself against winter: she merely makes adjustments and is supported by the elements to do so. When the body is not supported to heal itself and see illness through to its natural conclusion, disease results, and sometimes this can occur through generations of genetically encoded imbalance.

The indigenous peoples of the earth have always understood how this principle of healing works and what it means to let nature take its course. We can no longer think our way through life or an illness. Thinking allows us to perceive only ideas, while the intelligence of nature allows us to perceive the entire universe.

The moral and ethical dilemmas remain. Who should be allowed to live, and who should be allowed to die? I hold a vision for the future that includes co-creating with nature and imagining: What else might be possible?

Learn more about Jing in the online course Hidden Treasure: Kidney Essence & the Water Element

References:

  1. Altered microbiome after caesarean section impacts baby’s immune system
  2. Research suggests Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine reprograms innate immune responses
  3. New Prescription Drugs: A Major Health Risk With Few Offsetting Advantages
  4. Study Suggests Medical Errors Now Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.