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.
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.
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.
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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.
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
Astragalus may interfere with drugs that are meant to suppress the immune system. Contraindicated during active infection with a fever.
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.
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?
“What protocol did you use for your husband that helped his post-COVID pneumonia recovery?” I have been asked this question a lot and wish to share with you what I have learned.
Everyone is unique in how their immune system responds to an illness. Therefore, without knowing a person’s history, or herstory, I cannot make specific recommendations other than what I have shared in this post. But I can share what my experience has been working within my own family.
One of the things that I learned is that COVID pneumonia is eosinophilic pneumonia. It responds very well to corticosteroids. They admitted my husband to the hospital with septic pneumonia after having never had any lung issues or even bronchitis. After six days in ICU on high flow oxygen and a BiPap ventilator, he had a bronchoscopy performed. They had been unable to wean him off the oxygen, and it was frightening. I knew that the high percentage of oxygen he was on for so many days could cause lung damage, and he does indeed have scarring of the lungs as a result.
The bronchoscopy results showed eosinophils, and they started IV steroids (prednisone) which turned him around immediately. He spent eight days in ICU and ten days in the hospital.
When he came home the goal was to get him off the steroids as quickly as possible because their damaging effects on the adrenal cortex are well known. It took longer than we thought, about six months. He also needed to build back his strength from having lost a lot of weight and muscle mass. It is a difficult thing to witness.
The strategy that worked for him is as follows:
• Bone broths are nourishing and provide protein and collagen for rebuilding tissue. Collagen is also healing to the gut and supportive to the joints. In Chinese Medicine the connection between the stomach (Earth Element) and lungs (Metal Element) is well known. I made organic beef and chicken bone broths from scratch, adding carrots, celery, onion, russet potatoes, bay leaves, and juniper berries. I also added the following Chinese herbs:
Polygonatum (Solomon’s Seal/Yu Zhu) moistening to the lungs and helps with dry cough. Click here to learn more.
Chinese yam (Shan Yao) strengthens the spleen and stomach, nourishes the kidneys, treats body fatigue.
Astragalus root (Huang Qi) strengthens the immune system.
Jujube/Date (Da Zao) spleen and stomach tonic, also helps to moderate the actions of other herbs in a formula
• Unsweetened apple sauce and easily digestible food
• Cordyceps (sinensis – only!) 2 Tbsp. dissolved in water, 4x/day. Cordyceps sinensis became the most important thing he took to help wean himself off the steroids, heal his adrenals, and regain energy levels.
• Herbal Decoction to help calm cough and reduce congestion, which continued for many months: In one quart of water, place 1-2 pieces of licorice root, 5-6 cloves, 1-2 petals of star anise, 5 pieces of ginger (wide slices), and 1 cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer partially covered for 20-30 minutes. Strain and drink 1-2 cups daily or as needed. Also warming to the gut (carminative).
• Aloe Vera, Inner Filet, 2 oz 1-2x/day (alkalizing and moistening to the gut)
• No stress
• lots of sleep
• walking every day
• laughter and friendship
My husband is incredibly compliant and remained diligent with his routine. We had to get food stamps for a few months to see us through, and the stimulus checks helped while he wasn’t working. After going back to work five months later, lingering congestion, a deep cough, and constant throat clearing dogged him. I feared pulmonary fibrosis. He was diagnosed with GERD and prescribed a PPI. We knew we weren’t going to go that route. I suspected candida overgrowth from days of IV antibiotics in the hospital. Our chiropractor confirmed candida. A series of candida cleanses ensued without the results he had gotten from them in the past. Two rounds of CandAid (see resources below) set him straight. He still has to be diligent with wheat, gluten, and dairy.
I will be eternally grateful that he survived his ordeal. I couldn’t have done it without the support of family and friends. A big shout out to my dear friend Nissa who shared the correct cordyceps dosage (far more than one might have employed otherwise), which she learned from her herbalist and Stephen Harrod Buhner’s partner. That is the magic of healing and herbalism – wisdom shared among the many. And dosage is important!
My husband now walks over five miles each day and is as fit as I have ever known him. And we have grown closer. It is the kind of closeness that comes when you think you could lose someone you hold so dear. We were sent angels and now I send them to you…
Skullcap, or Scullcap, tomato or tomatoe? Isn’t it interesting that this member of the mint family, which contains approximately 300 species, can be found spelled either way with a “c” or a “k?” Even the herb companies have taken sides. For example, Herb Pharm spells their product Skullcap, while Nature’s Way spells it Scullcap. Somewhat confusing, I know, when you also consider that spell check doesn’t like skullcap spelled with a c, i.e., “not found in dictionary.” No matter how you choose to spell skullcap, the plant I will be discussing as the integrator of consciousness is the botanical Scutellaria lateriflora.
The name skullcap derives from the Latin scutella meaning, a small dish and referring to the shape of the flower. Even though Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis root) shows up in many formulas, I tend to use American skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) as a “simple.” What that means is that I like to use one herb at a time, when appropriate, because then I don’t have to wonder which herb is working or which one is not. With simples, if a person is worried about interactions between the pharmaceuticals they take and herbals, it makes the interactions simple to observe and simpler to avoid. Besides, you can only put so many herbs in your body at one time (like food). Adding too many together at the same time may dilute the potency and create a confusing smorgasbord for your body. I also believe that healing takes place in the context of relationships, and using one herb at a time allows for a deeper intimacy with that plant and helps build trust.
Because I live in the Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina, I am particularly interested in the plants that grow here. Skullcap is one of these and a North American native highly valued by the Cherokee people who use it as a nerve tonic and sedative. It likes to grow along the sunny edges of damp meadows near small bodies of water. As a perennial, it thrives in the moist eastern woodlands. Small pale blue or violet-blue flowers are not long-lived and bloom in the summer between June and September. These flowers are in one-sided racemes from leaf axils, which makes skullcap easier to identify. Tincture the aerial parts when fresh and in full bloom.
According to medical herbalist David Hoffman, skullcap is perhaps the most relevant nervine available to us in the Western materia medica. It soothes nervous tension while strengthening the central nervous system and has a long history of use for petit mal seizures, sleepwalking, night terrors, and insomnia. It also relieves nervous irritability, tension headaches, and PMS tension. Skullcap lessens the symptoms of drug and alcohol withdrawal. Herbalist Patricia Kyritsi Howell says that skullcap is a specific remedy for mental fatigue and nervous exhaustion caused by over-stimulation and the effects of long-term stress.
My encounters with skullcap have been most rewarding. Gathering it in and of itself is a blissful occupation. I have made and used fresh skullcap tinctures for both myself (nervous exhaustion) and with clients. One skullcap success story resulted when a mother brought her 9-year-old son to me for a consultation regarding his bedwetting. Let us call him Jimmy. Jimmy had been sleepwalking, bedwetting, and having night terrors for as long as his parents could remember. They had recently adopted a sister for Jimmy from China. Consumed with caring for this new family member who had special needs, they no longer wanted to be up in the middle of the night with Jimmy. Besides, they were genuinely frightened and concerned for his safety and wellbeing when they would find him walking around in the middle of the night completely asleep. Jimmy did not know what was happening and woke in the morning with no recall. He was also diagnosed in school with ADD. I recommended skullcap tincture in the morning and evening, along with some dietary changes (no wheat and dairy) with a one-month follow-up. At one month, I tried contacting the mother, but she never got back to me. A few months later, I ran into them at a social gathering and asked how Jimmy was doing.
“Oh, great!” She said and went on to tell me about all the exciting things they had been doing.
“Great!” I said, “ but what about the night terrors, sleepwalking, and bedwetting?”
“Oh!” She answered back, mildly surprised. “That is completely gone, and he’s had no problems with that since. I can’t thank you enough!”
What I realized was that she had simply gotten on with her life and not looked back. Then she told me that they had been unable to make any dietary changes but that Jimmy had started to improve almost immediately with the skullcap. I stood looking at her, amazed.
On another occasion, a friend of mine’s daughter called me and sounded frantic. Her 9-month old baby girl wasn’t sleeping and woke to cry hysterically every night and had a hard time getting back to sleep. That had been going on for three months. The mom felt like she had tried everything, including more food to settle the baby’s stomach if she might be hungry and different food. She tried chamomile tea, homeopathic remedies, ruled out teething, and had the baby checked by a pediatrician. Do you want to know what worked? Skullcap. She gave her daughter five drops of alcohol tincture up to 3 X a day. The beauty of skullcap is that it is a tonic that can be used long-term and is not addicting.
From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine’s five-element theory, I learned that skullcap is a cooling, bitter herb, which calms the mind and restores the shen to the heart (Fire Element). In TCM, the mind refers to the heart. In this context, the shen corresponds to the mind and consciousness, with the process of thinking accomplished by the heart. One of the hearts main duties is to store the shen, which describes spirit or the animating force of life. The word shen translated from the Chinese means both “mind” and “spirit.” As the integrator of consciousness and perception, the shen unites the disparate aspects of the self. When the shen is restless for any reason, as we have seen in the examples above, skullcap has the amazing ability to restore the shen. We may call this restlessness “nervous anxiety” or “nervous tension,” but the nervous system is what carries the electrical impulses generated by the brain and heart. Heart-Mind in TCM corresponds with the Fire Element and the Summer season. The benefits of Skullcap to reduce nervousness and treat insomnia by quieting the spirit or shen and helping it to stay centered in the heart cannot be over-estimated. Summer is the perfect time to be introduced to skullcap in her season of bloom So I invite you to bring her into your life in whatever manner you may choose and get to know her, for her gift is great.
When the heart is serene, pain seems negligible.
– Inner Classic
Fresh Tincture Dosage: 30 drops (1 dropper full) 1:2 (75A:25W) 2-3 x a day
Can also be tinctured fresh using Vodka in the folk tradition.
“There are a great many interventions that are possible with plant medicines and unlike pharmaceuticals, viruses don’t develop resistance to them.” – Stephen Harrod Buhner, Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging & Resistant Viral Infections
“So, you are an herbalist. What would you recommend as a preventative, or to help someone get over the coronavirus?”
This question is posed to me often during this challenging time of viral spread. It makes me stop and think. I have been thinking about it a lot, even before the questions started coming. It is a difficult and dangerous question for an herbalist, especially in our present political and medical climate.
The strength of herbal medicine lies in its tonic ability to restore bodily systems, and not necessarily in treating disease. A tonic is an herb that must be taken consistently over time. Herbalists do not diagnose or treat illness and disease. Our strength lies in prevention, and in health and wellness support of the body to heal itself.
That said, there is much that we can do in support of healing. Aside from everything we already know to do to prevent the spread of a virus, I would like to offer my perspective and some recommendations that may be supportive.
At the moment, the therapeutic strategies employed by Western Medicine to deal with viral respiratory infections are mostly supportive, and prevention is aimed at reducing transmission. In spite of the recent spread of Covid-19, the coronavirus is much less contagious than the measles. Seven strains of coronavirus are now known to infect humans. Four cause common colds, and two rank among the deadliest of human infections: SARS, and MERS. Covid-19 is number seven.
Because the symptoms take longer to emerge than a seasonal flu, it’s spread is more rapid. Many who are only mildly ill and not sick enough to stay home, and others who are infected but don’t get sick, will continue to spread their infection to others. Those numbers will include people who never had symptoms, or had a flulike illness but never got a test for Covid-19.
The coronaviruses have become a growing concern in infectious-disease outbreaks world-wide. Pathogenic virus infections are still the leading cause of death in humans worldwide, and as population growth continues this will become even more of a concern.
The answer is not a simple one. The main reason being the lens through which we view health and dis-ease. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) sees the flu, or a virus with symptoms like the coronavirus, as a wind-heat condition. Plants that reduce inflammation in the lungs and expel the virus also alleviate wind-heat, and expel wind-heat invasion. The TCM view is through the lens of relationship and interconnectedness. It is an energetic model based on natural law, where healing takes place in the context of relationship with correspondences to season, food flavor, element, color, spirit, emotion, and more. It sees the ways in which we are in relationship with viruses not as a “virulent other,” but as an essential, underlying part of life on this planet. There is no avoiding them, and they cannot be killed off without killing off every form of life on Earth.
While Western Medicine basically leaves it up to the individuals immune system, advising rest, plenty of fluids, and over the counter medications as needed, the Chinese have been developing herbal combinations with very good outcomes when compared to Western approaches.
Viruses are very intelligent life forms, even if they are argued to walk between the worlds of the living and non-living. They are masterful shape-shifters.
Covid-19 is an RNA virus and as such can alter its structure very quickly. RNA is a single-stranded molecule, the messenger molecule if you will, that is used to carry genetic information (DNA) intimately involved in the synthesis of proteins needed as the building blocks for all forms of life, including our own. Viruses have genes that alter proteins which allow it to attach to a new species. They are talking among themselves, as are all life forms on planet earth.
Viruses are very good at surviving, and at hiding from the human immune system. They can analyze the nature of immune response launched against them, and can alter the host immune defenses in order to avoid it. The ability of RNA viruses to replicate unreliably and with great genetic variation makes it very hard, if not impossible, to create a vaccine for an RNA virus. They are also very hard to treat with pharmaceuticals as they mutate the moment they encounter one. And it all happens very quickly.
“Epidemiologists have been warning, with increasing insistence, that a worldwide pandemic similar to the one that covered the globe in 1918… is due soon.” — Stephen Harrod Buhner, 2012
In spite of the many advances in medical technology, warns Buhner, there is very little modern medicine can do to treat a widespread pandemic of deadly influenza. He goes on to explain that pharmaceutical antivirals are only partially effective and the stocks of those antivirals are insufficient to deal with a true pandemic. Buhner predicted that the system would begin to shut down, quarantines would force people to stay in their homes, and that we would survive, just as we always have.
A careful analysis of the re-created forms of the strain that caused the 1918 pandemic, and its physiological damage, show that the reason the disease is so severe is that the virus creates a tremendous cascade of cytokines in the body that can become a cytokine storm. Cytokines are immunoregulatory proteins stimulated by the body’s innate immune system in response to infection. The cytokine cascade is the body’s attempt to kill off the invading pathogen. It is this overreaction, much more so in individuals with a strong immune system, that kills so many, so quickly. Susceptibility to more serve infection in older populations is primarily due to age-related physiology, declining immune systems, and pre-existing inflammations like arthritis.
Unfortunately for us, influenza viruses have learned how to use our own immune response for their purposes. They love the lungs and this is where they cause the greatest damage. Once inhaled they use the epithelial cell as a docking port and attach to lung epithelial cells with a glue-like substance called hemagglutinin. As soon as the virus is attached to the cell, it uses an enzyme called neuraminidase to alter the cell surface and trick the cell into taking it inside of itself where it can’t be found by the immune system. This is why neuraminidase inhibitors such as Tamiflu are effective when taken immediately and at the first sign of infection. Neuraminidase inhibitors inhibit the ability of the virus to enter host cells and thus stops the infection. Please see the list of herbal neuraminidase inhibitors below.
The virus also has a protection system it puts in place around itself during replication using what is called an M2 ion channel. M2 inhibitors block this process and literally stop the virus from replicating. Unfortunately, the extensive use of M2 inhibitors in poultry farms has now created resistance to them. The herb, Lomatium, is one of the most powerful M2 inhibitors known and does not create resistance (see below).
Once the virus unpacks itself and releases its viral RNA into the cytoplasm (viral budding and shedding), cells are depleted and die, and the whole process begins again in a vicious cycle. Pneumonia is when this process becomes severe with fewer and fewer functional alveoli. Throughout this process, the virus is also stimulating the release of cytokines in such a way to keep the parts of the immune system that can kill the virus suppressed for as long as possible.
In severe influenza, the infected airway cells begin generating specific cytokines, including type 2 interferon (Interferon-gamma IFN-y), which is responsible for most of the negative effects of the cytokine cascade. This is where the mortal damage occurs. The virus stimulates it, thus initiating a positive feedback loop in the cytokine process that can lead to a cytokine storm. Blocking IFN-y through the use of inhibitors has been found to significantly reduce airway infiltration of immune cells (see herbal inhibitors below).
Other cytokines are also released and inhibiting them, especially TNF-a (tumor necrosis factor alpha) can reduce the cytokine-based inflammation that occurs during influenza, alleviating symptoms and inhibiting viral spread. Plants that inhibit cytokines that the virus stimulates will help to lessen severity and lung damage.
A factor in the vicious cycle of a cytokine storm is the release of a cytokine like protein, HMGB1, which has been implicated in sepsis-induced cytokine storms and is highly elevated in all patients who die from sepsis, including sepsis generated by influenza. The higher the cytokine levels go, the more HMGB1 is released. When HMGB1 is expressed in lung tissue, as it is during a severe flu, it causes massive neutrophil infiltration and acute lung injury requiring mechanical ventilation. Steroidal drugs, aspirin, and ibuprofen have no effect on HMGB1 levels. However, a number of herbal constituents do have a direct suppressive action against HMGB1.
To assist drainage of mucus in the lungs, the lymph nodes in the lungs begin to increase in size to drain fluids from the lungs and prevent suffocation. Supporting the lymph to assist in this drainage is essential. Herbal lymphatics are well known to assist in this drainage.
An influenza virus that stays in the upper respiratory tract is much easier to work with than a more severe infection in the lower respiratory tract. Pneumonia is one serious complication, as are cytokine storms should the infection really take hold. Herbal antivirals work best to prevent these serious complications.
Antivirals work by inhibiting penetration of host cells, and preventing the virus from releasing viral proteins into the host cell interior. They don’t directly “kill” the virus, which is not “alive” in the sense that a bacterium is alive and can be killed.
While viruses don’t develop resistance to herbal medicine like they do with pharmaceuticals, many influenza strains are developing resistance to the primary pharmaceutical neuraminidase inhibitor used to treat them, oseltamivir (Tamiflu). Resistance has become common to M2 inhibitors as well, especially due to their overuse in agribusiness. When oseltamivir ends up in our waterways, unaffected by wastewater treatment, it comes into contact with waterfowl and is exposed to avian influenza strains. The avian strains develop resistance, and as the avian, human, and swine strains commingle the resistance is passed on into strains that infect humans. The emergence of a highly infective avian strain resistant to all known pharmaceutical antivirals is one of the things that keeps viral researchers up at night.
The good news is that herbal medicine and herbal antivirals do not create resistance and support the body to heal without the harmful side effects. It is time to come into relationship with our medicine.
10 Herbs to Help You Fight the Flu
*See Herbal Protocol below the list of herbs to determine which specific herb to take during each phase of the flu.
Preparation & Dosage – (Phase 2 & 3) Taken as a tincture, tea, powder, capsules, or in food. Tincture: 1:5 @ 50%, 30-60 drops, up to 4x/day as a tonic. As a preventative for the flu or chronic illnesses, 1 teaspoon, 4-6x/day, and for acute conditions every 3 hours. Tea: 2 oz. herb in 1 quart of hot water, cover and let stand 4 hours, strain and drink throughout the day. Powder: 1 tablespoon, 3x/day. In acute conditions, 2 tablespoons, 3x/day. Food: Can be added to soup stocks and immune enhancing broths (has a tendency to shred so be sure to strain well).
Uses – Active against influenza A, other viruses, and respiratory infection. Immune potentiator and modulator. Enhances spleen function (spleen deficiency). Is considered a superior immune tonic in Chinese Medicine. Normalizes white blood cell count. Useful in reversing immunosuppression from any source.
Drug/Herb Interactions & Contraindications – No known toxicity, or side effects. Contraindicated for some people in late stage Lyme, as it can exacerbate autoimmune response. May increase effects of interferon and acyclovir. Synergistic with echinacea and licorice. Not for use in people with organ transplants.
2. Boneset – Eupatorium perfoliatum – not native to China
Part used – Aerial parts in flower or just before flowering.
Preparation & Dosage – (Phase 1 & 2) Dried or fresh root tea or tincture. Tea: cold tea – 1 oz. dried herb in 1 qt. boiling water and let steep overnight. Strain and drink throughout the day. Take cold as a liver tonic and for mucous membranes, take hot to reduce fever. Hot Tea: 3 0z. dried herb to 1 gallon of hot water. Steep 30 minutes. Drink hot with honey, 8 oz. every 2 hours. Tincture: Fresh herb in flower, 1:2 @ 95%, 20-40 drops in hot water up to 3x/day. Dry herb use 1:5 @ 60%, 30-40 drops in hot water up to 3x/day. For acute flu or bacterial upper respiratory infections take 10 drops of tincture in hot water every ½ hour, up to 6x/day.
Uses – Reduces fever and body aches accompanying the flu. For general debility, pneumonia, cough, epidemic influenza, colds.
Drug/Herb Interactions & Contraindications – Mildly emetic when taken in large doses. Possible allergy due to plant being in the ragwort family (chamomile, feverfew, etc.). No known drug/herb interactions.
Preparation & Dosage – (Phase 2 & 3) Taken in tea, capsules, or tincture. Tea or Capsules: Root powder, 3 grams every 3-4 hours, or 1 teaspoon 3-6x/day (may be dissolved in water, taken in tea or put in capsules). Tincture: Root powder tincture, 1:5 @ 50% ¼-1/2 teaspoon 3x/day. In acute cases double the dosage.
Uses – Viral infections, especially pandemic influenza and encephalitis, respiratory infections, pneumonia, infections that affect the CNS (Lyme, meningitis, etc.), fevers, seizures, convulsions, sleep disturbances, headache, hypertension. Root tincture specific for reducing inflammation in the brain, reducing cytokine cascades initiated by viral agents.
Drug/Herb Interactions & Contraindications – May interfere with the metabolism and effectiveness of drugs and herbs, increasing their uptake in the body. May increase the effectiveness of anti-cancer drugs.
4.Cordyceps, Cordyceps sinensis, dong chong xia cao
Part used – Caterpillar body, fruiting body.
Actions – Adaptogen, anti-asthmatic, antibacterial, anticonvulsant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antipyretic, antitumor, antitussive, bronchial regulator, cardiotonic, expectorant, hepatoprotective, hypoglycemic, immunomodulator, neuroprotective, renoprotective. TNF-a, IFN-y, cytokine inhibitor. Reduces the virus’ ability to inhibit the production of macrophages (white blood cells) by stimulating monocyte and dendritic cell maturation. Cilia-protective. Reduces autoimmune response and protects endothelial cells.
Preparation & Dosage – (Phase 2 & 3) Taken in tea or tincture. Tea: Powder, 3-9 grams/day, or as high as 50 grams (2 oz.)/day for acute disease conditions, drink in warm water. Buhner recommends 3-4 tablespoons of the powder 3x/day. Tincture: 1:5 @ 50%, tonic dosage ¼-1/2 tsp., 3x/day. Double for active infections (1 tsp. 6x/day). Can also be infused in an alcohol liquor. The best results occur with 6 grams daily as a baseline for acute conditions.
Uses – Respiratory viral infections, CNS inflammation, unproductive or chronic cough, asthma, joint inflammation, low libido, altitude sickness, thick mucus in the lungs that will not move, tinnitus. Increases kidney strength. Tonifies the lungs.
Drug/Herb Interactions & Contraindications – No known side effects. Synergistic with closporine and antidiabetic medications affecting dosage requirements.
5.Elder, Sambucus nigra – not native to China
Part Used – Ripe berries & flowers.
Actions – Antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, antioxidant, moderate immune stimulant. Neuraminidase, TNF-a inhibitor. Reduces the virus’ ability to inhibit the production of macrophages (white blood cells) by stimulating monocyte and dendritic cell maturation. Increases T cell count. Cytokine modulator.
Preparation & Dosage – (Phase 1 & 2) Taken as a tea, tincture, or decoction. Can be made into jams and jellies. The berries must be heated during preparation to reduce cyanogenic compounds. Flower tea: 1 oz. flowers (dried or fresh) in 1 quart of hot water, cover and let stand until cool, drink freely. To make an Elderberry syrup (Thea’s Gyspy Cold Care) for colds and flu please visit theaskitchen.com
Uses – Respiratory infections, and influenza.
Drug/Herb Interactions & Contraindications – Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, depending on the part of the plant you are using and how it is prepared. There are few reports of side effects. Start with low doses and work up. No known drug/herb interactions.
6.Ginger, Zingiber officinale, gan jiang (dried older rhizome), shen jiang (fresh, young rhizome)
Part used – Fresh (not dried) root (rhizome). “Baby” or young ginger can be obtained at your local farmers markets and frozen for later use.
Properties – Pungent. Dried root is hot & drying, fresh root is warm & moistening. Dispels wind-cold.
Preparation & Dosage – (Phase 1) Taken as a fresh juice, tea or tincture. Fresh juice: ¼ cup fresh pressed juice in 8 oz. hot water to which lemon, lime, honey and cayenne may be added. Drink every 2-3 hours at the onset of a cold or flu. Tea: Use the leftover plant matter from juicing to make a tea by steeping in hot water for 4 hours, strain, drink as above. Tincture: Fresh root, 1:2 in 95%, take 10-20 drops up to 4x/day
Uses – Viral infections including colds & flus, digestive aid, calms nausea, improves circulation, reduces diarrhea and stomach cramping, reduces fever through sweating (diaphoretic), reduces chills and inflammation, thins mucous, reduces coughing, pain relieving, relaxes blood vessels, synergistic with other herbs.
Drug/Herb Interactions & Contraindications – Large doses should be avoided in pregnancy (emmenagogue), but the dried root can be used to ease morning sickness. May aggravate gallstones. May rarely cause gas, bloating, heartburn, nausea (usually from using dried, powdered root.) Synergistic with antibiotics, usually increasing their potency.
7. Licorice, Glycyrrhiza glabra, gan cao
Part used – Root (3 year old roots or older).
Actions – Antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, mucoprotective, adrenal tonic, analgesic, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, antispasmodic, antitussive, cardioprotective, demulcent, estrogenic, gastric secretion inhibitor, hepatoprotective, neuroprotective, immunomodulator, immune-stimulant. Upregulates the production of type 1 interferon and increases T cells, which reduces the influenza severity. TNF-a inhibitor. Reduces the virus’ ability to inhibit the production of macrophages (white blood cells) by stimulating monocyte and dendritic cell maturation. Cytokine inhibitor, strongly inhibiting cytokine cascades. IFN-y modulator. Binds HMGB1 inactivating its actions in the body. Increases T cell count.
Note: As an immune-stimulant, it stimulates interferon, and enhances antibody formation. As an immunomodulant it will reduce interferon levels if they are high and upregulate if low.
Preparation & Dosage – (Phase 1, 2 & 3) Taken as tincture, tea, infusion, or decoction. Best used in combination formulas. Tincture: Dried root, 1:5 @ 50%, 30-60 drops up to 3x/day. Acute dosage for viral infections, ½ – 1 tsp. (approx. 50-100 drops) 3-6x/day (blended with other herbs) for a maximum of six weeks. Infusion: ½-1 tsp. powdered root with 8 oz. water, simmer for 15 minutes uncovered, strain, drink up to 3 cups/day. In acute conditions drink 1 cup every 2 hours. Decoction: 6 grams root powder in 16 oz. water, bring to a boil, uncovered and simmer until reduced to approx 8.5 oz., then add enough water to bring volume up to approx. 32 oz., drink throughout the day.
Note: Do not use deglycyrrhized licorice if using as an antiviral. Look for between 2.5 & 4% glycyrrhizin content. 2.5 % should render approx. 50 mg glycyrrhizin.
Uses – Influenza of all kinds, respiratory viral infections, pneumonia, and coronaviruses. Moistens the lungs and reduces coughing. Sore throats as a gargle. Eases abdominal cramping.
Drug/Herb Interactions & Contraindications – Long-term use can lead to numbness, dizziness, headache, hypertension, potassium depletion. This herb should rarely be used in isolation or in large doses for longer than 4-6 weeks, especially if you are pregnant. It is contraindicated in hypertension. Short term use in low doses, especially when combined with other herbs is very safe. Is synergistic increasing the potency of other herbs. It should not be used in combination with estrogenic pharmaceuticals, hypertensive drugs, cardiac glycosides, diuretics, corticosteroids or hydrocortisone.
8.Lomatium, Lomatium dissectum – not native to China
Part Used – Root
Actions – Analgesic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, expectorant, mucous membrane tonic. One of the most potent M2 inhibitors known.
Properties – Bitter, cooling, clears-heat and dampness.
Preparation & Dosage – (Phase 1, 2 & 3) Taken as a tincture or infusion: Tincture: Fresh root, 1:2 @ 70%, 10-30 drops up to 5x/day. Acute dosage, 10-30 drops every hour. Same dosage for dry root, 1:5 @ 70%. Infusion: Cover 2 tsp. powdered root with 8 oz boiling water, cover and let steep for one hour, strain and drink up to 3x/day.
Note: Common influenza tincture blend (as recommended by Stephen Harrod Buhner) is equal parts lomatium, red root, licorice and pleurisy root. In acute conditions take 1 teaspoon, 6x/day. Have also been traditionally eaten as food.
Uses – Upper respiratory viral infections, all influenza strains including coronaviruses, pneumonia, eases coughs. Is synergistic when combined with other herbs including: red root, and licorice. May be used as a single.
Drug/Herb Interactions & Contraindications – No known toxicity. May cause an allergic rash (1%) in some people (more commonly with fresh, not dried root), and will pass on its own within a week. Contraindicated in pregnancy. No known drug/herb interactions.
9. Red Root, Ceanothus americanus – not native to China
Part Used – Root
Actions – Lymphatic, tonic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, alterative, antiseptic, expectorant, antispasmodic, and blood coagulant. Increases T cell count.
Properties – Aromatic, slightly warm, not widely used in TCM. Has a long history of use in the Americas primarily as an astringent.
Preparation & Dosage – (Phase 1, 2 & 3)Taken as a tincture, tea, or strong decoction. Tincture: Dry root, 1:5 @ 50%, 30-90 drops up to 4x/day. Tea: 1 tsp. powdered root in 8 oz. water, simmer 15 minutes, strain. Drink up to 6 cups daily. Decoction: 1 oz. herb in 16 ounces water, cover and simmer slowly for 30 minutes, take 1 tablespoon 3-4x/day. Make a strong tea as a gargle for throat inflammation and tonsillitis.
Uses – Clears lymph. Useful for coughs including whooping cough, and bronchitis.
Drug/Herb Interactions & Contraindications – No known side effects. Contraindicated in pregnancy. Should not be used with pharmaceutical coagulants or anticoagulants.
10. Rhodiola, Rhodiola rosea, Hong Jing Tian
Part Used – Root
Actions – Adaptogen, yin tonic, antidepressant, cardiotonic, endocrine tonic, nervous system tonic, neuroprotective. Neuraminidase inhibitor. Protects cells from hypoxia, significantly reducing lung damage. Prevents hypoxia-induced oxidative damage, increases intracellular oxygen diffusion and the efficiency of oxygen utilization. Reduces autoimmune response and protects endothelial cells.
Properties – Sweet, cooling, adaptogen tonic.
Preparation & Dosage – (Phase 2 & 3) Tincture or capsules. Tincture: Dried root 1:5 @ 50%, Tonic dose: 30-40 drops, 3-4x/day. Acute dose ½-1 teaspoon 3x/day for 30 days then back to tonic dose. Capsule: 100 mg., 1-2 per day. In acute conditions up to 1,000 mg. daily. Standardized to 2-3% rosavins. Take just before meals.
Cleavers – Lymphatic with some of the same effects at Red Root. Fresh juice of the plant is best.
Echinacea Angustifolia – (Phase 1 & 2) Antiviral, found to be effective against swine origin flu. Inhibits receptor cell binding activity of the virus and strengthens protective power of the mucous membranes making it harder for the virus to penetrate.
Umckaloabo – A potentially life-saving herb. The main cause of death in an influenza virus infection is pneumonia. Learn how Umckaloabo prevents this at Wisdom of the Plant Devas.
Vitamin D3 –Vitamin D3 deficiency among ICU patients increases mortality by more than 70% compared to those who are not deficient. Dosage: 3-6,000 iu/day
Quercetin – Neuraminidase and HMGB1 inhibitor.
Zinc – Increases T-cell count. Has been shown to be active against a number of viruses and is supportive in treatment of influenza. Studies have found zinc supplementation can triple the survival rate for children with pneumonia and reduce the duration of the common cold in children and adults. Dosage: 10-25 mg./day, 25-40 during acute conditions. Works synergistically with selenium, 200 mcg/day.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil – Olbas, or Eucalyptus inhalation to reduce coughing and improve airflow.
Note: The information contained in this post is for educational purposes only. 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. The recommendations made in this post are based on the work of, Stephen Harrod Buhner, Paul Bergner, and my own clinical experience.
Phase One – Early onset: Take at the first signs of infection, equal parts redroot tincture and licorice root extract, 30 drops, every hour until symptoms are resolved. Fresh ginger can be juiced, drink warm added to whatever liquids you are drinking. Drinking it in hot water or tea is diaphoretic helping to lower a fever. Use up to 2 oz, 2xday. Elderberry syrup as directed on label. Echinacea angustifoliainhibits the virus, 20 drops every other hour. Hold in mouth, then swallow slowly so tincture comes in contact with mucous membranes. Only useful in stage one. Lomatium tincture dosage, 20 drops every hour until condition improves. Boneset tincture or tea for body aches and fever. While some may recommend raw garlic at this stage, it may be too hot and pungent for this condition and it destroys good gut bacteria along with the bad. Learn more in Wisdom of the Five Flavors: The Energetics of Healing with Food and Herbs.
Phase Two – Moderate infection: A combination of Chinese skullcap, licorice, lomatium, cordyceps, astragalus, rhodiola, boneset, and elder. Antiviral Tincture Formula: Equal parts Chinese Skullcap, licorice, lomatium, redroot. 60 drops every hour. Immune Tincture Formula: Equal parts astragalus, cordyceps, and rhodiola. 60 drops 3x/day.
Phase Three – Severe infection: Double the dosage of Antiviral and Immune Tincture Formula.
3. Viral Infectious Disease and Natural Products with Antiviral Activity, Kitazato, Kaio & Wang, Y & Kobayashi, N. (2007). Drug discoveries & therapeutics. 1. 14-22.
4. Effects of Toll-Like Receptor Stimulation on Eosinophilic Infiltration in Lungs of BALB/c Mice Immunized with UV-Inactivated Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Related Coronavirus Vaccine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4135953/ J Virol. 2014 Aug; 88(15): 8597–8614. Naoko Iwata-Yoshikawa, et al.
Living on the Blue Ridge of the Southern Appalachian Mountains is a blessing. Multiply that by the abundance of medicinal herbs that also live here, and what you have is a rich haven for herbalists. Having survived the advance and retreat of glaciers during the last ice age, the Appalachians, some of the oldest mountains in the world, became a botanical treasure. It is here that I am blessed to study, gather and prepare herbs, and practice herbal medicine.
I have been coming to these Smoky Mountains of North Carolina for as long as I can remember, and I have lived here full time for the last twenty-four years. Like me, lots of folks are finding their way to the mountains in search of a saner, healthier lifestyle and communities in which to raise families and grow old. Unfortunately, more people also means more scars upon the land. While I believe there is enough for everyone, we also have a responsibility to future generations to be good stewards of the land that feeds, sustains, and heals us. For this reason, I would like to share one of my harvesting expeditions.
Wild Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) is an attractive shrub but nowhere near as flamboyant as its cultivar cousins cherished as ornamentals. Wild Hydrangea is native to the Southern Appalachians, which has allowed me the opportunity to get to know it more intimately. What I discovered is an excellent remedy for inflamed or enlarged prostate. While not a “prostate” herb, per se, because herbs cannot be that easily pigeonholed, it holds a genetic knowledge of its lineage that stretches back for millennia. That brings forth many healing potentials, and we are still discovering them. To describe Wild Hydrangea as simply a prostate herb would not give it enough credit or the respect it deserves as a wise elder.
The study of an imbalance in a person, such as a prostate issue, is called pathophysiology. Modern Medicine studies pathophysiology from the narrow lens of the reductionist viewpoint because the pharmaceuticals prescribed by its practitioners are narrow in their actions. Herbalists have a broader perspective because the plants they use are broad-acting and have many actions. This broad energetic perspective or holistic view naturally leads to searching for patterns. Energetics is another way of saying patterns of organization.
Patterns of imbalance within our body mirror the patterns found in nature: heat/cold, dampness/dryness, contraction/expansion. Self-organization into ordered patterns is seen everywhere in nature. Studying and learning how to read these patterns will help us understand that healing takes place in the context of relationships. Plants are sentient beings that communicate through biochemistry. The understanding of this chemical language is in its infancy. Energetically, Hydrangea is cool and neutral. Its herbal actions are diuretic, anti-lithic, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory. Its uses include various kidney, gallbladder, and urinary tract problems.
My first trip into the woods (many years ago now) to identify and harvest Wild Hydrangea was on a Full Harvest Moon with my mentor; herbalist, Patricia Kyritsi Howell. It was the perfect time to go digging for Hydrangea’s roots. We carried a basket, canvas bag, and hand clippers into the North Georgia woods. The white flower clusters that bloom May through July were faded and brown but still clung to the shrubs that grow between four to six feet tall. The opposite, broadly ovate and sharply toothed edges of the leaves that are slightly paler underneath made the identification easier for us in the absence of bloom. The stem bark tends to peel off in thin layers, each a slightly different color and thus the common name, Sevenbark.
Patricia writes about Wild Hydrangea in Medicinal Herbs of the Southern Appalachians. I was thrilled that she had agreed to provide me with a personal introduction to this native plant. We walked on through the woods until she stopped and pointed out a few shrubs growing on a steep slope. Getting to them would be difficult. Following Patricia’s lead, I clamored up the bank, digging my heels into the soft, deciduous dirt. Then I began to dig beneath the plant. That was no easy root to free from its tenacious hold. I sweated and dug, pulled, and cut until I held its amazing rhizome and wildly branching root in my hand. I filled the gaping hole that remained with as much dirt and leaf litter as I could manage and clamored back down.
When I turned and looked back up the steep slope, it appeared like a bear had been digging there. I had taken the root of one of three Hydrangea plants that grew in that spot, knowing the importance of leaving enough to ensure continued propagation. Then we decided to climb up to the ridge above the hillside to continue our search. I thought it might be easier to dig from above rather than climb up from below. Not too far from where I had dug up the first Hydrangea root, I saw another small grouping of the shrubs. In the end, I would dig three roots but not before I climbed down over the edge of the bank I had previously climbed up. While hanging off the side, I lost my footing with nothing to hold me but my body pressed against the loose, humus-rich soil and one hand clinging to this small but deep root. I looked down and realized the slide and tumble to the bottom would not be pretty. If I went down, it was going with me. So I dug my heels in deeper while freeing the root from its tenacious hold with one hand and managing to grab a vine with the other, pulling myself up just enough to get one foot in the hole left by the root, enough to propel myself up over the top of the bank. I was very grateful that I didn’t crash and burn. Life, after all, is an adventure.
That gave me a deeper appreciation for the roots of plants that hold and support the soil and its microorganisms on steep mountain slopes. My clamoring had left the mountainside unmistakably vulnerable to erosion even though I had done my best to fill in the holes. We should never underestimate the impact on natural systems when imposing our needs. May we always do our best to keep that impact to a minimum and never take it for granted. I thanked the rich soil beneath my feet and Hydrangea for its medicine root. Three roots were all I needed. Not taking more than we need is one of the keys to ethical harvesting.
Wanting to have enough plant material on hand for making medicine, I had bought some dried and sifted Hydrangea root from a wholesale distributor. But I also knew that preparing local wildcrafted medicines is 1000 times more potent energetically than commercially prepared medicines. These roots that we had gathered would become fresh root tincture started on the full moon and decanted on the new or dark moon — dark like the earth in which she grew. The roots would more readily release their medicine and active constituents during this phase of the waning moon.
“So that’s all you need?” Patricia inquired. And my response was, “Yes, it is enough.” I had accomplished what I had come for: to feel, smell and connect with the medicine plant that was serving my clients. Sometimes healing takes a certain kind of aggressiveness, a willingness to go that extra mile or climb that mountain. Patricia then made a very thoughtful suggestion, “Add a little of the fresh wild root tincture to the commercial dried root tincture. It will remind it of who it is,” and that this is where it came from.
Headaches sufferers know that this is no way to live yet most don’t know the cause of their debilitating condition. I frequently hear “dehydration,” “too much sugar,” and “stress,” mentioned as common triggers. While dehydration may seem like an easy fix, many don’t understand the effects of long-term dehydration resulting from depletion of deep yin fluids. Making the effort to correct a yang driven, stress filled lifestyle doesn’t always come easy when living in a driven society. Headache powders and pills can keep us going most of the time and for those severe migraines, forced down time can result in loss of work and productivity. We frequently push ourselves to keep going even when our bodies are crying for us to slow down. This pattern, especially when reinforced with toxic mimics like caffeine, can be incredibly depleting. The question that comes to mind is: Why has so much value been placed on the human doing while neglecting the human being and at what cost? It’s a story as old as time, but that story is changing. The human potential movement has us demanding new answers and new solutions. The paradox is that answers have been here all along. They are no further than we are right now. We are standing on our medicine.
Orthodox medicine considers the underlying cause of migraine to be unknown. What we do know, and what migraine sufferers are constantly aware of, is that there are triggers that generally precede the onset of a migraine headache. Headaches in general are the most common health problem and the most common side effect from prescription or over-the-counter drugs. All prescription medications are yin depleting, or in other words, drying to deep yin fluids necessary to not only cool the liver and keep it from overheating, but also to lubricate the entire body. In a society where it is easy to simply take a pill for a headache, we have not thought to differentiate between types of headaches as is done in Chinese Medicine according to the meridians and specific symptoms. Just like the Eskimo have many words to describe snow, there are many different ways to describe headache. The two most common types are vascular headaches (dilation of blood vessels) and tension headaches (muscle spasms).
The most common triggers for migraine headache are stress (physical, emotional or mental) and fatigue. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is an elegant system that describes patterns of disharmony through its Five Element Theory. We all know that stress affects hormones. In the energetic model of TCM the Liver, or the Wood Element, is largely responsible for regulating hormones. The Wood Element is responsible for holding and releasing substances at the proper time including hormones and emotions. Disharmony in the liver disrupts these processes and is almost always implicated in any kind of headache, especially cyclical or seasonal headaches. Other triggers can include environmental and dietary. In all cases, migraines are the result of disruption of liver qi.
When liver qi or energy is disrupted due to liver congestion and stagnancy, liver heat rises, causing a turbulent inner wind. This is a ‘wind’ that smacks us upside the head, so to speak. Migraine symptoms like light sensitivity (Wood Element sense organ correspondence is the eyes) nausea (rebellious liver qi, energy moving up instead of down) or a migraine provoked by anger (repressed or otherwise) along with an increasing frequency of migraine episodes in the spring, all implicate the liver’s role in migraine headaches. We see this through the Wood Element’s correspondences of eyes (sense organ), anger (root emotion) and spring (season.)
Relieving liver congestion is fundamental to improving headaches of any kind and can be achieved with proper diet, rest, nutrition, and nourishing and tonic herbs. Tonic herbs are herbs that are taken over a period of time usually from 3 months to a year. The longest lasting result from herbs is seen in their tonic ability to restore bodily systems. Some of the better know hepatic tonics include: dandelion, burdock root and yellow dock. Herbs that help to restore the yin fluids that cool the liver are: licorice root, reishi mushroom, schizandra, nettles and red clover. Eating a lighter diet that includes the bitter flavor and lots of spring greens with herbal vinegar dressing or fresh lemon is helpful in clearing liver heat (see recipe link below.) Full sweet (whole grains, legumes, sweet potato, winter squash, etc.) is harmonizing to the liver and increases liver qi (energy for the liver to do its work.) If you suffer with migraines you may do well to work with an alternative medicine practitioner (herbalist, naturopath, chiropractor, acupuncturist) who understands and uses these concepts in their practice.
Adaptogenic herbs become a very important consideration when helping the body adapt to environmental and internal stress. They help restore balance and are another strategy to increase the body’s resistance to stressors and provide a defense response to acute chronic stress. Adaptogens are unique in their ability to restore balance of endocrine hormones, modulate the immune system, prevent and reduce illness while strengthening the body. In TCM adaptogenic herbs are considered qi tonics that strengthen and stimulate the immune and defense functions of the body. Some examples of adaptogenic herbs are He shou wu, Ashwaganda, Licorice, Schisandra and Reishi. By normalizing neurotransmitter levels in the brain adaptogens are used to prevent and treat neurological health problems including headaches and migraines.
The more we wake up and realize that increased productivity actually comes from replenishing and nourishing ourselves at the deepest level the more we realize our human potential. Nourishment comes in many forms including wholesome foods and the herbs listed above as well as creative expression and a life filled with purpose and meaning. The good new is: There is hope for headache sufferers in every season.
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