So, the Texas Deep Freeze bit us, or more specifically, bit our pipes - and made them burst - in 7 places. Our power was cycled off at least 6 times - twice for 15 hours each, and there was no recovering from that. The first set of four pipe bursts occurred over our family room and kitchen and the second set burst over the kitchen, laundry, and guest bathroom. My poor husband ran outside right away and was on his hands and knees sweeping snow out of the way trying to find the cover of the water shut off valve. He got it turned off in less than five minutes, but the damage was done. The ceilings began collapsing the next day (when the temperature got high enough to start melting the ice). The picture below was taken right after the first section of ceiling fell. Three more sections fell after that one (one in the kitchen), and one other section had to be cut out in yet a third room.
By now, you're wondering what this has to do with an herb called Yerba Santa. As you can see in the picture, when the ceiling fell, so did all the fiberglass insulation that was in the ceiling. Even though friends came over to help us clean up the mess and tarp the gaping hole, a lot of that insulation dust remained in the house, and we've been breathing it for a few weeks now. Several days ago, it finally started affecting us. Our respiratory systems are letting us know they are not happy - swollen sinus passages are making breathing through the nose difficult.
Enter Yerba Santa. My goal was to make an herb blend to open the sinuses, reduce inflammation, and keep our lungs open as well. After a bit of brainstorming, I came up with some herbal combinations which I'll share below. The featured herb in these blends is Yerba Santa for the sinuses.
This lovely herb, which is also known as Mountain Balm, Bear's Weed, Gum Bush, and Consumptive Weed, is native to the US western states of California, Oregon, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. It's warming and drying with a pungent, bitter, sweet flavor.
Yerba Santa works to thin mucus and decongest the sinuses and lungs. It also helps the body expel excess mucus while toning and tightening the epithelial tissue of the mucous membranes. It has been used traditionally to facilitate relief for those with colds, flu, congestion of the lungs and sinuses, hay fever, sinusitis, pleurisy, smoker's cough, laryngitis, pneumonia, pharyngitis, and sore throat. It's also used to mellow out the flavor of very bitter herbs.
The first tea I made for us was designed to prevent/eliminate a potential sinus infection. I used equal parts of Yerba Santa, Elderberry, Mullein, Cardamom, and White Willow Bark. I blended 2 tsp of each herb, then poured 1.7 L (57 oz) just boiled water over the blend. The next morning, we each added 1 cup of the infusion to 1 cup of coffee. At noon and again in the evening, we added 1 cup of water to 1 cup of tea and sipped it over a few hours. We used this blend for two days and it helped with reducing some of the headache and malaise.
The next brew I made was similar, but I switched two of the herbs. This time, I included Yerba Santa, Cardamom, Violet, Sage, and Mullein. Here, I was specifically trying to clear out our sinuses because they were almost completely blocked. I again poured 1.7 L of just boiled water over 10 tsp herb blend (2 tsp each herb) and allowed it to steep overnight. We drank this for three days (3 cups per day). It did help reduce the swelling in the sinuses, but didn't completely resolve it. It also tasted pretty good.
Perhaps, if we were to continue drinking this blend for another few days, it would help more, but we've lost the use of our kitchen for a couple of days while the ceiling is being replaced. My plan is to make the next brew with just the Yerba Santa to see what it does by itself.
As a final note, I did check the safety information before creating my herbal blends. There are no reports of adverse reactions or adverse events with the use of Yerba Santa. Remember, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, please check with your health care practitioner before using any herb.
In the summer of 2020, with permission from the landowner, I checked out some unusual looking ‘weeds’ growing in the vacant lot across the street from my house. I encountered a plant with odd looking pods, one which I had never seen before. I took pictures then checked my plant app and plant id group on social media and learned it was Milkweed. Next, I started researching information about it. I was surprised to discover that Milkweed is also called Butterfly Weed. How ironic – a plant I had purchased and planted in my garden (without realizing its importance at the time) was also one I had been trying to find under a different name - Pleurisy Root. As you'll see in the pictures below, the wild Milkweed I found is a different species from the one I'm purposely growing. (And I left it alone except to take pictures!)
Left: Butterfly Weed (A. tuberosa) in my garden, late summer 2020. The leaves are narrower and the plant is taller than the A. viridis pictured above.
Also known as Milkweed, the leaves of Asclepias are the only food that meet the nutritional needs of Monarch caterpillars. It's a favorite for Monarch Butterflies as well, though the butterflies can get their nectar from other sources. This blog will focus on only one of the more than 100 species of Asclepias - A. tuberosa.
So it's food for Monarchs, honey bees, humming birds, etc. Is it good for humans? Why is it important for people to forage responsibly with Milkweed? Are there any cautions with A. tuberosa?
To answer these questions, I'll have you look at one of the common names for A. tuberosa - Pleurisy Root. Pleurisy is swelling of the lining of the lungs usually due to lung infection (like bronchitis or pneumonia) or injury. If you guessed that Pleurisy Root can help with the lungs, you're correct, but it can also help with other issues.
Pleurisy Root has been used by many Native American tribes for thousands of years. The roots are a well-known remedy for lung ailments from bronchitis to pneumonia, and its cooling, drying, and relaxing energetics are perfect for any type of hot, wet, stuck congestion. Infusion, tincture, or tisane made from the roots may reduce pain and inflammation, open the capillaries of the lungs, thin the mucus, dilate the bronchial tubes, relax spasms, and loosen and help expel phlegm. As a diaphoretic and diuretic, A. tuberosa will also help the body cool down, move stuck lymph, and detoxify from fever and illness by promoting perspiration and urination.
In a lotion, salve, or wash Butterfly Weed can be used to calm a variety of skin conditions and wounds while bringing relief to injuries or joint and muscle pain. This is because of its analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic properties. To achieve this end, you might infuse the root in a carrier oil (like coconut oil), then add the infused oil to a lotion or salve.
In the digestive and excretory systems, Pleurisy Root may act to calm hot indigestion and gas while relieving constipation. Yet, it is also used to alleviate dysentery and chronic diarrhea.
There are some warnings that come with this herb. First, you need to know which species you have. Second, do not use Pleurisy Root if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Third, all parts of the plant must be cooked before consuming because the raw plant contains cardiac glycosides which may affect the heart. Lastly, the older, more mature plants could be toxic.
As a final note about Asclepias tuberosa, I highly recommend growing several plants in your garden. By doing so, you'll attract and provide food for the Monarchs, other butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. It would also give you a handy source of Pleurisy Root without the need to forage in the wild which could deplete Monarch food sources. Remember, the Monarch butterfly lays one egg on each Milkweed plant. When that egg hatches, the caterpillar will eat leaves from that plant until it pupates. These leaves are the ONLY food that will provide enough nutrition for the Monarch to reach it's appropriate size.
For more detailed information about this beautiful and beneficial plant, become a member and check out the Datasheet.
If you're looking for a plant that you can grow even if you have a 'black thumb' (like me), Bee Balm makes a great choice. This hardy perennial will attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, yet may repel deer. (Hmm, I wonder if it would keep critters from feasting on your vegetable garden if it were planted around the perimeter.) More importantly, Bee Balm features some great therapeutic benefits which can be accessed year round using the leaves and/or flowers.
Like Oregano and Thyme, Bee Balm has a significant amount of a chemical called Thymol. This constituent gives it a spicy-hot taste. (I picked a leaf off my plant last summer and chewed on it - my mouth was burning, then went a little bit numb.) It's aroma is lemony-mint which is not a surprise since it's a member of the mint family. The flowers come in different colors - red, purple, white, and pink. In the pictures above and below, you can see my Bee Balm is purple. My one mistake in planting was that I put it too close to my Lemon Balm. (They started as such little plants!) If you decide to plant Bee Balm, you need to leave about 2 - 4 feet of space on each side. The picture below shows my Bee Balm and Lemon Balm. I planted them about 18 inches apart in 2019 with the Bee Balm on the left of the Lemon Balm. The Bee Balm grew towards and behind the Lemon Balm, and the Lemon Balm just grew in every direction. Both plants still look happy and healthy, but I'll try to move them this Spring.
Left: What my Bee Balm looked like a couple of weeks ago. Zone 8b, North Central Texas. The leaves have now dried up. We have mild winters here, and I let the flowers go to seed in the hopes I'll get more plants. Come Spring, I'll try my hand at dividing the roots and planting in other areas too.
So, what's so great about this plant?
It's analgesic, antimicrobial, antioxidant, anxiolytic, decongestant, digestive, hypotensive, a relaxing nervine, tonic, and vulnerary. Energetically, it's warming, drying, and diffusive.
If you have a minor infection on the skin, in the mouth or throat, or a yeast infection, The thymol and carvacrol in Bee Balm may help clear it up. (Remember, more serious infections need a doctor's care.) Both those constituents also provide relief from stings, skin conditions like eczema, burns, or wounds. A spit poultice (made by chewing a leaf then applying it to the skin) is an easy way to soothe bites, scrapes, or minor wounds while stopping bleeding and keeping bacteria at bay - especially if you're out camping and forgot to bring a first-aid kit. Infusing the dried herb in a fixed oil, then making a salve with that oil is an easy way to keep such relief on hand.
Did you ever get a toothache on a weekend when you can't see a dentist? Lightly chewing a Bee Balm Leaf then applying it to the gums around the irritated tooth is a natural way to minimize the pain until you can get in to see the dentist. If you only have dried herb, you could steep a teaspoon of leaves in boiling water for 5 - 15 minutes, allow to cool, then use it as a mouth rinse. (You might also include oregano and cloves when making the tea/mouthwash.)
Colds, flu, stuffy sinuses? Make a tea with the herb. You can use it as a steam to inhale and drink the tea to open up your airways. The tea can help dry out congested mucus membranes and reduce inflammation in your nasal passages.
Drinking Bee Balm tea before bed may help you relax, destress, and fall asleep naturally. The tea is also good when you have an upset stomach because it calms gas, bloating, indigestion, and nausea.
Finally, as a diffusive, Bee Balm will warm you up. Those with chronically cold hands and feet can drink the tea or add the fresh herb to their food for flavor. They will soon discover that it spreads the warmth from the core of the body outward to the extremities.
The main caution with Bee Balm is for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding because it is an emmenagogue and can cause contractions, they should avoid this herb. Do not use Bee Balm if you are allergic to it.
What you see are pictures of plants in my yard. Some are established, some are new and will be planted soon. My plan for this blog was to write about roses, but that'll wait for another month. You see, I'm having too much fun exploring my own yard! Since most of us are stuck at home, this is the perfect time for you to explore your own yard!
My husband and I live on almost an acre of land which is, thankfully, not part of a homeowner's association. While DH sees weeds that he would like to get rid of, I keep finding plants that I want to see flourish. We've come to a few compromises on this. He's letting me keep the far back section all natural (since that part of the yard is almost always wet and the lawn mower usually gets stuck back there). The rest of the yard will be mowed as needed when it's dry enough. In addition, I've chosen some greenery that he'll plant for me.
So, what are the pictures?
The first two are of our Knock Out Rose Bush. We planted this about 7 or 8 years ago in a different location, then, a couple of years later, moved it to where it is now. As you can see, it's huge and happy. The roses have a beautiful aroma, and I've made hydrosols with them several times.
The middle set of pictures are of the Rosa rugosa rose bushes and the Elderberry trees (Sambucus canadensis) that I bought a couple of weeks ago. The next-to-last picture is one of two Brown Turkey Fig Trees (Ficus carica) - also purchased two weeks ago. These were online purchases, so I have to say I'm really happy and impressed at how healthy these plants are! I'll be able to use various parts of all of these plants: the flowers and rose hips from the Rosa rugosa, the flowers and berries of the Elderberry trees, and the fruit of the Fig Trees (though the latter may take several years before they're big enough to produce fruit).
The final picture is of Curly Dock (Rumex crispus L.). This is a new plant I found the other day during my 'yard walk', but there's not much of it yet. It's full of vitamins and minerals, and while the whole plant is edible in limited amounts, I plan to let this one spread some more.
So what exactly do I mean when I say I'm exploring my own yard?
I am literally walking slowly back and forth across my front yard and back yard for about 30 minutes daily looking down at the plants that are growing. Every time I see a flower or leaf that I don't recognize, I take pictures of it.
When I finish my walk, I use an app called PlantNet to try and identify the new ones I've discovered. Often, this app gives me several possibilities, so I check my foraging books and plant recognition websites and FB pages as well. (The most recent, and most accurate website I've been using is www.foragingtexas.com and the most recent and accurate FB page is Wild Remedies.) Once I have a positive ID of a plant, I write about it and try to draw it in a notebook that is dedicated to this purpose. On each plant walk, I try to recognize and name the plants I've already identified from previous days. Except for one time with Chickweed, I haven't harvested anything yet - though I think I need to pull some of those lovely wild onions.
In the long run, these plants will feed bees, birds, other animals, and us. My main focus right now is to learn how to identify the plants, give ones like the Curly Dock time to spread, and plant some that are already common to, and will flourish in, this area. Within a few years, I'd love to be able to regularly harvest plants and herbs for us for food and medicinal use.
Plants I've identified in my yard to date (not all are usable/some are toxic):
Blue-eyed Grass - no human use
Blue Fieldmadder - no human use
Carolina Bristle Mallow - leaves are edible - made into tea
Carolina Geranium - can be used topically only
Clover - edible with specific cautions
Creeping Buttercup - toxic
Chickweed - edible
Curly Dock - edible
Dandelion - edible
Sow Thistle - edible
Horseweed - edible
Northoscordum bivalve (false onion - crowpoison) - toxic
Wild Lettuce - edible with specific cautions
Wild Onion/Garlic - edible
I need to give a strong word of caution with these - and it's the reason I'm not eating my weeds yet. Some of these are edible in small amounts only. Some have toxic
look-alikes. Some need to be eaten fairly quickly or they turn toxic. Please do not just go out and start adding your weeds to salads! Learn about them first and be sure you have a positive identification. If you use chemicals on your yard, I recommend you do not eat the weeds.
This time of being home can be a true blessing for all of us. If you have kids, take them out on daily yard walks. Think of all the Science and Math they can get measuring plants, drawing what they see, researching those plants in books and online, learning how they can use those plants, and learning to love and respect nature with the people they love the most.
The photos above are Chickweed I found in my garden. I'm all excited because there's a bunch of it growing in my yard right now. While DH is not happy about the abundance of "weeds" that have taken over our yard, I'm thrilled that I can begin foraging (instead of buying all my herbs), and Chickweed will be the first plant I gather this year. (Thanks to Rosalee de la Foret's FB page that goes with her soon-to-be-published book Wild Remedies, I'm now learning how to identify the specific plants in my own front yard!)
This beautiful plant makes its appearance at the start of Spring. Along with dandelions, it provides early food for bees and humans. If your yard hasn't been treated with harsh chemicals, you can harvest the stems, leaves, and flowers of Chickweed for multiple uses.
As a food, Chickweed can be used in salads, cooked in foods (like other herbs), made into a pesto or juice, infused into vinegar, oil, and honey, taken as tea, and taken as tincture. Topically, it can be used as a poultice, and eye rinse, a salve, or infused in a bath.
Energetically, Chickweed is cooling and moistening and best for those who have a hot, dry constitution.
Therapeutically, this "weed" offers significant nutrition, including anthraquinones, calcium, coumarins, flavonoids, magnesium, phosphorous, phytosterols, potassium, saponins, and Vitamin C - talk about your healthy salad! Not only does it provide nutrition, it also helps your body absorb nutrients from other foods you eat. It's the perfect ingredient in dishes for those with anemia, or those who are recovering from surgery or illness. During times of high stress, it can help cool the heat and balance the body while encouraging detoxification by getting sluggish lymph fluid to move thereby reducing excess water and fat in the body. (Yes, it can be part of a healthy weight-loss diet.)
Topically, Chickweed relieves bites, stings, and itchy skin much like Plantain does. Infuse it into oil to add to a salve or lotion, then apply to the irritated skin. If you're outside and need immediate relief, crush the leaves and apply them to the abraded area.
Chickweed can be infused in water, then cooled to use as an eyewash to relieve red, itchy, irritated, dry eyes or to help with conjunctivitis and sties as it has antiviral properties.
This hardy little weed has huge potential in your home apothecary and in your diet. It
likes the cooler weather in spring and fall -- you can usually harvest it in those seasons before the flowers bloom or while they are blooming. Once they have gone to seed, the plant will be too tough for food.
If you are new to harvesting your own herbs from your own yard, make sure the plants you acquire are the ones you want to use. Chickweed is a very safe herb, but there are a couple of poisonous plants (Spurge and Scarlet Pimpernel) that could easily be mistaken for Chickweed by the novice.
To learn more about Chickweed, become a member and read about all its benefits on the Datasheet on this website.
1. Bruton-Seal, Julie, Seal, Matthew, Backyard Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies, 2nd Edition, Skyhorse Publishing New York, NY, (c) 2009, 2019,
pages 42 - 45
2. Easley, Thomas, Horne, Steven, The Modern Herbal Dispensatory: A Medicine-Making Guide, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California, (c) 2016, pages 210 - 211
3. Hutchens, Alma R., Indian Herbalogy of North America: The Definitive Guide to Native Medicinal Plants and Their Uses, Shambhala Publications, Boulder, Colorado, (c) 1973, pages 87 - 88
4. Moerman, Daniel E, Native American Medicinal Plants: An Ethnobotanical Dictionary, Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, (c) 2009, page 468
5. Pursell, JJ, The Herbal Apothecary: 100 Medicinal Herbs and How to Use Them, Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, (c) 2016, pages 88 - 89
6. Upton, Roy et. al., Botanical Safety Handbook, Second Edition, CRC Press, (c) 2013, pages 818 - 819
7. Physician's Desk Reference, PDR for Herbal Medicines: Third Edition, Thomson, (c) 2004, page 191
8. de la Forêt, Rosalee, Chickweed Monograph, Herbmentor, (c) 2020, https://herbmentor.learningherbs.com/herb/chickweed/, Accessed March 10, 2020
Ginger Elder (berry & flower) Cranberry
Of all the herbs and fruits out there - and there are MANY great ones - these are the top three I would recommend during cold and flu season. They're easy to incorporate into the diet, they're tasty, and they're powerful.
Before I go into more detail about these three, let's briefly review information about viruses from the Jan. 21, 2020 blog on Monthly Tidbits.
Fresh ginger and cranberries are hemagglutinin inhibitors - they prevent virus particles (virions) from gluing themselves on to our epithelial cells. Virions that don't glue on to our cells cannot break open and enter our cells, so they cannot reproduce.
Ginger, elderflowers, elderberries, and cranberries are all neuraminidase inhibitors. This is a second line of defense against viruses. If a virion does glue itself onto an epithelial cell, these herbs can help prevent the virus from breaking into the cell. Again, if the virus can't get in, it can't reproduce.
You'll have noticed a common theme here - prevention of virus reproduction. A virion (it's technically not considered a living cell) sitting on a desk is not multiplying. It's simply waiting for someone to pick it up. Viruses are not capable of reproducing by themselves - they can only reproduce when they enter their 'soul cell'. (Okay, I'm being whimsical here.) You've heard of a soul mate, it's sort of the same concept. A flu virus will only attach to epithelial lung cells, no matter where or how it enters the body. All virions will only attach to cells with matching receptors in the body.
One virus particle entering your body will get wiped out by your immune system, but a few dozen particles entering all at once may be too much for your immune system to handle at that moment, and some of those particles find their 'soul cells' and literally stick to them. At this point, you still have no symptoms and you feel healthy. However, the particles that manage to break into your cells, will go nuts making baby virions. They'll keep doing that until your cells get so full that they explode open and spew thousands of baby viruses (called shedding). Many of those babies attach to other epithelial cells to keep the process going, others spread (through coughing and sneezing) to new hosts.
While your immune system was probably alerted to a problem when the first viruses entered your body, it still needs some time to get up to speed on fighting the pathogen because it needs to identify the intruder, determine if it has seen this version before, (if not, figure out how to destroy it) then ramp up immune cell production. At the point when viral shedding starts, you may have few, or no, symptoms, but you become contagious. Your immune system is still building up its army of soldier cells for the fight that's about to start, but it's not quite ready for a full-on battle. As the viral load in your body increases and your immune cells multiply and engage in war, you become symptomatic - you feel sick.
This brings us back to the previously mentioned points: 1. If the virus particles don't attach to your epithelial cells, they can't reproduce; and 2. If a virus particle attaches to your cell, but can't break into the cell, that virus can't reproduce. Preventing viral hemagglutination, neuraminidase activity, and reproduction is the key to preventing colds and flu.
Drinking a cup of cranberry juice or a cup of ginger tea a day can help prevent viruses from attaching to your cells.
Drinking cranberry juice or tea made from cranberries, ginger, and/or elder can help prevent viruses from being able to enter your cells in case some do attach.
If you're already sick, these herbs can help reduce symptoms and shorten the duration of the cold or flu by reducing inflammation and by preventing many of the new baby viruses from attaching to and/or breaking into more cells.
These herbs can be prepared in a variety of ways separately or combined, and are generally safe for any age.
* Fresh ginger root can be purchased at most grocery stores for a few dollars. Cut off and slice up about an inch of the root. Add it to water or any other beverage. I put it in my morning coffee.
* One cup of cranberry juice a day works just as well as ginger. You can buy the juice any time, or get a couple of bags of frozen cranberries in December, then make them into juice or tea during the year.
* Elderberries can be made into tea, syrup, jam, gummies, wine, and tincture. They do need to be cooked to be safe.
While these herbs can help you resist viral infections, your body might still get overwhelmed with a huge influx of virus particles. If you do start to feel the first signs that you're getting sick (i.e. that funny taste in your mouth or a tickle in your throat) these herbs are a great ally. Making a tea with ginger, elderberry, and elderflower (you could add cranberries too) and sipping on the warm tea all day for two days can help knock out the infection more quickly than doing nothing. I've done this several times at the first onset of symptoms, and ended up not getting sick.
Here's my recipe for this delicious tea (I call it EEG Tea):
1 tsp dried Elderberries
1 tsp dried Elder flowers
1 inch fresh ginger root sliced
3 cups water
1. I place the herbs in a tea diffuser ball (you can use a cotton tea bag, or just drop the herbs in the water and strain at the end).
2. I put the water and herbs in a pot on the stove, cover the pot, and bring it to a boil.
3. Once it reaches a solid boil, I turn off the heat and allow it to steep covered for at least 15 - 30 minutes.
I usually make another batch for the next day before I go to bed. I allow this batch to steep overnight and get really strong. The next day, I can add 3 more cups of water to stretch the tea further.
I don't add anything to sweeten the tea because I love the flavor as is. However, you could add honey to taste if you prefer.
As a final note, there are other things you can do to lower your chances of catching a cold or the flu: 1. get enough rest; 2. eat a healthy diet; 3. wash your hands before eating; 4. avoid touching your face when you're in an area that may have viruses hanging around; and 5. keep commonly touched surfaces clean during cold and flu season (vinegar makes a great natural cleaner for this).
Next week's blog will be in the Essential Oil of the Month section and will examine a few essential oils that are great choices to have on hand during cold and flu season.
P.S. I'm adding to this blog on the day I planned to publish to share my experience of the past few days. Friday evening, I started to feel the first signs of being sick. I suddenly got really tired and generally puny. Then I started to have a dry cough, but it made my lungs sore. I made my EEG Tea and drank 3 cups before bed. I was feeling better Saturday morning, but my husband was starting to feel ill. (He didn't tell me that he started to feel sick about the same time I did on Friday.) I made more tea for both of us and went to my booth at the flea market. By the time I got home, I was fine -- he was SICK. He had a sore throat, a temperature over 100, he was coughing, had no appetite, etc - all the symptoms of the flu. I switched him to another tea I make to help support the lungs - it adds mullein, thyme, and star anise to the EEG Tea, but his viral load was too great - he was feeling lousy. Sunday morning, he was doing better, though still had a fever. By that evening, he was much worse and could not take a deep breath - he was struggling to breathe. At that time, I took him to the emergency room. He has flu plus bacterial infection, and is now on antivirals, antibiotics, steroids, and an inhaler. The point of this part is to say: The herbs can help, but they are not a total preventative or cure. It's important to recognize when medical attention is needed and to get that help! Modern medicines do have their place in taking care of our bodies.
As I write the ending to this blog, I'm sipping on my second tea and trying to fight off a second infection. It would appear that, in taking care of DH, my own viral load has increased - I'm now coughing, achy, and starting to run a temperature. For tonight, I'll drink my tea, use a personal inhaler with essential oils, and run a diffuser overnight. In the morning, if I'm no worse, I'll continue with my herbs and oils, but if I need to, I will go to my doctor.
Next week, under the blog Essential Oil of the Month, I'll discuss essential oils that can bring some comfort and relief during cold and flu season.
1. Buhner, Stephen H., Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging & Resistant Viral Infections, Storey Publishing, (c) 2013, pages 20 - 34
2. Butje, Andrea, Aromahead Institute Course: Viruses and the Immune System
3. Weiss, El, et. al., Cranberry juice constituents affect influenza virus adhesion and infectivity, Antiviral Res. 2005 Apr;66(1):9-12., Accessed January 27, 2020
4. Nantz, Meri P, et. al., Consumption of cranberry polyphenols enhances human γδ-T cell proliferation and reduces the number of symptoms associated with colds and influenza: a randomized, placebo-controlled intervention study, Nutr J. 2013; 12: 161., Accessed January 27, 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3878739/
5. van Meer, G, and Simons, K, Viruses budding from either the apical or the basolateral plasma membrane domain of MDCK cells have unique phospholipid compositions., EMBO J. 1982; 1(7): 847–852., Accessed January 27, 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC553120/
6. Racaniello, Vincent , Influenza virus attachment to cells, Virology blog about viruses and viral disease, May 2009, Accessed February 3, 2020; www.virology.ws/2009/05/04/influenza-virus-attachment-to-cells/
7. Haynes, Laura, What the Flu Does to Your Body, and Why it Makes You Feel so Awful, The Conversation US, Inc.; (c) 2010 - 2020, February 12, 2018, Accessed February 3, 2020; https://theconversation.com/what-the-flu-does-to-your-body-and-why-it-makes-you-feel-so-awful-91530Copyright © 2010–2020,
Take a deep breath. Focus on the sensation of the air moving through your nose and into your lungs. Are your airways and lungs clear or congested? If they're clear, imagine a time when they were bogged down with mucus. I'm sure it was a miserable feeling! You were probably coughing up gunk and your chest and throat got pretty sore. Guess what? There's an herb for that! And you may already have this herb in your kitchen!
Through at least 20 centuries, Thyme has been used to help clear up cold, wet, boggy lungs, open the airways, and soothe the sore throat and chest that come with coughing. It works by drying up the excess mucus and killing the germs (bacterial and/or fungal) that your body is fighting. Those with asthma, bronchitis, and whooping cough can benefit from using Thyme.
Often, Thyme was burned in sick rooms to keep others in the house from catching the illness. Scientists have since proven that it's an airborne disinfectant. Today, we can diffuse the essential oil or use a smudge stick for the same purpose.
Beyond its affinity for the lungs and its ability to disinfect, Thyme can reduce pain, cramping, spasms, and swelling. Your whole digestive tract can benefit from Thyme because it's able to alleviate gas, bloating, IBS, and more. It may also knock out lingering or recurrent infections.
To learn about Thyme in greater detail, become a member and check out its Datasheet, which will be published in November.
Often referred to as 'The Root of the Holy Ghost', Angelica has long been considered an herb that brings balance between the spiritual and the material worlds. This pungent, earthy, sweet smelling herb is a cousin to the carrot. While Angelica has quite a few therapeutic properties, its use tends to be concentrated on digestion, uterine health, and restoring the body following a lengthy illness.
Used in cooking or taken as a tea or tincture, Angelica can stimulate the appetite and the secretion of gastric juices. This means your body will be able to properly absorb and process the foods and nutrients you ingest. When you are weak after being sick, you may have little appetite, so recovery may be slow because you're not getting the nutrition you need for your body to regain strength. Angelica's ability to improve your appetite and stimulate proper digestion will allow your body to return to a healthy, pre-illness state more quickly. It can relieve heartburn, dyspepsia, gas, cramping, acid reflux, and indigestion. This goes along with improving appetite, recovering from illness, and maintaining health.
Women who deal with amenorrhea, cramps, and PMS may find relief when they make a tea with Angelica, or spice their food with it. When tissues are bogged down and stuck, Angelica warms them and promotes movement. It can help bring on delayed menses and relieve the symptoms of PMS and cramps by improving circulation
Angelica is also good for cold, boggy lung conditions. Bronchitis, pleurisy, colds, congestion, and cough can all benefit from the addition of Angelica to your diet. With its antibacterial property, it can help clear such conditions. Note the word 'cold' above. Angelica is going to warm and dry cold, damp conditions, or, in the case of fever, induce sweating which may reduce the fever.
It's important to note that the Root must be dried before use because fresh root is toxic.
Angelica is considered safe, though some sources suggest it may cause photosensitivity while being used and is contraindicated in pregnancy. This divergence in opinion stems from a lack of scientific studies that would give confirmation one way or the other. With that being said, phototoxicity with ingestion is considered theoretical based on no known cases according to the Botanical Safety Handbook. The Herbal PDR and other books and websites recommend avoiding exposure to UV rays if you are taking Angelica. (The essential oil is phototoxic.) Perhaps the best explanation comes from Richard Whelan, Medical Herbalist. He states that Angelica is very safe for all ages, that it would require a very high level of ingestion to cause photosensitivity, and that just because it will bring on a late period does not mean it will interfere with pregnancy.
My recommendation would be to check with your health care practitioner before use if you are pregnant, and to limit UV exposure if you are ingesting Angelica. (If you use the essential oil topically, avoid UV exposure for 12 - 18 hours after use.)
How would you like to sweeten your tea without using sugar? Licorice may be the answer for you. It's much sweeter than sugar -- 50 times sweeter in fact!
Wait, something that's sweet AND good for you? I think I could handle that! So, how does it benefit someone?
I'm glad you asked. Licorice is a demulcent herb. That means it'll help moisturize dry, irritated mucous membranes. Imagine quenching the fire of heartburn or ulcer. As you moisturize your digestive tract and excretory system, digestion and elimination issues like constipation can resolve themselves.
Licorice is also antiviral, antimicrobial, antitussive, and anti-inflammatory. All of these properties work together to help soothe hot, dry conditions when you've been sick with a cold or flu and you have a sore throat and/or dry cough. It may even help you recover more quickly from what ails you. Beyond that, it's an immunomodulator, which means it balances your immune system so you can stay healthy.
As a flavoring, Licorice is used in toothpaste, candy, cooking, pastilles, lozenges, syrup, and teas. As an adaptogen, it has the propensity to enhance the synergy between other herbs in a blend so that they're more effective.
As with all things, moderation is the key to using licorice. It needs to be a small part of an herbal blend and used short term -- not more than 6 weeks. Because it can raise blood pressure, those with high blood pressure should not use it. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, don't use this herb unless your health care practitioner recommends it to you. If you are taking medicines with corticosteroids, licorice could interact with them.
Matricaria recutita and Anthemis nobilis/Chamomilum nobile are two species in the same genus from the Daisy plant family. Both are gentle enough to use with children, yet, highly effective tools in your herbal remedies kit. A few of the common therapeutic properties include: anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, carminative, analgesic, relaxing nervine, and sedative.
Perhaps best known for their effects on calming the stomach, the chamomiles can be used for colic, indigestion, nausea, vomiting, ulcers, IBS, morning sickness, PMS, and dyspepsia. All of the properties listed in the first paragraph work to alleviate these conditions.
Both Chamomiles are skin-loving (in herbal and essential oil preparations). With their anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, they can be prepared as teas, poultices, compresses, and incorporated into salves to use on eczema, minor wounds, burns, sunburns, hemorrhoids, rashes, and other skin irritations.
Finally, the relaxing nervine and sedative properties have been scientifically proven to have beneficial impacts on depression, headaches, restlessness, insomnia, stress, tension, anxiety, and migraines. A cup of Chamomile tea before bedtime can help you relax so you fall asleep naturally. Likewise, a Chamomile sachet inside your pillowcase creates a pleasant aroma that will also promote sleep.
To learn more about this beautiful herb, become a member and read about it on the Herbal Datasheets.
The information contained in this blog is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.