It seems that building strong immunity is front and center these days. We have a pandemic that probably will be with us as a regular player, increase in stress which lowers immunity, erratic weather and storms, and the general instability of life.
In light of all this and as I turn 71 in a few weeks, I am returning to an old standard of herbal self care that has served me well in the past. I am adding Adrenal Support Formula and Immune Tonic to my morning routine at least 5 days a week. The key word here is Tonic. I am not treating an illness or weakness but rather nourishing, fortifying my Adrenals that help me deal with stress and my Immune system which deals with everything from covid to colds. The goal here is Vitality and tonics help us create that.
It's not herbal, but sleep is one of my new favorite medicines. This is because the nervous system is so overstimulated with our busyness, world news availability, responsibilities and the complexities of modern life (we drive rather than walk to work).
At night our nervous system and our back brain, our limbic brain can unwind itself as the neocortex and all the stim shuts down. Our brain waves slow as we do. This gives our cells a chance to recover and restore. One of my qi gong teachers, Bingkun Hu, who worked a lot with people with all kinds of illness would recommend sleep as a healing modality when ill.
My latest favorite herb for good sound sleep is Reishi, Ganoderma lucidum or tsugai. This herb helps quiet the spirit which in China is called the Shen. Reishi nourishes the heart and mind, is great for the liver and slows allergic hyper activity mediated by its work on the deep immune system. Taking 2-4 droppers before bed can help us fall asleep and stay asleep and have a more peaceful night.
Often a particular system gets impacted in a certain season, like the respiratory system in the winter with all the pathogens circling around. Say that you know you get a few colds or even always get bronchitis in winter. If that's the case, it is wise to start the season before with a Lung Tonic so that even if you do get a cold it will be less symptomatic and clear faster. The idea here is to pre treat the body so the illness doesn’t arise or is less impactful if it does.
When winter comes around I remember the Chinese habit of cooking nourishing restorative qi building herbs in a soup with bones for three days!!! nIt is called Fu Zheng Soup. The name means 'restorative soup' as best as I can understand it.
It can be made in a slow cooker with a lid, an Instapot (pressure cooker), or on a wood stove if attended. I have given this soup to people recovering from illness that has weakened them, postpartum, or just as a winter source of vitality. It is really easy to make, herbs, bones and water. In the last hour you can add vegetables as well. Then everything is removed and the soup is cooled and strained and put into ice cube trays and frozen. Then each day pop out 1-2 of these and heat in a pot and drink. It feels like herbal vitamins. You can really feel an energy pick up (without any caffeine or stimulant).
We will be selling packets of herbs as soon as we gather them all up this month. Probably by end of October. Complete with instructions.
You can buy bones, beef or poultry. I think fish bones might not work for this.
Another powerful immune support is the Breath. Nothing feeds us more than healthy breathing. Even if it is a short practice of conscious breathing before sleep or upon waking one can learn a lot about their own body and state of mind just by observing the breath. You might find your shoulders are up or the ribs or diaphragm aren’t moving or the breath is very shallow which actually can produce anxiety. Attention to the breath can reset our nervous system which will improve immunity. If you have difficulty breathing because of sinus blockage chronically try a rosemary steam with a few drops of essential oils or a handful of sprigs of fresh Rosemary simmered in a pot for ten minutes. Let it permeate your whole house or use a humidifier with the essential oil. Try our Breathe Deep Chest Rub that can be rubbed in front and back for clearing the respiratory system
Most people love elderberry syrup and it can be easily made at home or purchased. If you don’t want to purchase the syrup you can use our elder berry extract and even add ginger propolis, echinacea, or elder flowers to make your own special personal version. This is so supportive to maintaining healthy immunity.
Lastly, a healthy amount of exercise and getting outside is important. Yes, we get tired after work and all the busyness, but Ashwaganda, Eleuthero, American Ginseng, and Licorice can all keep your vitality up. These are non-stimulating tonics that feed and nourish our energy stores. They can be used as singles or in combination (as the Adrenal Tonic mentioned above).
Take care of your precious self.
The most critical guideline for dosing herbs is to listen to your body, feel how herbs interact and how they make you feel, and observe what is happening. There should be a general dosage guideline on the bottle or from your clinical practitioner.
If you know you are very sensitive OR are unfamiliar with the herbs OR you are new to herbal medicine, it is good to start slow and observe.
Herbs do work well and have been used for thousands of years BUT they do not work if we take the wrong herb, don’t get the correct dosage (though the range and timing is not as narrow as with pharmaceuticals) or don’t take them long enough to do their work, or lastly but very importantly if we don’t support the herbs with a healthy mind set, good nutrition and lifestyle like sleep, hydration and movement, for example.
A general rule of thumb for dosing is LOW DOSE is 1-2 droppers 2-3 times per day. A MEDIUM DOSE is 3 droppers 3 times per day and a LARGE DOSE is 4-5 droppers 3 times per day.
To avoid uncomfortable reactions, I often tell people to start with 1/3 of the recommended dose for 24-48 hours and see that there is no reaction, then go up a bit from there and then to full dose.
One idea for those with a sensitive stomach or digestion is to dilute the extract in twice the water or take sips over a time period. If the alcohol causes a reaction then pour just boiled water over the dose in a cup and let it sit till it has cooled sufficiently. This will evaporate off much of the alcohol that was used to extract the medicinal chemistry from the plant.
You can divide up your total dose throughout the day. If smaller doses work better do it more frequently. I see some very busy people who simply cannot disengage to take herbs 3 times per day. That middle dose gets lost in the middle of the day, so I tell them to split the total daily dose into 2 doses. Herbs are very generous and for the most part this works well. The caveat for this method is if you are working with a cold, you do want to dose quite frequently to stay on top of the pathogen that is trying to take
I have seen robust, active people with strong constitutions be very sensitive to herbs and absolutely need to take half of recommended dosage. The opposite is true as well. We must listen to the body’s response rather than a general recommendation. If the herbs make you feel nauseous or headachy or bring out a rash, stop, normalize and if you want to start again do so at 1/3 or ¼ the dose.
On the other hand, if it makes you feel very well or you are noticing signs of improvement, have patience so the body can make the changes and adjust in its own time. Many people quit too soon and then think herbs don’t work. You could try a lower dose or skip a dose and see if the body is holding the change. If it is continue to step it down, but if not then return to the dose and frequency you were doing and continue for awhile, then try doing a little less again. It took me a lot longer than necessary to get over Lyme because I kept stopping my herbs every time I felt somewhat better. I wasn’t really listening to my body and I let myself get busy and did not check in with how I really felt. One of the best reasons to sit with a clinician is to take the time to spotlight yourself and how you feel out of the busyness of life.
Some people take the same herbs, eat the same diet, do the same exercise regimen etc for years and years. The human nervous system loves safety and adventure. At least take breaks if you are planning on using a formula for a long time as in 6 months to 18 months. Also if you are taking larger doses or very strong herbs do take breaks of 1-3 weeks before continuing so you can see how the body respond.
The most important piece is listening to your body. It is innately intelligent and communicates to us through the body’s responses. Sit quietly with your body and let it guide you or at least be heard.
Of course sometimes we don’t really get the message and that’s where the general guidelines and experience of a clinician or others that have used the herbs can help show the way.
If you're struggling with dosing, reach out for a consultation! We're here to help!
So you have found your herb or your formula and there are some general recommendations, on the bottle or the article you read, now how do you decide how much to take, how frequently and for how long so that you can maximize the therapeutic effect you are hoping for?
In my years of clinical practice and talking to people, many people really are as confused by this conundrum as they are what herbs to include in their repertoire.
I want to share some guidelines that have proved true over time for me and in my practice. I hope that with more knowledge under your belt you can feel more comfortable about using herbs everyday and in occasional need.
Here are some questions I usually ask. And then we can play some scenarios so you can see how this might play out in normal life.
Just today we filled prescriptions for:
Let’s look at each one and see how to use the guidelines.
These are a few examples that I hope help you see the importance not just of the right herbal choices but the importance of dosage. Of course until one feels comfortable you can work with a ND, doctor, acupuncturist, or clinical herbalist or nurse practitioner, to help you learn the ropes.
We looked in part one at the adrenal glands and herbs and formulas that support their healthy function and we mentioned that nutrition and good sleep patterns also are essential.
Here I want to talk about how nourishing our muscles and joints with herbs can help us move better, more easily and then we can generate energy for all we want to do as well as create better mood with movement of all kinds.
Then we can talk about Digestion and how we can get more nutrition and energy from our food. And lastly, our Respiratory System. How can we breathe well and get all the oxygen as well as Prana or Qi the vital energy of life from the ocean of it around us into our bodies. It also is a food we need for optimal health.
Herbs can support muscle and joint health will facilitate our ability to move even as we age.
My favorites are Gotu Kola for mental clarity and connective tissue support. Also, Solomons Seal Root over time can strengthen tendons and ligaments which support and surround the joints. Keep muscles flexible and supple requires healthy fascia (a huge topic you can research and benefit from) and sometimes herbs that relax the chronic tension that holds muscles too tight.
We brace with our minds and with our musculature, that jutted jaw, contracted butt muscles, tense, calves and ropy rocky lifted shoulders. Herbs like Valerian or Kava Kava can offer a softening, relaxing effect and concurrently they can support mental ease and relaxation, relieve the grip that can make us anxious.
Because nerves run throughout as well as fascia, St. Johnswort can add to our ability to be mobile but also brightens our mood (Do not use if taking SSRIs). There are supplements as well that support this area glucosamine and Omega 3 fatty acids in food and capsules. More to be said on that another time.
Herbs that support digestion are key.
The gut is where 70% of our immune system is located. It's also where our food is assimilated AND where the largest reserves of serotonin are (not in the brain) to support our mood, our defenses and the assimilation of the energy we get from food.
To support digestion so we can absorb nutrients for energy from the healthy food we eat, our body needs to secrete various enzymes and other juices to aid this. If we are stressed and tense they may over or under secrete and then all the lovely organic food we grow or buy wont get to our cells.
Take a few slow deep breaths before eating, don’t eat and drive (sounds crazy right?) etc. and if you can don’t scroll! Conscious eating is so helpful to digestion. For support try Digestive Bitters 20 minutes before a meal and see if that helps to activate the squirting machine that is our digestive tube so we can absorb nutrients. We have another formula called Digestive Fire. This formula can help build the fire or strength of the digestive system, and help all its organs work together more harmoniously. I use this as a general tonic.
Herbs can support Respiratory health in the lungs and sinus.
This is important because how we breath is how we get life0giving oxygen to our cells. If you cannot breathe because you nose is swollen, sinuses are clogged or inflamed, or your lungs are often filled with mucous and or irritated, or you can’t breath well at night and have apnea or just shallow or mouth breathing, your vitality will be diminished.
Umckalaobo can help sinuses drain better and Goldenseal can tone the lining of the nose and sinus in a nasal wash and even taken internally in small doses. Lung Tonic can be an all around support especially if you use your lungs a lot or live in city with more pollution or cars.
The best medicine is the Breath. Breathing well especially through your nose which is perfectly designed for that job (the mouth is not), can do a lot for our energy and well being. Read James Nestor’s book of the same name, Breath. It's astounding.
If you don’t feel like you have the energy you need or want, don’t just live with it. Do some research, pay attention to what you feel and what you react to, try things. You deserve to be full of energy and life to fulfill your dreams.
Fatigue at any time feels like a weight and a burden. We can't be the energetic curious, creative people we are. Our joy also can get robbed by fatigue and the mood or attitude can sink us down. Not too many truly happy people are exhausted. How can herbs help us to renew and rebuild when we are feeling the weight of fatigue?
There are many reasons for it, in fact fatigue isn’t an “it” but a deficit. How does this happen? Overwork is big one especially in our culture and the pace at which our lives are lived is staggering. We do way too much. Staying up too late, night after night scrolling on phones or watching endless whatevers ostensibly to relax imbalances our sleep chemistry and then when we collapse sleep eludes us or wakes us in the middle of the night.
Poor nutrition is depleting and robs our bodies of what it needs to have vitality. Low level illnesses or ignored stresses, even poor posture and not enough exercise and bundle together as well to create fatigue. I don’t need to go on. Let’s talk about how herbs can help but always do check with your chosen health care provider to make sure there isn’t an underlying medical condition that needs attention.
Adrenal Fatigue is the first piece we should talk about. In subsequent blogs I’ll try to cover some of the other contributors and how herbs can help.
ADRENAL FATIGUE – There really are stages of this phenomenon from wired and tired all the way to 'I can’t get off the couch' tired. It’s a spectrum. Finding the right adrenal formula or single herb for oneself is a trial and error process, but here are some great tried and true herbs that support the adrenals to secrete their chemistry in a balanced and supportive way rather than racing us around the game board.
Rebuilding overused adrenals requires commitment, hydration, lifestyle and dietary change and most of all, time. From a few weeks after a stressful period, caregiving, or work situation up to 18 months after a long haul from illness, raising a family and working, etc. etc.
SOME HERBS TO SUPPORT OUR ENERGY STORES AND INCREASE OUR VITALITY
Eleutherococcus previously called Siberian ginseng, is a great renewer for these tiny almond sized organs that sit on top of our kidneys. It can be used as a single herb daily as a tonic or with Licorice as an afternoon pickup instead of sugar and caffeine which ultimately are depleting. Because it can increase energy most people benefit from not using it in the evening so that a natural sleep rhythm can be encouraged.
Also, taken in formulas like our Adrenal Support Formula with a few other support herbs like Ashwaganda, which supports good sleep. Ashwaganda is the ginseng of India and has so many uses and has been used for millennia. Its name means it gives strength or the strength of a horse. A gentle restorative tonic, less stimulating and slower working than Eleuthero, it also can be used as a single or in formulation. It is a slow steady renewing strengthening builder that supports all the body’s structures and functions, a true tonic herb.
Another East Indian herb that can partner with Ashwaganda in a formula is well known now as Tulsi or Holy Basil. This wonderful tea or extract, is stress relieving and is very nutritive as well and over time can improve the way we respond to the million things thrown at us in everyday life. Give this herb several months or longer to really change you.
Nettles, growing everywhere now here in the northeast is the ultimate nutrition herb to build blood and vitality with its chlorophyll, and mineral rich chemistry. Milarepa the great Tibetan master lived on Nettles in the Himalyan mountains until he started look green and fuzzy like the plant, it is said. Fresh, as a cooked potherb, deep emerald green tea and of course as an extract as a single or with these other adrenal supporting friends.
The seeds of the Nettle gathered in the Fall are a powerhouse Adrenal tonic too used in small amounts for short and longer time. They can be gathered by anyone, but if you have toughed Stinging Nettles you know that the formic acid in the hairs can bite so gloves are a help! I actually brought my stiff cold achy fingers during cold early spring gardening back to function by rubbing in the nettles. The anti-inflammatory chemistry helped me to feel better. It stung a lot but after a few spring and summers my hands never bother me anymore.
Schizandra Berry, the five taste herb, is a great supporting herb for the adrenals. Mixed in an adrenal formula or just with Licorice, it really is a moistening, harmonizing herb that always makes me smile and its so delicious.
Licorice nourishes the cortex of our adrenals, the outer part of the tiny organs and this can help when we are really low and flattened, beyond just wired and tired to exhausted. Too much Licorice can cause blood pressure to rise so if your BP is higher than it should be, only use deglycyrrhized licorice or very small doses. Otherwise this herb is safe and nutritive and has an extraordinary number of great uses.
The newest Adrenal supporting herb in the repertoire is Rhodiola. It can be perfect for some people and too stimulating for others so try it on and see how it works for you. I like to use it best as a part of a formula so that it is harmonized by the actions of the other herbs.
We will be posting a new Adrenal Support formula very soon that we are excited about. (It will be called Adrenal 2.) Look for it and try it and do let us know what you think. We are always happy to hear from you. After all, you are why we do this!
Next month we will continue the discussion of Fatigue and talk about some other causes so look for our next blog post. Be Well and don’t let the madness get to you. Be more loving, more kind, especially to yourself.
For me Spring is the ultimate reminder of cycles, the energy of birth and rebirth, and renewal. Nina Simone’s song Another Spring is the epitome.
Spring is the resurrection, as everything comes into being once again after the deep internal sleep of winter. My spirit lifts and energy rises like the sap in the trees. The cold nights tried to kill my onion and artichoke seedlings but the next day's warmth gave them a second chance.
Herbs can help us navigate this time of change
Are you edgy or irritable or anxious and depressed, plagued by allergy symptoms every spring? Now that we are outside and the ticks are looking for blood are you nervous or afraid of getting bitten, do you need to clear out meat and salt and sedentary living from a winter by the wood stove. Let's take a look at each of these situations and how herbs can support us.
FRUSTRATED, STIFF, IRRITABLE, ANXIOUS AND DEPRESSED, bothered by little things?
If so these typical liverish symptoms are exacerbated in the Spring. A few small food, herb and lifestyle changes can support us now.
The simplest is lemon juice in your water bottle or even some warm or hot lemonade with fresh lemon juice and a little maple syrup. This moves the stagnation in the liver and gall bladder and soothes the stuck mood the organs produce when they are not working well. Herbs like Dandelion root, Burdock root, Yellow Dock root, are all helpful. In fact, that was the motivation behind drinking traditional root beers at the end of winter with these early dug roots. Schizandra can lighten the mood as well with its sour taste just like lemons.
A lighter diet with less meat, eggs, and salt, include fresh spring greens like dandelion greens, Chickweed and steamed nettles when they emerge are helpful. Eat lighter, feel lighter. Try our LIVER SUPPORT FORMULA on its own or as an adjunct to the rest of your plan.
Prepare for tick season with permethrin dipped clothing and cedar sprays like Cedarcide brand Tick Shield. I've tested it on live ticks and they are repelled by it. Rose Geranium is expensive and much less effective. Deet works but smells vile and is relatively toxic in my thinking.
Also, Blue Crow Botanicals' TICK BITE FORMULA can support your body against the pathogens that ticks may carry. So if you are bitten your immune system is ready and waiting to thwart illness. Take at least 4-6 droppers a day as prevention. Take 9-15 droppers if bitten and DO keep the tick. Resist the urge to throw it in the toilet. Just put it in a zip lock if you find it and send to UMASS Tick Report Lab and they can tell you exactly what diseases the tick is carrying and also if it has fed on you making it more likely there was transmission. Remember that even if a tick is infected that does not mean they have transferred the pathogens to you. But treat anyway!
There are potent herbs for working with allergies. Reishi is the King of herbs here in that one of its many healing properties is to lower histamine surges. It also is a powerhouse for immune support. Nettles are very helpful anti-inflammatory that lessens allergy reactions and Goldenrod is high in quercitin, Horehound thins mucous and helps eliminate it. Our ALLEREZE Formula contains them all. Start using before spring with its pollen is fully emergent and continue through the season. Consistent use from season to season may lessen reactivity.
Springtime is a popular season for detox, cleanse and renewal. There are many styles of detoxing and it is important to find the best for your constitution and condition. Consulting with someone who is versed can alleviate you having a strong kick back into a chocolate cake from being too extreme or to make sure you are effective, if you think you need that. You can just eat a clean diet, do some sweating and deep breathing and use our very strong tasting DETOX FORMULA. It is a good lymph drainer, eliminator, and all systems cleanser. Try to use for 5-10 days, take a break and do again if you feel there’s more.
Springtime gives us a great opportunity to work with ourselves and prepare for the most active times of year. Plan your renewal, from mini to grande and reap the fruits of a reboot.
There are many herbs that alter our state or mood. They can be used by themselves as singles in either a tea or extract or in a group as a formula. Because every one of us is unique physically and mentally and emotionally, It takes a bit of trial and error sometimes to find the herbs that are our allies, tried and true.
Also, the most harmonizing and balancing herbs for each of us or that will work for a particular purpose like sleep, or soothing anxiety or to generate more physical energy or to brighten our spirit. So, what works best for me may or may not be one that works for that purpose for you. But there are guidelines or common effects that herbs have for us. And they are easy to play with, to try, to experiment with until you find your best friends, your herbal tribe for balancing your mood states. Then they will be there for you when you need them, consistently and reliably.
Below are a few of my favorite herbal mood changers. I have relied on them for many years and they have always helped me navigate my journey.
Chamomile, Skullcap, Kava Kava, Passionflower, Hops, Valerian, St. Johnswort, Damiana
Chamomile - Matricaria recutita Chamomile, though gentle is a reliable and strong calming herb that is soothing for the stomach and the whole digestive system. In some people it could make them relaxed enough to feel a bit sleepy but for me it is just calming and soothing and helps me relax my mind and body. I haven’t found any contraindications for using it. It is easy to grow in the garden or even a pot and will come again and again after clipping the leaf and flowers and even reseed itself easily. Can be used well with children for calming and for sensitive tummy.
Skullcap - Scutellaria laterifolia Skullcap is a great friend for someone with a very busy mind from overwork or excess responsibility or just have a very active mind. Skullcap is a nerve tonic with a specific affinity to the mind. If one cant sleep due to overactivity of the mind Skullcap can be helpful. Its use is cumulative and may help one shift their habit of over thinking. It is best used recently harvested or an extract made from only fresh plant material. The compounds that are therapeutic breakdown somewhat quickly when the plant is dried. This also is a wonderful semi shade garden plant that will come back on its own by spreading its roots.
Kava Kava - Piper Methysticum Kava is an effective sedative even with a numbing effect on the mouth and lips. It is a traditional plant from the south Sea Islands. It doesn't taste good to me so I reserve it for its use as a muscle relaxant especially with skeletal muscles of our backs. It also can relax smooth muscle both in our limbs and organs. So handy for a bladder infection or an exercise injury.
It is a bit dulling to the mind though some say the different cultivars may have more or less of this quality. It does temporarily relax anxiety so it can be used in a pinch, especially mixed with St. Johnswort because its energy is bright and sunny so it balancing the dulling effect of Kava. This is definitely one to try out and see if its for you and can be used mixed with other plants to broaden its profile of effects. It does shift mood but has a temporary effect rather than creating long lasting change in habitual moods. There are many pharmaceuticals that may conflict so check if applicable.
Passionflower - Passiflora incarnata Passion Flower is like a good friend that supports, and calms us in stressful situations. It is a broad acting herb that is not sleep inducing but takes away the edginess nervousness that naturally can arise. It is pleasant and relaxing without being heavy or sedating. Can be used freely. The flower of Passionflower is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Just seeing it lifts the spirit.
Hops - Humulus lupulus Hops is a strongly sedative herb and can be used to encourage sleep, so not the best for daytime use. It is a wonderful bitter that supports relaxation, and lowers nervousness.
Valerian - Valeriana officinalis Valerian is for the high energy person that needs to settle down and get grounded in the body and in the earth. Valerian is a very earthy plant. It certainly supports sleep for some but not everyone. I can use it all day long without becoming sleepy, it just gives me a wonderful feeling of embodiment and relaxing my energy both in my muscular body and my nervous system and well as quieting my mind. Also, easy to grow and will self seed and always be there for you in the garden.
St. Johnswort - Hypericum perforatum Over many years St. Johnswort has been one of my favorite nerve tonics. It is an example of an herb that perfectly suits me, so I always have it around. It is sunny and bright and vibrant while also being soothing to nerves. St. Johnswort truly lifts the spirit as well as calming rather than stimulating. It enhances the reuptake of serotonin so it can lift mood. We take only the top few inches of the flowering plant for the highest concentrations of active chemistry but any part of the aerial parts are effective to varying degrees. It will happily live in your garden year to year. It is a delicious tea similar to black tea in taste (due maybe to tannins) and as an extract more like wine.
Damiana - Turnera diffusa Damiana is a southwestern plant, often coming from Mexico, so not a garden plant for the Northeast. It has a very expansive and relaxing effect. It lessens mental tension and loosens things up. It had been known as an aphrodisiac but that isn’t accurate for this herb more than the others that lift our spirits and relax us. Those qualities enhance libido in themselves rather than being chemically arousing. I think of Damiana as giving me more space, for my thoughts, and for my energy. It's great at the end of the day when finishing work and transitioning to relaxation. It's wonderful to drink with a friend.. It has a very mild version of the kind of expansiveness that Cannabis can produce.
Blue Crow Botanicals has all of these herbs as singles for you to play with as well as some formulas that contain some of them often mixed with other plants. A few of those formulas are People Calmer, Calm Focus, Belly Soothe, Nerve Tonic, and Sweet Dreams.
We can formulate a formula just for you once you find which herbs best support you or of course help you figure that out.
Be Well and Be Happy.
*The information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, prescribe, treat or cure illness or to be used to replace professional medical attention. Because some herbs may interact with certain medications, please consult a qualified herbalist or medical professional before using.
In the same way that we all naturally gravitate to certain styles, colors, combinations in fashion AND we have certain needs whether we are a dancer in a city, a farmer in the country, a grandmother or a lawyer, the same can be said of herbs as we bring them more into our daily lives. They can act as powerful supports for a calm mind and a strong body. Herbs can be good, reliable, supportive friends.
On your own or with the help of an herbalist or naturopath honestly answer these questions and then design your “capsule” for your particular goals, a particular season, or to create a change in your body or in your life.
Then, decide how to incorporate using the herbs in your day.
Be realistic and have a plan, so you can be successful!
We do not have to be ill to incorporate herbs in our lives. They are like foods, especially tonifying strengthening herbs, and help prevent us getting sick or just increase our longevity and well-being. Start with one herb or formula, incorporate it into your life and see how it goes. Then you can add to that but herbs like true change often takes time and too many can be confusing.
It always helps to read and research about anything you are introducing into your life including herbs. The more knowledge you have the better able you are to do good care. Be sure to check for contraindications like pregnancy or nursing or if you are taking any pharmaceutical medications.
Remember herbs can be taken as tea or tinctures, as infused oils, or essential oils. We have many options to bring plant medicine into our lives. Even just a lavender plant in your bedroom, or a rosemary in the kitchen or rose or sandalwood essential oil in water on a woodstove, a drop or two on a light bulb or 10-15 in a bath are wonderful herbal additions.
If you would like some help designing an herbal support program, you can request a consult here.
simple ways to stay healthy in winter.
In the era of climate change we have more erratic weather so one day it is freezing or icy and the next day 40 sunny and melting. We need our core immune system to be strong as well as our ability to thermoregulate.
A well hydrated and RESTED body and mind is the most simple way to do this. Sleep is a natural medicine always but especially in the extremes of winter. Water makes our cells more able to move nutrients in and discharge toxins out.
There are so many views on diet I wont reiterate and we know fresh food is best. All I want to say is regardless of what ingredients you choose making at least 50-60 percent of them fruits and vegetables is a guarantee that you are getting well fed.
As for herbs if I had to pick say three herbs for winter health I might pick Astragalus as a deep immune tonic literally building the cells we need to circulate to fight pathogens and it is also warming and promotes interferon which fights viruses. I do love elderberry extract of syrups made with honey also especially because hildren and elderly people will take it readily as it is delicious. perhaps a third could be rosehips because of its high content of Vitamin C. OK maybe four as deep immune health is so well supported with medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, Chaga, Turkey Tail Maitake etc. Start to take them in the fall so your immunity is strong and solid before the cold season begins.
Of course if we get sick or just a bit rundown there are many to choose from.
At the earliest stages of a cold use Yin Qiao a chinese formula or frequent doses of Echinacea, and/or Andrographis (I love these two together).
Take advantage of the quieter shorter days to go inside and then of course get outside into nature. Nothing renews like a snowy walk or seeing an owl or mooseprints on the trail.
Gratitude is great medicine
Why Herbs Dont Work
Sometimes herbs work quickly and effectively and sometimes they don't. This can be confusing especially for people just starting to use herbal medicine.
I want to discuss some of the reasons that herbs may not work and how we can change that.
The first reason is that one is using the wrong herb or a poorly contructed or inappropriate formula. There are many herbs for most situations and people have different resonances with them. this is true for diets, for pharmaceuticals and styles of excercise. If you aren't trained or experienced it may be better to work with someone rather than scout the internet or a book for what to do to treat your situation. Of course trial and error is a great way to learn if you aren't in a hurry like if you have a flu.
Reason number two is that the dosage may be inadequate or too high. Taking too little of anti-microbials for instance won't fight a pathogen effectively. Or if you are using herbs for anxiety and you only take 1-2 droppers 1 time per day it probably isn't enough to make a difference. On the other hand, if you are taking herbs you don't need or taking too many different herbs or formulas you may be flooding and confusing your body so it can get overwhelmed and shut down.
Reason three has to do with what else is happening in your life. For instance are you trying to build your adrenals but continue to drink a lot of coffee or work too much or go without eating or only sleeping 5-6 hours per night, no matter how good the herbs in the formula or appropriate the dosage you are asking too much. We have to do our part with diet and and life style to support the action of the herbs.
The last reason I'll talk about in this post is quality. Herb quality is difficult to assure so use respected companies for both dried, fresh and extracted herbs or capsules and tablets. Check in at your local natural food store, herbal groups or practitioners and use your senses. This is called organoleptics, using your sight, smell and taste to feel if there is vitality in what you are using. We all know when we buy fresh food if it seems old or weak. We know a fresh garden tomato from a wimpy, mealy one from the supermarket in January.
Herbs have a lot to offer us for our health and well being but we must learn how to support them and use them well.
As the famous educator John Dewey said "Learning by doing".
My name is Bonnie Bloom and I am a clinical herbalist. Plants give us clothing, shelter, food and medicine. They are an intrinsic part of our earth ecology, diverse and essential. They breathe our carbon dioxide and generously give us oxygen. Where would we be without them.