How to make elderberry syrup for immune support:
Elderberry Syrup ingredients:
- 1/2 cup dried elderberries or 1 cup fresh (or frozen) elderberries (Sambucus nigra)⠀
- 2 cups water⠀
- 2/3 to 1 cup honey⠀ ⠀
- 1 tsp dried ginger (or 2 tsp. fresh or frozen ginger)⠀
- 1-2 tsp cinnamon chips⠀
- 1-2 tsp astragalus root⠀
- 2 tsp rose hips⠀ ⠀
Combine elderberries and water and simmer until water is reduced by half. Mash the herbs in the water and then strain out. Take remaining water and add ⅔ to 1 cup of local raw honey to taste. Store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.⠀ ⠀
Some people take the syrup as a daily tonic during cold and flu season, 1 tablespoon for adults or 1 teaspoon for children over age one. If you are feeling sick try 1 tablespoon every 3-4 hours up to 6 times in 24 hours (for children over one use 1 teaspoon).⠀ ⠀
Elder is an incredible and powerful plant that we have a lot of respect and gratitude for - it has helped keep generations of people healthy in many parts of the world. When using this plant we invite you to do so with an attitude of appreciation and respect for what is truly our elder.⠀🌳 💚
P.S. Frozen elderberries are available seasonally here at Railyard, you can order for in-store pickup here or order dried elderberries for pick-up or shipping here.
Fire Cider has become one of the most quintessential herbal preparations of our time. It captures both the imagination of people new to working with herbs to support their health, while remaining a staple preparation for those seasoned in the use of herbs. Who knows how long people have been creating this kind of warming and supportive vinegar... but it surely is a folk medicine of the people. Recently there was a company that tried to trademark the phrase 'Fire Cider'. Members of the herbal community brought this company to court, and after years of effort the courts ruled in the favor of the herbalists dedicated to keep this medicine, and its name, in the hands of the people. A big victory, indeed.
These recent events reveal Fire Cider as an exciting remedy that links us to the past, while being rooted in modern health freedom and the resistance of corporate control. And when you make your next batch, you may want to share this story as you share a shot of this invigorating preparation. Fire Cider is accessible and effective. It threads the line between herbal medicine and food as medicine. The method of preparation is simple, flexible, and intuitive. And to top it all off, each and every ingredients is commonly available in most every grocery store.
Early autumn is the perfect time of year to make yourself a jar, as this warming remedy is a fantastic accompaniment to the colder weather rolling in. If you make a batch soon, you will have some on hand for that first sign of cold or flu. Fire Cider supports and stimulates our immune systems and can be helpful in moving stuck mucus in the respiratory tract. For those of us who run on the cool side (ie. cold hands and feet), Fire Cider can be had on the daily as a warming circulation tonic. Fire Cider also supports digestion, behaves as a general respiratory support, and is anti-inflammatory.
Fire Cider can be had by the spoonful, shot straight, or mixed with a little water. It is a nice addition to salad dressings, soups, or to top all kinds of food, a bit like a hot sauce. As a daily tonic 1 teaspoon-1 Tablespoon/ day is sufficient. For acute immune support, consider having 1-2 tablespoons to start and then an additional tablespoon every 3-4 hours. For those of us with stomachs that are very sensitive to spicy food, consider experimenting with how much feels good. The honey mellows some of the spicy components, and is in itself medicinal. Add honey to taste after straining.
There is no one recipe for Fire Cider, which is part of its charm. Below you will find basic guidelines for amounts. Fire Ciders almost always contain: ginger, onion, garlic, hot peppers, and horseradish infused in apple cider vinegar and honey (preferably raw). But let your imagination run wild and add herbs or other ingredients to suit your specific needs and tastes. Some of our favorites are: fresh herbs like sage/thyme/ rosemary, organic lemon (rind and pith), echinacea root, rose hips, medicinal mushrooms, and hibiscus.
Ingredients (estimated amounts):
1 medium sized onion, chopped small
1-2 heads of garlic, minced
~1/2c ginger, chopped small
~1/2c horseradish, chopped small
1-2 hot peppers (Ideally fresh jalepeños or cayenne. Can also use dried), minced
1 lemon, chopped small (use the skin and pith if organic)
1 quart+ apple cider vinegar (enough to cover herbs in the jar well) Use raw if possible.
~1/2-3/4c honey (added after straining, to taste) Use raw if possible.
1 large quart sized (or larger jar)
Small piece of parchment or wax paper
Let sit for 2 weeks or more, shaking every other day or so. Strain and add honey to taste. Enjoy and cheers to a cozy and safe winter season!
Thanks for reading! Let us know if you have any questions!
Also FYI, you can check out our video about making "DIY Oxymels" to learn more about how to use herbs, vinegar and also honey to make a variety of delicious herbal preps. Download here.
Susan Staley is a clinical and community herbalist staff member with Railyard Apothecary. She deeply values those herbs and plants commonly available to us today in most grocery stores, and the where the edge blurs between food and medicine. You can schedule a conversation with her or other members of Burlington Herb clinic here: https://www.burlingtonherbclinic.com/
This time of year during the seasonal transition is a good time to think about our health in general, and this year especially to think about immune health. Our bodies become challenged during the change from one season to the next: where once it was easy to stay warm, for many it now requires an adjustment. Where once we were swimming in the warm humidity of summertime air, our bodies now grow accustomed to a cold, drying wind. We make all sorts of changes - our clothing, our outdoor habits. How can else can we ready our bodies for this time of year?
Please make sure to check out Sue's blog about "late summer" for some general tips regarding food and herbs. It's important that herbs not become a substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle - they simply can't make up for a lack of those things.
In this article I'll be focusing in more detail on two of our most esteemed immune supportive herbs for when you're already doing all you can to stay healthy but are looking for a little extra support. These herbs can be especially helpful for those with compromised immune systems (though care needs to be taken).
Scientific name: Astragalus membranaceus (Fabaceae)
This pea family plant is one of our most important "immune tonic" herbs. The root of this plant is used, either as a powder, tincture or decoction. It's native to China, where the root is cooked in soups for immune health. It's "food-like" nature makes it a generally well-tolerated and safe herb, one that must be taken in sufficiently large quantities to have the desired effect. (It's still important to do your research and talk to your doctor before taking herbs - this particular herb has an effect on immune cells, a possible issue for people with some medications or conditions.)
The way this plant works is to gently stimulate the immune system, elevating white blood cells and other immune cells. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is said to be supportive for people with deficient "Wei Qi" or the "protective Qi" that we associate with immunity in the West. In our clinical practice we often recommend this plant to people with compromised immune systems, such as those undergoing treatment for cancer. For anyone, it's gentle support helps keep the immune system strong. It's best to avoid if you are actively sick.
How to take:
*Note: astragalus is our "herb of the month" for September - 50% dry herb and powder, 25% off tincture and glycerite. Shop online here.
Scientific name: Ganoderma lucidum (from China), Ganoderma tsugae (local species)
Seek medical advice before use of this mushroom - people with mold allergies may have adverse reactions, it may dry out the mucous membranes in sensitive individuals, it may impact the liver, and may interact with certain medications or medical conditions.
Reishi mushroom is another one of our most important "immune tonic" herbs (we call it an herb though it is indeed a mushroom!). The fruiting body of this mushroom is tough and woody, so slices of it are used to make soups and teas, or it is extracted, dried and powdered. Sometimes known as the "mushroom of immortality" it is another one with extensive use in China, and the local tsugae species that grows here in Vermont is used in the same way.
Similar to astragalus, for immune supportive purposes reishi mushroom is taken daily to gently modulate and stimulate immune function. The polysaccharides in the mushroom pass through our GI lining appearing potentially like something our immune system needs to deal with, keeping the immune system on a higher level of alert. Because of it's modulating effect, it may also help with an over-active immune system, making it an herb that many people take throughout the allergy season.
It has a number of other ways it may support the body, including supporting the heart, lungs and liver. For now we'll just leave it as another one can help keep us healthy during this time of year, especially those who may have deficient immune function. Avoid if actively sick.
How to take:
We're very grateful to have this wonderful plant and mushroom in our lives, to support us and our community when a little extra immune boost is needed, and we humbly give our gratitude to the wonders of natural medicine. We again encourage readers to consider all the ways to keep your body, mind and spirit strong and healthy through appropriate diet and lifestyle practices (see Sue's article for some tips), and to not over-rely on these special and wonderful herbs. They are there when we need them, and we hope to maintain this special relationship with the healing powers of the natural world for generations to come.
By Nick Cavanaugh. Nick is a clinical herbalist at the Burlington Herb Clinic. You can book an appointment with Nick for an herbal consultation here.
This late summer, more than others in recent memory, we may be more keenly aware of the way the light is changing. It moves across the landscape with the laziness of summer and the early haste of the colder seasons. But it isn't just the warm, low, honey-toned rays saying that autumn has begun to twirl their song in our direction. It is the first chilly nights in a while. It is the leaves along the tippy tops of the trees trading in green for gold. It is the increasing taste for apples and the first thrills of being cozy. Ah, late summer you beautiful creature of a world, where we occupy two seasons truly at one time.
Thankfully there is a late summer to ready us for autumn, and an autumn to ready us for Winter in the northeast. We have some time to ease in and make small adjustments to our routines. We have some time to ease into the wee shifts that help our bodies feel safe and our needs met in the changing environment.
Thus we follow the age old tune, "so within, so without". As the temperature cools, our bodies cool. As the energy of the plants moves slowly from fruits to roots, we too shift increasingly inward in various ways. Transition, no matter how well anticipated (or not), will always present both challenge and opportunity. In a truly ever changing world, the ways by which we engage and adapt to a moment, a day, a season, and a life stage will make a difference one way or another.
The transition from late summer to winter, even though it may seem premature, is a particularly good time to begin leaning into the support and fortification of our immune systems. The earthy cores of our body are still warmed by the summer sun, and if we care for this warmth now we will be better suited to meet the challenges that the colder days bring.
When it comes to herbs and food, consider drinking teas in the evening with aromatic warming spices like tulsi, cinnamon, fennel, ginger, and chamomile. Sip warm water throughout the day. Start incorporating soups and braised dishes with beans and seaweed into your weekly meal planning. If you don't already have a stock back in your freezer now is as good a time as any to start one, and broths can be enriched with deeply immune supportive herbs like astragalus root*, medicinal mushrooms, mineral-rich herbs, bones, and various seaweeds.
And a world on "dryness". Autumn is a notoriously dry season (think of the leaves!), which can cause the tissues of our upper and lower respiratory system to need some extra moisture. Moistening herbs pair well with aromatic herbs this time of year. Consider marshmallow root, burdock root, licorice root, linden blossoms, and violet leaves.
Wishing you, dear reader, the insight to identify the small simple ways you can make room in your day to look after your future self, and the inspiration to follow through.
*Astragalus root is our September Herb of the Month! You can find high-quality, organic bulk root and powdered root for 50% off and bulk organic tincture and glycerine for 25% though the month! Click here to order. There will also be a FREE class on this amazing plant Wednesday September 9th, 6-7pm. Pre-registration required, register here.
By Susan Staley
Susan is a clinical and community herbalist. Her current practice is with The Clinic at Railyard. You can schedule a conversation or consultation with her, or any of our herbalists, here.
All hail plantain (genus plantago)! If you look down this summer there's a fine chance you will see some of this plant growing at your feet. ⠀
Plantain species grow all over the world. Here in Vermont you can find this plant spring through fall in open sun, grassy areas/lawns, edges, sidewalks and parking lots, compacted or disturbed soils, or maybe your garden. ⠀
The leaves grow is a basal rosette (adorable) from a fibrous taproot and are eye/oval shaped with stems/petioles that may change color near the root to more white, red, etc. The leaves are little bit waxy with veins running the length. A tall thin flowering stem comes up from the center of the plant and is covered in small discreet flowers that become neat seeds. ⠀
There are many different species/kinds of plantain, but the most common in North America are Plantago major (probably traveled from Europe) and Plantago rugelli (endemic to Turtle Island/ North America). They are often found growing together. Another species you might see is Plantago lanceolata, who's leaves are longer and thinner. ⠀
Next time you are bit by a spider, bee, or tick think to make a quick spit poultice by harvesting a leaf and chewing it up into a ball to place on the site. The drawing quality of plantain pulls venom and saliva out of bites. ⠀
Plantain is a good healer for burns, scrapes, and all variety of wounds as the leaves are healing to tissue, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial. Plantain supports lung health via their expectoration and demulcent qualities. ⠀
This plant contains both astringency and demulcency, which is uncommon. It is a big part of why this plant has such a wide-range of actions and is an incredible tonic for tissues and organs, (particularly those of the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory, and genito-urinary systems). ⠀
Apart from the variety of poultices you could make, you can also make tea with fresh or dried leaves, eat the leaves fresh, or tincture. Plantain also makes a fine infused oils for salves or lip balms. Tea can be used as a hair wash or soak. ⠀
What is your favorite way to work with this plant?
By Susan Staley. Susan is a clinical and community herbalist with Railyard Apothecary. You can schedule a consultation with her or our other herbalists at www.burlingtonherbclinic.com. Here’s to your health!
You will find the berries skipping along the trajectory of the year’s longest days. They begin in early June and finish with the first frost. In the Northeast we are blessed with strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, bilberries, currents, blackberries, hawthorn berries, elderberries, and more. Picking a perfectly sun-ripened berry, and popping it directly into your mouth, must be one of humanity’s most timelessly shared pleasures. Berries aren’t just nature’s candy, they are also highly nutritious, causing us to develop all kinds of ways to preserve these gems of summer for the colder and longer days.
Berries are an incredibly therapeutic food, and because they fall low on the glycemic index, they are a good choice for maintaining balanced blood sugar levels. What’s more, many compounds in berries deeply support the cardiovascular tissues from the heart down to the smallest capillaries. Our tissues receive protection and renewal from these compounds through increased flexibility and reduced inflammation, important for all variety of wound healing and stressed tissue.
Berries help to build and improve the quality of blood, which can be important for individuals with low iron or fatigue. They help to quench the thirst, and bring a cooling quality (pointing to their demulcent and anti-inflammatory quality). These same qualities, combined with their soluble and insoluble fiber content, make berries an excellent source for improving bowel function and long-term health. Berries are a perfect example of how blurry the line between food and medicine can be. Enjoy them regularly to maintain health or with intentional therapeutic value in mind.
1/2c of blueberries daily is considered a good medicinal dose, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve frozen the berries. Studies show that the anthocyanins (responsible for much of the antioxidant action) are not altered during the freezing or cooking process. This is good news for that next big harvest! Large-scale berry farming often has chemical and social implications, and because berries are often a high-spray crop consider choosing organically grown local or wild harvested berries whenever possible.
Berries make excellent jams, syrups, compotes, smoothies, and topping. Fresh berries need no frills at all, they carry a sense of joy, sunlight, and vibrancy. Berry picking allows you to spend time outside, nourish yourself, and tune to the seasonal abundance.
By Susan Staley. Susan is a clinical and community herbalist with Railyard Apothecary. You can schedule a consultation with her or our other herbalists at www.burlingtonherbclinic.com. Here’s to your health!
Sunlight has many benefits to health. The sun produces a broad spectrum of light, most of which is in the visible range to the human eye. This light is responsible for stimulating the production of vitamin D within our cells, which is necessary for the proper functioning of our immune and nervous systems.
While visible light from the sun imparts well-being and keeps our bodies in balance, ultraviolet radiation (which is outside the spectrum of visible light) can cause harm, especially when that exposure is direct, intense, and for too long.
There are a few different types of UV radiation. You will notice that most commercially available sunscreens are marketed as “broad spectrum” or UVA/UVB protective. This is because these two types of UV radiation are most likely to cause health problems. UVA radiation is responsible for skin aging, wrinkling, and skin cancer. UVB radiation is what causes sunburns. It also can cause skin cancers, mole development, and immunosuppression.
The best way to prevent sun damage to the skin is to avoid too much exposure. The easiest way to do this is to pay attention to when the sun’s rays are the strongest, and stay indoors or in the shade during these times. The higher the sun is in the sky, the more risk there is for UV exposure.
Here are some general guidelines:
Cover up. In the winter this is easy, since most of us will want to stay warm. Just remember the sunglasses and face mask to cover your nose, which is still vulnerable to sunburn. In the summer when it is hot, it can be tempting to go out with less clothes, which exposes more skin to UV light. I’ve found that loose clothing made from natural fibers such as linen or silk protects skin while keeping cool (and stylish!). Tightly woven sun hats with a broad brim are great because they create shade for the face, neck, and shoulders. Even a baseball cap can be useful.
If covering up is not an option, sunscreens may be used. Be selective in your choice of sunscreens: many contain chemicals and micronized minerals that could be harmful to the health of the wearer and the environment.
Herbal Sunburn Care
Most people know about Aloe vera as a topical herbal remedy for sunburn. In my experience, Aloe feels nice for a few minutes (until it dries) but does very little to decrease the severity or duration of a burn.
A few years ago, after learning about tulsi or holy basil’s ability to reverse abnormal cell growth caused by radiation, I began experimenting with using tulsi extract topically on sunburn. The first time I tried it, I had been out too long on a particularly sunny day in May. I wasn’t yet thinking about sun hats and staying indoors from 10am-4pm, and my nose had paid the price after a day of cycling. I pulled my tulsi tincture off the apothecary shelf and rubbed a little bit into my burn. Sure enough, the next day the redness and pain were gone. I’ve since learned that applying tulsi extract once, followed by healing lotion (to keep the skin hydrated) is an excellent remedy for sunburn.
For very severe or widespread sunburn, a strong infusion of tulsi, green tea, and Calendula may be more appropriate, since the alcohol in most tinctures can be drying to the skin. I recommend green tea here because it has been shown to both prevent sunburn when used topically and to repair UVB-induced damage. This infusion can be applied directly to the skin, or added to a room temperature bath for soaking. As with the tincture, allow the skin to air-dry and apply healing lotion afterwards.
It is also important to stay hydrated and well rested. Sunburn, as with other types of burns, should be treated and cared for like a wound. Drinking adequate amounts of water and getting plenty of sleep allows the body to heal at an optimal rate.
Directions: Bring water to a boil, pour over herbs, and let steep, covered, until cool. Strain and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Apply directly to sunburnt skin or add to room temperature bath water.
(adapted from Rosemary Gladstar’s lotion recipe)
Thanks for reading!
By Emma Merritt, clinical herbalist at Railyard Apothecary
To book a 1-on-1 herbal consultation with Emma, click here.
Emma will be teaching a class on sun protection online on Wed., July 15th, 6-7pm. Register and info here. If you're reading this after that date, you can take a look for the class recording here.
In times like these, it's good to remember that the plant world offers so much to us for mental and emotional well-being. Here are the three main categories of herbs that can help, along with examples:
1. Nervine Relaxants
These herbs help to calm down the nervous system, easing both physical and mental tension. These herbs are often used at the end of the day to unwind, or to promote restful sleep, but also can be taken in smaller doses throughout the day to take the edge off of things.
Herbs in this category include skullcap, passionflower, valerian, lavender, chamomile and hops.
One of my personal favorites is Skullcap. It is best in tincture form (of the fresh plant) but also works as a dry herb for tea. I've used this herb to keep my mind from racing and to be able to focus on work during the day. I think of it like the mountain steams where it can grow wild here in Vermont - in promotes a sense of serenity and peace, which is always present if only we could notice.
These herbs build up our resiliency so that when we do encounter stressors we can more easily adapt to them. From a physiological perspective, it seems as if they often help manage our stress hormones and keep them from spiking either too high or too low. They're most effective when taken regularly for an extended period of time.
These herbs include ginseng, ashwagandha, eleuthero, tulsi, schisandra and rhodiola.
Ashwagandha is one of my favorites in this category. It is a root that works well as a powder, tea or tincture. It is from India, but is grown here in Vermont. What sets it apart from other adaptogens is it is slightly relaxing and promotes deep, restful sleep. I like this herb for helping me feel like I have more stable energy throughout the day.
3. Mood uplifting plants
These plants specifically help to brighten the mood and promote feelings of lightness and happiness. They are, of course, especially helpful for when you're feeling down or emotionally upset.
These include St. John's Wort, lemon balm, linden and rose.
St. Joh'ns Wort is the most well known of these. Don't take it if you are taking pharmaceuticals because it could interact. I find that it really helps the figurative "light" shine through, just as the leaves themselves have an interesting feature where they are dotted with pores that literally let the sun through. It flowers at the peak of sunshine - late June, early July. The flowers and upper leaves are what's used. It's best in tincture form (of the fresh plant) but can be used as tea or other forms too. I find it slightly stimulating, and definitely uplifting.
Let us know if you have any questions, we're always open to helping guide you in your choice and use of herbs!
- Nick Cavanaugh, clinical herbalist at the Burlington Herb Clinic.
P.S. Nick taught a class about this on June 17th, 2020. If you'd like to see the recording you can e-mail email@example.com.
*Note: This post may be updated as time goes on and we get more information
As herbalists, we’ve been following the spread of COVID-19 and wanted to give you a few updates on some of the most useful approaches you can take to stay healthy, support your loved ones, and reduce the spread of the disease.
The first order of business is good basic hygiene! Hand washing with regular soap and water for 20-30 seconds is the best approach. Coronavirus is an enveloped virus, meaning that its genome is surrounded by a fatty membrane (just like our cells). These membranes are vulnerable to soap: it dissolves the bonds between the fatty layers, neutralizing the virus. Frequent handwashing is perhaps the most effective public and personal health tool we have.
Hand sanitizers are an alternative, to use in a pinch or when traveling, away from a sink, etc… The FDA and EPA have put out an extensive list of sanitizers that are effective against COVID-19 (see this document for the full list of approved disinfectants: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/emergency_management/downloads/coronavirus-disinfectants.pdf ). What stand out to us, as herbalists who would rather avoid solutions with bleach or other harsh chemicals, are sanitizers based on alcohol or thymol (a part of the essential oil of thyme).
1. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
Basic recipe is 2 parts alcohol, 1 part aloe gel
Key consideration: the alcohol you use can be rubbing (isopropyl) or "regular" (ethyl, or ethanol), but must be at least 90% (180 proof). Concentrations are listed on the bottle (eg. at the drugstore, rubbing alcohol should say "91% isopropyl alcohol"). Don't use 60% isopropyl or anything lower than 90%. Alcohol-based sanitizers need to be 60-70% alcohol.
You CAN add 5-10 drops essential oil per ounce of sanitizer if you want, just to improve odor and make it more pleasant.
Dispense into squirt bottles. Squirt a pea-sized amount on your hands, rub in, and allow to dry. Note that this is a little more runny than commercial hand sanitizer gel, but it is still effective.
*Note that our first experiment making this required us to blend and strain this to get a useful consistency.
2. Thymol-based and alcohol-free hand sanitizer
FDA/EPA have approved "Thymox" (a solution of 0.25% thymol) as a coronavirus-effective disinfectant.
We can recreate a 0.25% thymol solution using these ingredients:
Water, 29 mL (about 1 fluid ounce). Using distilled water is best, but any clean, fresh water will do.
Gum Arabic, a dispersant, 300 mg (https://www.amazon.com/Pure-Organic-Ingredients-Ingredient-Watercolor/dp/B07DFSGH9F/). It is important to add a dispersant so that the essential oil will be evenly distributed throughout the solution, and no small drops will form that could cause skin irritation.
Benchmark Thyme essential oil, 0.8 mL (consistently high thymol concentration, which is assayed https://www.benchmark-thyme.com/benchmark-thyme/). If you can’t find benchmark thyme essential oil, regular thyme essential oil will do.
Add the essential oil to the gum Arabic and mix thoroughly. Add the paste to the water and shake well.
Pour into a spray bottle and dispense by spraying. Rub into the hands and allow to dry.
In terms of herbal support, we know very little about this virus, seasonality, and transmission. It does seem to be more contagious than the flu, and does affect those over 60 and with heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes more significantly. There is no evidence that any of the classic herbs we use for cold and flu "treat" the virus. Instead of treatment, we have been focusing on good hygiene and prevention by strengthening immune function.
To keep your immune system strong, please take good care of yourself: good food, good hydration, and most importantly good sleep. If stress around all this is an issue, consider adaptogens like American ginseng (if available organic), Ashwagandha, or Eleuthero ("Siberian" ginseng). Do not "go it alone" on this infection, especially if working or in contact with higher-risk populations. The virus can cause symptoms to progress into a danger zone quickly. Don't delay asking for support. The key symptoms seem to be dry cough and fever, though this can vary. Call your care provider(s). Follow their directions.
Herbal support centers around plants and mushrooms that support good immunity, but don’t overstimulate immune function. The following are simply ideas for herbs to consider to stay healthy as part of immune supportive routine including all the above information. Again, these are not herbs that are known to "treat" COVID-19 infection.
Not all of these herbs are a good idea for all people. As always, attention to the individual is very important. Given that, this list may help stimulate ideas for those that already have a good understanding of herbs, but for those that don't please only take it as a jumping off point from which to do more research.
If you'd like any specific advice about how you or someone you know can stay healthy please contact us to set up a consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-540-0595.
1. Immunomodulant herbs - Astragalus and medicinal mushrooms, especially reishi (Ganoderma lucidum / tsugae / oregonensis). Relatively high amounts: 1 tsp. Astragalus tincture 2x/d, 7-12 g Astragalus total in caps/powder/decoction daily. 2 mL mushroom extract and/or blends, or 3-4 g mushroom extract powder, or 4-5 g mushrooms decocted daily.
2. Lung support herbs include Asclepias tuberosa (pleurisy root), licorice root (caution w/ high blood pressure), mullein leaf, elecampane root, Platycodon grandiflorum (balloonflower) root, Usnea.
3. Warming aromatic diaphoretics are theoretically a good idea: ginger, angelica, Lomatium, Ligusticum (osha – consider other options, as this herb is endangered).
4. Consider avoiding elderberry for those at greater risk to reduce the risk of over-stimulation of an immune reaction. Elderberry lectins, not present in other berries, ramp up immune function and inflammatory cytokine production, which is THEORETICALLY a concern as the cause of death is connected to sepsis and cytokine storm in vulnerable folks (see this paper from China as reference: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.02.26.20026989v1.full.pdf).
We know of no herbs that have evidence of efficacy for Covid19 treatment, as this novel virus presents a lot of unknowns. However one formula (Shuang huang lian) is receiving attention in China for herbal treatment of the virus, but keep in mind it is often used as an injection. It is Baikal skullcap root (Scutellaria baikalensis), Forsythia fruit, and Honeysuckle flower (Lonicera japonica). For details on the case series and treatments being used in China, see this paper: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/medrxiv/early/2020/03/03/2020.03.01.20029611.full.pdf
If you or someone you know has symptoms or has had contact with a confirmed infection, the first step is to call your healthcare provider and let them know, and receive guidance. After a plan is in place, we as herbalists can provide support using some of the strategies outlined above.
May you have good health, strong immunity, and peace of mind as we all work together to keep our elders and most vulnerable safe.
In the depths of New England winter, it can seem like the green of the landscape has all been replaced by white and grey. The perennial herbs sleep below blankets of snow, the limbs of oaks, maples, birches, all bare. We’ve spent the past Autumn harvesting and making medicine to store for the winter and carry us through until the new growth of Spring.
Nevertheless, the sleepy winter forest holds gifts of strong medicine. Behold: cedar, juniper, hemlock, and pine, to name a few. The evergreens of northern New England hold potent remedies in their needles.
If you have ever tasted a cedar tip or a hemlock needle, then you know the instant sensation of aroma and flavor that comes from crushing a tiny needle between your teeth: aromatic, warm, piney, and a little sour.
The unique flavor of evergreens tells us much about their medicinal properties. Aromatic: they are rich in essential oils with antimicrobial and immune stimulating properties. Warm: they increase circulation and help break a fever. Sour: they are high in vitamin C and other phytochemicals. This comes as no surprise to anyone who has used thuja (cedar) to help ward off a cold.
But it’s not just cedar-- many of the evergreen trees can be used as warming winter remedies. They can be made into tea, added to a bath, or used as a sinus steam. I’ve even been known to boil fir branches from my christmas tree to fill my house with their lovely aroma.
Here I will share with you a recipe for White Pine Syrup. You can substitute pine for a variety of evergreens, just make sure you positively identify any tree before using. There are a few evergreens that are poisonous, such as the yew. Also, I prefer to use windfallen branches. If you harvest directly from a living tree, please be respectful and only take what you need. Never overharvest and always ask permission and thank the tree for it’s gifts.
White Pine Needle Syrup
Take 1 tsp of syrup 2-3x/ day at the onset of a cold. You can also make herbal soda with the syrup by adding it to seltzer--about 2 oz per 16 oz of seltzer, or use it in cocktails. Get creative--the sky's the limit. Evergreens remind us that even in winter, we are supported by the abundance of nature and the healing properties of the plants all around us. So get out those snowshoes or cross country skis and go explore the forests and woodlands in all their winter wonder.
Learn more about medicine making with plants at my "Medicine Making" class series that happens several times throughout the year. You can find the latest info on our classes and events page here: https://www.railyardapothecary.com/classes--events.html
By Emma Merritt, staff herbalist here at Railyard Apothecary
Check in here to keep updated on news and activities at the apothecary.