Welcome to this inaugural Mini-Missive from our Apothecary Scrolls series. We will be sending out longer letters quarterly, and shorter mini missives intermittently.
IMMUNE SUPPORT & DEFENSE DURING COVID-19
At this time, when there’s so much activated fear in the world due to COVID-19, it’s essential to strike a balance between being aware and careful, and moving through this from a place of calm.
Instead of stepping into disempowering fear, let’s step into an empowering awareness, and work in partnership with our many plant allies to support, strengthen and nourish our amazing immune systems.
Anxiety, fear, stress and panic all weaken and deplete our immune systems – on a physiological level as well as on a psychic level, so it’s important we take good care of ourselves from a grounded and informed place.
The way that I like to approach a health crisis is by strengthening the whole system, while focusing on the immune system. I also like to have anti-microbials on hand in case of illness.
My favorite herb for immune system tonifying, commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is Astragalus.
This potent root herb is an immune modulator, which calms or activates the immune system, as necessary. It helps to relax an over-agitated immune system and activate a sluggish one. It’s truly exceptional!
Astragalus can be taken as a tincture, capsule, tea or in a broth.
In TCM, it’s traditionally used in a soup or broth – most commonly in chicken broth, but these days, many folks are adding into bone broth. I feel really good about making my bone broth into a rich, medicinal stew, adding Astragalus, Nettles, Eleuthero, Burdock, jujube dates, sea vegetables and any other herbs I have lying around.
I was a vegetarian for a decade and a half, so I am very supportive of that lifestyle as well (my 14 year old just announced her vegetarianism last month). For that broth, I collect my veggie ends (carrot and radish tops, broccoli skin, and all other compostable bits), wash them and store them in the freezer until I have a good amount. I then put them in the slow cooker with all the medicinal herbs I mentioned before and make my yummy medicine food.
I add the broth to everything- cooking rice, stews, sautéeing veggies, anything at all. On a cold day, I heat some broth, add some Braggs and nutritional yeast and sip on a hot cup of goodness.
Our Immune Power tincture has Astragalus as the main ingredient, complemented with Eleuthero and Schizandra. It's a staple in our household, and has a loyal following among our regular customers. It's best to take this right when the body is starting to feel weakened, or when there's been exposure to others who are sick.
Another brilliant system-supportive herb is the adaptogen, Eleuthero.
Russians did a huge amount of research on Eleuthero and considered it their own, native Ginseng (which is why it used to be called Siberian Ginseng, though it is not in the Panax family). Eleuthero helps to support the adrenals, which are put under huge amounts of pressure during times of high stress and anxiety. Weakened adrenals impact our whole body, causing debilitating fatigue, jumpiness, irritability and lack of focus. It has devastating effects on the nervous system, so it’s essential to support this system when we’re experiencing intense emotional stress.
Alterative herbs are also useful in helping the immune system stay fortified and balanced. Alteratives are great for whole systems strength, helping to support and balance the body’s complex and natural processes, such as elimination and detoxification. Alteratives keep our vital energy, our ‘chi’, strong. They fortify sluggish systems taxed by poor, western diets rich in refined sugar and processed foods – which of course deeply impact our immune and digestive systems.
Some examples of mineral and iron rich alterative herbs are Nettles and Burdock. Echinacea and Elderberry are also popular alteratives that are known for their immune boosting, and anti-microbial properties as well.
Simple infusions (or steeping tea), are a great way to ingest mineral-rich alterative herbs such as nettles. Decocting, that is, to simmer, is the best way to consume roots or berries. If you choose to make tea, make sure to cover your infusion or decoction to capture all the yummy oils in the herbs. You can also take them as tinctures. Echinacea and Elderberry are also great in syrup or tinctures.
Finally, another group of herbs that are important to have in your arsenal at this time are nervines. These help to restore, balance and support the nervous system.
From a holistic, whole system perspective, a nervous system taxed and depleted through stress weakens the immune system. Some of my favorite nervines are Wild Oat tops in their milky phase, Skullcap, Chamomile and Lemon Balm – the latter is also a potent anti-viral.
Again, these can be consumed as teas or tinctures.
The most important thing to remember is to not be overwhelmed by all this information. What I’ve listed here is by no means exhaustive, and you more than likely already have herbs in your kitchen apothecary that fall within these categories. Look them up, or contact us for more information. We’re here to support you, so that you can seek out the support of the appropriate plants and your herbal allies.
If you feel sick at this time, Lemon Balm, with its anti-viral powers is a tremendous help- but do be mindful of using it if you have thyroid related issues. If you do, reach out to us so we can support you in finding the right herb for you. The wonderful, magical Osha root (Bear root) is unparalleled in its anti-viral benefits for the respiratory system.
As Covid-19 specifically attacks the respiratory system, and as Osha root is also a tonic for this system, Osha is a perfect preventative herb, as well as one for acute illness. For anyone with asthma or a weak respiratory system, this herb is a strong ally. It is a key ingredient in our Respiratory Remedy, both used as a tonic (for smokers or folks susceptible to pneumonia or bronchitis) and a first line of defense in case of pneumonia, bronchitis, influenza, common colds and sore throats.
Osha is a sacred root-herb to Native Americans, and like White Sage is being over harvested in the wild by non-native folk. As such, her population is precarious, so please do not wildcraft Osha. Instead, seek out trusted sources who practice ethical & sustainable harvesting practices. We're a great resource to tap into for that, so please get in touch and we can point you in the right direction. Our Osha Root medicinals are sourced from the Pueblo-owned Taos Herb Company, who follow stringent practices of ethical, sustainable, small-scale harvesting.
Also, our hugely popular Cold & Flu Formula contains the kitchen sink of ingredients that can help kick the sick right out of you. If you are like my family, you will love the taste of horseradish, garlic, orange peel, ginger and cayenne that accompany the echinacea, goldenseal, osha, horehound, mullein and about 10 other herbs!
We would love to hear from you if you have any questions at all. I advocate for a whole system/system strength modality of health, and am passionate about sharing information with everyone who is interested.. we are empowered when we can care for ourselves!
I give my Grateful Desert staff continuing education on therapeutic herbalism, and they naturally also have voracious appetites for learning in this arena, so please reach out to them or me anytime. We are in this together, so let’s (psychically) hold each other!
Also, if you are pregnant or nursing, please do your research on any contraindications of these herbs. Again, we can help point you in the right direction. The same goes for if you have autoimmune conditions.
Be well, and remember to breathe and take in the beauty of wherever you are. And let’s love each other, even more than ever before..