Thursday, October 1, 2009

October Blog Party: Bio-regional Herbs for the Cold and Flu Season

a literal medicine chest in a basket...i just harvested these today from the top going clockwise: honeysuckle flowers, wild cherry twigs, self heal, goldenrod and rosehips in the center.

this month's blog party is being hosted by rosalee of methow valley herbs. head on over there and check out everyone's postings that are participating!

it's so easy to get caught up in the latest and greatest new exotic herbs that are being promoted that it's hard to remember that sometimes, the best medicine is growing right in our own backyards! this blog party is a great reminder to run to our backyard instead of the nearest health food store to find our remedies. i am located in the midwest, near st. louis but most of these herbs can be found across the country.

first, remember the golden rule of health: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! i've written a post about what can be done to prevent the flu at not dabbling in normal.

beautiful solidago

one of my new favorite herbs that i've been dancing with this year is goldenrod (solidago spp.). i've tinctured him and admired him for several years but i've never tried him out until this late summer. and boy, am i glad i did! i was experiencing a headache that was created from sinus pressure and a voice kept whispering to me 'goldenrod.' after trying to ignore both the headache, sinuses and voice for 2 days, i decided to break out goldenrod and give him a try. and kicked myself for being a stubborn taurus herbalist and waited so long to try him out. the headache disappeared within a few hours of dosing (1 dropperful about every 30 minutes or so) and though it came back, it was less intense and as i continued taking goldenrod, the stuffy sinuses were gone and with them, the headache, all by the end of the day. goldenrod is astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, making him an excellent choice for colds and flus. taken as a hot infusion, he will help you sweat out a fever. taken as a cold infusion (meaning after infusing the herb in hot water, let the infusion cool down) he acts as a diuretic and will flush out the kidneys and liver. to test any goldenrod found growing in your landscape, break a leaf off and chew. if he's bitter and drying, you've got an excellent medicinal herb growing in your backyard! harvest his flowering tops and leaves when the flowers just start to bloom and tincture immediately. you can also dry goldenrod. make sure that the flowers have not opened yet or he'll set seed in your drying room!

sambucus

another terrific flu time herb is elderberry! i cannot rave enough about this wonderful elder of ours. both sambucus nigra and sambucus canadensis are found in my area and both are equally useful. elderberry is prophylactic against flus and colds which means if you take her daily, she can help prevent you from getting sick. she also has antiviral properties which will be helpful for lessening the duration and severity of the flu. she's also full of vitamin c! elderberry is the first thing i reach for when my kids are getting the sniffles. richo cech's making plant medicine book is an excellent resource for making herbal remedies and he suggests making a glycerin tincture of dried elderberries to be the best choice for tincturing elderberries. this makes a delicious tincture that kids will readily take. don't forget elderberry syrup though. this medicine is easy to make and delicious to take. she can be taken daily by the teaspoonful or even used to flavor french toast, pancakes and waffles or even drizzled over some homemade vanilla ice cream! yum!!

to make a syrup, gently heat 2 cups of fresh elderberries with 2 cups of water. when it hits boiling, turn off the heat and mash the berries. cover and allow to infuse for about an hour. strain off the berries and add 2 cups of honey to the liquid and warm on the stove until the honey is thin enough to mix together. stir and pour into a bottle. label and keep refrigerated. to help preserve longer, you can add a bit of brandy (about 1/4 c.) and shake.

elderberry also contains diaphoretic and diuretic qualities. elderberry is also an expectorant, helping to relieve lung congestion.

elderflower is also a wonderful cold and flu herb to have on hand. the flowers of elder contain most of the same properties as the berries.

for treating coughs, i like to make a cough syrup or cough drop from our wild cherry bark. he is delicious and relaxing, helping to ease coughing spasms. among other things, wild cherry bark is analgesic and antibacterial which can help ease the painful chest congestion and help prevent a secondary bacterial infection from setting in. if i'm out of the syrup, i will often snip a few twigs from the tree and decoct them for about 10-20 minutes to make a quick cherry bark drink. sweetened with a dab of our raw honey, they will drink it down fairly quickly!

other herbs that grow around us that are helpful for treating colds and flus are bergamot (monarda fistulosa), st. john's wort and lobelia. lobelia i tend to be cautious with as it is a low dose botanical but bergamot makes a delightful tea that i enjoy immensely as a beverage and has great carminative, diaphoretic, diurectic and antibacterial actions. use of bergamot dates back to native americans who used her for treating bronchial ailments, sore throats, fever and headaches. any of the monarda species can be used but i prefer to use my wild bergamot that grows in my garden. i collected 1 seed head several years back and i now have three beautiful stands in my garden!

st. john's wort is most often known for his use in treating depression but he has antiviral abilities as well. he is also astringent and expectorant making him great to treat lung congestion. i have not had much experience in using him but i have lots tinctured up and will be trying him out this winter if needed. while st. john's wort grows wild around here, my tiny wild patch was choked out by honeysuckle last year and is slowly reemerging in another part of the woods so i'm using my cultivated st. john's wort which makes a lovely blood red oil and tincture. in the future, i hope to be able to use the wild st. john's wort since i truly believe wild is stronger than cultivated.

honeysuckle, the bane of master naturalists everywhere, is used a lot in chinese medicine and is great for stimulating circulation and removing inflammation. in traditional chinese medicine, she is used for clearing heat and removing toxicity. she is excellent for treating 'hot' sore throats and modern laboratory research has proven she has antibacterial qualities. it's best to harvest the flowers before they open and are great dried (for teas), tinctured or even honeyed or made into a syrup.

rose hips are high in vitamin c which is great to take to help fight off colds and flus and they are also antiviral. a rose hip elixir is a great way to get kids to take their medicine! a great preventative and a great curative as well.

prunella

and finally, self heal/all heal, prunella. i wrote all about her on a previous blog party (see my list of resources below for the link)so i won't go into much detail here. she has an amazingly long list of actions: alterative, antimicrobial, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, febrifuge, hypotensive, stomachic, styptic, tonic, vermifuge and vulnerary! as a preventative or treatment, she will work great. make her into a tea or use in tincture form.

some resources and more information:
for more information on goldenrod:
http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/goldenrod-000251.htm

for a great list of all the elders available around the world try this link:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambucus

trying to identify elderberry? read my recent post on herbal roots zine:
http://herbalrootszine.blogspot.com/2009/09/elderberry-identification-clarification.html

want to teach your kids more about elderberry? last month's issue of herbal roots zine was on elderberry:
http://herbalrootszine.blogspot.com/2009/08/herbal-roots-zine-september-2009.html

for more about honeysuckle:
http://www.botanical.com/products/learn/h/honeysuckle_flowers.html

more information on wild rose petals and hips elixir:
http://medicinewomantradition.org/pantry.html#Wild%20Rose%20Elixir

my blog party post on self heal:
http://fieldoftansy.blogspot.com/2009/06/july-blog-party-weeds-of-summer.html

3 comments:

Sarah said...

Lovely article and beautiful pictures - thank you! What's amazing is that I have all those herbs apart from the blue elderberry growing in my locality in the UK over a continent away and would have written about most of them! I made a lot of goldenrod products last year, but haven't really used them very much apart from a deep muscle salve I'm using at the moment for some poorly shoulder muscles. I really must try it for sinuses.

Heather said...

Just come across your blog and really enjoyed this post. I have elderberry, rosehips and self-heal on the go here too. I appreciate all the links you've posted with more details on all these things. Off to do some more reading now. :-)

comfrey cottages said...

kristine, this was just a lovely, informative post! lots of great info, nice pics and i so appreciate it:) very, very nice:) big herbal na dhoney hugs and thanks:)

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