We all want a thick, shiny mane and there are many herbal and holistic techniques that can help!
Hair fall, thinning and breakage are all quite common and can arise from nutritional deficiencies, medications and hair styling habits.
We will look at several herbs and I will share 3 recipes for healthy hair:
Hair & Scalp oil to promote hair growth and moisture
An herbal vinegar rinse for itchy scalp and to promote hair shine and strength
An herbal tea blend high in nutrients to boost hair, skin and nails from the inside out
Hair & Scalp Oil
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of treatment" is a nice old saying that fits well here. You want your hair to come out of your head thick, healthy and at a faster rate in the first place rather than trying to coax brittle thin hair forever. You want to promote blood flow (and thus nutrient flow) to your scalp, and massaging a nutrition oil is a great way to do this.
Best oils: My favorite is Jojoba because it is light and closest to our natural skin oils. Other good options are olive, coconut (melted), almond or grapeseed oil.
Castor Oil: Add in 1 part Castor oil to 5 of your base oil. Castor oil is a thick, nourishing oil rich in Vitamin E and Omega fats, and has a reputation for regrowing thinning patches.
Rosemary Oil: Rosemary stimulates hair growth and adds shine to hair. If you can plan ahead, then infuse fresh or dried rosemary into your base oil for 4+ weeks and strain. If not, Rosemary Essential Oil will be good too. Add 5drops per 2 ounces of oil (after adding Castor).
Peppermint Oil: Peppermint Essential Oil helps stimulate blood flow to the scalp, and has antimicrobial properties. Add 5 drops per 2oz oil.
Optional: Lavender Essential Oil: Because it smells so nice and helps with relaxation. Add 3 drops per 5 oz of oil.
Mix and pour into a dropper bottle.
How to use
Distribute approx. 2ml over the scalp (which is 2 droppersful if you’re using a tincture bottle). You can section your hair out if your like.
Massage into your scalp for 2 minutes. You can bend over so you are getting even more blood flow to your head – just don’t pass out!
Loosely tie, braid or bun your hair (if it’s long) and leave this on for at least one hour. You can leave on overnight (i recommend using a shower cap to save your pillow) or you can add gentle heat over your head (ex. a hot towel over a shower cap) to intensify the absorption.
Wash and style your hair as usual. Use 1-2x/week
Tip: You can also add a bit of oil to your tips since the bottom of our hair tends to be the most dry. Add while you are oiling your scalp.
Healthy Hair ACV Rinse
Putting apple cider vinegar may seem weird, but let's be honest, you're curious. And you will not look back after experiencing how much your hair loves this mix!
Base: Apple Cider Vinegar. Preferably the raw kind (the more probiotics, the better). The acidity actually help support the natural PH level on your scalp and in your hair. It’s surprisingly conditioning, yet cleansing, too. This has effectively cured my dandruff!
Rosemary: Again, it promotes strength and shine. Infuse fresh Rosemary in ACV for 2 weeks if you can, or else use 5 drops of the Essential Oil per 2 oz of the base.
Horsetail: This herbs in commonly found growing near water and is high in nutrients. The silica in particular can help strengthen hair. Allow to infuse into the ACV for at least 2 weeks, or simmer in water for 10 minutes and add to the ACV if you don’t have much time.
Sage: Another nourishing herb which adds shine to hair while also soothing a dry, itchy scalp or dandruff. Note that when used often it may darker hair, so exclude for blonde hair.
Bonus: Other gentle essential oil (like Lavender) for an added aromatherapy benefit.
How to use
Dilute 3 tbsp. of this rinse into 1 cup of water to use. There are a few ways it can be used, the most common are:
After shampooing and conditioning, pour onto hair in the shower and let sit for a few minutes. Rinse and style as unusual. Note: Since I use a thick leave in conditioner, I use between shampoo and conditioner.
For a refresher, if you want to go more au natural or you’re just curious what it can do, substitute your conditioner and shampoo for this cleaning and gently smoothing rinse.
For those with fine, thin or oily hair, substitute your conditioner for this rinse and use after shampooing.
The vinegar smell should fade once your hair dries.
Bonus: You can use this herbal vinegar in a homemade salad dressing (though not if it contains essential oils).
Herbal Tea for strong hair, skin & nails
Many herbs are high in calcium, magnesium and iron. An herbal tea is a great way to incorporate easily assimilable nutrients into your diet.
Base: Red Raspberry Leaf. This common herb is nutrient dense and has a mellow, pleasant flavor. It is often used during pregnancy to add nutrients and tone the uterus. Use 1 ounce of dried leaves.
Nettle: Another nutrient dense herb, this one also help with seasonal allergies. Add 1/2 oz.
Horsetail: High in silica, this herb has a neuatral flavor and incorporates in well. Note that prolonged or excessive use may be hard on the kidneys. Add 1/4 oz.
Bonus: Not necessary, but to add a bit of natural sweetness and moisture, add 1/8 oz or 1 tbsp of Licorice root.
Combine, jar and label.
How to use
Add 1 oz into a quart sized jar (or about 4 Tbsp) into a quart jar and add freshly boiled water. Allow to steep for at least 30 minutes, though you could leave up to 2 hours or even overnight. Strain and refrigerate. You can drink straight or add to water (or make into lemonade), at 4 ounces 2x/day.
As always, consult a doctor when changing your diet or adding in supplements.
There you have it! Some common and very helpful herbs on your healthy hair journey!
Let us know in the comments how these herbal tips are working for you.
And remember: Nature is sacred, and you are nature.
Because they are chalk full of natural Vitamin C, tasty and they offer many holistic health benefits!
So what are Rose Hips & where do I get them?
If you’ve ever noticed pump, red and shiny orbs growing on rose bushes in fall, then you have seen rosehips! They are the fruit of the rose plant, and are edible – though watch out for pesticide use before consuming.
These fruits range in size, like roses do, from small and thin to large and fat. Some have ample sweet flesh while other have very little flesh and are mostly tart. A fresh, fat rose hip is a real treat!
Where do the grow? Anywhere where there are cultivated or wild roses – so mostly gardens and in the forest understory. They ripen up starting late Summer and are ready to harvest in Fall or sometimes early Winter. You want to be careful of the seeds because they have itchy hairs that are not pleasant to eat.
While fresh hips are a treat, dried hips are much more accessible and fairly easy and affordable to purchase. I highly recommend getting deseeded hips because it’s quite the process to separate them out yourself.
Did you know? Many edible fruits and berries belong to the Rose family, such as Apples, Peaches and Raspberries!
Rosehips as a Medicinal Herb & Food-as-Medicine Plant
Besides being very high in Vitamin C, rosehips also contain flavonoids, antioxidants, quercetin, pectin and more. This combination is beneficial for general and systemic inflammation and support healthy immune function.
The various anti-inflammatory compounds can be useful in many inflammatory and autoimmune issues, such as arthritis, allergies and IBS.
The pectin is especially soothing to the digestive tract, and can help bulk up and moisten the contents in our bowels (such as with constipation).
“Rosehips contain a large range of important dietary antioxidants. The high antioxidant activity is mainly attributed to ascorbic acid that typically ranges from 3 g/kg to 40 g/kg , which is fairly more than any other commonly available fruits or vegetables”– Sciencedirect.com
Incorporating wild and nutrient dense food into our diets is an excellent way to add variety and to “let food be thy medicine” as ancient Greek physician Hippocrates proclaimed.
Rose Hip Apple Sauce The Super Simple Healthy Snack!
1/2 cup (or 1 part) Dried & Deseeded Rosehips
1 cup (or 2 parts) Apple Juice (preferably Organic and 100% juice)*
Add to a clean jar, combine by stirring and put a lid on. You want there to be room at the top of the jar so that the hips can expand. Put a label on your jar and refrigerate. The next day, or 24 hours later, check the consistency. Viola!
You can add more hips or juice to thin out or thicken up your sauce. The hips should be soft and the texture similar to apple sauce. You can use powdered Rosehips for a smoother texture, just make sure to break up any clumps.
Enjoy as a jelly, as a desert topping or straight out of the jar!
*Looking for a low or sugar free option? You can either use a juice with less sugar, cut the juice with water and/or substitute Stevia (a sweet and no-sugar herb). Since Stevia is so sweet, I suggest a ready-to-go product over the raw powder which varies quite a bit. My personal go to Stevia is this one by Pyruebecause it doesn’t contain any fillers.
Bonus: More scientific studies on the anti-inflammatory benefits of Rosehips HERE
And last but not least, I’ve been asked a lot recently about herbs in addition to Vitamin C rich Rosehips to help support our immune system. Thankfully, there are many herbal allies that may help. Check out this quick read on immune boosting herbs!
– Stay Green!
By Herbalist Tania Oceana
More on Roses! Rose Hip Seed Oil for Beauty
Check out our SOFT Skin Serum featuring Rose Oil for healthy and beautiful skin!
ALSO CHECK OUT:
The Natural Approach to Beautiful Skin | CLEAR SKIN ACADEMY NOW OPEN!
Finally the days are getting longer, the sky bluer. We are still practicing our quarantine habits of distancing and doing a lot online. For some, days can meld together and for many, the blue light of our addictive devices can stimulate our brains to stay up longer than we’d like, and reduce the restfulness of our sleep.
Thankfully, there are many herbal allies that may help.
Insomnia, the inability to fall and stay asleep, is incredibly common! The most common sleep issues are as followed
Difficulty getting to sleep (not feeling tired or feeling tired but not able to fall asleep)
Waking up in the night (one or more time, with or with out restless/shallow sleep and an inability to get back to sleep)
Restless leg syndrome (which can cause or exacerbate the previous two complaints)
Since there are many contributing factors, let’s take a look at the most common.
Blue light interacts with the pineal gland, which secretes melatonin, which contributes to our circadian rhythm (and naturally correlates with the sun in the sky, thus helping to increase energy in the day and decrease it at night).
Try using a blue light filtering setting or app on your device, have a cut-off time for using devices (ideally at least 2-3 hours before bed) and dim home lights and replace blue-white lights with warm yellow lights.
I personally believe that this correlates with device use because we can access such vast and controversial information, as well as continue work and socialization at any hour. For the majority of human history and prehistory, late evenings and nights consist mainly of winding down activities rather than stimulating ones. It’s OK to sign off.
Some herbs which help to slow down and relax our nervous system include Passionflower (my personal favorite), Kava and Holy Basil. Slow deep breathes, relaxing music and peaceful literature are also underrated tools.
Relaxing Tea Blend
– 1 part Passionflower herb
– 1 Part Chamomile Flowers
– 1 Part Skullcap
Combine, and use 1tsp per cup of freshly boiled water. Steep covered for 3 minutes, strain, add sweetener if desired and enjoy.
Note: Stevia is a great herb for sugar substitution, keto and low carb diets. To learn more about how to utilize this naturally sweet herb, check out this article “Simply Add Stevia”.
Can’t Fall Asleep
Maybe you feel relaxed and are snuggled up in bed, but end up tossing and turning. Since there are many and varied factors individual to you, let’s just look at which herbs may be of most benefit.
Valerian | This stinky herb is well known as sleep herb, but did you know that one out of every ten people experience the opposite effect (increased energy)? This if definitely worth a try, especially if there’s accompanying muscle tension. Tip: add in a blend because of the pungent flavor.
Ashwagandha | Since this herb is an adaptogen, it’s commonly thought to be energizing, which is partly true. This herb helps to regulate and balance the body and energy levels long term, but I find it to be quote sleepy within 20 minutes of ingesting. The flavor is a bit like dirt, but can hide pretty well in a chai type drink (obviously without black tea or caffeine).
Hops | This resinous herb is very sedating, and a little goes a long way (which can also be said about it’s flavor). I like to use this herb in formulas rather than alone, mostly due to it’s very potent and somewhat harsh aroma/flavor. But it get’s the job done!
Restless Leg Syndrome
I myself suffered from this for a time, and I found three factors which have since resolved this issue. One is caffeine, which if I ingest (in amounts larger than green tea) after around 4pm, stays in my system in sufficient quantities to disrupts my sleep schedule. A second is magnesium, which can relax muscle spasms. An herb high in magnesium is Oat straw, which is of benefit in restoring nervous system well being. There are also dietary and supplemental avenues of ingestion, in addition to an epsom salt bath which causes absorption through the skin. The last is actually a cannabis lotion. I’ve found that using a lotion of salve with mostly THC or a combination of THC and CBD (the two most popular cannabinoids) helps to relive spasms locally. I live in Oregon, so these products are widely available, and no you won’t feel a high when using a THC lotion topically on unbroken skin (though it’s a possibility with use on a mucus membrane).
Whatever your reasons for poor sleep, do what you can to increase the quality of this very important restorative process. You may already feel the correlation your mental and physical health have with your sleep. You deserve deep and restorative sleep!
Goodnight Tea Blend
– 1 part Valerian root
– 1 part Passionflower
– 1 part Lemon Balm
Combine and make a standard tea extraction, and I wouldn’t drink this 1/2-1 hour before bedtime.
And you gentle with yourself. Our minds want to “what if!” us all day long, but remind it that you are more than just your thoughts, and that it’s OK to say “give it a rest please” to your inner ego voice who’s yapping on and on. Long breath in, long breath out. You got this. Now go get those jammies on and brush those teeth!
Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposed only and should not be taken as medical advice. Consult your doctor before starting any supplementation.
It’s early spring and time to start thinking about which plant to grow!
Here are my top five favorite herbs to grow because they are all easy to grow as well as medicinal, culinary and nutritious!
They can all be started or grown indoors as well as outdoors (after the last frost).
1. Peppermint – black thumb proof – good for indigestion – trace minerals & vitamins calcium, phosphorus and vitamin A Tip: Keep potted because it will take over
2. Echinacea – beautiful pollinator flower – immune boosting root/leaf/flowers – tolerates poor, rocky soil Tip: Add to others teas because the flavor can be unpleasant/numbs your mouth
3. Sage – classic culinary herb – helps balance body fluids, especially around/in #menopause (dries nightsweats while helping skin to retain moisture) – add flowers to salads & beverages Tip: slow grower so I prefer to buy an already established plant over sprouting myself
4. Chamomile – gently relaxing for people of all ages – makes a soothing eye compress – good for nervous stomach aches Tip: grows well in a full sun window
5. Calendula – heals wounds fast (use only on uninfected scraps, scabs & scars) – easy and quick to grow from seed & reseed from flowers – gently stimulates lymph flow Tip: pluck the #flower heads off as they peak to get a long harvest window
While tree bark may seem like the least appealing option, various tree barks have been staple in traditional diets. The part consumed is the inner bark, and unless you are in a serious emergency, take great care to gather this in the way that won’t kill the tree.
As the name implies, the texture, especially when made into a “survival gruel”, is slimy. Though slime isn’t my favorite texture, the flavor is neutral and almost pleasant. The mucilage (slime) also holds medicinal qualities that can help soothe digestive and respiratory irritation.
2. Cat Tails
I’ll never forget the time I mentioned in a college class that in an emergency you can eat cattails. To the horror of my classmates, I had to explain quickly and behind bright red cheeks that I’m not talking about a cat’s tail, but this plant!
This water loving plant is common in wetland areas, and you may have played with the flowers which clump tightly together on a tall spike that looks like a corn dog. When ripening you can release the tight flowers and they expand into white and very fluffy clumps that blow away and/or get attached to all your clothes. While fun, the fluff is not what you want to eat, though it can help as fire kindling. The edible parts include the stalk and young stems, which can be eaten raw or cooked (after peeling the outer layers). The young shoots can also be eaten cooked like asparagus, the roots can be dried and turned into flour and the nutritious pollen can be collected and added to foods.
3. Hawthorn Berries
The pacific NW is overrun with the invasive Himalayan blackberries, so go ham on those if you see them first (a bonus survival plant to know). A less commonly known edible berry grows on the Hawthorn tree. Ripe in Autumn, these red berries are found commonly in the wild, beside meadows and city sidewalks.
They are great because they can be eaten raw and range in flavor from bland/mealy apple to juicy and delicious. They are small but can be gathered, deseeded then dried or turned into sauces, beverages and jams. They support cardiovascular health and are high in antioxidants. Just watch out for those thorns! Learn more about Hawthorn here.
Bonus: 1 Plant to avoid at all cost: Snow Berries
You may notice birds eating this cute fluffy berry but be warned, it’s poisonous to humans. You can find these shrub berries throughout winter in the forest understory, as well as ornamentals in gardens. Though not extremely deadly, you do not want the gastrointestinal distress these will cause even if you’re not in a survival situation.
*NOTE: Always get multiple reputable sources (such as a reference book and double checking with a local Herbalist) before ingesting a plant you find.
Stay Green! And keep an eye out for our local plant walks coming up in Spring by adding your email below.
Steeped in lore and myth, the bewitching Elder Tree has been revered as a healing tree for centuries.
The Elder tree is intricate, possessing nourishing, edible, medicinal and poisonous compounds. In the seed, all of these aspects coexists at once.
Elder trees are found throughout North America and the Black Elderberry (sambucus nigra) is by far the most popular in Western Herbalism. The root has strong purgative properties, and is very rarely used today. The berries have earned some popularity as the featured herb in Elderberry Syrup (a sweetened concoction that you can often find in health food stores. See a simple recipe at the end of this article).
While the berries are more popular, the flowers have similar properties and do not contain the same digestive-irritating compounds found in the berry seeds (which are strained out during extraction). Elder flowers are a beautiful and underrated herbal ally for respiratory health and common winter ailments.
Winter Health Ally
Winter has it’s own charm in higher latitude; powdery snow, a chance to cozy up near a fire with some hot cider and many holidays. There’s always two stories, and the other side contains an elevation of viral infections such as the common cold, the flu and now also C.V19. There are strategies to help balance our body and help prevent these types of infections such assupplementing with vitamin D, adding spicy herbs to your food, as well as continuing safety precautions that limit spread. In addition to these, adding in some Elder Flower tea can also be a great way to incorporate an antiviral herb into your daily habits. (And there’s a recipe below!)
Like Elder berries, Elder flowers contain antiviral properties as well as diaphoretic and antipyretic agents. A diaphoretic helps to promote sweating, and in this way assist the body in it’s natural elimination process and cool the body. An antipyretic helps to prevent or lower a fever, which is a common symptom of colds and flus. Elder flowers can also help to loosen and expel congestion and phlegm from the lungs. You can see why Elder is revered during the cold and flu season!
The benefit of working with the flowers are that they can be easily brewed in tea (where as the berries must be simmered for at least 20 minutes) and they are very gentle and incorporate well with other herbs. The flavor is unique, a little bit musky but not unpleasant. Elder can be used daily, for prevention and as needed. Drinking tea hot further adds to the diaphoretic effect.
Stay safe, warm and enjoy a cup of Elder Flower tea this winter. Bonus points if you’re reading an old fairy tale while sipping.
My favorite Elder Flower Tea Recipe
1 part Elder Flowers
1 part Mint (Pepermint or your favorite variety)
1 part Lemon Balm (who also has anti-viral compounds)
Mix herbs and then use 1 Tbsp per cup of freshly boiled water. Steep for 2 minutes and strain. Add honey, sweetener and/or lemon as desired. Enjoy!
Simple Elderberry Syrup Recipe
3 Oz dried Elder berries
3 cups water
1 cup Honey (bonus for raw)
Combine in a pot and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes
Strain, cool down and add the honey. Stir and bottle in a sterile airtight glass container. The honey helps with the preservation but also refrigerate and use within two weeks.
You can add cinnamon, ginger or rosehips while simmering for flavor and added herbal goodness.
Note: This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and is for educational purposes only.
You are probably lucky enough to have encountered a gorgeous, heavenly scented rose before. This iconic flower has another side to her, a lesser known side, like many of us do.
The rose we know today it is a hybridized version of the delicate, humble Wild Rose. From this dainty cutie, humans bred Rosa to be bigger, have many more petal and come in a rainbow of colors, sizes and scents. (Someone even had the audacity to selectively breed some varieties without even preserving a subtle scent! Maybe the allergy sufferers can appreciate it, but I digress.)
One way to learn to understand a plant is to learn about the family it belongs to. For rose it’s an easy one to remember; it’s part of the Rose family. This family includes our apples, pears, peaches, raspberries and many other well known and edible plants. Though not all rose family plants produce edible fruit, many do.
Give the gift of Clear, Soft & Radiant Skin this Valentines
Simply being in the presence of roses can help to uplift and inspire a gloomy perspective. In addition, they are also a wild or foraged food, a gentle food-as-medicine herb and beneficial for skin health.
A Wild Food | After the showy flowers die back in Autumn, green fruits start to mature. They grow in to bright red edible fruits (the “hips”) that are often plump and juicy. The size and shape varies a bit. They’re no sweet peach, but the flesh is edible, and the bright red hue high in healthy antioxidants and vitamin C.
Health Benefits | The rose hips high antioxidant content make them a valuable ally in diseases related to capillary damage, such as diabetes and heart disease. They also contain a good amount of pectin, which can sooth an irritated digestive tract. (See the Simple Recipe below!)
Skin Care | Topically, rose hip seed oil and rose water (the rose infused water that’s separated from the aromatic oils when making rose essential oil) are both soothing and hydrating to the skin. Many skin conditions respond well to rose water, including acne, psoriasis and dry/sensitive skin.
How to harvest Rose Hips
You get very clear on your plant identification first! Getting multiple sources such as a reference books and the opinion of a nature expert is recommended. Learn about proper, sustainable harvesting and foraging practices and don’t harvest from sprayed bushes.
Once you are sure it’s an edible rose hip, you can nibble away on it as long as you steer clear of the fuzzy seeds in the center. These “hairy” seeds are not pleasant to ingest or digest so do be careful. You can nibble on these fruits like tiny apples, or remove the flesh and add to other food or beverages, or process and dry for later use. Bonus tip: Grind up dried rosehips to make a natural powder that’s high in Vitamin C.
Since the processing can take a bit of time, some opt to simply buy dried and deseeded rose hips from a reliable source or health food store.
Bonus recipe: Super Simple Rose Applesauce:
– Add 2 Tbsp dried rosehips to 1/2 cup of apple juice
– Wait 2+ hours for the hips to soften up
– Add this with with 1 cups of apples and blend
Refrigerate and enjoy your High Vitamin C Rose Applesauce in the next 3 days.
This beautiful mushroom, also called Yamabushitake (Latin name Hericium erinaceus) is well deserving of it’s hype as a powerful nootropic.
While many supplements do exists, Lion’s Mane is also an edible mushroom and can be found at Asian supermarkets, farmers markets and sometimes I’ll find it at my local health food store (ex. New Season) here in Portland, OR.
What is a nootropic?
Nootropics are “smart drugs” or cognitive enhancers that are drugs, supplements and other substances that may improve cognitive function, memory, creativity, or motivation.
While all edible mushrooms do contain immune supportive beta glucans in varying concentrations, Lion’s Mane’s specialty is it’s affinity with the nervous system. Nervous system health (or lack thereof) is associated with age-related cognitive decline, memory, mood and feelings of mental sharpness. And these are the areas where Lion’s Mane shines.
Mood and Depression
So about this year so far…I think that we are all reevaluating out mental space and can hopefully give more time and energy to those areas of our life that bring true fulfillment while minimizing areas that do not. Suffice to say, safe and healthy methods to boost mood are needed.
A 2019 study (here) shows promising research for therapeutic use of Lions Mane for depression, stating “It has been used to treat cognitive impairment, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Bioactive compounds extracted from the mycelia and fruiting bodies of H. erinaceus have been found to promote the expression of neurotrophic factors that are associated with cell proliferation such as nerve growth factors. … H. erinaceus may be a potential alternative medicine for the treatment of depression.”
Another study (here) also shows a reduction in both depression and anxiety in people taking Lion’s Mane for four weeks (compared to a placebo).
These uses correlate well with traditional uses of this mushroom, especially in Traditional Chinese Medicine. They are also used frequently in Japan and Korea as both a food and as medicine for a wide range of complaints.
Mental Clarity, Focus and Memory
We all want to be sharp. One way that Lion’s Mane may promote mental acuity is by stimulating nerve growth factor. There are promising animal trials (here) as well as human studies. This study shows promising results for age-related cognitive impairment and memory in older adults. Another recent pilot study shows encouraging data with possible prevention of Early Alzheimer’s.
One area of interest that I think that will be explored more is if the combination of nerve-supportive properties of Lion’s Mane is further enhanced because of it’s immune balancing properties, since calming an overactive immune system may lower general inflammation (along with it’s high antioxidants content). This is more of my own Herbalist brain trying to connect dots, but there is a lot of exciting research on the horizon!
Lion’s Mane is native to North America, Europe and Asia, though I’d suggest finding a sustainable source or growing them at home to use. When eating mushrooms, don’t forget to cook them or process to get past their sturdy cell walls and access all their healthy goodness!
Wishing anyone reading this health, happiness and support during this difficult time. Please reach out with more questions or if you cannot access herbs that you are looking for.
So, you probably already know about how the “Rona” spreads and how to use good hygeine and social distancing to reduce spread. If not, please read about it via the CDC here .
What I would like to share is a Western Herbal perspective on at-home tools for those interested in this holistic approach including herbs and daily habits.
First and foremost: Herbs for a cough when a cough is not just a cough. There are wet coughs, dry ones, productive, spastic and more, and a they can change with time. An herbal tactic is to balance out the system. Since the virus is commonly seen with a cold, dry cough, the aim is to employ herbs which warm up, disperse, moisten and expectorate the congested lung cough.
Adding herbs that also posses antimicrobial and anti-viral properties is also helpful. While this is a virus, it’s not uncommon for bacterial infections to also occur or intensify when the immune system is busy fighting off a viral infection.
Next, we need moisture, because the cough is dry, even if there is phlegm that comes up occasionally. And we need warmth, to thin and allow expulsion of the stuck phlegm. To aid in the breaking up and expulsion of phlegm are the expectorants. This is a property that an herb has, and can be found in many different herbs, some cooling and some warming. And lastly, it would be great to add an herb with anti-microbial properties in support of our own hard working white blood cell defense.
OK, so may be asking “Well then which herb should I use for this?” This question is well suited to an allopathic approach, but is not as objective within the broad paradigm of traditional healing systems such as Western Herbalism. Often, answer is usually “Well, there are many options, but it depends.” What is depends on is the issue a person is having, what other imbalances and health qualities that person possesses. This includes their organ system or immune weaknesses or excesses (for example, does this person have respiratory allergies?), their history, mental state, lifestyle and what medications they may be taking. And also important, is the fact that many herbs do so many things that if I looked up “Lung Herbs”, I could find a list of 100’s, in not more, different herbs that help the lungs in one way or another. They are very different and can have very different affects on the lungs. One can be perfect for one person and cause more issues for another. This is often a mismatch of “this good herb” for an specific issue, but sometimes it’s also just a mysteriously bad match for someone.
OK are you still with me? Good. Now let’s get into the Herbs and healthy habit.
Garlic – A classic, raw garlic is warming, stimulation (easily penetrates through the body), is potently anti-microbial against both bacteria and viruses. It is warming and drying, though it does contain a bit of oil for lubrication. Great teammate to have and benefits greatly with other complimentary herbs.
Elecampane– This pungent herb is not as common, but posses strong moving, warming and expectorant properties.
Coltsfoot – A little goes a long way to help and unproductive cough to ramp up for a bit, effectively expel annoying phlegm so that a cough can then settle back down.
Licorice – While licorice root is often underrated, it is mildly helpful in so many ways that it almost seems unlikely. It is moistening to the respiratory tract and is an expectorant. It is mildly anti-viral, it soothes digestive issues in a wide range (from constipation, indigestion and loose bowels notably). It is naturally sweet and little bit in a formula compliments both the flavor and action.
Marshmallow Root – This soothing herb is very different than the above ones in flavor, feel and effect. Instead of being spicy or stimulating, this herb is neutral to almost sweetish in flavor, and becomes slimy in texture. When is comes to dry, irritated tissues and mucus membranes, slime can be your friend. The slick quality of Marshmallow soothes and protects the respiratory and digestive systems. This can help soften up stuck mucus so that it can more easily dislodge from the lungs. It also soothes an irritated throat. For irritation in the stomach, with for example acid reflex (possibly exacerbated for some with garlic or tomatoes consumption), this herb helps to coat and neutralize the burning.
With the above herbs, which together are a great team, you could make a strong, simmered tea with the Elecampane, Coltfoot and Licorice, eat a bit of raw garlic with a meal and between meals add some Marshmallow to water and drink it down. This would ideally be done 3 times a day if mild symptoms were present. For strong tea, use at least a tablespoon of each herb per cup of water (use a tsp for Coltsfoot).
Note: I am not a doctor and this information is for educational purposes only. For specifics in doses and measurements, please see the resources below.
So now that you may feel excited to try these herbs, you may not have access to them. That’s OK. These are great examples of useful herbs, but they are not the only, or “best” ones. So, here are some great substitutes.
Instead of Garlic, Ginger, both fresh and dried, also posses strong antimicrobial, warming and diffusive properties. Other spicy herbs such as Cayenne also help to loosen phlegm and warm up the body with enhanced circulation.
Instead of Marshmallow, Slippery Elm is used in a similar way and for similar purposes. In you can’t find that, then Linden is good, and if you’re thinking “I’ve never heard of these!” then just know that if you have flaxseeds or chia seeds, then the slime of them can suffice (if prepared as to access their slime, ex. making and consuming flax “gel” instead of just eating dries flax).
Cinnamon – Another underrated herb, classic cinnamon possesses warming, moistening and mild anti-microbial properties. Personally I find this herb to be delicious and relish adding the powder onto fruits (especially apple), in desserts, over coffee or into Chai tea (yes, even though Chai often already has Cinnamon). It can also help to sweeten up an herbal formulas with some of the more bitter tasting herbs listed above
If you can’t find Coltsfoot or Elecampane, then Yerba Santa is a great option for dispelling lung phlegm. It is a resinous leaf that is common in the Southwest portions of North America and especially the drier areas in California. Thyme is also a nice substitute.
Bonus for those with Asthma and Allergies: Nettle is a nourishing herb that slowly, with consistent use, can help to build the strength of the respiratory tract and lower the allergic response. Also known as Stinging Nettles, this herb is also a great food herb and it’s high nutrient and mineral content supports general health and more specifically hair, nails and bone health.
Preventative Immune Support
These herbs are taken consistently and ideally taken at least a few weeks before an infection arises. At least one dose per day is great.
Mushrooms – There are mushrooms that are more intense in their support of immune strength, but all mushrooms are at least a little bit helpful due to their Beta-glucan content. The heavy hitter for now though is Reishi, though Chaga and Shitake are also great. What’s great about mushrooms is that even the heavy hitters with many impressive studies under their belts, they are still very safe and can often be consumed in large and consistent doses. Soup, tea, extract and double-extracted tincture are all great. They just must be proceeded in a way that makes them bio-available, such as heat (boiling) or as with powdered mycelium. Top or bottom (fruiting body or mycelium), it’s all good!
Astragalus – A great, moistening and immune building herbs with a particular liking for chronically inflamed or past-injured lungs. A daily tea is great or it can be added into soup stock.
Dandelion Root – This herb stimulates digestion and supports liver function. If you are someone who deals with constipation, uses substances that are hard on the liver (alcohol, for example), eats processed or hard-to-digest food often, eat excessively or has an excessive hormonal load (ex. acne associated with the menstrual cycle), then your body and immune system may be more distracted by “cleaning up” extra metabolic waste and associated inflammation. This strains the eliminating organs (the liver and skin in particular), and in their excessive maintenance, they may not have as a robust response to an infection and the extra toxic load of spent white blood cells piling up. The metaphor is that when the body has extra support in decluttering and thus quelling excess inflammation, it can focus more efficiently at supporting a strong immune battle.
I can’t help myself, I have to mention sleep, nourishing food and mental and emotional hygiene– you need them if you want to support your immune system. Journaling, meditating, stretches, breath work and other self care practices go a long way to ease the mind so that your immune system can stay focused and strong. Relaxation supporting herbs include Passionflower, Skullcap and Chamomile.
Other Supportive habits
This virus thrives in cold. Keeping warm by eating hot tea and food, dressing warmly and yes, refriening from galavanting in the cold rain, are helpful. The idea of choosing to support a mild fever can be important to note even if it’s a controversial idea. While rarely a fever can increase to a harmful excess, a mild fever is a natural response by the body to kill invading pathogens. Personally, I like to encourage a fever until it breaks with some hot, spicy tea, a hot bath and a nap wrapped in two blankets.
Fasting. Intermittent fasting seems to benefit a healthy immune response, and is a way to reduce the work load of the whole body from digestion (an energy heavy process) to general body maintenance (healing inflammation) and active immune defense. (See sources below for studies on fasting).
Vitamin D supplementation. Because of the lack of strong sunlight in winter months (in much of the world outside of the equatorial zone), and rarity of eating traditional foods high in Vit. D such as liver, many are deficient. Vitamin D assists the immune system (and well as many other bodily systems) and there are various studies linking supplementation with better viral outcomes (here is one). Note that the RDA may be higher than previously thought, so ask a doctor or natural practitioner about dosing.
Bonus! Herbal steam. Inhaling warm, herbally aromatic vapor can help to calm a cough, loosen phlegm and enhance relaxation (especially with Lavender). You can use fresh or dried herbs such as Eucalyptus, Thyme or Lavender. You can also use the essential oils of these herbs, though use caution with both the doses (a little goes a long way) and make sure the steam isn’t too hot. (While I don’t endorse any particular essential oil brand, just try to find a local, Organic source ideally and one that’s not part of a MLM scheme).
Note: some herbs can be wildharvested in a way that threatens their endangered status. Please be aware of your sourcing. If you are a local in Portland, Home Grown Apothecary sources Organic and Ethically wild-harvested herbs.
Sources and Additional Links
I want to express gratitude for work many nationally recognized Herbalists and holistic medical professional are doing. They are spending their time researching, testing and compiling information to give out free for the benefit of the people. Special thank you to Dr. Aviva Romm, Jim McDonald, Yarrow Willard, 7Song, Paul Bergner and many more! Your insights are so valuable.
More info in Fasting by Dr. Françoise Wilhelmi de Toledo. A video here and compilation of studies here (Note, this doctor works with short (ex. intermittent) and long fasts (3+ Days). Longer fasts should only be done with medical supervision and ideally as prevention.)
Written by Herbalist and Foodie, Tania Oceana | Updated 1/5/21
It’s a new, fresh year and about time to kick our sweet toothed habit. I know, I really do love all kinds of chocolately, whipped, sprinkled and gooey baked good, treats and super sugary coffee drinks. And I am not turning my back on them yet.
Treats, in moderation, as treats and not everyday nourishment, are as natural as the seasons. But we have to be upfront about the excessive and refined sugar lurking in pretty much all packaged and prepared foods.
Before introducing Stevia, and clearing up how it is NOT an artificial sweetener, I want to first assure you of a few comforting truths;
Your tastes can change. With time, you can increase or decrease your “sweet spot” for saltiness and sweetness. Yes the first couple weeks will be the hardest but there will come a time when you think “Eww, this is way to sweet!” to something that you used to love that sweet.
Progress not perfection. Take a lesson from the old tortoise that beat the hare because they were slow and steady. Say it with me, we are done with whirl wind romances when it comes to our health. Fads can go to hell and patience shall be embraced.
Incorporate one new habit at a time. You have the whole year. If you only cemented one new habit per month, you will be 12 healthier habits stronger by the end of this year. Sugar is addictive, certain foods are comforting meal habits can affect social bonding. Instead of cutting all sweet food out cold turkey, try to reduce and adjust. You don’t like donuts THAT much but usually take one from your coworker when they share every day? Say no thank you a couple of times next week. But you do love your homemade vanilla latte made with your fun new cream frother? Keep it, but change out your sugar-laden creamer with a sugar free option and add stevia.
OK so what is Stevia and why you should use it.
Stevia, or Stevia rebaudiana, is a green little plant in the Sunflower family (AKA the Aster family). Contrary to popular belief, it is not a white powder. But we’ll get there in a minute.
Stevia is a super sweet tasting herb, and the leaves are the part used. It is a perennial that is native to parts of Brazil and Paraguay. It’s used by locals to sweeten their energizing Yerba Mate tea, as well as in creating other sweet treats. It can be grown almost anywhere with a greenhouse and some love.
Stevia contains no calories, carbohydrates and it’s active compounds are steviol glycoside. The lack of carbohydrates and other blood-sugar spiking compounds like glucose have brought Stevia into interest in terms of its possible positive effect on cavities, diabetes, obesity and other metabolic diseases. (See the references at the bottom for some scientific studies on Stevia.)
Are all Stevia products created equal?
Stevia the plant is one thing, and “stevia” sweetners another. There are many artificial sweeteners that seem like they are Stevia, but are mostly a base of maltodextrin or another base or artificial sweetener, that has a tiny bit of Stevia in the mix. One reason is that Stevia is so much sweeter than sugar, that cutting it with something else helps the serving size to remain the same (Ex. substitute 1 tsp of sugar with 1 tsp of “stevia” powder). So be careful and read the label, because there are health and digestive concerns for many of the artificial sweeteners used today. The common form are powder and tincture (a liquid extract usually of a combination of water, alcohol and/or glycerin.)
OK, so how does it taste?
Some people report a slight bitter aftertaste from some products, but others do not and just taste a generic sweetness. So try experimenting with doses and products to see what works best for you. You can even substitute half of your sugar (in that morning joe, for example) for Stevia to dip your toes in before jumping in the deep end. There’s a good chance you won’t be able to tell a difference but take your time anyways, because why not?
A hotly debated topic; can Stevia help people start and stick to intermittent diet or a Ketogenic diet?
Both diets include times that exclude carbs/sugar, but many people still drink beverages such as tea and coffee. For some, that bit of warm, Stevia sweetened beverage can be the make or break in their dietary goals. Since it doesn’t contain sugar or carbs, many feel comfortable adding it in. For the dietary purist, simply the taste of sweetness brings up fears of stimulating a metabolic process that they are trying to avoid. And again, the science on this subject is still new, so there’s not one conclusive answer yet. So take it with a grain of salt!
The bottom line is that the only way to lose weight is to create a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories than your body burns for energy.
There are many ways to accomplish this, and targeting added sugars and replacing them with stevia is an easy and tasty fix.
Research has shown that subjects given stevia-containing foods or beverages consumed fewer calories throughout the day. (2,3)
The Truth About Added Sugars
It seems like everything we read talks about avoiding carbs and sugar.
In the U.S., the average intake of added sugars reaches up to 270 calories or more than 13 percent of calories per day based on an average 2000 calorie diet.
Not surprisingly, the largest source of added sugars in the typical diet is beverages, including soft drinks, fruit drinks, sweetened coffee and tea, energy drinks, alcoholic beverages, and flavored waters. They account for almost half (47%) of all added sugars consumed by the U.S. population.
The other major source of added sugars is snacks and sweets.(1) Most people don’t realize how much sugar they consume from other sources like marinades, sauces, salad dressings, yogurt, crackers and other items that don’t “seem sweet.”
The 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugars to less than 10% of total calories or about 50 grams per day based on 2000 calories.
If your body needs fewer calories based on size, age, and activity level, the gram limits are even lower.
To take it a step further, the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to 24g grams per day (6 teaspoons) for women and 36 grams per day (9 teaspoons) for men.
It’s obviously an area of concern in our standard American diet as the term “added sugars” appeared 138 times in the dietary guidelines report!
Knowing Your Limit for Added Sugars
Simply put, consumption of added sugars can make it difficult for people desiring to lose weight to meet their nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits.
Whenever anyone restricts total calories, everything eaten needs to contain more nutrients to make sure you get what you need for proper fueling while limiting total calories.
One of the simplest strategies is to limit added sugars.
Why? Because they are more often found in foods that do not provide quality vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that we look for to help prevent lifestyle diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancers.
That’s where products like stevia fit in.
Can Stevia Help with Weight Loss?
Since stevia is a plant-based, zero-calorie sweetener with a taste 50-350 times sweeter than sugar, a little goes a long way. By substituting stevia for sugar in your daily routine, there are many ways to cut total calories and sugar grams.
Using stevia to sweeten your coffee or tea (hot or iced), saves 16 calories per teaspoon over sugar. A few cups per day with a few teaspoons each can really add up quickly. Each stevia packet is formulated to equal the sweetness of 2 teaspoons of sugar. Take some with you to your favorite coffeehouse or restaurant and add your own.
Instead of eating pre-sweetened Greek yogurt with up to 20 grams of sugar, start with the plain variety and add your own stevia, vanilla extract, cinnamon and fruit.
Swap stevia for sugar, honey or maple syrup in your oatmeal, homemade salad dressings, baked goods and other recipes that call for sugar. Even subbing in ½ the amount in a recipe can make a big difference.
Anton SD, Martin CK, Han H, Coulon S, Cefalu WT, Geiselman P, Williamson DA. Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels. Appetite 2010;55:37–43.
Tey SL, Salleh NB, Henry J, Forde CG. Effects of aspartame-, monk fruit-, stevia- and sucrose-sweetened beverages on postprandial glucose, insulin and energy intake. Int J Obes (Lond) 2017;41:450–7. “