There is a solid body of evidence in the scientific literature to support the notion of Vitamin D supplementation positively affecting health outcomes from respiratory infections.
This study in the British Journal of Medicine, states that “Supplementation with vitamin D3 may reduce disease burden in patients with frequent RTIs.” Read the full article HERE.
As a supporter of holistic health, we here at Mossy Tonic tend to highlight a whole herb, whole food approach to well being over supplementation. That being said, Vitamin D is a nutrient that is hard to come by in our modern diet at sufficient amounts (see below), and the benefits from sunshine have real limitation.
Note the discrepancy of the RDA (recommended daily amount) of Vitamin D, at 600 IU (international units) and the much higher therapeutic daily dose of Vitamin D in the study, at 4,000 IU/day.
Natural sources of Vitamin D include beef liver, fish and egg yolk. While some traditional foods (like organ meet) contain higher amounts of Vitamin D, more modern diets can be lacking in vitamins and do not get anywhere close to the therapeutic doses of Vitamin D seen in these studies.
Sunlight also helps our bodies produce Vitamin D, however variations in latitude, season and skin color affect how much we make. People living in middle and high latitudes (farther from the equator) have less sunlight and it’s limited even more during the winter months. Those will darker skin need more sunlight to produce Vitamin D because of the sun-protective quality of melanin. Because of these factors, sunlight cannot always be relied on to supply adequate amounts of Vitamin D.
That being said, I want to stress that is IS good to “soak up the sun” when you can and in healthy moderation as it still can be a good source of Vitamin D.
The abundance and variety of properties in a single herb never fails to impress me. The idea that one little plant can wear so many different hats also helps reminds me how odd it is to try to pack any living being in to too few, and separate, boxes.
Lobelia Inflata is a small plant who often sports little purple flowers, and who wears the following hats; Muscle relaxant, expectorant, antispasmodic, eases asthma, supports tobacco cessation, tastes kind of like poison and in large doses it is toxic. And of course in additional to those there are always other secrets to wonder about.
Lobelia is so nasty in flavor that it can literally cause one to gag. The lesson in this, I believe, is to work with this herb conservatively. To save your taste buds, a tincture is a better way to go over tea. A bit of loose Lobelia herb could be hidden in say, some strong peppermint tea, but to understand the individual affect, a tincture in a bit of water is a good bet. Due to the strong nature of this herb, a little goes a long way. Instead of the usual 30 drop dose for most herbal tinctures, Lobelia is more of a “drop dose” herb, meaning that 1-10 drops is usually sufficient to feel the effects. If you are sensitive, then you can start on the lower end.
And now the age old question, “so what do you use this herb for?”
A valid question, and I understand the enthusiasm! I do also want to spread the idea though that a more holistic way to approach herbalism is with a bit more open curiosity to what properties this plant has. These properties are all of those different hats, and they can change based on the the weather (your desired application for example) and the plants mood (those random factors affecting the plant, the sourcing and various factors within yourself, that limit homogeny and make life interesting). Ok so let’s start with the muscle relaxation aspect. Lobelia has the lovely ability to loosen muscle tension throughout our body in both our smooth and skeletal muscles. Just that alone means that this herb can greatly aid in tense, knotted shoulder or neck muscles, uterine cramps, leg cramps, restless leg, and even our tiny lung muscles if they happen to be constricted or spazzy from allergies, asthma or illness. Whether the muscle tension is from stress, injury or an inherited condition doesn’t change the effect, which is a deep sigh of relief and physical relaxation. The muscles calm, lose their stiffness and lessen in tone and spasms.
This physical relaxation often promotes emotional relaxation because when your neck loosens up, your cramps subside and pain looses some of it’s sharpness, it’s so much easier to feel comfortable and remember to see all the beauty around us.
As for Lobelia’s relationship with the lungs, the affect is twofold. You have the muscle relaxation aspect, which can calm a spastic cough, tense lungs and the emotional trigger aspect that can exacerbate constriction and breathlessness. The lungs open and relax. The second aspect it Lobelia’s expectorant property. Expectorant means that it helps to loosen, break up and expel excess phlegm from the lungs. So essentially it can help you hack up phlegm which can ease respiratory congestion. This could be beneficial in many ongoing or acute issues in the lungs, such as a chest cold or chronic bronchitis. I do want to mention to please consult a medical professional before attempting to substitute any conventional asthma protocols for Lobelia!
In addition to those with asthma, anyone in forest fire prones areas can often benefit from additional lung support. Here in Oregon, these last few years have been the worst I’ve ever seen in terms of unhealthy air quality from wildfire smoke. That mixed with the heat and excessive city emissions, August and September can be a tricky time for those with sensitive lungs and to a lesser degree everyone else as well. Thankfully this year we got a bit more rain than last year, and more of us are aware and becoming aware of small changes we can make to keep our environments, ourselves and each other healthier. Good news is that when we support any one of them, we support them all.
And lastly, for those who want to transition off of tobacco cigarettes, Lobelia can help with both the tobacco cravings and the inevitable cleaning out of the lungs from accumulated cigarette tar (even when smoked). While Lobelia does not contain any nicotine, it has been called “Indian Tobacco” due to it’s use among North American Natives, as well as it’s use as a tobacco alternative. The physical and mental relaxation properties can be of benefit when transitioning from nicotine, and Lobelia is often blended with other smoking herbs for flavor and effect. Surprisingly, the flavor of the smoke is not gross and can even be pleasant.
In case you are curious how to experiment with this interesting plant, I’d love to share a simple and balanced herbal blend to help support your hardworking lungs this season:
BREATH SUPPORT BLEND | Loose Leaf Herbal Tea or Tincture
1 Part = 1 TBsp Loose Herb OR 1 Dropperful of Liquid Tincture
5 Part Mullein Leaf
2 Part Marshmallow Root (Or substitute Licorice Root)
1 Part Lobelia Herb
Making a Tea: Combine your herbs. Pour 1 quart of freshly boiled water over your blend and steep for 5 minutes. Strain and enjoy! You can add honey or a sweetener if desires, and you can enjoy this blend hot or cold, one cup at a time. This blend should last about a day in the refrigerator. 1-3 cups per day is a great way to support your lungs during fire season.
Using Tinctures: Combine in a dropper bottle. Take 1 Droppersful in a bit of water or into tea 1-3x/day during fire season.
Thank you for ready and stay green!
If you are on the journey to quitting tobacco cigarettes, we have five different flavorful herbal smoking blends. All organic, no fillers, no nicotine, and made with love in Oregon!
You may have heard about Hypericum perforatum, the weedy little herb with bright yellow flowers and who may help with lifting depression. What you may not know is that it had blood red oil glands, anti-viral properties, can interact with medication and that the claim of the danger of photosensitive is way over-hyped.
This cheery herb gets the “perforatum” part of it’s Latin name from the small holes that you can find on the leaves. When held up towards the sky, they quite literally let the light shine through.
In a less literal way, St.John’s wort may help lift the blues. This can be especially helpful for that annual seasonal sadness that hits hard in high latitudes with little sunlight for months at a time (I write, as I stare listlessly out into the dark and misty Portland rain…)
While this herb has bright yellow flowers, the tiny red oil gland sprinkled on the leaves and flowers are what will cause a tincture, tea or oil to be a deep red. They simply look like tiny black dots but when you crush, soak or steep the plant, the oils are released. Pretty cool if you ask me! This feature can help you with plant identification and can also help you determine the quality of a St.John’s wort product.
Besides mood, this complex little herb is also used for wounds, viral infections such as herpes and shingles, and nerve pain and damage. It also has a stimulating affect on the liver. This could be beneficial for someone looking to kick start a sluggish liver, however, is can also affect medication by excreting it from the body too soon between doses. This is why it can interact with medication and why some people should consult their doctor before taking herbal supplements.
And lastly, will taking St. John’s wort cause you to get a horrible sunburn? There has been a less-than-ideal study on this subject , and while I can not say for sure, I will share my own experience (as a flaming “Ginger” mind you). I have taken daily doses of St.J’s in the late Summer and even when I was trying to squeeze out the last hiking and beach adventure days before Autumn, I never had a problem with sun-sensitivity.
-Stay Green and don’t forget to let that light shine through! – MossyTonic
A Brief History of Herbalism and the United States
Since before written history, and throughout the world, archaeological evidence has shown that humans have used plants for ceremonial, magical and medicinal purposes. What’s more, ingestion of plants for more than sustenance can even be seen in other animals today.
Plants can be seen on a spectrum from food to poison, with medicinal applications laying somewhere in the middle. We know preferred cooking spices and recipes are passed down along family and cultural lines. Consider that before we used, for example, Rosemary, Oregano and Thyme in a soup for flavor, that we first used them for their observed food preserving qualities (which mostly come from their strong anti-microbial properties). We know now that those antimicrobial properties go beyond food preservation and flavor, and can aid us in our own body’s fight against harmful pathogens and infections. It is justifiably difficult to pinpoint the first precise times, people and reasoning for human use of medicinal herbalism, but it is clear that it has been a normal part of human life since our species can remember.
Each region inevitably has their own local flora and traditions, and thus a unique way to use herbs for health and pleasure. American Western Herbalism started as a mixture of European and Native Americans Herbalism. Women tending medicinal herbal gardens were common in early America. What is unique about the United States is that there was more of a dramatic severance between holistic and conventional medicine around the 18th century. Witch hunts were on the rise and religious distrust of the Medicine Women/midwives was mounting from the newer and male dominated medical establishment.
Despite that divide, peoples innate curiosity for natural healing continued and American Herbalism developed further with Physiomedicalism and the Eclectic Herbalists of the 19th Century. During this time, which was also referred to as a time of “Thomsonian medicine,” there was an interest to pair more modern medical information and physiology with botanical medicine. The Energetic system in the Traditional Western Herbalism was solidifying, and Homeopathy was also developing.
Since then, there have been pharmaceutical and over the counter drugs that started as plant derived before synthetic versions were created. The 1970’s showed another wave of traditions healing techniques, and currently we are seeing another comeback of interest in “alternative medicine” and a focus on nutrition, prevention and the role of emotions on health. Time tested ideas like fasting and elimination diets are also seeing a resurgence of research and interest.
In comparison, there is a wider personal and medical understanding of natural healing paradigms in some other counties, such as the Ayurvedic system in India and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TMC) in China. Possibly because there was not a sharp divide in healing paradigms, there is more of propensity to use both conventional and alternative medicine simultaneously instead of seeing them as in opposition. And as interest in healthier lifestyles increase, we too are heading that way as well, and it can be the best of both worlds!
Now in many U.S. cities, it can be fairly easy to access Chinese and Western herbs and Herbalists, though there is still no official degree for Western Herbalists. Some other practitioners such as Acupuncturists, Nutritionists and Naturopaths may have a good background on herbal applications. The American Herbalist Guild is the most unified and official body and offers a rigorous application for herbalists to become registered with them. There is a spectrum of Herbalist today as well, ranging from the more spirit-medicine or flower essence focused, to the active-constituent/scientifically-validated-study focused, to the diet, exercise and food-as-medicine lifestyle ones and everywhere in between.
What is clear is that we are in a very interesting and innovative time for American Herbalism!