Thursday, October 1, 2009

Calling us into Relationship, October Blog Party: Bio-regional herbs for Colds and Flu

Click on this link to visit Rosalee de la Foret's blog and links to many other herbalists who has written their blogs with the theme: Bio-regional herbs for Colds and Flu

When I moved to Whidbey Island, just over 7 years ago, I had a good relationship with a few plants that boosted my immune system and helped me release viral and bacterial infections, helped me soothe myself through being sick and support me back to wellness. Some of these plants didn’t grow where I lived and so I depended on buying the fresh root and at times the dry root to make tincture. I had no idea what I would find here, on this precious island, and I am still amazed every time I think about it.

At a recent plant walk I offered on the island, I spoke to participants of how we don’t need to worry so much about colds and flus on Whidbey Island because we are surrounded by amazing immune system plants. I will share a bit about a few of these plants, how to prepare them simply at home and then at the end offer a few ways to nourish your immune system so that you are less likely to contact a cold or flu in the future.

Wild Rose Rosa nutkana and other species:
We have wild roses here on our land on Whidbey Island, almost an acre of them. They are in abundance all over the island as well as all over Western Washington, into the mountain and beyond. Wild Rose is anti-viral to name just one of many ways this plants offers itself to us. I met a man years back at an herbal conference who had done significant research on Pacific Yew as an anti-cancer herb. He told me that at University of British Columbia in Canada, they were testing some native plants for their anti-viral properties and the wild rose rosa nutkana, leaf and flower tincture killed the cold virus in the laboratory.
I was amazed and excited, I had some wild rose tincture at my booth, which is what sparked the conversation. I had not utilized it in this way. I began to make the tincture as he suggested and have utilized it now when I have a cold. It has been gentle and very effective in my healing. Students of mine have used it and we have found that it strongly supports healing, and can turn what appears "bad" to "not so bad "in a short amount of time. This “Pacific Yew Man” as I call him, said that he believed that wild rose hips tincture would have a similar effect. My husband and I now utilize both of these preparations for healing our upper respiratory infections. One of the beautiful things about this herbal preparation of wild roses is that it also supports the relaxation of the nervous system, which is beneficial when we are sick. It helps bring us into a more positive perspective about our health.

You can easily make wild rose tincture and wild rose hips tincture yourself at home. Right now, the wild rose hips are ripe and ready to offer themselves to you for healing.
  • Find a stand of wild rose hips from which to harvest. Spend some time with the plants and breathe in their oxygen, breathe out offering your breath. Listen and see what these plants specifically have for you.
  • Ask their permission to harvest and gather the wild rose hips in a basket or cloth bag. Say thank you for such beautiful medicine. If these rose hips are in abundance, gather enough to dry as well for infusions full of Vitamin C and pectin.
  • Place your wild rose hips in a jar, filling it 2/3 full with these ripe red berries. Fill the jar again with 100 proof vodka. (You can now find organic vodka at the liquor store) Put a lid on your tincture and label it with name, date and perhaps something the plant spoke to you. Let this brew sit for six weeks, the turn of a season.
  • Strain it through a sieve with a clean cloth draped over it. Squeeze out the liquid, as much as you can and place this incredible life giving medicine into a beautiful bottle.
  • My husband and I use 25 drops about every 3 hours when we are right in the middle of a cold and then lessen it to once or twice a days as we are getting better.
  • Next year, when spring is turning to summer, you can gather the wild rose flower and leaf tips and make a tincture in the same way.
One of my practices that keeps me connected with the compassionate wisdom of the plants that I utilize for medicine is to continue to thank the plants for their healing. And so I return to the plants again and again and wish them well, say thank you and remember what they have offered me.

Lomatium Lomatium nudicale: I found out about this plant from Ryan Drum,, at an herbal conference. I had heard of Lomatium dissectum, a plant that is strongly overharvested. Ryan talked about how traditionally, the seed of the lomatium nudicale was utilized by the native first people here around Puget Sound. He said it was much more sustainable to harvest the seed than the root and really, the root is not a traditional medicine. I was intrigued with his stories.
I had just moved to Whidbey Island and asked him if he thought this plant grew on our island. He said “Yes” that he had seen it up near the central part of the island on the beach. I purchased lomatium seed from Ryan so that I could make tincture with it and begin to bring its medicine into my life. I have found the place where Lomatium nudicale grows on the beach. It is a member of the carrot family, and has a beautiful low growing umbel of seeds that ripen in late summer. I am excited to share this medicine with others, passing on its gentle and effective healing of upper respiratory infections. I also discovered that it has been called the “Indian Consumption Plant”
There is one more bit about it that is significant here. The Lomatium nudicale seed is a spirit healer as well. It was given to another when the giver wished to be heard. This to me represent relationship. And I have found in my studies and journeys that the immune system is about just that, relationship.
This plant is a little more elusive than wild rose. But if you do happen onto it, gather the lomatium seeds in late summer and make a tincture very similar to the directions above. Infused honey is another preparation that can be helpful when we are in need of support in healing a cold or flu. In this case, fill a jar half full with the lomatium seeds and pour local, raw honey over this to the top. You can use this preparation in a week or two, but do wait for at least six weeks for it. It will be worth it.
Tinctures are such a great way to make herbal medicine last for long period of time. I like to advocate that people also make infusion with plants. The mineral richness of the healing herbs will be extracted in a strong tea that sits for a long time. This is also the more traditional use of the herb.
Infusion of Wild Rose Hips:
  • Pour one quart of boiling water over one ounce of dry rose hips.
  • Let this sit for 4-8 hours.
  • Strain off the liquid and put the wild rose hips in a saucepan with more water.
  • Boil this for a long time.
  • Strain this through a cloth draped sieve (so you don’t get the little hairs inside the hips)
  • Add the two liquids to each other.
This is an exquisite infusion and full of goodness.

There are two , two weeds, that grow in my garden and on our land with which I make nourishing herbal vinegars. They are Dandelion Root Taraxacum officinale and Burdock Root Artium lappa. Now is the time to harvest these roots. They are filled with inulin, a starchy substance that nourishes your gut flora. It is becoming more and more widely known that most of the immune system is in the gut. When you have a healthy gut, you are well. Here is a link to a blog post I offered awhile back with instructions for harvesting dandelion root and making an herbal vinegar with it.
You might think the dandelion root would be bitter, but right now it has sweetness in it. I put this dandelion root vinegar on my salads, in my soups and on my well cooked greens.

The healing plants are calling us into relationship. "Come outside" they say, " And discover a whole new world of nourishment and healing at your doorstep."

May it be in Beauty.


Jane-Singing Deer said...

Thank you for your post! I came upon your blog via the Blog Party. I lived on Vashon Island for 10 years, and will be returning to live there next year. So delightful to read about working with Wild Rose for colds! I'm also intrigued by Lomatium. I *know* I've met Lomatium on the island ... now where? I guess I'll start at the beach, the next time I there!

Gracias ~

suejenn said...

Julie, I was following your link to an old post for dandelion, but instead saw links to stinging nettle and my fingers went there.
Thank you for your story "Ignited in me was the Wise Woman". I too was drawn into a relationship with nettle. Near the end of my first year of herbal apprenticeship at Dry Creek Herb Farm with Shatoiya de la Tour, we journeyed to find what herb presented itself as our teacher and stinging nettle came to me and I have honored her in ceremony and always honor and keep her close. I even allow her to grow wherever she wants in my gardens, which is in great quantity just beside a path where she easily reaches out and says pay attention to me. That was the beginning of my journey into beautiful relationships with many herbs who offer their gifts of healing to those of us living on this earth and the earth itself. Thank you again for reminding me. I just saw your blog link at the end of a post about Burdock root today on the herb list. I haven't posted for awhile but read or save all the posts. ;-) Green Blessings, Sue

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