Dandelion

Dandelion

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Parts Used: Root, leaf, flower

Actions: Diuretic, hepatic, cholagogue, antirheumatic, laxative, tonic bitter

Energetics: Cooling, drying

Indications: All parts of Dandelion have long historical uses but here we will talk about the leaves and the roots. Do keep in mind that many of the qualities of both root and leaf are interchangeable. Starting with the root, there is direct action on the liver and gallbladder. Dandelion aids these organs in their job of detoxifying the body. When there is fluid retention in the body, such as edema, gout or rheumatism, we know the kidneys need support and the diuretic action of Dandelion will assist. In this case we look to Dandelion leaf.

Signs of liver and gallbladder disturbance, such as skin eruptions and skin with a yellowish hue, point to Dandelion root. Keep this in mind for chronic complaints of acne and eczema. Dandelion also contains high amounts of calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorous and vitmains A, B, C and D. This “weed” was, and still is, one of our most popular wild foods with uses ranging from coffee substitute, delicious salad green to being used in brewing beer and wine.

This plant is so resilient and strong it grows up through city sidewalks and survives extreme chemical assault from pristine lawn keepers. It helps us to be more resilient as well. As a bitter, Dandelion aids the digestive system by increasing digestive enzymes and enhancing absorption. In early spring pick your Dandelion greens and eat them in salads. The bitter greens will help detoxify your body from a rich and heavy winter diet. Dandelion is a beloved herbal ally that is often overlooked. Yet it is one of the first herbs we learn to identify as children and one of the most commonly known plants to humans across the world.

Preparation: Chop and eat young roots and leaves in a variety of dishes. Make a decoction of the root by using 2-3 tsp of dried root per 1 cup of water, bring to a boil and then simmer for 10-15 mins, drink freely. Tincture root in 100 P. vodka if fresh or 80 P. brandy if dried, dose is 2.5 – 5 ml, 3x day.

*Dandelion is a diuretic and will increase urination.

You can find Dandelion root in our Carob Cafe and Liver Tonic Tea

Herbal Support for COVID-19

Herbal Support for COVID-19

(updated 3.22.20)

Let me start by saying that fear and panic over the are the last thing you want to allow because this state of mind will definitely have a negative impact on your immune system. There is a lot of fear-mongering going on these days and it does nothing but distract us all from constructive thoughts and actions. What I am hoping to share in this article is some reassurance for everyone who feels overwhelmed by the current state of the world and offer some ways to help ourselves stay strong in the midst of a barrage of pathogenic ideas, emotions, viruses, etc.

Below I will hi-light some herbs that can help prevent infection and reduce the severity of symptoms. I will also review some diet & lifestyle recommendations for boosting your resistance. Let’s prepare, not panic.

The current strain of Coronavirus has been labeled COVID-19. Coronaviruses are a class of enveloped viruses that spread primarily through respiratory droplets and other bodily fluids. They produce symptoms similar to the flu, including fever, cough and shortness of breath. Like all viruses, they have to find a way into our cells in order to replicate themselves. Some coronaviruses like SARS do this by attaching to a chemical in our bodies called angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE-2). ACE-2 converts angiotensin 2 (a vasoconstricting hormone) into a less potent form.

When ACE-2 is used as a Trojan horse by the virus, the presence of ACE-2 in our bloodstream goes down, resulting in vasoconstriction (the opening in your blood vessels becomes smaller). This creates high blood pressure, reduced blood flow and lower oxygenation levels, leading to generation of free radicals and setting up a vicious cycle of tension and inflammation.

Another thing that can happen when we become infected by this virus is something called a cytokine cascade. This is when we produce a lot of cytokines, which stimulate the migration of immune cells to the site of the infection, but in doing so create a lot of inflammation. Inflammation is an important phase to infection, but when the inflammation goes unchecked, fluids can accumulate in the lungs, worsening our respiratory symptoms. Cytokine storms generally occur in advanced stages of illness and whole they are common among people who suffer greatly, they are not a common phenomenon among most people infected with respiratory diseases.

With abundant inflammation comes porousness in our tissues and space is created for the virus to move beyond the endothelium to infect the dendritic (immune) cells and prevent the immune system from forming an effective adaptive response.

I’m not writing this to incite fear; I’m taking time to explain this so that you can understand some of the ways in which herbs can support us through an infection. There are dozens of antiviral herbs in this world, but I’m choosing a few select ones that seem to fit this virus the best.

This is just a sampling of herbs and how they can be used from a Western scientific perspective. Here is a little more information on a few antiviral herbs that stand out to me:

6 Indispensable Herbs:

Japanese Honeysuckle -a potent antiviral herb with a long history of use in Eastern medicine. It is part of a formula called Shuang huang lian that was effectively used during the SARS outbreak, another kind of coronavirus, in 2003. It is also in another formula often recommended for viral infections called Yin Qiao San. It is used in TCM for treating pneumonia, influenza and other wind-heat conditions. Honeysuckle is in the same family as Elderberry.

Chinese Skullcap (Huang Qin)- another Chinese herb used for fever and infection. This is another component of the formula Shuang huang lian mentioned above. The root is antibacterial and antiviral (it blocks the virus from attaching to ACE-2). It also protects the liver, spleen & lymph and reduces the inflammatory cytokine cascade. Huang Qin can be helpful for allergies and autoimmune disease, especially when combined with immune amphoterics (licorice, mushrooms)

Elderberry– has a long history of use for treating colds, flus & respiratory disorders. Elderberry prevents viruses from attaching to host cells and is a great herb to use to prevent infection. It can also be used to shorten the duration of infection when taken frequently during the first stages. The flower of elder is also antiviral and diaphoretic (diaphoretics help bring on a fever; remember, fever is a friend. Elevated body temperature is our innate way to disable viruses). Elder is incredibly safe, can be given to infants, and has no known drug interactions. There has been a lot of speculation about elderberry contributing to cytokine storms going around the internet recently. Please see my comments on this topic at the end of this article.

Licorice– an adaptogen, immune amphoteric, antiviral and demulcent herb. Licorice strengthens endocrine function. It soothes & heals mucus membrane tissue in the lungs. As an immune-amphoteric, it can strengthen a weak immune system while simultaneously reducing a hyperactive immune response (i.e. cytokine cascades). Licorice strengthens T-cell counts and can prevent viral attachment.

Cordyceps– also known as caterpillar fungus, is tonic for the immune system, blood, kidneys & lungs. adaptogen, immune amphoteric. Another immune amphoteric (like licorice) it can reduce excessively high immune activity (cytokine cascade) or enhance excessively low immune activity. It protects the cilial cells, endothilial cells and kidneys while stimulating dendritic cell maturation. Cordyceps can also improve energy and strengthen the heart. It is used in TCM to treat chronic coughs.

Astragalus– immune tonic with a special affinity for the lungs. Specific for depleted immune reservoirs (i.e. cancer). It is known to stimulate the body’s natural production of interferon, a chemical that helps our own cells communicate during a viral infection. Astragalus is traditionally cooked into broths in China to as a strengthening tonic to prevent illness. Some people use this as a preventative for Lyme as well.
(You can  find astragalus in our Elderberry Chai and Immune-Building Broth Packets)

Usnea, St. John’s Wort, Lemon Balm, Isatis root and Hyssop are other antiviral herbs worth exploring. There are so many options provided by the plant kingdom! When in doubt, go for the food-grade herbs: you really can’t go wrong with elderberry, garlic, ginger, astragalus and medicinal mushrooms.If you do get sick and need symptomatic relief, expectorants & diaphoretics can support your respiratory system: Hyssop, thyme, elder flower, peppermint (try our Gypsy Cold Tea)

Following viral infection, it’s good to support the lymphatic system with herbs like Cleavers, Red Clover, Calendula, Violet, Nettle, Mullein or Chickweed to help with the resolution phase. (try our Love Your Lymph Tea Blend or Sparkling Lung Tonic Tea)

10 ways to keep your immune system strong to prevent infection:

  1. Hygiene- obviously. Wash your hands often, avoid contact with face/mouth.
  2. Get plenty of rest. I know that we are all incredibly busy and stressed out, but if we don’t start prioritizing sleep over other seemingly important things, we will be much more vulnerable to all kinds of negative influences.
  3. Avoid sugar. Sugar suppresses your immune system. 1 tsp will suppress immune function for several hours (so don’t eat sugar before going out into the world).
  4. Avoid stress (i.e. fear/panic). Stress suppresses immune function (it diverts energy to other organs/tissues that help us fight/flight.)
  5. Eat fruits & vegetables high in Vitamin C, E, beta-carotene and zinc.
  6. Eat ginger & garlic. Garlic and ginger are both great antivirals. My go-to protocol for the flu is drinking a cup of hot ginger-lemon tea while taking a ginger bath (I pour 2 qts of strong ginger tea into my bathtub). Before bed, I grate 2-3 cloves of raw garlic onto a piece of toast with honey. I always wake up feeling 50-70% better.
  7. Eat mushrooms! Medicinal mushrooms strengthen the immune system. Maiitake & Shiitake mushrooms are good in soups and stir-fries. Reishi, Chaga, Turkey tail and others can be taken as a tincture, capsule or decoction, but aren’t very good as a culinary herb.
  8. Get your Vitamin D. Vitamin D modulates both innate and adaptive immune responses. Without it, T-cells cannot react to an infection. 15 minutes of sunlight per day is recommended, and vitamin D supplements are affordable if you can’t make enough from sunlight.
  9. Stay hydrated- our mucus membranes are our first layer of defense against pathogens. Keep them moist by drinking plenty of water.
  10. Build healthy gut flora- lactic acid bacteria have been found to enhance the immune system and reduce the risk of cancer. Beneficial bacteria interact with various receptors and immune cells in the gut and help to maintain the antimicrobial barrier of the mucosa. Eat sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir, etc. and take probiotics if you can’t regularly get lots of fermented foods in your diet.

Some Other Facts to Help Ease Your Mind…

According to a Washington Post Article, 82% of the cases have been mild with symptoms that require little or no medical intervention. It is difficult to get an accurate tally in the early stages of an outbreak because many mild cases will go unreported.

“The fact that there are so many mild cases is a real hallmark of this disease and makes it so different from SARS,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Health Security. “It’s also really challenging. Most of our surveillance is oriented around finding people who require medical attention.[1]

The likelihood that many more people are infected than what current statistics show significantly changes the fatality rate of the disease. Early reports of COVID-19 put the coronavirus death rate at around 2%, but a more recent report published on Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine estimates 1.4% and there is a strong chance that the final number will be lower.  This number is calculated by dividing the number of confirmed deaths by the number of infected people. Since the number of infected people is probably greater than what is being reported due to many with mild symptoms not seeking medical treatment, the fatality rate will likely be further diluted. Here is a good article on the latest reports on death rate and how much it varies by location. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-death-rate/

As a comparison, the flu kills about 0.1% of people who become infected. The 1918 flu killed an unusually high amount of people (2%).  Yes, the coronavirus has the potential to spread much faster than the flu because it is a novel disease and we do not have existing antibodies/vaccines, but if your immune system is strong and you are able to take good care of yourself (i.e. get good rest, good nourishment and stop subjecting yourself to stressors), your chances dying from this disease are very low. Let’s focus on strengthening ourselves, staying nourished, grounded and sane.

Start by watching this 8-minute video by Joan Borysenko with 3 simple practices to reduce stress and engage the self-healing capacities of the body.

Is Elderberry Safe?

There is conflicting opinions about this, as one theory suggests that because elderberry has been shown to increase interleukin-6 (IL-6), which is an immune mediator that acts as a pro-inflammatory cytokine. This is a theoretical position, and is a highly reductionist perspective that does not take into account the whole picture of elder, immunology, or the individual infected. It is true that IL-6 can be pro-inflammatory, but it simultaneously acts as an anti-inflammatory. Anyone who has taken a class in immunology knows that immunity is a complex web of feedback loops and that it is impossible to predict how one person’s immune system will respond to one simple stimulus. Elderberry has been shown to stimulate both inflammatory and immunoregulatory cytokines, with a net non-inflammatory effect. Because of the complexity of herbs, it is very rare for an herb to incite a cytokine storm. One exception may be in people with autoimmune conditions, specifically with already over-active immune systems who already have excessive inflammatory cytokine activity. This is the only time that herbalists have reported observing pro-inflammatory effects in clients using elderberry.

It should also be noted that a cytokine storm is a phenomenon that occurs in advanced stages of infection. If someone is experiencing a cytokine storm, they should be in the hospital and not trying to self-medicate with elderberry. If elderberry doesn’t seem to be working after a few days, you may want to move on to stronger antiviral herbs.

My experience of elder is that she is incredibly gentle. The fact that elder is indicated for both the very old and the very young, and that there are no known drug interactions, make me trust that her chemical profile is well-balanced and that she does not strongly or directly stimulate or suppress any specific processes in the body. I would personally use elder to treat myself or my family if I suspected that one of us caught the coronavirus. I would, however, probably pick a different herb to use for someone with an autoimmune condition like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, since this seems to be the one area that herbalists have seen a worsening of symptoms when using elderberry.

When things start to get confusing, I like to come back to my senses- literally. Make a strong cup of elderberry tea. Breath in the aroma. Notice the smell. Take one sip and pay attention. How does it taste? How does your body respond? You can tell a lot about an herb just from a few sips, if you sip them with intention and awareness. If elder is for you, then it will taste and feel good. If  you feel any aversion to it, maybe it is not right for you at this time.

Here are some good articles/posts on this topic:

https://botanicwise.teachable.com/p/covid19/

https://avivaromm.com/covid-19-natural-prevention/

https://www.gaiaherbs.com/blogs/seeds-of-knowledge/the-facts-on-black-elderberry-and-covid-19 

https://www.facebook.com/sevensong.sevensong/posts/10156843204716481

https://c1c17220-5aa6-46c5-a11f-1b9d7595d5fa.filesusr.com/ugd/ee530d_76f64605a3d74bd99dc924a48e341ee7.pdf

https://www.johnjslattery.com/blog/2020/3/15/herbalism-a-new-era-coronavirus-an-invitation

Works Consulted:
Herbal Antivirals by Stephen Harrod Buhner
Herbal Therapeutics by David Winston
Corona Virus: Don’t Panic but Prepare (presentation by Claudia Wingo)

**This article is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any disease*

Ayurvedic Detox Tips

You may have noticed your cravings for fats & sweets already subsiding as we begin to transition from the Vata season to Kapha season this month. Kapha season is a time of cold & dampness. We bring balance to these energetics by choosing warm and light foods like:

broths, radishes, beans, quinoa, brown rice, millet, buckwheat & cooked green vegetables.

You will want to cut back on heavy and cold foods such as:

dairy, wheat, oats, bananas, coconut, avocado, sugar and red meats.

Warming spicesgreatly support us this time of year by keeping the digestive system warm & clear of mucus (Cardamom, Fennel, Ginger, Turmeric, Mustard, Cinnamon, Pepper)

Warming Winter Spices.jpg

Herbal Formulas:

Trikatu– a classic formula containing equal parts ginger, black pepper and Pippali long pepper. Used to overcome mucus, aid a sluggish digestion, improve circulation and warm the interior. Indicated for clear damp discharges and anyone living in cold, damp climates.

Triphala– another classic formula comprised of 3 fruits. Triphala is a very balanced and gentle formula that can be used daily to promote good digestion and support elimination. It is a mild laxative that helps with bowel regulation. Because it is balanced, tonifying, and food-grade, it is non-habit forming and a great choice for anyone wanting to keep their channels clear of toxic accumulation.

Guggula– a relative of myrrh, Guggul is the resin from the salai tree. It is considered the be most potent in countering ama (toxic accumulation including cholesterol and thickened mucus). Think of ama as anything that gunks up the works of a body flowing efficiently. It has a reputation for reducing kapha and therefore reducing fat in the body. It is often combined with triphala to counter obesity.

You can find the above products on our shelves. Remember, good blood begins with good digestion. If you keep your digestive fire strong, your system clear of mucus, your bowels regular and your diet in harmony with the seasons, then you will digest your food efficiently without creating excess ama.

**This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease**

Elecampane

Botanical Name: Inula helenium

Other Names: Elf Dock, Scabwort, Elf wort, Yellow Starwort

Part Used: Root

Taste: Bitter, Pungent, Acrid

Energetics: Warming, Moving, Drying

Actions: expectorant, antimicrobial, digestive bitter,

Uses: Elecampane decongests stagnant fluids in the body. It is one of the strongest antibacterial herbs that we have (according to herbalist Matthew Wood, even diluted elecampane (1 to 10,000) will kill bacteria, especially tuberculosis). Elecampane has a strong affinity for the respiratory tract and most herbalists think of it as a respiratory herb for bronchial infections including bronchitis, tuberculosis, and pneumonia. It is indicated whenever there is heavy, thick, green or yellow mucus (a sign of bacterial infection) as well as a non-productive or persistent cough. Elecampane will promote expectoration from the deepest layers of the lungs, when the cough is not strong enough to bring up the mucus.

Elecampane is also used to help heal wounds that will not scab (“proud flesh”). It is being studied for its ability to kill MRSA (especially hospital acquired respiratory infections (Katja Swift).

As a warming bitter, elecampane also warms the fires of digestion, breaks up mucus in the digestive tract, and stimulates digestive secretion. It can clear overly damp conditions of the intestines and support absprption of nutrients by improving lymphatic flow around the intestinal tract. It can also  balance the microbiome of the gut by killing unehalthy bacteria, and by supporting beneficial bacterial through its high content of inulin. Inulin is a starch that provides food for probiotics. Inulin composes up to 45% of the root of elecampane, which is why the plant is named Inula helenium.

A lesser known virtue of elecampane is its effect on the heart. It is considered a heart remedy in the Ayurvedic tradition. Matthew Wood writes about elecampane being a remedy for heartache (specifically heartache due to being “torn away from one’s home”). He also writes about a client who used elecampane for a respiratory infection and had the pleasant side effect of healing her ventricular fibrillation. She had a dream about mucus being cleared from her heart area. I don’t have much evidence to support elecampane being used as a heart remedy, but from a holistic perspective, I can see how elecampane could indirectly strengthen and support the heart by helping to clear the channels of elimination. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the bitter flavor is said to nourish the heart/fire element. And the pungent/spicy flavor is said to increase the fire element. The combination of bitter and pungent tastes present in elecampane do support the claim as herb that can help strengthen the heart.

Folklore: You might be wondering what elecampane has to do with elves…well, some say that this plant was used to treat “elfshot,” which is a condition of wasting and preoccupation supposedly caused from being shot by an elf’s arrow. Elecampane also helps us to connect with the world of the elves. Elves are said to live under the plant. And anyone who has experience communing with devas, faeries, angels and other beings beyond the veil knows that such communion begins from the heart. We must be present from a heart-centered place (as opposed to a mental place). The heart is the middle chakra, the mid-point between our root and our crown. When we have emotional/energetic blockages around our hearts, the flow of divine source energy cannot flow freely through our central channel it is difficult for us to receive guidance from the heavens. And one look at the elecampane plant in full form, from is thick taproot to its tall radiant flower at its crown, suggests that it is a channel between heaven and earth. I would venture a guess that as elecampane can clear stagnation and open the channels of the physical body, so can it clear stagnation/blockages from the emotional and spiritual bodies, opening us to the mysteries beyond the veil, including elves & feaires. (Precaution: communing beyond the veil does require safety measures & discernment. Please do not attempt to do this on your own without guidance from someone experienced in these realms).

The species name helenium comes from the Greek legend of Helen of Troy who was abducted from her homeland of Sparta and taken to Troy. In the places where her tears hit the earth, elecampane is said to have sprouted. Based on this, elecampane is used in energetic preparations to treat heartache and grief due to being torn from one’s home.

Specific Indications: weak appetite, poor assimilation, swollen tongue (indicating a cold & damp digestive environment), wounds that do not form a scab, acute bronchitis, respiratory infections, chronic postnasal drip, yellow to green mucus.

Cautions: Not recommended during pregnancy or lactation

References: The Earthwise Herbal by Matthew Wood (Old World)

*This information is for eductional purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.

Native Herbs for Cold & Flu Season

Echinacea (echinacea spp.) Probably one of the most famous “cold & flu herbs”, echinacea does stimulate white blood cell production and can help with any sort of infection. But it truly excels at combating infections of the blood, septicemia, abcesses and poisoning. One of its main traditional Native American uses was to treat snake bites.There are dozesn of species of ehinacea, native to the Great Plains. If you are using Echinacea for help with a viral infection, it’s best to take it upfront at the first signs of illness, and in large doses. Once you’re officially sick, it would be better to try one of the other remedies below.
Osha: (lingusticum porteri). This medicinal root comes is native to the Rocky Mountains, belonging to a tall, feathery herb from the parsley family. Osha is warming, stimulating and strengthening to the adrenal cortex. It is anti-inflammatory (due to its influence over cortisol production), and is useful for adrenal burnout. Its warming, spicy quality promotes digestion, eases gas and helps to break up mucus and congestion in the GI tract. Similarly, it can support expectoration in the lungs and break up sinus congestion.
Elder (sambucus canadensis) Elder is an incredible medicine chest, with all parts of the tree being useful. Sambucus canadensis is the North American species, and it is used interchangeably with the European Sambucus nigra. The flowers and berries are both diaphoretic, opening the pores, and bringing blood to the periphery. The flowers are more decongesting while the berries are more tonic and blood-building. Elder opens all hollow tubes in the body, including the pores, lungs, colon, kidneys and blood vessels, improving blood flow, perspiration and elimination. The berries have been shown to inhibit viral replication, making it a go-to for viral infections such as influenza. Taken regularly, it can both prevent and shorten the duration of the flu.
Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) Also known as sweet leaf and bee balm, this species of mint resembles European oregano. Like oregano, it is spicy and diffusive. It is a stimulating diaphoretic, supporting the body’s fever response, reducing internal heat by driving it to the surface. It is indicated when someone feels hot, but the skin is cool & clammy. It’s also an excellent remedy for burns when used topically. And internally it can be used to balance candida overgrowths.

**This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease**

Ashwagandha

Botanical Name: withania somnifera

Other Names: Winter cherry, Indian ginseng

Description: a small woody shrub resembling eggplant. It has yellow/green flowers yielding small orange/red berries in the fall. The leaves are dull green and oval-shaped. Native to Africa, India and the Mediterranean, ashwagandha prefers dry, subtropical climates.  Ashwa means horse and gandha means smell. Its Sanskrit name loosely translates to “horse essence, suggesting strength & stamina.

Family: Solanaceae

Parts Used: primarily the root, but leaves, seeds and fruit also have history of topical use

Energetics: warming, dry, sweet, bitter, pungent

Actions: calming adaptogen, reproductive tonic, aphrodisiac, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, anxiolytic, immunomodulatory, thermogenic, antitussive, galactagogue, sedative, stimulant

Uses: In Ayurveda, ashwagandha is a Rasayana, or a rejuvenative tonic that promotes longevity and overall wellness. Ashwagandha promotes memory and cognition, protects against neurodegenerative disorders, and boosts GABA, promoting neural growth and repair. It is high in iron and can build blood when there is deficiency. It nourishes ojas, increasing sperm count and libido. And it directly nourishes the thyroid gland, making it useful for hypo-thyroid conditions. It calms you down while giving you more energy, helpful for when people have insomnia due to adrenal fatigue. It regulates sleep cycles over time and facilitates a more restful sleep in the long-term. As an immunomodulatory, it can strengthen a weak immune response or calm down a hyper immune response.

Indications: general debility, low libido & fertility, nervous exhaustion, convalescence, arthritis, anxiety, insomnia, neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis), loss of memory, loss of muscle, tissue deficiency, autoimmune conditions effecting the muscles & joints (rheumatoid arthritis), iron-deficiency, hypothyroid, general tonic for graceful aging.

Contraindications: Ashwagandha is generally safe when used as recommended, though large doses have been known to cause gastrointestinal upset and have abortifacient effects. Ashwagandha can be stimulating to some; do not try it for the first time before bedtime. Because of its heavy & anabolic properties, it is contraindicated for states of high ama/severe congestion.

Preparation & Dosage:  Traditional Ayurvedic preparations combine the powdered root with ghee, warm milk or honey. Standard dosage is 3-6 grams/day of powder. KP Khalsa recommends 10 g a day to promote a restful sleep. As a tincture, 2 ml , 2-4 times a day. 1 tsp twice daily of herbal ghee or honey.

Bitters

Hemp

(Cannabis sativa)

Hemp is a variety of cannabis with very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound that gets you high. Legally, in order to be grown and sold across state lines, hemp must contain less than 0.3% of THC. Hemp can be bred for higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD), one of many therapeutic compounds found in the cannabis plant, as well as for fiber and seed.  Hemp-derived CBD products are saturating the market, as CBD has received a lot of attention from the medical community in recent years. Keep in mind, however, that while CBD is indeed a powerful constituent in hemp, and the most researched, it is not the only one. It is simply the most common phytocannabinoid in hemp. Hemp as a whole plant has thousands of years of use. The actions and uses listed here are for hemp as a whole plant. Please visit this article to learn more about the benefits and risks of CBD specifically. 


Family: Cannabaceae

Parts Used: aerial parts. This materia medica focuses on the use of the flower

Energetics: Hot and Dry

Description: Cannabis sativa is an annual plant growing 3-9′ tall. The lower leaves are often opposite, while the upper leaves are alternate. These leaves are palmately compound with 3-9 leaflets (usually there are 5-7 leaflets). On large plants, these leaves can span up to 10″ long and across.  Each leaflet is narrowly ovate and coarsely serrated along the margins; the middle leaflets are larger in size than the lateral leaflets. The upper surface of each leaflet is dark green and sparsely covered with hair.

Constituents: Cannabinoids (including CBD,* cannabigerol (CBG),* cannabichromene (CBC),* cannabidivarin (CBDV) and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)).Terpenes, Flavonoids, Fatty Acids, chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals

Actions: nervine, sedative, analgesic, anticonvulsant, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, antibacterial, immunomodulator, antioxidant, neuroprotectant, neurogenic, antipsychotic

Indications: anxiety, depression, sleep issues, adjunct therapy for chemotherapy, pain (including neuropathic, inflammatory and physiologic forms of pain), opiate addiction, PTSD, anxiety, nausea, cancer, nerve damage/degeneration (M.S., Parkinson’s Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, traumatic injury), epilepsy, seizures, hypertension, eye degeneration (macular degeneration, glaucoma), Diabetes, metabolic disorders.

Ethnobotanical Uses: In Traditional Chinese Medicine, hemp flower is considered acrid in taste, a sign that the plant will have a relaxing effect on the viscera. It is said that frequent consumption “frees the spirit and lightens the body” (Tao, 1999). It is said to break up and disperse stagnation in the body, suggesting that hemp has a blood-moving quality. Hemp is also used to dispel wind (wind is associated with spasm and tension, which correlates to its Western use as an antispasmodic and relaxing nervine), and to relieve pain. It is indicated for pain accompanied by restricted movement, as well as gout, withdrawal, mania, insomnia, cough, headache, and menstrual irregularities (3)

Modern Research: The phyto-cannabinoids found in hemp bind with various receptor sites throughout our bodies. This system is known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS), and it underlies and regulates our nervous system, promoting homeostasis, and balancing mood, appetite, body temperature and our inflammatory response. Essentially, the ECS keeps us in the “rest and digest” mode (as opposed to the “fight or flight” mode), which encourages good sleep, digestion and memory.

Our bodies produce our own (endogenous) cannabinoids. The most prominent endo-cannabinoid that is discussed is called Anandamide (AEA), also known as the bliss hormone, whose main function is promoting a feeling of safety and well-being. AEA decreases pain, nausea, inflammation, nerve damage and anxiety while increasing exploratory behavior and learning.

Ideally, we produce enough AEA to keep our nervous systems running smoothly, and keep inflammation in check. However, chronic stress, exposure to pesticides, and chronic use of opiates and alcohol as well as certain medications reduce our body’s production of AEA. We can supplement with cannabis to help get us through periods of endocannabinoid deficiency. Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CED) is a theory formed around the idea that deficient endocannabinoid It purports that many disorders such as depression, anxiety, even neurogenerative disorders and chronic inflammatory conditions, are caused by a deficiency in endogenous cannabinoids, and that cannabinoids are not “curative” but rather essential nutrients.

The terpenes found in hemp are found in many aromatic plants, and are the basis of aromatherapy. Terpenes also interact with neurotransmitters and bind with our cannabinoid receptors. Generally speaking, terpenes have a positive effect on neurotransmitters including GABA, serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. They can have anti-cancer, antibacterial, antifungal, antidepressant, antispasmodic, anxiolytic, analgesic, antipsychotic, anti-mutagenic, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. There is a lot of information being discovered about the specific actions of specific terpenes. Beta-carophyllene, for example, has strong anti-inflammatory and relaxing properties. It binds with endocannabinoid receptors, specifically with CB2 receptors, which modulate inflammation. Terpenes and cannabinoids have a synergistic interaction. They both increase blood flow, enhance cortical activity, and have antimicrobial action against antibiotic resistant bacteria.

This synergistic effect is why it is important to use whole plant medicine, or full-spectrum extracts of cannabis instead of isolated constituents. And the synergistic relationships extend beyond just terpenes and cannabinoids. There are hundreds of other phytochemicals present in every plant, each one created to support homeostasis in the plant. The effect of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The scientific community is starting to realize this ancient truth. This is whole plant medicine, and is how  herbalism has been practiced for thousands of years.

Homeopathic/Plant Spirit: Hemp has been used in European homeopathy for hundreds of years. Its indications include psychological disorders, headaches, infections of the urinary tract, and spasms/paralysis of the legs and lower limbs (often combined with backache).

As a flower essence, cannabis is said to bring playfulness and lightness to the heart. It can be used in shamanic journeys and vision quests as an ally to assist you in your journey between realms.

Cautions:

Energetics– Cannabis is hot and drying, which means that long-term use of cannabis in any form can exacerbate conditions of heat or dryness in the body. This can be balanced with cooling, moistening herbs such as marshmallow root for people with hot/dry (i.e. Vata or Pitta) constitutions. If you notice symptoms of dry skin, dry tongue, dry hair, dry, cracking joints, you might want to use in combination with Solomon’s Seal.

Pregnancy/Lactation– mothers should be aware that cannabinoids are excreted in breastmilk (our endogenous cannabinoids help our babies feel safe & secure), and through the placenta (our endocannabinoids play a role in implantation to the uterus and in communication between mother & fetus), which means that a growing fetus or a nursing infant will get some amount of cannabinoids from their mother if she is consuming hemp extracts. The exact amount that is transferred isn’t clear, as little research has been done in this area. I can speak from experience as a nursing mother who occasionally uses moderate doses of CBD (15 mg/day) that I have not noticed any changes in my daughter’s mood, energy levels, sleep patterns, appetite, etc. after taking it.

Master Plant- Cannabis is not a tonic herb like oats or nettles. Cannabis is a master plant, and has traditionally been used as a shamanic herb to induce altered states of consciousness and help people connect with their intuition, explore subconscious realms and mature spiritually. Usually this purpose is supported by plants with higher amounts of THC than what is found in industrial hemp, but even without the psychoactive properties of THC, hemp is still a powerful plant and should be used with respect and intention, just like any species or strain of cannabis. Since it is a master plant, it is not meant to be consumed daily in perpetuity. One should always offer gratitude for the plant and be aware that misuse/abuse of the plant can lead to unwanted effects, including depletion of the body’s vital energy.

Preparation & Dosage:

To extract the resinous material from hemp with traditional methods, high-proof alcohol and oil-based methods are best. Hemp can also be infused into honey. And it can be smoked.

Making a tincture is the best way that I know of to extract the broadest range of constituents, but this can be a little complicated. If you are intending to extract CBD, you will need to first “decarboxylate” the plant material to convert the inactive CBDA to the active form CBD. By applying heat, however, you will damage many of the terpenes, which degrade at temperatures above 100 F.

Then you will need to do some math to figure out the potency. In order to determine this, you will need to first have an idea of how much CBD is present in your plant material, which can only be determined through a lab test. But knowing the strain will give you a ballpark estimate of what you are working with.

The specifics on how to make a full-plant hemp tincture are beyond the scope of this article. I do hope to write an article on this at a later time, and when that happens I will post the link here.  For now, I encourage those of you with medicine-making experience to experiment with fresh or dried plant tinctures. There is a window of time where the CBDA will convert to CBD naturally and without heat, but the exact length of time is unknown. Perhaps the traditional time frame of 6-8 weeks is sufficient. Let us know by commenting to this post if you have tried this!

A more concentrated and efficient way to use hemp is to source a full-spectrum resin extract from a reputable company. Read about the importance of full-spectrum extracts, how they differ from isolates, what dosage to use, and how to make sure that you are buying from a reputable company here.

Appropriate dosage very much depends on the person, preparation and the intention behind its use. As a holistic herbal practitioner who advocates minimum effective dosing, I always recommend starting small and working your way up until you find a dose that feels good to you.

Works Consulted:

(1) Endocannabinoid System- Online Course by Tammi Sweet: https://heartstone-online.teachable.com/

(2) “Hemp – THC – CBD – Cannabis Endocannabinoids – What’s all the BUZZ?” PPT by Dr. Ellen Kamhi, PhD, RN, AHG-RH, AHN-BC: file:///C:/Users/tonic/Desktop/Hemp%20Slideshow-%20Gaia%20Herbs.pdf

(3) Brand & Zhao. “Cannabis in Chinese Medicine: Are Some Traditional Indications Referenced in Ancient Literature Related to Cannabinoids?” ( 2017) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5345167/

**This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease**

Calendula

(Calendula officinalis)

With Spring in the air, it feels appropriate to celebrate calendula, also known as Herbal Sunshine. Calendula is a great herb for spring detoxification as well as warm-weather skin conditions & first aid.

Family: Asteraceae

Names: pot marigold

Parts Used: whole flowering head

Energetics: primarily bitter, subtly sweet & pungent, warming, drying

Actions: lymphagogue, alterative, vulnerary, bitter tonic/cholagogue, antiseptic, diaphoretic, emmenagogue

Properties & Uses: Calendula brings warmth & light to cold & stagnant places in the body, for the “places where the sun don’t shine” (Chris Hafner, acupuncturist). As a lymphatic herb, Calendula maintains balance in fluid metabolism by clearing stagnation, keeping the channels of elimination open and detoxifying. This helps to keep pathogenic bacteria at bay. Calendula is also antiseptic and vulnerary (speeds tissue repair), making it especially useful in purulent wounds, slow-to-heal wounds, and “swollen, hot, painful, pus-filled tissue” (Matthew Wood). All of these are conditions of damp heat, usually the result of stagnation or coldness in the tissue. Calendula has a soothing, anti-inflammatory quality, reducing itchiness and irritation. It is a valuable remedy for inflammations external and internal in the GI tract. As an alterative, it supports immune function by cleansing the blood of lymphatic congestion & lingering infections. Its warming qualities promote sweating, thin fluids and warm the stomach/solar plexus (Matthew Wood). Calendula is best suited for cold, damp, Kapha conditions & constitutions.

Indications: swollen glands, lingering, unresolved infections (look for swollen tongue with red papillae), sunburn, burns, sores, ulcers, insect bites, swollen, painful, pus-filled tissue, hard-to-cure wounds, candida, gum disease, diaper rash, GI inflammation, leaky gut, painful menstruation, Seasonal Affective Disorder, psychological melancholy, immunological deficiency, symptoms worse in cold/damp weather

Contraindications: avoid large amounts during pregnancy due to emmenagogue action; not appropriate for signs of excess heat/ for hot/fiery constitutions.

Preparation & Dosage: Infusion- 1 ounce of flowers to 1 quart of boiling water; drink 2 cups a day or use externally as a local application. Tincture- 1-4 ml three times a day. Topical preparations include fresh plant poultices or infused oil. Infused oil can be used neat or turned into lotions & salves.

Click Here for a Recipe for Calendula Cream

**This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease**

Shatavari

(Asparagus racemosus)

Shatavari is an herb from the Ayurvedic tradition. In Hindi, its name means “one who possesses a hundred husbands,” a hint that this herb has been used traditionally as a fertility tonic. Like all herbs, it has dozens of uses. Read on to learn more about some of its applications.


Family: Schisandraceae
 
Names: Indian asparagus, Shatamuli
 
Parts Used: stems, root

Energetics: sweet, bitter, cooling, moistening

Actionsadaptogen, immunomodulator, yin tonic, antitussive, anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, aphrodisiac, galactogogue, diuretic, haemostatic

Chemistry: contains steroidal saponins, isoflavones, polysaccharides and mucilage.

Uses: Traditional use in the Ayurvedic traditions lists dozens of conditions where Shatavari may be helpful. These include rheumatism, cough, diarrhea, dysentery, gastric irritation, infertility, threat of miscarriage, menopausal symptoms, bleeding disorders, chronic fever and any other signs of internal heat or irritation. It is considered to be a nutritive and rejuvenative tonic, especially to pitta constitutions. 

In recent studies, shatavari has been shown to increase both the weight of mammary lobulo-aveolar tissue and the total volume of milk produced. It was found to inhibit oxytocin-induced contractions in vivo. It has shown significant antitussive activity in mice, and in vitro, has proven effective against E. coli, Shigella, Salmonella and Staph. All of this supports the traditional use in treating cough, dysentery, diarrhea, and as a support during pregnancy & breast-feeding. 

Probably the most common use of shatavari is among menopausal women suffering from hot flashes, insomnia, night sweats and vaginal dryness. Again, traditional use of shatavari for menopausal health and as an overall female reproductive tonic has been validated. One study found that over 80% of participants experienced better sleep and reduced hot flashes from using shatavari (Shrestha et. al, 2003). 

Shatavari is thought to strengthen the reproductive organs in both men and women by nourishing the ojas, or the highly refined and nourishing substance that resides in the reproductive tissues of the body. The steroidal saponins in shatavari support the production of reproductive hormones.  

As a nutritive tonic, shatavari enriches the body’s fluids, plasma and white blood cells, strengthening the immune system and providing lubrication and nutrition for the entire body.  This is what makes it a yin tonic in Chinese Medicine. 

Its cooling and demulcent properties soothe all forms of heat and irritation in the urinary, respiratory and GI tracts. Shatavari may be useful for any form of excess heat in the body such as chronic fever, ulcers, and bleeding disorders such as menorrhagia. Bleeding is actually considered to be a heat condition. The cooling quality of shatavari causes blood vessels to constrict which is why it’s used as a haemostatic. 

Indications: infertility, vaginal dryness, low libido, dry, achy joints, anemia, low immunity, inflammation of the GI tract (IBS, gastritis), GI irritation to alcohol consumption, gastric ulcers, menorrhagia, chronic fever, hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia due to yin deficiency, food poisoning, dysentery, diarrhea due to heat or infection, dry, ticklish coughs, threat of miscarriage, insufficient milk flow, postpartum weakness, irritation of the urinary tract (cystitis, urethritis)  and any other sign by heat or dryness (even dry skin)–especially when accompanied by chronic stress or adrenal fatigue.

Contraindications: because of its cooling and moistening properties, avoid in cases of sluggish digestion with watery diarrhea, or excessive mucus production. This can be balanced in a formula with warming & drying herbs. 

Dosage:  40-80 drops tincture (1:5), 2 tsp/ 20 g dried powdered root per day, either mixed into food or decodted for 10-15 minutes in 8 oz of water. 

**This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease**

Resources:
Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief by David Winston; Healing Arts Press 2007
Herbal Therapeutics: Specific Indications for Herbs and Herbal Formulas by David Winston; Herbal Therapeutics Research Library (2014)
Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra. Twin Lakes, Wis.: Lotus Press (1992)