Herbal Allies For Seasonal Changes
Autumnal Equinox arrived in late September with a beautiful waxing moon, heralding in a time that locals and visitors look forward to each year. We are enjoying the rich colors of the water and sky, the crispness in the air and an invigorating mix of hot days and cool nights. Fall is a favorite time on the coast. The changes in the seasons here can be subtle in ways, but this time of year always seems a little more heightened. The earth is ready for some rain, to dust off the roads, revive the gardens and send a little whisper of the future into our creeks and rivers.
Along the coast there are pockets of yarrow, grindelia, plantain, nettles gone to seed in the creekbeds, wild monarda, and fennel. Inland just a couple of miles we find more hazelnuts on the bushes, acorns dropping from the tan oaks, huckleberries in perfect ripeness, rosehips drying on the vine, the last sprigs of Aurelia and plenty of wild mints.
As the seasons change and we move towards winter, the kids are back in school, days are becoming shorter with less time for exercise, we sometimes experience greater immune challenges. At the shop we often notice a sweep of coughs and colds this time of year. Whether it’s all the fun and adventures you had this summer finally catching up with you, stressors from the back to school schedule, or a reflection of the shift in nature causing the change in you, it’s a good time to get good rest, focus on your nourishment and reach out for your herbal allies.
Herbs like Astragalus, Oregon Grape Root, Elderberries, and Echinacea have been used for centuries as immune boosters. They are some of the ones to reach for when you feel that little tickle in your throat or the all over tired body feeling that we sometimes get when we’re fighting a virus. More specifically, there are herbs that work with our different body systems and can be more penetrating, like Osha, Calendula or Mullein for our lungs. We often use Spilanthes for upper respiratory stagnancy and congestion, along with Sage, Thyme and Yerba Santa. Lemon Balm is a wonderful herb for cold and flu, easy for many to take due to its sweet flavor in teas and extracts. It is not only anti-viral but also anti-inflammatory and can be helpful with head and body aches from illness.
Have you been noticing any patterns when you get run down? Some tend towards nausea and bowel irritability, while others always get a headache for three days. It’s interesting to follow where our personal immunity weak spots are and take time to build up as we head into winter.
In our coastal community, we definitely notice a trend towards bugs settling in the respiratory system. The damp and windy climate often contributes to deep coughs and sinus congestion that is hard to shake. If you can relate to this, now is the time to strengthen your respiratory system. Consider tonic teas of Calendula and Lemon Balm with a pinch of Thyme, or a medicinal mushroom extract like Reishi and Cordyceps.
I like to reach for Mullein this time of year, and she is really reaching for us as well! This fuzzy leaved beauty is a real queen of the plant kingdom, reining tall above our gardens with a long lasting plethora of tiny yellow flowers. Mullein has been used for centuries. Dioscorides (64 AD) recorded it as useful for constipation, convulsions, old coughs, toothaches, inflammation and scorpion stings. Folk uses include the leaves as a body scrub or toilet paper, and the tall spires dipped in wax as candles.
European and Western herbalists have a long relationship with mullein as a primary respiratory support herb, particularly for coughs, asthma and lung congestion. Mullein contains a large concentration of saponins which aid the body as an expectorant. The plant is made up of roughly 3% mucilage which soothes inflamed mucous membranes and helps to relax tissue that has been damaged due to spasmodic cough or wheezing. Research through Clemson University found that Mullein extracts can be effective against certain infectious bacterias like pneumonia, staph and e.coli. This is so helpful for us here on the coast where mold grows in abundance in the winter and spring months.
A nice cup of Mullein tea each day will start to strengthen the lungs and build immunity. You can use Mullein if you get sick, but why wait? Start with 1-2 tsp of herb per cup of boiled water. You can add in other herbs that you enjoy for flavor, but I recommend tasting it alone to start. Getting to know a plant ~ how it smells, tastes, and feels in your body is part of enjoying natural medicine. Let your tea steep for a minimum of 2 hours, longer is great. Strain and enjoy.
Cheers to your health and healing!