An official response to the Prevention and Materia Medica articles recently posted here

Screen Shot 2020-03-08 at 12.05.20 PM

We received a WARNING LETTER from the Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C., dated April 16 and delivered by email. It was addressed to Blessed Maine Herb Farm regarding unsubstantiated claims for Coronavirus prevention.  They took issue with the posting of my Preventive Care article on my website specifically. The letter said that “It is unlawful to advertise that a product or service can prevent, treat or cure human disease unless you possess competent and reliable scientific evidence, including where appropriate, well-controlled human clinical studies, substantiating that the claims are true at the time they are made. For COVID 19, no such study is currently known to exist…you must immediately cease making all such claims.” I was advised to remove the article from my website, and to contact a certain official within 48 hours to describe the specific action taken to address their concerns.  Both of which I did.

I was shocked to be contacted about the Preventive Care article because no claims were made regarding any products, no products were mentioned in the article at all. The original article, posted on my WordPress blog, Way of the Wild Heart, was shared on my website, where I do also sell herbal products. THAT was the problem. This, in itself, is perceived as making product claims. Guilt by simple association.

At 9am yesterday morning, I called the official I was directed to contact and spoke at length with him. I explained how I perceived this situation and questioned the wisdom of making an issue of sharing preventive health education at this time. Here’s a synopsis of what we discussed:

I began with the five thousand-year history of herbs being safely used as medicine and especially as preventive care. Herbs are nourishment. They nourish specific organs, systems of the body. This is well known and there are countless studies to prove it as well as empirical evidence gathered down through the ages.

More importantly, we’re in the midst of a frightening global pandemic. We are being offered nothing but hand washing, masks and staying at home as prevention. We need much more! And there is much more available to us.  We need to know what that is.

There certainly could be nothing suspect about attempting to educate a growing-desperate populace about what measures they can take on their own, and at home, to enhance their chances of staying well and resisting illness. Our health care system is overburdened. We want to avoid visits to the hospital. Using common herbal home remedies is a time-honored way to build strength and vitality to resist infection. Should we become ill, a few well-chosen herbs and prayers may help prevent the progression to the point that we would need to go to the hospital and further over burden the system.

My work is centered on guiding people toward healthy life choices! Educating them about the safe, simple, effective, time tested herbs they have available to them for support. Letting them know there is help, that they are not totally alone with this.  People need some guidance, some information regarding what to do to protect themselves and at the same time protect the health care system, and our health care workers by not getting so sick we need to be hospitalized.

Moreover, (I couldn’t resist), I reminded him that our non-medical professional president is on national television repeatedly touting the use of an unproven, dangerous drug and advocating opening the country back up way too soon!

So, exactly what are we expected to do here? You want people to get back to normal without providing anything more than a mask to help protect them? Oh, you know it, I went on and on. To his credit, the official listened. He really did.

He admitted to being confused. I actually felt sorry for him, a little. I can only imagine the stress these officials are under, and from so many sides. My heart literally burst for the man. But, and this is what gave me courage, I have all of you to consider, so wanted to defend, not only my right to educate and share helpful information at this critical time, but your right to have access to it.  Access to plain spoken, time tested herbs and remedies, so you can make wise choices, so you have some defense.

As I told the official, we have very little to go on here. Nothing from the medical professionals.  Herbalists are stepping up to share what we know. We must be allowed to do so.

But. And this is the most important part I want to share…We cannot connect this information in any way to product, not even by association.  So, if you’ve got a remedy for this thing you are advertising, you probably ought to change the name, at the very least.  We have to protect each other here. Please don’t attract the attention of the “rulers” at this time…we want and need to avoid any confrontation or shut down of free flow of information. If you’ve got any information on your website, that also sells herbal products, mentioning any kind of herbal approach to this pandemic, other than hand washing, etc., you are expected to remove it. That, unfortunately, is the rule and it is being strictly enforced. You will provoke attention, not only to yourself, but to our work as a community of herbalists and herbal educators and medicine makers. We’ve got to be smart. We’ve got to continue to do what we do, and we must do it carefully. With great care and consideration of each other.

Please Note: We still have free speech. There is no danger of the articles posted on this blog, or anyone else’s, being removed. If you copied my work to your hard drive yesterday, as was suggested by someone on facebook, please remove it. The information is under copyright. You do not have my permission to copy it to your computer. This information is not to be used in any other way than for which it was intended. I do grant you permission to print it out, if you wish, and also to share it with others, with full attribution to the author.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

PART 2 – MATERIA MEDICA FOR A GLOBAL PANDEMIC – Gail Faith Edwards

corona girlIn Part 1 of The Pesky Coronavirus we discussed the virus in great detail. And, we discussed the herbs, vitamins and foods we could partner with in the present moment to help enhance immunity, build strength and vitality and protect ourselves and those we love and care for. Part 1 was all about prevention. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you start with there. The herbs, vitamins and foods mentioned in Part 1 will also be relevant during the illness.

In Part 2 of The Pesky Coronavirus we are discussing likely symptoms of the illness COVID 19 and the herbs you might consider using at home to address them as they arise. You’re going to need to make management and remedy choices if you’ve been exposed and get infected. The extensive Materia Medica presented to you here will help you do exactly that. I am sharing this with you for the purposes of education.

What is this illness, how do we know we’ve been infected, what can we do about it?

COVID-19 is not SARS, does not behave like typical ARDS, and it’s not influenza. Scientists and medical professionals all over the world are working overtime to understand exactly what it is, and how to treat it. There’s a whole lot of wild speculation going on right now. I actually see this as a good thing, because creative, outside-the-box thinkers are generally the ones to look in unexpected places and come up with novel approaches to staggering challenges, such as the one we are facing right now. Unfortunately, although there are many theories circulating, we have very little that’s definitive yet.

One thing we are entirely sure about regarding COVID 19 is that this disease varies widely among patients. Your inner terrain appears to be everything. How your body reacts to the infection is going to be an entirely individual response.

Early in the infection you might feel like you have an ordinary cold or early flu symptoms. You may experience a sore throat, itchy eyes, earache and sinus congestion. As the disease progresses you may develop a dry cough, alternate between fever and chills and experience emotional disquiet, all are common and run in cycles. If the disease continues to progress, you may develop pneumonia, and possibly hypoxia. The potential for serious complications is a constant presence.

Increasing evidence indicates that coronavirus does not always stay confined to the respiratory tract and may also invade the digestive system, the central nervous system and the immune system. Some patients show neurologic signs, such as severe headache and recently the first case of COVID 19 related Hydrocephalus was confirmed. Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, digestive and intestinal distress, diarrhea, are all fairly common. Lung pain, joint and muscle aches and pains can be severe. Malaise, general sense of discomfort or uneasiness, disorientation, confusion, dizziness and exhaustion are atypical symptoms also being reported.

The coronavirus is looking to attach itself to ACE2 receptor sites. Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is a membrane-bound aminopeptidase that plays a vital role in the cardiovascular and immune systems. ACE2 has been identified as a functional receptor for coronaviruses. The COVID 19 disease is triggered by binding of the spike protein of the virus to ACE2 receptors which are highly expressed in the lungs.

“Scientists from the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Thorax Clinic at Heidelberg University Hospital, whose collaboration is taking place under the auspices of the German Center for Lung Research, have discovered that the (ACE 2) receptor for this coronavirus is abundantly expressed in certain progenitor cells. These cells normally develop into respiratory tract cells lined with hair-like projections called cilia that sweep mucus and bacteria out of the lungs.”  Coronavirus Receptor Abundantly Expressed in Certain Progenitor Cells, reported in Neuroscience News, April 7, 2020.

In addition to lung damage, many COVID-19 patients also develop heart problems. Cardiac experts believe the COVID-19 virus can infect the heart muscle. An initial study found cardiac damage in as many as 1 in 5 patients, leading to heart failure and death even among those with no signs of respiratory distress.

It’s not known yet whether the emerging heart problems are caused by the virus itself or are a byproduct of the body’s reaction to it. And in fact, this is one of the critical unknowns facing doctors and scientists as they struggle to understand this novel illness. Determining what is going on here is difficult, in part, because severe illness itself can influence the health of the heart.

“Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infects host cells through ACE2 receptors, leading to coronavirus disease (COVID-19)-related pneumonia, while also causing acute myocardial injury and chronic damage to the cardiovascular system. Therefore, particular attention should be given to cardiovascular protection during treatment for COVID-19.”  From a paper entitled COVID-19 and the Cardiovascular System, Ying-Ying Zheng, Yi-Tong Ma, Jin-Ying Zhang & Xiang Xie published in Nature Reviews Cardiology, March 5, 2020.

Scientists are now reporting that there appears to be a new strain of the virus that directly attacks the immune system, similar to the way AIDS does. We will learn more about this in the coming weeks and months, we can be sure.

Many of us who get infected will suffer through mild/moderate symptoms that may last several weeks. Most of us will be able to address symptoms as they arise, apply appropriate remedies as we move through the challenging phases of the disease and eventually recover. Some of us will become sick enough to require hospitalization.

If the virus becomes well attached inside your lungs, as it wants to do, it will begin to replicate freely and get down to the serious work of manufacturing more of itself. During this process lung cells will die. Your lungs may become saturated with fluid. The fluid may thicken, it may begin to congeal. It may become difficult to exchange oxygen – you will get short of breath and it will become progressively harder to breathe. These are the people who wind up in the hospital. Once there, the goal is to offer the patient supportive therapies, to keep them alive. Five percent of patients develop respiratory failure, septic shock, and/or multiple organ failure.

As we know, lack of basic medical supplies such as beds and respirators may mean that you will not get the care you need. Hospitals are generally under-staffed and the health care workers are over-exposed. We want to avoid a hospital visit if we possibly can, both for them and for us. And, sadly, being hooked up to a respirator may not be the answer either, even if there is one available – it may only prolong the inevitable or leave you severely disabled if you do survive. This is the reality we are all facing right now.

So, listen up. Part 2 of the Pesky Enigmatic Coronavirus – Materia Medica for a Global Pandemic is intended to give you the knowledge and the tools you need to deal with this illness successfully at home.  Be prepared – it’s long and it’s going to take you a while to get through it. You’ll find plenty of safe, simple and effective options to have at your disposal to successfully treat symptoms as they arise and hopefully be able to side-step the need for more aggressive medical interventions.

The herbs are listed with descriptions of their specific uses to address COVID 19 symptoms. You will not need all of these herbs, you won’t even need a quarter of them! This is a broad compendium of choices…and this list is by no means exhaustive. Other herbalists have other lists.

We spoke in great detail in Part 1 about the nature of viruses. One thing that stands out for me about them is their utter simplicity. They managed to get all of their most basic needs together in one protected little package, with parasitic intentions to use the living cells of humans and animals for all other necessary processes. That’s streamlined evolutionary intelligence at work right there. So, big respect. But, we can meet you there and raise you ten, with our herbal allies!

Plants are something different all together. Plants are anything but simple. They are, in fact, amazingly complex, with hundreds, even thousands of chemical constituents. But much more important than that is that plants are living beings with spirit and intelligence and a cellular structure much like our own. We’ve literally co-evolved on this planet together, we are friends and allies. Plants are trustworthy. They remain true to their nature. We depend and can rely on each other. We have done so for ages.

Plants use chemical messengers to communicate with each other, with microbes in the soil, with invading insects and with us. Their messages speak directly to our deepest cellular makeup. Plant substances inform, alter, adjust, restore, repair, rebuild, heal and create change. And they do this in myriad ways.

Since this novel coronavirus is an entirely new virus, one we have never been exposed to before, we have zero natural immunity to it. Our immune system doesn’t quite know what to do because it doesn’t recognize it. So, it’s going to take a little while for the body to figure out how to respond and mount its defense if you do get infected. Plants can help direct this response…they whisper things to our cells like “hey, over here, let’s warm this up a bit, cool this down, facilitate this flow, moisten, soothe and lubricate here, calm this down, stimulate that, tighten up here, relax this” and so on.

Once our body begins to directly address the intruder, we begin to produce specific antibodies. These antibodies grab hold of those virus spikes and start getting rid of them. This process produces a lot of waste. We’ll need to support our immune and lymphatic systems, and our skin, kidneys, liver and organs of elimination so they will be functioning optimally and able to carry off the waste produced. The last thing we want is for the body to be overwhelmed, as septic shock can result. We’ve got to support our heart and circulatory system. If breathing becomes labored, our heart needs to be strong enough to endure until we recover. Our immune system will especially appreciate plants with antiviral, amphoteric and immune enhancing actions. COVID 19 results in a dysregulated and exuberant immune response. Downregulating the cytokine storm is an essential component of the treatment in severe cases. Our nervous system needs support too, as the coronavirus can affect the central nervous system. And then there’s the stress…

A global pandemic, it turns out, is incredibly stressful. Everything seems to be falling apart. We are dealing with the loss of jobs, teetering small businesses, threat of financial ruin, the fear of sickness, death or of losing loved ones, isolation and separation from beloved family members and constant, overwhelming waves of worry, grief, devastation and heartbreak. There are also the daily everyday challenges like finding the food you need in the pantry and being home with children 24/7, or stranded in a small apartment alone, or worse, in an abusive environment from which you cannot escape or homeless, hungry and afraid.…you may be working an essential job, like service or health care, overwhelmed on the daily and unable to fully protect yourself. Or have a close family member in that situation. The tension, fear and anxiety, for every single one of us, no matter where we are on the security and wellbeing spectrum, is palpable, and needs to be addressed.

We’ve got herbs listed below to support all of this, every step of the way, so don’t worry! Stay calm and collected. I want you to be well prepared. Knowledge is power and you can wield a mighty opposition to this thing with a few well-chosen herbs by your side…along with some well-placed traditional prayers, baths, art, ritual and ceremony. Engaging this illness energetically/spiritually is important, so please don’t overlook this aspect of your COVID 19 protocol.

Based on the epidemiologic characteristics that have thus far been observed, everyone is assumed to be susceptible, although there may be risk factors increasing susceptibility to infection for some. This requires further study. We also need to know whether there is neutralizing immunity after infection. Scientists aren’t sure about that yet either. Many people who’ve recovered from COVID 19 have become ill a second time.

Asymptomatic infection has been reported, but the majority who are asymptomatic on the date of identification/report went on to develop disease. The proportion of truly asymptomatic infections is unclear.

“The lack of widespread testing is probably the single biggest issue regarding us getting back to any sort of normalcy. We don’t actually know who is infected. We don’t know anything about our asymptomatic carriers. And we don’t know who is not infectious anymore.” New York-based emergency physician Dr. Dara Kass

I advise you to read through the Materia Medica while thinking about what you already have on hand or can easily get. Make a mental or written note of how you might prepare and apply the remedy and when. At what stage of the illness? What might be useful during the early stage of flu-like symptoms, or when your lungs are congested and your entire body aches? What herb will you go to if you’re gripped with severe intestinal distress? What allies will you choose to work with once you’ve pulled through the illness and need to rebuild and restore? You’ll find dosage and preparation information with each entry here as well.

I suggest keeping your eyes peeled for ancestral medicines. By that I mean, plants that are considered to be sacred herbs or are otherwise especially valued by your ancestral culture – or perhaps are native to the general geographical area where your ancestors lived. If you’ve got multiple lineages, great! More choices! My message to you is this: your cells are going to resonate and respond with plant medicines that they recognize and trust. The old kitchen standbys are going to serve us much better than the unknown, untested, unrecognized herbs from far away cultures that we have never used before. Not that they won’t help…they will. But not as deeply, surely, truly, and completely as the ones you know deep in your cellular makeup. The herbs you recognize in your bones, the ones that wake up long buried ancestral memory. Consider adding at least one of these ancestral remedies to your personal herbal protocol, in whatever way makes sense to you.

Remember, at least 14 generations of your wise grandmothers live within you! That’s a huge amount of ancestral assistance we have available. Don’t dismiss it, whatever you do! Tap into it. One of the ways you do that is through the senses of taste, touch and smell. Open a channel and listen.

Most of our way-back ancestors came from oral cultures, not written. This is important to consider, because in order to connect with them, to understand their wisdom and how they share it, we must connect with the land, with the earth, with earth’s gifts, and with all the visual clues that give meaning to spoken words. When we modern, literate folks hear words, we see writing. Our ancestors saw stars and moon and bird – theirs is a completely, utterly different world view…a sensual language, deeply imbedded in the natural world.

MATERIA MEDICA FOR A GLOBAL PANDEMIC

ANGELICA Angelica archangelica, Angelica sinensis

This herb has enjoyed a rich and honored reputation as a powerful healer since ancient days – it was used by Europeans in the Middle Ages as a safeguard against the plague. The roots and the leaves of both European angelica, and its Asian cousin dong gui, are aromatic, warming, and carminative with expectorant qualities; Angelica is a mighty medicine – nourishing, restorative and revitalizing. The angelicas’ high iron content nourishes and builds blood, prevents anemia and increases vital energy. Angelicas are rich in coumarin derivatives which promote antispasmodic and vasodilatory effects and are nourishing to the heart and circulatory system. It is also considered a strengthening remedy for the spleen, liver and kidneys. The aromatic properties mean it has dispersing energy, so will help to move fluids out to the perimeter, where they can be discharged through the skin and other organs of elimination. Our European ancestors employed angelica to treat coughs, chest congestion and bronchitis. They drank cups of warm infusion of the dried root or leaves and applied the strained-out plant material as a poultice. I’ve pounded fresh angelica root and squeezed out the juice, mixed this with an equal amount of honey, and taken a teaspoon every couple of hours to relieve a cough and help clear lung congestion. If you have angelica growing in your garden, you can dig the fresh root now. Replant the crown, and your will have endless angelica plants! Angelica’s stimulating and digestive benefits have made it a popular addition to digestive liquors, usually referred to as an aperitivo or digestivo among my Southern Italia neighbors. Angelica’s aromatic root is bitter and has a long-standing reputation for stimulating the appetite. And, angelica’s wide array of essential oils, combined with its bitter principles, help allay nausea, ease intestinal spasms and tone the digestive system. Angelica will serve well when warming remedies are needed and can be employed as a general strengthening tonic. It can be useful for nourishing the elderly and anyone in the recovery, strength building phase of illness. Angelica is a powerful herb of blessing and protection. The Iroquois sprinkle angelica tea around their homes to quiet unsettled spirits.

ASTAGALUS Astragalus membranaceus

Astragalus is a tonic, a restorative food and a potent medicine plant. It’s indispensable applied as a preventive and will again serve well during the recovery and restoration phase of COVID 19. The Chinese have been using astragalus to strengthen immunity for many centuries. They say it “strengthens the exterior,” or protects against illness. Known as Huang-qi, astragalus is written about in the 2,000-year-old Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, and is still considered to be one of the superior tonic roots in traditional Chinese medicine. Its name literally means yellow, referring to the inside of the root, and leader, referring to its potency. Mildly sweet, moistening, slightly warm and stimulating, astragalus invigorates vital energy. It is nourishing and restorative, strengthens resistance, restores damaged immunity, promotes tissue regeneration, has antiviral action, is adaptogenic, protects and strengthens the heart and the liver, is tonic to the lungs and enhances digestion. Astragalus is a powerful “non-specific” immune system modulator. Instead of activating our defense system against a specific disease organism, astragalus deeply nourishes immunity by increasing the numbers and activity of roving white blood cells, the macrophages. Macrophages are the cells that T-lymphocytes call to come engulf invading organisms. Astragalus engages and activates every phase of our immune system into heightened activity. In one study, the activity of macrophages was significantly enhanced within six hours of consumption. The roots have long been employed as a tonic for the lungs, for those with pulmonary disease, frequent colds, shortness of breath and heart palpitations. Astragalus possesses strong antiviral properties – it’s been safely used throughout Asia for thousands of years. The Chinese typically slice astragalus roots and add them, along with other vegetables to chicken broth to create a nourishing tonic soup. Discard the root after cooking and consume the broth. No toxicity from the use of astragalus has ever been shown in the millennia of its use in China. A syrup is excellent. I cook astragalus roots and assorted medicinal mushrooms together in my instant pot on the soup setting for several hours. When it’s done, I remove the cover and let the steam evaporate a while to reduce and concentrate the liquid. Then I add half the volume in honey and put it all in the fridge. I take a sip now and then, add it to whatever tea I make, or add a teaspoon or so to a cup of hot water. If I want to keep it around a while, I might add tinctures of astragalus, reishi and codonopsis. Yum! Keep that immune system well-toned and deeply nourished and supported. 

BALTIC AMBER Pinus succinifera

Warming, aromatic, resinous gift of the Pinus species trees, Baltic amber would seem to be a quintessential remedy for these times. Baltic amber is a record keeper. It bears witness to all life on earth including hundreds of millions of years of changes, upheavals, cataclysm, as well as peace, harmony and reconciliation, and encompasses the memory of all of that within itself. This, I believe, is a significant measure of the potent medicine it carries. Baltic amber is verified scientifically as an adaptogen. This is an important starting off place because in order to meet the criteria defined by the word adaptogen, a substance must be non-toxic, produce a nonspecific response in the body which boosts its ability to resist multiple stressors and exert a normalizing influence on physiology. By definition, adaptogens strengthen the immune, nervous and glandular systems, increase metabolic efficiency and reduce susceptibility to illness and disease. Adaptogens are exceedingly effective tonics, have a broad influence on the entire body and can be safely used over a long time. Many of these substances have a history of use that extends for hundreds and thousands of years, and a huge body of experience has been accumulated and recorded regarding their therapeutic application. In my experience, I’ve found natural Baltic amber to be one of the most indispensable, as well as perhaps the most universally applicable, of the known adaptogens. Baltic amber (succinum) is classified as warming, stimulating, aromatic, slightly bitter/sweet and spicy, magnetic and neutral in nature.  It is renowned for its pain easing, rejuvenating and vitality-boosting effects and its ability to help protect against illness. It has been exceedingly well researched as a medicinal substance, most notably among Russian, Polish, German and Chinese scientists, and has long been referred to as an Elixir of Youth. Its preservation abilities are due to both natural preservatives and sugars within the resin, and the unique way they interact with living tissue. It has been shown to strengthen immunity to ionizing radiation, infections, alcohol and other toxins. Succinic acid is a powerful antioxidant shown to stimulate neural system recovery, eliminate free radicals and modulate the immune system. Succinic acid helps restore strength and energy to the entire body, enhances brain function and improves awareness, concentration and reflexes. Succinate appears to affect the Krebs Cycle – the sequence of reactions by which most living cells generate energy during the process of aerobic respiration. This sequence takes place in the mitochondria, consuming oxygen, producing carbon dioxide and water as waste products and converting ADP to energy-rich ATP. The Krebs Cycle is the central metabolic turntable sustaining the cell respiratory process, and key functions of several of its intermediates, especially succinate and fumarate, have recently been uncovered. This ability of Baltic amber to regulate the most primal levels of our regulatory system strike me as particularly valuable, throughout all phases of this illness. Baltic amber has long been revered for its antimicrobial properties and is now understood to enhance immunity. Medieval masks in the Baltic areas were typically filled with Baltic amber and worn to protect against plague and other infectious diseases. Because Baltic amber traps insects by its very nature, it is considered by the Chinese to capture what they refer to as pestilent Qi. This is one way of describing its ability to ward off “evil spirits”. Pestilent Qi also refers to pathogens, bacteria, fungi and viruses that cause disease. It is well known and oft reported that during the years when the plague was rampaging through Europe, not a single amber worker in Gdansk, Poland or Königsberg, Germany (now Kaliningrad, Russia) – both of which were and still are major centers of amber working – ever came down with the plague. Pestilent Qi also refers to parasites, and this means both physical parasites as in hookworms, pinworms, parasitic viruses such as Novel Coronavirus, parasitic Lyme co-infections and so on, but also energetically refers to parasitic people, vampires who suck your energy reserves and leave you depleted. When taken internally, the resin is believed to attract and bind to toxins and disease causing pathogens and eliminate them from the body.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine amber is believed to strengthen the lungs. Because the lungs descend energy to the lower region, and in this way invigorate the blood, amber helps to bring warmth to this entire region of the body, called the Lower Burner, breaking up and removing stagnation and flushing it out of the lower region. This action will be very important if phlegm becomes thick and stuck in the lungs, hard to expel and preventing breathing. The traditional Polish dosage is 1 drop on the first day, 2 on the second, 3 on the third, all the way up to 10 drops on the tenth day, then reverse and take 9 drops, 8, 7 and so on until the 19th day when you take one last drop dose. This is considered one full course of treatment. Rest for ten days before starting another course, if necessary. Note: This dosage method is likely to be too strong for some/many people. The weak, elderly, the very sick, very sensitive, those with multiple infections, may find it hard to go up beyond five drops. Find the comfort level and stay there. This may be as little as 1 drop daily in water, tea or juice. It is for me. I like the one drop dose best and don’t find it necessary more than a few times a week. For treating active viral, fungal, bacterial or parasitic infections, 1-3 drops in water daily for 3 weeks is an effective dose. And I wear my Baltic amber necklace daily. I don’t take it off. My understanding is that the heat of the body causes enough of the succinic acid to be absorbed from the resin, in micro-doses, something akin to a homeopathic treatment dose, enough to exert an analgesic, antiinflammatory, immune-enhancing and vitality-boosting influence. For this reason, it is worn on the body as a non-specific, overall vitality-boosting, health enhancing agent. Baltic amber acts as a protective shield.

CANNABIS Cannabis indica, C. sativa, C. ruderalis

To help address the stress we are all feeling right now, one thing you can do is make some cannabis “budder”. Eat a brownie. Take a toke, or two. Relax. Get a good night’s sleep every night. A relaxed, restored immune system can act. An excited, over stimulated immune system may over react. You don’t want that. So calma, as we say in the village. Stay tranquil. Cannabis can help. It lifts mood for many and eases anxiety. Cannabinoids in this plant show immune enhancing and antiinflammatory action and help to suppress pro-inflammatory cytokines. Inhaling the warm smoke dilates air passageways, allowing the lungs to receive more oxygen. Cannabis smoke possesses expectorant properties and helps bring up phlegm. Easy does it. Moderation is key.

CAYENNE Capsicum annuum

I drink cayenne to help ward off chills and clear a stuffy head. I use a sprinkle of freshly powdered herb per cup of boiling water, adding honey, lemon and ginger to enhance the flavor and medicinal action. I add it to a vinegar tonic, along with other warming, stimulating herbs and sip that throughout the day to chase typical symptoms of cold or flu quickly. Cayenne will help address congestion, sinus issues, counter heat. Red pepper is often included in protection magic. I have them hanging in my kitchen.

CLEAVERS/BEDSTRAW Galium aparine, G. verum, G. trifidum, G. triflorum, G. circaezans

The galiums are exceptional allies when the lymphatic system needs a hand. Your lymphatic system is going to get a work out and will need all the support it can get if you become infected. It’s got to be able to carry away a lot of waste that will be produced while fighting the infection. Herbalists suggest drinking as many as four cups of bedstraw or cleavers infusion daily or taking 30 drops of tincture in water twice daily to support healthy lymph movement. In addition, aiming your shower head toward swollen lymph glands is a great aid. The gentle pressure and the warmth help to stimulate stagnant lymph and bring down the tenderness and swelling. Very gentle massage of the lymph nodes or a warm compress with the strained-out plant material, or hot water bottle, laid over the area will all help as well. You can eat bedstraw and cleavers when they come up in the spring and early summer. Look up recipes for preparing goose grass!

BASIL Ocimum basilicum, O. tenuiflorum, O. sanctum, O. gratissimum

 In Ayurvedic medicine, the juice of holy basil is considered a rejuvenating and stress-relieving tonic. It is commonly employed to relieve chills, cough and earache. One teaspoon of freshly squeezed basil juice twice a day is the traditional dose. It is also considered a prophylactic during flu epidemics. Basil’s carminative properties make it a good ally for soothing digestive woes. It has an outstanding reputation as a mild, effective antidepressant as well, which may serve well during this time of quarantine, loss and uncertainty. Ayurvedic medicine contains a number of herbs in its pharmacopoeia which are used to improve vitality, promote long life and enhance the body’s ability to adapt to stress. Most of these are classified as rasayana herbs. One of the most important of these is holy basil which also offers spiritual and psychological benefits as well. Holy basil is believed to open the heart and mind and bestow the energy of love and devotion. Holy basil is immunomodulating, supports the adrenals, helps regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels, boosts energy levels, protects against oxidative stress, possesses anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antiviral properties and supports the liver, for starters!  Most of us won’t have the fresh plant available at this time of year, so can use the dried herb for teas and tincture. Should you become ill, 20-30 drops in water, twice daily to support the immune system should be an effective dose.

BLESSED THISTLE Cnicus benedictus

I consider blessed thistle an ally when dealing with lung congestion or bronchial infection of any kind. I sip the infusion or add 10 drops of tincture to a cup of water, to help clear phlegm and tone the entire respiratory system. And I have also called upon blessed thistle to treat a headache and to help bring down a fever. Blessed thistle contains calcium, chromium, potassium, selenium and carotenes. It also offers stores of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium and B vitamins. Among its constituents are volatile oils, resins, glycosides, the bitter sesquiterpene lactone ester cnicin, tannin, mucilage, sugars and starch. We eat the young spring leaves of blessed thistle like watercress with bread and butter. The tonifying, strength building benefits of blessed thistle are gained by ingesting it in moderate portions: no more than one cupful of infusion daily, 10-20 drops of the tincture.

BURDOCK Arctium lappa

Known throughout the world, burdock is a superb nutritive tonic, a powerful cooling alterative and a deep healer. As a superior long-term strengthener of the immune system, burdock is a mighty ally for those dealing with any active infection. Burdock’s profuse mucilage binds with unwanted byproducts of metabolic processes, helping them to exit the large intestine quickly. Burdock is a reliable aid when constipation is a problem as well. You will want to keep your bowels moving freely if you become infected. I combine burdock with dandelion, licorice, cinnamon and fennel with excellent results in this department. Burdock also nourishes intestinal flora, the abundant inulin in the roots is an excellent probiotic. Remember, terrain is everything! Dig only the first year root…at this time of year you can easily dig up a burdock root or two.  Slice the fresh roots and dry on a screen or tie a string around each whole root and hang to dry. Or slice and cover with vinegar and when its ready in a couple of weeks, take a tablespoon or two daily, in water to support immunity and offer yourself a copious amount of health and strength building nutrients, such as iron, magnesium, calcium, chromium, cobalt, silicon, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, carotenes, protein and mucilage. Burdock root also contains volatile oils, terpenes, tannins, flavonoids, phytosterols, inulin, sugars, starch and resins. The fresh root is loaded with vitamin C, essential fatty acids and vitamin B2. Excellent during recovery phase, to rebuild and restore.

CHAMOMILE Matricaria chamomilla, M. recutita, M. discoidea, Chamaemelum nobile

Chamomile was one of the nine sacred herbs of the Saxons. Hildegard von Bingen used chamomile to relieve stomach ailments. A fine tonic for the digestive system, a cup of warm chamomile tea ofers antispasmodic properties, helps relax intestinal cramps, allay nausea and calm irritable bowels. Chamomile tea also counters indigestion, heartburn and helps move a sluggish bowel. I consume a cup or two of chamomile tea to treat digestive and intestinal issues or take 20 drops of tincture in water or tea. When I feel stressed, tense or nervous, I sip a cup of chamomile tea to calm and soothe my jangled nerves. This is a remedy I learned from my grandmother and so one that is dear to my heart. Most people think of chamomile as mild, but I know it as potent, yet gentle, a sure and steady remedy for anything stress related including digestive/intestinal upset. Inuit Eskimos use pineapple weed flowers, M. discoidea, in herbal steams to relieve lung congestion. Herbal steams are going to come to your assistance during the phase of the illness when you need to clear and decongest the lungs. Chamomile is a good choice to help bring down a fever too, should you have one climbing precipitously high. Ancient Egyptians used it for this and clinical studies concur – chamomile can lower body temperature by 3-3.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Please note that a fever is a healthy, full body response to an invasion and a good thing. It means your body is mounting a defense and working to fight off the infection, which is what you want it to do. Sometimes a fever can climb high enough to cause serious discomfort…in this case gently bringing it down a little bit may be helpful. A cool rag on the forehead, wiping down limbs with a tepid cloth, even soaking in a tepid bath, followed by getting in bed under the covers, are all methods for safely lowering a fever. Chamomile flowers are delicate. Steep dried blossoms five minutes for tea. Ten minutes makes a full-strength medicinal infusion. A cup of chamomile infusion, sipped slowly, or 20-30 drops of tincture is the recommended dosage.

CODONOPSIS Codonopsis pilosula

Poor Man’s (or Woman’s) ginseng, or dang shen, is adaptogenic, builds energy and strengthens the immune system. Dosages: 30-60 drops of tincture 3-4 times daily, standard infusion – up to two cups daily, syrup – 1 tablespoon 3-4 times daily WARNING! Do not use with diarrhea, flatulence, poor digestion, or during acute illness such as colds, flu and pneumonia. Codonopsis is best reserved for the recovery stage of this illness. Avoid if you have high iron levels.

CHICKWEED Stellaria media

Chickweed’s cooling and expectorant actions make it an awesome ally for those dealing with hot, dry bronchial problems, pneumonia or acute asthma. I cook fresh chickweed in simmering water and use a cup of this broth, or 20-40 drops of tincture, at least twice a day when addressing pulmonary distress of any kind. Chickweed is readily available in lawns, woods edges, under trees and shady places and usually grows in a thick mat, so is easily gathered. Be sure you don’t gather it from places where dogs wander and wash it thoroughly before cooking.

COLTSFOOT Tussilago farfara

Commonly called coughwort, coltsfoot’s botanical name is Tussilago, which literally means cough-dispeller. The flowers and cooling, mucilaginous leaves make a relaxing and soothing demulcent expectorant that can be used to clear the respiratory system. Coltsfoot is unfailing in alleviating bronchial problems, chest congestion and stubborn coughs. Ayurvedic healers use coltsfoot leaves for helping those with coughs, headaches and nasal congestion. Just as your grandmother’s grandmother might have done, you can make a coltsfoot flower syrup which is especially effective for those with dry, stubborn coughs and chronic bronchitis. In China, the flowers, known as kuan dong hua, are used alone in teas or in syrups to reduce phlegm and relieve chronic coughs. A flower tincture is also effective. We often combine coltsfoot leaves with mullein, hyssop and peppermint for an excellent respiratory aid. Coltsfoot flowers appear early in spring, before the leaves come out. You can usually spot them growing along trails and roadsides. Gather a small bag full, dry and process them. Later in summer, you can gather the leaves. If you are not 100% certain what they look like, please ask someone knowledgeable to show you. There are lots of bright yellow flowers blooming in spring.

Honeysuckle flowers will also be blooming soon, maybe now in your locale. Honeysuckle is another excellent cooling remedy for pulmonary infections and evidently, according to Chinese doctors, a specific ally in the case of COVID 19.

DANDELION Taraxacum officinale

Regarded as a supreme liver tonic, and used around the world for that purpose, dandelion root stimulates the flow of bile from both the gallbladder and the liver. Dandelion root is an unfailing ally for relief in all cases of liver distress. I rely on it as a tonic for the stomach, pancreas and kidneys, as well as the nervous, glandular, immune and lymphatic systems. If you become ill with COVID 19 your liver is going to get a work-out and will need support. So will all the other organs and systems I just mentioned. Later on, during the recovery stage of the illness, dandelion will again be invaluable. Dandelion is a powerful ally and readily available. You can dig enough to last quite a while in half an hour. A dose is 20-40 drops of tincture, or a tablespoon of dandelion vinegar, taken over food or in water, 2-4 times a day, for as long as necessary. Tarassaco comune, is what my Southern Italia neighbors call this highly valued food and medicine plant they use to remedy liver problems and address kidney ailments. The leaves are well regarded as a diuretic and both roots and leaves for their high vitamin and mineral content. Dandelion builds strength, energizes and enhances vital life forces. Dandelion roots are high in iron, manganese, phosphorus, protein, sodium and vitamin A. They also contain an especially well-balanced array of calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, potassium, riboflavin, zinc and vitamin C complex. The roots have been employed in Italia to treat pulmonary issues and the leaves are widely used to prepare green salads and cooked greens. One of the most common preparations for dandelion greens is to make what we call Minestra Terrana,which literally means “soup from the earth.” This is an excellent remedy for both the active infection and the recovery stage of COVID 19, to build strength, stamina and vitality. Dandelion greens are combined with other wild greens such as borage, chicory, aerial parts of daisies, wild lettuces and smooth sow thistle. Any wild greens commonly found in your geographical area, gathered from a clean place, will do. The freshly washed and trimmed greens are placed into cold water, brought to a boil and simmered gently in a covered pot which sits at the edge of the fire for an hour or more. Olive oil, garlic, onion, some sweet pepper, perhaps a bit of meat and previously soaked beans are added, depending on taste or what is available. Dandelion leaves are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, B, C and D, potassium, iron, calcium and phosphorus. They are an excellent tonic, helping to revitalize the body and rejuvenate the liver. Note: A dandelion stem is a hollow tube resembling the long hollow tube of the digestive/eliminative system and also the respiratory system, before branching into the lungs. Dandelion moves and drains fluids, it funnels and conducts flows. This energy is going to be needed if your lungs start to fill up with fluid. You are going to need help eliminating that fluid. I think dandelion can be your ally here as well, though it may need to be warmed up a bit. It’s bitter, which does directly affect the lungs, and bitter is cooling in general. Warm dandelion if you need to, with onion, garlic and red pepper, as they do in Italia.

DEVIL’S CLUB Oplopanax horridus

Magical Lore Widespread magical uses of this plant include an infusion of inner bark employed as a cleansing bath for personal protection and purification, and the use of the aerial stems as an amulet for protection against any number of external influences. Devil’s club is a deeply spiritual medicine for many First Nations people. Purification, warding off curses, protection, strength, healing and “dancing between the worlds” are some of its energetic associations. The Bella Coola, Gitxsan, Kwakiutl and Nitinaht are among the numerous nations that engage with this plant for its strong connection to protective medicine. It is seen as bestowing good fortune and is used to help strengthen and initiate healers and shamans. There is extensive phytochemical evidence that supports devil’s club’s widespread use to treat internal and external infections. In fact, science verifies that devil’s club possesses significant antibacterial, antimycobacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Unfortunately, devil’s club is currently being aggressively harvested and marketed as a ginseng-like herbal medicine. I’m not recommending medicinal use. I’m advocating for magical protection, prayer and ceremony with a tiny piece of root, bark or branch in your pocket, brevi bag or on your altar.

ECHINACEA Echinacea purpurea, E. angustifolia

Echinacea is a supreme strengthener and supporter of the immune system, nourishing to the body’s defenses. Echinacea activates leukocytes (white blood cells that combat infections) and increases the production of interferon, which helps protect non-infected cells. Echinacea’s antiseptic, antifungal and antiviral properties stop the spread of pathogens. A recent study in Europe showed that a combination of echinacea and elderberry extracts reduced the risk of catching a cold virus by 60%. The immune-system-stimulating essential oil echinacein is found in all parts of the plant. Echinacein prevents germs from penetrating all kinds of body tissue. We gargle with the warmed infusion (or 20 drops of tincture in half a cup of warm water), and slowly swallow teaspoons of echinacea honey frequently throughout the day to treat discomforts such as sore throat, lung and sinus congestion, and respiratory distress. First Nations of the Plains inhale the steam from boiling Echinacea and Kiowa and Choctaw chew the roots to ease sore throats and coughs.  If you get into doing steams to help keep your lungs clear, Echinacea would be another good addition. Roots, flowers or leaves, whatever you have or can get. Studies done over the last 50 years in Germany, where echinacea has been widely used since the 1930s, suggest that it is most effective against acute illness when taken at the onset of symptoms, used frequently, and continued for several weeks. I take a dose of tincture every two to three hours for the first day or two of infectious illness. Then I take it 2-4 times a day until the symptoms subside, and sometimes for a week thereafter. To bolster my immune system when dealing with a chronic illness, I take 1-2 doses of echinacea tincture daily for a month or more. Echinacea tincture is safe for babies, pregnant women and nursing mothers. I use the same dose for baby and mother: one drop of tincture in water for every 2 pounds of body weight. Some herbalists believe echinacea’s immune-stimulating properties make it contraindicated for those dealing with autoimmune diseases such as lupus, AIDS or multiple sclerosis. Immunity-enhancing herbs such as burdock, dandelion, St. John’s wort, hyssop and garlic may be used instead.

ELECAMPANE Inula helenium

Elecampane was widely used by our ancient grandmothers as a strengthening tonic. The Greeks and Romans regarded elecampane as one of their most important herbs. Elecampane roots have been used for centuries to treat chronic respiratory illness. They help promote expectoration, are warming, and are an especially soothing tonic for mucous membranes. First Nations use elecampane to remedy a variety of ills. Cherokees use the root as a remedy for all lung ailments. Delaware nations use elecampane root as a general strengthening tonic and combine the roots with poplar bark to treat respiratory ailments. Malecite use elecampane also to alleviate cold symptoms. In Southern Italia elecampane roots are traditionally dried in the open air and used to prepare infusions for bronchitis, deeply entrenched coughs, asthma and generally for any type of respiratory distress. Syrup of Elecampane Roots One quart elecampane root infusion, 30 drops elecampane tincture, 1 cup honey. Gently decoct the infusion until it is reduced by half. Add honey and tincture. Stir until well dissolved. Pour into a sterilized jar. Use a teaspoon up to three times daily, or as needed. Dosage for tincture is 20-30 drops several times daily.

ELEUTHERO  Eleutherococcus senticosus

Also known as Siberian ginseng. Restores and enhances vital energy, builds stamina and endurance, aids mental and physical performance. Highly regarded adaptogen, modulates immunity, relieves stress. Avoid use with digoxin. Like its cousin American ginseng, excellent for rebuilding stage. One or the other, you won’t likely need both. Dosages – Tincture of the roots – 60-100 drops 1-4 times daily. Drink an infusion up to three cups daily. Syrup 1 tablespoon 3-4 times daily. WARNING! May cause overstimulation and if so, discontinue use. Enhances efficacy of mycin-class antibiotics.

FENUGREEK Trigonella foenum-graecum

Fenugreek seeds make a nourishing, mineral-rich tonic. One of humankind’s oldest medicines, held in high repute by the ancient Egyptians and Hippocrates, fenugreek is a rejuvenator for the entire body.  These seeds will serve well during the recovery stage of COVID 19. It will also help to soothe and lubricate as needed during the active phase of illness. Fenugreek seed’s high mucilage content (about 28 percent of their weight) has a soothing effect on all mucous membranes. Strengthening to the stomach, fenugreek seed tea or infusion is tonic to the entire digestive tract and especially soothing to the intestines. It is calming and restorative to the nervous system. Fenugreek seeds are widely used for their expectorant properties and are especially healing to the respiratory system. Those dealing with respiratory distress may drink it freely. In Southern Italia this plant is known as fieno Greco and is used as a convalescent tonic. The seeds contain mucilage and are used as expectorants and emollients. Fenugreek seeds are bursting with nutrients including protein, essential fatty acids, flavonoids and phytosterols. They also contain steroidal saponins, alkaloids, vitamins A, B and C, and a wealth of minerals such as iron, selenium, phosphorus and potassium. A cup of fenugreek seed tea, steeped for ten minutes, as needed.

GARLIC Allium sativum

We spoke of using garlic preventively. It will also be a strong ally if we become sick. Garlic is one of the most extensively studied medicinal plants, and it enjoys a long history of use that goes back for thousands of years. Sulfur compounds in raw garlic are antiviral. Scientists at China’s Shandong Academy of Medical Science report that allicin, another one of garlic’s constituents, is an antioxidant with tremendous free radical scavenging potential. When your immune system moves into high gear and debris floods your system, this action is going to help clear up the mess. A proven anti-infective, garlic raises the body’s white blood cell count, thereby boosting the immune system. One of our favorite remedies is garlic cloves coarsely chopped or sliced very thin and covered with honey. We use this garlic honey against any kind of infection, from sore throats to food poisoning. First Nations use a wild variety, A. vineale, as a condiment. Cherokee consider garlic stimulating, using it to relieve lung disorders and spasmodic coughs and also as a digestive system tonic. The well known hypotensive effect of garlic is made use of by swallowing crushed cloves wrapped in bread crumbs or chased with water, or simply by consuming large generous amounts of garlic as part of the diet. Because the bulb strengthens the cardiac rhythm, causes vasodilation of the arteries and regulates the pulse, it is a well-regarded remedy among my Southern Italian neighbors for the treatment of hypertension and arteriosclerosis. Magical Lore Garlic is a powerful herb of protection. In Southern Italian folk medicine, garlic is believed to be the physical manifestation of the protector, San Michele Arcangelo. Here’s a simple prayer to invoke the protection of St. Michael: St. Michael above me, St. Michael below me. St. Michael to the left of me, St. Michael to the right of me. St. Michael in front of me, St. Michael behind me. St. Michael all around me. Thank you St. Michael for protecting me. Amen

GINGER Zingiber officinale

Ginger root is an aromatic, pungent, biting, spicy herb, used as a flavorful seasoning around the world with a history of medicinal use dating back more than two thousand years. This is another one you need to have in the house in case you get sick. We discussed it for preventive uses in Part 1. Warming, carminative and tonic to the entire digestive system, ginger helps ease gastric woes, stimulates digestive juices and tones the digestive system. Antispasmodic ginger quells nausea. Ginger is a circulatory tonic, which energizes the heart. It gets blood moving and brings warmth to a cold body. If you get chills, this is a good herb to be drinking as a hot tea with a little bit of honey in it. Ginger also possesses expectorant properties and is a valuable ally for those with bronchial congestion. We make a potent ginger syrup by peeling and pounding fresh ginger root, squeezing the juice from the pulp and mixing this with honey. A tablespoon added to any tea or medicinal infusion enhances it benefits and energizes the rest of the formula. In China, fresh ginger root, called sheng jiang, is used to promote sweating, (dispersant energy, helps move fluid from lungs to skin), and as an expectorant valued for relieving colds and flu. Studies in Japan show that ginger contains a powerful anti-inflammatory compound called gingerol. Gingerol inhibits formation of inflammation generating interleukin-1, so eases aches, pains and swellings. Flower Essence Ginger flower essence helps to clear out stagnant energy and move us forward free of situations that drag us down. Magical Lore Add a bit of dried ginger to your magic bag to inspire clear action and to boost the energy of prayers and spells.

AMERICAN GINSENG  Panax quinquefolius

Relieves exhaustion, rebuilds vitality. Long-revered adaptogen with immune-enhancing, immune-modulating and rejuvenating properties. One of my most trusted herbal allies and favorite plants to grow and be with. Excellent choice for the restorative, strength rebuilding, recovery stage of the illness. Dosages – Tincture of roots – 30-60 drops daily, half cup of infusion 1-3 times daily. Syrup 1 tablespoon 1-3 times daily. WARNING! Avoid large doses if taking warfarin.

HOREHOUND Marrubium vulgare

Horehound is antispasmodic, demulcent and expectorant. It is very effective in loosening and increasing healthy flow of phlegm. It is an excellent tonic for the entire respiratory system, and our ancestors have long called upon it to treat chronic coughs, asthma and bronchial congestion. A syrup made from fresh or dried horehound leaves is especially helpful. This same syrup has a tonic effect on the stomach, helping ease digestive woes. Hildegard von Bingen recommended a tonic combination of horehound, mullein, dill and fennel to treat coughs and respiratory distress in general. She advised horehound cream soup, eaten several times daily, to heal infections of the tonsils, throat and sinuses. First Nations are also familiar with horehound as a special ally for those with lung conditions. Navajo use horehound to combat bronchial infection, Cherokee use it to treat all pulmonary complaints, coughs and hoarseness. Paiute employ horehound as a counterirritant, striking aching limbs with bunches of leaves and stems to bring warmth and blood circulation to the area. Marrubium vulgare is known to my Southern Italia neighbors as maruggē and mentastro. Much like common mallow, white horehound is an extremely important species in the folk pharmacopoeia of Southern Italia. It is considered a panacea and is associated with the following saying, “A maruggē, ognē malē struggē” (the white horehound destroys every disease). Horehound decoctions are used as an expectorant, hepatoprotective agent and cure-all. Sounds good, right? You can tincture fresh horehound, but horehound candy is the traditional way of ingesting this herb and it is fairly easy to make. Horehound’s constituents include a bitter principle (marrubium), resin, traces of essential oil, tannin, wax, fat and sugar. Horehound Candy Prepare a standard infusion of dried horehound leaves. Put a cup of the infusion into a pot with one cup of honey, one cup of brown sugar and one tablespoon of butter. Cook, stirring constantly, until a few drops form a soft ball when dropped into cold water. Pour onto a flat pan, score while it is warm and cut after it has cooled. Store these candies in a glass jar. Use liberally. Hildegard’s Horehound Throat Remedy To one cup of horehound infusion, add two cups of white wine and one cup of cream. Hildegard said “drink often and thy throat will be healed.”

HORSETAIL Equisetum arvense

Horsetail is astringent, but has properties that increase fluid flows, making it an excellent tonic for the kidneys, bladder and urinary tract. You might consider drinking a cup or two of horsetail infusion daily or adding it to a sitz bath to tone and strengthen the bladder and to support your kidneys and bladder when draining off excess fluids and waste. Potawatomi and Cherokee drink an infusion to treat kidney and bladder weakness. Flower Essence Horsetail organizes the energy of all systems of the body and helps with focus through allowing clear communication between body, mind and spirit. (This could be helpful to prevent the immune system going haywire and the resulting cytokine storm from going out of control.) Magical Lore Horsetail helps to strengthen and define boundaries. Keep a sprig in your pocket to protect your yourself against unwanted intrusions.

HYSSOP – Hyssopus officinalis

Wild hearted grandmothers have long used hyssop as a nourishing medicinal tea for those dealing with any type of pulmonary distress, lung or sinus congestion. It contains several warming, stimulating, camphor-like constituents that help loosen phlegm, and an expectorant, marrubium. A syrup made from flowering tops of hyssop is especially soothing and healing to sore throats. First Nations drink an infusion made from hyssop leaves and flowers to relieve asthma. Cherokee employ hyssop to treat those with coughs and colds, to bring down fever. Hyssop is a blood nourisher. It strengthens the immune system and has very strong antiviral properties. Hyssop is an evergreen, so if you have it growing in your garden, you can go out anytime to harvest leaves and sprigs. Eating hyssop is a great way to integrate its nourishing and medicinal qualities. We chop a few sprigs of hyssop into salads and use it as a spice, fresh or dried, in soups and other dishes all through the year. Hildegard von Bingen calls hyssop a “happy making spice” and advises “if one eats hyssop often, one cleans the sick-makers and stinkiness out of the foamy juices.”  She recommended cooking hyssop with chicken and drinking it as tea. Dosage A standard dose is 2-4 cups of dried hyssop infusion daily, or 20 drops of fresh plant tincture two to four times daily. Magical Lore Hyssop’s deep spiritual resonance offers nourishment and protection. Hang a bunch in our home for the beneficial effect and the pleasant aroma! It’s an excellent fumigation herb.

 JAPANESE KNOTWEED Polygonum cuspidatum – Fallopia japonica

The antioxidant actions and flavanoid content of Japanese knotweed roots are found to be higher than onion, carrot, broccoli and ginger. Japanese knotweed contains high concentrations of resveratrol and studies show it to have considerable antiviral activity. It is an especially effective ally to call on when dealing with viruses such as H1N1, various flu viruses, herpes simplex and HIV, among others. It may be useful against Covid 19 as well, though this certainly has not been proven. Its action is two-fold; it limits replication of the virus and also eases inflammation in affected tissues and systems. Its broad range of actions travel throughout the body to reduce inflammation, protect healthy tissues, increase microcirculation, promote antiviral and antibiotic actions throughout the body systems, enhance healthy immune function, reduce autoimmune reactions and enhance the performance of other herbs and medicines. In Traditional Chinese Medicine the roots are used to reduce heat in the body and to invigorate and clear the blood. COVID 19 is energetically described, at least in some stages, as a hot, dry condition. During the hot phase, Japanese knotweed is a good remedy. Other phases of COVID 19 are being described as cold and damp, turbid – at this stage Japanese knotweed might best be discontinued or will need to be warmed up. A typical medicinal dose is 20-30 drops of tincture added to a bit of water. The roots increase blood flow to places of the body which are typically difficult to reach, such as the eyes, heart, brain, spine and joints. It works synergistically with other herbs when taken in combination, bringing them into these areas as well.

LAVENDER Lavendula officinalis

Lavender is a luxurious moisturizer and superb as an after-bath oil to keep skin healthy. We want to keep our skin well moisturized and supple at this time. The epithelial tissue throughout the body is a protective sheath that plays an important role in filtration, absorption, excretion, and sensation. Healthy, supple skin tissue is an important avenue for releasing excess moisture if/when fluids fill the lungs. We need to have several routes for this moisture to be drained away. The skin is one route, through perspiration. For dealing with the aches and pains that are commonly reported during this illness, lavender oil feels exquisite rubbed into sore muscles. It has antispasmodic abilities, relieves soreness and cramping and is deeply relaxing to muscles. Our grandmothers would tell us to sip a cup of lavender infusion to help relieve both pain and ease tension. Tone down the tension with a nice cup of lavender tea in the late afternoon. To relieve a headache, also commonly reported with this illness, one might soak a cloth in lavender infusion, apply to the head where it hurts, and breathe in the healing aromas as you rest with my eyes closed. Our European grandmothers drank the tea to relieve colds and flu, as a digestive aid and as a nervine, among other uses. Lavender is an excellent nervine. I’ve heard from several who have had this illness, or guided another through it, that emotional distress is a feature. You may feel irritated, roiled, riled, pissed, miffed, nettled, annoyed, peeved or steamed…all indications for collaborating with lavender. Try a bit of lavender tincture in some water to calm your impatience and help you find your center again. Or soak in a lavender and salt bath, heavenly. Lavender has an ancient history as a plant that brings courage and strength. Lavender offers a stabilizing, revitalizing and empowering influence. During this unsettling time we are would all do well to immerse ourselves in the gray-green waves of relaxing, uplifting, healing lavender. Flower Essence is an aid in returning to a sense of wholeness and would be most useful in the recovery and restoration phase. Lavender’s aroma links us to our ancient past, to our ancestors, the elements, to the strong, stable core of the mother, to the very soul of nature. I encourage you to open your wild heart to the spirit of lavender. Discover an ally that can help you develop a strong, generous, compassionate spirit, nerves of steel and a wise heart wealthy with healing ways.  It’s what is most needed now.

LEMON BALM Melissa officinalis

Lemon balm has an old reputation for giving the gift of long life to those who use it. Paracelsus believed lemon balm had so many benefits it was the one and only herb a person would ever need. If all you have on your herb shelf is lemon balm, relax, you should be good to go. Lemon balm’s history of use as an effective natural tranquilizer and antidepressant can be traced back to the ancients, who said it would lift the spirits. I put lemon balm in the bath, alone or mixed with other relaxing herbs, such as lavender, roses and milky oats. I find that drinking a cup of dried lemon balm infusion alone, or combined with milky oats and roses, half an hour before retiring, helps insure a deep, restful sleep. Lemon balm’s soothing and calming qualities extend to the digestive system, where it relaxes smooth muscle tissue, quieting stomach spasms and easing intestinal cramping. Among lemon balm’s constituents are eugenol, an anesthetic and pain-relieving substance, and polyphenols that help fight several types of bacterial infections; lemon balm ks well known to possess antiviral activity as well. Lemon balm lowers an overheated body temperature – it cools you off and helps bring down fever. 10-20 drops of lemon balm tincture is the usual dose.

LICORICE Glycyrrhiza glabra G. uralensis

The Greek botanist Theophrastus wrote back in the third century BC that licorice roots were being used specifically for those with dry coughs and respiratory illness. Dioscorides used it for those who suffered stomach distress, and also to heal the throat, liver and kidneys. Throughout Europe licorice is used to treat dry cough, dry mouth, wheezing and lung problems, to counter infection, and as a gargle for sore throat. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, G. uralensis is used, and referred to as the “peacekeeper” and the “grandfather of herbs.” Gan cao is an important tonic known as the “great detoxifier” – used to drive poisons from the system. The Chinese class it among their Superior herbs, which is very similar to the definition of adaptogens today. It is very commonly added in small amounts to Chinese herbal formulas and is considered exceptionally useful to stop diarrhea, relieve fatigue, stimulate the appetite and soothe gastric irritation. My Sud Italian neighbors typically use licorice, G. glabra, which is native to Sud Italia, as a digestive aid, or aperitivo. Licorice is considered a nootropic agent, which is a substance that acts on the mind, improving cerebral circulation and enhancing memory, mental function and mood. It is said to help harmonize the body/mind/spirit connection. Licorice offers antiviral properties, is an effective antihistamine and acts as an anti-inflammatory with its rich stores of steroidal precursors. The roots also offer an abundance of antioxidants, are demulcent, expectorant. Licorice is a supreme liver tonic. It heals liver damage and is hepatoprotective. It is an excellent herbal choice for countering the stress of these days and repairing the damage stress causes in the body. Licorice is a proven immunomodulator, so regulates immunity, boosting it if it is in need of it and toning it down when it is over-reacting. Licorice is an excellent remedy for any inflammation or irritation of the gastrointestinal tract and a very good digestive tonic, exceedingly soothing to the entire digestive system. Flower Essence Licorice flower essence is indicated when experiencing fatigue/stress and when longing for the sweetness of life. It supports joy. WARNING! Licorice roots have been safely used for thousands of years. However, there are some cautions. It is best avoided by those with hypertension. Moderation and use as directed is advised. If you deal with hypertension, consider using marshmallow instead. Pregnant women subject to edema should also avoid it. Licorice is rarely used alone as a simple and is best in combination with other herbs in a formula. In Chinese Medicine licorice makes up no more than 10% of any recipe. I follow that guideline myself when formulating with this herb.

MARSHMALLOW Althea officinalis, A. sylvestris

Soothing, cooling, moistening and mucilaginous, marshmallow roots, leaves and flowers have long been used to ease sore, irritated throat and mouth, soothe mucous membranes, cool heartburn and calm digestive woes. Ever touch a leaf? They are soft as velvet! All parts reliably help quiet intestinal distress, ease inflammatory bowel conditions, help heal leaky gut and gastric, duodenal ulcers, soothe any and all inflamed tissue, calm diarrhea and help heal urinary distress. Marshmallows are soothing and healing, demulcent and emollient. The roots contain 25-35% mucilage, polysaccharides and starches, as well as tannins, pectins, asparagine, quercetin and kaempferol, and phenolic acids such as salicylic acid. The leaves contain mucilage, flavonoids, and essential oil. Using a cold water infusion, instead of hot, is the best way to extract and make use of all that soothing, cooling mucilage. A. sylvestris is known simply as malva in Southern Italia. The mallows are one of the most important medicinal species in our folk pharmacopoeia. Its use as a panacea is made clear by a local saying, “La malva, da ogni mal’ ti salva.” (“The common mallow saves you from every disease.”) The aerial parts of the mallows, prepared as an infusion or decoction, are often used for their restorative properties to treat cold, flu and digestive/intestinal distress. It’s an emollient, so soothes sore throats and eases coughs and hoarseness. Honoring our Dead. Marshmallow has long been considered a funerary herb, used to bless and decorate graves. Sometimes referred to as mortification root, marshmallow’s use as a funerary herb actually extends back at least 65,000 years. Neanderthals used mallow flowers along with yarrow, cornflowers and grape hyacinths to cover their dead.

MILK THISTLE Silybum marianum

Milk thistle has been in constant use as a liver protector and rejuvenator for thousands of years. It is native to the Mediterranean and grows wild throughout Europe, North America and Australia. I use milk thistle interchangeably with blessed thistle. Both herbs have much the same action, although milk thistle is considered a more potent liver tonic. It is a superlative ally for protecting the liver. The seeds possess the unique ability to inhibit factors responsible for liver damage, while nourishing the production of new liver cells (every cell in the liver is replaced in a six-week cycle). Some of milk thistle’s liver-protecting effects are a function of silybin, an antioxidant and free radical scavenger more powerful than vitamins C and A. Silybin alters the liver cell membrane structure, blocking the absorption of damaging substances. Cardo di Santa Maria root, as we refer to it in Sud Italia, has diuretic properties as well. The seeds are dried and steeped in boiling water to support liver function. 30 drops of tincture taken twice daily will offer your liver the extra support it needs. I mix seeds in equal parts with assorted black peppercorns, place it all in a hand grinder, and use this “good for your liver mix” any time I want to add pepper to a dish, which is every day. It’s excellent ground over everything, from salads to stews!

MIMOSA Albizia julibrissin

In Traditional Chinese Medicine albizia is known as he huan pi and is commonly referred to as the happiness tree or collective happiness flower. Its bark and flowers have been safely used for thousands of years to elevate the mood and lighten the spirit. Classified as an herb that calms disturbed Shen, mimosa is an excellent choice for treating anxiety, melancholy, sadness, depression, confusion, irritability, insomnia, and disturbing dreams. Mimosa bark/flowers are often recommended for those who are suffering from grief as a result of severe loss. 20-30 drops is a typical dose of tincture.

MULLEIN Verbascum Thapsus, V. olympicum

Mullein leaves are demulcent, emollient and astringent. They are an excellent tonic and trophorestorative for the entire respiratory system. A daily cup of dried mullein leaf infusion is a great way to soothe chronic bronchial problems. Two cups daily effectively clears lung congestion, relieves throat inflammation and irritation, and helps to control coughing. A poultice made from plant material strained from the infusion helps soothe a sore throat and congested chest. Mullein blends well with other lung nourishing herbs such as coltsfoot, hyssop, thyme and peppermint. Long used as a smoking herb, mullein is inhaled to heal lung tissue, open up air passageways and stop asthma attacks. The Hopi, Malecite, Mohican, Navajo and Potawatomi treat asthma this way. Ojibwa use the inner bark of mullein roots to stimulate the heart. Mullein leaves are widely used by First Nations people to treat lung disorders and are commonly applied as a warm poultice to sprains, painful joints and inflammations and swollen glands. First Nations of the Western Plains use mullein as an antispasmodic and a pain reliever. Anti-inflammatory, pain easing and discomfort relieving, mullein leaf will enhance the pliability of your back and spine. My Southern Italia neighbors refer to mullein as verbasco. We appreciate its ability to resolve mucus/phlegm and relieve inflammation of the mucus membranes. Verbasco’s antiinflammatory action in the respiratory tract makes this plant popular among smokers who add the ground leaves to smoking blends. Use super sparingly. Mullein root enhances bladder function. 20 drops of tincture 2 cups of infusions daily is the typical dose. Flower Essence – Use mullein flower essence when you need to acknowledge and access inner guidance. Magical Lore – Mullein is an herb of protection. Old wives suggest we carry a mullein leaf as a talisman of safety.

Make a Cleansing Ritual Sprinkler – Collect some water into a bowl reverently. Add a sprinkle of salt and mix it well. With deep respect and prayers, gather a bouquet of fresh flowering herbs, including some mullein leaves. Dip the tips of your bundle of herbs into the water made holy by your reverence. Spray and sprinkle droplets into all corners of your home and around windows and doors to bless, protect and create sacred, healing space. Use this ritual sprinkler to spray holy water on yourself or anyone in your care who is ill, to bless and cleanse and enhance the journey to recovery and wellness. (At this time of year you can use evergreen branches.) Say some healing affirmations…make them up on the spot…let spirit speak through you.

 NETTLE Urtica dioica

Nettles are a super food, a super green ally. A strengthening, blood building tonic, nettles are a rich source of nutrients. The leaves contain abundant chlorophyll, calcium, chromium, magnesium, zinc and generous stores of iron, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin, selenium, silicon, thiamine and vitamins A, C and K. Nettles are salty, cool and dry. Nettles are highly regarded the world over as a supreme kidney tonic; they offer unexcelled support for kidney function and relief from kidney distress. Your kidneys are going to require support if you become ill with this virus, and nettles are a top choice. Nettles are also quite famous for their ability to restore adrenal functioning. Ortica comune, as we refer to this plant in Southern Italia, enjoys a long history of use in our folk medicine pharmacopeia. The lightly bruised leaves are applied directly to hot, painful joints. A boiled nettle poultice is applied to relieve the chest pain of those suffering from pleurisy, a condition in which the pleura – a membrane consisting of a layer of tissue that lines the inner side of the chest cavity and a layer of tissue that surrounds the lungs – becomes inflamed. Pleurisy causes sharp chest pain that worsens with breathing. It’s one of the symptoms of COVID 19 infection. In the village next to ours in Sud Italia, there are a number of people who are ill with COVID 19. According to my friend, Roberto who is there right now, one of the herbs they are using to treat people is nettles. The patients are consuming it in strong infusions, broths and soups. The steamed greens, or the strained-out plant material from the infusions, is employed as a poultice over the lungs. Nettles grow wildly all throughout our area and so the plant is readily available and easily obtained. It may be abundant around you, or maybe you know someone with a bunch of it growing. Harvest and dry or even freeze some, it will come in handy if you get sick and will also help you rebuild your strength and vitality during the recovery stage of this illness. You might have to combine it with something moistening, like marshmallow, if you tend to be dry. Herbalists recommend drinking 2-4 cups daily as a medicinal dose or putting 20-30 drops of tincture in warm/hot water and sip 2-4 times daily. Flower Essence Nettles flower essence helps for releasing pain and grief related to partings and endings and to connect with the source of our irritations, so we can release negativity in a non-aggressive way. Magical Lore Nettle is an ancient herb of protection. Carry some dried nettles in a bag to keep negative energies away or burn it as incense. Add salt to a nettle infusion and use as a cleansing/clearing spiritual bath. Consider reciting this ancient Sud Italian prayer I translated into English for you: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Go pestilence, go! Go far away from me. In the name of Great Mother, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and all the Saints and Holy People. Amen

 OATS Avena sativa

Oats are highly nourishing, revitalizing and restorative. They are exactly what most of us need right now to allay stress, anxiety, tension and depression. Milky oats/oatstraw is an energizer, and it does this cumulatively, building energy slowly and consistently by deeply nourishing the entire body. It alleviates both physical and nervous fatigue. Taken before bed, milky oats infusion supports deep refreshing sleep. Offering the most magnesium of almost any other plant, oats also contain abundant chromium, sodium, silicon, calcium, iron, niacin, phosphorus, riboflavin and selenium. Oats are a source of vitamin B complex, including folic acid, plus vitamins E, K, A and C, potassium and protein. Oats nourish and tone the entire nervous system. All those B vitamins, plus calcium and magnesium, mean that oats are a supreme tonic for stabilizing emotions, balancing mood swings and helping to ease depression. Known as Avena comune or biada, in Southern Italia, oats are ground into flour, warmed and moistened with hot water and used as a poultice to ease backache. You may experience lower back pain if the kidneys are struggling under their load, this remedy may help. A similar effect is obtained by applying warm toasted oat seeds, put into a small cloth bag, over the affected parts. Methods of use include daily consumption of 2-4 cups of milky oats or oatstraw, 20-30 drops of tincture once or twice daily, infusion as a wash, or application of the warmed, moistened herb as a poultice. Flower Essence Oat flower essence brings a feeling of stability during times of uncertainty.

OLIVE Oleo Europea

Olives are one of the oldest fruits known and a staple food of the Mediterranean diet. Olive has long been used as a folk remedy for the cure of numerous infectious disorders of bacterial, fungal, and viral origin.  “Olea” is the Latin word for “oil” and describes the natural juice that is pressed from the fruit and preserves the taste, aroma, vitamins and other nourishing properties of the olive. Olive has long been a symbol of endurance. Hippocrates, often referred to as the father of medicine, called olives and their oil “the great therapeutic.” Muhammad tells us to use olive oil and anoint yourself with it, because it is “from a blessed tree.”  Ancient Greek legends tell of the creation of the olive tree by the goddess Athena, who also taught the people its many healing uses. The midrash teaches that the olive branch carried back to Noah’s ark after the flood, marked the “renewal of life.” Olives have a long association with the sacred. The olive tree has provided the sacred oil used to anoint sacred objects, places and people, and for ceremony and blessings, throughout millennia. The New Testament tells us of many who were sick and anointed with oil and made well again.  Olives are not only an excellent source of monounsaturated fats, but also offer an abundance of vitamin E, and so protect our cells from free radicals, lowering the risk of both cellular damage and inflammation. Beneficial phytonutrients such as polyphenols and flavonoids, appear to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. All traditionally lacto-fermented foods including olives, pickles, cheese, wine, mead, yogurt, sauerkraut and sausages, offer wonderful benefits for the digestive system. In fact, these naturally fermented traditional foods and beverages are now considered to be “probiotics,” promoting the growth of friendly intestinal bacteria, aiding digestion and supporting immune function. Furthermore, the nutrients available in these foods, such as B vitamins (including vitamin B12), omega-3 fatty acids, digestive enzymes, lactase and lactic acid, and other nutrients, are actually increased by fermentation. Skin Care The antioxidant vitamins E and A are necessary for healthy skin and both are present in olive oil. Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant with skin protective and moisturizing properties, also offers anti-inflammatory properties. Vitamin A is another potent antioxidant with skin regenerative properties. It helps the skin stay soft, supple, smooth and firm and increases elasticity. We spoke of the need to keep our skin healthy, well moisturized and able to release moisture as perspiration through surface pores. My beautiful Italian mother told me long ago that to improve skin tone make sure to have two or three tablespoons of olive oil in the daily diet. And ancient legends say that “olive oil makes all your aches and pains go away.” When making herbal infused oils to apply to the skin, I prefer to use pure olive oil. It has been the extractor and fixative of choice for herbalists down through the ages.  Olive Leaf – Olive leaf contains polyphenols that have antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and may reduce upper respiratory infection rates. I recommended it to you for preventive care in Part 1.  Many scientific studies have shown olive leaves to possess the following actions: antidiabetic, anticonvulsant, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, analgesic, antimicrobial, antiviral, antihypertensive, anticancer, antihyperglycemic, antinociceptive, gastroprotective, and wound healing. Decoctions of dried leaves and fruit are used orally to treat diarrhea, respiratory infections, stomach and intestinal distress, and as a mouth cleanser. In Greece hot water extract of olive leaves is taken orally to treat high blood pressure. In Italy, infusion of fresh leaves is taken as an anti-inflammatory. Tincture is employed as a febrifuge and applied externally as a restorer of epithelium. Right now, in that small hospital in the village next to mine I just mentioned, they are also giving patients olive leaf infusions and tincture. In Japan olive leaves are taken orally for stomach and intestinal diseases and the oil is used orally for constipation and liver pain. Extra virgin olive oil has shown remarkable anti-inflammatory activity, due at least in part to the presence of oleocanthal, which has a strikingly similar profile to ibuprofen, a synthetic anti-inflammatory drug. Numerous pharmacological studies carried out on the fresh plant materials, crude extracts, and isolated components of O. europaea provide support for its various traditional uses. A typical dose is 2-4 cups of infusion daily, 20-30 drops of tincture in water once or twice daily. Olive is an ancient ancestral remedy. Olive is a strong antimicrobial, has potent antiviral action and if you want to get an idea of its properties and gifts, just look at the tree! It is exceptionally long lived, diseases rarely bother it, it is a sacred tree, a medicine tree, a tree with multiple gifts we can benefit from right now.

PEPPERMINT Mentha piperita, M. spicata

Antispasmodic, carminative and digestive, peppermint stimulates the flow of bile, is analgesic, quells nausea and promotes sweating while cooling the body internally. Peppermint helps fight infection. Menthol, one of mint’s volatile oils, is germicidal and decongesting, relieving nose, sinus and chest infections. All mints are mineral-rich. Peppermint offers very high amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, riboflavin, thiamine and vitamin A, and abundant calcium, iron, niacin, potassium, protein, sodium, selenium and vitamin C. In addition to volatile oils like menthol, cineol and azulene, peppermint contains resins, tannin, tocopherols, choline, flavonoids and a bitter principle. Peppermint soothes the stomach, relieves indigestion, acts as an antacid and helps expel gas. Slowly sipping a cup of peppermint infusion helps settle a stomach overcome by nausea and spasms. The Chinese use Mentha arvensis, called bo he, as a cooling remedy for colds, fevers, sore throat and headache. They also consider it a liver herb, using it to move stagnant energy. Ayurvedic physicians have used peppermint for centuries as a digestive tonic and a treatment for colds, coughs, and fever.  First Nations also use peppermint to treat colds, coughs and chest congestion. Menominee use peppermint against pneumonia, Cree use it to soothe sore throats, Cherokee and Montagnais to relieve headache. It’s a reliable, stimulating, decongesting ally. Added to the bathtub or a foot bath, peppermint is analgesic and energizing. Magical Lore Mints offer protection when planted nearby or hung inside. Keep some in a special pouch to enhance intuitive skills. Use peppermint in a ritual water sprinkler to bless, cleanse and heal. Good in any steam, as most mints will be. The mint’s strong aromatic principles help clear the lungs and move phlegm.

Herbal Steam Pour boiling water over dried peppermint (or any other decongesting herbs) in a pot placed on a stable surface, like a table or floor. Or, put 3-5 drops of peppermint essential oil into the boiled water – either or, not both. Then put a towel over your head and around the pot, so that you are breathing in the vapors to clear nasal passages, sinus or bronchial congestion. You know what’s also good in steams? All the evergreens, pine, spruce, fir, cedar and black birch, alder or cottonwood buds. Eucalyptus.

PLANTAIN Plantago major, P. lanceolate, P. rugelii

Plantain has a long history of use as a kidney tonic. I make an infusion of the dried leaves and drink one cup, or take 20 drops of fresh leaf tincture, three times a day. Plantain is a relaxing antispasmodic tonic to the mucous membranes. For centuries, plantain leaves have been used to help those with coughs and bronchial problems. It is a soothing demulcent expectorant, which heals inflamed surfaces and brings up phlegm. Astringent properties give plantain a long-standing reputation as an effective remedy for relieving diarrhea. My Sud Italian neighbors traditionally employ an infusion of dry leaves to counters respiratory distress. The leaves, and especially the mucilaginous seeds, are eaten to stimulate intestinal peristalsis. Magical Lore I was taught to write the name of an ill person on a piece of paper three times, roll it up and wrap the paper in a plantain leaf (tied with red string) then lay that leaf on the heart of the patient while offering prayers on their behalf.

POPPY Papaver rhoeas

Poppies are known as papavero and widely used in our Southern Italia folk pharmacopeia. The red petals are mucilaginous, bitter and expectorant and are commonly prepared as a syrup used to alleviate cough and hoarseness and soothe a sore throat. Papavero is regarded as pain relieving, sedative, and calming. The seeds you have in your spice cabinet can also be used to calm and relieve pain. 1 teaspoon of poppy seeds to a cup of water, steeped for ten minutes.

 RED CLOVER Trifolium pratense

Red clover, called such honored names as “God’s gift” and “prized-herb” has been cultivated since prehistoric times. It was revered by the Greeks and Romans and was sacred to the Celts. Chinese healers use red clover as an expectorant. Russian folk healers use it to relieve asthma, Algonquins used red clover blossoms as a remedy for cough. A powerful alterative, red clover helps alkalinize the blood and has antispasmodic, diuretic and anti-inflammatory effects. Red clover is nourishing and vitamin and mineral rich, containing vitamin B complex, vitamin C, calcium, chromium, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium and protein. Among its 300 constituents are phenolic glycosides, flavonoids, saponins, calculates, coumarone and cyanogenic glycosides. This chemistry makes it blood thinning as well as heart and brain protective. When dealing with coughs, colds and bronchial congestion we drink red clover infusion liberally. Sometimes we poultice our chests with the strained-out plant material to help ease discomfort. Red clover blossom infusion can be enjoyed daily as a vitamin and mineral rich beverage with virtually no risk of side effects. Flower Essence Red clover tincture or flower essence offers psychic first aid and calm in the midst of hysteria and during natural disasters and emergencies.

RHODIOLA Rhodiola rosea

Rhodiola is a hardy indigenous North American herb highly regarded for its ability to alleviate fatigue and protect against oxidative stress. It protects against cellular damage and is one of the herbs Stephen Buhner is suggesting as a preventive as well as a treatment for COVID 19. Also known as golden root or rose root, rhodiola is an adaptogen, possesses anti-inflammatory properties, aids the musculoskeletal system, helps alleviate pain, is antidepressant, improves brain function, benefits the lungs and respiratory system, is cardioprotective, normalizes blood sugar levels and enhances/modulates immunity. It also relieves jet-lag and symptoms of high altitude sickness. The roots have a rose-like fragrance when cut, hence the name rosea. Modern research indicates that rhodiola is stimulating in small and medium doses and sedating in larger doses. The tops of the plants are traditionally eaten by First Nations people of the Americas to boost strength, stamina and endurance. I like to nibble the tasty tops while out working in the gardens. The Vikings employed the roots of this plant in similar ways. Dosages: 10-15 drops of tincture is a typical dose, up to three times daily,1 teaspoon of syrup or a cup of infusion up to three times daily, or as needed.

ROSE Rosa species, Rosa rugosa, R. canina

Roses uplift the spirits, ease anxiety and tension and have a marked anti-depressive effect. They are an unexcelled ally right now when many of us are feeling the strains of life under ”house arrest”. Extended families are split apart, work is uncertain, finances are insecure. Many of us are feeling the grief of the world, our hearts are heavy. Fear, dread, apprehension and pain of loss are great. Roses are specifically indicated for such times. They soothe the emotional heart. Chinese use flowers of the wild Rosa rugosa, called mei gui hua, as a chi nourisher, and as a blood and liver tonic. Ayurvedic healers use roses to counter inflammation. Roses are both cooling and astringent. The rose is esteemed for its soothing, nourishing and healing effects on all skin types. It’s an excellent addition to any skin lotion, butter, cream, skin moisturizer or massage oil.  With all the hand washing we’re doing, we need the soothing healing rose to soften and heal our dry skin. If we should need help moving moisture from the lungs, our well-nourished supple skin pores will help us do just that. In Southern Italia the dog rose, R. canina, is known as Rosa selvatica commune. An infusion of fresh or dried petals is highly valued as a remedy for conjunctivitis, used as an eye wash. The simmered hips release polyphenols with astringent and anti-inflammatory action, and this is a good remedy to ease intestinal distress. Roses have a nourishing effect on the heart and circulatory systems and are soothing to the nerves. A simple cup of tea or 20 drops of tincture is relaxing, stress relieving and helps ease exhaustion. Antiviral, antibacterial and antiseptic rose petals will also be an ally when fighting infection. I use an infusion of dried rose flowers as a gargle to relieve sore throat and drink it as a remedy for diarrhea. Honey infused with rose petals is incredibly delicious and soothing to sore throats. The gemmotherapy elixir of rose leaf buds is a major ear/nose/throat remedy, used to counter infections or inflammations. It’s a specific remedy to soothe sore throat and for strengthening the immune system. Rose hips are high in vitamin C, B complex, carotenes, vitamin E and selenium, offer abundant chromium, niacin, phosphorus, protein and sodium. The fruits also contain bioflavonoids, tannins, oils, resins, citric and malic acids, saponins, mucilage and pectin. In China, rose hips are known as jin ying zi. They are primarily used as a kidney chi tonic and prescribed for relieving urinary problems and diarrhea. Hildegard von Bingen recommended rose hips for just about everything! I throw a few rose hips into most of the teas I am making these days. Magical lore tells us that the rose represents all aspects of Great Mother and is a universal symbol of love. Rose activates the ability to love, nurture and appreciate the beauty in all things. Anoint your heart area with infused rose oil. It encourages awareness of the many manifestations of love and beauty. Even in the midst of a global pandemic there is still plenty of love and beauty all around us to appreciate. Rose will help you see it!

ROSEMARY Salvia rosmarinus

Referred to in old herbals as a cure-all, rosemary is a supreme cardiac tonic that energizes the circulatory system. To help bring down high blood pressure, my mother used a standard dose: one or two cups of rosemary infusion daily, or up to 20 drops of fresh rosemary tincture in water twice a day. Rosemary is also a nervine, antidepressant and restorative tonic for the entire nervous system. Europeans use rosemary infusion to help alleviate headaches and lift depression. Uplifting and energizing, rosemary is an excellent brain tonic. It’s an ally when dealing with fatigue, exhaustion, stress and nervous anxiety. It’s loaded with antioxidants. And rosemary is helpful fighting infections caused by bacteria and fungi – secondary bacterial infections alongside COVID 19 are being reported. The Chinese use rosemary with ginger to treat headache and digestive distress. My Southern Italia neighbors love Rosmarino, as we call it. It is a valued addition to many meals not only because we appreciate the flavor, but also because it aids digestion and stimulates the appetite. Rosemary is antispasmodic, carminative and promotes the flow of bile, all making it a great digestive tonic. Sipping warm infusion relieves stomach discomfort and gas. One especially common practice is to simmer rosemary branches in a pot of water, sometimes with other aromatic plants, and allowing the vapors, or steam, to relieve the aches and pains of both muscles and joints. A rosemary foot bath is also used for its nerve soothing and anti-stress effects. Rosemary’s analgesic action brings blood flow to an area which helps ease tense muscles and inflamed joints. Rosemary can also be added to the respiratory steam pot as an aid to decongesting. Fresh rosemary tinctured in rubbing alcohol is a stimulating liniment known as Queen of Hungary water. Rubbed in vigorously, rosemary liniment is can be helpful to counter aches and pains in the limbs. Rosemary baths, compresses, and poultices are similarly therapeutic. You probably have some right now on your spice shelf.  Magical Lore Rosemary is an herb of protection. Burned or carried, sprigs of rosemary enhance the sacredness of any occasion. Mixing it with juniper (Juniperus communis) is especially clearing. In parts of Wales, rosemary is carried during a funeral, and placed onto the casket before burial as a blessing for the departed. A sprig is often used as a sprinkler for holy water, to cleanse and bless, or burned as incense to clear the air.

RUE Ruta graveolens

Called Herb-of-Grace, rue’s strong reputation for effectiveness against disease is legendary. The ancients believed it resisted all poisons. During the Middle Ages, rue was carried as protection against the Plague. In Southern Italia, tiny bits of a’ruta are eaten in salads or crushed into dressings or sandwiches, as a prophylactic measure against disease and parasitic infestations, and also because of its action as a digestive bitter. Rue is appreciated as a potent antispasmodic and for its strong analgesic properties. It is traditionally infused in olive oil by warming on the stove, sometimes along with the fruits of Capsicum, and applied topically as a relaxing massage oil for sore muscles, to relieve aches and pains, and to soothe and relieve spasms and neuralgia. Magical Lore We consider rue a powerful herb of protection and a sprig is traditionally carried in a small bag or worn around the neck for this purpose, often combined with a clove of garlic or a pinch of salt. A branch of rue has long been used to sprinkle holy water and as an integral element in sacred ceremony. Rue is an herb of protection and a visionary herb with a powerful presence. Rue speaks the secrets of spirit, magic, prayer and mystery.

SALT soldium chloride

Salt is mildly warming, increases digestive fires, moistens the system and stimulates enzymatic action. The salty taste is associated with removing moisture and phlegm. The salty taste supports digestion, absorption, assimilation and elimination. It promotes growth, supports muscle strength, moistens the body and helps to maintain the water electrolyte balance. It can be energizing, nutritive, demulcent, grounding, and soothing to the nervous system. The salty taste enhances the spirit and helps to combat dullness and depression. It supports courage, creativity, confidence and enthusiasm. Salt is detoxifying. It’s got many thousands of years of history of being employed to cast out dark spirits, unhealthy energies, negativity, illness and disease. Salt is cleansing, purifying, it pulls out what is toxic – infection, tension, whatever it is. Soaking in a salt bath is incredibly therapeutic and deeply relaxing.  Sources include sea salt, rock salt, Epsom salt for bathing, kelp and other seaweeds, and celery. Herbs include nettles and chickweed.

SCHISANDRA Schisandra chinensis

One of the most versatile, essential and tasty herbal allies in our apothecary. Qi stimulating schisandra is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine and has a millennia-long history of safe use. The four areas that schisandra berries target specifically are the heart, kidneys, lungs and liver. In TCM, the preservation, protection and nourishment of the Three Treasures form the foundation of optimum health and spiritual wellbeing. Schisandra is one of the few herbs the Chinese believe nourishes all three treasures, Jing, Qi and Shen, which are thought to sustain the essential energies for human life. Because the berry contains all five flavors it is thought to balance and regulate all five elements; wood, fire, earth, metal, water as well as all twelve organ-meridian systems. Maintaining the integrity, balance and coordination of all body systems, including mind and spirit, while ill will be a challenge. Schisandra has a history of assisting with exactly that. The restorative berries boost overall vitality and endurance. In Chinese Medicine schisandra is said to calm the Shen – which corresponds to mind, spirit, consciousness, soul, energy, God – and which the Chinese believe resides in the heart. Shen can be observed through the quality of our thoughts and the function of our minds. Since anxiety, tension, fear and stress are hallmarks of this coronavirus epoch, our Shen will need to be addressed, whether or not we succumb to infection. The following offer anti-anxiety and/or antidepressant benefits and blend well with schisandra berry: chamomile, fresh milky oat tops, hawthorn, lavender, lemon balm, motherwort, passion flower, rose, rosemary, St. John’s wort and skullcap. Schisandra benefits the lungs and respiratory system, protects against oxidative damage and the lignan-rich berries are cardioprotective, offering specific benefits to the heart. Schisandra’s immunomodulating abilities are legendary. The berries nourish and protect the liver, increasing the efficiency of cellular waste removal. According to Pharmacology of Schisandra Chinensis, an overview of Russian research and uses in medicine by A. Panossian and G. Wikman, numerous clinical trials have demonstrated the efficiency of Schisandra in asthenia (loss of strength), neuralgic disorders including depression, hypotension and cardiotonic disorders, and during epidemic waves of influenza and pneumonia. It is an esteemed ally for acute gastrointestinal distress as well. Typical dosage is 30 drops of tincture up to 4 times daily, or a standard infusion, half a cup three times daily. Syrup – 1 tablespoon up to four times daily Magical lore tells us to keep dried schisandra berries close to ensure your boundaries are strong, your wild heart is connected to the earth, and you act from a balanced and well centered place. NOTE: May prevent liver damage caused by hepatotoxic medications such as acetaminophen and tetracycline. May increase the effectiveness of barbiturates. May decrease the effectiveness of Warfarin/blood thinners. WARNING! Although rare, schisandra berry may cause adverse reactions such as belching, acid reflux, gastric burning, nausea, vomiting or allergic reactions. Do not use during the acute stage of infection. Schisandra will serve well early on in the illness and again during recovery. Do not use during pregnancy or if trying to conceive.

SKULLCAP Scutellaria lateriflora, S. baicalensis

Skullcap is a lovely and magical herb and one of nature’s finest nervous system tonics. Calcium-rich skullcap is a nourishing ally to anyone dealing with stress, anxiety, nervous exhaustion and insomnia. A cup of infusion, or up to 10 drops of tincture, taken once or twice daily, restores strength and vitality to the nervous system. I’ve heard from countless folks lately that they are having a hard time getting a solid night’s sleep. I’ve seen skullcap help lots of folks eliminate sleeping problems including deeply entrenched insomnia. A nice warm cup of infusion, or 3-10 drops of tincture taken half an hour before going to bed, and then a few additional drops again at bedtime, helps promote deep, refreshing sleep. Chinese and other Asian people use skullcap as a tranquilizer/sedative. The root of a related species, S. baicalensis, is known as huang qin. It’s used to clear heat from the respiratory and digestive systems, and to treat high blood pressure stemming from an overheated condition. Baikal skullcap is one of the herbs suggested by Stephen Buhner in his COVID 19 protocol, posted below. Skullcap contains a volatile oil, resin, flavonoids including scutellarin, tannin, fat, sugar, mucilage, cellulose, potassium, zinc and vitamin C. Flower Essence Skullcap flower essence helps to integrate the spirit/soul with the physical body and acts as an ally to keep the spirit securely connected to the body during out-of-body journeying (or severe, traumatic medical treatments/interventions). Can be applied topically. Also indicated when shock or trauma has you feeling numb and unsettled.

JOHNS WORT Hypericum perforatum, H. hypericoides, H. pyramided, H. virginicum

German scientists have isolated hypericin, a powerful antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anti inflammatory and antidepressant substance in this plant. The pain-relieving abilities of St. John’s wort are unexcelled. I use the infused oil of fresh St. John’s wort frequently to ease muscular aches, sore shoulders, stiff necks, swollen joints, and the pain of sciatica, neuralgia, rheumatism or arthritis. This oil has the unique ability to penetrate into the nerve endings, relieving pain and inflammation, and easing nervous system irritation almost immediately. I apply the oil liberally, often warming it a bit to enhance relaxation. I complement this treatment with 20-30 drops of St. John’s wort tincture in water, taken as necessary to ease pain in muscles or hot, inflamed joints. St. John’s wort’s antispasmodic properties make it an ally to those with muscular spasms including backaches, leg cramps, and bronchial spasm. First Nations people use several species of Hypericum for medicine. H. pyramided is used by the Meskwaki to treat tuberculosis, and the Menominee consider the roots of this species a specific remedy for the early stages of consumption. Potawatomi drink an infusion of H. virginicumto bring down fevers and Montagnais relieve coughs by drinking infusion of H. perforatum. St. John’s wort is a restorative tonic that nourishes the entire nervous system. It strengthens, calms and relieves anxiety and depression. Does being cooped up at home have you feeling irritable, uptight, anxious, impatient or upset? Your local herbalist might suggest 20-30 drops of St. John’s wort fresh plant tincture in water, two or three times a day, or as needed, to ease such moods. Along with some meditation, deep breathing, yoga, listening to soothing music, or playing it, taking a quiet walk alone in nature (if possible or available), reading an uplifting book, talking to a good friend and getting plenty of rest. Among nearly 1,800 outpatients with moderate to moderately severe depression, the notably beneficial effects of St. John’s wort were significantly superior to a placebo and every bit as effective as a standard chemical antidepressant. However, there were far fewer side effects. The constituents of St. John’s wort which have generated the most interest are the aphthodianthrones (including hypericin and pseudohypericin), and a broad range of flavonoids (including quercetin, quercitrin, amentoflavone and hyperin), essential oils and xanthones. Other constituents include pectin, carotenoids, amino acids, sitosterol, tannins and vitamin C. St. John’s wort has long been associated with warriors. When the battles of coronavirus wear you down, enlist the aid of this plant spirit by taking a few drops of tincture in a little water. With its many unique and invaluable gifts, St. John’s wort is one of the most important medicinal herbs on the planet. It heals the body and soul inside and out, inhibiting the growth of potentially deadly viruses, bacteria and fungi. WARNING! Do not take St. John’s wort if you currently take a MAO inhibiting antidepressant drug. More than 800 drugs are known to interact with St. John’s wort, so check for possible interactions or seek the help of an experienced herbalist. WARNING! There have been reports of severe sunburn among those using dried St. John’s wort in capsules or as tea or infusion. Steep the dried herb for a maximum of five minutes. Magical Lore Add St. John’s wort to your magical pouch where it will radiate strength and empower your warrior spirit. An excellent anointing oil, especially for someone ill or dying, St. John’s wort comforts, protects and strengthens the spirit as it crosses the threshold. In Southern Italia this plant is referred to as erva il ascensione. It’s considered an auspicious plant with an ancient history of use in exorcisms. It is used singly or added to a bouquet that will be used for blessings, healing or clearings or for spraying cleansing holy water.

Exorcism Prayer: I command you, whoever you are, along with all your minions now attacking this precious human, by the mysteries of the incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, healer and prophet, by the Love of Great Mother and under the protection of all the Angels, Saints and Holy People, you must go now. Be gone. Go. Forever and ever. Amen

SOLOMON’S SEAL Polygonatum multiflorum, P. biflorum, P. pubescens, P. odorata

Solomon’s seal is a bitter/sweet, cooling, moistening, astringent and tonic herb native to Europe, Siberia and North America. Its common names, Our Ladys Seal, St. Marys Seal, Sigillum Sanctae Mariae and Our Lady’s Lockets all identify it as a sacred plant associated with the Divine Feminine and with Mother Mary in particular. In Southern areas of the US the roots are known as Saint John-the-Conqueror, are appreciated for their potent magical attributes and are much used in Voodoo. Solomon’s seal has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years. Its use was recorded in China in the 1st century A.D. Called yu zhu in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which translates as jade bamboo, it is classified as sweet and slightly cold. It nourishes lung and stomach yin, and moistens dryness. It is used to treat dry cough, dry throat, mouth or tongue, chronic respiratory disorders, irritability and thirst. It is said to bring moisture to the sinews and is used for pain and spasms generated by lack of moisture. The Chinese also use it to counter dizziness. Our indigenous Solomon’s seals, P. biflorum and P. pubescens, are considered interchangeable with the multiflorum and odoratumspecies. First Nations traditionally eat the nourishing starch-rich potato-like rhizomes of Solomon’s seal. They use it to make breads and soups and employ the roots to heal intestinal inflammation. Modern research has found that the vitamin A and alkaloids in the roots help nourish the skin. Solomon’s seal root soothes irritated or damaged tissues and counters inflammation. The rhizome and herb contain convallarin, one of the active constituents of lily-of-the-valley, and also asparagine, gum, sugar, starch and pectin. The soothing and mucilaginous roots are called for in dry, inflamed conditions where its moistening nature will bring relief. And Solomon’s seal herb can help strengthen the heart as well. Solomon’s seal is indicated when there is lung congestion or inflammation of the stomach or intestines. The freshly pounded roots or dried and powdered roots both make an excellent poultice for inflamed joints. The root is infused in oil and made into a salve to treat these ills. The mucilaginous roots have a lubricating effect on dry joints and connective tissues. Flower Essence Solomon’s seal flower essence will be an ally when profound changes in your life or lifestyle are inevitable. It will help you adapt to those changes and challenges with grace. Magical Lore Solomon’s seal has long been used for protection, magic and clearing/cleansing. Use a ritual sprinkler to spray an infusion of the root around the house or around a person, to drive away and keep away any negativity. Make an amulet with the root to wear around your neck to feel the protective embrace of Great Mother.

THYME Thymus vulgaris

Though most people consider it no more than a cooking spice, thyme possesses powerful antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, antiparasitic, tonic and expectorant properties. It’s long been employed as an antiseptic mouthwash and as a gargle to relieve sore throat. I use infusion, or 20 drops of thyme tincture in a cup of water, as a gargle or rinse. Antispasmodic thyme is useful for easing coughs, especially dry coughs, and is widely used to help bring up phlegm. German studies show thyme possesses strong expectorant properties and is relaxing to the respiratory tract. Old wives say “thyme is to the windpipe what mint is to the stomach.” I find this to be true. When dealing with a hard-to-shake lung infection, use 20 drops of fresh plant tincture, or a cup of dried plant infusion, twice daily and also poultice the chest with the strained-out plant material. Thyme’s rich essential oils, easily available in teas, help the stomach and liver produce more digestive enzymes and acids. It is a soothing ally for relieving stomach distress and helping allay nausea. Magical Lore Thyme is an herb of protection, especially against insects and dangerous creatures. Thyme has been burned as a funeral herb, to help establish communion or offer a blessing.

VALERIAN Valeriana officinalis

Valerian is a mineral-rich tonic, nourishing to the nervous system, and a powerful nervine, carminative and antispasmodic. This herb exerts a remarkable effect on the cerebrospinal system. Valerian has mild anodyne properties, so it helps to alleviate pain and promote deep, relaxing sleep. It is widely used as a sedative, to calm mania, panic, hysteria, and to remedy insomnia. Small doses, 5-10 drops of valerian fresh root tincture or half a cup of dried root infusion, have a calming and soothing effect on the nervous system. 10 -20 drops will put you to sleep. In larger doses, valerian can cause hyperactivity and headache. Valepotriates are the active sedatives in valerian. They are found in all parts of the plant but are most concentrated in the root. Magical Lore In American Hoodoo Magic, valerian is used to stop an unwanted visitor. Sprinkle chopped up valerian roots across the threshold and front steps while stating the name of the entity in question and commanding they not be able to cross over. To increase the power of this spell, add salt and pepper.

VIOLET Viola odorata and related species, V. yedoensis

Violet flower syrup has long been used to ease sore throats, relieve coughs and bronchitis, and to help bring up phlegm. It also makes a soothing digestive tonic. Just as my grandmother’s grandmother might have done, I take a teaspoon after meals in a cup of warm water or tea. I also made a throat and cough-easing infused honey with violet flowers, taking a teaspoon every couple of hours and putting it into tea. In Southern Italia an infusion of leaves and flowers is sipped slowly when treating chest congestion and coughs. Cherokee drink violet root infusions to relieve cough and colds and applied a poultice of the leaves to relieve headache. Violet leaves are highly nourishing, containing more vitamin C than any other leafy vegetable known, and an abundance of vitamin A. They’re mineral rich too. We eat them raw in salads or lightly steamed like spinach. They gently nourish the lungs, nerves, and immune system. Their soothing, mucilaginous properties make them wonderful for the skin too.

WILD GRAPE Vitis vinifera,V. rupestris, V. labrusca, V. aestivalis, V. vulpine

A symbol of health down through the ages, wild grape is a supreme food and medicine. A strengthening and restorative tonic for the blood and body, all parts of grape leaves, fruit and tendrils offer abundant iron, calcium and potassium. Grape’s ability to alleviate fatigue is astonishing. Grandmothers used all parts of the grapevine to support lymphatic movement. “When all else fails, live on the vine.” The “grape cure”, known as ampelotherapy, consists of consuming three to six pounds of organic grapes, two to four cups of leaf and tendril infusion, and as much fresh spring water as desired each day. Iroquois nourish the blood and remedy anemia with infusion of V. vulpine. In Sud Italia, heated wine is used to help treat colds and mitigate fevers. Wine fumes are decongestant, so help soothe and clear the nasal passages and act as an emollient for the throat if the upper respiratory tract is infected. Grapes, grape juice and wine are a warming tonic to the digestive system, offer benefits to the kidneys and promote a free flow of urine. Both leaves and tendrils are anti-diuretic. The resveratrol found in red wine, and famous for its ability to enhance heart health, is a type of polyphenol found in the skins of red grapes. The flavonoids myricetin and quercetin are natural anti-inflammatory agents and help the body to counter harmful free radical formation. Grape leaves contain sugars including glucose, tartaric acid, quercetin, quercitrin, tannin, malic acid, gum and a non-crystallizable fermentable sugar. Grape sugars differ chemically from other sugars. They are absorbed into the blood much more rapidly and go to work quickly, bringing strength and tone to the entire body. Grape is an excellent supportive remedy as you fight the infection, and also to rebuild health after the illness. Dosage of grape leaf tea is 2 cups daily. The leaves blend well with nettles, red clover and rose. A grape leaf bud gemmotherapy elixir is immune-modulating and improves the flow of lymph.

YARROW Achillea millefolium

Yarrow is diaphoretic. A hot infusion stimulates circulation, promotes perspiration and opens pores. This is going to help the body get rid of excess fluids through the skin. Our grandmothers drank yarrow to relieve colds and flu and to reduce fevers. The Romani, too, have an ages-old yarrow remedy, combining it with peppermint and elder flowers to counter these ailments. It’s traditional to drink yarrow tea before taking a sauna or going into a sweat lodge, or taking a hot bath, if you want to sweat out a cold. First Nations people revere yarrow. Chippewa inhale the steam from the boiling herb to relieve headache. Ojibwa inhale smoke from burning yarrow to bring down fever. Potawatomi use it as a clearing smudge. The Mohawk to relieve nausea and cramps, and the Delaware to treat kidney problems. Achilletin and achilleine alkaloids found in yarrow speed blood clotting time. Constituents such as azulene, camphor, eugenol, menthol, rutin and salicylic acid are anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving. Others, such as tannins, terpineol and cineol, are antiseptic. Antispasmodic yarrow helps relax the smooth muscles of the digestive tract. I sip a cup of hot infusion to soothe digestive woes. (A bit of honey or a dropper of rose elixir makes it delicious and enhances its soothing qualities.) Yarrow is a beloved herb among my Southern Italia neighbors who call it millefoglio. A yarrow infusion is employed for its antispasmodic and sedative action in the gastrointestinal tract. Flower Essence Yarrow flower essence helps build a psychic shield.

YELLOW DOCK Rumex crispus

Yellow dock is a favorite nourishing, healing herb of First Nations people, and was used by early settlers as well as old-time doctors. Yellow dock roots contain concentrated iron along with other vitamins and minerals necessary for optimum iron absorption. A blood-enriching tonic, yellow dock roots ease digestive woes and help eliminate constipation. A liver tonic of high regard, tincture of fresh yellow dock root nourishes and strengthens liver function, helping support and restore health to this important organ. Its abundant and readily available iron make it an excellent ally for anyone with anemia or general weakness. Regular consumption raises the hematocrit levels by several degrees. Yellow dock has a gentle laxative effect that keeps bowels moving. You can benefit from this plant’s rich iron stores by taking 20-30 drops of fresh root tincture daily or use the fresh plant vinegar freely on salads. One could consume half a cup of yellow dock root infusion instead, but a syrup is a more palatable way of ingesting this herb and a teaspoon twice daily will significantly increase iron stores. Excellent remedy for the recovery stage. Many of our grandmothers used this powerful blood tonic and alterative as a daily blood-building and strengthening tonic for those weakened by illness or chronic disease.

 MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS                                                                                                       Birch Polypores Piptoporus betulinus, Shiitake Lentinus edodes,                                       Reishi Ganoderma lucidum, Artist’s Conk Ganoderma applanatum, Chicken of the Woods Laetiporus sulphureus, Hen of the Woods Grifola frondosa, Chaga Inonotus obliquus

Immune activating fungi have been used as allies against disease for millennia. Fungi are helping organisms on this planet. They break rotting material down and transform it into nourishment. They are the ultimate recyclers. They help us to be optimally nourished. Many of our common Eastern woodland mushrooms possess immune enhancing properties, including maitake, chicken of the woods, the abundant birch polypores, turkey tails and honey mushrooms. Medicinal mushrooms will offer you excellent, consistent support if you succumb to illness.

Shiitake mushrooms are native to Japan, China and Korea, where they have grown and been consumed since prehistory to mobilize the immune system to fight off disease. Fourteenth century Chinese physician, Wu- Rui, described it as a food that accelerates vital energy, nourishes the chi, staves off hunger, cures cold, and penetrates into the blood circulatory system. Shiitake has been effectively used and scientifically proven in studies over the past thirty years to treat heart disease, viral infections, parasites and more. One of its most important constituents, lintinan, a polysaccharide, stimulates immune competent cells, stimulates T-cell production and increases macrophage activity. The mushrooms enhance cardiovascular health and protect our healthy cells from microbial pathogens. Shiitake mushrooms provide an excellent plant-based source of iron, mood balancing vitamins B2, B3 and B6, immune boosting vitamin D, folate, zinc, selenium and fiber.

Reishi and Artist’s Conk Called reishi in Japan and ling zhe in China, the Ganodermas are powerful immune-enhancing mushrooms and adaptogens. Both sweet and bitter, the Ganodermas are potent free radical scavengers, eliminating these highly dangerous chemicals from the bloodstream before they can damage the DNA of healthy cells. Reishi mushrooms are an excellent addition to your diet if you are run down, suffering from long-term stress and/or low immune function. Reishi is an immune modulator that effectively increases leukocyte production, promotes lymphatic health, promotes phagocytosis, stimulates T-cells, promotes the proliferation of antibodies and induces generation of immunoglobulins. The Ganodermas are especially heartwarming, heart opening, promote serenity and are said to enhance spiritual faculties. I think they are an essential medicine for the times we are facing.

Excerpted in part from Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs; A Florilegia for the Wild Heart Tribe by Gail Faith Edwards, 510 pages, Canterbury/Rosina Publishing, 2020

2020 copyright Gail Faith Edwards

Featured photo is an original painting by Mary Ann Matthys

Further Reading:

https://neurosciencenews.com/coronavirus-progenitor-cells-16103/?fbclid=IwAR2z6I4OcSu1fRsESnQmbHlio9D_rlysKeG7iWI6ADG7FUDEyk9Mopfqi8E

https://www.maskssavelives.org/?fbclid=IwAR31ytAQclvB_V9Mfg4bGAv-lzy3UYX2lcidkF4zvxtpD_6rBttyXdaeQ9s

https://medium.com/@amorylovins/dont-just-avoid-the-virus-defeat-it-by-strengthening-your-immunity-df850239132d

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/4/988/htm?fbclid=IwAR2s15q01gNLi2W8zag_mXfVlLYuVFV9ih47JcEcn6xAlhU0rH4_OIS0sWA

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4352757/

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/03/science/coronavirus-genome-bad-news-wrapped-in-protein.html

https://rdcu.be/b3qj5

https://chemrxiv.org/articles/COVID-19_Disease_ORF8_and_Surface_Glycoprotein_Inhibit_Heme_Metabolism_by_Binding_to_Porphyrin/11938173

https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo/coronavirus-out-of-many-one-36b886af37e9

Final notes: We’ve been given the gift of a sacred pause, a rare and tender moment in our lives. We’re being asked to stop whatever we were doing and will now need to reconsider everything. Many of us are struggling. Yet, there is much love and many blessings rising to the surface in this difficult and challenging time. When we locate the homeostasis of the world again, life will no doubt be different for each of us. This “time out of time” is a good time to think about what that world might look like, personally and globally. There may be some things you will want to leave behind. Perhaps some attitudes, choices and habits will change. Priorities may have necessarily shifted. I’d love to hear from you about what you envision for our collective future, and for your own.

I love you and am keeping you in my prayers. Please take good care of yourself.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Pesky Enigmatic Coronavirus; Preventive Care

 

Screen Shot 2020-03-06 at 11.56.02 AMViruses are enigmatic. They skirt the boundaries. They exist at the edges of life and are very much a part of the animate natural world, an intrinsic part of the web of life. The healer, herbalist, shaman, root doctor or benedetta has the job of remaining connected to the natural world, being informed by it and drawing insight and power from it. In order to do this she must also, like the virus, skirt the boundaries between worlds; between social and cultural boundaries, human and non-human communication, customs, traditions and limiting medical and other beliefs. The healer maintains a heightened sensitivity to the songs, gestures, murmurs of the natural world – the peal of lightning, the flight of a bird, movement of shadow or leaf, roaring of wind, rise of a virus – in order to make contact and learn from the powers of the land, and to bring back meaning to her community.

Jack was a Vietnam Veteran and we spoke together many times across decades about the psychology of war.  One thing he always said was that when it came to war, “Know your enemy” was a foundation concept and everything else came after that. I didn’t really have any enemies at the time, so wasn’t particularly impressed with this admonition. But those words have come back to me recently and I began to consider the profound importance of understanding the perceived enemy.

Suddenly we are faced with this infectious virus and I began to realize how little I knew about viruses in general, and the new coronavirus specifically. Because ignorance generates fear, I decided to discover all I could. Hopefully this information will ease your mind, give you some ideas to work with and perhaps a few useful tools for supporting your health and resisting the virus.

Viruses are ancient. They are our ancestors. They have billions of years of evolutionary history and experience on this earth and far predate both plants and animals. Viruses co-evolved along with bacteria, long before we arrived. In fact, viruses and bacteria share a common ancestor that lived around 3.4 billion years ago, not long after life first emerged on the planet. From this single cell, bacteria evolved in the direction of increasing complexity, while viruses took the opposite approach; they have gradually shed genes to become increasingly more simple. And, all the while, they’ve been changing, adapting, altering themselves to accommodate the climate, temperatures, atmosphere and available hosts for the purpose of reproducing.

Viruses need a host. They cannot replicate on their own and do so only in other living cells. Viruses can’t keep themselves in a stable state, they don’t grow, and they can’t make their own energy. Viruses insert their genetic material into a human cell’s DNA in order to reproduce and they can affect the behavior of their hosts profoundly.

Scientists are still trying to fully grok viruses.  Early on they were thought to be poisons, then primitive life forms, and now they are seen more like biological chemical packages; little envelopes of proteins, acids and other information, but lacking essential independent systems necessary for metabolic functions, the biochemical activity of life.

Viruses parasitize essentially all biomolecular aspects of life. This means that they depend on the host cell for the raw materials and energy necessary for nucleic acid synthesis, protein synthesis, processing and transport, and all the other biochemical activities that allow the virus to multiply and spread.

Viruses mysteriously inhabit a gray area between living and nonliving. In fact, they deeply challenge our concept of what “living” means. They carry genetic material, reproduce, and evolve through natural selection, but lack important characteristics (such as cell structure) that are considered necessary to count as life. Viruses are the constantly shifting boundary between the worlds of biology and biochemistry.

Viruses mystify. They are stealthy, cryptic, cagy and covert. You often don’t know they’re around until it’s too late. When viruses infect us, they can embed small chunks of their genetic material into our DNA. In fact, nearly 10 percent of our human genome is made of bits of viral DNA. For the most part, this viral DNA is not harmful. In fact, scientists are discovering that it actually has a beneficial impact. For example, some viral-repair enzymes, which excise and resynthesize damaged DNA, mend oxygen radical damage, and so on, are unique to certain viruses and have existed almost unchanged probably for billions of years.

Most known viruses are persistent and innocuous, not pathogenic. They take up residence in cells, where they may remain dormant for long periods or take advantage of the cells’ replication equipment to reproduce at a slow and steady rate. These viruses have developed many clever ways to avoid detection by the host immune system. In fact, essentially every step in the immune process can be altered or controlled by various genes found in one virus or another. And, some scientists and researchers, such as Philip Bell of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, contend that the cell nucleus itself is of viral origin.

“Furthermore, a virus genome (the entire complement of DNA or RNA) can permanently colonize its host, adding viral genes to host lineages and ultimately becoming a critical part of the host species’ genome. The huge population of viruses, combined with their rapid rates of replication and mutation, makes them the world’s leading source of genetic innovation: they constantly “invent” new genes. And unique genes of viral origin may travel, finding their way into other organisms and contributing to evolutionary change.”

“May we not feel, that in the virus, in their merging with the cellular genome and reemerging from them, we observe the units and process which, in the course of evolution, have created the successful genetic patterns that underlie all living cells?” Nobel laureate Salvador Luria

COVID-19 – A virus’s core of genetic material (DNA or RNA), is surrounded by a protective coat called a capsid which is basically protein. Sometimes the capsid is surrounded by an additional spikey coat called an envelope. Coronavirus has this spiky envelope. Under the microscope, this particular virus looks like a round ball that has its entire surface covered with spikes. The spikes help it to attach to the cells inside the lungs, which is where it wants to go. In fact, that is the one and only place this particular virus can do its thing, it is that specific. It needs to get inside your lungs to reproduce. Once attached there, it gets itself comfortable…it takes off its coat, bares its teeth and gets down to work. It begins to put information into the cells that allows it to make “photocopies” of itself and the virus begins to replicate. That’s one of its main objectives.

Our objective is to RESIST! Preventive Medicine is the true strength of herbal medicine, so we are going to get back to this point soon. In Part 2 of this series we will discuss what to do if you do get sick.

The World Health Organization has raised the global risk of the new coronavirus to its highest level and is highlighting the necessity of worldwide containment efforts. As of today, nearly 100,000 confirmed cases have been reported. 86 countries are affected and there have been a total of 3,309 deaths. Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch has predicted that the virus could ultimately infect between 40 and 70% of the global population. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging U.S. residents to prepare for “significant disruption in their daily lives.”

And, according to news being reported out of China, the virus is mutating. There is now a second strain of the virus being detected. This strain appears to be more virulent than the original strain. The older ‘S-type’ is milder and less infectious, while the ‘L-type’ which emerged later, spreads quickly and currently accounts for approximately 70% of all cases. Scientists fear that the virus will continue to alter its genetic identity to make detection and treatment more challenging.

COVID-19 is turning out to be a remarkably intelligent evolutionary adversary. By exploiting vulnerabilities in human psychology selectively bred by its pathogen ancestors, it has already shut down many of our schools, crashed our stock market, increased social conflict and xenophobia, reshuffled our migration patterns, and is working to contain us in homogenous spaces where it can keep spreading. We should pause to remark that COVID-19 is extraordinarily successful epidemiologically, precisely because it is not extremely lethal.” Samuel Paul Veissière Ph.D.

BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY

This is not the time for cavalier, casual or inconsiderate attitudes. Nor the time for minimizing the risk or shrugging off the widespread concern. The threat of this virus is very real. Maybe not for you personally, if you are young, vibrant and healthy. But for your immune compromised neighbor, your elderly aunt with hypertension and your diabetic friend, it certainly has the potential of being quite deadly.

This is not the time to panic either, or to act out of fear. Remain calm. It’s good for your immune system, and you might be needed to help others. For sure, at the very least you need to assist the citizenry as a whole, by not participating in the spread of this virus. Our country has not had, nor does it yet have, adequate tests available. We actually have no idea how widely COVID 19 has spread here, or how many might be infected and/or contagious at this point. What we do know, is that our death rate is climbing alarmingly, with 14 deaths attributed to this virus reported in the US as of today.

PREVENTION IS KEY

So…let’s talk about preventative medicine, because that is what we need most right now. What can we good citizens do to curtail the spread of this virus and also what can we do to make infection less likely if we do come in contact with it?

Well, one thing, and probably the single most effective thing we can do, is to stay home! According to a comprehensive studyentitled Non-pharmaceutical Interventions Implemented by US Cities During the 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic, the cities that acted the fastest to put interventions in place, had the best result…”the relation of early, sustained, and layered non-pharmaceutical interventions were consistently associated with reductions in mortality.”

This strategy is called social distancing. It means that our most responsible choice or “mode of operation” right now is to stay home, as much as possible, hunker down for a few weeks to curtail the spread of the virus. No indoor public gatherings; no parties, events, public dinners.

Get into Lent! Use this time to rest, restore, maybe work on a project that you’ve put aside. Start some seeds. And, attend carefully to nourishment of body, mind, and spirit.

Most people have to get out to work daily, do not have the option of staying home, and so must follow all the precautions recommended quite carefully…washing hands FOR 20 SECONDS often, not touching your face (as much as humanly possible), or surfaces, using hand sanitizer and wiping down surfaces that you do need to touch, 70% ALCOHOL, no shaking hands right now, keeping distance from others, avoiding close approximation to anyone who is coughing…and boosting your natural immunity.

Since this is an entirely new virus, none of us have any natural immunity to it. And be aware that doctors also suspect that the virus may continue shedding for several days after recovery. The virus appears to be transmitted primarily through virus-filled droplets that infected people cough or sneeze into the air. This means transmission can be reduced through physical barriers, good hygiene and the reduction of mingling.

PREVENTIVE CARE

Preventive care is the true beauty and strength of Herbal Medicine. Here’s a list of easily accessible, protective, nourishing and mostly delicious herbs and foods you might consider integrating in rotation into your daily regime right about now to help boost your immunity and protect against viral infection. You don’t need everything listed here! What do you already have on hand from this list? Start there. You are looking for a diversity of nutrients, nourishment across the board. Sprinkle a pinch of this, simmer a bunch of that…you don’t need a recipe or a formula…be creative, play and love yourself, love your family and friends. Love is big medicine. Keep yourself well hydrated too.

LET FOOD BE THY MEDICINE

Specifics Garlic, ginger, lemon, cayenne, cinnamon, mints, orange peel, cacao, cannabis.

Warming aromatics such as cardamom, clove, anise, cumin, coriander, rosemary, sage.

Allium family plants; onions, garlic, chives.

Brassicas; broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard greens and kale.

Mushrooms like shiitake, lions mane, oyster, chicken of the woods.

Anthocyanin-rich fruits and berries; blueberries, blackberries, cherries, plums, grapes, raspberries.

Fermented foods; yogurt, ricotta, kifir, kim chee, sauerkraut, naturally fermented meats, olives.

Seaweed. Honey and maple syrup. Vinegar.

HERBAL ALLIES

Anti-viral activity herbs such as hyssop, burdock, astragalus, lemon balm, St. John’s wort, Echinacea, Japanese knotweed, olive, rose.

Immune enhancing herbs include those listed above as anti-viral and the medicinal mushrooms like chaga, reishi, birch polypore. Adaptogens listed below.

Nourishing herbs like milky oats, red clover, wild grape leaves, nettles, red raspberry leaves, rose hips

Respiratory tonic herbs such as mullein, coltsfoot (see caution), thyme

Liver nourishing herbs; milk thistle, dandelion, licorice, yellow dock

Lymph movers: calendula, cleavers, dandelion, red clover, violet, grape leaves

Bowel movers: dandelion, licorice, cinnamon

Adaptogens: Baltic amber, Eluethero, Codonopsis, Schisandra, Rhodiola.

Skin Care: rose, calendula, lavender

VITAMINS ARE OUR PARTNERS IN LIFE – We need abundant vitamin A, C and D to enhance immunity and resist the coronavirus.  B vitamins help keep you relaxed and centered. Zinc is a specific guard against respiratory illness. I like to get my vitamins from the foods and herbs I consume rather than a plastic bottle.

Vitamin A regulates and maintains a wide range of bodily functions. It is essential for keeping the mucous membranes of the mouth and respiratory passages moist and plump, and thus able to resist infection. Adequate intake of vitamin A also boosts immunity. 

Foods that offer significant amounts of vitamin A, or beta-carotene (a natural pigment found in dark green, orange and yellow herbs, fruits, and vegetables that converts to vitamin A inside the body) include, in order of their content, beef liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, cabbage, spinach, cantaloupes, kale, broccoli, winter squash, mustard greens, apricots, watermelon, endive, lettuce, asparagus, peas, green beans, corn, parsley, seaweeds, and eggs.

Herbs rich in carotenes include peppermint, yellow dock, uva ursi, parsley, raspberry leaves, nettles, and dandelion greens. Other good sources include kelp, green onions, violet leaves, cayenne, lamb’s quarters, sage, chickweed, horsetail, black cohosh, and rose hips.

Vitamin C is often called the “oil for the machinery of life” as it is essential to so many of our body’s biochemical processes, and literally holds our cells together. Luckily, it’s available to us in a wide variety of foods and herbs. A diet rich in fresh, organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs will provide you with plenty of this nutrient. Vitamin C is water soluble, and sensitive to heat. Try lightly steaming vitamin C-rich vegetables to retain this nutrient, or be sure to drink, or otherwise use, the water you’ve boiled them in. If you eat vitamin C – laden foods with herbs and foods rich in iron, you’ll boost iron absorption in your body four-fold.

Bioflavonoids are a group of compounds found, along with vitamin C, in fresh fruits, especially citrus, vegetables, and herbs. Bioflavonoids strengthen the capillaries, those tiny blood vessels that provide the all-important link in the circulatory system between the arteries and the veins. Capillaries deliver oxygen and other nutrients to the body’s tissues and help remove toxic waste, thus providing the network within the body for the essential exchange of body fluids to take place. Capillary dysfunction plays a crucial role in a wide range of ills, including viral infections like influenza and coronavirus.

Foods rich in vitamin C and bioflavonoids in order of content (highest to lowest), include fresh squeezed orange juice, green peppers, grapefruit juice, papaya, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cantaloupe, cooked turnip greens, raw cauliflower, strawberries, tomato juice, potatoes, cabbage, blackberries, raw spinach, blueberries, cherries, and mung bean sprouts.

Herbs offering an abundance of these nutrients include rose hips, yellow dock root, raspberry leaves, red clover, hops, nettles, pine needles, dandelion greens, echinacea, skullcap, plantain, parsley, cayenne, and violet leaves and flowers.

Vitamin D is available to us in few foods and is primarily manufactured inside our bodies as the result of a magical interaction between our skin and that ancient and mighty solar star, the sun. Vitamin D is absolutely essential for our body’s health. and is vitally important for strong immune response. Vitamin D regulates the expression of more than 1,000 genes throughout the body. They include ones in macrophages, cells in the immune system that, among other things, attack and destroy viruses.

Vitamin D switches on genes in macrophages that make antimicrobial peptides, antibiotics the body produces. Like antibiotics, these peptides attack and destroy bacteria; but unlike antibiotics, they also attack and destroy viruses. Vitamin D also expresses genes that stop macrophages from overreacting to an infection and releasing too many inflammatory agents – cytokines – that can damage infected tissue.

After the age of fifty, this metabolic process may slow down. Intestinal absorption of vitamin D begins to decline slowly, and the liver may not process this vitamin as well as it once did. The skin’s ability to synthesize vitamin D declines as well, with the skin of a healthy seventy-year-old able to make only half the amount as that of a twenty-something. Attend to this.

Zinc plays an important role in maintaining the health of our immune system and helps us resist infections. Some excellent food sources for zinc include chicken heart, lean beef, liver, lamb, beef, dark turkey meat, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, Swiss and cheddar cheese, Brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts, black-eyed peas, oats, soybeans, peas, chick peas, and lentils. Herbal sources include skullcap, oatstraw, sage, saw palmetto, wild yam, chickweed, echinacea, nettles, dulse, and milk thistle

ENGAGE ENERGETICALLY

Pray. Prayers are cool, they are pure vibrations of beauty and love. They connect us to something sacred and powerful, something bigger than ourselves. Praying relaxes us. I like saying the rosary, but any prayers of your choice will do. Wash your hands, say a prayer, an incantation, a holy poem, sing a sacred song…make a healthy spell. Here’s a simple prayer, perfect for right now. Please remove from me anything that is not me. Say it in your ancestral language if possible. Let the resonance sink deep into your cells. Your ancestors are listening. They are there informing you. They faced many viruses in their lifetimes. They have survival skills. Ask for their help. Offer them your love.

Water and salt. These are sacred and protective substances. Pour yourself a bath at the end of the day, add Epsom salts or sea salt or pink Himalayan salt, whatever you have. Soak yourself. Relax. No tub, no problem, do a foot bath.  “Salt does whatever you tell it.” is an old saying among the Benedetti, in my tradition.  Talk to the salt as you pour it into the tub. Tell it what you need. “I need to feel safe. I need protection. I need to be healed. I need your blessing. Please remove from me anything that is not me.”

Spray beautiful aromas into the air around you.  Do you have any rose or lavender or lemon verbena hydrosol? Maybe sandalwood or sage?  Spray liberally around your space.

Burn aromatic herbs such as rose, rosemary, lavender, bay, sage, frankincense and myrrh. Not only does fumigation raise your energy and the energy of your space, it also kills germs! This is an opportunity to bless your space and all who inhabit it. Make it feel clear and high and beautiful!

Wear your Baltic amber necklace, bracelet or anklet. Don’t take it off. Take a drop of tincture once a week in water. Use the oil as a energetic shield. Baltic amber has been known as a protector for millennia. It’s got many millions of years of presence on this earth. It knows how to protect us from viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. We can trust it.

Wear a protective amulet. This can be anything at all, from your Baltic amber necklace to a little brevi bag of garlic and prayers hung around your neck. Keep a small magic bag of protective herbs or stones in your pocket. Hang a poppet doll near your bed. Draw the symbol of Solomon, or the protective Hand of Fatima, or an image of a scorpion on your hand or foot – these symbols have been used as protection for literally thousands of years.

Call your friends. Be a blessing to your community. Be available. Speak comforting words that are true. Find out who needs support and help them get it. Bring someone a jar of tea. You know what to do.

Dare to Dream. Enter the Dream Temple. Incubate a healing dream. Ask dream-maker to give you a dream of guidance or of healing – ask to be shown what you need to know.  Keep trying, don’t give up.

ETYMOLOGY OF CORONAVIRUS

A corona is the rarefied gaseous envelope, the luminous halo around the sun and other stars. The sun’s corona extends far into space but is normally visible only during a total solar eclipse, when it is seen as a pearly glow surrounding the darkened disk of the moon. It is also observable with a device called a coronagraph. This virus is called coronavirus because it too has a halo, or corona, around it.

The word corona is Latin, meaning “crown”, from the Greek κορώνη (korōnē). Korone…Kore/Proserpina (maiden aspect, greening, vegetative goddess, bringing new life). The Goddess is here.

Corona also means a “garland or wreath”. Our Great Mother Goddess Demeter/Ceres, Proserpina’s mother, wore a corona di spica, a crown or wreath of marjoram and other warming, aromatic spices around her head. The Goddess’s mother is here!

The name Corona is a nickname for a person that is dearly loved by his family and friends. It comes from “caro,” which is derived from the Latin word “carus,” meaning beloved or dear. Our Ancestors are here!

Most of us are familiar with the ancient story of Kore. Kore was a young girl when she was abducted by the God of the Dead, Hades/Pluto and dragged down into the underworld to be his wife.  Her mother Demeter/Ceres was consumed with grief and rage.  She searched for nine days, but no one would tell her anything about where her daughter was. Why? Because Kore was abducted with the approval of Zeus, Ruler of the Gods. Kore’s father. Finally, Helios, the Sun God, (wearing his corona) who sees and knows all, told Demeter/Ceres what happened. Her anger and despair was unbearable. She rejected the world of the Gods and wandered among humankind. In her sorrow she withheld her gifts of fertility so that no crops grew. At this Zeus finally gave in and commanded Hades/Pluto to release Kore. And all the earth turned green again. There’s a deep message here, lean into it.

This virus may actually be our crowning glory, our corona. Clearly the Gods are at play here. Mother, Father and Daughter. The Holy Trinity has entered the theatre and opened a portal. Our beloved ancestors are with us also. We have nothing to fear.

There is an extremely ancient, intelligent alien species invasion going on, bringing new information both to our individual cells, and also to the cellular network around the globe, causing extreme excitement, movement and change, literally deciding who will live and who will die. What falls away and what remains. It is giving death, where death is needed. Think systems here, not necessarily people.

Coronavirus may be presenting itself to us as a tool for viewing…a tool of revelation, divination, uncovering what can usually only be seen in the dark. We’ve all been treading some dark waters these last few years. One trauma or crisis after the other and all the while, we’ve been more or less helpless in the face of it. And just when we think we cannot possibly take any more, here comes a “life” force never encountered before. Providing us with information directly and helping us to see. See what?  Maybe to see how much we truly care for each other. How much we want to live. To realize all the tools we have at our disposal. All the non-human allies who love us, who we can depend on. To see that we are a part of the great and holy web of life…each and every one of us, human, animal, plant, mountain, rock, virus. The weakest among us. The strongest among us. The insured and the uninsured. We are all equal on this earth. And to the Gods. We are all deserving of respect.

We might see now how deeply derelict we have been in our care for the earth and all life upon her. Might see clearly our incredible vulnerability, our dependence on earth, as well as our strength, which we also draw from her. We are seeing clearly what we are up against and with the “information being transferred” perhaps we will also be participating in its dissolution right before our eyes.

And, if the Gods are favorable, we may see the earth greening again, hearing the mother’s cries of joy that her daughter has returned.

These are my musings…I’d love to hear yours. As herbalists, healers, earth lovers, it is our job to lean into the mystery, and try to make some sense of it for the benefit of all.  I’m leaving some links here for you too.  Be well! I love you.

Part 2 comes next week…what to do if you are infected. 

Blessed Maine Herb Farm

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2020/03/04/coronavirus-has-mutated-aggressive-disease-say-scientists/?fbclid=IwAR36Kc6nJEpzXehWX_GGSw-ABrdUBwBUSHcG36HSPD2q_cr-ypX3QhCtA6Q

https://www.economist.com/briefing/2020/02/29/covid-19-is-now-in-50-countries-and-things-will-get-worse?cid1=cust/ednew/n/bl/n/2020/02/29n/owned/n/n/nwl/n/n/NA/415278/n

https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/who-china-joint-mission-on-covid-19-final-report.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3vD37VTqs2sNW4Rd2f4sShwzY6l8HDdFsuRexbwxuUTb5CABDh0qUZK28

https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/why-some-covid-19-cases-are-worse-than-others-67160?fbclid=IwAR0x405VYhvj-nNO-JC3gydKadf8oijxOl3YMkFcgUxoqXRXvGDxFt7Rxe0

https://nypost.com/2020/02/22/dont-buy-chinas-story-the-coronavirus-may-have-leaked-from-a-lab/amp/?fbclid=IwAR2KvMQePKi8Pi5ztxe3iUEUflw_vNZv9WLOd38o-1NLHlKqi–_0Sg8ZiI

https://ajnoffthecharts.com/covid-19-for-nurses-skip-the-rumors-and-stick-to-the-basics/?fbclid=IwAR1D5eoO8Q2nAZsKo7GYgsHrXJn7M_xGX5GXthfF7R51pjpNrK6dgl9xjOw

https://www.ecowatch.com/coronavirus-threat-highest-level-2645339231.html?rebelltitem=2#rebelltitem2

https://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/why-only-thing-influenza-may-kill-germ-theory?utm_campaign=Daily+Newsletter%3A+Why+Everything+You+Learned+About+Viruses+is+WRONG+%28PaSNRA%29&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Daily+Newsletter&_ke=eyJrbF9lbWFpbCI6ICJzeWNhbW9yZXNwaXJpdEBnbWFpbC5jb20iLCAia2xfY29tcGFueV9pZCI6ICJLMnZYQXkifQ%3D%3D&fbclid=IwAR06ujWiWdMMCuBDMeHOuEPX4iGE9-b8GszwSon_6CvcpDQ-rR7ExWSCUmU

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/02/29/trump-cries-hoax-nurses-california-warn-quarantines-124-health-workers-show-us?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=facebook&fbclid=IwAR0QvLjJiNOGWdAl8ehkiZe4tc0olkgYyzceuni96P-1mJzU8Q3CdVbX-hc

https://www.globalresearch.ca/fear-virus-pandemic/5705000?fbclid=IwAR3C0ga-RS4wzifADSC5CEI3R9d5o9r0oI3UW5m_xIf66POxx235Rc70big

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-03-coronavirus-dying.html

https://medium.com/@amwren/forget-about-the-death-rate-this-is-why-you-should-be-worried-about-the-coronavirus-890fbf9c4de6

https://fortune.com/2020/03/04/coronavirus-mutating-second-strain-covid-19-wuhan-china/?fbclid=IwAR1qwINlUKnA7pFyK2TqkTW5eqzDc5c7Rcbi8xvtG9aCwIprMNVMg7cLrpo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments

SACRED BEAR MOTHER

The cross-quarter day between winter solstice and spring equinox that we refer to as Imbolc, Candelmas or Candelora, was long referred to as Bear Day among our archaic European ancestors.

bear medicine

“After you take a bear’s coat off, it looks just like a human”.

The relationship between bears and our indigenous European ancestors was exceptionally complex.  In fact, it’s an archaic pan-European belief that we humans descended from bears. And this ursine genealogy is still deeply woven into a rich legacy of Old World European beliefs and cultural constructs.  The sacred she-bear is our mother and was considered the most important spirit guardian of the European shaman. Our beloved Diana was known as a she-bear.

The Sacred Bear played a central role in the most basic rites of our Old World ancestors: the practice of shamanism and earth connection, the healing of the sick and injured, initiation rituals and rites surrounding the hunt.

There are many still-living remnants of this bear genealogy that connect us to our much earlier hunter-gatherer ancestors and their symbolic as well as cultural order. These remnants take the form of traditions, oral tales, folklore, processions and other ritualized performance art such as dance and music.  Our weather forecasting groundhog is a unique American expression of the ancient prophesizing bear associated with this day.

Within the animistic framework of our Old European hunter/gatherer predecessors, in which shapeshifting played a role, bears are seen as shape-shifted humans. The bear mother nurses her young holding them to her breasts just as a human mother does. Bear stands and sits just as a human does. At the same time, humans can and do turn themselves into bears.

Many ancient peoples shared a belief in the magical attributes of bear paws. Apotropaic qualities were attributed to them; they were perceived as possessing the power to heal, to attract blessings and good fortune, to avert evil influences and to protect from misfortune or bad luck.

Our shamanic ancestors, who revered the Bear Mother as a spirit helper, for whom Bear Mother was the most powerful totem, wrapped themselves in the skins of bears, wore necklaces of bear claws, painted bear signs on their faces and bodies, and used bowls, drums and other implements carved in the shapes of bears. They kept bear claws and teeth and other parts of the animal in their sacred Medicine or Brevi bags. They used bear claws and gall and bear grease in their healing ceremonies and in the medicines they made. They danced as they thought bears danced and they sang power songs to the animal. They ate the same plants the bears ate and employed them as their medicines.

Many diverse people and cultures around the world believe that bears have special knowledge of medicinal plants. Humans and bears are both foragers – omnivorous creatures who have existed in the same ecological niche for hundreds of thousands of years, competing for the same food sources.  Bear Medicines, thought to be especially strength building as well as energetically protective, are considered to be those wild plant roots that are exceptionally nutritive… sweet, tasty, tissue building and restorative. Angelica and sweet cicely come to mind.

The bear possesses an incredible memory of landscape as well as a keen sense of smell and hearing, all of which give it a distinct advantage over humans. Nevertheless, both human and bear walked the same trails, fished the same salmon streams, dug roots from the same fields and woods, and year after year, harvested the same berries, seeds and nuts.  We have co-existed with bear through millennia. Our relationship has always been one of reverence and mutual respect.

Celestial Bear as the Guardian of the Gate of Heaven – Our ancestors viewed bears as extraordinarily intelligent creatures, so much so that they were considered to have once ruled the earth. Bears are thought to be supernatural and mystical creatures, divine in wisdom, omnipotent and omnipresent. They have knowledge of the life/death rituals, in part because of the way they seemingly die in fall and resurrect themselves in the spring.  Also, it is believed that bears are capable of understanding human speech.

Because bear possesses the power to hear all that is said, in keeping with our ancestor’s animistic cosmology, it became taboo among our hunters to say the bears’ true name. Instead they referred to it in euphemisms, such as honey eater mangiatore di miele or brown one il marrone.  In our Napoletan language, the word for the Madonna is Marrone.

Good Luck Visits – Contact with the bear itself was thought to be especially valuable in terms of receiving its healing and curative powers. For this reason, as recently as fifty years ago, it was still common for a bear and its trainer to conduct annual visits to local villages throughout the Pyrenées.

During these visits, it was traditional for parents to bring their children and place them on the back of the bear who, under the care of the bear trainer, would take exactly nine steps. Participation in this annual ritual ensured the children were protected from physical illnesses and, in addition, that they would be well behaved. These ‘bear doctors’ made regular house calls to cure the sick and protect households from harm and the visitation itself was believed to bring good luck to the household. There is good reason to believe that similar rituals were performed—with real bears—across much of Europe. Monasteries were directly involved in training the young bears who would go about with their trainers to conduct the healing ceremonies. These activities formed what is called “good-luck visits”.

Variants of these visits and related ritual practices have survived intact into the 21st century. Indeed, they form part of rich legacy of popular performance art whose cognitive roots and cultural conceptualizations reach back to a much earlier worldview that draws its meaning from what now appears to be an archaic belief that bears are our ancestors. The “good luck visits” themselves provided a container for the cultural storage and preservation as well as the oral transmission of the tenets of the earlier European belief system, through reiterative structures typical of oral cultures.

Bear Deity – As Christianity made its way through Europe, a syncretism took place. Residual belief in the Paleolithic bear-deity survived in the material and linguistic artifacts associated with the sites that were originally associated with the sacred healing bears; such as certain hermitages, monasteries, mountain tops and woodland wilderness areas. The wide geographical distribution of these sites can also be seen as a way of mapping the locations of sacred sites where the veneration of bears was once practiced. Linguistic artifacts, or names, associated with the ancestral bear-like qualities of healing and miracle working include Saint Bear, Saint Ours, Saint Ursula and the Ursulines. The Ursulines is a still vibrant religious organization originally founded in 1535 at Brescia, Italy, by Angela Merici. Its purpose was, and still is, the education of girls and the care of the sick and needy.

The Bear Son These tales represent the most common motif found in European folklore. The widespread distribution of the Old European stories called the Bear Son tales, link to the much older ursine cosmogony. The figure of the Bear Son, who is born of a Great Bear and a human female, is identified with a cycle of stories and related ritual performances found throughout Europe, including those called the “good luck visits” as described above.

By 1910 folklorists had documented 221 European variants of the descent of the Bear Son hero to the Under World. This cycle of oral tales is present in all the Indo-European language groups of Europe as well as in Basque and in Finno-Ugric languages, e.g., in Finnish and Saami and also in Magyar (Hungarian) and it is even found among the Mansi (Voguls). The most complete and least disturbed versions of the tales – ones containing the most archaic structural elements – come from former Basque-speaking zones of France and Spain or from the Basque-speaking region itself.

To understand the widespread distribution of the bear ancestor veneration motif it helps to recognize that these are archaic materials emanating from a much earlier European cosmology and story of human origins. In fact, for Europeans, there is reason to suspect that the Bear Ancestor, progenitor of humans, was linked symbolically to the Great Bear (Ursa Major) constellation.

The constellations of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, the great and little bears, are named for their supposed resemblance to bears, from the time of Ptolemy. The nearby star Arcturus means “guardian of the bear”, as if it were watching the two constellations. Ursa Major has been associated with a bear for as much as 13,000 years since Paleolithic times, in the widespread Cosmic Hunt myths. These are found on both sides of the Bering land bridge, lost to the sea some 11,000 years ago.

Our hunter/gatherer ancestors’ assumption that we descend from bears throws a hand grenade into the familiar modern day hierarchical and anthropocentric modes of thought, such as that human beings are superior to animals.

Bear Ceremonialism and the Keeper of Souls The Bear Festivals appear to be ritual reenactments and celebrations of real bear hunts that took place in times past. They are performances that could be interpreted as portrayals of the hunting, death and resurrection of the earthly bear who, in turn, was seen as an ancestor.  The celebration of ritual hunts—including ritual performances that mimed the hunt—was a way of insuring that the community would enjoy good luck, and good hunting, during the rest of the year.

Earthly bears needed to be treated with great respect since the primordial bear ancestor was also seen as the “keeper of souls”. There is a Pyrenean belief that in the Fall of the year the bear gathers up the souls of all nature’s creatures and puts them in its belly where they are kept until Spring, when they emerge once again. If properly treated, the bear releases the animal and plant souls so that its human offspring can live abundantly. Assigning this function to the bear seems to correspond to the concept of a supernatural mother or guardian spirit of all species of animals as well as the rest of the natural world, a common belief encountered among many indigenous peoples around the world.

The celebration of an abbreviated form of the ritual performance was part of the “good-luck visit” itself, where the performers would go from one farmstead to the next with their “bear” or would move through the streets of the village, stopping at designated locations to perform the same play. The latter regularly involves the bear dancing about, chasing and attacking the inhabitants, then being captured and killed; sometimes the instrument used in the play is a gun, in other cases a knife or a spear. The bear feigns its own death, falling down on the ground, but almost immediately—and on cue—it jumps up, resurrected, to begin dancing once again. And the troop moves on to the next house.

During the Easter Octave celebrations on the slopes of Monte Vesuvio in Southern Italy, which take place annually the week after Easter, deep reverence is paid to specific, greatly revered Madonnas with ancient lineage and roots going back to the Paleolithic. I’ve witnessed that, as the cart carrying the Madonna dell Arco in the procession approaches the church in Somma Vesuvio, the entire cart, with the Madonna on it, begins to dance and swirl and twirl around in the street. This may be a remnant of the dancing Bear Mother and the “Good Luck Visits”. These powerful healing Madonnas, often referred to as Sciamana Guaritori (Shamanic Healers), certainly embody all of the archaic associations of the ancient shamanic Bear Mother.

It is time, now, to reclaim the potent friendship and reverence of the Bear Mother of our ancestors. Time to realize that we too can be fierce beyond measure. We, too, can be a healing blessing for our community. Bear Mother is more than an ally and an inspiration. She is a powerful guardian spirit. With all that we are presently facing, in national and world politics, global changes, and personal survival challenges, we need her. We need to become her, as our ancestors did.  We need to act with her agency. Get your claws ready, your thick protective coat wrapped snugly around your shoulders, do not fear to bare your teeth. Today we honor Bear Mother. And we feel her awakening in all of her glory, within us. So may it be.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

A Deep Winter Encounter with Dark Mother

screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-9-15-50-am Our Lady of the Dark Night invited me to take a walk with her. Well, to be honest, there was no invitation involved. It was more like an abduction! What really happened, is that she came at me like a Ninja from out of nowhere and grabbed hold of me in broad daylight when I least expected it. She picked me up, slammed me down hard and then unceremoniously threw me across the threshold between worlds, right into a whirlwind. She is not a subtle mother, that one. And, yeah, this is exactly the way she operates.

Dark Mother, known also as Mother of Dream, Mother of Sleep, was right by my side as we spun round and round in the dizzying vortex. Faces began emerging from the misty edges, rising up, one after the other. The faces came before my eyes, lingered for a second and then morphed into another. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of faces, of all colors, expressions, ethnicities and times. Some male, some female, some barely human at all. Dark Mother whispered that these are all the people you have been through many, many lifetimes. See them. Realize your soul is ageless and that you contain within you the wisdom and the resources of countless lifetimes on this earth.

Soon my mother and two favorite aunts appeared, standing calmly to the side, watching me. It was so good to see the three of them! But a crashing wave of fear washed over me just then and before I could even voice my dread, they smiled tenderly and I understood that they hadn’t come to take me away, but to give me comfort. The One Who is Black as Night laughed (a bit loudly and harshly, I thought) and wrapped her arms around my shoulders to let me know I was held in her embrace. The spinning seemed to slow, the slightest fraction of a millisecond at that realization. Still, it kept churning and up and down, round and round, we continued to fly at a dizzying pace.

The Dark Mother does not fool around, she does not waste time, she does not mince words – she gets right down to business. She carries a sword, slashes at things in her way and is wildly unpredictable.screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-9-15-18-amHer main goal is to destroy what is unnecessary. Her power is profound and unfathomable. She is entirely fierce and unrelenting. She is persistent, she knows what she is doing and remains in complete control. She is not a gentle mother. She grabs you by the hair, shoves you around, drags you deep, deep down into the most abysmal places and makes you face truths you may not have wanted to see. This Dark Mother unravels mysteries right before your eyes. She is a radical truth-bringer, life-spinner, a soul-grower, a gate-keeper and her ultimate gift is enlightenment and clarity of purpose. When the Black One has you in her grip you cannot get free until she decides it is time to let you go. And then, poof! The journey is over and you return to your former life, forever changed.

As the whirlwind continued to spin madly, holding me in its powerful grip, my body was continuously pricked and prodded and attached by wires to machines with flashing numbers, beeps, bells and and graphs. Sweet angelic beings wearing nursing scrubs hovered, prayer words from many sources floated in and out from the mists and the ever-watchful, always loving daughters stayed close. I could hear the hushed tones of their voices in the shadows beyond the whirling edges. One of them stayed in a chair by my side through the entire ordeal img_1166

The Mysterious Dark One now sweetly hinted there were some things we needed to take a look at together. Then, without any further warning, she thrust her arm deep into my chest. As my heart flipped and flopped like a fish that has just been brought ashore, she reached in as far as she could and began pulling out long globby strands of goop.

She Who is Fearless and Black as Night let me know that this is unacknowledged grief, unprocessed sorrow and heartache being stored here. It serves no purpose, causes unnecessary suffering and we have to get rid of it. I watched, incredulous, as she continued to pull. And as she pulled, I examined every strand and remembered…shed tears and tried to keep breathing. After what seemed a long time, it could have been several days or weeks, the landscape shifted unexpectedly and now I was surrounded by green fields and gardens, blue skies and beautiful trees, mountains and undulating waters. The air was fresh and clean, there were the sounds of children laughing and playing, birds singing and I could feel the sweet breeze on my skin.

An incredible feeling of love came over me now – it was more love than I had ever been aware of existing before. Love was everywhere and it permeated everything. Everything was an expression of love. And now this Mother of the Deep Down Wintry Depths began to parade before me all the incredible treasures and blessings of my life. My life was filled with so many countless blessings! I was surrounded and protected by love, and she showed me that even the hard struggles had been blessings and precious teachings presented for the continued growth of my soul. As the Dark Lady showed me all the many treasures I have been given, I noticed that, though many were easily identified, some of them I had barely glanced at before, or had never considered to be treasures at all. As she revealed them, though, I saw that indeed, they were priceless gifts, treasures of long standing, many inherited from my ancestors.

It is difficult to put into words the profound feeling of gratitude that washed over me now in this wild maelstrom that still had hold of me. It is even harder to describe the many teachings and revelations that either oozed out of that pounding windstorm or were flung out at me during this dizzying, fast-paced, spiraling dance with Dark Mother.

img_1165

The spinning eventually slowed, and then finally stopped, and she released me from her grip, thoroughly exhausted. She let me go just as quickly and unexpectedly as she had grabbed hold of me in the first place. Such is the mysterious wisdom, power and grace of this Mother of the Dark Night.

I can say with certainty that my brief, but intense encounter with her has significantly altered my priorities and I am contemplating big changes in my life to accommodate my new perspective. This, I think, was the ultimate gift as well as the directive of The Fierce Black Mother. In this moment I am feeling most blessed to be alive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

THE MEDICINAL USE, PREPARATION AND APPLICATION OF BALTIC AMBER – Gail Faith Edwards

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 10.16.18In my role as a Community Herbalist for the past thirty or more years and as Director of the Blessed Maine Herb Farm School of Herbal Medicine, I have occasion to consult with numerous people who are in search of improved health, most dealing with a broad range of physical, emotional and mental dysfunctions and interested in alternative herbal and complimentary medicines.  I use a variety of certified organic cultivated and wildgathered herbs, trees, and fungi, most grown in our gardens or gathered nearby, in the herbal medicines I make.

Seven years ago, influenced by my Polish daughter-in-law Kasia and her family, I began working with Baltic amber…experimenting with and eventually integrating it into my educational programs and health supportive protocols, with exceedingly positive results. I would like to share with you a number of documented case studies from my recent work with Baltic amber, a bit about the medicinal virtues of this unique substance as I understand them, some of the recent science and traditional cultural uses of Baltic amber and the basic methods I use for preparing traditional medicines with this substance.

baltic amber chips

Baltic amber has been verified scientifically as an adaptogen. This is an important starting off place because in order to meet the criteria defined by the word adaptogen, a substance must be non-toxic, produce a nonspecific response in the body, which boosts its ability to resist multiple stressors and exert a normalizing influence on physiology. By definition, adaptogens strengthen the immune, nervous and glandular systems, increase metabolic efficiency and reduce susceptibility to illness and disease.

Baltic amber (succinum) is classified as warming, stimulating, magnetic, slightly sweet and bitter, aromatic and neutral in nature.

IMG_1547Succinic acid – Baltic amber contains high concentrations of a unique substance known as succinic acid, and with from 3% to 8% succinic acid by weight, is one of the most important natural sources of succinic acid in the world. Succinic acid is a colorless crystalline solid with a melting point of 185 -187 C; soluble in water; slightly dissolved in ethanol, ether, acetone and glycerin.

Succinic acid from Baltic amber was analyzed by Robert Koch (1886), the pioneer of modern bacteriology who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1905. Koch confirmed the positive health influences of this substance and discovered that there is no risk of the accumulation of surplus amounts of succinic acid in the human organism.

Succinic acid is commercially produced, widely used and approved for use by the United States Food and Drug Administration. It was originally employed by European scientists and military doctors to bolster the body’s immunity to radiation from industrial accidents. It is touted in Russia and other European countries for its youth preserving and cell rejuvenating properties and is commonly used in anti-aging formulations and to aid recovery of cancer patients after undergoing conventional medical treatment. It has been shown to strengthen immunity to ionizing radiation, infections, alcohol and other toxins.

Succinic acid is a powerful antioxidant shown to stimulate neural system recovery, eliminate free radicals and modulate the immune system. It is also used to discourage disruptions of the cardiac rhythm and to ease stress. Succinic acid helps restore strength and energy to the entire body, enhances brain function and so helps to improve awareness, concentration and reflexes.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 08.02.38Baltic amber was worn extensively by Neolithic women of the Mediterranean regions. They valued the beads as protective amulets and went to their graves adorned with it.  This amber necklace was uncovered by archaeologists from a grave site in my valley in Southern Italia.

Extensively traded since remote antiquity, Baltic amber’s continuous use has been documented to at least 13,000 years ago. Natural Baltic amber was highly prized among the ancient Nordic and Scandinavian peoples, as well as by the Celts, the ancient peoples of the Mediterranean: the Phoenicians, Greeks and Etruscans, the Arabs and Egyptians and the Chinese, all of whom knew and used Baltic amber (succinite) many centuries before the Common Era. Baltic amber gems were not only valued by these ancient peoples for their unique beauty but also for their considerable medicinal and protective qualities.

Brief Overview of Recent Science

lined up amber powders

As a bio-stimulant, succinate appears to affect the Krebs Cycle – the sequence of reactions by which most living cells generate energy during the process of aerobic respiration. This sequence takes place in the mitochondria, consuming oxygen, producing carbon dioxide and water as waste products, and converting ADP to energy-rich ATP. The Krebs cycle is the central metabolic turntable sustaining the cell respiratory process, and key functions of several of its intermediates, especially succinate and fumarate, have recently been uncovered. The most striking observations have been made while investigating human diseases; especially a set of specific cancers, revealing the crucial role of Krebs cycle intermediates as factors affecting genes methylation and thus cell remodeling.

Anti-tumor effects – Succinic acid ester of α-tocopherol, has attracted attention as a unique antitumor agent, and nanoparticles consisting of TS (tocopherol/succinate) as a novel and effective DDS (drug delivery system) carrier with multifaceted antitumor effects for combination therapy are currently being investigated.

Inflammation – Inflammatory immune cells, when activated, display much the same metabolic profile as a glycolytic tumor cell. This involves a shift in metabolism known as the Warburg effect. Emerging evidence is now pointing to a role for the Warburg effect in the immune and inflammatory responses. The reprogramming of metabolic pathways in macrophages, dendritic cells, and T cells could have relevance in the pathogenesis of inflammatory and metabolic diseases and might provide novel therapeutic strategies. This has implications in the repair and regeneration of cells, inflammation, cancer and neurological disease.

According to other recent studies, succinic acid has shown positive outcomes in both chronic hepatitis and diabetes.

One Russian study involving the hepatoprotective properties of succinic acid included 1075 patients. The control group of 447 received traditional pharmacotherapy drugs while the treatment group of 628 took the succinic acid-based infusion hepatoprotector, remaxol. This group showed a statistically and clinically significant therapeutic effect in the correction of hepatic lesions of varying genesis.

Its “hormone-like” effect on the neuroendocrine system, studied extensively by Professor Eugene Maevsky, Deputy Director of the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Biophysics, which is part of the Russian Academy of Sciences, is notable. Scientists working with Dr. Maevsky have documented studies over the past several decades that consistently support their use of succinic acid to prevent and treat many age related diseases.

Diabetes mellitus is the most common and rapidly growing cause of end-stage renal disease. Succinate is being shown to have a hormone-like signaling function, which appears to provide a feedback between local tissue metabolism, mitochondrial stress, and organ functions that may play an important role in intercepting the trigger for tissue injury.

IMG_1535Antimicrobial action – At least 18 strains of bacteria have now evolved into “superbugs,” becoming resistant to most of our drugs. And pharmaceutical companies, more interested in profitable blockbusters like Viagra and Zoloft, haven’t developed a new class of antibiotics in 25 years. We’re dying because of it. By 2050, an estimated 10 million people worldwide will die by superbug. Baltic amber tincture, long revered for its antimicrobial properties, and now understood to enhance immunity, may emerge as a major player here as well.

 Traditional Chinese and Unani Medicine using Baltic amber

In the Chinese Materia Medica succinum is listed among the “settling” or “heavy” sedatives. It is traditionally used for subduing fright, tranquilizing the mind, and relieving convulsion. Succinum is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine in the treatment of heart palpitation, amnesia, dreaminess, insomnia, and epilepsy, which is typically diagnosed during childhood, so amber is commonly used in pediatric formulas. Hu Po (succinum) is used as a remedy to “calm Shen.” (Shen is understood as mind, spirit, consciousness, soul and believed to reside in the heart.)

Amber is also traditionally used as part of a formula for alleviating water retention, relieving difficult urination and to eliminate kidney and urinary stones.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, succinum is also used to promote healthy blood circulation and to remove blood stagnation. Succinum is used as a remedy to treat amenorrhea and abdominal mass caused by blood stasis and stagnation of vital energy. Amber is also recommended for lower abdominal pains affecting the genitalia, such as pain of the testes, prostate, uterus, or vulvar region. It reduces swellings and promotes healing.

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 19.17.44

Baltic amber is often included in Chinese formulas for treatment of heart disease, because of its blood vitalizing effects; for example, it is combined with ginseng and codonopsis in the treatment of angina. In clinical practice, it is used for patients with heart diseases when the blood is not circulating properly, and at the same time the patient has palpitations and restlessness, such as seen in coronary heart disease. The same formula with amber, ginseng, and codonopsis is prescribed in cases of chronic liver disease to normalise liver function.

025A qi and blood tonic formula for lowering blood lipids, combines Baltic amber, astragalus, pearl, and American ginseng and is used as an anti-aging formulation and as a treatment to aid recovery for cancer patients after undergoing standard medical therapies.

Topical applications of Baltic amber include astringing ulcers and promoting tissue regeneration. Used externally, it is efficacious in the treatment of ulcers, boils, swellings, skin eruptions and infections.

According to Jessica Baker, LAc, RH in her AHG Symposium 2015 notes – Succinum enters the Urinary Bladder, Heart and Liver functions. She claims it is a CNS suppressant that may cause drowsiness and sedation. Her recommended dosage for use is 1-3 grams. She recommends it be taken as an elixir or worn as an amulet and says it may potentiate the effect of barbiturates.

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 10.57.35Unani Medicine – Commonly referred to as Greco-Arab medicine or Unani Tibb, it is a traditional system of medicine practiced in the Indian subcontinent. In the Unani system of medicine, certain plants, animals as well as mineral origin substances are used clinically for the treatment of disease without any side effect. These are considered time tested, centuries old, safe for use and cost effective. Baltic amber is one such medicine and Kahruba is the name used for a traditional Unani Baltic amber remedy used to heal gastric and peptic ulcer.

1511746_10151942490123667_829402414_o-2         Several Documented Baltic Amber Case Studies from my Practice

Woman 60 years old, 125 lbs., 5’5”, active, married, healthy. Complained of tendonitis in wrist and lower arm, pain was intense, limited movement, had been going on for several weeks without relief. Among other things she began wearing a Baltic amber bracelet. She reported that within minutes of putting on the bracelet, the pain in her arm began to lessen. By the next day the pain was completely gone. She wore the bracelet continuously and the pain did not return, despite using the arm freely, which she had not previously been able to do. After several months of continuous wear she had to go to a wedding and decided to remove the bracelet for something more suited to her wedding attire. The next day the pain in her arm returned. She realized she had not put the bracelet back on after the wedding event. She immediately put the bracelet back on and the pain began again to subside. She wears a couple of bracelets on her wrist continuously now and the pain has not returned.

Woman, 45, 140 lbs., 5’6”, healthy, hip pain lasting for several months causing extreme discomfort and inhibiting her ability to walk freely. She wrapped a large Baltic amber necklace around her waist and within ten minutes reported the pain was considerably relieved and she was able to walk freely. After a day of continuous use she reported feeling no pain in the hip at all.

Woman, mid 20’s, about 5’4”, 120 lbs., with severe eczema covering much of her body. Her ankle was severely swollen and the rash was angry, red, inflamed and oozing. She was given an Allergy Ease formulation (containing reishi mushroom, American ginseng and licorice), a rose and Baltic amber cream and wrapped a Baltic amber anklet around her ankle. When I saw her a couple of weeks later her ankle was considerably less swollen, almost normal, and the skin rash was no longer red and oozing but on its way to being completely resolved. She is continuing with the Allergy Ease formula, the Baltic amber/rose cream and the anklet.

Woman, mid 50’s, 5’2”, morbidly obese, complained of difficulties maintaining her energy after eating lunch at mid-day. She said her energy was so low all she could do was lie down after her meal. She tried Baltic amber tincture to see if it would boost her energy levels and we worked on moderating her diet. She reported that within a week of using the tincture, one drop the first day, two the second, three on the third day, up to seven drops on the seventh day, she began noticing much more energy in the afternoon. After a couple of weeks, maintaining her dose at 1 drop per day, she said that she could return to work in the afternoon and sustain her energy until closing time at 4:30.

Woman, mid 50’s, 5’3”, 120 lbs., complained of constantly picking up ticks while working in the garden and natural environs. Her dog she said was also a “tick magnet.” She started taking one drop of Baltic amber tincture in a cup of water once a day. She also gave her dog the same treatment dose. She reported that neither of them has had a single tick on them since beginning the drop of Baltic amber tincture daily.

amber chips

Reported by a sister herbalist: Woman, in her 30’s, 5’7”, 130 lbs., with Lyme disease and co-infections. Used a number of Lyme protocols and nothing seemed to be helping. Began taking Baltic amber tincture, using the traditional Polish method (see below) when she got to 5 drops she began feeling very ill, and the herbalist who was caring for her reported that she was herxing. (Herkheimer reaction is believed to occur when injured or dead bacteria release their endotoxins into the blood stream and tissues faster than the body can comfortably handle it.) The number of bacteria dying off in her body due to the antimicrobial properties of the Baltic amber was overwhelming her and she could not continue. She took a break from the tincture for a week, until she felt stabilised and then resumed taking just one drop daily, in water. She is also wearing a Baltic amber necklace. She reported feeling much better after three weeks of this treatment, her energy level was improved, she feels more vitality and does not experience the extreme muscle aches she was dealing with previously.

Woman, 66, 5’3”, 110 lbs., generally in good health but returned from a trip to India with multiple infections and itchy rash covering much of her trunk, arms and legs, miserable. After several trips to different doctors which produced no help at all, and multiple courses of steroids, after which the rash returned with a vengeance, she began altering her diet, eliminating gluten, using an Allergy Ease formula and wearing Baltic amber around her neck, arms and ankles. She took one full course of Baltic amber tincture, using the traditional 19 day dosage protocol, and applied a cream made from Baltic amber and rose oil over the inflamed areas of her skin. Within a few weeks of beginning the Allergy Ease and Baltic amber treatments her rashes began to fade, the itching subsided and she began to regain her health. She continues to use the Allergy Ease formula intermittently, wears a Baltic amber necklace around her neck, bracelets on both arms and anklets on both ankles. The rash has not recurred and her good health has been sustained. The same woman suffered from recurring shoulder pain that had lasted on and off for twenty years and limited her arm mobility and her ability to lift even a mildly heavy object. After wearing the Baltic amber bracelets she noticed the pain had disappeared and she had full range of motion in that arm and shoulder again and was now able to lift her two year-old grandson, with no problem at all.

Woman mid 50’s, 5’7”, 140 lbs., generally good health…complained of continuous shoulder pain, applied the Baltic amber/St. Johns’wort cream and within minutes began to feel relief. She reported that the pain relief was instantaneous. The same woman later broke two toes, requiring her leg to remain elevated. She applied the Baltic amber cream to the leg to stimulate circulation with very good results.

Young woman, late 20’s, suffering with a bunion on her toe, causing her great discomfort. She put a Baltic amber necklace, wrapped twice around her ankle and reported near instant relief, which kept the bunion from causing any more discomfort, despite walking all around France that winter.

Middle aged, menopause woman, generally in good health, suffering from typical menopausal issues, used the tincture for hot flashes, and “balancing hormones.”  She reported that “It worked very well, and it did seem to make me feel better.  It gave me a little energy lift as well.”

Woman, mid-40’s, average height and weight, used the Baltic amber tincture for heart palpitations. She said “It totally worked to relax the feeling like the heart is jumping out of your body.  It took 2-3 days until I noticed the effectiveness.”

A middle-aged woman emailed me the following message: “I purchased the Baltic amber tincture for the treatment of menopause – specifically for hot flashes, insomnia, and low energy. I did notice improvement in these areas. Even more remarkable was that I made it through the flu and cold season better than everyone else I knew.”

From a student: “I own and wear multiple pieces of Baltic amber daily.  I wear two necklaces for an old compression injury to my neck that causes chronic pain and stiffness and three bracelets I wear around my left wrist for the pain and weakness caused by a severely broken radius that required surgery and the placement of a metal plate.  I also have two anklets that I wear around my ankles to help with occasional Achilles tendon swelling. I have found them to be very effective for pain relief and weakness, and somewhat effective for stiffness.  This effect is very pronounced when I forget to put them back on a few hours after they have been taken off.

amber tincture good Medicine Making

Tincture – we use a 1:5 ratio and cover with 50/50 blend of 190 proof organic alcohol and spring water. Let macerate for at least 6 weeks. Although resins usually require a high alcohol content, succinic acid is water soluble, hence the 50/50 menstruum. Dosage: The traditional Polish recipe is 1 drop on the first day, 2 on the second, 3 on the third, all the way up to 10 drops on the tenth day, then reverse and take 9 drops, 8, 7 and so on until the 19th day when you take one last drop dose. This is considered one full course of treatment. Rest for ten days before starting another course.

Some people, the weak, the very sick, those with multiple infections, may find it hard to go up beyond five to seven drops before feeling ill. Find the comfort level and stay there for three weeks. This may be as little as 1 or 2 drops daily.

Alternately, for treating viral, fungal or bacterial infections, 1 or 2 drops per day in water daily for 3 weeks can be an effective dose. Then take a ten-day rest. For Tick/Lyme prevention, we use one drop daily in water, during the entire tick season, taking a one-week break every three weeks.

We use the tincture to enhance immunity, counter bacterial, fungal and viral infections, to bring down inflammation, relieve pain, calm stress, nourish the nervous, cardiovascular and glandular systems, balance hormones and restore vitality. We take the drops in water, but they can also be placed on the surface of the tongue, held there for several seconds and then swallowed.

Oil – Prepare 1:5 by volume…fill a jar 1/5 with pharmaceutical grade amber chips and cover with pure olive oil. Let sit for a minimum of six weeks. The use of mild heat will enhance the oil infusion…such as a pilot light in an oven, place on top of a water heater, or in a dehydrator, yogurt maker or autoclave set to 100 degrees. It will turn a warm golden color when ready.

amber butterApply the oil directly or mix with rose oil and cocoa butter to make a cream. Apply to the face and skin as a cosmetic aid, for youthful/beautification purposes, to restore elasticity to the skin, and to heal infections, rash and wounds, burns and to prevent scarring. Use the oil mixed with St. John’s wort oil or prepare as a cream to be used topically for pain relief, which is especially good on sore muscles and joint pains. We use this combination as a sunscreen/sun protector also, because both substances are well known to protect against sun burn/radiation.

To prepare our creams we mix infused Baltic amber oil, rose oil and/or St. John’s wort oil with cocoa butter, beating until it reaches a thick, creamy consistency. Essential oils of rose, frankincense, myrrh or lavender are added before whipping to enhance healing, aroma and as a preservative.

IMG_1539

Water based medicine – Powder chips and mix a quarter teaspoon to a cup of water, or herbal infusion, mix well…or infuse 1/4 teaspoon of chips in a 8 ounce cup of water, let sit in sunlight for 4 hours…apply as a wash over infected skin, rash, eczema, psoriasis, etc. Strain and use as a spray after washing the face as a rejuvenating beauty treatment.

Dry application of powder – Baltic amber powder can be applied directly to rejuvenate and improve the appearance of the skin, heal damaged skin, counter infection, and soothe rashes. There is a very small chance of an allergic reaction to the powder applied directly to the skin, so to be safe, test on a small spot before proceeding with a full treatment.

IMG_1540In Chinese medicine amber is ground to a powder and swallowed with water or, more commonly, with a decoction of other herbs that make up a formula with the succinum. It is also combined into pills made with powder or extract of the other ingredients. Typical dosing for succinum is 1.5-3.0 grams per day. Because the powder is very fine, to avoid getting it stuck in the throat or inhaled, it is common to stir the powder into the warm decoction and swallow.

Note: Do not use tailings from jewelry making. Only pharmaceutical grade Baltic amber should be used for medicine making.

IMG_1533

Jewelry – Wearing Baltic Amber – The highest content of succinic acid is found in the amber cortex – the external layer of the stone. The skin is our largest organ of assimilation and it is known that anything placed on the surface of the skin is detected in the bloodstream and passing through the liver in a matter of minutes. We have found that wearing a Baltic amber necklace, bracelet or anklet is a very effective treatment for pain relief, with most people reporting instant or near instant relief. The amber must be in direct contact with the skin.

We understand that the heat of the body causes enough of the succinic acid to be absorbed from the resin, in micro-doses, something akin to a homeopathic treatment dose, enough to exert its analgesic, anti-inflammatory, immune enhancing and vitality boosting influence. For this reason the jewelry can be worn as a general bio stimulant, as a non-specific, over-all health enhancing agent…we use only natural Baltic amber jewelry for its antiinflmmatory properties, to regulate the thyroid, to enhance lymphatic drainage, to modulate immunity, help counter infection, normalize heart rhythm and boost energy and vitality. Natural Baltic amber acts as a protective shield against radiation, so we wear it to protect against radiation poisoning which is ambient in the atmosphere, and also coming from computers and cell phone use.

We also use Baltic amber jewelry, in addition to or as an alternative to the tincture, for preventing ticks from climbing onto or attaching to the body during tick season, wearing them continuously from early spring through fall. Wearing the anklets appears to discourage ticks from attaching while walking through tall grass or in the woods. We take one drop of Baltic amber tincture daily, for three weeks, take a one-week break and then repeat the cycle again.

I can report that none of our gardeners have had a single tick on them. We also grow a lot of aromatic herbs in our gardens, which we feel discourages tick populations as well. The woodland around the perimeter of our gardens is lush with aromatic cedar, fir, spruce and pine. We have tansy growing freely, hyssop, lavender, roses, wormwood and sage in meandering beds as well.

IMG_1543Living tissues possess direct current surface electro-potentials that regulate, at least in part, the healing process. Following tissue damage, a current of injury is generated that is thought to trigger biological repair. In addition, exogenous electrical stimuli have been shown to enhance the healing of wounds in both human subjects and animal models. In other words, wherever you place a magnetic current on the body, blood flow is enhanced and healing is stimulated.

Baltic amber’s considerable electrostatic properties are an essential part of its health boosting abilities.  The magnetic property of Baltic amber has been known down through the centuries.  Women in the Mediterranean areas wrapped amber beads around their spinning staffs because of its ability to attract natural fibers such as fleece and linen.  The word electric has its root in electron, the Greek word for Baltic amber.

Baltic amber is respected as a natural ioniser; it possesses the ability to produce negative ions, known to help to ease pain, boost over-all immunity and stimulate the healing process.

According to results of research on negative ions conducted at the Nanzandoh Medical Clinic in Japan, negative ions help speed recovery from illness, slow the aging processes and offer protection from the harmful effects of environmental stressors such as electromagnetic fields and radiation.

Additionally, it was reported that negative ions support the health of the autonomic nervous system, promote deep sleep, healthy digestion, effect the production of insulin, neutralize free radicals and enhance adrenal function. Wearing a piece of natural Baltic amber appears to strengthen the energetic field of the body, perhaps through its electromagnetic properties and/or this ability to produce negative ions.

Many people report feeling an increased sense of emotional/psychological/spiritual strength and balance when wearing Baltic amber. The jewelry has traditionally been worn as a protective amulet or talisman. For people with disturbed Shen, those who are emotionally sensitive, stressed, suffer from insecurities, those who feel particularly vulnerable, exposed, in pain, depressed and/or frightened, and especially for babies, young children and pregnant women, wearing Baltic amber can be particularly grounding and offer a sense of being enveloped in a calm, protective shield.

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 11.14.26One of the things about Baltic amber that I find the most compelling is the fact that not only does it carry the energy and memory of all those millions of years on earth, but it also often contains bubbles of air that were on the planet all those millions of years ago, as well as inclusions of small particles of living matter, such as leaves or bugs that bear witnesses to life on earth 40 to 200 million years ago. These physical traits energetically transmit the power of longevity, endurance, and the ability to survive, with strength and grace, any changes that come our way. This is the very essence of adaptogenic.

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 11.19.53Addendum

The terms Oleum succini (amber oil), Balsamum succini (amber balsam), and Extractum succini (amber extract or tincture) appear often in the formulas of the alchemists of the Middle Ages and these items were still listed as medicines in A Dictionary of Medical Science; Medical Lexicon of Official and Empirical Preparations, sixth edition dated 1846, written by Robley Dunglison, at the Boston Medical Library of Medicine.

Succinum was considered antispasmodic and diaphoretic in a dose from five to twenty grains. It was commonly referred to as Electrum, Ambra, Ambre jaune and Yellow Amber, reported to be composed of resinous matter, essential oil and an acid, sui generis; inodorous, except when rubbed or heated. The oil, oleum or Balsamum Succini, also known as Huile de Succin, was said to possess stimulating, antispasmodic, diuretic and rubefacient properties.

Baltic amber oil was an ingredient in British Oil, formulated by the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, which also contained oil of terbinth, juniper and aloe and was recommended as a remedy for sprains.

12038730_10153274351383667_1561512431111681146_oThis post is the presentation I gave at the Kaliningrad Amber Museum as part of the International Amber in the History of Medicine Conference and Exhibit held in Kaliningrad, Russia in September/October 2015.  The presentation was translated into Russian and this photo was taken of me with our translator, Marina, during my talk at the Museum.  Many of the photos in this blog post were taken at the Amber Museum in Kaliningrad and depict items that are part of their permanent exhibition entitled Amber in the History of Medicine, curated by Dr. Irina Polyakova.

For more on the Myth, Magic, and Medicine of Baltic Amber, readScreen Shot 2015-10-29 at 12.16.00 Natural Baltic Amber – Magnetic, Adaptogenic, Universally Applicable

You’ll find our Baltic amber tincture, oil, cream and teething and adult necklaces here: Blessed Maine Herb Farm Baltic amber products

Citations:

Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2009 Feb;23(3):403-8. doi: 10.1002/rcm.3886.

Mass spectrometry in the characterization of ambers. II. Free succinic acid in fossil resins of different origin.

Author information Tonidandel L1, Ragazzi E, Traldi P. 1CNR-ISTM, Corso Stati Uniti 4, I-35100 Padova, Italy.

KREBS CYCLE – Biochim Biophys Acta. 2014 Aug;1837(8):1330-7. doi: 10.1016/j.bbabio.2014.03.013. Epub 2014 Mar 31.

Unsuspected task for an old team: succinate, fumarate and other Krebs cycle acids in metabolic remodeling.

Bénit P1, Letouzé E2, Rak M1, Aubry L3, Burnichon N4, Favier J4, Gimenez-Roqueplo AP4, Rustin P5.

Author information 1Hôpital Robert Debré, INSERM, UMR1141, Paris 75019, France; U.F.R. de Médecine Université Paris Diderot, Paris 75019, France. 2Programme Cartes d’Identité des Tumeurs (CIT), Ligue Nationale Contre le Cancer, Paris, France. 3UEVE UMR 861, I-Stem, AFM, Evry, France. 4Paris-Cardiovascular Research Center (PARCC), INSERM, UMR970, Paris 75015, France; Faculté de Médecine, Université Paris Descartes, Paris 75006, France. 5Hôpital Robert Debré, INSERM, UMR1141, Paris 75019, France; U.F.R. de Médecine Université Paris Diderot, Paris 75019, France. Electronic address: pierre.rustin@inserm.fr

Biol Pharm Bull. 2014;37(2):196-200.

Nanoparticles consisting of tocopheryl succinate are a novel drug-delivery system with multifaceted antitumor activity.

Hama S1, Kogure K. Author information 1Department of Biophysical Chemistry, Kyoto Pharmaceutical University.

Bioessays. 2013 Nov;35(11):965-73. doi: 10.1002/bies.201300084. Epub 2013 Sep 20.

The Warburg effect then and now: from cancer to inflammatory diseases.

Palsson-McDermott EM1, O’Neill LA. Author information 1School of Biochemistry and Immunology, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.

[The clinical efficacy of a succinate-containing infusion drug during pharmacotherapy for hepatic lesions of varying genesis: results of meta-analysis].

Mazina NK, Mazin PV, Sukhanov DS.

Int J Med Mushrooms. 2012;14(3):241-56.

Review of biological and pharmacological activities of the endemic Taiwanese bitter medicinal mushroom, Antrodia camphorata (M. Zang et C. H. Su) Sh. H. Wu et al. (higher Basidiomycetes).

Yue PY1, Wong YY, Chan TY, Law CK, Tsoi YK, Leung KS.

Author information 1Department of Biology, Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR.

[Metabolic correctors based on succinic acid as pathogenic therapy in chronic virus hepatitis].

Stel’makh VV, Radchenko VG, Kozlov VK.

Ter Arkh. 2011;83(2):67-71. Review. Russian.

PMID: 21516854

Kidney Int. 2010 Dec;78(12):1214-7. doi: 10.1038/ki.2010.333. Epub 2010 Sep 22.

High glucose and renin release: the role of succinate and GPR91. Peti-Peterdi J1.

Author information 1Departments of Physiology and Biophysics, and Medicine, Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA. petipete@usc.edu

UMANI Medicine  A review on gastric ulcer remedies used in Unani System of medicine

Authors: Jamal, Anwar Siddiqui, Aisha Tajuddin Jafri, M A

Pomum ambrae: Amber and Ambergris in Plague Remedies John M. Riddle

Sudhoffs Archiv für Geschichte der Medizin und der Naturwissenschaften

Bd. 48, H. 2 (JUNI 1964), pp. 111-122

Published by: Franz Steiner Verlag

Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20775083

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Benedicaria – The Blessing Way of Southern Italian Folk Medicine – Part 2 – Gail Faith Edwards

The Practice – novenas, incense, charms & amulets, hand mudras, malocchio and healing tools and rituals.

me and carmella

My rural village, with roots going back beyond the Neolithic, sits at the foot of the highest mountain in our area, Mont Cervati, which means Mountain of the Deer. The deer was a totem animal of the Lucani people and the sacred animal of Diana. In much earlier times this mountain was known as her holy ground, her habitat. Her ancient shrine sits atop the mountain in a grotto and people still walk to it in holy pilgrimage in early August as they have for countless centuries.

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 09.05.10Diana is now known as Our Lady of the Snow, but the old ones remember She Who Knows. Diana means heavenly, divine and she is our Lady of the Moon, the huntress, guardian of the woodlands and protector during childbirth. She is luminous, shining, and though she has been renamed, she still carries all the old iconographic associations. She is easy to recognize. She is adored as our defender, our guardian spirit and the one from whom our sacred waters, and hence all our nourishment, flows. She is fertile, fruitful and fecund. She is our Buona Dea, our beloved Maria.

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, our Southern Italian family-based spiritual traditions are renowned for possessing a great deal of flexibility and fluidity. As a result, the practices found in Benedicaria vary from family to family and from individual to individual.  What follows are some traditional practices that are universally practiced in our tradition.

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 10.30.05

Novenas – A novena is a spiritual prayer ritual conducted for nine consecutive days or nights. We often attend novenas at church but just as often conduct our own novenas at home. Although no two novenas will be the same they do have a common thread…for instance, we usually set up an altar before performing a novena at home. The altar may be a small table or fireplace mantle, which is covered with a white cloth, often decorated with crocheted lace along the edge, according to family tradition; there will usually be one or two white or red candles lit and the altar will hold an icon or a statue of the saint we are invoking. During the novena we recite the rosary, or offer other significant prayers daily during the nine days, to implore help, make a petition or offer thanks for prayers realized.

Incense is an important part of this ritual. Many cultures around the world and throughout time have understood the importance of burning sacred herbs. There are many passages in the bible that tell us that the smoke carries our prayers to God, or Great Spirit.

Myrrh opens the doors to the otherworld; frankincense invites angelic or heavenly protection and is especially uplifting. These two herbs are often burned together in Catholic rituals and used by practitioners of Benedicaria. Many homes have their own unique incense blend.Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 08.47.20

The blend I use is a combination of sacred herbs and trees that have special meaning to me, and that connect me to my home and my ancestors. This incense is a blend of frankincense and myrrh resins, needles and resins of pine, spruce, and fir, cedar boughs and Baltic amber resin. The incense burned during prayers, blessings and healings is often associated with family history and carries a deep sense of place. Another incense I use is a combination of herbs I gather in my Mediterranean homeland. It combines olive leaves, bay, rosemary, sage, and rose. You can find these very special hand rolled incense sticks here: incense sticks

A traditional Southern Italian house blessing incense is commonly made with equal parts of camphor, myrtle leaves and nutmeg. When doing a house blessing ritual we burn the incense, allowing the sacred smoke to flow freely, as we sprinkle holy water on all corners of the house, using a bunch of rue or a branch of rosemary, and pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be and the Apostles’ Creed.

The psychological aspects of healing and protection through the use of rituals, prayers, dreams, tools, hand mudras, charms, herbs, amulets and talismans represents an important aspect of traditional Southern Italian shamanism/folk medicine.

Malocchio or the Evil Eye is a concern among people of Southern Italia as it is in many other geographical locations around the world. A headache or fever, with no discernible cause or reason, or a string of “bad luck” is often considered to be the result of having been subjected to the evil eye.

Charms and Amulets – There are many types of amulets used to protect from the Evil Eye or to attract good fortune. One common amulet is the cornicello or “little horn”. This is a long, gently twisted horn-shaped amulet usually carved out of red coral or made from gold or silver and hung from a chain around the neck. The horn is usually hollow and therefore ready to be filled with an abundance of blessings that are being poured into one’s life. The top is often decorated with a gold crown to represent success, mastery and wealth. The blessings of this charm are believed to be many: good fortune, protection, virility, strength, success, abundance, and wealth.

When worn as jewelry it is often perceived as a badge of Napolitano cultural identity. It is also hung on rear view mirrors, often seen hanging in shop windows, carried on key rings and printed on t-shirts. The cornicello is generally worn by men, because of its association with virility, but since it confers many other blessings, women sometimes wear it as well.

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 09.09.53The origins of this charm are somewhat of a mystery. It may be Roman in origin, stemming from the myth of the cornucopia or magical horn of plenty that was carried by the Roman Goddess Abundantia, whose cornucopia produced never ending supplies of delicious food and gold coins which she poured out generously on those who pleased her.

There is some evidence that the cornicello, or cornetto as it is also known, may come from the Etruscans as their homes would often display a bulls horn above the front door for prosperity. There was an ancient Etruscan settlement in our valley, and their influence is still felt. I often see a set of bull horns placed above the entrance door to rural homes when traveling around the countryside here. Others suggest its origins extend back to Neolithic times and perhaps even farther back than that.

Ideally the cornicello, as with any magical or protective charm, should be received as a gift, which is thought to maximize its luck bringing potential.

In Southern Italian folk healing and herbal lore rue, Ruta graveolans, is considered a most magical and protective herb. It has many medicinal uses and is a key ingredient in any protective amulet. The cimaruta is a classic Neapolitan protective charm that suspends ancient magical and protective symbols from a triple branched sprig of rue. It is a classic talisman for bringing abundance, beauty and grace into one’s life and ensuring the wearer protection from harm. The cimaruta is traditionally made of silver, the metal of Diana, she who was dearly beloved in this part of the world for many thousands of years.

FullSizeRender-14

The cimaruta falls under the category of portafortuna, literally door of fortune or “lucky charm”, a term that can be used broadly to describe practically any amulet or talisman. The charm can be worn by women or men, but is generally deemed to be more feminine in nature.

Arcane symbols sprout from the tips of the three rue branches: a waxing crescent moon, a key, a vervain flower, a sacred heart and a fish. The symbolism contained within the cimaruta is a blend of symbols taken from Pagan, Catholic and peasant folk magic, all of which reflect the traditional folk spirituality of Italy perfectly.

The sacred heart, the fish and the triform nature of the branch are all Catholic symbols, representing Jesus, Christian faith and the Trinity. In earlier times the triple branch represented the triple goddess, maiden, mother and crone. The key and the crescent moon are early Pagan symbols representing Hekate and Diana, two Goddesses especially beloved by the Southern Italic tribes, and associated with healing and magic. Rue itself is a powerful protector against malevolent forces in Italian herbal lore as are vervain flowers, which are believed to attract good fortune.

aquilea

Amber also has an ancient tradition of being worn as a protective shield, or amulet, in Southern Italia. The earliest trade routes from the Baltic Sea carried amber, or ambra, down into the Italic peninsula and across the Mediterranean to Egypt and the rest of the Middle East, where it was also highly prized. The Italians were noted around the globe as the finest amber carvers. In my valley, when archaeologists uncovered graves from 1,500 BC, they found the people had been buried wearing considerable amounts of raw amber. Amber rosaries were and still are, especially prized.

Because amber has a natural magnetic property, it was used to wrap spinning staffs, and thought to attract not only the fibers of wool and flax, but also to bring
good fortune.

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 09.17.49

Hand gestures – It is thought that ribald gestures distract an offender from the mental effort needed to successfully bestow the Evil Eye. Since one effect of this affliction is to dry up liquids, the drying of the phallus, resulting in male impotence, can be averted by seeking refuge in the moist female genitals.

Those who are not fortified with phallic charms make use of sexual hand gestures to avoid the Evil Eye. Such gestures include the sign of the fig, or la fica, which is a fist with the thumb pressed between the index and middle fingers, representing the phallus within the vagina. Another protective hand gesture is the le corna, where the fist is formed leaving the pinky and index fingers
protruding.

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 09.17.33

In addition to forming these phallic hand gestures, a statue of a hand in these positions, or a hand covered with magical symbols, are also carried as talismans or placed in the home.

The intentional wielder of the Evil Eye, or the jettatore, is often described as being especially magnetic and possessing a striking facial appearance, with high arching brows and a stark stare that leaps from black or blue eyes. But in truth, anyone can pass the Evil Eye, even unknowingly. Jealousy and envy are considered to be the main culprits and these emotions can cause health disturbances for the object of the envy. To avoid unintentionally giving the evil eye, many people will pass a home keeping their heads down, so as not to look too closely at unique features.

Babies, small children and pregnant women are considered the most vulnerable. When we meet a cute little baby out on the street it is considered best not to make too much of a fuss over it, lest you offend it with the Evil Eye. One way around that is to touch the baby before departing, another is to spit on the ground as you leave, as water prevents the drying up associated with the affliction. These actions prevent the evil eye from being transmitted. Should one fall prey to the Evil Eye, we have healing rituals for removing the condition.

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 09.23.39Healing Tools – An assortment of magical tools are employed by Southern Italian Benedicaria practitioners and while these vary greatly depending on family traditions and specific regions, they commonly include antique keys which unite male and female energy, fiber ropes or cords to bind, knives or scissors to cut away illness, and mirrors and various weapons to reflect or scare away malevolent spirits.

 My elders taught me the use of three traditional tools to cure the evil eye as well as a ritual procedure for preparing them. The tools we use are a scissor, a knife and an old fashioned key. Each of these tools is individually dropped to the floor nine times in succession to activate them, and this is done each time prior to their use.

After their activation, the tools are held in the dominant hand and placed on the head, or anywhere on the body that is in pain or discomfort. We then proceed to gently tap or stroke the area. Three times on the left, three times at the center and three times on the right, while repeating a secret prayer. This prayer is unique to each practitioner and depends on your family tradition. It is passed along through the family line, usually by the women to a daughter, granddaughter or niece, but can also be shared with a male relative who is interested in healing. Traditionally it is shared only on two nights per year: Christmas Eve at midnight and at midnight before St. Joseph’s Day, March 19th.

While gently tapping the tools on the body, we recite the special prayer a total of three times. We then pray the Hail Mary (Ave Maria) three times, the Our Father (Padre Nostra) three times and the Glory Be (Gloria) also three times. As I have been taught to do, I recite all of these prayers in my ancestral dialect.

Eggs – Another common healing practice is the use of eggs as a form of cleansing, healing and to remove the Evil Eye. The egg is washed, dried, and then covered in holy water, which is usually obtained from a church. The practitioner prays over the egg, saying the Apostles Creed, the Our Father and three Hail Mary prayers. The egg is then rolled over the body of the afflicted in a loosely prescribed pattern, paying especial attention to any area of the body where pain is experienced. It is believed that the egg absorbs any sickness or negative energy. After doing this for approximately fifteen minutes, the egg is broken by throwing it in the toilet and flushing the remains. It can also be taken out of the house and buried in the ground.

me and rosemaryThe names used for healing practitioners or cunning-folk in Southern Italia vary from region to region, although such names include praticos (wise people), guaritori (healers), fattucchiere (fixers), and donne che aiutano (women who help). At times, they are referred to as streghe (witches), although usually only behind their backs or by those who are either skeptical of their powers or believe they deal in black magic.

Unlike in other parts of Europe, the ways of the Benedetta survived all through the 20th century and into the early 21st century, where they appear to be alive and well.

One important note here is that throughout all of the Burning Times in Medieval Europe, not a single Benedicaria practitioner, cunning-folk or witch, was ever burned at the stake in Southern Italia. These ways were practiced in every home and were neither strange nor unfamiliar; quite the contrary, they were, and still are, commonplace expressions of a unique and ancient culture, a comprehensive synthesis and evolution of spirituality, mysticism and folk healing that took place among an indigenous people across many centuries and is still quietly thriving in the rural mountains of Sud Italia.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Benedicaria – The Blessing Way of Southern Italian Folk Medicine, Part 1 – Gail Faith Edwards

rooftopsIn the remote mountain villages of Southern Italia, like ours, the old ways still thrive. We are a tribal culture, an indigenous people, descendants of the ancient Lucana Tribe; we are remembered as the People of the Sacred Wood, of the White Light. Our animal totems are the wolf and the deer. Our sacred traditions have been passed along orally, for many thousands of years.Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 14.04.32We speak a variation of the Neapolitan dialect, use hand signals and glances, wear protective charms and amulets, and recite secret prayers that have been handed down through our family lines for generations. We pray with a string of beads called a rosary. We light candles when making offerings, petitions, prayers and blessings. We make novenas and pilgrimages in honor of our beloved saints. We walk together in seasonal processions, singing timeless chants, led by our parish priest. We use holy water and sacred salts to sanctify and cleanse. We anoint, heal and divine with olive oil, pressed from the fruit of our sacred tree of peace and use a multitude of plants to bless, consecrate, nourish and heal.

These ancient ways are our treasures. They are our inheritance. They vibrate with primordial truth and intensity and exist right beside, inside and outside of the rituals of the Catholic Church.

Benedicaria is a relatively new word, coined in the Americas, to describe the old ways of Southern Italia spiritual culture and tradition.Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 15.12.47In the region of Campania, where my village is located, we refer to the old ways of healing, cleansing and religious devotion as Fa lu Santuccio, which literally means, “Do a little holy thing”. We call a practitioner of these traditional healing ways Benedetto if he is a male, or Benedetta if she is a female – both of which mean “Blessed One”. Most of the prayers used in Benedicaria are taken directly from Catholic prayer books.

Our Southern Italian family-based spiritual traditions are renowned for possessing a great deal of flexibility and fluidity. As a result, the practices found in Benedicaria vary from family to family and from individual to individual.429392_10150634691713667_711767825_nThe primary role of the Italian Benedicaria practitioner is that of a community healer, both through the wise use of natural elements, and through spiritual healing. The former requires extensive knowledge of plants and herbs as well as substances obtained from animals and minerals. Spiritual healing is believed to come from an inner power, known as la forza (power), la virtù (virtue) or il Segno (the sign).

1404917_10151797590103667_1063260755_o-2Practitioners of Benedicaria believe that they deal with spirit beings, both benevolent and malevolent. The later includes the unquiet dead as well as supernatural beings who are believed to cause harm to people. The benevolent beings include our ancestors, herbs, plants, trees, mountains, the elements, the helpful dead and our beloved saints, all of which we call upon to help defeat malevolent entities and physical illness.

 The relationship between Stregoneria (witchcraft) and Benedicaria can be puzzling, but in their purest form the two are completely distinct. Many practitioners were raised with or taught elements of both traditions, so much so that it is often impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins.

The practitioner of Benedicaria is generally a devout Catholic who makes no pretensions of being a witch. Benedicaria is a comprehensive synthesis and evolution of spirituality, mysticism, and folk healing that took place among an indigenous people across many centuries.1511746_10151942490123667_829402414_o-2

Traditional medicine or folk healing comprises knowledge systems that developed over many generations within various societies before the era of modern medicine and pharmaceuticals. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines traditional medicine as “the sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness”. In the written record, the study of herbs dates back for at least 5,000 years to the ancient Sumerians who described already well-established medicinal uses for plants.

Indigenous medicine is generally transmitted orally through a community, family and individuals until it is “collected”. Within a given culture, elements of indigenous medicine knowledge may be diffusely known by many, or may be gathered and applied by those in a specific role of healer such as a Benedetta, shaman, witch or midwife.

Three factors legitimize the role of the healer – their own beliefs, the success of their actions and the beliefs of the community.

 Traditional Herbal Use – In Southern Italian folk medicine, plants are believed to posses a spiritual consciousness, what we refer to as the numen or the genii. They are gathered with great respect for the genius loci from which they come. It is this consciousness that lends its power to, and is responsible for healings, blessings and what we might speak of as plant magic. Many plants and trees are associated with saints for this reason. Not only are they thought to signify or represent the saint, but in many cases are considered to actually be the saint in plant form.


Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 14.05.08

For instance, Matricaria (literally meaning dear or devoted mother) is associated with Sant Anna, (Saint Ann) the mother of Mary. Sant Anna is the patroness of our village; her shrine sits on a hilltop overlooking the housetops and it is she that we pray to for all issues regarding fertility, pregnancy, childbirth and matters involving the family.

1401452_10151804676643667_733394554_oAntibiotic garlic, well known to protect against a myriad of infectious diseases, is seen as San Michele (St. Michael) the protective warrior incarnate, able and willing to go to battle to defend us. My mother told me how, as a little girl, she was sent to school wearing a clove of garlic hung around her neck for protection whenever colds and especially the flu were rampant.

005Hypericum is the healing spirit of San Giovanni, (Saint John the Baptist) whose feast day is celebrated at the summer solstice, when the light of the sun is at its peak. Plants gathered on the eve of his feast day, June 23, are hung in the house for the rest of the year as protection against malevolent forces.

rosebudRosa, the quintessential flower of love long associated with Isis, Venus and Aphrodite, is the emblem of Blessed Mother Mary, Mother of God, and imparts her beneficent, healing energy.

What follows is a brief description of a number of common herbs and trees that are commonly used to bless, protect and promote healing in my region of Southern Italia. This information has been gathered directly from elder people in my village and the surrounding area, from my own personal experience and research over many years and from a recently conducted academic study done by local botanists, entitled Traditional Plant Use in the National Park of Cilento and Vallo di Diano, Campania, Southern Italy, by Riccardo Di Novella, Nicola Di Novella, Laura De Martino, Emilia Mancini, and Vincenzo De Feo, published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 15.02.53Marshmallow – Althea officinalis, called Rosa ri li fuossi and A. sylvestris is known as malva (Malvaceae). Common mallow is an herbaceous species common throughout Southern Italia and is one of the most important medicinal species in our folk pharmacopoeia. Its use as a panacea is made clear by a local saying, La malva, da ogni mal’ ti salva, (the common mallow saves you from every disease). The aerial parts of the mallows, prepared as an infusion or decoction, are often used for their restorative properties to treat cold, flu, stomach ache and colic, for the relief of menstrual cramps and as a post-partum depurative. These plants are also used topically to relieve toothache due to dental abscess or decay, to soothe heat and diaper rash, to heal bruises and help drain boils and abscess, and against mastitis. They are also commonly used to treat a number of SSTIs, (skin and soft tissue infections), most of which are typically associated with bacterial infection. In veterinary care, a decoction prepared with mallow and aerial parts of nettle is administered after cow dropping.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 15.05.17Horehound – Marrubium vulgare called maruggē and mentastro (Lamiaceae). White horehound is a perennial herb native to Europe, northern Africa, and temperate Asia. Much like common mallow, white horehound is also an extremely important species in the folk pharmacopoeia of southern Italy. It, too, is considered a panacea and is associated with the following saying, A maruggē, ognē malē struggē (the white horehound destroys every disease). White horehound decoctions are used as an expectorant, hepatoprotective agent, and cure-all. A decoction of the aerial parts is used as a wash to treat several SSTIs, including general dermatitis, athlete’s foot, boils and abscess, cysts and warts in both humans and animals.                                                                     

         1003283_10151512591838667_2058410482_n Chamomile – Matricaria recutita known as Hammamilla (Asteraceae). German chamomile grows throughout our area and is best known for its anxiolytic and sedative properties. The leaves and flowers are commonly used as a relaxant and a sleep aid, as a wash for skin conditions such as rash, as a treatment for acne and dermatitis and also as an eyewash for conjunctivitis. A simple tea is consumed to soothe the stomach and allay nausea. My grandmother, Maria Giuseppa Cammarano Quagliozzi, taught me that chamomile is a “cure-all” and she offered a cup of its tea to ease headache, relieve menstrual cramps and to settle upset feelings. The aerial parts are also used as a yellow dye.


539734_10151333855343667_17143154_n
Olive – Olea Europa known as Auliva (Oleaceae). The olive is a relatively small evergreen tree that is extremely long lived and a native of the Mediterranean region. It has long been a symbol of endurance, wisdom and peace. It is believed to be the branch that was carried back to Noah’s ark after the flood and because of this is considered to speak of the renewal of life. The olive is considered a sacred tree that unites humans with the divine. Minerva taught that the oil pressed from its fruit could be burned as an offering in lamps as an act of reverence and devotion. Jesus conducted many of his sermons in the Mount of Olives, which was a sacred olive grove, and the burial grounds for many of his ancestors. On Holy Thursday Catholics participate in a special morning mass during which olive oil is consecrated. This sacred oil, called chrism, is often blended with other aromatics, such as sweet smelling balsam or rose oil, and used during the rest of the year as an integral part of sacramental rites; for Anointing the Sick, Reconciliation, Holy Orders, Baptism and Confirmation. Olive oil has been used to anoint people, places, tools and sacred objects for thousands of years and its use for ceremony, healings and blessings stretches back for millennia. Among the people of Southern Italia it remains the preferred oil for extracting the medicinal properties of plants and also for cooking.                                                                                                    418275_10150634683113667_1715132840_nThe fresh leaves are prepared as a decoction to moderate high blood pressure. Modern science confirms this use and also tells us that olive leaves possess strong antimicrobial properties. In my experience olive leaves are fast acting and effective when used to counter infection. My friend Antonietta told me that her mother would burn olive leaves and use the ash topically to cure skin infections. In Southern Italia we fill jars with freshly gathered St. John’s wort leaves and flowers, called erva ri’ San Giuvanno and erva ri li mahari, cover the plant with olive oil, then place it in the sun to steep for several weeks. This oil is used topically to relieve many types of aches and pains and also as a protective anointing oil when someone is passing from this life into the next.

1492145_10152069743378667_2063817394_oBay Leaves Laurus nobilis L. called Lauro and Alloro (Lauraceae). The bay tree is a lovely evergreen tree native to the Mediterranean. A decoction of the leaves is used as a gastric antispasmodic and for the relief of menstrual cramps. The leaves are made into a digestif, which is taken after meals to assist digestion. Analgesic bay leaves are infused in olive oil and applied topically for the relief of aches and pains. The fruits are heated in olive oil and used in the topical treatment of auricular inflammations, earache. The bay tree has a long history of magical/mystical use. The Sibyls burned the leaves as an incense to enhance trance and their ability to prophesize.

20849_1464575928864_1067470689_1365877_6534449_nRue – Ruta graveolens called a’ruta (Rutaceae). This plant is a hardy evergreen perennial, native to Italia and Southern Europe. Referred to as the Herb of Grace, it has long been used to sprinkle holy water and as an integral element in sacred ceremony. A sprig of rue has traditionally been carried in a little bag or worn around the neck for protection. Sometimes it is combined with a clove of garlic or a pinch of salt. One of my favorite home made charms combines a sprig of rue, a little pinch of ash from the hearth, and a bit of hair from each family member, all kept together in a little red bag and hung in the home to bless and protect each member of the family. Rue is a potent antispasmodic, an emmenogogue and possesses strong analgesic properties. It is infused in olive oil and applied topically as a rub for sore muscles and to relieve aches and pains. The leaves of rue and fruits of Capsicum annum are typically simmered together in olive oil; this preparation is applied topically as an antirheumatic.

 417002_10150634698983667_1040963681_n

RosemaryRosmarinis officinalis called rosmarina (Lamiaceae). Highly regarded as an herb of protection, rosemary grows wildly all throughout our area, both inland in the mountains and along the seacoast. It is one of the most widely used spices in Mediterranean cooking, especially with meat dishes, and is considered a cure-all. Around my village it is planted at the entrance to a home or garden as protection against negativity and harm. A sprig is often burned as incense to clear the air and at night before bed to protect against disturbing dreams.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 15.19.52Poppy Papaver rhoeas known as Papavero and papapiro (Papaveraceae). The red petals are mucilaginous, bitter and expectorant and commonly prepared as a syrup that is used to alleviate cough and hoarseness and soothe a sore throat. Papavero is regarded as pain relieving, sedative, calming, and trance inducing and is sometimes enjoyed as a cordial. P. rhoeas has a long association with wheat and the combination of the two is traditionally used as an entheogen. The red flowers thrive wildly and abundantly amidst the wheat fields here as they have for thousands of years. Their species name is Italian and comes from Rhea, the name given to the mother of the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. It was also a name attributed to Cybele, the Anatolian mother-goddess celebrated as Ceres among the Italic tribes. Ceres was known as Demeter among the Greeks and was the Goddess of Grain. Ancient legends tell us of Rhea (imagine red poppies here) descending on the plains near the Elysian Fields in order to console Demeter/Ceres (wheat) after Persephone/Proserpina was lost, and together they bring fertility and growth back to the earth. Ceres was often depicted holding both poppies and wheat in her hands. She was revered as the very ground from which the crops sprung. Later on, as Christianity spread through these lands, Ceres became Mary.

This is an abbreviated version of the presentation I gave at the Viridis Genii Symposium at the Still Meadow Retreat Center, in Damascus, Oregon, in July of 2015.  For the full print version see Verdant Gnosis: Cultivating the Green Path, published by Rubedo Press.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Herbs, Spina Bifida and other Central Nervous System Challenges

Part 1 – The Backstory

I was born in 1949 with a neural tube defect, called spina bifida. I had the first operation of its kind, to close the vertebrae, when I was eight months old. Other than a large scar going across my lower back, there were never any visible signs of a birth defect as I was growing up. I was one of the lucky ones.

I do remember the horror I felt at seeing my scar for the first time. I was five years old and playing with my cousins in a full-length mirror. My mother explained to me that the last two vertebrae of my spine were not fully connected at birth and the doctors repaired the problem, hence the scar.

My mother told me a story I was to hear many times during my childhood: She fed me lots of food as an infant so that I would grow big and strong and be able to endure the surgery that was planned for me. Finally one November day, I was wrapped up in blankets, placed into a cardboard box and carried by my father onto a cargo plane that flew us from the Air Force base in Arizona to a hospital in California, where the operation would be performed. The story details included staying in the hospital for a full month, in the care of nurses who loved and cared beautifully for me, and who were very sad to see me go.

As a teenager, wearing a two-piece bathing suit was a problem for me, as hiding that scar and the redness and swelling around it, was foremost in my mind. I needed high-waisted bathing suits to cover it to my satisfaction. My right ankle was weak and my right foot turned regularly. I went through shoes at a rapid rate due to the twisting ankle and wasn’t comfortable wearing heels. I was never offered a brace to support my ankle, though the saddle shoes we were required to wear as part of our uniform in high school did the trick beautifully as they were sturdy and supportive.

But aside from these minor inconveniences, my life developed normally. At no time did anyone in my extended family ever suggest there was anything wrong with me or that there was anything I couldn’t do. I was encouraged to follow my heart, pursue my dreams and believe in myself. So I did. Friends, high school, boyfriends and later, four beautiful, healthy children, a lifetime mate, a fabulous farm and a career I love all came my way.

I was always acutely sensitive, high-strung, dramatic and easily distracted, but never connected any of that to the operation or the scar. Loud noises startled me and large crowds and lots of activity made me to feel nervous. The ocean, woods, fields, desert and plants specifically, calmed and centered me, always. They became my comfort and my lifeline. I was consciously aware of this loving support from nature since I was a very young child. I was also drawn to art and possessed a distinctly creative, artistic perspective toward life. Art, music, drama, writing, and poetry were how I processed information and feelings.

As a young adult, I continued to gravitate toward natural environments. I discovered Yoga and meditation and dreamed of living on a farm, raising kids and animals, and growing my own food and medicine. This is exactly the projectory I followed.

Working with plants gave me great peace. I was at home in a garden and in the wild. As I became familiar with the medicinal uses of plants I began to use them more directly to soothe my sensitive nervous system and to help me focus on various tasks.

I discovered cannabis in my early twenties and have used it regularly ever since. Skullcap was another early discovery, and a plant that has remained at the forefront of my medicine collection. Roses called to me, insistently, as did oats. Lavender, St. John’s wort and black cohosh also became good friends of mine. I began growing and wildgathering these herbs and many others around my farm haven. Later I integrated some of the fungi that grew abundantly in the woods. It seemed the birch trees that I loved so much sprouted growths along their trunks just for me.

Somewhere in my mid forties, after a couple of decades of enjoying a life filled with intense physical activity…running an off the grid homestead, raising kids and animals, cultivating gardens and all the physically demanding work associated with these things, my gait began to noticeably shift. My balance faltered. My legs felt strangely heavy. I began to trip and fall frequently. I woke up one morning unable to move my left foot up or down. I had very little feeling in my feet. My family physician thought I might have MS. She wanted me to see a neurologist. Fearing the worst, I waited a few more years before following her advice. Though I continued to nourish myself on a daily basis with herbs.

When I finally went in for a neurological examination the doctor said I was much too strong to have MS. He suggested an MRI. That’s when I found out about the spina bifida. To say I was stunned would be the ultimate understatement. I was by that time in my early fifties and this was the first time I was hearing about it.

The doctor said I had a tethered spine. Evidently this is a common result of the spinal surgery. He told me there was scar tissue inside my spine and that this fatty tissue growth, which he called a lipoma, was wrapped around a bundle of nerves going down to my legs. This scar tissue, he predicted, would continue to grow until I was paralyzed from the waist down. He told me quite plainly that soon I would not be able to walk at all and would lose control of both my bladder and bowels unless I had an operation to remove the lipoma immediately. His exact words were that I would “start to shit the bed.” These words and this image hit me hard and fear shuddered through every cell in my body. I felt like I had just been handed a death sentence.

The neuro-surgeon he sent me to said the necessary operation would include cutting through two bones in my back to enter the spine, then cutting away the bundle of scar tissue around the nerves. I would have to lie in bed for at least three months afterwards to recuperate and extreme pain would necessitate relying on narcotic pain relievers for an extended period of time. He outlined risks that included complete paralysis and death.

I returned home shaken to my core, in a state of absolute devastation. The word depression doesn’t even begin to describe what I was feeling. I spent most of my time during the following six months sitting alone in a dark room. I felt like I was being annihilated, that my life was completely over. No longer would I be able to hike in the woods and fields freely, gathering my beloved plants, or take my students on long adventures pointing out trees and plants that I loved and that they might find useful. Teaching at colleges and conferences, traveling independently, all would be coming to an abrupt end.

And what about my kids? They were still so young, barely teenagers. How would we continue to play and have fun together if I couldn’t walk? And who was going to wait on me hand and foot for three months or longer, while I lay in bed in a medicated haze? How would the kids get to and from basketball, snow boarding and track? How would I get in and out of a wheelchair if I were paralyzed? Who would tend the fires, cook the meals and haul the water while I recuperated, or worse, if I needed that kind of basic living support forever after? A million worries occupied my head day and night, my mind was spinning out of control and my spirit was heavy with the weight of fear and unknowing.

In my capacity as a community herbalist I had worked with numerous people who had had back operations and were left in considerable pain thereafter. Many of them struggled with addictions to narcotic pain meds and spent much of their time in a cloudy mental fog, at best. I was well aware of how debilitating such an operation and its after affects could be. I was not in any pain at all at the time, as far as my back was concerned, and certainly did not want to risk trading a relatively pain free existence for the possibility of never ending pain, narcotics and/or complete paralysis.

After months of deep consideration and nearly constant prayer, I decided against having the operation to release the tethered spine. I chose instead to have faith in my ability to heal, to trust in my own life process and embrace my destiny, whatever it was. I decided to turn to Great Mother and to my beloved plants for comfort and healing. They did not disappoint me.

My purpose in sharing all of this with you is to underline my depth of personal commitment to certain natural substances that I have used to nourish my nervous system over the past thirty or so years. I want to share exactly which herbs I’ve used, how I’ve used them and the results I’ve experienced.

I am presenting this information in an effort to provide a number of safe and simple remedies that can be used as both alternative and complimentary medicines for those born with spina bifida.  My goal is to widen the scope of what is generally regarded as accessible for easing the multiple discomforts of living with this particular birth defect and other central nervous system challenges. My hope is that this information will be put to use where it is appropriate and that it will have a positive impact on the health of those for whom it is intended.

I can personally attest to the fact that herbs can and do provide a nourishing and effective complimentary support system for many of the daily challenges faced by this particular group of people who are often dependent on the medical profession and prescribed medications for the simplest of bodily needs.

My first grandchild was born seven years ago with spina bifida and had corrective surgery on his second day of life. This sparkling, cheerful, intelligent little boy has faced numerous encounters with the medical world during his young life, including leg surgery and braces. He is learning to deal independently with bladder and bowel challenges and much more. He has been using herbs as alternative and complimentary medicines under my care since infancy and they have been a Godsend.

I also want to make clear that I am not blindly against surgery of any kind. My twisting ankle finally required the support of a brace, which I wore for a number of years. The brace was uncomfortable, greatly limited my footwear choices and caused my ankle to become deformed. When the pain became too much I finally sought the help of a skilled foot and ankle surgeon who performed an ankle fusion for me. This revolutionized my life, gave me back a huge amount of freedom and left me in considerably less pain and discomfort with every step. Plus I can now wear pretty much any shoes or boots I choose! What a liberation! This surgery was a necessary one that resulted in greatly improved function. So much so, that I refer to it as a miracle.

I will be 66 this month. With the help of a number of well-chosen herbs and prayerful practices, I am still on my feet and walking with the help of a cane. I am playing and dancing with grandchildren now. I work freely around my gardens and wander in the woods and fields, as I have always loved to do. After years of avoiding them, I have begun attending herbal conferences again, sometimes as a student, other times as a presenter. I travel to Italy every year, often accompanied by my now grown children. I do all these things more slowly and quite a bit less gracefully, but I still do them! I remain relatively pain free and I have not begun to “shit the bed” nor do I believe that I ever will.

After sitting in that sweet protective womb of a dark room all those months, held in the loving embrace of Great Mother, I woke up one morning and told myself: “Woman, the fact is you can still walk. So how about you get up, get back to work, do what you can do and forget about the rest.” I took my own advice and I am so glad I did! Sometimes there is no other alternative but to summon all the strength and courage we can possibly muster and carry on.

I realized that when a well-respected, even well meaning, doctor drops a prediction that does not sit well, it is within the realm of perfectly sane choices to decide not to believe it. Denial does serve a purpose. In fact, it may be as good a choice as any other, even when facing serious, life-threatening illness. I’ve read the studies and seen it in action in real life!

What follows is a list of the primary herbs I have found to be invaluable. These herbs, first and foremost, have brought me into deep connection with the earth, from which all healing comes. These herbs have offered me physical as well as emotional and spiritual healing. I consider them my friends and allies and give great thanks that they called to me and that I listened and responded to their call.

Part 2 – The Herbal Allies

Oats Avena sativaTrophorestorative for the nervous system. Rejuvenating and deeply nourishing. I use this herb daily in infusions, usually as a base, blended with other herbs I rotate in combinations, such as skullcap, passionflower, red raspberry, roses, peppermint, holy basil, lemon balm, birch bark and leaves, hawthorn berries, rose hips and more, depending on season, place and what I have available. We grow a lot of oats on our farm in Maine, harvest them in the milky stage and dry them on long screens. I keep a large jar of them on a shelf in the kitchen and throw a small handful into a pot of water, then sprinkle in whatever other herbs I want to use. Milky oats make me feel stable, at home in myself, well nourished and calm. They provide a steadying foundation and impart a sense of equilibrium.

Dosage: To make an infusion place a handful of milky oats into a quart of boiled water, stir and cover and let sit 2-4 hours or overnight. Strain and drink 2 cups per day. Tincture is usually 20-30 drops of milky oats tincture in water as needed.

Skullcap Scuttelaria laterifloraThis indigenous plant is usually referred to as nature’s finest nervine. Its action goes directly to the central nervous system. I use it to tone down excitability, ease stress, to assist with focus, to increase my sense of well-being and groundedness, to relieve pain, to soothe my spirit and to fall asleep. I also use it as a leader; to direct other healing herbs to my spinal column.

Dosage: Drink skullcap infusions daily or as needed, 1-2 cups per day, more if pain is a serious issue. Tincture dose is 10 drops as needed and this can be repeated every ten minutes until relief or the desired outcome is reached.

Rose Rosa spp.I cannot say enough about the ability of roses to nourish and heal, to soothe, astringe and tonify, to create a sense of beauty, ease and grace. I use roses and/or rose hips daily. Roses carry the essence of Great Mother, they make me feel like I am wrapped in her healing cloak, protected, content and at peace. Roses brighten my life and I love sharing them with others.

Dosage: Sprinkle a few roses into every pot of tea you make, use roses freely in baths, as a wash for the skin, for sore eyes, for sores in general. To moisturize the skin apply liberally as an infused oil. Rose elixir is made by steeping fresh roses in a mixture of equal parts brandy and honey, let macerate for 4-6 weeks. Add a few vanilla beans for extra deliciousness.

Lavender Lavendula officinalis Just the aroma of lavender alone is enough to relax me. I keep a lavender pillow in my bed. I use tranquilizing tincture of lavender in a Nerve Tonic formula, along with milky oats and skullcap. I add the essential oil to healing salves and pain easing oils. Lavender is a versatile, dependable nervous system relaxant and a reliable sleep aid. The infused oil is excellent to relieve muscle spasms and other muscular aches and pains.

Dosage: Lavender tea is preferable to an infusion, steep a teaspoon of leaves and flowers per cup of water, 10-15 minutes. Drink to relieve stress and anxiety, before bed to promote deep sleep. Add roses! Lavender tincture, 20-30 drops in water, lavender honey is wonderful, lavender infused oil, apply topically, use as the base for a muscle relaxing salve, just add beeswax…1 part beeswax to 4 parts oil.

Cannabis Cannabis spp. Cannabis is a relaxing, stress relieving, nervous system tonic. It’s been highly regarded as a spirit nourishing plant and has a long history of use in managing depression. When the stresses of daily life begin to mount, an evening toke may be all that is needed to help relax and shed the cares and burdens of the day. Cannabis helps promote deep, restful sleep, is non-addictive and has far fewer side effects than pharmaceutical tranquilizers, sedatives or alcohol consumption. It is also an effective pain reliever. Used topically, as an infused oil, it can be rubbed onto any painful muscle or joint. It has considerable antispasmodic properties, so is excellent for alleviating muscle spasms of any sort. In Ayurvedic medicine cannabis is used as a digestive system tonic and it is widely known as an agent to stimulate the appetite.

Dosage: Smoking, eating, drinking, infused oil, tincture dose is highly variable. Experiment slowly and with small amounts. May cause paranoia.

Black cohosh Actaea racemosa – I have come to love this plant a great deal. I plant more of it every year. It is gorgeous when in flower. I use the roots to counter pain and inflammation; for this use I usually combine it with ginger, turmeric, wild yam and American ginseng. Black cohosh’s action goes directly to the central nervous system so I also blend black cohosh, skullcap and chickweed in a formula intended to keep that lipoma from growing any further. See my notes on chickweed below.

Dosage: 20-30 drops of tincture in water or tea as needed.

American ginseng Panax quinquefoliusI’ve been growing and consuming American ginseng for many years now. I respect it immensely as an over-all nourishing tonic, restorative, rejuvenator and adaptogen. Facing chronic, long-term, irreversible health challenges head-on is stressful. Adaptogens help to modulate the negative effects of stress. They enhance immunity, nourish the nervous, glandular and cardiovascular systems, help boost the actions of other herbs, and offer a great deal of core support.   Other adaptogens I’ve come to appreciate and use in rotation, include licorice, Eleuthero, Schisandra berry, resihi mushrooms and Baltic amber.

Dosage: Eat a piece of ginseng root that is the size of your pinky finger, from the tip to the first knuckle, a few times a week. Tincture dose is 30 drops once daily. Ginseng syrup, a teaspoon to tablespoon daily and elixir, 30 drops or so, are both excellent.

Reishi Ganoderma lucid, G. applanatum and G. tsugaeThe fungi are more like people than plants! They are helping organisms on this planet. They break things down and transform them. They help us to be optimally nourished. They are the ultimate recyclers. Reishi in particular, is a spirit nourishing, immune enhancing fungi with thousands of years of safe use. It is a consistent part of my over-all support system and I am rarely without it. I appreciate it in a simple combination with licorice and American ginseng. I usually make it into a syrup or elixir, which I enjoy adding to a glass of water or cup of tea or cocoa. The honey magnifies the benefits it seems to me. I think of it as a super food for the body, mind and spirit. Other medicinal mushrooms I also appreciate and use often, include the birch polypores, maitake and shitake.

Dosage: One tablespoon of the syrup once or twice daily in water or tea. Tincture, 20-30 drops once or twice daily.

Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis Another fabulous nervine, a specific for nourishing the brain and enhancing mental function. It’s a nerve protective agent and has an ancient reputation for reversing paralysis. I use rosemary lavishly…I sprinkle it as a spice on many meals, use it in salad dressings, as a tincture, a tea, a smudge, an oil and add it to my bath along with Epsom salts.

Dosage: Rosemary teas and infusions, 1-2 cups daily, liberally as a spice in cooking, tincture 20 drops as needed, infused oil for topical use, add to bath as dried herb in a muslin bag, oil or infusion.

Chickweed Stellaria media This herb has a reputation for shrinking fatty growths like lipomas and cysts. It’s loaded with saponins, which make suds. Think of a dishpan full of soapy water. You dip in a plate covered with meat or fat and voila, it all melts away. That’s what I am hoping chickweed is doing for me. I direct its action to my spinal column by combining it with herbs that move the energy in that direction…primarily skullcap and black cohosh.

Dosage 30 drops up to three times daily daily.

St. John’s wort Hypericum perforatum – Oh, if only I could count the ways that this herb has served me over the years! Pain easing as an oil, applied topically, it gives quick and often amazing results. I use it both externally and internally to relieve the muscle spasms I often deal with in the back of my left thigh. It works like a charm. Spasms anywhere…including the bladder, call for St. John’s wort. I use 30 drops in water and repeat as often as necessary. I also apply the oil liberally to the scar area…to keep it soft, to enliven the nerves in the area, to inhibit further scar tissue growth. St. John’s wort is a reputable and reliable nervine. It restores nerve function. It imparts warrior spirit. It gives me great strength.

Dosage: Steep as tea, one teaspoon of herb/cup of water. Drink 1-2 cups daily. Add roses! Tincture 20-30 drops, repeat as often as necessary. Oil, apply topically as often as needed. Add some to a hot bath for pain relief.

Baltic amber SuccinicusThis is a relatively new addition to my Materia Medica for spina bifida and neurological system dysfunction. But one I have adopted with great passion after noticing benefits almost immediately since I began wearing it on my body. Baltic amber is a fossilized resin produced by ancient Pinus species trees around the Baltic rim, many millions of years ago. It naturally produces negative ions, which are health promoting and necessary for healthy cellular function. It has a strong magnetic charge; the words electron and electric come from Baltic amber, which was known as electron in ancient times. It is well known that healing occurs beneath a magnetic charge…for instance; bones, fractures and muscle sprains heal faster and more completely. Baltic amber contains succinic acid in its outer cortex, and this is absorbed in minute, I think of it as homeopathic, doses when placed on the warmth of the skin. Russian scientists have categorized it as an adaptogen, and they refer to it as a rejuvenative substance. It is proven to protect our cells against radiation. I can tell you that I feel centered and well balanced wearing it and feel it calms and somehow aligns my nervous system and energetic body. I don’t pretend to even begin to know how it does this. I do wear a necklace around my neck, several bracelets on my wrists and one around both my ankles all the time; I don’t remove them for either sleeping or showering. I recommend a well-made, authentic Baltic amber necklace or bracelet to anyone in need of healing or pain relief, especially those of us who require energetic/neurological system support.

Dosage: Traditional Polish directions for use of Tincture – 1 drop on the first day, 2 on the second, 3 on the third up to ten drops on the tenth day, then nine, eight, and so on until you take one last drop on the last, 19th day. This constitutes one round of use. Baltic amber oil is applied topically to rejuvenate skin, relieve inflammation and pain as often as needed.

Hawthorn Cratageus spp. – a gentle nervine, a sweet heart soother. Dealing with neurological dysfunction can weigh heavy on the heart. Walking less gracefully than most makes us feel conspicuous and self-conscious at times. It takes a lot of courage some days to face daily challenges. Holding the fear of what might come at bay can be taxing and stressful. All of this affects the heart and cardiovascular system acutely. I have befriended hawthorn to help me with these issues. It’s a calming nervine and also promotes the production of collagen, the most profuse protein in the body and necessary for the efficient repair of cells, veins and arteries, tendons, muscles, bones and nerves.

Dosage: 30 drops of tincture or elixir once to three times daily. Drink 1-2 cups of hawthorn infusion daily. One teaspoon – one tablespoon of hawthorn syrup daily.

Note: Check herb/drug interations before using any herbs if you are also taking a pharmaceutical medication.  Seek the help of a professional herbalist if you are unfamiliar with using herbal medicines.

This blog post and those that will follow are part of an extended written piece on Herbs, Spina Bifida and other Central Nervous System Challenges.

Next week I’ll post PART 3 – TREATING SPECIFIC SYMPTOMS AND SIDE EFFECTS

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

Why seeing seriously ill clients makes me feel good…it’s not what you think!

I’ve been seeing a number of challenging herbal consultation clients lately.   A local doctor tends to send me his patients who either do not want to pursue the care he can offer them or who specifically ask for an alternative or complement to their current protocol. Hence, I see some seriously ill people. And this usually makes me feel good. Let me tell you why.

Take Janice, for instance. Not her real name, of course. Janice is a beautiful, vibrant, woman in her early elder years, full of good energy, well developed skills and plenty of both love and hope. She also has stage four lung cancer. After several radiation treatments she became so sick she made the decision not to continue. She asked her doctor what else she could do. That’s when he referred her to me.

When I met Janice she was sitting in the passenger seat of her car, somewhat hunched over and wearing a wig. Her skin was grey and she did not have the strength to get out of the car and walk the little way to my office. We consulted right there.

Despite her poor surface/exterior appearance, as we spoke I could see a light shining in her eyes…a real lively twinkle. I felt we could count on that twinkle to become a bright light. I told her so…and we began working together. By the time her husband drove her back down my driveway, she was sitting just a bit taller in her seat, had a well chosen package of herbal health support in her lap and was thanking me profusely.

Janice was not hoping to cure her cancer. She merely wanted to get to a comfortable place so that she could enjoy what life she had left. I committed myself to helping her achieve this goal.

Janice’s tongue, mouth and throat were very dry and burnt from the treatments, so I offered her a tea containing marshmallow leaves and flowers, calendula flowers, licorice root, slippery elm and a sprinkling of mint to soothe and heal. She drank the tea cooled and it worked as I expected; she reported right away that it gave her great relief.

astragalus flowersI also offered her a Mushroot Chai Deep Immune Tonic. It is made with a variety of medicinal mushrooms, American ginseng and Astragalus roots, some tasty spices, organic alcohol, H2O and pure Maine honey. I thought it would be a good over-all nourishing tonic for her, something to boost her vitality, heal the trauma as well as enhance and rebuild immunity. These fungi and roots possess tumor inhibiting constituents and that would be working in her favor as well. I do not expect this tonic to eliminate her cancer, but I figure those tumor inhibiting actions might help slow/delay her cancer’s progression while building her strength enough to continue to resist it. ginseng12I gave her a simple lung tonic tincture as well, made with mullein, hyssop and thyme, intended to help keep her air passageways open and lungs free of infection. Mullein leaves are a trophorestorative for the respiratory system and I counted on this simple combination formula to help direct the healing action of the herbs to her lungs and respiratory system as well.

After a week of taking the herbs Janice said she felt nothing less than ecstatic at the results. “Even better than I hoped for” is how she described it. Her throat felt cool and soothed and she enjoyed drinking the tea, sipping it throughout the day. She was beginning to feel stronger and had more energy. A couple of months later, still continuing with the herbal formulas, she had improved so much that she was able to resume her weekly hour-long radio show. Her skin had a healthy, pink glow when I saw her last. Those twinkling eyes of hers were glowing quite a bit brighter. She still has the cancer, but she is living with it.

010Over the last seven or so months that I have been working with Janice I’ve alternated the Mushroot Chai Tonic with an adaptogen blend specifically formulated as a lung tonic. It contains reishi, licorice, American ginseng, Schisandra, Astragalus and holy basil, organic alcohol, H2O and pure Maine honey. She continues to use the Decongestant formula as well as the tea on a daily basis. She reports that her quality and enjoyment of life has greatly improved since she started on her herbal regime.

The one problem Janice has reported increased is the pain in her leg where the cancer has spread. This has begun to impede her mobility. She did not want to take a pharmaceutical pain reliever. At least not yet.

005I offered her a pain easing salve, made with St. Johns’wort, olive oil, bees wax and warming, pain relieving essential oils of bay, ginger, cinnamon and clove for external application. My hope is that the salve will help alleviate the pain enough to extend her comfort and mobility enough to continue getting around her house, going into the studio and so on.

Janice eats well and includes a lot of fresh, locally grown and raised foods in her diet. She has the support of a loving husband and her Christian community. She has an attitude of gratefulness just to be alive. She is actually quite inspiring to work with.

387546_10151348325969143_1452158987_nJanice is looking forward to spring when she plans to visit me on the farm again. She says she wants to see the gardens where I grow these herbs she feels have given her a new lease on life and lots to look forward to.

People like Janice become like living Buddhas…they teach us how to embrace courage,  how to live and love every day in the face of death and still choose to be thankful.

And THIS is what makes me feel so good about seeing seriously ill clients. They live! They thrive! And every now and then they even get all better! And the one’s that don’t get better? They do eventually die…which can be a beautiful healing process all its own.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments