herbal medicine

How to Easily Build a Superior Herbal First Aid Kit


I’ve been a mom for over 10 years now! Whoa! It’s by far the most challenging “job” I’ve had and the one with the highest risks! I remember how panicked I felt the first time my eldest son got sick, but I was confident in my knowledge and I felt so relieved and satisfied to see how quickly he responded to natural remedies.

If you've ever felt scared, helpless or panicked by your child’s cold or flu, or injury, it's time to put together an herbal first aid kit! Do away with that helpless feeling and instead take action and put together an herbal first-aid kit to have on hand that will deal with any of the common childhood complaints you know you are most likely going to have to deal with sooner or later!

There are no hard and fast rules to this kit. Simply think about covering your bases and choose appropriate remedies in ways that you can easily deliver for your children. For example: A 10 year old may be perfectly capable of swallowing a capsule, but an infant is definitely not. If a child is allergic to herbs in the ragweed family, chamomile will not be appropriate, but many other herbs with similar properties can be used instead.

Some children will drink lots of fluid when sick and are not fussy about taste. These children respond very well to teas. Most children will take an herbal tea with enough raw honey in it (remember not to give honey to children under 1). Alternatively you can add elderberry syrup to make any other remedies more palatable and elderberry in itself is very beneficial as an antiviral and immune supporting herb.

Some children respond better to a tincture because they can take a few drops or a dropper full and it’s over-with, rather than consuming a large volume of liquid. Tinctures also have the benefit of keeping viable for many many years and being readily available without requiring any time to boil water or steep a herb. Some parents worry about alcohol being in tinctures, and if you are worried you can add a tincture to a hot tea and much of the alcohol will evaporate. You can also find tinctures made with glycerin or vinegar, though they do not keep as long and in many cases are not as potent as alcohol tinctures.

Some children will not take anything by mouth no matter how hard you coax, bribe, attempt to hide it, etc. These children respond best to essential oils. Essential oils are also the first remedies I reach for in any case where support is needed for cough/lung/respiratory health. Their highly penetrating quality means they work quickly and get where they need to go. In my professional opinion, every household should have at least a few key essential oils in their household wellness box, if only Lavender, Peppermint, Lemon & Frankincense. If you would like to order essential oils through me, click here.

Dried herbs to consider:
Catnip
Chamomile
Red Clover
Elder Flower
Linden Leaf & Flower
Yarrow

Tinctures to consider:
Catnip
Cleavers
Elderflower
Elderberry syrup (alcohol extract or not)
Elecampane
Lemonbalm
Red alder
Usnea
Yarrow

Miscellaneous Helpful:
Clay and/or Activated charcoal
An all purpose healing salve for cuts, scrapes, rashes, etc.
Arnica ointment or liniment
Essential oils

You can put together an amazing kit for anywhere from 50-300.00. I would love to help you build your kit as soon as possible so that you're prepared and ready for the next fall, cold or flu that comes around. I have a full apothecary of dried herbs as well as tinctures I grow myself, organically, or wild-craft and tincture in organic cane alcohol. You’ll find the best prices and the highest quality herbs in my apothecary. Contact me to book an appointment to shop today.

Parenting is a huge undertaking. Being responsible for the lives of other people and their well-being can feel like a massive burden. Having knowledge and confidence in our capabilities to handle whatever life throws at us helps lighten that burden and give us strength, courage and faith to be the best parents we can be for our children.

Here, however, I would like to especially make the point that if your child is ever exhibiting any symptoms that make you think they require medical attention- get it for them. If they’re having trouble breathing, if they are exhibiting signs of dehydration, listless, unresponsive, have a sudden high fever, a serious wound or ANYTHING that leaves you questioning or needing reassurance, please, please take them to a doctor. Get a professional opinion, get their lungs and ears checked, get blood work or urine samples if necessary. Don’t be that parent that makes headlines because they failed to get necessary medical treatment for their child.

For example, my youngest child, my daughter, just had a fever that lasted 6 days. She was alert, she was drinking lots of fluids and urinating. She was not crying or stiff and her temperature was in an acceptable “safe” range. I knew it was viral because my middle son had also had a fever days before with the same cough though his was gone in 36 hours. After day 4, I still brought her in just to be safe. I wanted her lungs listened to and a general check up. The doctor assured me that her lungs were clear and that there was no secondary ear infection or anything concerning to worry about. I took her back home and resumed my herbal protocol and continued to monitor her closely. She was fully recovered and healthier than ever 2 days after that.

The herbs supported her immune system, helped expectorate any phlegm from her airways, managed her fever and worked with the body to bring about healing. That is the beauty of herbs: They work with the body and help it to do what it needs to do. No side effects, only safe & effective results.

You’ve got this mama! Those kids are lucky to have you!

16 Powerful Herbs you Need to Support Infection with Borrelia

In my previous post about Borrelia bacteria and Lyme Disease, I gave a brief overview of the behavior and infection tactics of Borrelia bacteria. In this article I would like to bring attention to some of the most powerful herbal allies that can be utilized to help reduce symptoms and effectively help the body rid the itself of this bacteria. These herbs can be utilized alongside conventional medical treatment (in other words, antibiotics) or on their own. 

I would also like to reiterate one of my sentiments from my previous post- that because of what these bacteria do in the body, and since every person's body ecology is so different, there is an extremely, frustratingly, wide range of symptoms that can be present (or not) for this illness and the disease will always be slightly different for every single person, every time it occurs. That is why for this disease especially, a one-regime-fits-all protocol is pointless, or worse, harmful. Each person needs to have their protocols tailored to exactly what is going on for them. The following herbs have been used in clinical practice by experienced herbalists, including well known herbalist and Lyme activist, Stephen Harrod Buhner (these suggestions are based on his protocol). 

Suggested doses may be given, but remember some people respond extremely well to only a few drops of an herbal preparation while others require several teaspoons or more! Any herb not listed here could still have major potential in helping anyone dealing with this illness- it just depends on how the illness is presenting itself for that individual. So again, use these suggestions as a guideline and build upon them depending on individual symptom pictures.

Be prepared to commit to some form of your herbal protocol for long-term as it can take 8-12 months to clear the infection.

Preventing Infection

The first and foremost thing to do, is to try and prevent ever contracting the Borrelia bacteria in the first place. See my article on Ticks which covers their infection potential. Tick bites are the most common route of infection so you'll need to know how to prevent tick bites and what to do if you do find an attached tick. After properly removing the tick, Buhner recommends liberally applying Andrographis tinctures and a glob of bentonite clay that can be fastened in place for 12-24 hours. He also recommends the homeopathic remedy Ledum 1M 3x a day. At the appearance of a rash he says Apis 30C 3x a day for 3 days and then begin treatment for Lyme disease. 

To keep your immune system strong, consider taking Astragalus all year around. This immune tonic can be safely consumed long term. Take 1000 mg and increase to 3000mg in endemic areas or for the duration of tick season. "[s]tudies have found that if the levels of interleukin-2 and interferon gamma in lab mic are kept high, the rate of Borrelia infection drops precipitously... Astragalus, an immune-potentiating herb, is very effective at keeping these levels high". (128) 

As a preventative, Astragalus can be taken, though SOME people with chronic Lyme can not take it due to some of the immune hijacking of our immune responses the bacteria initiate- but many still can. Basically if you take Astragalus and feel worse, discontinue it. 

Make sure you are taking care of yourself! Sleep, proper nutrition and lowering stress are the foundations for health no matter what your goals. The immune system cannot be strong and healthy if the rest of the body is weak.

Endothelial Protection

If you have an infection by Borrelial bacteria (currently called Lyme Disease) your top priority should be to protect the endothelial structures of the body. These are the cells that form an interface- kind of the barrier on the interior surface of blood vessels, etc.-  that connects other tissues and fluids.

The Borrelia bacteria break down endothelial structures (read more about this in my previous article) to feed as well as gain access deeper into the body. This damage caused by disrupting endothelial structures is at the root of most of the devastating symptoms, particularly in the brain and heart, seen in Lyme disease. By protecting these structures, you deny the bacteria access into deeper parts of the body as well as crucial nutrients they need to survive and replicate themselves. 

Many herbs can help protect endothelial cells. The known ones that are most beneficial (and consequently also help with the other objectives for treating Lyme) are Polygonum cuspidatum root, Prunella vulgaris and green tea extract (EGCG).

As degradation of hyaluronic acid in the extracellular matrix is a problem, Echinacea angustifolia can also help as it is a hyaluronidase inhibitor. Scutellaria Baicalensis, Wthania, Triphala, Melissa and Rosemary can also inhibit hyaluronidase and supplemental Hyaluronic Acid is also recommended (by Buhner) and he reassures that no, it won't feed the bacteria. 

Cytokine remodulation

Herbs need to be taken that stop, or interfere with the cytokine cascades that the bacteria are initiating (and have hijacked in our immune systems). 

By taking cytokine re-modulators, most of the inflammation can be diminished and it will help interfere with the Borrelia's ability to find and enter target cells, gain nutrients and reproduce. (Starve the buggers!) 

The best general cytokine remodulators (according to Buhner) to use during infection are Scutellaria baicalensis and Salva Miltiorrhiza. 

There are so many different cytokines that the bacteria can activate or that are activated in a chain reaction and different herbs inhibit different cytokines. Scutellaria and Salva Mitiorrhiza seem to be the most diverse acting, but others that work for a multitude of different cytokines are cordycepts, polygonum cuspidatum, EGCG (green tea extract), and Olea europaea (olive leaf).

Collagen Protection, Neuroborreliosis & Restoration of Damaged Tissues

Collagen structures must be restored. They are damaged by the bacteria which use them for food. You can support this by taking a gelatin supplement, bone broth soup stock, selenium, vitamin C, Kudzu, echinacea angustifolia, as well as infusions of nettle, oatstraw, horsetail & parsley

Motherwort is particularly helpful in protecting nerves and mitochondria in cells. 

Chinese Cat's Claw (uncaria rhynchophylla) and Lion's Mane mushroom are both good at protecting and regeneerating neural structures in the brain. When mentioning Uncaria, Buhner states that you "can't find a more specific herb for treating damage caused by neuroborreliosis" 363. 

Polygala senega is used to stimulate neural regrowth and Melatonin is also a great general supplement to use during Lyme infection to help protect neural structures. 

Immune Remodulation

Bhuner quotes researcher Cadavid, "little if any tissue injury occurs in immunocompetent animals" (211). Translation? Sypport your immune system to minimize damage in the first place. 

Important immune remodulators for Lyme disease are Cordycepts (must take at least 3-6g daily), Eleutherocuccus, Rhodiola, Scutellaria baicalensis, Uncaria tomentosa, Withania somnifera (best taken as powder). 

You can also take herbs that help break up or inhibit the formation of biofilms (think bacterial community) such as Polygonum, Andrographis, Rhodiola and Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis). This will help clear them from the body.

Reducing Specific Symptoms in order of severity

You'll want to think about which herbs you can take that specifically will help the most severe symptoms you are experiencing. These will differ for each person, however there are certain supplements that can be taken by all such as tryptophan, since levels tend to fall during infection and it can help repair CNS damage as well as help to restore healthy T-cell functions. 

Lyme disease always occurs with co-infections, so those will have to be identified and treated as well. 

Some of the symptoms you may be addressing will be things like, pain, sleep issues, low energy, Bell's palsy, seizures, tremors, memory problems, joint problems, behavioral problems, etc.

Antispirochetal

Many people think that taking antispirochetal herbs (herbs that kill spirochete bacteria) should be the first thing you do when trying to treat infection by Borrelia bacteria. The reality is that many people who have undergone strong antibiotic therapy which failed to rid their bodies of the infection find that by simply protecting their endothelial structures and working to restore the immune system and collagen structures, the bacterium is cleared without the need to take anything else. 

That being said, there are not many herbs that have been studied and proven to be strong antispirochetals, though Andrographis has shown positive results and can be included in a Lyme protocol. It is rapidly excreted from the body, however, and needs to be taken every 4 hours (when you are awake). 

Conclusions:

I did not include exact dosages for any of the suggested herbs. The reason is, there is no guideline that everyone should follow. Recommended doses are simply made up. Everyone is going to need slightly different combinations of herbs and slightly different amounts of each one. Anyone who tries to tell you that they have a one-size-heals-all protocol hasn't actually treated enough people. Here I would like to directly quote Buhner, "Anyone who says there is [a one size-fits-all treatment], is either trying to sell you something, has powerful self-image needs involved, or doesn't really understand the borrelial group of infectious organisms. There is not and never has been one single way to health such that in all times and in all places and with all people it will always work. Life, and disease, and the journey to wellness are much more complex and challenging than that. Each treatment intervention, as treatment progresses, will become unique to each person. It has to do so for healing to occur." (191) - Buhner in healing Lyme.

 

Motherwort this spring in the garden.

Motherwort this spring in the garden.

St. John's (or Joan's) Wort. Hypericum Perforatum

        This marvelous plant with beautiful little yellow flowers never ceases to amaze me with it's healing powers. Hypericum is in the Hyperaceae family and flowers near the end of June on or around St. John's Day near summer solstice (hence it's common name). Some have confused this plant with it's relative, creeping St. John's wort, botanical name Hypericum calycinum but the two are not interchangeable. There are several plants of the Hypericum genus that can be used for herbal medicine purposes though they possess different properties. This post will focus on the Hypericum Perforatum variety only.

       This plant has been used since ancient times as a would medicine and is a specific for wounds to areas rich in nerve endings. It can be used for burns in all degrees, cuts and scrapes, and historically was even used to prevent tetanus. It is especially useful when wounds cause sharp, shooting pains or inflammation along the course of a nerve or where there is a pinched nerve.

       I have personally found the oil incredible effective for relieving neck and shoulder tension when massaged into that area. A few years ago, I had a low grade tension headache with a ultra tight neck and shoulders for four days. I had tried a handful of other remedies internally without much success. It seemed the other remedies were keeping a migraine at bay, but not addressing the underlying issue. It dawned on me to try St. John's wort oil , I could actually feel the tension melting away from my neck and shoulders until there was complete relief within a couple of hours. The tension did not come back.

      This year, due to poor posture with breast-feeding, baby hip-holding, and other self-inflicted injuries that result from being a mother to a baby, combined with a serious lack of exercise on my part, my lower back kept going out and causing me severe shooting pains. I would pick up my little guy and hold him for a while and when I would go to put him down, my back would jar and remain like that for days. I put on several topical pain remedies that offered some relief, but didn't fix it and then again I remembered I had St. John's wort tincture macerating. I strained out the flowers and took 10 drops. It took about an hour and then the entire area let go and relaxed, the tension was gone, and I regained full mobility and a sense of joy.

       St. John's wort has a special affinity to the solar plexus/nervous system of the body. It can be used to support people with anxiety, fear or depression. It is said to bring emotions and thoughts into synchronicity. It's flower essence is good for overload of information to help with processing.

     There are recommendations to exercise caution in taking St. John's wort internally if you are on antidepressants. Herbalist Susun weed says tincture is perfectly safe and people only run into problems when consuming capsules, watch her quick video on Hypericum here. I like to let people know about possible contraindications so that they can do their own research about their medications. This herb is so effective for the winter blues and depression that it has helped numerous people come off of medications altogether. 

      Many practitioners consider St. John's wort oil to be like a homeopathic chiropractic adjustment. For me, my personal experiences definitely confirm this opinion. It's also incredible anti-viral! The little yellow flowers of this beautiful plant make a vividly red tincture and oil. It will always have an important place in my herbal medicine chest and my heart!

      Starting on December 9, 2016 my apothecary, consultation space and educational services will be open! I have a limited stock of fresh Hypericum tincture and oil but once they're gone, I won't have more until next season! 

 

This is St. John (or Joan's) wort, Hypericum Perforatum. Notice it's upright stalk and tiny yellow flowers. When held up to the light you can see the that the flower's petals are perforated with tiny little holes.

This is St. John (or Joan's) wort, Hypericum Perforatum. Notice it's upright stalk and tiny yellow flowers. When held up to the light you can see the that the flower's petals are perforated with tiny little holes.

This is Hypericum Calycinum (creeping St. John's wort) which is a common ground cover in gardens in North America. It has antibacterial properties but cannot be used interchangeably with Hypericum Perforatum.

This is Hypericum Calycinum (creeping St. John's wort) which is a common ground cover in gardens in North America. It has antibacterial properties but cannot be used interchangeably with Hypericum Perforatum.

Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease! What's a Mom to Do?

        My eldest son, eight years old, came down with a fever this past Sunday. Given that Pertussis is going around his school, I immediately put him to bed, started a pot of bone broth, put on some thyme infusion and garlic lemonade (recipes to follow) and started getting him to drink lots of each. His fever remained between 100.5 - 102 for 36 hours, after which he had a slightly sore throat for another day before bouncing back to his regular self (which is literally bouncing... off the walls). 

        He was back in school on Thursday, so when my 18 month old also came down with a fever on Wednesday night, I knew he caught what my eldest son had and was simply relieved that it wasn't Pertussis. He also had a mild fever between 100-102 for approximately a day and a half. During his fever, he didn't have much of an appetite and I really had to coax him to drink fluids. With any illness where fever is present, dehydration is always one of the main concerns. When his fever cleared, his appetite came back with vehemence and he was taking fluids normally.

         Imagine my surprise then, when I pulled back into my driveway this morning (Friday) after drop off. My little one had pulled off his booties and I noticed that he had a blister on his foot. I brought him inside and applied my herbal salve to his blister, changed his bum, gave him a big kiss and put him down. He grabbed a book and urged me to come read to him. When I pulled him onto my lap on the couch and saw his little fingers holding his book- I noticed a second blister on one of his fingers. Two blisters in different spots, when my child has never even had one- I knew it wasn't coincidence. 

      A quick google search for "blisters on hands and feet of baby" told me he most likely has Hand, Foot and Mouth disease. It sounds awful, right? So I pulled out my text books, herbal guides and go to resources and learned all that I could about this virus. It turns out, luckily that it isn't nearly as awful as it sounds.

       Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD for short) is caused by a class of enterovirus called Coxsackievirus. There are numerous strains of the virus, so though exposure to one strain will result in permanent immunity- it is still possible to contract another strain and develop symptoms again. This class of viruses is so common that they are second to the common cold. Like so many childhood illnesses, the initial symptoms closely mimic the common cold.

       Symptoms include fever, sore throat, a rash or blisters on the mouth, hands and feet, though it may spread up the legs or arms, or onto the genitals too. There is sometimes little white sores in the mouth, loss of appetite (likely due to sores or fever) and diarrhea. Most children do not experience all symptoms. 

     Adults rarely get HFMD but it does happen. Since this virus is most contagious before symptoms ever show up, it is important to quarantine and treat the entire family. The incubation period for HFMD is 3-7 days and is spread via direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person. This means sneezing, coughing, saliva, and feces so remember to make sure everyone is washing their hands really well! Wash your hands well after changing diapers too mums and dads! You may want to do a quick vinegar wash of door knobs, cupboard and fridge handles and frequently touched items as well. 

      Since conventional/modern medicine has little to offer children who have HFMD aside from Advil for discomfort or reduction in fever, it's important to know that there are many herbal remedies available that are antiviral, help support the immune system, and can help your child keep calm and rest. It is also important to note that fever suppression is not something to do when a fever is in a normal and safe range of 100-103. Fevers are the bodies way of literally burning off up the virus and should not be suppressed. If a fever goes higher than 104, you can try a tepid (luke warm) bath or herbal remedies- but do seek medical attention for an uncontrollable fever.

      My favorite herbal remedies with antiviral and immune boosting properties for children include lemon balm, peppermint and elderberry. These herbs are powerful, yet delicious and easy to get children to take. My eighteen month old loves lemon balm! You can make infusions (strong tea), use tinctures added to other liquid or syrups. Please don't give honey to children under the age of one due to risk of botulism and avoid giving juice to children unless is is heavily diluted as the high level of sugar is suppressing to the immune system. Contact your local herbalist (such as myself) if you are interested in having a custom anti-viral or immune boosting blend made up!

      Other helpful herbs that can and should be put into a soup or bone broth include Garlic, Onions, Astragalus, sea-weeds, Calendula, Oregano and Thyme. Make this into a delicious immune boosting soup or stew for your kids.
         Garlic "lemonade" can be made by adding 3-4 garlic cloves to a 1 litre jar and pouring boiling liquid over top. Allow this to steep and then mix in freshly squeezed lemon juice, and honey to taste. Note that this may be too acidic for children with very sore throats.

      To prevent secondary infection of the blisters, you can apply a salve made from one or a combination of the following: calendula, st. john's wort and usnea. You can also apply lemon balm tincture externally.

       If the rash is sore and irritating, oatmeal baths may be given and marshmallow or slippery elm tea can help sooth blisters and any irritation in the mouth or throat.

       Childhood illnesses are actually important strengtheners of a child's immune system. They exercise it, in a way, and I encourage everyone to look into the Anthroposophical view of childhood illness as a "soul-cleansing" experience. In other cultures, fever and childhood illnesses are through to help the child rid toxins from the body that may have accumulated in the womb. It is helpful to view illness as a positive and necessary process of becoming a strong, highly functioning, spiritual being. 

       One last note I want to leave you with is to continue to care for your child and keep them well nourished and rested in the convalescing period of the illness. My general rule of thumb is to allow for a convalescing period that is half the length of the duration of the illness. So if your child was sick for 4 days, allow 2 days of convalescing. 

      I'm officially on quarantine this week, friends while I help my child overcome this illness and support his development. Within an hour of the appearance of the first blister, several more had developed. Luckily I've got all the right remedies on hand! I hope this information can help other parent's in our area too! 

      

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My little guy having his nap... notice the little rash on his mouth. That rash appeared after his fever and I didn't link it to HFMD until this morning when I saw his foot. 

Calendula Officinalis

Harvesting and working with Calendula simply makes me feel happy. This sunny plant in the Aster family is incredible powerful and I love how long it lasts around in my garden. The first flowers usually open in May or June depending on the heat and keep appearing all the way through November! 

The best time to Harvest Calendula blossoms for herbal medicine is in July or August during the most intense heat as this is when the plant is most resinous. The flowers are picked and infused into oil, made into tincture, or dried for use in teas or soups through-out the winter.

I use this plant for wounds, glandular problems and as an immune tonic. It is classified as a "bacteriostatic" which means it doesn't kill bacteria, but it keeps them contained to keep a wound clean. Mathew Wood says it is a specific for "cat scratch" like wounds which are red, puffy and tend towards production of pus. 

Calendula is well suited for splenic conditions of damp heat. Use this when there is stagnation of the lymphatics, especially in multiple glands. I add calendula petals to my salads in the summer and early fall and I add the infused oil to almost every one of my salve recipes.

I highly recommend planting this beautiful and useful flower into your garden. I grow both the yellow and orange varieties. It pretty much self seeds itself with very little assistance and it's medicinal uses are multiple. This is a remedy to keep in your first aid chest and have handy when "cold season" comes along. 

I hope you'll enjoy and love this plant as much as I do!