Traditional medicinals for Fall"

Part one

For those of us living here in the Midwest, there’s no doubt fall has suddenly arrived. The warm days and cooler nights are a welcome respite from the heat and humidity of summer. For those of you living in the warmer climates the obvious signs of season’s passage are subtler yet still present.

Internally our bodies have been preparing for the cooler weather since mid August. The wisdom of our body knows it will have to slow the metabolism to spare heat. The body will also be preparing for less light and fresh air. We will sleep more, be less active and possibly gain some weight.

The Chinese were the first to recognize that our internal organs respond in very specific ways to seasonal changes and that with each season the body cleanses specific organs. During the months of fall cleansing goes on in the large intestine and the lungs. Since most Americans do not eat with the rhythm of the seasons and this natural cleansing process is blocked, is it any wonder that fall is the season of respiratory and intestinal flu and colds?

Just like your car that needs a regular oil change, your body needs regular cleansing to run smoothly. So, if you are one of those individuals that loves the fall weather, but just can’t seem to find the energy to get up off the couch and enjoy it, maybe it’s time for some diet changes; and a few medicinal herbs that will put some bounce back in your step.

Before adding herbs to the picture, change your diet around, slowly. Eat the vegetables that are still growing such as leaf lettuce, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, onions and squash of all kinds. Make some hearty soups with fresh dried beans and lentils. Change your drink to fresh pure water and hot herbal teas like ginger, red raspberry leaf or slippery elm, all good for cleansing the large intestine. Give up the highly processed foods; use less meat and cheese, switch from grilling and frying foods to steaming or baking.

These simple diet changes may at first make you feel tired, that’s okay your body is doing the cleansing it needs to do. To move from tired and fatigued to energized, add some of these herbs-

Black Elder- this popular European plant has been used for healing since Pre-Christian times. It has many healing applications and is described by many herbalists as the complete medicine chest. Make a tea out of the flowers or the berries for the congestion of coughs, colds or bronchitis. Elder promotes lung clearing, induces sweating and acts as a mild diuretic. It is high in vitamins C and folic acid and other healing fruit acids.

Fennel- Pastor Sebastian Kneipp popularized this herb in the annals of folk medicine more than one hundred years ago for stubborn cases of coughing, whooping cough and lung problems. The uncrushed seeds make a sweet tasting tea that is high in vitamins A and C.

Ginseng- The most famous of Chinese remedies has been acclaimed as a revitalizing cure for more than 5,000 years. It’s natural healing properties combat exhaustion and boosts immunity. It also speeds recovery and can lift mild depression.

Oats- don’t turn your nose up at hot oatmeal. Oats as porridge or oat straw in a tincture or tea are rich in minerals and are good source of vitamin B. Oats invigorate the central nervous system, and are helpful in cases of exhaustion, long illness and mild depression.

Slippery Elm- this traditional medicinal is good for what ails the mucous membrane linings of lung, bowel or bladder. It helps protect and relieve symptoms of inflammation, has a mild tranquilizing effect and helps expel mucus. This herb is especially helpful when taken in lozenge form.

Next week in part two we’ll take a look at some interesting and less convention use of herbs including baths, a poultice and rubs.

Till next time, Rebecca.

part two

Last week in part one of this two part series we talked about the rich bounty of fall time plants that can help us make a smooth and healthy transition from warmer to cooler weather. This week I will continue to discuss some different kinds of herbals, and some different ways of using them.

Nothing feels more luxurious than a hot bath after a long day out in the cold, and nothing will relieve sore aching muscles from flu or over activity than a hot bath. In fact, hopping in the bath at the first sign of the sniffles can help drain away a cold or flu. A hot bath can increase the body temperature to as much as 103 degrees. Heat stimulates our infection fighting power by raising the white blood cell count three fold for as much as five hours. In addition flu and cold virus cannot multiply in temperatures above 101.6.

Add dried daikon leaves (available at the health food store) and add even more healing to the heat of your bath. Make a strong tea by adding 30-40 leaves to a gallon of water. Simmer for fifteen minutes or until the water is tea colored, strain and add to your tub of water. Daikon increases circulation, dissolves excess mucous and draws out toxins. It also relieves fever and allows for the deep rest needed to recover.

Got a stubborn case of the chills? Add an ounce of dried ginger or 4-5 ginger tea bags to your bath. Ginger will warm your entire body long after you get out of the tub. Sweating is common after a ginger bath, so make sure you don’t get chilled again following your bath. Ginger baths are also good for sore stiff joints, the pain of sciatica and sore muscles.

For the pain of sinusitis, cold or sore throat try a bath of five drops eucalyptus oil, two tablespoons of vitamin C crystals and eight drops of thyme. The eucalyptus vapors will penetrate your sinuses bringing relief from nasal stuffiness, headache and congestion. Thyme, a much-overlooked healing herb is good for sore throat, headache and the relief of nasal congestion. The dissolved vitamin C crystals will be absorbed through your skin helping fight infection on all fronts.

Another interesting and therapeutic application of herbs without taking them internally is with the use of a compress or a poultice. Both can be used for a variety of conditions such as strains, sprains, pulled muscles, shin splints or backache.

To make an herbal compress, brew a strong tea out of the chosen herb. Saturate a cotton cloth in the tea and apply it to the effected area. A compress can be applied either hot or cold depending on the condition. If the condition is chronic or long standing a hot compress will usually work best. For injury less than 48 hours old always use cold. Grated ginger, goldenseal, licorice root, and comfrey all make wonderful healing compresses. The compress and the tea solution can be stored in the refrigerator for use over the next several days.

A poultice can be made out of fresh grated herbs, a paste made out of a dried powered herb, or clay such as bentonite or kaolin. They can be used for many of the same conditions, (hot or cold) as a compress. A poultice is more powerful and has a drawing effect on swelling and infections. Spread the paste on fresh white cotton then lay it on the affected area of the body for 6-8 hours. Nighttime is a good time to utilize a poultice. After removing the poultice, wash the skin thoroughly. A fresh poultice should be applied each time. Good herbs to use in a poultice are ginger, slippery elm, dandelion, yellow dock and chaparral. An herbal poultice will have the same healing properties as an herb taken internally.

These old time methods of healing have fallen out of favor with most Americans. They’re time consuming, messy and sometimes smelly. I have to admit the only poultice I have used in the past few years for myself has been one of ginger of which I am particularly fond. The next time you have a stubborn injury, sore shoulder or wrenched knee and the Tylenol of Advil just isn’t relieving your pain; maybe you’ll be tempted to try one of nature’s best healers. Look for "Traditional Medicinals For Winter" coming in December. Till next time, Rebecca