Continuing bad news about SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)
is worrisome, but need not be frightening. We can start now
to take better care of our lungs. Here are four herbs - and
a surprising food - that can help keep your lungs healthy.
These simple, easy, effective remedies are free or inexpensive,
especially if you make your own. So I've included recipes
and tips on harvest or buying the herbs. Let these green allies
help you feel safer in troubling times. That's the Wise Woman
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is a stately
fuzzy-leaved plant frequently found on roadsides and other
sunny open places. This common weed is one of the world's
best lung allies. You can buy dried mullein, or harvest your
No other wild plant looks like it: its large (a foot or more)
fuzzy (used for candlewicks) leaves and the upright (five
feet or more is common) stalk of yellow flowers (a famous
ear oil is made from them) make it easy to recognize.
To harvest, I cut the entire stalk of plants just beginning
to flower and hang them, upside down, in a shady place to
To brew mullein infusion, I fill a quart canning jar about
half full of cut and crushed mullein leaf and stalk pieces.
(If using commercial herb, I use one ounce by weight.) I fill
the jar to the top with boiling water, cap tightly, and let
it sit at room temperature for four hours, or overnight.
Mullein leaves are fuzzy, and mullein infusion can be too.
To protect my throat, I always strain my mullein infusion
through tightly-woven cloth (like a handkerchief) before drinking.
The dose of mullein infusion is 1-4 cups a day.
Mullein infusion will last for 5-6 days refrigerated. It
brews up to a dark brown liquid with a smoky flavor that I
find quite appealing, especially with milk and honey. (More
on milk below.)
To relieve acute lung problems, such as bronchitis, pneumonia,
SARS, even coughs, 2-4 cups of mullein infusion a day, plus
elecampane, echinacea, and/or poke root tinctures are consumed
until health has returned. To strengthen the lungs, or to
restore health to lung tissues after "assaults"
such as tobacco smoke or radiation: 1-2 cups of mullein infusion
daily for six weeks is suggested. To relieve allergies and
asthma, 2-4 cups of mullein infusion every day for 6-8 weeks
is amazingly effective.
Organic whole milk is, despite rumors to
the contrary, one of the best foods you can eat to help your
lungs. You don't have to drink milk to get its benefits. Eating
raw milk cheeses and yogurt counts too.
I've been told the milk produces mucus. This idea was begun
by Arnold Ehret who decided that milk and bread were "mucus
forming" by slashing his arm open and looking at his
blood after eating one food alone for three days. Not very
scientific, to say the least. In a recent study of mucus production
in the respiratory system, on a scale of one to ten, with
ten being the most, water scored zero, milk one, and orange
Organic whole milk has been considered the optimum food for
mending and protecting the lungs for thousands of years. A
friend just recently sent me a long article on the milk cure
(especially effective for lung complaints) written in 1926.
I have personally seen milk (and yogurt) help women cure themselves
of Khrone's disease, severe animal hair allergies, severe
asthma, osteoporosis, and life-threatening food reactions.
I prefer to use goats' milk, but any organic milk or dairy
product can be helpful to the lungs.
Modern milk production leaves a lot to be desired, it is
true. That's why I prefer organic. That's why I get milk from
a local farm where I can easily see whether or not the animals
are well tended. That's why I support integrated organic farms
- ones with animals.
Herbal tradition has it that mullein infusion should be mixed
half and half with whole milk to effect the greatest benefit
for the lungs. Breathe deeply. Worry and anxiety deplete the
Wise women through the centuries have kept themselves and
their families safe from contagious diseases.
If we are actively dealing with infection, especially lung
infections, these three powerful roots stand ready to help
us: elecampane, echinacea, and poke.
Elecampane (Inula helenium) is a beautiful
sunflower-like perennial found in wet pastures or easily cultivated
in a sunny garden spot. The roots are dug in the fall after
the plants are established (at least three years) and tinctured
in 100 proof vodka for six weeks. Do not use elecampane in
I find elecampane root amazingly powerful in clearing all
infections from the lungs. The usual dose is 10-15 drops several
times a day, but I would increase the dose and take it as
much as 6 times a day in an acute situation. I expect to see
results from using elecampane within a day or less.
I would only take elecampane if I had an active infection.
It has little protective value. To protect the lungs, use
mullein and organic whole milk.
Echinacea (Echinacea augustifolia)
is a well-known anti-infective. Like elecampane, it is not considered
safe to take echinacea as a preventative. It is reserved for
time when there is active infection.
Echinacea root tincture is a powerful ally to the white blood
cells, helping them enormously in their efforts to counter
bacterial infections. I have personally seen it clear infections
that even triple antibiotic therapies had left untouched,
including bacterial pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections,
strep throat, mastitis, and blood poisoning. I have had no
occasion to work with someone with SARS, but I have no doubt
but that echinacea would be helpful. I have interfaced echinacea
with antibacterial drugs and antibiotics with excellent results.
Echinacea also works marvelously well in combination with
elecampane root or with poke root. I have never used the three
of them together.
A dose of echinacea root tincture is 1 drop for every 2 pounds
of body weight. I take it as frequently as every hour or two
in the acute phase of an infection, and increase the time
between doses slowly until they are eight hours apart.
Because I use such a large dose of echinacea root tincture,
I get spectacular results. But to be able to use so much,
you need to have a lot of the tincture on hand. It is expensive
to buy, running $8-10 per ounce. Large bottles of 4-8 ounces
bring the price down to $6-8 an ounce. But you can make your
own for $1-2 dollars an ounce.
To make a quart of echinacea root tincture:
Buy 4 ounces of dried Echinacea augustifolia
root. Be sure to get this kind.
Put it in a quart jar and fill the jar to
the top with 100 proof vodka. Be sure to get this proof
even though it is more expensive than regular vodka.
Cap tightly and label.
Shake daily for the first week, then weekly
for at least eight weeks. I like to let mine sit for a year
before I use it, but you can use it after six weeks if necessary.
Do not use echinacea in capsules.
is also a beautiful perennial.
The root tincture is powerful to the point of being considered
I always travel with a bottle of poke root tincture. I think
of it as insurance - on the off chance that I may be exposed
in my travels to some new and potentially deadly bug. Had
I been in Beijing when SARS broke out, I would have taken
I would not take poke as a precaution; it is far too strong
to be used that way. Only if I knew that I was likely to have
been exposed to the pathogen would I use it (one drop twice
a day; if I felt symptoms, I would increase to four times
a day or more, as seemed reasonable at the time).
You may find it hard to buy poke root tincture. (Red Moon
Herbs usually has it available.) It is rightly feared. But
the plant is widespread and easy to recognize with its magenta
stem and racemes of white flowers and dark purple berries,
so you can make your own if you live where it grows.
I dig only one poke root every decade or so, for the dose
I use is minuscule. I choose a root that is at least three
years old (the standard for digging any perennial root), rinse
the soil from it, chop it coarsely, and tincture it for a
minimum of six weeks in 100 proof vodka. (No, 80 proof won't
work. And, yes, it must be a fresh root, as drying seems to
remove the active properties.)
When I need poke root tincture to kick my immune system into
high gear, I take a dose of one drop - yes, only one drop
- once or twice a day. Poke root tincture contains compounds
that can harm the kidneys if it is taken continuously. I reserve
its use for emergencies and do not consider it especially
helpful to the immune system.
Isn't it well named? It pokes the immune system and speeds
up pokey lymphatic drainage. I have known a single drop to
reverse chronic infections that have simmered for years, getting
more and more resistant to drugs. Of course, poke root tincture,
is used by those with cancer, sometimes with astonishing results.
(See Breast Cancer? Breast Health! the Wise Woman Way for
lots more information on using poke to counter cancer.)
For severe infections, such as SARS, the dose of poke root
tincture may be larger, but build up gradually over a period
of days. In extreme situations, an individual may be able
to use doses of 15 drops a day. I know of some instances where
doses of 30 drops a day were used, but this usually creates
unwelcome side effects.
Never use poke root prepared in water and never take capsules
of poke root. You could be poisoned.
I keep all three of these strong roots in my medicine cupboard.
I feel safe and reassured knowing that I am ready to counter
infection and boost my immune system at a moment's notice.
Herbs may seem insignificant in the face of
the troubles in our nation and in the world, but using green
allies to maintain and regain health is a big step toward healthy
independence and - I believe - a step toward peace. Instead
of making war on weeds like poke, I love them. Instead of making
war on nature, I take her as a guide. Instead of making war
on myself when I have an injury or illness, a problem or a pain,
I nourish myself toward ever greater health, ever greater peace.
Green blessings surround us. My green allies
uplift my heart and bring me joy even in trying and uncertain
times, whether resisting or countering infection, or strengthening
the immune system.
It is always wise to cultivate health and support your immune
system. And now, with the threat of SARS, and who knows what
else, it is more important than ever.
A vital immune system is my first defense against the constant
barrage of disease-causing bacteria, viruses and other pathogens
created by Mother Nature. A vital immune system is my first
defense again the ever-present possibility of cancerous cells.
A vital immune system is everyone’s first defense against
I keep my immune system supple and strong the easy, effective
Wise Woman Way: with nourishing herbal infusions and immune-strengthening
Nourishing herbal infusions are the basis
of great nourishment - for the immune system, the hormonal
system, and the nervous system too.
make a nourishing herbal infusion:
1. Choose one herb: nettle, oatstraw, red clover, comfrey leaf,
linden flowers, violet leaf, or mullein leaf. You may add a
little mint or other seasoning herb, but use only one of the
main ones at a time.
2. Place one full ounce, by weight, of any one herb in a quart
jar. A canning jar is best.
3. Fill the jar to the top with boiling water. Stir the herb
into the water and add more water until the jar is really full.
4. Screw on a tight lid and let it steep for four hours or overnight.
5. Strain the liquid out and refrigerate what you don't drink.
drink nourishing herbal infusions over ice, heated up with honey
and milk, mixed with other beverages. Enjoy.
Nourishing herbal infusions are full of antioxidant
vitamins, minerals, proteins, phytoestrogens, and hundreds of
protective phytochemicals. I drink two to four cups of infusion
daily, rotating through the different herbs, but mostly nettle,
oatstraw, red clover, and comfrey. One of my apprentices - who
has been drinking nourishing infusions for several years now
- was told by her doctor that she had the healthiest blood he'd
For more information on infusions, please visit
Immune strengthening soups rely
on a long steeping time to extract minerals and active phytochemicals.
Recent nutrition research has revealed that, contrary to common
claims, antioxidant vitamins are increased by cooking. In fact
many vegetables have twice as many nutrients cooked as raw.
To make an immune strengthening
Chop at least half an onion per person
and sauté in lots of olive oil until translucent..
Add at least two cloves of garlic, sliced
or chopped, per person and sauté.
Add chopped vegetables of the season, a
lot of seaweed, some mushrooms, tonic roots, seasoning herbs,
sea salt and vegetable broth.
Bring it all to a boil and simmer for an
Let the immune strengthening soup mellow
in a cool place overnight.
Serve it the next day, heated up, with freshly-baked
bread and organic raw milk cheese.
Seaweeds help remove radiation from body tissues (heavy metals
too). I like heavy seaweeds like kombu and wakame in soups.
But sea palm fronds, nereocystis kelp, hijiki, and alaria
are food too; they all taste different.
All mushrooms strengthen the immune system and counter cancer.
I frequently use dried shitake as they are available and inexpensive
at Chinese grocery stores. Reishii, maitake, and other medicinal
mushrooms are delicious additions to immune strengthening
soups, as are the more common dried porcinni, and fresh portobellos.
Tonic roots help our livers, lymph, and kidneys work well,
protecting us from infection. I use one or more, fresh or
dried, depending on what I have available: Siberian ginseng,
astragalus, burdock, dandelion, chicory, yellow dock, American
ginseng. I often put these tough roots into a jelly bag and
drop that into the soup for I can fish it out before serving.
About one ounce per gallon of broth used for your soup is
a nice amount.
Seasoning herbs from the mint family - rosemary, thyme, oregano,
basil, marjoram, and sage - are loaded with antioxidants.
I don't just season the soup with them; I add them by the
There are recipes for several immune strengthening soups
in my book
Breast Cancer? Breast Health! The Wise Woman Way.
Prevention doesn't always work, of course. Maintaining health
the Wise Woman Way includes being prepared to deal with infection
as well as staying healthy on a daily basis. With nourishing
herbal infusions, immune strengthening soups, and the help
of some strong roots, that's simple and fun.
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Vibrant, passionate, and involved, Susun Weed has garnered
an international reputation for her groundbreaking lectures,
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conventional medical approaches with humor, insight, and her
vast encyclopedic knowledge of herbal medicine. Unabashedly
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and often profoundly provocative.
Susun is one of America's best-known authorities on herbal
medicine and natural approaches to women's health. Her four
best-selling books are recommended by expert herbalists and
well-known physicians and are used and cherished by millions
of women around the world. Learn more at www.susunweed.com