Weed Wanderings Herbal Ezine with Susun Weed : Herbal Medicine Chest
June 2003
Volume 3 Number 6

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What's Inside Weed Wanderings this Month...


Herbal Medicine Chest...
Keep Your Lungs Healthy the Wise Woman Way
by Susun Weed ©2003

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 Way.

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 own.

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 dry.

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 juice ten.

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 immune system.
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 capsules.

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.
Poke (Phytolacca americana) is also a beautiful perennial. The root tincture is powerful to the point of being considered poisonous.

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 it.

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 SARS too.

I keep my immune system supple and strong the easy, effective Wise Woman Way: with nourishing herbal infusions and immune-strengthening soups.

Nourishing herbal infusions are the basis of great nourishment - for the immune system, the hormonal system, and the nervous system too.

To 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.

I 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 ever seen.

For more information on infusions, please visit www.susunweed.com.

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 soup:

  • 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 hour.
  • 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 handful.

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.

Green Blessings.

Susun Weed
PO Box 64
Woodstock, NY 12498
Fax: 1-845-246-8081

For permission to reprint this article, contact us at: susunweed@herbshealing.com

Vibrant, passionate, and involved, Susun Weed has garnered an international reputation for her groundbreaking lectures, teachings, and writings on health and nutrition. She challenges conventional medical approaches with humor, insight, and her vast encyclopedic knowledge of herbal medicine. Unabashedly pro-woman, her animated and enthusiastic lectures are engaging 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


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