Herbal Remedies Tip #9 – How to make a mustard plaster for coughs and bronchitis

January 21, 2010

mustard powder A mustard plaster? What the heck is that, you may be wondering…and even if I knew (your mind continues), wouldn’t it be messy and probably ineffective anyway? Well, I don’t know. But I like the idea of it, and I’m going to try it too! You can use a mustard plaster to bring warmth and circulation to the chest when battling persistent coughs or bronchitis. No one in my house has had a persistent cough or bronchitis in as long as my memory can stretch, but you never know. And the herbalists I trust the most, including MD Aviva Jill Romm, certainly advocate their use. As Dr. Romm indicates, the increased blood flow reduces coughing and speeds healing (Romm 2003). And yes, this is perfectly fine to use with children over three years of age. In fact, that’s who she suggests it be used for, though of course it’s useful for adults too.The only caveat is that mustard plasters must be used with those who have the ability to communicate with you if it becomes uncomfortable, so the individual must be awake and able to communicate clearly.

Aviva states that the process may seem elaborate or complicated, but after doing it once it will be simple. The relief your child will get will make it all worthwhile.

Supplies:
1/4 cup dried mustard
2 cotton kitchen towels
large bath towel
hot tap water
large bowl
warm, wet washcloth
salve or petroleum jelly

Instructions:
1. Lay out one kitchen towel on a flat surface. Spread the mustard powder onto the towel, leaving a 1 inch border around the edge uncovered. Next, fold the bottom border upward over the edge of the powder to keep the powder from following out. Place the second towel over the first one, and starting from each of the short edges, roll the edges to the center, forming a scroll.
2. Place the scroll in the bowl and cover it wiht very hot water. Bring the bowl and all the other supplies into your child’s room. Be certain there are no drafts in the room.
3. Place the large bath towel open on a pillow, take off the child’s shirt, and liberally apply the salve or petroleum jelly onto the nipples to protect them from getting blistered or burned.
4. Thoroughly wring the water out of the mustard filled towel when it is cool enough to be handled. Unroll the mustard bandage to the folded edge. With teh folded edge at the bottom, place against the child’s chest and as far aroudn the back as it will reach. The child should quickly lie back on the bath towel, which you then wrap over the plaster. Cover the child with blankets.
5. To prevent burns, remove the plaster immediately when the child says it feels hot or is stinging. This may be after only a few minutes. After removing the plaster, wash the area with the damp washcloth and cover the child with blankets to prevent chill. Never leave the plaster on a child under the age of eight for more than 5 minutes. Adults can tolerate it for a maximum of 20 minutes. Do not repeat more than twice a day for two days, and discontinue if the area becomes red. Never leave a child unattended while the plaster is on.

Okay….so try it out and please, please, please…tell me how it goes!

Ref: Romm, Aviva Jill (2003) Naturally Healthy Babies and Children: A Commonsense Guide to Herbal Remedies, Nutrition, and HealthNaturally Healthy Babies and Children: A commonsense guide to Herbal Remedies, Nutrition, and Health. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley.


Immune Boosting Herbs talk @ Holistic Moms Network meeting

October 7, 2009

 

herbs

herbs

Tonight I had the pleasure of presenting about the use of herbs to fight colds and flus, particularly with regard to the treatment of small children. The presentation was delivered to a local chapter of the Holistic Moms Network. It’s fun presenting to the choir, more or less, as this group is made up of parents who are interested in holistic health & living in all respects. And such a lovely group of people, dads and moms alike!

We were able to talk about the energetics of foods and herbs, the use of preventative versus acute herbal remedies, and dosages for small children & infants. I am again reminded of how wonderful it is to share knowledge and information about our botanical allies, and of course giving such talks only reinforces that for me. I was reading a bog post on ProBlogger this morning about weighing the cost-benefit of speaking at events for free. In other words, what’s in it for the business? For some people, attending a far away conference to speak without compensation means that they have to figure out why the trip would be worthwhile, whether through contacts, networking, or business sales. I definitely identify with that when I think about my ‘day job’ in Public Health. I also make decisions like that when it comes to my business, Lilith’s Apothecary. But when it comes to herbal medicine, if I can afford it, I am more than happy to participate in any way I can. It’s true that I do indeed have an herbal bath and body business of sorts, but I don’t educate about herbs because I want to sell products. In fact, I hardly even indicated that I have a business tonight. Instead, I want others to learn how to make the products for themselves! Sure, I can make it for you if you don’t have the time or desire (i.e. I can’t sew, so someone has to sew things for me!), but if you want to make your own herbal syrup, by all means! Let’s do it. And doing it together is so much fun.

Holistic Moms Network
NJ/Philadelphia Chapter
Collingswood, NJ 
Thanks for having me!

Other posts that may be of interest:
What to do about H1N1: 5 Tips
Nervous About Swine Flu? Look to Herbal Medicine for Immune Boosting
DIY Remedies for the Cold Season Part I
DIY Remedies for the Cold Season Part II
Herbal Facial Steams for the Cold and Flu Season


Nervous about Swine Flu? Look to Herbal Medicine for Immune Boosting

April 29, 2009

echinacea_300x300I’m going to reveal something you might not know about me – as a medical anthropologist (my professional training, aside from herbal studies),- it is tough to find a job that is ‘specific’ to my anthropological studies (as any anthropologists reading this will attest to!). One place where medical anthropologists fit in fairly neatly is in the public health field, particularly anthropologists who are more on-the-ground oriented. I work in a Center for Preparedness Research Education and Practice as my ‘regular’ 40 hour work week job, and part of what I do involves providing support to non-profit service providers of vulnerable populations in the area of emergency preparedness planning and training. I’ve been involved in numerous discussions, planning efforts, and even some research around pandemic influenza planning, and so am well tuned-in to the events of recent days.

There have been numerous reports to date that demonstrate the many ways that Tamiflu and other pharmaceutical antirvirals do not really work in preventing viruses. But for centuries, alternative medical systems have practiced preventative medicine by 1) building the immune system, and 2) using anti-viral and anti-biotic herbs. Herbs contain chemicals with different ‘actions’ on the body, and many of these chemical compounds are extracted or copied in order to produce the pharmaceuticals. The downside of these pharma drugs is that the side effects are often bad and the toll on the body can be hard, particularly for the liver.

Fears about swine flu abound, and with the alert level raised to ‘5’ today, its no wonder that the public is getting a bit anxious. In the preparedness field, we have learned one thing (at least), and that is to give people something that is in their control to do in the given situation. Does that make sense? In other words, if you can be proactive in taking care of at least one or two elements in your situation, you will feel empowered and are less likely to be fearful or panicked.

Approaches to viral and retroviral medicine have shifted over time to favor immune-building approaches to treatment rather than relying solely on antiviral drugs. The reason? The huge rate of mutation and eventual resistance to these drugs (if not immediate resistance). Boost your body’s immune strength and concurrently treat it with antivirals once a pathogen strikes.

So what herbs can we use? Lots. Master herbalist, Michael Tierra of the East West School of Planetary Herbalism, writes about the antibiotic and antiviral powers of pure oregano oil in his blog post about MRSA, and much of this is just as applicable to treating cold & flus. In some earlier posts, I also outlined some Herbal Remedies for Colds and Flus, Part I and Part II, both of which included immune-boosting herbs like Astragalus and anti-viral herbs and foods such as onions, garlic, thyme, etc.

I can’t leave out the power of Adapotens to boost the body’s ability to ward off infection and just generally cope with stress, reduce fatigue, and help us ‘adapt’ better to the stressors of our lifestyles. Adaptogens include well known ayurvedic tonics, Ashwaghanda and Shatavari, and Asian tonics such as Red Ginseng, Korean Ginseng, Eleuthro Root (Siberian Ginseng), and Rhodiola Root. These should be taken regularly and constently, along with Astragalus, for a strong immune-boosting tonic.

muira-puma-capsulesI have recently posted some immune-boosting capsules and herbal syrup on my etsy site and would welcome your comments and feedback both on etsy and here. What herbal anti-virals have worked well for you? I’ve heard about the use of colloildal silver for the treatment of flu, for instance, but have no experience with this treatment. Let me know your thoughts by commenting on this post! This won’t be the last of its kind.


DIY ~ Herbal Remedies for the Cold Season Part II

March 10, 2009
Elder Flower

Elder Flower

Ah, here I am sniffling away from a wee cold given to me by my darling 2 and a half year old, Maeve, who is all to0 glad to bring home little daycare germs to share with her family. *sniff*! Well, happily, there are lots of remedies to shorten the length of the cold, as well as to add some relief.  My Winter Spirit blend can help prevent colds but also treats those with slight fevers and benefits the immune system with high levels of nutrient-dense herbs like alfalfa and vitamin rich rosehips, a great source of in Vit C.

Again, among other preventive strategies mentioned in Part I, raw garlic always helps to banish a cold away, and broths or soupy grains made with a stock of simmered onions and garlic is always a good old wives’ remedy, with good reason! Add some ginger for an extra warming, antiviral punch. But raw garlic, steeped in olive oil and used for dipping a bit of bread, is an incredibly tasty, potent remedy.  Herbal Steams using essential oils and herbs are also a great way to add relief, and my post on that subject provides recipes in that direction.

The Best Cold Remedy Soup ever!
1. Combine 3 cups vegetable stock & 2 cups sliced onions (or two sizable onions)sliced
(Simmer the onions in the stock until tender)
2. Add: some sliced carrot & 2 Tbsp shredded fresh ginger root
(simmer for 10 min until carrot is soft)
3. Reduce heat to low and take a little bit of the stock out, whisk in 2 Tbps miso, and return to the soup. Do NOT allow the soup to return to a boil, as this will reduce the enzymic activity of the miso.

My real content of this post, however, is about making your own herbal tea blends to assist you when you have a cold. I’ll start with some of the wonderful herbs that are readily available, such as thyme leaf (antiviral, antimicrobial), elder flowers or berries (immune boosting, 2 antiviral compounds, significant relief for fevers), nettle leaf (the so-called weed that is one of the most nutritious plants available), and ginger (nearly a dozen antiviral compounds; reduces pain & fever; cough suppressant; warming).

The first recipe is for a lovely, incredibly pleasant blend that works throughout the winter months to boost your body’s ability to ward off illness, primarily by strengthening your immune system and nourishing your body:

Herbal Infusion for the Cold & Flu Season: Prevention
1 part alfalfa (nutritive)
1 part nettle (nutritive, adrenal support)
1 part rosehips (nutritive, vitamin C rich)
1/4 part cinnimon (catalyst herb that helps other herbs work ‘better’, warming)
1 part rose (spirit lifting!)
1 part thyme leaf (antiviral, antimicrobial)

Directions: combine the above and use 1 tsp – 1 Tbsp per cup of water. Steep in boiling water for 15- 30 min, strain, drink hot or cold. You can make a mason jar’s worth and just keep it in the fridge, heating it up as needed.

Herbal Remedy for that mean old Cold:
1 part thyme leaf (antiseptic, expectorant, carminative)
1/2 part dried ginger (nearly a dozen antiviral compounds; reduces pain & fever; cough suppressant; warming)
1/4 part lemon peel OR add a slice of fresh lemon to the tea (high in vit C)
1 part rosehips (vit C)
1 part elder leaf/flower (antiviral, helps treat fevers)
1 part alfalfa or nettle (nutrient rich)

Herbal Remedy for that mean old sore throat or cough:
1/4 part marhmallow root or slippery elm (demulcent, throat-coating, soothing qualities; anti-inflammatory)
1/2 part licorice root (demulcent, antiviral)
1/2 part mullein flowers/leaf (expectorant, demulcent, soothing)
1/2 part ginger root (nearly a dozen antiviral compounds; reduces pain & fever; warming)
1/2 part rosehips (vit C)
1/4 part lemon peel OR add a slice of fresh lemon (vit C)

Directions for either of the above: Combine the herbs as directed and use 1 tsp – 1 Tbsp per cup of water. Steep in boiling water for 15- 30 min, strain, drink hot or cold. You can make a mason jar’s worth and just keep it in the fridge, heating it up as needed. Keep in mind that the mucilage in the sore throat/cough tea will make the infusion more viscous. Also feel free to add a touch of herbal honey, especially a honey made with immune-boosting, antiviral herbs.

*Remember that any of these herbs made into a tea provides a valuable remedy. You don’t need to use them all! Simple ginger root and fresh lemon is most often my favorite remedy along with soups and broths. I might start the day with simple thyme & ginger and end it with a more soothing, alfalfa rich, vitamin C stocked blend. Experiment!

Watch out for my Next DIY cold & flu post: Herbal Syups , including my Herbal ‘Mucinex’ Recipe!


DIY ~ Herbal Remedies for the Cold Season Part I

February 20, 2009
Ginger Root

Ginger Root

Yes, we are smack dab in the middle of cold and flu season and for those of us with toddlers in day care (a-hem), herbal remedies seem to be a constant part of life in the wintertime! You actually never need to touch the chemical laden and possibly detrimental cold & flu symptomatic remedies on the counters of your local pharmacy. Instead, turn to the natural gifts of nature, for far more effective, immune-building resistance and treatment.

PREVENTION:
Astragalus root is a chinese herb that has been long used as an immune tonic. Michael Tierra recommends making an herbal syrup from astragalus for those with compromised immune systems, but I often just add astragalus regularly to decoctions or even to soup stocks for an added immune boost! Astragalus is not an herb to use once a cold has already set in.

Adaptogens are a wonderful gift to us and are used in many cultures as tonics for longevity and resilience throughout life. They help to balance our systems and create better resistance to stress, including stress-induced colds and flus. Regular use of an adaptogen is recommended for anyone living in our stressful, postmodern, multi-tasking world! Examples of adaptogens include Siberian Ginseng (Eleuthero), Asian Ginseng, Ashwaghanda, and Rhodiola Root. You should consult with an herbalist or herbally-savy naturopath to assess which adaptogen is best for you. That said, Siberian Ginseng seems a good all-around adaptogen that is often used as an energy tonic for athletes.

TREATMENT:
Echinacea is still the superior choice in cold and flu treatment. There have been studies suggesting a lack of effectiveness, but the dosages and herb formulations in those clinical studies were not therapeutic, more often than not. I still swear by the stuff! As with many (if not most) herbs, echinacea’s clinical power is not isolated to one ingredient, but rather, its whole chemical make-up contributes to its immune-boosting power. The action of this wonderful herb is quite different from allopathic antibiotics and even other antibiotic herbs such as Golden Seal. Echinacea actually vitalizes the immune system rather than attacking the virus directly, and thus assists the lymph, adrenal and thymus glands in their immune activity. It is also a fine fever herb and does not interfere with the needed (slight) elevation in temperature, as bacteria and viruses cannot survive above 100 degrees, but keeps the fever low enough to prevent convulsions (Susun Weed, Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year, 1986).

Echinacea

Echinacea

Echinacea does appear to have some preventative power, especially when used in the early stages (you feel that throat tickle, perhaps, or you’re starting to feel run down), but it also shortens the length of a cold and lessens the severity. Echinacea is better taken in tincture than capsule form, but I also like to make a strong herbal syrup from a decoction of echinacea, chapparal, ginger, and thyme to really pack a punch to that mean old cold. I’ll post DIY instructions for making an herbal syrup at some stage soon. The important thing is taking ENOUGH of the stuff. Most people under-dose. At the first signs of a cold, you may need to take a dropperful of the tincture four to six times a day. This is equivelant to 1-2g dried root per day. Take up to nine 300-400mg capsules per day. If you are taking the tincture, you should have a transitory numbing, tingly sort of feeling on your tongue. For babies and children, put 10 drops of echinacea in a four oz. bottle/cup of water or juice. Allow your child to drink as desired and this will help keep a fever in bounds. Even the newest of newborn babies old will benefit from the breastmilk from a breastfeeding mother taking echinacea infusions or tincture.

Garlic and Onions are potent anti-virals in an of themselves. Fresh garlic is much more potent than cooked or roasted garlic and one way to get around popping a whole clove in your mouth is to dice up a few cloves, add to olive oil and dip bread in the oil & garlic. You might even add a dash of cider vinegar for good measure! It’s yummy AND it’ll treat that cold. In addition, the old adage about chicken soup seems to be linked more to the onions and garlic simmered in that warm vegetable or chicken stock than to the chicken itself. Not only are the onions and garlic antiviral, but viruses don’t survive at hot temperatures and drinking hot broths, soups, and teas can really inhibit viral replication, along with keeping you well hydrated. I’ve also heard of wise women making strong garlic teas from fresh cloves. One half cup of this stuff and you could really knock that cold back a couple steps, or if taken early on, might deter it completely.

Ginger and Lemon infusions should not be understated as a helpful treatment strategy. Not only is the hot liquid good to take in, but ginger is warming and can help heat the body up, helping you to ‘sweat it out’. Herbalist Michael Tierra recommends taking the hot ginger tea (fresh or dry ginger root infused for at least ten minutes) after a hot bath and then piling on the blankets. Heating up the body temperature helps prevent viral replication and can really do a number on the little suckers. That’s why our immune response is often to have a fever! Viruses simply cannot survive in body temps over 101 degrees. You need only get concerned when your temp gets to 102 or higher or that they persist for more than a couple of days. Lemon is very rich in infection-fighting vitamin C and is also a fever cooler when the temp rises.

Elder Berry and Flower : Elder, herbalist Susun Weed tells us, seems to help the body regulate temperature, and when those lovely white blossoms are tinctured, can provide a superior remedy for treating infants’ tinctures, as well as our own. It reduces frighteningly high fevers without fail and doesn’t have the detrimental effect on kidneys and livers as commercial fever-reducers (advil, tylenol) do. Put one drop per pound of body weight under the tongue (for infants and adults alike) and thoe dose can be repeated as often as needed. It is completely harmless. The fever usually begins to decrease within a few hours of the first dose. (Elder can also be administered by dropper while breastfeeding).

RECIPES for therapeutic foods & herbal infusions to follow in Part II!

SOURCES:
Pacific Botanicals
Mountain Rose Herbs


Herbal Facial Steams for cold & flu season

December 30, 2008

My 'Herbal Delight' facial steam

My 'Herbal Delight' facial steam

Ah! One of my dear etsy customers just commented on her use of my herbal facial steams during a recent sinus infection. What a wonderful way to use the healing powers of herbs!

Herbal Steam for cold & flu season:
1 tsp comfrey root
2 tsp thyme
2 tsp sage
1 drop of eucalyptus essential oil (optional) or 1 tsp dried eucalyptus leaves.
1 drop of thyme essential oil (optional)

Directions:
Place the herbs in a small saucepan of water, bring to a boil and then simmer for a 10 minutes, with the pot covered. Take the pot off the heat and add the essential oils. Drape a towel over your head and place your face over the steam, breathing in deeply and moving your head from side to side. Take a break if it gets to be too much. But keep placing your head over the pot for at least 10 minutes total, blowing into the water a little when it starts to cool down in order to direct the steam into your nasal passages. Breathe!

Thyme is a wonderful, handy herb that is also antimicrobial. I regularly drink thyme tea when I am sick or just during the winter to keep my immune system primed. Comfrey root is a healing herb that is also demulcent, so it is soothing to the mucus membranes and other body linings. Sage is astringent, which is often much needed during head colds. Eucalyptus e.o. helps open the nasal passages. I say “one drop” and yes, you could put two drops, but don’t over do it! Essential oils are very powerful, especially in a bowl of hot steaming water. By the way, this would also be a good steam for acne because of its antiseptic strength and astringency (except for maybe the eucalyptus). Don’t forget the ginger & lemon tea for that head cold!


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