by CoreyPine Shane on December 2nd, 2012

Herbs for Pain - Part 2 of 3

Let me say this up front - there is no one herb for all kinds of pain. They are not isolated chemicals like pharmaceutical medicines, they are a complex of hundreds of chemicals that can affect many parts of the body at once. They might not always work as strongly as pharmaceuticals, but the more specific you can get, the better the herbs will work. And of course the best idea is to figure out why someone is pain and treat the root cause at the same time.

There are some general categories that analgesic herbs fall into – nerve pain, muscle pain, injury and inflammation, headache, and serious pain. And these are the categories we’ll use for our discussion here.

The best way to begin is to ask enough questions to understand what’s going on. We may not be moving to a specific diagnosis, but at least to understand the character of the pain and get closer to what the client is actually feeling. Use your curiosity to ask good questions, and include the following:

When did this begin? How often does it happen?
Have you ever had anything like this happen before?
How bad is the pain on a scale of 1 to 10?
What makes it better/worse?
What does it feel like? Where in the body? Can you show me where?

These questions help you assess what might be going on, and also to choose the best herb for the situation. Let's begin by looking at herbs for nerve and muscle pain.

Nerve pain tends to be shooting pain, or pain along a line. Symptoms might include numbness and tingling, those these can also be signs of poor circulation. This category includes sciatica, shingles, spinal pain, tooth pain, herpes, etc. When showing where it hurts, people will often use their finger to point to their pain; if they hold a part of their body with their whole hand, it is more likely muscle pain. Useful herbs for nerve pain include St. John’s Wort, Skullcap, and Motherwort.

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is actually one of my favorites for nerve pain, especially spinal pain, for which I have used the infused oil rubbed on topically and the tincture taken internally. It can reduce pain enough to allow people to sleep and go see the chiropractor or doctor in the morning. I also use it for sciatica, and here I like to combine it with Skullcap and Willow bark tinctures.

This remedy has a longer historical use for wounds and bruises than as an anti-depressant as we use it now. I have seen great results using St. John's Wort topically for tingling and numbness following compression injuries, seeming to help soothe as well as help regenerate the nerves. This effect on nerve growth can be enhanced by combining it with Cow Parsnip (Heracleum lanatum) seed or root tincture applied topically.

Skullcap is one of my favorite herbs for the nervous system, perhaps because it can be used as a long-term tonic to build and nourish the nervous system as well as having an immediate affect that can be used for insomnia from circular thinking or, as is appropriate for this article, for nerve pain.

For the latter use, I often combine it with St. John's Wort, but I also combine it with Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata) as the basis of a migraine headache formula. Skullcap has been used for tremors, trigeminal neuralgia and even epilepsy because of its ability to relax the muscles by dimming the amount of nerve signals being sent. In Chinese Medicine, it might be looked at as an herb for Qi Stagnation because of its ability to relax resistance to the flow of energy (qi) in the body.

And finally, Motherwort, an herb I have recommended primarily for PMS, menstrual pain, and anxiety that results in chest tightness, but I have also seen good results using it for muscle tightening around painful spots and it is a specific for shingles (herpes zoster), painful skin eruptions that are related to chicken pox.

To Be Continued: Next blog – Muscle pain.

by CoreyPine Shane on July 11th, 2012

“A New Approach to Working with Pain”
Part 1 of 3

Last year as I was preparing for a class at the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference in New Mexico, I found myself thinking a lot about how we use herbs to treat pain. Too often we end up in the trap of just throwing herbs at pain, when we could be changing our whole relationship with pain, an experience that doesn’t just get rid of discomfort but helps us see life in a different way.

Though no one seeks out pain or discomfort, we do live in a culture that is more pro-comfort than any other culture in history. Our cars save us from walking and experiencing the weather, our heaters and air conditioning keep our homes and offices the same temperature no matter the season, and we are encouraged to relish in comfort and destroy any uncomfortable feelings.

We spend half our lives dodging the uncomfortable feeling of being in body: with music, TV, beer, sex, and chocolate croissants. These things aren’t bad in and of themselves, just as long as they don’t lead us away from ourselves. Pain is like the warning light on a car’s dashboard. It is the messenger, and when we shoot the messenger, the problems get worse.

Maybe that headache is a sign not to overwork, or that stomach ache is a sign not to eat dairy. When you hear/feel that message, ask what the true cause is, then be willing to sit with it until the answer appears. It might not be what you think at first, and in fact it is important not to think about it too much.

The most courageous and productive thing we can do is to feel into our discomfort, to stay with it, instead of running away. The bravest and most important thing we can do is to get comfortable with discomfort. This doesn’t mean engaging in self-pity, dwelling on the pain, or seeking out pain, but to be able to feel fully and so feel THROUGH it.

This exercise will make you a stronger person: The next time you feel pain, whether physical or emotional – stay with it. Look at it without trying to change it or think about it, just put your attention there and notice what you are feeling. Describe it in words if that helps – give it a color, a sound, or describe it metaphorically.

As you put your attention there, an amazing thing often happens – the sensation starts to recede and deeper emotions and sensations come to consciousness. There is a tendency to start thinking here, but stay with the feeling. Even with emotional pain, see where in your body you feel it. When we are able to sit and notice the true source of our discomfort, it is often less scary that we thought. Often the fear of feeling is worse than feeling the feeling.

This carries over to how we interact with others. When we see our friends and clients in pain, we can meet them there with the same awareness instead of offering simple platitudes. Too often we are afraid of someone else’s pain awakening our own pain. Know that you can hear someone’s story, have empathy and not have to get lost in their story.

Pain points to where we can grow. One of my yoga teachers would say that the point of yoga is not to be able to do everything easily but to be willing to make yourself a bit uncomfortable and meet your edge. “When you find your edge, that is where the yoga happens.”

In the same way, when we are able to sit with something less than comfortable and just be with it rather than fight the reality of our experience, then we get the gold. Then we grow stronger and deeper.

Herbs used to treat different kinds of pain.
Because, yes, there are times to treat pain.

by Allison Brooks on February 17th, 2012

Cucurmin Research and its Role in Cancer Treatment

Cucurmin is an active constituent of the spice turmeric, which comes from a plant called Cucurma longa. The plant is a member of the ginger family and produces rhizomes, which are thick underground stems that grow horizontally and send out both shoots and roots. Cucurmin is one of several compounds found in the rhizomes, called curcuminoids, that are found in turmeric and is considered the most biologically active. Curcumin has a long history in Asian medicine for the treatment of various diseases.

Curcumin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and there is some research that
indicates it might be helpful in some kinds of cancer. Inflammation may play a role in cancer, and
cucurmin may help counteract that effect. Some enzymes in the human body can help you eliminate potential cancer-causing substances, or carcinogens, while others are actually changed into carcinogens. Cucurmin may increase the activity of some enzymes that eliminate carcinogens.

Research on mice with breast cancer indicates cucurmin can decrease the spread of cancer to the lungs and may make the chemotherapy drug Taxol more effective. The breast cancer research was led by a team headed by B.B. Aggarwal, a professor of cancer research at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Another research group, led by Fei Ye of the MD Anderson Cancer Center has also shown that curcumin is effective in suppressing esophageal cancer cells.

Another research study on prostate cancer found curcumin may be able to prevent prostate cancer. A team of researchers in Luxembourg, led by Marie-Hélène Teiten, found that curcumin interferes with cancer cell development and prevents the cells from reproducing. Cucurmin also decreased the spread of prostate cancer. The researchers felt curcumin’s anti-inflammatory action was responsible for the beneficial effect and that curcumin showed promise as an alternative for prostate cancer treatment and prevention.

The research on curcumin, although promising, is still in its early stages. Curcumin should not be
considered a cancer treatment or preventative at this point. The research on curcumin has been done with animals or in the lab, and there are no studies on cucurmin’s effect in human cancers. More studies are being conducted to hope to find a better cure for low life-expectancy cancers. Hopefully there will emerge another favorable treatment against cancer.

Allison Brooks is fresh on the scene as a biomedical anthropologist. She recently graduated with a degree from the University of Mississippi and now travels a great deal to Bolivia to study the effects of biomedicalization on their culture. Through her studies, she has been getting into natural health and the use of herbs in healing, and in her off –time she likes to guest blog for people to spread the word.

Posted on January 6th, 2011

I want to follow up on my last blog by going into greater depth with some of the expectorant herbs, specifically, stimulating expectorants like Osha, Elecampane, and Grindelia. Then in the next blog we’ll discuss relaxing expectorants and anti-tussives like Wild Cherry, Mullein, and Pleurisy root.

Many of the stimulating expectorants are either aromatic and spicy or resinous and sticky, or both. Aromatic herbs have a dispersing energy and help break up thick mucus. But the resinous herbs are even stronger at breaking up stuck phlegm.

One of my favorite herbs to fight viral infections and clear mucous is Osha. With a taste like spicy celery, it has a warming and drying energy to help break up and dry out mucous. But I do try to use Osha in moderation as it only grows at high elevations in the Rocky mountains.

Osha works best for upper respiratory infections where things haven’t gone too deep in the lungs yet, where the infection is still in the nose/sinuses or just creeping into the lungs. Osha does work for allergies as well, but I usually use other herbs like Ragweed leaves or fresh Nettle leaf tincture.

The drying quality can be very useful here, and I only use it when there is some congestion, but to avoid overdoing it, Osha combines nicely with Licorice or honey as a syrup without hurting its medicinal use.

Elecampane is my favorite herb for deep lung issues like bronchitis or even pneumonia. With a bitter and a “deep” aromatic flavor with a resinous quality, Elecampane helps drag out gunk from deep in the lungs, heating things up and getting them moving like warming up refrigerated olive oil.

When I lived in upstate New York with those cold damp winters, I used this herb all the time as I would see at least a dozen bronchitis cases during the coldest months. Now that I live in North Carolina with a more variable winter, I don’t tend to use it as much. Still, a great herb for actively cleaning out the lungs, whether for acute or chronic lung issues. It was used historically for chronic “catarrhal” conditions, with catarrh meaning congested phlegm.

Gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa) is actually a stronger expectorant and good for tenacious sticky mucus. It is highly resinous, so works best as a tincture (resins are not very water soluble). Gumweed buds are so sticky the white resin is visible on the outside. It grows abundantly all across the western third of the U.S. This is a classic example of how resins tend to direct to the lungs and help break up phlegm, as seen in the classic White Pine Cough Syrup, which uses for medicine the same sticky sap you get on your shirt when you lean against a pine tree.

Next time we’ll get more into herbs that either soothe or suppress excessive coughing.

by CoreyPine Shane on December 19th, 2010

Lung gunk. It’s that time of year when a simple cold can travel down into our lungs and cause problems, especially if we don’t take the time to rest and recuperate when we get sick. So prevention may be the best treatment, but what if it gets past that point? What to do when things get… well… sticky?

First thing to realize is that mucous is a good thing, but like all good things, it is best in moderation. Normally there is a thin layer of mucous coating our respiratory membranes that not only moistens and soothes the passages, but also acts like flypaper, trapping microbes, dust, pollen and other small particles so they can be brought out of the body, or (more commonly) tipped over the top of the trachea into the digestive tract to get burned up by stomach acid.

Mucous only becomes a problem when there is irritation or infection – the goblet cells produce more to protect the surface cells (epithelium) and to help get rid of the irritant. So the first stage of a respiratory infection or seasonal allergies is a runny drippy nose. After a few days of this, the goblet cells start to tire and “dry out” so that the drippy nose becomes the plugged up nose.

Now mucous doesn’t kill microbes, it just traps them so they can be disposed of. So if the body can’t effectively clear the mucous out, it can become a breeding ground for microbes. I see this happen often in people with chronic food allergies or sensitivities that then leads to chronic bronchitis or chronic sinusitis.

Often, people with chronic stuffy noses need to change their diet or lessen the amount of dairy they’re eating before even starting with herbs and supplements. The saying in Chinese Medicine is “Digestion (“the Spleen”) produces Dampness and the Lungs store Dampness.”

Which brings us to your classic winter-time bronchitis complete with thick mucous in the bronchioles, the branching tubes that bring air deep into the lungs for oxygen exchange. As should be clear by now, it’s not enough to just use herbs that kill bacteria, it is also necessary to change the underlying condition by getting rid of the excess fluid clogging things up and creating a home for infection.

So, a good question to ask is – Is the cough productive? Sometimes you want to stimulate expectoration to clear thick phlegm, sometimes you want to moisten and “water down” the mucous to make for easier passage, and sometimes you just want to stop the coughing. After all, coughing takes energy and can keep us from sleeping, our best time to heal.

Stimulating expectorant herbs include Elecampane root, Osha, Grindelia, Spikenard, Angelica, Lobelia, and Pleurisy root. Demulcent herbs used to moisten the lungs include Marshmallow, Plantain leaf, and Slippery Elm. Anti-tussive herbs that help stop coughing include Wild Cherry, Coltsfoot, and Elecampane flower.

Next blog we’ll talk about some of these herbs in greater depth.

Posted on December 5th, 2009

Blood Movers – Chinese medicine idea using Western herbs

Movement, change, flexibility – It’s what makes something vibrant and alive. A still pond fills with algae but a flowing stream feeds the river and the ocean. Sit still and get bedsores and indigestion and vein problems; keep active and stay healthy. A key part of health is keeping things moving rather than letting them sit and fester.

And so in herbal medicine we have many herbs that help stimulate circulation, to get the blood and other fluids moving and help cleanse the blood. We might call these circulatory stimulants, alteratives and lymphatics in Western parlance, and in Chinese medicine either Qi movers or Blood movers. But how can we tell if we need these herbs, or even which herbs are best?

Although there are many levels of stagnation, one of the best ways to visualize blood stagnation is to imagine a bruise. Tissues get damaged, capillaries break and blood leaves the vessels and pools; soon the body walls it off until the mess can get cleaned up and reintegrated. Bruises are painful and sore and then there’s that tell-tale purple-ish color. Got that image?

Blood movers are great for bruises and other physical trauma (think Arnica or Tiger Balm), but sometimes the stagnation isn’t quite so obvious. Sometimes we don’t get the nice visual “black and blue” but just the pain and soreness. This might be the pain we experience in arthritis, in an old injury that never healed right, or in menstrual cramps as a few examples.

When blood flow slows in an area, there is less oxygen and nutrients coming in and also slower removal of waste products. Think about how twigs and leaves start to accumulate when a part of a stream becomes impeded and slows down. This stagnation of fluids creates an environment where unwanted growths can occur and so we see swollen lymph nodes, fibrocystic breasts, uterine fibroids, enlarged prostate and tumors, to name a few. Blood movers work great for these kind of growths as well.

So there are a broad range of indications for blood moving herbs because slowed circulation can manifest in many different kinds of problems. These herbs range in strength from gentle herbs that are taken for a long time to clear up long-standing stagnation like Red Clover, traditionally used in many cancer formulas, to strong and potentially toxic moving herbs like Poke root used for acute lymphatic congestion or Arnica used topically for bruises and muscle pain.
Four local herbs that all have the ability to move Blood are Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa, syn. Actea racemosa) Stone Root (Collinsonia canadensis), Sassafrass (Sassafrass albidum), and Red Root (Ceanothus americanus). Those familiar with these herbs will recognize that these plants have different uses and might not ordinarily be grouped together in western herbology.

Black Cohosh is probably the best known of these herbs. Often thought of as a “women’s herb” for menstrual cramps and hot flashes, I often use it for muscular and joint pain for everything from rheumatoid arthritis to fibromyalgia to whiplash. It is a mild vasodilator, meaning it opens up the blood vessels to allow more blood flow, which makes it useful for mild hypertension.

When you look at the old indications for Black Cohosh, you’ll see that before it was thought of as an herb for menstrual cramps and hot flashes, it was used to treat “rheumatism” – a general word for arthritic complaints – and also as a remedy for nerve pain. This is telling, since most pain relieving herbs in Chinese medicine achieve their effect by moving blood.

Stone root is a lesser known herb but is abundant in rich woods from north Georgia up through New York and deserves a better reputation. Though not a remedy for any one specific condition, and indeed it is an herb that can take some time to take effect, I find it an excellent addition to any formula to move Blood in the pelvic area. It is not as strong and quick a blood mover as Black Cohosh, but works better for long-standing conditions that have resulted in accumulations. In western terms, it is an excellent lymphatic and local circulatory stimulant.

So it ends up in formulas for uterine fibroids, enlarged lymph nodes of the pelvic/inguinal area, and ovarian cysts as well as in formulas for “congested blood” manifesting as hemorrhoids and varicose veins.

Red root has a stronger reputation but is still not as widely used as it should be. Red root has even broader uses than Stone root, being used for almost any kind of lymphatic stagnation from swollen lymph nodes during a cold to chronic swollen glands, and if anything is not quite so specific for the pelvic area.

This is another herb that is key to any treatment of uterine fibroids, fibrocystic breasts, ovarian cysts and even enlarged prostate. Unlike Stone root, it does not seem to directly affect congested veins but mainly the lymphatic tissue which would make it very useful for treatment of mono and any other disease that causes enlargement of the spleen.

And finally we have Sassafrass, that lovely tasting root that is the original taste of root beer. Well before tobacco became popular, Sassafrass was an important export from the early American colonies to a Europe desperate for a syphilis cure. By itself, I’m not sure how much this root would do for syphilis but if there ever was a time when antibiotics were no longer available, this is one of the plants I would think of as part of a larger protocol.

Just tasting this herb, you can tell that this relative of Cinnamon is a warming circulatory herb. Traditionally used a spring tonic to cleanse the blood of all the heavy starchy food of a winter devoid of California-grown produce, it is also an excellent alterative, or blood cleanser, helping the body gently cleanse out toxins. As such, it has a long tradition of use for many kinds of rheumatism, especially any kind of joint pain that is worse with cold and damp. It has also, like many alteratives, been used for chronic skin conditions and other conditions where toxins may be building up in the blood.

We can learn a lot by integrating the ideas and therapeutic approaches of Chinese herbal medicine with the use of local herbs. Looking through another lens at herbs we may or may not be familiar with, we can understand new uses of old herbs and also how to make better choices about which herb to use for what particular kinds of symptoms.

Be Well,

CoreyPine Shane
Director, Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine

Posted on June 29th, 2009

Still getting the hang of blogging, and now I’ve got some stored up I’ll publish a few in a row. Today’s blog is about the plants blooming right now, and my next one will be about local herbs that are blood movers.

I’ve been watching flower colors this year, wondering if different colors represent the pollinators of different seasons. But so far, it seems that at least white flowers go through all the seasons.
Back in May we had a few white-flowered trees – the famous Dogwoods (Cornus florida) of course, and the beautiful off-white umbels of Black Haw (Viburnum prunifolium), truly a stronger antispasmodic than the closely related Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus), with an action deeper in the body.

Then came the cherry blossoms, not the much-photographed flowers of Tokyo and Washington DC fame, but the Wild Cherry (Prunus serotina) with bottle-brush bundles of small white flowers that lined the highways and streets. I often wait for a windstorm then check to see if some of the fragile cherry limbs have come down to make medicine with. The bark is one of the best cough suppressors, but usually used after flower because of the potential for cyanide-like compounds in the bark during flowering time. Wild Cherry can make a great cough syrup or tincture.

But now we have the Elder blossoms (Sambucus canadensis), still blooming after weeks open. Elder is blooming all over my land, especially where there’s partial shade over a stream. Look for a small tree/shrub with big umbels of cream-colored flowers with a peculiar smell.

Although the berries are used most often as an anti-viral, I use the Elder flowers when I want a more drying effect, for example as an added herb during a sinus infection or drippy allergy noses. Made as a hot tea, it makes a great sweating herb for low-grade fevers. Drink a hot tea of Elder flowers, Yarrow flowers and Peppermint while sitting in a hot bath. When you’ve had enough and start getting woozy, get out and go lie in bed on some towels and you’ll probably fall fast asleep. Nine times out of ten, you’ll wake up with no fever whatsoever.

In the woods, we have more white flowers – Wild Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) and Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa, syn. Actea racemosa). Black Cohosh is one of the most popular herbs in modern herbal medicine and is the subject of a future article, but for now lets think about it as an anti-spasmodic, nervine, and hormone balancer.

Hydrangea is an under-rated and under-used herb that is excellent as an anti-inflammatory for the urinary tract. I most often use it combined with Stone Root (Collinsonia canadensis) and Gravel Root (Eupatorium purpureum) for kidney stones. But it can also be used for chronic irritation of the urinary tract, which could make it seem like one has a constant urinary tract infection. Hydrangea root, by itself or combined with the other herbs, could be a useful herb for just such a situation, even if it’s Interstitial Cystitis.

So that’s all the white flowers I can see from my window, so I’ll end here for now. In a month we’ll talk about some of the red flowers. But look for my next blog on blood movers.

Be Well,

CoreyPine Shane
Director, Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine

Posted on March 2nd, 2009

Maybe it’s the undecided weather, but there sure seem to be a lot of head colds going around, colds that linger for weeks. So to kick off my first blog I thought I’d talk about and get really specific about some of the herbs used to treat colds. A lot of the herbal formulas in the store are too general; when I get sick (sorry, herbalists don’t get sick, we just have “cleansing reactions”!), I change my formula every few days, changing herbs as the illness changes.

Different herbs are good for different stages of the viral infection we call the common cold. Understanding what each herb is especially good for will help you figure out what a formula on the shelf is best used for. Or you can call your local herbalist to put together a custom formula for where you’re at.

First Stage – Catching It Early

Do I really need to tell anyone about Echinacea? All I need to tell you is that it works, and it works best at the very first stage of an illness, either before you feel sick or at the first sign of scratchy or sore throat. Echinacea is an immune stimulant; it sounds the alarm for the white blood cells. Once you have had symptoms more than a couple of days, your immune system should be plenty stimulated and more Echinacea won’t help.

Here’s a helpful tip on dosage – when I use Echinacea at the start of an illness, I’ll easily go through a one ounce bottle in a day or two because it works best at higher doses. I recommend using 3-5 dropperfuls 5 times a day, or even every 2 hours. Colds can linger once they take hold, so its best to use most of these herbs in high doses to hit it hard. Take your Echinacea early, take it often and take lots of it. Not a big fan of Echinacea/Goldenseal combination though. I feel like Echinacea works best at the start of an illness and Goldenseal works best for damp phlegm conditions that have really set in.

My other favorite immune stimulant is Elderberry. The fun thing about Elderberry is that it actually tastes pretty good, and can be used as a syrup to make it taste even better. A friend of mine even uses the syrup she makes on her pancakes as an immune tonic/preventative! Elderberry is an immune stimulant and anti-viral which has always been thought of as a folk herb, but recent scientific research has proven what many herbalists already knew – this plant is a great anti-viral.

Second Stage – Congestion

Now when the cold starts going deeper in the body, we often react by producing an excessive amount of protective mucous. Mucous serves a purpose – it protects and coats the surface of the respiratory tract and captures microbes like fly paper – but sometimes there is too much mucous being produced. That’s a good time to add in herbs to help clear congestion, or as they say in England, “catarrh.” In Chinese medicine, we would call these “herbs to disperse dampness.”

My favorite herbs for this stage are Osha, Bayberry, Prickly Ash, and Red root. Osha is a powerful herb from the Rocky Mountains that is a great anti-viral, expectorant, decongestant and anti-histamine. I would use it more, frankly, if it weren’t so hard to get. I’m afraid if it got too mainstream that it would get overpicked from the wild, so I don’t talk about it as much. But you can make sure to only get Osha from reliable sources.

Osha tastes like spicy celery, and it breaks up phlegm and helps clear mucous from the nose, sinuses and upper lungs. It is very warming and drying, so would not be appropriate if you are already feeling hot and dry.

Bayberry and Prickly Ash I use similarly. Both are heating herbs used as circulatory stimulants, and both will help clear a cold congested feeling from the head. I lean towards Bayberry for any kind of nasal or sinus congestion because it is both stimulating and astringent (drying). It is not antimicrobial, so you still need to add in other herbs, but Bayberry treats the environment which allows the bugs to grow by eliminating excess mucous.

While Bayberry is more for nasal congestion, Prickly Ash goes straight to the throat and treats feeling of congestion there. If you know the tongue-tingling taste of Echinacea, you’ll recognize the taste of Prickly Ash except that it’s about 10 times stronger!! In both herbs, it is the immune-stimulating alkylamides that create the sensation, which says a lot about Prickly Ash.

Red root is good for any kind of lymphatic stagnation and I add it to any formula where there are swollen lymph glands or sore throat. It is under-rated because it doesn’t treat any specific condition but can be used as a supportive herb for almost any kind of sore throat.

Third Stage – Deeper Infections

As infections go deeper, I usually throw in one of the strong antimicrobial “clear heat” herbs such as Oregon Grape, Barberry or Goldenseal. All contain berberine and can be used similarly. I tend to reserve Goldenseal for nasty infections with a lot of congestion since it is very drying to the mucous membranes in addition to being antimicrobial. Any of these herbs are antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal. The difference is that Goldenseal is getting picked out of the wild because it is better known and also stronger. But this also makes it more expensive. I say save a few bucks and help save the environment by using one of the other berberine herbs – which also include our local Yellowroot and the Chinese herb Coptis.

And finally when the cold starts winding down, keep hitting it hard with herbs – the viruses this winter seem to linger. Take an extra day to rest and nurture yourself to avoid a recurrence in a few days. You can also start using Spikenard, Astragalus and Mullein. Spikenard is a great local root that helps strengthen the lungs, clear phlegm and build immunity, whereas Astragalus is a Chinese herb used as a lung tonic as well as a deep immune tonic. Mullein can help keep the lungs clear and make sure the infection doesn’t drop down into the lungs.

In the end though, its important to remember that the same illness can manifest differently for different people. Find the herbs that work best for you and for the way you find yourself getting sick. When in doubt, there are many great herbalists out there who can help you focus your formula with the herbs that you need, or even show you which of these herbs grow locally and can be easily harvested and made into medicine.

Be Well,

CoreyPine Shane
Director, Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine

Posted on November 5th, 2008

Hi there,

This is CoreyPine Shane, Holistic Herbalist, RH (AHG) and director of the Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine. This blog is a place to share what’s happening in herbal medicine, what plants are ripe and ready to be harvested to eat or to make medicine with or to just appreciate, and to keep the conversation alive about the continually changing and evolving world of modern herbal medicine.

Be Well, and Enjoy!


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