Dec 24, 2012

Goldenseal

    Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis).

     A native of North America, goldenseal is one of the world's best-selling medicinal herbs. Most often used to combat bacterial or viral infections or to improve digestion, goldenseal is a specific for sinus congestion and upper respiratory mucus conditions. One of its many plant constituents is berberine, which has been the subject of several scientific investigations. Berberine has antibiotic, antispasmodic and sedative properties, and it stimulates the immune system.

     Goldenseal is usually added to other herbs, though it can be taken alone. To brew goldenseal tea, make an infusion using 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of the dried root per cup of water and take 3 times daily. A little of the tincture goes a long way; the suggested dose is up to 1/4 teaspoon 3 times daily. Always buy goldenseal from a reputable source. In the past, goldenseal has been adulterated with turmeric, the bright yellow ingredient in curry powders, and other plants. High-quality goldenseal is expensive because the plant is rare in the wild (it was nearly harvested to extinction in the early 1900s) and difficult to grow.

Solidago vigaurea

   Goldenrod (Solidago vigaurea).

  This is Europe's only member of the Solidago species, unlike North America, which has several. The European goldenrod, which is far less showy than its American cousins, has a long history of medicinal use. For many herbalists, goldenrod is the herb of choice in treating the chronic inflammation of upper respiratory mucous membranes. It can also be added to other herbs in the treatment of influenza. Brew the tea as an infusion.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale).


     Ginger is a stimulant, though not so dramatic as cayenne pepper, horseradish, caffeine or Ma huang. Because of its gentle warming influence and its compatibility with all herbs, ginger is an ingredient in many teas blended for respiratory conditions, and its catalyst effect enhances their properties.

    Ginger is considered safe for people of all ages, from children to the elderly. The dried root should be simmered as a decoction, but fresh ginger root can be shredded or chopped and added to any tea, whether infusion or decoction. Powdered ginger can be used either way as well.

Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis).

Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis)
     


      This may sound like an herb for the eyes, but it's really a specific for the mucous membranes. An anti-inflammatory astringent herb that fights congestion, eyebright helps clear the sinuses. It can be used alone or added to any herbal preparation for the upper respiratory tract.

       Brew the tea as an infusion; the recommended tincture dose is 1/2 teaspoon 3 times daily.
      

Elecampane (Inula belenium)

    The root or rhizome of this tall medicinal plant is a specific for bronchial coughs, especially in children. This expectorant, antimicrobial plant contains a relaxing mucilage, so that the productive coughing it stimulates is accompanied by a soothing action. Useful in the treatment of asthma and bronchial asthma, elecampane has a history of use in tuberculosis and other respiratory problems.

    Elecampane can be blended with other respiratory herbs or used alone. Its bitter principle stimulates digestion and appetite. Do not boil the herb, but brew an infusion by pouring 1 cup boiling water over 1 teaspoon shredded root.

Dec 7, 2012

Sambucus nigra

      Elder Flowers, Leaves and Berries (Sambucus nigra). The attractive black elder tree has new friends all over the world. Its berries recently made headlines as a cure for the flu, its leaves have expectorant properties and its flowers fight congestion and muscle spasms.

      Madeleine Mumcuoglu, an Israeli scientist, developed a syrup made from elderberries that has been shown in clinical tests to prevent and treat influenza. Sambucol syrup and lozenges are sold in health food stores, as is a similar elderberry syrup from the Sambu International Cleansing Program (see appendix for sources). 
Elder blossoms are a popular ingredient in herbal cough drops such as Ricola lozenges from Switzerland.   

Dec 6, 2012

Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea and E. angustifolia)

     Echinacea is a bestseller because it works. An antimicrobial herb, which means it has antibiotic properties, echinacea is a popular ingredient in preparations that fight colds and flu. It supports and strengthens the immune system and helps reduce sinus congestion.

    A specific for colds and flu, especially when taken frequently in large doses at the onset of symptoms, echinacea plays an important supporting role in treating asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, whooping cough, croup, hay fever and other respiratory disorders.

Dec 5, 2012

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)

      Comfrey is a powerful respiratory healer, thanks to its demulcent, anti-in-flammatory and expectorant properties. In addition, comfrey contains allantoin, a cell-growth stimulator that makes it an effective treatment for cuts and wounds. It even speeds the healing of broken bones.

     Comfrey is a specific in the treatment of bronchitis and irritable, painful coughs, for it soothes inflamed tissue, reduces irritation and relieves congestion. But comfrey is a controversial herb and many health food stores no longer carry it. Comfrey contains a class of compounds that, when isolated and fed to laboratory rats in large doses, can cause liver damage.


 For hundreds of years, Comfrey has been among the most widely used medicinal herbs in Europe and the United States with no adverse side effects ever reported. However, in 1984 a woman who had been taking comfrey-pepsin tablets developed liver toxicity and soon warnings of every description appeared in the media. Since then, three additional cases of liver disease have been found in people who took comfrey. 

Because of the laboratory rat test results and because the FDA has published warnings about the herb based on these four cases, some herbalists no longer recommend comfrey. However, since none of the four human cases of liver disease were proved to be caused by comfrey and because thousands of tons of the herb have been consumed by hundreds of thousands of people with only good results reported, others continue to use it. A middle approach, which I share, is to substitute another herb in cases of liver disease but to recommend comfrey as part of an herbal therapy for lung diseases, bronchitis, asthma and other respiratory problems.

Dec 4, 2012

An Effective Cough Syrup

       For example, to make an effective cough syrup, combine 2 tablespoons each of dried coltsfoot, echinacea, wild cherry bark, slippery elm bark, sage, horehound and ginger in 2 cups water. Simmer the herbs for about an hour over low to medium heat, uncovered, until half the water has evaporated. Strain the tea through cheesecloth and add an equal amount of raw honey or brown rice syrup.

      It's more exotic, but I'm partial to the following recipe for coltsfoot leaf syrup from Maria Treben's book Health through God's Pharmacy.

     Treben recommended this syrup for all lung disorders, coughs and bronchitis. In a large ceramic pot or glass jar, alternate layers of fresh coltsfoot leaves and raw sugar, let it settle and keep adding more until the pot is full. Wrap the pot in newspaper or fabric, then dig a hole in the garden and bury it. After eight weeks, dig it up and strain the syrup into a large pan and bring it just to a boil. Pour it into small jars. ''This syrup is our best protection against winter and influenza,'' wrote Treben. "Take it in teaspoonful doses." Coltsfoot is the first herb to bloom in the Northeast and I'm always cheered by its yellow blossoms rising through the snow in early spring.
    Adapting Treben's recipe, I have made wonderful coltsfoot syrups using raw sugar or a blend of raw sugar and raw honey layered with freshly picked coltsfoot leaves in a large glass jar which I leave outdoors in the sun all summer. From time to time I turn the tightly sealed jar upside down so its liquid contents can circulate. Instead of boiling the syrup, I simply strain it into clean glass jars and store them in a cool, dark place. This year I'm experimenting with coltsfoot-ginger syrup using sliced fresh ginger root, another soothing remedy for sore throats and chronic coughs.

Dec 3, 2012

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

      This important herb for the respiratory system is considered a specific for chronic or acute bronchitis, irritating coughs, whooping cough, asthma, emphysema, laryngitis, bronchial asthma and even tuberculosis. Combining a soothing expectorant effect with antispasmodic action, coltsfoot reduces inflammation and promotes free breathing. According to Mrs. Grieves, smoking the dried leaves of coltsfoot has been recommended for relief from coughs since ancient times. Jethro Kloss, another legendary herbalist, recommended snuffing powdered leaves up the nostrils for nasal obstructions and headaches.

    Rudolf Weiss prescribed hot coltsfoot tea for emphysema and morning cough, recommending a cup before rising. Maria Treben wrote that inhaling steam from the flowers and leaves soothes bronchitis and relieves shortness of breath. In 1987, a Swiss infant born with a severely damaged liver died. Every day of her pregnancy, the mother drank an expectorant tea containing coltsfoot. The tea contained senecionine, a pyrrolizidine alkaloid, but its source was uncertain; it may not have been coltsfoot. As a precaution, the German government placed a one-year moratorium on the sale of coltsfoot. No other cases of potential coltsfoot toxicity were discovered and the ban was repealed. Syrups for respiratory conditions are easy to make and use.

Nov 30, 2012

Cayenne Pepper (Capsicum annuum)

      The familiar hot chile pepper, cayenne has a host of medicinal uses. Although usually considered a circulatory and digestive stimulant, cayenne has respiratory benefits as well. In addition to having a tonic and warming effect on the entire body, cayenne has expectorant properties and helps relieve winter colds, congestion and inflammation.

      Because it combines well with other herbs, cayenne makes an effective catalyst that enhances its companions' medicinal properties. The most comfortable way to take cayenne pepper is in capsules. For best results, take cayenne capsules with plenty of food and water. The first few times you do so, you may experience a burning sensation in the chest or stomach. To avoid this, take peppermint tea at the same time, eat an apple, drink apple juice or simply take cayenne pepper more often.
     The cayenne capsules sold in health food stores are of low to medium heat strength, so they are safe for most people to take several times daily. Adventurous herbalists experiment with their own blends of Scotch bonnets, Thai chiles, African birdseye and other really hot peppers in capsules. For an excellent and entertaining book about the adventures of one man who credits cayenne pepper with saving his life, read Left for Dead by Dick Quinn.

Nov 29, 2012

Calamus Root or Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus)

       An aromatic bitter, demulcent and antispasmodic, sweet flag or calamus root is widely used in Europe for indigestion, but it is also an important herb for those who want to quit smoking. Chewing the dried root stimulates saliva and has a calming effect on the respiratory tract. In her encyclopedic Modern Herbal, Mrs. M. Grieves wrote, "The rhizome is largely used in native Oriental medicines for dyspepsia and bronchitis and chewed as a cough lozenge." Calamus root is recommended for smokers because it stimulates salivation while having a tonic effect on the mucous membrane lining of the mouth and throat.

      Calamus root was featured on the FDA's List of Unsafe Herbs, which was discontinued years ago because of its inaccuracies, and it is still listed in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations as prohibited from direct addition to or use in human food. The controversy over calamus root stems from its asarone, a compound found to be carcinogenic in laboratory rats when taken in large quantities. Dr. Rudolf Weiss, the German authority on herbal medicine, wrote that calamus root has been popular from antiquity and is still widely used in Europe today without any reports of it causing cancer or any other problems.

       In The New Age Herbalist, Richard Mabey wrote that rhizomes from Europe have low concentrations of asarone compared with those from India, and no cases of malignancy have been reported in mill and mine workers who chew the rhizome daily. A conservative approach is to verify the source of calamus root and use this highly effective herb for short periods when needed. The volatile oils in calamus root are so fragile that Maria Treben recommended brewing calamus tea with cold water. Those same volatile oils, when released by steam, can be a pleasant, soothing, aromatic therapy for upper respiratory congestion. Pour boiling water over calamus root and inhale its sweet, spicy vapors. Because few health food stores carry calamus root, it may have to be ordered from an herb company. The rhizome has many aromatherapy uses and can be used as a sachet to scent sheets, pillowcases and clothing. It is also a popular ingredient in potpourris.

Nov 28, 2012

The Herbal Pharmacy

      BLOODROOT (Sanguinaria canadensis).

      Few Americans recognize its name, but millions start their day with it, for Sanguinaria extract is the active ingredient in Viadent toothpaste and mouthwash. A native American plant, bloodroot is a powerful expectorant that relaxes bronchial muscles. Because it helps clear chronic congestion of the lungs, it is a specific for bronchitis and emphysema; in addition, it supports the treatment of laryngitis, asthma and croup. Bloodroot is an ingredient in some herbal blends designed to treat these illnesses, and the dried rhizome can be purchased separately as a tea or tincture.

     Bloodroot's potential toxicity is its only drawback. Although no cases of poisoning have been reported, even small doses have resulted in headaches, nausea and vomiting. James Duke, Ph.D., the widely respected and recently retired botanical expert at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nibbled a small piece and experienced tunnel vision. David Hoffmann recommends a maximum of 3 cups of tea daily, made as a decoction from 1 teaspoon dried rhizome, or no more than 1/4 teaspoon tincture 3 times a day. As with any herb, Page 62 discontinue use if you experience discomfort. Consult an herbalist or healthcare professional before giving bloodroot preparations to children.

Nov 27, 2012

Dosages

    Most of the herbs recommended for respiratory conditions are safe to take in teas, tinctures, syrups, capsules, tablets or lozenges several times daily for several days or weeks at a time. Note the safety issues raised about bloodroot, coltsfoot, comfrey, lobelia and calamus root and the potential side effects of Ma huang and licorice root, all of which are discussed in the following section.

    The tincture doses that appear on the labels of dropper bottles sold in health food stores, usually measured in drops, are insufficient for most acute conditions in adult humans. Also, many commercially prepared tinctures are weaker and less concentrated than those you can make at home, either because the proportion of alcohol to herbs is higher, creating a more dilute solution; because the tinctures are made quickly, allowing insufficient time for complete extraction; or because the quality of the raw materials is inferior. Because concentration and quality vary among tinctures, just as the people who take them vary in size, weight and physical condition, it is impossible to specify a single dosage for best results.
      If you don't notice improvement after taking a tincture as directed, you probably need more. As noted earlier, herbalists such as Rosemary Gladstar recommend teaspoon-sized doses of tinctures, not 7 to 15 drops at a time as many labels suggest. Of course, a one-ounce bottle won't last long if you take it a teaspoon at a time, which is why it makes sense to make your own.

Nov 26, 2012

Oil Infusions

    To make an oil infusion, such as an oil for treating ear infections or an aromatic rub to relieve chest congestion, you can use the stove, an oven or the sun (solar infusion). Fresh chopped garlic and fresh or dried mullein blossoms are traditional ingredients in ear oils. Use either or any combination of both. For an aromatic chest rub oil, use any combination of fresh or dried wintergreen, eucalyptus, peppermint, whole cayenne pepper pods, whole mustard seed, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves or cracked whole nutmegs.

     Cover the plant material with olive oil and heat it gently in the top of a double boiler above simmering water or in a closed glass jar set on a rack in a pan of simmering water for one to two hours or longer. If using dry herbs, additional oil may be needed as the plant matter absorbs it. Use enough oil to cover the herbs well but not so much that your result is weak and ineffective. Start with 2 cups oil to 1 cup dried herbs and adjust the proportions as desired.

     Fresh herbs will absorb less liquid, so simply cover them with oil. To make a solar infusion, which is my favorite method, let fresh plant material wilt slightly to reduce water content, use a clean jar, loosely pack the jar with fresh herbs (fill the jar half full if using dried herbs), then fill it to the top with oil, clean the top of the jar well so that no oil or plant material interferes with a tight seal when you put the lid on and leave the jar outside in the sun for several weeks or months.

     When ready to use, strain through cheesecloth and add a few drops of tea tree oil or grapefruit seed extract as a disinfecting preservative. If you're making an aromatic chest rub, add a few drops of decongesting eucalyptus oil as well. Store in amber glass bottles (use an eye dropper bottle for ear oil) away from heat and light. Label with ingredients and date of preparation. Stored correctly, oils can last for years, though most herbalists prefer to make them annually for maximum freshness. Note that these oils are for external use only. Discard any oil that becomes rancid.

Nov 23, 2012

Compresses and Fomentations

      A compress is an application of cold herbal tea on a saturated towel, diaper or thick cloth. Use medicinal strength infusions or decoctions for this purpose. To treat a fever, chill a strong peppermint tea, then soak the cloth and wring it just until it stops dripping.
     The compress should be wet enough to stay cold for several minutes. When it warms to body temperature, soak it again, adding ice as needed to keep the tea cold. Repeat until the treatment has lasted 15 to 20 minutes. Dry the skin gently. Chamomile tea bags are an example of cold compresses. For sore or swollen eyes, brew strong chamomile tea using two or more teabags and just enough boiling water to cover them. Let stand, covered, until cool; add ice or store in the freezer or refrigerator until cold. Then lie down, relax and place a saturated tea bag over each eye. Alternatively, brew strong chamomile tea, strain it through cheesecloth or a paper coffee filter, chill it, then saturate cotton makeup-removal pads, cotton balls, a washcloth, cheesecloth or other fabric and apply the compress. Repeat as desired to relieve the itchy swelling of eyes during hay fever, colds or allergies.

     A fomentation is a hot compress. Fomentations increase circulation and help clear respiratory congestion. Wearing rubber gloves, saturate a thick cloth with strong, hot, strained tea; wring it gently, then unfold it to let it cool slightly. You don't want it to burn or scald, but for best results it must be as hot as possible. Test the temperature against your inner arm. When it's hot but not too hot, apply it to the desired area and cover with a thick folded towel to retain heat. Re peat after 5 or 10 minutes. For best results, reapply for 15 to 30 minutes. Obviously, this and any other treatment should be discontinued if the person becomes uncomfortable or if the skin becomes irritated.

   A strong decoction of fresh grated ginger can be applied to the sinus area to clear congestion. For extra benefit, try adding a pinch of powdered mustard or a few drops of eucalyptus, wintergreen or tea tree oil.

Nov 22, 2012

Poultices and Plasters

      A poultice is a wet herbal pack applied directly to an inflamed, irritated, swollen, infected or injured part of the body. While poultices are often made of fresh mashed herbs, they can also be made of the residue left after brewing tea.
     Poultices are usually applied cool rather than hot. Some herbalists recommend spreading a thin layer of olive oil or castor oil before applying the plant material. Use whatever will hold the poultice in place for several hours: bandages, plastic wrap, cheesecloth, muslin, etc. An elastic elbow brace or knee bandage can hold a poultice in place on arms and lower legs. A layer of plastic over the poultice helps prevent fabric stains.
    A plaster is a dry poultice made by spreading dry powdered herbs, or a thick paste made by adding a small amount of water over cotton or muslin fabric. Additional fabric is spread over the skin to protect it, as most of the herbs used for plasters can be irritating to the skin, such as mustard or cayenne. The plaster is held in place for several minutes, then lifted so the skin can be checked, and replaced if the skin isn't irritated. Plasters increase circulation and help clear congestion.

Nov 21, 2012

Capsules

       Herbal capsules are widely sold and, if you need a special blend of herbs into capsules, some of the mail order herb companies blend and encapsulate custom orders for a nominal fee. Or you can put your own herbs in capsules. For best results, leave dried herbs whole or in large pieces until needed, to preserve their essential oils and medicinal properties.

     Herbs should be stored away from heat and light in well-sealed glass containers for maximum shelf life. When ready to use, grind them in a blender or spice grinder until they are powdered. To reduce exposure to herb dust, which can irritate nasal passages, wear a pollen mask. Two-part gelatin capsules, including vegetable gelatin capsules for vegetarians, are widely sold in health food stores and herb catalogs in sizes ranging from 0 (largest) to 00 and 000 (smallest).
      Many herbal companies sell mechanical capping devices that hold several capsules in place for faster and easier filling.

Nov 20, 2012

Tinctures.

       To make a tincture, which is a concentrated alcohol extract, fill a glass jar 1/3 to 1/2 full with fresh or dried herbs that you have cut or shredded into small pieces. Cover the herbs with 80-proof or higher proof vodka, rum, brandy or grain alcohol, with a few inches of alcohol above the plant matter. Cover tightly and place in a warm location.

      Check the jar every day or two, shaking it as you do so. As dried herbs absorb the liquid, add more alcohol. (Some recipes call for 1 part plant matter to 4 parts alcohol, but using less alcohol or more plant material results in a more concentrated, medicinal tincture.) Let the tincture stand for three or four weeks before filtering. Some herbalists recommend straining and bottling tinctures at the full moon. There is no specific deadline; a tincture left for two months will be more potent than one left for two weeks.

      Strain the tincture through cheesecloth or muslin, pressing out as much liquid as possible before discarding the spent plant material.
     Alcohol tinctures have an indefinite shelf life. Stored in amber glass jars away from heat and light, they last for decades. For an even more concentated tincture, pour your filtered tincture into a jar containing new plant material and repeat the process. Small quantities of this ''double-strength'' tincture will have a powerful medicinal effect. There is much confusion about tincture dosage, a misunderstanding that herbalist Rosemary Gladstar attributes to the caution of small companies marketing tinctures in the 1960s. "The only similar products were homeopathic preparations," she explains, "and their doses are measured in drops.

      Herbal tinctures are entirely different, and they should be taken by the half-teaspoon, teaspoon or tablespoon, not by the drop." Anyone buying, making or taking herbal tinctures should know that disappointing results may not be caused by a tincture's herbal ingredients but rather by doses that are entirely too small. A few herbs should be taken in small doses, but most of the tinctures mentioned here are safe and effective in larger doses.

    Tinctures can be taken straight or diluted in tea, water or fruit juice. If you prefer not to use alcohol in tincture making, vegetable glycerine can be substituted, or you can mix glycerine with alcohol.

    Glycerine does not dissolve all of the medicinal constituents that alcohol extracts, but it is widely used in tinctures, especially for children. Glycerine adds a sweet taste and syrupy texture to tinctures. Cider vinegar can be used to make alcohol-free tinctures, though their shelf life is shorter than glycerine or alcohol tinctures and vinegar does not dissolve as many substances within the herbs.

Nov 12, 2012

Teas

      To brew a tea of fresh or dried leaves or blossoms, use 1 to 2 teaspoons dry herb or 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh herb per cup of water.

    Bring the water to a boil, pour it over the herbs, cover the teapot or container with a lid and let it stand undisturbed for 10 minutes.

    This type of tea is called an infusion. Some plants are so delicate that herbalists recommend using cold instead of hot water, a brewing process that requires several hours. To make a cold-water infusion, shred or chop the plant material before placing it in a small but roomy muslin bag or folded cotton handkerchief. Tie the fabric with string so that the herbs don't escape, but leave enough space inside for water to circulate.

     Dampen the herbs with cold water as you fill a quart jar, and when you close the jar, suspend the bag near the top. Leave the jar undisturbed overnight. As plant material is extracted by the water, solids fall to the bottom of the jar, creating a rising current that moves through the herbs. This is the most effective type of cold infusion you can make.

       Alternatively, simply mix plant material with cold water in any container and let it stand overnight. In the morning, strain the tea and heat it slightly, just enough to warm it, before serving. To brew a decotion (boiled tea) from roots, bark or other hard, woody material, use the quantities given above and place the herbs and cold water in a stainless steel pan, cover and heat to the boiling point. Lower the heat, simmer the tea for 10 to 15 minutes, then remove from heat and let stand another 5 minutes before straining and serving.

     Medicinal herbs can be sweetened with honey to improve their taste, or you can add flavors such as black cherry concentrate or fresh ginger or a pinch of stevia, the sweet herb widely used as a sugar substitute. Most herbalists recommend taking medicinal teas straight, with no added flavors or sweeteners. Add a pinch of unrefined, unprocessed sea salt to herbal teas when treating sinus or chest congestion or a sore throat.

Nov 9, 2012

Herbs for the Pulmonary System

     There are many ways to classify herbs, which is why the vocabulary of herbalists is so rich with descriptive terms like expectorant, demulcent, stimulant and nervine. Here are the categories that deal with respiratory conditions. Anticatarrhal herbs heal the chronic inflammation of respiratory mucous membranes. They prevent the buildup of excess mucus. Examples include cayenne pepper, sage, goldenseal, mullein, ginger, echinacea and garlic.

      Antispasmodic herbs relax cramping muscles.

      Pulmonary antispasmodics have a special affinity for the respiratory system and are most helpful in treating asthma. Lobelia and wild cherry bark are examples. Demulcent herbs are by definition soothing. They coat irritated, inflamed tissue with mucilage and reduce coughing by relaxing bronchial tension. Examples include Iceland moss, lungwort, plantain and pleurisy root. Expectorant herbs stimulate the removal of mucus from the lungs, and they often have a tonic effect on the whole respiratory system. Some expectorants work by irritating the bronchioles, speeding the ejection of mucoid material; others work by relaxing or soothing bronchial passages, reducing spasms and relieving dry, irritating coughs.

       Stimulating expectorants include horehound and elecampane; relaxing expectorants include coltsfoot, lobelia and mullein. Nervines are relaxing herbs that strengthen and nourish the nervous system. They are useful in treating asthma and hay fever, and they help anyone suffering from a respiratory problem that prevents rest and sleep. Hyssop, motherwort and lobelia are respiratory nervines. Tonic herbs nurture the system and help the body correct whatever is out of balance. Pulmonary tonics offer special benefits to the lungs and respiratory system; examples include elecampane and mullein. A specific for a particular condition is an herb known for its beneficial effects, such as mullein or lobelia for asthma or Ma huang (ephedra) for hay fever. Specifics can be used alone or combined with other herbs, in which case they act as the blend's active ingredient.

Nov 8, 2012

Herbal Preparations

There are many ways to take herbs: in teas, capsules, tablets, syrups, lozenges and tinctures, not to mention all their external applications, like compresses, poultices, washes and steam inhalations. For best results, use herbs that were grown organically or wildcrafted, then dried at low temperature to maintain their flavor, color, essential oils and other properties. See the appendix for a list of herbal tea companies that specialize in high quality medicinal herbs. If you are new to herbal medicine, remember that the recipes given here and in herbal reference books are flexible and forgiving. If you can't obtain an ingredient, find an appropriate substitute. Quantities are flexible, too. As you gain experience, you will be able to develop your own recipes. As you do so, be sure to refer to two or three different herbal references for information about each plant so that you have a clear understanding of its benefits, potential side effects and special requirements.

Nov 7, 2012

Sore Throat

       The pain of a sore throat makes any illness worse. One traditional treatment is to gargle with salt water or a strong herbal tea several times a day, spitting the gargle solution out without swallowing. Add a teaspoon of salt to a cup of water or warm tea for this purpose. If you can sing and gargle at the same time, the soothing liquid will contact more throat surface. Licorice root tea soothes throat soreness and reduces pain. Simmer 1 tablespoon licorice root in 3 cups water, covered, for 10-15 minutes.

     Drink one cup three times daily unless you have high blood pressure or edema (fluid retention). Gargling with licorice root tea does not cause side effects. Hot sage tea is a popular European remedy for sore throats. Steep 1 or 2 teaspoons dried sage leaves or 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh sage in 1 cup boiling water, covered, for 10 minutes. Sip slowly or add salt and gargle. Horseradish mixed with honey, water and ground cloves is an old Russian remedy for sore throat. Mix 1 tablespoon grated fresh horseradish, 1 teaspoon honey and 1 teaspoon ground cloves in a glass of warm water until blended. Stir often and sip slowly or use as a gargle.
       Capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne peppers, is so effective at preventing pain that it is used to treat the mouth sores of people taking chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancers of the head and neck. Researchers at Yale University developed a chile pepper taffy for patients with mouth lesions resulting from orthodox cancer treatments and it works as well for throat pain brought on by colds or flu.

      The following recipe was published in the May 1996 issue of Chile Pepper magazine. In a 2-quart saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup light corn syrup, 2/3 cup water, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 2 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon salt.

      Cook over medium heat to the hard ball stage (265 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer, or until a small amount dropped into very cold water forms a hard ball). Remove from heat, stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon powdered cayenne pepper and pour into a buttered pan. When it's cool enough to handle (this part is easier with two people), lightly butter your hands and pull the taffy until it is satiny, light in color and stiff. Pull it into long strips 1/2-inch wide and cut the strips into 1-inch pieces. Wrap pieces individually in waxed paper and store them in an airtight container. This recipe makes about a pound of taffy. Of course, you can adapt the recipe, substituting 2/3 cup strong herbal tea for the water, using any throat-friendly herb.

Nov 6, 2012

Sinus Congestion

       A symptom of hay fever allergies and colds or flu, sinus congestion makes breathing difficult. Chronic sinusitis sometimes follows these illnesses, causing a dull ache around the eyes and face.

     To relieve sinus congestion, rinse the nasal passages with a solution of warm water and unrefined sea salt. Swimming in the ocean is one way to relieve congestion; another is to create the same effect while standing over the bathroom sink.
     Hand-held ceramic containers with long spouts have become popular for this purpose; see the Neti Pot in the appendix. Similar designs are available in some health food stores and catalogs. If you can't find a Neti Pot, ask your pharmacist for a nasal douche apparatus or simply hold salt water in your hand and sniff it up one nostril while you hold the other closed.

     The more salt water that irrigates sinus passages, the greater the relief. Use enough so that the water drains out through your mouth, washing away debris as it does. To disinfect as you rinse, add a few drops of grapefruit seed or citrus seed extract to the salt solution. Grapefruit seed extract kills bacteria, viruses, yeasts, molds, parasites, fungi and other pathogens on contact.

     Another therapy recommended by naturopaths is to rinse the nasal passages with goldenseal tea. Be sure the tea is warm, not hot, and add a pinch of salt to make the rinsing more comfortable and effective. Alternatively, add a pinch of salt to warm sage or thyme tea.

     Facial steam baths help clear sinus passages and allow free breathing. This therapy can be as simple as holding your head over a steaming bowl of chicken soup when you have a cold. If you have a facial sauna, sold in beauty supply shops and some pharmacies, plug it in and inhale.
     For an aromatherapy treatment, pour boiling water into a bowl to which you have added a few drops of congestion-relieving essential oils, such as eucalyptus, sage, rosemary, ginger or tea tree oil, or use chamomile tea. Make a tent of a large towel to cover your head and the bowl, then breathe the medicated steam for several minutes. Keep your head well above the bowl to prevent scalding, and come out for air as necessary.

Nov 5, 2012

Laryngitis

        An inflammation of the larynx or vocal cords, larynigitis causes hoarseness and, in serious cases, loss of voice.

       The best treatments for laryngitis are silence (don't even try to talk) and the passage of time. Steam treatments like those used for sinusitis are recommended. In addition, gargle with sage tea or salt water. The relaxing nervines, especially lobelia, oatstraw and chamomile, soothe frazzled nerves as well as inflamed tissue.

Nov 2, 2012

Emphysema

       Now known officially as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, emphysema often accompanies chronic bronchitis. It is caused by a lack of elasticity in the lungs, usually due to constant coughing. When the lungs cannot expand and contract with ease, it is difficult breathe. Emphysema often brings a distinctive deep wheezing that interrupts conversation and physical movement. It is so debilitating that it ranks third among the diseases for which Social Security gives disability benefits. Patients often have a history of heavy smoking or live in areas of high air pollution.

      The herbal treatments for emphysema are similar to those for asthma, with an added emphasis on nutritional support for the immune system. See the suggestions for asthma therapy. Some physicians prescribe a low-carbohydrate diet because sweets, simple carbohydrates and sugar tend to worsen emphysema symptoms.

       In 1992 British researchers published a double-blind, randomized crossover study to test the effects of fats and carbohydrates on emphysema. They found that small dietary changes in the balance of carbohydrates to fats affected exercise tolerance and breathlessness significantly.

      The more carbohydrates the patients consumed, the worse their symptoms. Vitamins C and E, magnesium and bioflavonids are important supplements for those with emphysema and so are omega-3 fish oils. In 1994, the New England Journal of Medicine reported on a study of nearly 9,000 smokers and former smokers that showed the more fish they ate, the less chance they had of developing emphysema. Smoking is a major cause of emphysema.

     The relaxing expectorant herbs lobelia and coltsfoot can be helpful in treating emphysema, as can bloodroot and elecampane. For example, a tea made of equal parts coltsfoot, lobelia and the soothing demulcent herbs mullein and Irish moss may help reduce coughing and shortness of breath. Add an equal amount of licorice root if high blood pressure and fluid retention are not a problem. Use 1 to 2 teaspoons tea per cup of boiling water; brew 4 cups at a time in a quart jar for convenience, reheat as desired and sip throughout the day.

Nov 1, 2012

Earaches

     Aching ears aren't really a respiratory condition, but earaches often accompany colds, hay fever or allergy attacks and sinus infections. They are especially common in small children, and children treated with antibiotics usually suffer recurring infections.

    If treated at the onset of symptoms such as rubbing the ears, irritability, fussiness or complaints of ear pain, infections can be avoided. Buy or make an ear oil using olive oil, garlic and/or mullein flowers. Warm the oil to a comfortable temperature and drop a few drops down each ear 6 to 10 times daily. Warm oil is the most widely recommended therapy for ear pain. Because diet is so often implicated in ear infections, Rosemary Gladstar recommends that all congestion-causing foods be avoided (her list includes eggs, dairy, wheat and sugar in all forms) by infected children and their nursing mothers.

     Any relaxing tea, such as chamomile or oatstraw, will be helpful, as are teas containing infection-fighting herbs such as echinacea and goldenseal.

Oct 31, 2012

Croup

     An affliction of young children, usually between six months and two years of age, croup is an inflammation and obstruction of the larynx that often follows a viral infection of the respiratory tract. A painful, honking cough, harsh breathing, rising pulse rate, restlessness and irritability are common but alarming symptoms.

      So is cyanosis, a bluish tint in the skin caused by oxygen deprivation. In orthodox medicine, croup is treated with humidification and mild sedatives.

      The herbal therapy is similar. A steam vaporizer containing a few drops of eucalyptus, tea tree, sage or thyme essential oil helps bring relief, especially if left on overnight. Warm lemonade, fresh juices diluted with water and chamomile tea are all recommended. Lobelia is a powerful muscle relaxer that can be added in tea or tincture form to any liquid the child will take. In fact, any of the relaxing nervines will help, including chamomile, oatstraw and valerian. Massaging the chest with an aromatic balm is also recommended

Oct 30, 2012

cough syrup for colds, flu and other respiratory problems

        First, blend equal parts wild cherry bark, licorice root and burdock root, then add a smaller amount (1/4 to 1/2 part) osha root.

       In a quart jar place 2 tablespoons of this herbal blend, cover with boiling water, close the jar and let the tea steep for at least 4 hours or overnight.

       Next, blend equal parts of dried mullein leaf, sage, coltsfoot and comfrey leaf, then add a small amount (1/4 part) peppermint and, for adults, an equal amount of horehound. Place 2 tablespoons of this tea in a quart Mason jar, add boiling water, close the lid and let the tea stand for 2 hours. Strain and combine these two teas in a large sauce pan and simmer, uncovered, until the tea is reduced to 1/2 or (for a stronger syrup) 1/4 of its volume. For every cup of tea add 3 to 4 tablespoons honey or a combination of 2 tablespoons honey and 2 tablespoons black cherry concentrate. Add a splash of brandy as a preservative and use as needed to soothe a sore throat.

Oct 29, 2012

Coughs

     Coughing is a reflex response to anything that interferes with the passage of air to the lungs. In most cases, the cause is mucus secreted by membranes lining the respiratory tract.

    The breathless cough of an asthma attack can be treated with mullein, including the smoke of a burning mullein leaf. When anxiety contributes to asthma, relaxing nervines such as oatstraw, chamomile and lobelia help prevent spasms and coughing. As noted in the section describing bronchitis, dry, hacking, irritating coughs respond well to relaxing expectorants like lobelia and coltsfoot, while wet coughs need more stimulating expectorants such as horehound and elecampane.

    Any cough can be soothed by chewing on osha root  or, especially recommended for smokers, calamus root. When an illness such as a cold or the flu causes coughing, the use of cough-suppressing herbs interferes with the body's cleansing mechanisms, for coughing helps the body rid itself of waste products. In that case, expectorant herbs such as horehound and coltsfoot are effective, for they make coughing more productive. Infection-fighting herbs such as echinacea and the culinary herbs sage and thyme are also helpful, for they help remove the cause of the illness.

   Whenever coughing produces blood or does not respond to treatment and lasts more than a week, it should be checked by a medical professional

Oct 26, 2012

The Allergic Connection.

      No matter what conditions trigger an asthma attack, naturopathic physicians believe that asthma's underlying causes are food sensitivities or food allergies, insufficient hydrochloric acid (even among children), leading to incomplete digestion, and exposure food additives and other chemicals that overburden the immune system, causing it to malfunction.

     Diets that eliminate common allergens have been effective in treating asthmatic adults and children. Double-blind food challenges in children have shown that sensitivities resulting in immediate symptoms are most likely to involve eggs, fish, shellfish, nuts and peanuts, while those resulting in the delayed onset of symptoms are most likely to involve milk, chocolate, wheat, citrus fruits and food coloring. Of course, every person is different, and the best way to tell what foods may be triggering your or your child's symptoms is to keep a food diary, experiment with food groups and rotation diets, try applied kinesiology's muscle testing or see a health care professional who specializes in nutrition. In someone whose production of hydrochloric acid is insufficient for complete digestion, discovering the causes of food allergies and eliminating them is only part of the solution, for unless the low stomach acid is corrected, new food sensitivities will develop as new foods replace old ones.

     According to Jonathan Wright, M.D., one of the diseases associated with low stomach acid is childhood asthma. This deficiency is easy to diagnose and the cure is inexpensive. Digestive supplements containing hydrochloric acid are sold in health food stores.

Oct 25, 2012

Asthma

      A full-blown asthma attack is a nightmare: you can't catch your breath. Add coughing, rattly wheezing, a choking sensation and the light-headed feeling that accompanies a lack of oxygen and you get the idea. Asthma is worse than inconvenient; it can be fatal.

     In the United States, asthma has become an epidemic, especially among children. Orthodox physicians treat it with steroids, antihistamines, bronchiole dilators and other drugs, all of which have adverse side effects and none of which address asthma's cause. "Extrinsic" or "atopic" asthma is related to allergies and brings a characteristic increase in the blood serum immunoglobulin IgE. ''Intrinsic" asthma does not involve allergies; it is triggered by chemicals, exposure to cold air or water, active physical exercise, infection or emotional upset.

      Recent research by Michael Burr at the Center for Applied Public Health Medicine in Cardiff, Wales, found that industrial pollution with sulfur dioxide and smoke does not cause asthma but appears to increase its severity. The study blamed diesel exhaust fumes and ozone for increasing the allergic effects of inhaled allergens and noted a rise in asthma cases in areas with decreasing industrial pollution but increasing automobile traffic. Until hydrogen replaces petroleum as a fuel, large cities and busy roads will make life more difficult for asthma patients.

Oct 24, 2012

Other Approaches.

       The food supplement quercetin, a bioflavonoid, has been shown to relieve or prevent hay fever and allergy symptoms, and the nutritional support offered by vitamin/mineral supplements is important as well.

       Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine, and large doses during hay fever season may bring relief. Orothomolecular physicians recommend as much as 5 to 20 grams of vitamin C taken in 4 to 8 doses over 24 hours for this condition.

      Salt is another decongestant. To treat hay fever symptoms, drink an 8-ounce glass of water followed by a pinch of salt on the tongue every 15 to 30 minutes until symptoms subside. The same strategy will work for asthma. Mechanical aids make a difference, too.

      Breathe Right nasal strips are a familiar sight in professional football games, where players use them to keep nasal passages clear when plastic mouth guards interfere with normal respiration. Advertised as a drug-free way to relieve snoring as well as nasal congestion due to allergies, colds and deviated septums, these strips are sold in drugstores and in health supply catalogs. A simple way to break the hay fever cycle without drugs is to go on a week-long cleansing juice fast, drinking only water and freshly prepared raw fruit and vegetable juices and eating no solid food at all. If you're like most hay fever sufferers, your sneezing symptoms will diminish or disappear, suggesting a link to food sensitivities.

Oct 23, 2012

Herbs That Can Help.

      If you don't have high blood pressure, the Chinese herb Ma huang (ephedra vulgaris) may be helpful. The active ingredient in most commercial allergy preparations made from herbs, Ma huang or Chinese ephedra is a powerful decongestant. It clears bronchial passageways, dries sinuses, helps relieve sneezing and makes breathing easier. It also speeds the pulse, raises blood pressure, makes it difficult to relax and feels like caffeine. The more you take, the more dramatic these side effects, so start with a small amount, don't take Ma huang in the evening (it may keep you awake) and, if brewing a tea with this herb, make a weak infusion to start. Nettle (Urtica dioica) may sting when you touch it, but nettle tea soothes the system.

     In "A Randomized Double-Blind Study of Freeze-Dried Urtica dioica in the Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis," published in the journal Planta Medica (February 1990), P. Mittman reported significant hay fever relief from capsules containing freeze-dried nettle. The therapy had few side effects and improvement came within a week for those who found the treatment effective. Andrew Weil, M.D., author of Spontaneous Healing, controls his own hay fever with this therapy. Nettle tea and fresh nettle juice are used in Europe for a variety of conditions, including several respiratory problems.

     Echinacea and goldenseal are a favorite combination for hay fever therapy. In fact, many herbalists consider goldenseal the most effective botanical treatment for acute sinus infections because it fights bacteria and viruses while soothing mucous membranes.

     Both herbs support the immune system. Teas and tinctures made with red clover, sage, burdock root or licorice root are often recommended for hay fever prevention and treatment and all have much to recommend them.

    Gail Ulrich, herbalist and director of the Blazing Star Herbal School recommends an infusion of dried mullein leaf (2 tablespoons or 1 ounce by volume of the dried herb per quart of boiling water) steeped 2 to 4 hours and given in [1/2] cup doses 4 times daily for 6 weeks to eliminate allergies to pet dander and relieve other allergy symptoms. Rosemary Gladstar has an unusual recipe for garlic-ginger syrup that helps prevent allergies and hay fevers. See page 41 for the recipe.

Oct 22, 2012

Homeopathy



      The bee pollen approach to hay fever resembles homeopathy, for both strategies introduce small amounts of allergenic substances in hopes that the body will respond and overcome the illness. The difference is in the dosage.
      Homeopathic hay fever preparations are extremely dilute solutions of the yeasts, molds, grasses, tree pollens, fungi, animal dander, dust mites and other airborne allergens that typically cause reactions. Respiratory illnesses such as hay fever are among the conditions homeopathy is best known for treating. A similar strategy is used by people who take ragweed tincture in the spring and early summer, before this plant flowers.
     The Heritage Store in Virginia sells products recommended by Edgar Cayce, the American psychic whose well documented medical insights cured thousands during the 1930s and '40s. Edgar Cayce recommended ragweed to over a hundred individuals as a liver tonic and nonhabit-forming laxative and prescribed it to help desensitize pollen-sensitive systems when taken ahead of pollen season. Users have reported relief from other allergies after taking ragweed tincture for several weeks.

       The Heritage Store's product contains only ragweed and grain alcohol. Inspired when I read this at the peak of ragweed season as I was sneezing my head off, I gathered blossoms from the inconspicuous common ragweed (Artemesia artemisifolia) and the tree-tall great or giant ragweed (A. trifida), covered the pollen-rich flowers with vodka and made my own tincture. The following spring I began taking half a dropperful daily. All through ragweed season, which lasts to the end of October, I continued the ragweed experiment and seldom sneezed, even when pollen counts hit record highs.

Oct 19, 2012

Herbs that can help cold and flu

      Mention colds and flu to most herbalists and they will recommend echinacea. The purple cone flower,  Echinacea purpurea, and its narrow leaved relative, E. angustifolia, have been shown to increase T-cell activity and related immune system activity. When taken in the early stages of illness, echinacea wards off viral infection and is most effective when taken frequently, in large doses, for brief periods. Echinacea is often combined with goldenseal or Oregon grape root, both of which contain berberine, a strong antibiotic substance. Goldenseal enhances immune function by stimulating circulation to the spleen, toning the lymph system.

      Echinacea and goldenseal work well with licorice root, an herb that supports the immune system through its effect on the adrenal system. Tinctures containing these combinations are widely sold, or make your own for even better results. I learned to appreciate echinacea and goldenseal when a wet blizzard soaked me to the skin. My teeth chattered so loudly my husband said they sounded like castanets, my bones felt frozen and I sneezed and coughed all over everything.

     Most unpleasant! Beginning in the afternoon, I took 1/4 teaspoon of a combined echinacea and goldenseal tincture every half hour plus a gram of vitamin C every hour until I fell asleep at midnight. The next morning, not only had every trace of illness disappeared but I felt better than I had in months. This strategy works best if used on the first day of cold symptoms. Astragalus root is an increasingly popular Chinese herb used to flavor soups and rice dishes. Chinese research has shown it to increase activity of the immune system, and it's easy to add a piece to whatever you're cooking to boost winter immunity.

Oct 18, 2012

Colds and Flu

     We associate these viral diseases with winter or with a change of season, but you can catch a cold or the flu any time.

     What's the difference? Both cause respiratory distress, fever, coughing, headaches, sore throats, aching muscles and fatigue, but the flu (short for influenza) is usually more severe, faster developing and involves more of the body.

    Vomiting and diarrhea are common flu symptoms. If you're serious about staying well, it makes sense to improve your diet, reduce the stress in your life and avoid the foods, drugs and pollutants that suppress immunity. These include sugars, junk foods and cigarettes, as well as chemicals, pesticides and air pollutants. Left alone, most colds go away by themselves within a week, but with the help of certain herbs, your symptoms should disappear much faster.

Oct 17, 2012

Bronchitis Bronchitis

       Bronchitis Bronchitis is defined as an acute (intense and sudden) or chronic (longstanding) inflammation of the mucous lining of the bronchial tubes, the main airway to the lungs. Acute bronchitis often develops after an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold or the flu. The resulting cough is at first very dry but it becomes less painful and rasping as the lungs produce mucus, which lubricates the bronchi. In some cases, bronchitis may be followed by pneumonia.

      If a fever persists for more than a few days, complications are likely. Statistics show that smokers are more likely to die from chronic bronchitis than from lung cancer, so for smokers, the best strategy is to quit. Foods such as wheat (especially white flour), refined carbohydrates, sugar and dairy products often exacerbate chronic bronchitis. By experimenting with diet, eliminating processed foods, dairy products and wheat while increasing the consumption of raw foods, many have reduced or eliminated their bronchitis symptoms. Garlic is often recommended as a food supplement, along with vitamins, minerals and "green" foods such as wheat grass, barley grass, spirulina or chlorella.

       Expectorant herbs are important for relief of the exhausting cough that comes with bronchitis, but the type of herb depends on the type of cough. For relief from a dry, hacking, irritating cough, use a relaxing expectorant such as coltsfoot or lobelia; for a wet cough, use a stimulating expectorant like horehound or elecampane.

        The Austrian herbalist Maria Treben recommended breathing the steam from coltsfoot flowers and leaves to relieve bronchitis. Pour boiling water over fresh or dried coltsfoot, then drape a towel over your head and the bowl to retain the resulting steam. Treben also recommended taking coltsfoot syrup (see recipe on page 64) and bathing the feet in warm coltsfoot tea. See page 64 for information on the safety of coltsfoot. In An Elder's Herbal, David Hoffmann recommended osha (Ligusticum porterii), a plant native to the American Southwest, as "an excellent specific in cases of tracheobronchitis." Osha root, which has a sharp and pungent taste, can be chewed for relief from coughs and sore throats.

     For all bronchitis symptoms, Hoffmann recommended a tea made of equal parts mullein, coltsfoot, marshmallow and aniseed; pour 1 cup boiling water over 2 teaspoons dried herbs and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Drink several cups daily.

Oct 16, 2012

Herbs That Can Help Asthma

       Proponents of raw food diets claim that the elimination of most cooked or processed foods and the substitution of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables can cure asthma or at least reduce its most severe symptoms. Green beverages such as freshly pressed wheat grass or barley juice and the supplementation of green or blue-green algae and similar foods may also bring relief.

     Herbs have a vital place in asthma therapy. The most frequently prescribed include echinacea, horsetail, juniper berries, licorice root, mullein and Ma huang. Lobelia tincture may be helpful during asthma attacks, as it relaxes bronchial muscles. Ginkgo, which contains the active ingredient ginkgolide B, has shown good results in many studies.

      The Chinese herb Ma huang (Ephedra vulgaris) has been used to treat asthma for more than 5,000 years. It stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and relieves bronchial spasms, making it among the most widely used herbal asthma medications. However, its common side effects include rapid pulse, increased blood pressure, nervousness and irritability. These can be reduced by taking the herb in small doses several times a day in combination with calming herbs.

     According to the herbalist Christopher Hobbes in the September 1992 issue of Natural Healing, teas or extracts of the expectorant herbs grindelia and yerba santa are best for asthma accompanied by a heavy white sputum, while the moisturizing herbs coltsfoot, marshmallow root, mullein and licorice are better for dry types of asthma.

Oct 15, 2012

Supplements

     For many asthma sufferers, relief comes from nutrition. In addition to vitamins and mineral supplements that repair tissues and boost immunity, many physicians recommend bioflavonids, quercetin, bromelin and coenzyme Q10, all of which may help reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks. Vitamins A, B complex, C and E are considered most important, along with magnesium, selenium, and beta carotene. In fact, vitamin C may be more significant than previously realized.
     In 1995 The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a report showing that a diet low in vitamin C is a risk factor for asthma, particularly in environments containing tobacco smoke and similar oxidants. According to this article, 7 of 11 studies on vitamin C have shown significant improvement in respiratory measurement within two hours after the patients took 1 to 2 grams of vitamin C. These studies are the first to show such a positive correlation and the first to use large doses of the vitamin. Previous trials using 500 mg or less were less conclusive.
    Vitamin C has been shown to have antihistamine properties; it inhibits experimentally induced bronchial constriction in normal and asthmatic subjects, and in double-blind controlled studies, doses of 1 gram per day have been shown to be an effective, though not curative, preventive measure for some patients with bronchial asthma.

Oct 12, 2012

The Allergic Connection.

       No matter what conditions trigger an asthma attack, naturopathic physicians believe that asthma's underlying causes are food sensitivities or food allergies, insufficient hydrochloric acid (even among children), leading to incomplete digestion, and exposure tofood additives and other chemicals that overburden the immune system, causing it to malfunction. Diets that eliminate common allergens have been effective in treating asthmatic adults and children. Double-blind food challenges in children have shown that sensitivities resulting in immediate symptoms are most likely to involve eggs, fish, shellfish, nuts and peanuts, while those resulting in the delayed onset of symptoms are most likely to involve milk, chocolate, wheat, citrus fruits and food coloring. Of course, every person is different, and the best way to tell what foods may be triggering your or your child's symptoms is to keep a food diary, experiment with food groups and rotation diets, try applied kinesiology's muscle testing or see a health care professional who specializes in nutrition. In someone whose production of hydrochloric acid is insufficient for complete digestion, discovering the causes of food allergies and eliminating them is only part of the solution, for unless the low stomach acid is corrected, new food sensitivities will develop as new foods replace old ones. According to Jonathan Wright, M.D., one of the diseases associated with low stomach acid is childhood asthma. This deficiency is easy to diagnose and the cure is inexpensive. Digestive supplements containing hydrochloric acid are sold in health food stores.
      In 1993, The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reported on a respiratory technologist who developed occupational asthma after being exposed to sterilizing agents in her work. Whenever she cleaned bronchoscopes, her asthma worsened.

      The sterilizing agent glutaraldehyde may be unusual, but most American homes have their own share of asthma-aggravating allergens. In 1993 The American Journal of Epidemiology reported on a study of 457 asthmatic Canadian children ages 3 to 4, which compared them to 457 control subjects. Independent risk factors for asthma included heavy smoking by the mother, the use of a humidifier in the child's room and an electric heating system in the house. Less important but still significant were the presence of other smokers in the home, a history of pneumonia, the absence of breast-
feeding and a family history of asthma. Other studies have shown that smoke from a fireplace or wood stove can aggravate asthma, as can a host of common household cleansers, paints, paint thinners, perfumes and some types of incense.

      The problem with humidifiers, which are supposed to help relieve respiratory congestion, is that they are breeding grounds for molds, bacteria and other germs. To prevent these problems, add liquid grapefruit seed extract to your humidifier's water reservoir. Grapefruit seed or citrus seed extract, which kills viruses, bacteria, yeasts, molds, parasites and other pathogens on contact even when greatly diluted, is sold in health food stores.

      Tea tree oil has similar properties, in addition to a sinus-clearing antiseptic fragrance reminiscent of eucalyptus oil and turpentine. In fact, some people relieve sinus congestion by placing a drop on the upper lip, just under the nose, at bedtime. Unlike liquid grapefruit seed extract, tea tree oil is not water-soluble, so for best results, dissolve a teaspoon of tea tree oil with an equal or larger amount of vodka or other alcohol before mixing it with water.

     To disinfect a humidifier that is used daily, add 1/8 teaspoon of liquid grapefruit seed extract or tea tree oil/vodka solution to the water reservoir once a week, and add several drops of either solution to the reservoir daily. 

Oct 11, 2012

Asthma


       A full-blown asthma attack is a nightmare: you can't catch your breath. Add coughing, rattly wheezing, a choking sensation and the light-headed feeling that accompanies a lack of oxygen and you get the idea. Asthma is worse than inconvenient; it can be fatal. In the United States, asthma has become an epidemic, especially among children.

    Orthodox physicians treat it with steroids, antihistamines, bronchiole dilators and other drugs, all of which have adverse side effects and none of which address asthma's cause.

 "Extrinsic" or "atopic" asthma is related to allergies and brings a characteristic increase in the blood serum immunoglobulin IgE. ''Intrinsic" asthma does not involve allergies; it is triggered by chemicals, exposure to cold air or water, active physical exercise, infection or emotional upset.

      Recent research by Michael Burr at the Center for Applied Public Health Medicine in Cardiff, Wales, found that industrial pollution with sulfur dioxide and smoke does not cause asthma but appears to increase its severity. The study blamed diesel exhaust fumes and ozone for increasing the allergic effects of inhaled allergens and noted a rise in asthma cases in areas with decreasing industrial pollution but increasing automobile traffic. Until hydrogen replaces petroleum as a fuel, large cities and busy roads will make life more difficult for asthma patients.
 

Oct 10, 2012

Other Approaches


      The food supplement quercetin, a bioflavonoid, has been shown to relieve or prevent hay fever and allergy symptoms, and the nutritional support offered by vitamin/mineral supplements is important as well. Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine, and large doses during hay fever season may bring relief. Orothomolecular physicians recommend as much as 5 to 20 grams of vitamin C taken in 4 to 8 doses over 24 hours for this condition.
      Salt is another decongestant. To treat hay fever symptoms, drink an 8-ounce glass of water followed by a pinch of salt on the tongue every 15 to 30 minutes until symptoms subside. The same strategy will work for asthma.
     Mechanical aids make a difference, too. Breathe Right nasal strips are a familiar sight in professional football games, where players use them to keep nasal passages clear when plastic mouth guards interfere with normal respiration. Advertised as a drug-free way to relieve snoring as well as nasal congestion due to allergies, colds and deviated septums, these strips are sold in drugstores and in health supply catalogs.
    A simple way to break the hay fever cycle without drugs is to go on a week-long cleansing juice fast, drinking only water and freshly prepared raw fruit and vegetable juices and eating no solid food at all. If you're like most hay fever sufferers, your sneezing symptoms will diminish or disappear, suggesting a link to food sensitivities.

Oct 9, 2012

Herbs That Can Help You


      If you don't have high blood pressure, the Chinese herb Ma huang (ephedra vulgaris) may be helpful. The active ingredient in most commercial allergy preparations made from herbs, Ma huang or Chinese ephedra is a powerful decongestant. It clears bronchial passageways, dries sinuses, helps relieve sneezing and makes breathing easier. It also speeds the pulse, raises blood pressure, makes it difficult to relax and feels like caffeine. The more you take, the more dramatic these side effects, so start with a small amount, don't take Ma huang in the evening (it may keep you awake) and, if brewing a tea with this herb, make a weak infusion to start.

      Nettle (Urtica dioica) may sting when you touch it, but nettle tea soothes the system. In "A Randomized Double-Blind Study of Freeze-Dried Urtica dioica in the Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis," published in the journal Planta Medica (February 1990), P. Mittman reported significant hay fever relief from capsules containing freeze-dried nettle. The therapy had few side effects and improvement came within a week for those who found the treatment effective. Andrew Weil, M.D., author of Spontaneous Healing, controls his own hay fever with this therapy. Nettle tea and fresh nettle juice are used in Europe for a variety of conditions, including several respiratory problems.

      Echinacea and goldenseal are a favorite combination for hay fever therapy. In fact, many herbalists consider goldenseal the most effective botanical treatment for acute sinus infections because it fights bacteria and viruses while soothing mucous membranes. Both herbs support the immune system. Teas and tinctures made with red clover, sage, burdock root or licorice root are often recommended for hay fever prevention and treatment and all have much to recommend them.

     Gail Ulrich, herbalist and director of the Blazing Star Herbal School recommends an infusion of dried mullein leaf (2 tablespoons or 1 ounce by volume of the dried herb per quart of boiling water) steeped 2 to 4 hours and given in [1/2] cup doses 4 times daily for 6 weeks to eliminate allergies to pet dander and relieve other allergy symptoms.

     Rosemary Gladstar has an unusual recipe for garlic-ginger syrup that helps prevent allergies and hay fevers.

Oct 8, 2012

Homeopathy

      The bee pollen approach to hay fever resembles homeopathy, for both strategies introduce small amounts of allergenic substances in hopes that the body will respond and overcome the illness. The difference is in the dosage. Homeopathic hay fever preparations are extremely dilute solutions of the yeasts, molds, grasses, tree pollens, fungi, animal dander, dust mites and other airborne allergens that typically cause reactions. Respiratory illnesses such as hay fever are among the conditions homeopathy is best known for treating.

      A similar strategy is used by people who take rag weed tincture in the spring and early summer, before this plant flowers. The Heritage Store in Virginia sells products recommended by Edgar Cayce, the American psychic whose well documented medical insights cured thousands during the 1930s and '40s. Edgar Cayce recommended rag weed to over a hundred individuals as a liver tonic and nonhabit-forming laxative and prescribed it to help desensitize pollen-sensitive systems when taken ahead of pollen season. Users have reported relief from other allergies after taking rag weed tincture for several weeks.

      The Heritage Store's product contains only rag weed and grain alcohol. Inspired when I read this at the peak of rag weed season as I was sneezing my head off, I gathered blossoms from the inconspicuous common rag weed (Artemesia artemisifolia) and the tree-tall great or giant ragweed (A. trifida), covered the pollen-rich flowers with vodka and made my own tincture. The following spring I began taking half a dropperful daily. All through ragweed season, which lasts to the end of October, I continued the ragweed experiment and seldom sneezed, even when pollen counts hit record highs.

Oct 3, 2012

Honey and Bee Pollen.

      Honey contains pollen, and some hay fever sufferers swear by honey from local bees. Their strategy is to eat comb honey or raw, unheated, unrefined, unfiltered honey from local bees in three-day cycles for several weeks before hay fever season. This exposure acts like a vaccination and makes the local pollens less irritating.
     Bee pollen is a popular food supplement, but I have misgivings about recommending it to those who have hay fever. Some seriously adverse reactions have been reported among people with severe allergies who took bee pollen, probably because the dose is so concentrated compared to what you would ingest in a spoonful of honey. A better approach is to start with a single grain per day three to four months before hay fever season and slowly increase the dosage, adding one grain every three days.
Discontinue if you experience any adverse symptoms, such as sinus congestion, throat irritation, fatigue, headaches, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, itchy skin or memory problems, all of which may occur when someone allergic to pollen takes bee pollen capsules daily for several weeks. The physician who reported these symptoms noted that bee pollen capsules, despite manufacturer's claims, do not contain only pollen from plants that are pollinated by bees but also contain allergenic airborne pollens such as ragweed. For best results, never experiment with more than a single grain of bee pollen or a tiny amount of raw honey if you are trying this approach for the first time. Of course, for honey "vaccinations" to work, the raw honey or bee pollen must come from local hives and contain local pollens.

Oct 2, 2012

Allergies and Hay Fever


    The word "allergy" did not exist in Shakespeare's time or even a hundred years ago. It's a modern term for a modern illnessor, more accurately, an assortment of illnesses. Allergy is a catchall word for a variety of reactions made by the body when it detects something foreign. The offending substances may be foods, animal dander, house dust, pollens, mold, smoke, air pollution, medicines or chemicals. The ability of the immune system to identify individual substances and react to them is crucial, but overreaction creates uncomfortable symptoms such as sneezing, sinus congestion, itching or watery eyes, headaches, indigestion, skin rashes, hives and other symptoms.

     At any time of year, it can be hard to tell the difference between allergies and cold symptoms. Either can produce sneezes, a runny nose, nasal congestion, an itchy throat and irritated cough. If a "cold" lasts for several weeks, and if your symptoms seem more severe in certain locations (less intense outdoors in winter, for example, and worse in certain rooms or buildings), it's probably hay fever.

    According to allergy researchers, indoor or year-round allergies are almost always due to three sources of irritation: the droppings of microscopic dust mites that live in house dust, mold spores and animal dander. In many households, the causes may also include cockroach parts, rodent urine or the smoke from a wood-burning stove or fireplace. All of these irritants are associated with asthma as well. 
    The orthodox treatment of allergies includes the use of decongestants, antihistamines and steroid drugs. Some allergists specialize in desensitization shots, in which small quantities of allergenic substances are injected into the body over a period of time. Desensitization therapy for bee stings and other insect venoms is generally effective, according to Philip S. Norman in his 1980 overview of immunotherapy published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, while scientific studies on the effectiveness of desensitization to pollen, molds, house dust and animal danders are "generally inconclusive or lacking."
     The link between diet and allergies is important, and anyone hoping to relieve hay fever symptoms and allergic reactions to dust mites, pet dander and other common irritants will do well to explore food sensitivities.

Oct 1, 2012

Stop Smoking


      For many Americans, this is easier said than done. Smoking is a chemical addiction that those who don't smoke find incomprehensible. It takes more than will power, resolutions, good intentions, pleas from friends and relatives, public ordinances, medical problems and high cigarette prices to stop smoking.

     If you have a respiratory illness, smoking will make it worse. If you live with someone who does, secondhand smoke will do the same. People still argue about the links between smoking and heart disease or breast cancer, but the links between smoking and emphysema, asthma, lung cancer and other respiratory problems are well-documented. Chewing tobacco, which has gained in popularity in recent years, has its own adverse side effects, including cancers of the mouth and throat.
    Of all the approaches to quitting, and there are many, two of the most effective may be acupuncture and orthomolecular medicine. Acupuncture has an impressive record in treating all kinds of addictions, not just smoking, as does orthomolecular medicine, which treats illness with nutritional supplements.

      In the Winter 1993 issue of The Herb Quarterly, herbalist Elizabeth Phillips reviewed plants that help smokers quit. "These herbs will regulate a smoker's mood (no more irritability)," she wrote, "and the accompanying urge to overeat as nicotine intake stops, and they will cleanse the system of nicotine and the lungs of tar sediment. And they will do all that simply, easily and safely."

      The herbs in Phillips's program are the sedative herbs valerian root, chamomile and skullcap; licorice root and comfrey, which reduce the symptoms of drug withdrawal; black cohosh, burdock root and red clover for blood cleansing; slippery elm bark and fenugreek, which help remove mucus from the lungs; catnip, magnolia and peppermint, which aid the smoker in quitting; and echinacea to support the immune system. These herbs are alternated during the program so you use slightly different combinations every day.

       To brew each tea, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil in a small, pan (the recipes are for 4-ounce teacups), add the required amount of dry herbs, cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Strain and serve.

    Phillips advised starting the day with a 4-ounce cup of tea made with 1/2 teaspoon each of chamomile (or scullcap) and valerian root. At mid-morning, mix 1/2 teaspoon licorice root with 1/2 teaspoon comfrey leaf. At noon, brew 1/2 teaspoon black cohosh with 1/2 teaspoon burdock root or red clover. In the early afternoon, combine 1/2 teaspoon slippery elm bark with 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek. Discontinue this tea when you stop coughing up mucus. In the late afternoon, mix 1/2 teaspoon magnolia with 1/2 teaspoon peppermint or catnip. Just before dinner, brew a cup of echinacea tea using 1 teaspoon echinacea leaf. Sweeten any of these teas with honey or add a pinch of the herb stevia, a popular alternative to sugar. In addition, Phillips recommended taking 500 mg of vitamin C, a vitamin E capsule and one tablet of goldenseal root daily, although goldenseal, like untreated licorice root, is not recommended for those with heart disease.
     Since Phillips's article was published, comfrey has been removed from many health food stores because of its alleged toxicity (see page 65). I would not hesitate to take the small amount of comfrey called for here, but you should study the evidence and make your own decision. If you decide not to use comfrey, substitute burdock root or red clover.

    In addition to the herbs recommended above, here are three that can be real friends to anyone who is trying to quit smoking. The first is lobelia or Indian tobacco; the second is calamus root. Because both of these herbs come with FDA warnings, please read their descriptions carefully before using. The third helpful herb is oat grass or oatstraw, a tonic for the nerves.

    It is easy to become discouraged if you try to quit smoking and fail. But there are so many approaches to this project that if you really want to stop, you will find one that works.

Sep 28, 2012

Use Unrefined Salt




Americans are so used to hearing physicians' warnings against salt that Dr. Batmanghelidj's advice to increase salt consumption sounds strange. But he's right. While refined table salt causes serious problems, natural salt improves every body function.

All popular brands of table salt have been bleached, then treated with stabilizing agents and dehydrating chemicals. Whether coarse or finely ground, this salt is between 98 and 99 percent pure sodium chloride (NaCl), and it was dried at temperatures high enough to change its crystalline structure. Its structural changes, nutrient stripping and added chemicals make table salt difficult for the body to assimilate, contributing to electrolyte imbalances, trace mineral deficiencies, digestive problems, fluid retention and high blood pressure. The sodium content of nearly every processed food derives from refined salt.

Unfortunately, nearly all brands of sea salt have been refined. Most sea salt is 98 to 99 percent pure sodium chloride and, like table salt, it contains no trace minerals, only the residue of processing chemicals. Let appearance and flavor guide you. If a salt is bright white (unrefined rock salt or mined salt is beige in color, unrefined sea salt is gray), if it is iodized (iodine added), if its crystals are large like kosher salt prior to grinding, if it pours easily in humid conditions and if it has the sharp, familiar taste of table salt, it's best avoided.

Natural salt is of special interest to herbalists. Traditionally, herbal teas were served salted to enhance the healing properties of ''simples'' and blends. A pinch of unrefined salt added to a glass of water or pot of tea helps balance the body's electrolytes and provides trace minerals often lacking in the food we eat. For a more effective alternative to commercial sports beverages, add a pinch of unrefined sea salt to water and a splash of juice for flavor.

Remember Dr. Batmanghelidj's advice to hold a pinch of salt on the tongue after drinking water for relief from respiratory congestion and to increase salt consumption in general if you suffer from asthma or allergies.

Sep 25, 2012

Support Therapies for all Respiratory Conditions

Drink More Water

In his book, Your Body's Many Cries for Water, F. Batmanghelidj, M.D., explained that many symptoms of major and minor illnesses are caused not by disease but by dehydration. "You are not sick," he wrote, "you are thirsty!" Your Body's Many Cries for Water is widely recommended by medical doctors and health care professionals because it offers a simple, inexpensive, often dramatically effective cure for indigestion, intestinal problems, rheumatoid arthritis pain, stress, depression, high blood pressure, overweight, asthma, allergies and other disorders.

At the first sign of symptoms, drink an 8-ounce glass of water. After 15 to 20 minutes, drink another. Continue drinking plain water throughout the day and do so every day so that the body is properly hydrated. In adults, this may be a gallon of water daily. Tea, coffee, cola beverages, soft drinks and juices don't count; what matters is plain water. In addition, Dr. Batmanghelidj recommends a small amount of unrefined sea salt daily, especially in cases of asthma, which he believes is not a disease but rather a physiological adaptation of the body to dehydration and an insufficiency of salt. Salt is a natural decongestant. "A pinch of salt on the tongue after drinking water fools the brain into thinking a lot of salt has arrived in the body," he wrote. "It is then that the brain begins to relax the bronchioles. People with asthma should slightly increase their salt intake."

No discussion of water would be complete without a caution regarding American tap water, which has received much negative publicity in recent years. Concerns over water safety have made bottled spring water a growth industry along with home water filters and distillers. Whatever you can do to improve the quality of the water you drink will help improve your health.

Breastfeed Your Baby



       The evidence for this health benefit is overwhelming. Breastfeeding protects children from all kinds of respiratory infections, ear infections, allergies and asthma. Many pediatricians trace their patients' allergies and ear infections to exposure to cow's milk in infant formulas. If a breastfed baby experiences colic or allergic symptoms, it is often because the mother ate something that disagreed with her own physiology as well as her baby's. In fact, the mother's diet is the most important factor in breastfeeding. According to pediatrician Lendon Smith, an expert on nutrition and the author of several books on children's health, milk, soy, corn, wheat and eggs are frequent offenders, while a baby's colic can be caused by the mother eating garlic, onion, beans or cabbage. Dr. Smith recommends that nursing mothers avoid these foods.

       Saying that a nursing mother should avoid dairy products goes against everything we are taught by physicians and the dairy industry's ad campaigns, but stop and think. Do you really need milk to produce milk? Cows don't drink milk and neither do other milk-producing animals. Millions of women around the world drink no milk at all and nurse their babies successfully. Only in the U.S., Canada and parts of Europe do people assume that successful nursing requires a diet rich in dairy products.


       If the indirect consumption of dairy products creates problems for infants, their direct consumption creates more. Raw, unpasteurized, unhomogenized cow's milk is the ideal food for baby calves. Pasteurized, homogenized cow's milk is far from ideal for calves and even farther from ideal for human babies. According to Dr. Smith, cow's milk formulas such as SMA, Similac and Enfamil may precipitate colic, diarrhea, rashes, ear infections, asthma and other conditions in up to 50 percent of the infants who drink them.

Long-term nursing has been shown to provide the maximum lifelong health benefits, but nursing remains unfashionable in the U.S. and new mothers are often pressured to switch from breast to bottle.

Sep 21, 2012

Consider Nutritional Supplements


     Vitamins and minerals have been used to treat illnesses other than obvious nutritional deficiencies for over 70 years.

    Jonathan Wright, M.D., treated a child who suffered from chronic nasal congestion and who had been repeatedly admitted to hospital emergency rooms for wheezing. Antihistamine medication failed to improve his condition. Wright diagnosed the boy's problem as an inability to digest and absorb nutrients, and he prescribed vitamin B12 injections, digestive supplements, magnesium and other minerals. The patient's health improved quickly and he has had no further wheezing attacks.


     Not all of the dosages used in orthomolecular medicine are in the megavitamin category, but some are dramatic multiples of the standard daily recommendations. To reduce hay fever or asthma symptoms, a physician might recommend 5 to 20 grams of powdered ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to be taken in small doses with water over a 24-hour period. A mild cold may be prevented by taking 30 to 60 grams, influenza with 100 to 150 grams and viral pneumonia with dosages up to 200 grams in 24 hours. Considering that a 500 mg tablet (1/2 gram) is considered a high dose of vitamin C, these recommendations are unusual and they should not be taken without supervision. This treatment for the prevention of an acute infection lasts for several days or until all symptoms disappear. The dosage remains high until the body indicates its vitamin C saturation point by developing loose bowels, a signal to reduce the amount. Many orthomolecular physicians have found that taking vitamin C to bowel tolerance (the diarrhea point) effectively treats colds, flu, infections, allergies, burns, viral pneumonia and autoimmune disorders.


    In general, those with respiratory infections or illnesses benefit from the daily use of a well-balanced multiple vitamin and mineral supplement and additional trace minerals.