Podcast 054: Cold & Flu Herbs (Beyond Elderberry Syrup & Thyme Steam)

Every time we talk about cold & flu herbs, we seem to start out with elderberry syrup and a good old thyme steam. Well, this time we’re going to talk about something different! Here are a few good friends to have on hand as we move into cold & flu season.

Herbs discussed include white pine, sage, ground ivy, boneset, elecampane, ginger, catnipelderflowerchamomile, and lemon!

Mentioned in this podcast:


If you like our podcast, you might like learning from us in a more intentional way – like with our Family Herbalist program! It’s a great way to start incorporating herbs into your daily life, to keep you and your loved ones healthy and resilient all year round!


Episode Transcript

Katja: 00:12 Hi, I’m Katja.

Ryn: 00:14 And I’m Ryn.

Katja: 00:14 And we’re here at the CommonWealth Center for Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ryn: 00:19 And on the internet everywhere, thanks to the power of the podcast.

Katja: 00:23 Woohoo!

Ryn: 00:23 Alright, well you’ve probably heard this before. I hope. [laughter] This is the 54th time we’ve said it, more or less,

Katja: 00:28 Wait! But maybe this is the first time they’re listening.

Ryn: 00:30 It could be.

Katja: 00:31 If so, welcome! We’re so glad you’re here!

Ryn: 00:33 Yeah, and you should know we are not doctors.

Katja: 00:36 We are herbalists and holistic health educators.

Ryn: 00:39 The ideas discussed in this podcast do not constitute medical advice. First of all, because no state or federal authority licenses herbalists in the U.S. And also because these discussions are for educational purposes only.

Katja: 00:52 Everybody’s body is different. So the things that we’re talking about may or may not apply directly to you, but hopefully they’ll give you some information to think about and to research more

Ryn: 01:01 And we like to remind you that your good health is your own personal responsibility and that the final decision when you’re considering any course of therapy, whether it’s discussed on the internet or prescribed by your physician, that choice is always yours.

Katja: 01:13 Yeah.

Ryn: 01:14 Yeah. Well, um, so this week we’re going to talk a bit about cold and flu and some herbs to help us to cope with that entirely disparate pair. [laughter] We have two things that are not really at all like each other except that they sort of happen in your lungs and in your sinuses.

Katja: 01:32 And so we lump them together.

Ryn: 01:37 Yeah, but before we get to that…

Katja: 01:38 Yeah, yeah! Before we get to that, we’ve got shout-outs. So we’ve got shout outs to Emily, J.B. and “Kale is Forever” on iTunes. Ummm, thank you guys for writing reviews. The reviews on iTunes really increase the visibility of the podcast so that people can find it easier and also it makes those crazy search algorithms happy. So…

Ryn: 02:00 Be kind to robots.

Katja: 02:02 Yeah, write reviews. They like it. [laughter]

Ryn: 02:05 We also have a shout out to “J_busy 2.0” on Instagram. I hope I pronounced that correctly. I’m not familiar with all of the, um, uh, language rules for that. And also to Jennifer.

Katja: 02:24 Also on Instagram.

Ryn: 02:26 Also on Instagram. No weird elements in that one. Because y’all recommended us to folks who were looking for new podcasts.

Katja: 02:33 Yes.

Ryn: 02:34 Hey, thank you.

Katja: 02:34 Actually, Jennifer does have weird things on Instagram, but I just recognize…

Ryn: 02:38 Is there a smiley face?

Katja: 02:39 I recognize the handle every time now. And I’m like, “Oh, that’s Jennifer the potter!”

Ryn: 02:43 Oh, I see.

Katja: 02:44 Yeah. So yeah.

Ryn: 02:46 Hey, speaking of Instagram, we have a giveaway going there right now. Uh, so if you’ve been wanting a deck of Katja’s fantastic herbal oracle cards, you should check us out. We’re there as commonwealthherbs – pretty easy – on Instagram, and you can just go ahead and enter to win.

Katja: 03:03 And also – if you are local and you want a deck of those cards, you can come on down to the Herbstalk Wintergreen Market on Saturday, November 24th. It’s at The Armory in Somerville. There will be so many cool, amazing herbal producers there who – literally – you can do all of your holiday shopping right there. It will be super local, super herbal, super awesome. Uh, and we’ll have books which we will be delighted to sign and herb cards and our lovely selves will be so excited to say hello and to, you know, talk about plants with you.

Ryn: 03:41 Yeah, that’s right. We’ll have those books because we wrote a book and I was, you know, we keep one of these one line a day, five minute memory books by the bed. Before we go to sleep each night, we make a little note about what was going on. Last year, about this time, we were getting more information about this project somebody had proposed.

Katja: 04:01 Because maybe we would write a book! [laughter]

Ryn: 04:05 Maybe we’ll write a book! [laughter] And then that happened really fast. So it exists now. It’s a real thing in the world and you can get one.

Katja: 04:10 It’s called Herbal Medicine for Beginners.

Ryn: 04:12 Yeah. And if you aren’t in Boston and you don’t think you can make it to Wintergreen on Saturday, November 24th, then you can find it on Amazon.

Katja: 04:19 Yeah. Hey, also at the Wintergreen Market, you – or both of us – are going to teach a class on electuaries.

Ryn: 04:27 Yes. Electuary. Ah, so fun to make, so tasty to eat and also really fun to say!

Katja: 04:33 It is literally one of your favorite things to do.

Ryn: 04:35 Electuary! [laughter]

Katja: 04:36 A has a very Harry Potter feel to it.

Ryn: 04:40 Oh yeah, for sure. Um, so yeah, come and check that out. I think I’m on at two, but go to herbstalk.org and get the full schedule. Because there’s other good stuff going on.

Katja: 04:52 Yeah.

Ryn: 04:53 Okay. What else?

Katja: 04:55 Uh, you know, also coming up, we have a free live webinar hosted by the AHG, the American Herbalists Guild. And that’s on Tuesday, November 20th in the evening. I think it’s like 7:30 eastern time.

Ryn: 05:08 That’s pretty soon.

Katja: 05:09 It’s, yeah, it’s like real soon now. This webinar is about getting your herbal business started. So you might know that we have a nine month herbal and holistic business mentorship. But the AHG asked us to do an overview presentation of basically like a checklist of everything that you need to know to get your business up and running -sort of like the CliffsNotes version or the cheat sheet version. Yeah. So you can tune into that on Tuesday. You can either register for it on the AHG website – there’s a link there for AHG webinars for herbalists – and then there’s like a couple more links you have to click. Um, and if that sounds confusing, just send us an email at info at CommonWealthHerbs.com and we’ll send you the registration link directly so that you don’t have to surf through and find it. And I also wanted to say, speaking of herbal businesses, um, being in business, being self employed really has its ups and downs. And sometimes the ups are super up and sometimes the downs are kind of a downer, but that is just the nature of being self employed. It’s just the nature of having an herbal business. And this week we had a sudden and very definitely unplanned plumbing catastrophe at our herb school that left us with a $971 bill to the friendly neighborhood plumber. Which wasn’t planned. And some of our listeners have been suggesting that we set up a Patreon account so that they can support the podcast. And we are going to do that. But, in the meantime, we would just like to suggest that if you have been thinking about signing up for any of our online courses, this would be a really good time to do it because our friendly neighborhood plumber would like us to pay him. [laughter] So if you have been interested in the Herbalism 101 course [ now known as Family Herbalist ]or in the Foundations of Holistic Herbalism course. We also have a course on managing Lyme disease and one on fertility, Holistic Fertility. One on supporting kids through puberty and Herbs for Birth Workers – and Elements of Detoxification. And those are a little bit shorter if you’re like, “Oh, I don’t think I want to spend three months watching herbal tv every night.” (Oh yes you do. It’s really fun. It’s better than Netflix.) But if you just want something quick that you’re like, “Oh, I would just like have a few videos that would really explain this particular topic to me.” We have those too, so check them out and help us pay our plumber.

Ryn: 07:51 Thanks, folks. [laughter] So is that all the announcements?

Katja: 07:53 No, wait! Wait, there’s one more.

Ryn: 07:55 Oh there’s one more?

Katja: 07:56 Yeah. Um, so we are kicking off a brand new campaign with our newsletters. We really try to have everything that we do be super fun and helpful and um, just because it’s more fun for us to produce that way, but it’s also more fun for you to get that way. And I have not written a regular newsletter since August 16th because I dunno – we got busy – something – it just hasn’t happened. And we got this brilliant idea. Um, and it is starting on Monday. So starting Monday I will be sending – or both of us – will be sending one short email every Monday with a super easy and cheap tip that you can do to boost your health right now. The thing is that you don’t have to do everything perfect all the time to get healthy and to be resilient. There are so many quick and easy things that you can do to build your health by adding it into your daily routine. And when I say quick and easy, I really mean quick and easy. So if you want to get in on it, it just head over to our website, commonwealthherbs.com – And sign up for the newsletter. It’s at the bottom of every single page of the website. The first one goes out Monday morning, and it’s just going to be a really fun new thing to look forward to every Monday.

Ryn: 09:19 Sounds good.

Katja: 09:20 Yeah. Okay. That’s the end, I promise.

Ryn: 09:23 Cool.

Katja: 09:23 We’re done with announcements. [laughter]

Ryn: 09:25 So let’s talk about cold and flu then.

Katja: 09:28 I was going to say – every time that somebody asks about cold and flu, I always say the same two things. It’s always elderberry syrup and a thyme steam. It’s so unoriginal. I just always say those two things.

Ryn: 09:44 And why? Because. Well, because they work,

Katja: 09:46 They do work. They work, they’re easy and they’re accessible. But the reality is that there’s so much more out there. Um, but before we give you a list of all these, so much more out there, especially because everybody’s out of stock of elderberries right now. So we definitely need to be thinking about the other things out there. Before we give you that list. You were about to say something. I kind of cut you off.

Ryn: 10:10 Oh, just that cold and flu as a phrase is kind of misleading or kind of not really in the right direction because they’re not equivalent.

Katja: 10:18 It’s kind of like apples and oranges.

Ryn: 10:20 Yeah. Yeah. They’re really different things. They’re not the same virus, you know, for one thing,

Katja: 10:25 It’s just that they happen at the same time of year.

Ryn: 10:27 Yeah. And they get into your lungs. They get into your sinuses. That might give you a fever maybe on the flu. That’s much more likely.

Katja: 10:33 Yeah, flu tends to, if you have a fever, you probably have the flu. If you don’t have a fever, you probably have a cold.

Ryn: 10:40 Yeah. And there’s other ways to tell them apart, you know. Flu is more often going to generate – partly because you’re making that fever – more often going to generate a hot and a dry condition in the lungs and the respiratory tract maybe maybe even up into the sinuses. Whereas with a cold you’re more likely to have a cold and wet presentation.

Katja: 10:59 Yeah, like tons of snot.

Ryn: 11:01 Yeah. Low activity, low metabolic movement in the lungs. Um, phlegm coming up. All of that kind of thing.

Katja: 11:09 Basically if your nose is dripping, if you’re walking around with a handkerchief, probably you have a cold.

Ryn: 11:15 Yeah, and if you’ve got a fever and it’s been burning long and hot and it’s making your bones ache, you’ve probably got the flu.

Katja: 11:20 Yeah. Kind of, though, It doesn’t really matter which one you have because you’re not taking herbs for the “flu”. Like quotey marks around that, you know?

Ryn: 11:30 Right. You’re not saying I need – in most cases anyway – you’re not saying I need an herb that has power to kill “mix-o-virus influenza E.” [laughter] Or some organism, critter, creature. That doesn’t quite work because viruses are weird, you guys! The piece of free floating information.

Katja: 11:50 [laughter] A virus is a meme.

Ryn: 11:54 Yeah, so that’s not usually what we’re going to be trying to do when we’re coming at it with herbs.

Katja: 11:59 It’s more kind of like saying that I’m going to take some herbs to deal with this fever that I’m having or to un-much my sinuses or whatever. And Paul Bergner likes to say, “Treat what you see.” And of course we can’t say the word treat because we’re not doctors and only doctors are allowed to use the word treat, but you get the point. Um, so even if you’re like, I don’t know, is this a cold or is this the flu? I just don’t know. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know. That’s actually fine because if you have snot pouring out of your face, you’re really taking herbs because you have snot pouring out of your face, not because of a particular pathogen whose name you looked up. So let’s talk about some herbs for snot pouring out of your face.

Ryn: 12:49 Yeah, let’s start with that.

Katja: 12:49 Yeah. Yeah. Uh, well, you know, White Pine is one of my favorites there. Partially because it’s so abundant here. We have tons of white pine trees and although you, you know, you would have to climb them very high to get to the needles because they tend to not have so many lower branches. Um, they’re also like, they are the giving tree because whenever there’s a big windstorm, there’ll be white pine branches on the ground with shiny green needles. Well, they’re not exactly shiny- but bright, happy green, appealing green needles. Yes. Um, so I feel like it’s just, it’s just medicine that’s right there for you. Um, pine has a lot of volatile oil content and just like in a thyme steam, you can do a pine steam as well and it’s got a types of volatile oils that are going to help clear out the pathogens in the lungs and actually to be antimicrobial to a wide variety of, um, you know, pathogens that would like to inhabit your respiratory tract.

Ryn: 14:07 Yeah. Because if you catch a cold, okay, that’s a viral problem, but you caught it or it was, it was able to replicate inside of your body and reach a point where it was, you know, requiring a response which for you feels like symptoms. Um, that probably also means that there were some other critters that might’ve been getting in there and causing some problems. There could be a little bacterial co-infection and it could be some fungal things growing around in there that might be on the way to cause you a problem down the line. So the volatiles from pine will take care of those bacteria or fungi directly and at the same time they’ll stimulate your own mucosal immunity. Um, you know, white blood cells and other aspects of the immune system that reach out through the mucous membranes. In this case, to fight off the virus directly and prevent it from getting into cells or coping with any cells that are already infected. Pine is a warming remedy. It’s a drying remedy and it’s a tonifying remedy. So this is going to be most appropriate if you have phlegm, mucus, snot. What are other words for all of these weird fluids [laughter] that are kind of thick and viscous and, uh, come out of you when you don’t feel good. Any of those. If you’ve got a bunch of them, pine is a really great remedy because it’s going to be correcting those on the level of the tissue state or the level of basic energetics.

Katja: 15:30 If you are sitting next to a pile of used tissues or used handkerchiefs, then pine is for you. You know, sage is another one that is appropriate for that situation, but for two reasons. One is it, too, has a really beneficial volatile oil profile, so a steam with sage is going to get a lot of that same effect. But the other is that when you have a super drippy situation like that, that postnasal drip can give you a sore throat and that is, like, my favorite time to work with sage for a sore throat because – in that case – you actually kind of want to dry stuff up a little bit in the throat to make it stop hurting,

Ryn: 16:24 Right. Yeah. Sage, just like pine, is going to be warming and drying and tonifying. And I was going to say, you know, if you don’t have the delight of having lots of pine trees around, you’ve probably got a grocery store around. And, in there, [laughter] it’s a lot easier to find sage in one form or another than it is to find pine most likely. Um, so, when we think about foraging for herbs these days, that does involve going outside, but sometimes it also involves what’s going to be readily available at my corner store.

Katja: 16:55 Yeah. Or in my garden.

Ryn: 17:01 But yeah, so sage is something you can usually get your hands on.

Katja: 17:04 Ground Ivy is a plant that is… Oh, were you done with sage?

Ryn: 17:09 Oh, I don’t know. I don’t think we could possibly be. [laughter]

Katja: 17:14 I’m just plowing right on. I’m like, Ooh, Ground Ivy! [laughter]

Ryn: 17:17 Well let’s talk about how to take them. Right. So with the white pine, the sage, both of these, um, in the form of tea are really effective for these kinds of problems,

Katja: 17:24 You know, because tea gives double duty.

Ryn: 17:28 Yeah.

Katja: 17:28 You can smell it and drink it.

Ryn: 17:31 Yeah. And you know, you’re probably getting, well you’re definitely getting dehydrated during this process anyway, right? Certainly, if you’re mounting a fever, that that’s gonna boil off some of your fluids, but even just having a runny nose will dehydrate you over time. You feel the presence of that moist tissue state but localized, right? That’s there in your sinuses. In the rest of your body, the fluid to make the snot had to come from somewhere, right? And so it’s come out of reserves, other places in the body. And now it’s being used up to make some phlegm and mucus and uh, you know, so you’re drying yourself out over time there. So working with herbal tea is a good idea because you get these constituents and you get the aromatic terpines and everything and that’s, that’s key. But you’re also getting water, and that really matters. Um, particularly as these things go on for more time or if it is the actual flu, you know dehydration is really the thing that gets people into the biggest amount of trouble when they’re coping with one of those kinds of issues. Um, dehydration is really the most dangerous thing for somebody who’s been fevering extensively for day or two.

Katja: 18:43 Yeah. And just an easy thing to toss out there when we say the word dehydration is bathtub. Or shower if you don’t have a bathtub. But um, the fastest way – without an IV – to rehydrate a dehydrated person is to put them in the bathtub. I mean, and get them to drink tea while they’re in it. But if you’re in a situation with dehydration, that is really your best bet because you can’t just give somebody a hydration IV. That’s not available unless you go to a hospital, but your bathtub is available. So put them in it.

Ryn: 19:23 Yeah. And you know, sage and white pine, because they have so much of their activity from these volatile elements and things that are going to disperse in water and either come out in the steam for you to smell – or soak right through the skin. You could put those right into the bath. You can make a quart or two of really strong tea of either of those, or ones like them, and go ahead and draw up a bath and pour that in. Soak in it. Maybe save a cup for yourself to drink. And um, that works really nicely.

Katja: 19:53 Yeah.

Ryn: 19:53 Okay. Um, and then, you know, you can work with sage and white pine as tincture or infused vinegar or other forms as well. Just recognize that, uh, in those formats, they’re not going to be as hydrating. Right? They’re not going to provide that water.

Katja: 20:05 Yeah. And you might not have asthma to the volatile oil content either. I think for a cold or for the flu, a water preparation kind of is really my favorite.

Ryn: 20:18 Yeah.

Katja: 20:20 Is it Ground ivy time now?

Ryn: 20:21 It is time. Yeah.

Katja: 20:24 Yay! Ground Ivy is, oh my goodness, you guys. So the thing is that it’s not super widely available in commerce, which means that you either need to make it yourself or check out and see a local herbalist and get it that way. Ground Ivy, it’s actually totally fine to take in tincture. In fact, for a long time, I even know you could make it into tea and that is partially because, here in New England, there’s a whole category of these sort of early spring plants that traditionally in New England have always been tinctured. And the definition of always is uncertain. Um, because it’s very difficult to dry them. That time of year is very, very damp. Actually New England is pretty much always very damp and um, it’s just really hard to get Ground Ivy to dry to make into tea. Um, and other plants like Chickweed have the same problem and I was always taught that you couldn’t even do it, that it was impossible, until I met Phyllis Light – who lives in the south – and she can easily dry these plants. It only takes her an afternoon. Ans she was like, “No, I have these as tea all the time!” And that blew my mind. I was like, “wow, really?” So, you know, bio-regional herbalism. But here in New England we really always work with, with ground ivy tinctured and it’s a great way to work with it actually. Um, the action that ground ivy is having is lymphatic movement in the head. So that means moving crud out of your sinuses. It means reducing that pressure in the sinuses and also, especially in the ears, moving fluid and keeping the fluid moving in the ears. And that’s part of why I love ground ivy so much – because I’m super prone to ear infections. Keeping that fluid moving really helps me prevent ear infections. Um, so I just love Ground Ivy.

Ryn: 22:37 Yeah. Whenever you’re feeling that sort of descending in an airplane [laughter] sort of experience, where you’ve got the fluid in the ears and as you move your jaw around, you feel it kind crackle and pop, or you feel that pressure change and shift. In those cases, Ground ivy is really helpful. It does seem to help to drain both the fluid in the sinuses themselves as well as some lymph. Um, and there are obviously some lymph nodes under your chin and along the throat, um, but also even just right under the ears. There are some under there where you can feel that getting swollen sometimes when you’re getting an ear infection or when a sinus infection has moved over that way, um, and Ground ivy does help to reduce that swelling and drain that fluid out. Um, so I find it really handy there. Incidentally, that is also going to help with certain kinds of headaches that come from that kind of stagnant fluid in the head as well. So in some cases we’ll mix it into headache formulas too. You know, Ground ivy is one where if you don’t have it right now, it might be hard for you to get for this year.

Katja: 23:39 Well, people on Etsy might have it.

Ryn: 23:41 Sure. And let us not forget, we’ve had at least one Australian listener. So maybe you’re maybe Ground ivy will be blooming soon. I don’t know. I mean it’s probably there somewhere. It originated in England and a lot of English human folks ended up in Australia.

Katja: 23:57 Yeah! Brought it with them probably.

Ryn: 23:58 If anybody from Down Under is listening and you know that you have this there, let us know. Ground ivy goes by a number of other names, by the way. Some folks call it creeping charlie or gill-over-the-ground, or an older term, probably only in England – alehoof. Goes back to some of its uses in brewing. Um, so you may know it under a different name. It’s Latin is Glechoma hederacea.

Katja: 24:23 I really like it, like I said, in tincture. I just take like a squirt, um, but I take it frequently. I take it like every hour or two. Um, so it’s not really a high dose, but it’s a frequent dose. And often when I make elderberry syrup – because I don’t put sugar in my elderberry syrup, I make it with honey – It’s not shelf stable. So what I’ll do is if I say elderberry syrup and I made it myself, it really is usually half elderberry honey and half Ground ivy tincture. Because that is a combination that I turn to really frequently. So you can always just squirt it into, if you don’t have elderberry syrup, maybe you’ve got ginger syrup or something else, you can squirt it in there too,

Ryn: 25:13 Yeah, especially if you’re susceptible to headaches or earaches as part of your early onset cold and flu response. Something maybe to say briefly here is that what we find works best for people is to identify what the symptoms are that you get when a cold is just starting or a respiratory infection of whatever kind is just beginning for you. So for Katja, that’s the earache.

Katja: 25:40 Yeah. It’s almost always that.

Ryn: 25:41 For me it’s more likely to be a sore throat first. And so, you know, I’ll try to pay attention when I’m feeling that and act fast, right? Drink some sage tea or some honey and lemon or whatever else is gonna is gonna be appropriate. Something targeted to that particular symptom. Right? So in my case, something targeted to the sore throat or something targeted towards the earache – to get that in into your body and into rotation as soon as possible. In a lot of cases, if you can address that right away, then it won’t progress further into a full blown, you know, infection of the whole respiratory system. So you know, know your body, pay attention. You know, when you were talking about adding Ground ivy to elderberry syrup, it made me think of another herb that we often work with in that same way, which is Boneset. So this is a pretty strong herb. It’s one that you’re not going to take large doses of and you don’t tend to work with it as a simple, on its own.

Katja: 26:41 Which is good because it is not delicious.

Ryn: 26:43 Yeah, it’s a very strong bitter. Um, so the way that I tend to work with Boneset around respiratory infections is to have somebody work with elderberry syrup or something like it and then take a tincture of Boneset and put a dropper-full or two and squirt it into like a shot glass full of elderberry syrup and go ahead and slug that back. And the reason is that Boneset has some, I think still unidentified, like, what’s, what’s the driver of it? But it has some power to help to resolve cold and flu and other respiratory illness presentations.

Katja: 27:22 Yes. Especially with the flu, when it’s really like you’re, you’re getting that muscle and bone ache.

Ryn: 27:29 Yeah. You know, the name Boneset, um, there are multiple stories about where it came from for this herb and some people say that there’s reason to believe it does go back to it being helpful when you’re trying to actually set a broken bone.

Katja: 27:44 Which it is.

Ryn: 27:44 Yup. Yeah, we’ve found it to be that way for sure. But um, the other story that gets told about it is that people working with Boneset for what was termed at the time “breakbone fever”, the kind of illness that was giving people really intense fevers and causing that bone-level ache. It was found to be really handy there. So that’s kinda the key signature to look for. Um, when somebody has a respiratory illness, um, is there that, that ache down to the bones, you know, usually that’s going to come if there’s been extended fever and particularly when that’s present, then Boneset is very called for. But by the same token, if there is a respiratory thing going around, it could be the cold, it could be the flu and you’re not really sure – taking a little bit of Boneset prophylactically there is also a fine idea,

Katja: 28:35 You know, sometimes we just don’t know the mechanism of action of plants, just because they haven’t been studied in that way yet. And that’s fine. It doesn’t mean that they’re not effective just because we haven’t figured out with science how it works yet. Um, but there, there is a sort of um, hypothesis that I have around Boneset and that is that, you know, when you are having the flu and it hurts in your bones, what’s really going on there is that you are feeling the strain of creating more immune responder cells because those are produced in your bone marrow, or many of them are. And so it’s kind of like a muscle ache, but it is your bone marrow aching because it’s exerting itself to crank out those immune responder cells. And especially where Boneset is so traditionally paired with that type of pain. When you have the flu. I really feel that an area would be worth studying for Boneset would be does Boneset, in fact stimulate the immune responder cells or otherwise support the function of bone marrow in that immune response. So we don’t have proof on that yet, but if I had the type of laboratory that I would need to study it, that is the direction that I would be going in.

Ryn: 30:06 Yeah. So you know, practically a tincture is the easiest way to work with Boneset. You can, you can include it in tea blends, but you know you’re going to be using small portions of it both for flavor and also because too much Boneset makes you vomit.

Katja: 30:19 Yeah. It’s, it’s the kind of bitter that is so bitter that you just have to puke. Yeah. It’s not necessarily, it’s not exactly emetic. I mean it is functionally, but it isn’t emetic because of some like vomit trigger. It’s emetic because it’s like, “This is so bitter. I am getting it out of me.”

Ryn: 30:38 Kind of like Blue vervain. They’re somewhere on the same scale. If you take large amounts of either one, they’ll give you that reaction. Yeah. But you know, again, I would go with that combo preparation, whether it was the elderberry syrup or some other kind of, preparation, you can mix together a little bit of Boneset into the mix. It’s going to be helpful. And even if you were just taking cups of Sage tea or Pine tea or something, you could, maybe not squirt it into the tea. Maybe just go ahead and squirt it on your tongue and then dance around for two minutes.

Katja: 31:10 And say, “Ick! Yuck!”

Ryn: 31:12 Yeah, give it a moment to soak in and then go ahead and have some nice delicious white pine and sage tea and just forget all about it. It’ll be fine.

Katja: 31:19 Yeah. Hey, that’s how I like to take Elecampane also. That’s true, isn’t it? Yeah. Not as a tincture. You can take Elecampane as a tincture. I prefer it as a decoction, um, but it is also not delicious. Um, it basically tastes like peppery mud, kind of bitter, peppery mud and over time it does kind of grow on you, but it has not yet. I mean, I love this plant, uh, but it has not grown on me enough to not taste like peppery mud yet. Still definitely peppery mud. So my favorite way to work with Elecampane – and part of this is also that when I don’t feel good, I turn to simples. I don’t know if it’s because I’m, I don’t feel good so my brain can’t think about formulation or what. But um, you know, if you mix Elecampane with ginger and Angelica, which are two other plants that are really helpful for lung support. It doesn’t taste nearly as bad, but for some reason I never do that. I just take it straight. Um, and the way that I do it is I will get a real strong decoction going of Elecampane and then I just leave it on the stove. I’ll turn it off, but I’ll just leave it set there and every hour or so I’ll a shot glass full and I’ll stick my tongue out and be like, “Eww, yuck, yuck, yuck!” And then I’ll drink something delicious. Like I don’t try to drink a whole cup of Elecampane, just every hour I take a shot glass full and then what I drink is something tasty like ginger and chamomile or ginger and sage with fennel maybe or whatever. Um, but I sort of keep those things separate. Like the Elecampane is the Elecampane and it is really powerful lung support. You know, you can work with Elecampane for a cold or a flu, but also for bronchitis and pneumonia and even tuberculosis. Although, If you have tuberculosis, it would be much better to go to the hospital and go ahead and get the antibiotics because that’s way better. But in a disaster situation where you didn’t have that available and all hospitals had been like disappeared from the earth in some weird fictional whatever, and there were no more antibiotics left in the world, then you could definitely work with Elecampane. Um, incidentally you can work with Elecampane WITH your antibiotics if you find yourself in that type of a situation because Elecampane, among other things, is a biofilm buster. And so it is really effective for people who have, um, antibiotic-resistant staph infections and there are multiple plants you can do that. But with Elecampane’s affinity for the respiratory system and with the commonness of getting MRSA in the respiratory tract after having a tube for various reasons, if you’ve been hospitalized, like a breathing tube or a feeding tube or whatever. So all different reasons that they put tubes down your throat, and then you end up with MRSA in the respiratory tract because of it. IElecampane actually potentiates your antibiotics, whether those are herbal antibiotics, which I can’t believe I just said that word. That’s not quite exactly what I wanted to say, that’s the vernacular, but it’s not quite accurate or pharmaceutical antibiotics. Because it’s like a one two punch Elecampane breaks up the biofilm, which is a bunch of a bunch of pathogens glomming onto each other to make it harder for your immune system to fight it. So you get these herbs like Elecampane that can break those up, and now your immune system or an herb that has anti microbial action or a pharmaceutical antibiotic is much more able to do the job of killing off those pathogens one at a time. Anyway, Elecampane. The other aspect that I wanted to talk about was deep, wet, gurgly heavy coughing, like, like where you hear it rattle throughout your whole chest when you cough. Um, that is definitely the time that you want Elecampane. It’s a beautiful, very effective expectorant. Um, it, it just clears crud out of your loans really, really effectively.

Ryn: 35:57 Yeah, it really works very, very well. It’s definitely a great, great aid for that sort of situation.

Katja: 36:03 It’s worth the flavor.

Ryn: 36:05 But hey, like you said, if you were to mix some stuff up in advance, perhaps – one of the best things to pair Elecampane with would be ginger. That fits together nicely in terms of flavor. The ginger kind of soothes over some of the bitter edges of the Elecampane and distracts you with it’s

Katja: 36:27 Delicious Gingeriness.

Ryn: 36:31 Yeah. But also ginger is another nice warming herb and it does have a bit of lung affinity, When you take ginger on its own, it’s not going to be so active to the lungs, but Elecampane will kind of drag it along for the ride. So the two of those together are really going to help to move warmth into there. Really useful if the lungs are just tired, worn out, or especially if the mucus coming up is really white or pale in coloration. Those are indicators of cold states and that would say let’s add a little extra heat to this situation. That would definitely be a time to include ginger into the mix, which can also be helpful just because it soothes nausea. Um, and a lot of times, you know, if you have postnasal drip, if you are sort of coughing up and then swallowing down a bunch of crud out of the lungs, then that tends to make your stomach really unhappy. Um, and so ginger can be really helpful for that aspect of the discomfort associated with these problems.

Katja: 37:28 Mmhmm. You know, you were saying about how ginger’s not really targeted to the lungs, but the Elecampane will pull it along there. And I just wanted to say that in Western herbalism we definitely don’t really think of ginger as a lung herb necessarily. But every time that I’ve talked to an Asian person in this regard, like about cold and flu or about a cough, and I don’t really mean a TCM practitioner here, um, because I don’t, I don’t know a lot of tcm practitioners. But I do know a lot of pharmacy students who grew up in various Asian countries. And we have a lot of them every year. And I love learning the stuff that they just know because their mom just did it. Even though they’re not like TCM practitioners, every single one of them. – anytime I’m coughing, they’re like, “Oh, you need ginger. Ginger’s for coughs.” I am not at TCM practitioner. I don’t have that knowledge. But it’s interesting to me that that is their baseline starting point. And I know that ginger has lots of other affiliations in Asian styles of medicine, but it’s interesting to me that that’s always the first thing that pops into their mind. But in the west, that’s not the first thing that pops to our mind when we think about ginger. And so I just wanted to share that because I think that it is so fascinating the way that we, um, kind of, as humans we categorize things and this is one of those things that just makes me be like, “Ooh, cool. Tell me what you think about that!” You know, I love those kinds of discussions. Uh, the other thing I wanted to share about ginger there is, um, that ginger is really antispasmodic and, if you are the kind of person who holds a lot of tension in your body, um, then it can be really hard to have an effective fever. Um, also it can be really hard to just relax enough to let yourself get better. And uh, ginger can help with both of those things.

Ryn: 39:52 Yeah. You could pair it together with some other relaxants for those people who were maybe fevering, maybe holding a little bit too much heat inside, maybe needed to release some of that heat or allow it to flow more freely. So a really classic, trio to work with as what we’d call a relaxing diaphoretic would be catnip with Elderflower and a little bit of Chamomile. And um, all of those, well, the Catnip’s a little warm; the Chamomile’s a little warm; the Elderflower’s on the cooling side. But what these have in common in terms of energetics is their relaxant effect. And that accounts for a lot of what they tend to do in the human body. So you know, Elderberry, we weren’t going to talk about too much at this time. That’s kind of more about like let’s get in there and ramp up immune activity, kind of like directly cope with the infection. Elderflower has some of those aspects to it, but it’s more about releasing the periphery, allowing that heat to escape and making people more comfortable if they’ve been favoring for an extended time. And then the Catnip and Chamomile, they’re kind of like hanging out on either side there and chaperoning and like helping things get where they need to go and soothing in the nervous system as well. Some of that, some of that tension or that, “I can’t, I can’t rest, I can’t stop” kind of feeling.

Katja: 41:22 Those three are all really lovely for headaches too, especially when it’s a headache associated with being sick, you know?

Ryn: 41:29 Yeah. Yeah. And they taste nice. And again, you know, tea would be the primary way to work with those herbs here, simple tea – an infusion.

Katja: 41:41 Yeah, although an elixir would be tasty, too, if you had to.

Ryn: 41:44 Sure.

Katja: 41:45 But I’m always in favor of tea.

Ryn: 41:47 Yeah. You know, a little bit of honey isn’t remiss. A little bit of honey and lemon would make a lot of sense, with actually almost all of the herbs we’ve talked about so far. Maybe not so much with the Elecampane. I don’t know.

Katja: 41:59 No, that would not be good.

Ryn: 42:01 Elecampane and Boneset – they’re not really going to play here. But the other ones, a little honey and lemon in your sage tea or ginger tea or your Catnip, Elderflower, Chamomile tea. It can really help. Uh, this is particularly good if you wanted what those herbs had to offer in terms of, um, you know, antimicrobial effect or immune stimulus or anything like that. But they were, maybe you’re leaning a little on the dry side or you had somebody who was maybe a little dried out and you didn’t want to push that any further. Adding a bit of honey to the formula is a nice way to get some moistening energetics into the mix and of course it helps with flavor,

Katja: 42:42 Yes, but also, you know, honey and lemon are two things that many people just have in their kitchen. If you have a sore throat or just don’t feel good or if there’s a lot of postnasal drip going down the back of your throat. just plain hot water with honey and lemon. It’s not like, that’s too simple to be herbalism. No Way. Like definitely do it.

Ryn: 43:06 And especially if you have a real lemon. Some of the fruit, also use the rind, use the peel, especially in the white cortex material between the fruit and the and the peel itself or the rind. That’s where a lot of the most active medicinal constituents in the lemon sit and many of those are directly antimicrobial or have other effects that are going to help you to fight off the infection in a very direct way. Particularly where they come into contact with infected tissue in your throat. So, yeah.

Katja: 43:40 Plus vitamin C!

Ryn: 43:45 Yeah, vitamin C – not to be underestimated. Um, you know, another sort of thing you could consider adding to your tea, and this is certainly whether it’s to your taste or not, but um, there’s decent reasons to include a little bit of ghee or a little bit of coconut oil in your tea. On the one hand, this is just about comfort, especially if you have a dry, irritated sore throat. Having a little of either of these oils in your tea is going to make it more coating and more soothing to the irritated esophagus. But also, um, both ghee and coconut oil have a particular subset of fatty acids in them which are again directly antimicrobial and will help to prevent any opportunistic infections from rooting down into the tissue there.

Katja: 44:42 Yeah, not to my taste, but

Ryn: 44:47 Which is weird because I can’t imagine any other thing that you would not ask for “More ghee, please.”

Katja: 44:52 Yes. Every other thing, but just not a beverage. But I know a lot of people like it.

Ryn: 44:58 I know it. Yeah. It makes me think of Po at the Tibetan restaurants.

Katja: 45:04 The butter tea? Yeah.

Ryn: 45:05 Yeah. Should be made from Yak butter, but you know…[laughter]

Katja: 45:10 If I was visiting Tibet, I would do it. I’ve always wanted to visit Tibet, but probably that’s not something that will ever get to happen. That’s okay. Yeah.

Ryn: 45:21 So, all right, so we’ve gone through like a half dozen different ideas there for you, some that you may need to go out and find. The pine tree in your neighborhood or some Ground ivy in the springtime. Others that are pretty broadly available in the grocery store, like the sage and the ginger, honey and lemon. And then some that you’re going to need an herb aisle or you know, a little herb shop to find – the Boneset, Elecampane, the Catnip, Elderflower, Chamomile situation. Um, but you know, as always we’re thinking about these herbs to stand in for a whole set of actions, right? When we talk about pine and sage, we’re talking about herbs that had some volatile aromatic elements and have some lung affinity. We looking at Ground ivy. Well, to be honest, I don’t have great one-to-one substitutes for that because it’s affinity is so strong.

Katja: 46:11 It is. Yeah.

Ryn: 46:12 But you know, other lymphatic draining herbs can be helpful there. A little Calendula wouldn’t hurt.

Katja: 46:17 You know, I think Calendula is what I would turn to if I didn’t have them, yeah .

Ryn: 46:22 Um, you know, with Boneset, we’re looking at, you know, some degree of immune stimulus. Um, there’s lots of different ways to accomplish that. Elecampane, there are similar herbs in the way of like, Osha or even Angelica root, lung-focused or lung affinity herbs with that warming and stimulating nature to them.

Katja: 46:41 Although we should say that Osha is an at-risk plant, so if you do want to work with that, make sure that you are working with it from a really ethically harvested source.

Ryn: 46:52 Yeah, ideally at this point. Cultivated. Organic. Um, so, you know, just to say that there are, there are always options. Don’t feel tied to,”It has to be this exact plant!” in order to do the thing. Think about – what are the actions of the herb? What are the qualities of it? And can you find that in another friend you may have closer to home? All right, well, um, that was maybe a 10th of what we thought we might talk about this week, so we may come back to this topic in the future, um, but we’d also be interested in hearing from you. So if you have any cold and flu remedies that you turn to when you’re sick and that you find really helpful, um, we would love to hear about it. Drop us a line at info@commonwealthherbs.com. Or leave a comment anywhere you find us.

Katja: 47:46 Yes. [laughter]

Ryn: 47:48 And we’ll be back next week.

Katja: 47:49 And check out our classes, our online video courses at Commonwealthherbs.com. And if you’d been wanting to take one, help us pay our plumber. Take one now.

Ryn: 48:01 Thanks everybody.

Katja: 48:03 Bye-bye. See you next week.


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