Krista Merwede LMT
It seems to be an especially brutal flu season this year. Deep, bronchial coughs echo through the aisles of the grocery store, Snuffaluffagus is answering the phone at the bank and sneezes flutter over cubicle walls with hot zone wings. If you or one of your beloveds is suffering from respiratory congestion it is a good time to start thinking of a steaming mug of medicinal tea, ideally full of honey and steeped with love. While there are plenty of great teas on the market - Breathe Easy or Throat Coast by Traditional Medicinals are personal favorites - being ill is an opportunity to better get to know individual herbs and also take a small, comfortable step towards making your own natural home remedies. Safety is always the number-one concern, so please research your herbs before use to make sure they do not conflict with any current medication or doctor's orders.
In this blog we will discuss several herbs that you can purchase locally and infuse at home. An infusion is a different word for steeping, or boiling water and letting a teabag sit in the water for ten minutes to allow the herbal chemicals to release out into the water. Another thing to consider is taste; do not hesitate if you need to add something for flavor such as chamomile or peppermint to make the brew more acceptable to your palate.
An excellent resource for purchasing these herbs is Smile Herb Shop in College Park, MD. They will sell you your herbs of choice in a "cut and sift" format, which means that they are ready to mix and place in your teabag or tea ball with no additional processing on your part. They are well-deserved of the reputation of having a kind and educated staff to assist in your journey.
Ginger – For those that enjoy the spicy taste of Ginger this root will be a most welcome addition to your stuffy face. Filled with volatile oils and known as an antispasmodic, it will help settle the deeper coughs as well as address the actual bugs with its antiviral and antibacterial properties. It is also a rubefacient, promoting a warm, red flush to the skin that can be desirable during some illnesses.
Grindelia – This herb contains resins as well as volatile oils for an additional expectorant effect, which means it encourages the body to produce secretions such as mucous. It does contain mild antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory qualities and its antibacterial element is always welcome.
Licorice – This herb is a strong approach to supporting the respiratory system. Please make sure that you check the list of contraindications, including pregnancy, before selecting it for your tea. It is known as a demulcent, which means it helps sooth inflammation of the mucous membranes, and well known to be a powerful antispasmodic and expectorant. It is very multi-dimensional as it contains properties that are anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial.
Marshmallow – Not just a campfire treat, this lovely plant offers the property of being an antitussive, which indicates that it will help suppress a cough, and it is also an excellent demulcent, which means it forms a film and soothes irritated mucous membranes. The only known contraindication for this herb is being aware that it can impair the absorption of some drugs; a good protocol is to wait one hour between an oral medication and ingesting a marshmallow product.
Slippery Elm – This herbs contains very similar properties to Marshmallow in that it is demulcent and antitussive. Being aware that it also can affect drug absorption, and always waiting an hour between oral medication and Slippery Elm. It is a traditional North American remedy for cough in both syrup and tea, and sadly the elm is currently experiencing a blight that may affect its availability as a medicinal product in the future. Being aware of where we get all of our herbs from is mandatory, yet we bring an even more heightened sense of awareness to obtaining plant medicines that may be having challenges in the wild.
Krista Merwede L.M.T., has been a therapeutic massage therapist for over a decade and a Reiki Master since 2006. She customizes treatment protocols for each patient's needs and offers a myriad of massage therapy techniques (deep tissue, trigger point, craniosacral therapy, and more). Krista will earn her Master of Science in Therapeutic Herbalism in August 2014. She is also a graduate of the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine's Clinical Herbalist certification program.