Tag Archives: herbal medicine

Serious Steps for Coronavirus Prevention

My letter about the Coronavirus was printed on the opinion page of a newspaper in my region. I was concerned, as was the author of the article I cited, that people were making unsubstantiated promises about how natural remedies could cure Coronavirus.

Of course, if those I care for are affected by this new Coronavirus, I am going to extrapolate from my natural medicine experience with other viral illness. But I will be upfront about this approach, and I will also strongly encourage everyone to seek treatment with their primary care doctor so that all tools can be employed.

Here are some of the natural interventions I will consider for prevention:

  • Research has shown that some herbs can help prevent flu including licorice root, American ginseng, elderberry, echinacea, and garlic.
  • Likewise, nutritional supplements can help insure optimal immune system function. These include: zinc, selenium, vitamin C, and probiotics.
  • Test your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D might boost immune health for disease prevention and improve disease outcomes.
Elderberries

And don’t forget these very important basics to help prevent this or any other seasonal illnesses:

  • Have a healthy lifestyle: get enough sleep, minimize stress, eat plenty of veggies and fruits, and avoid sugar and junk foods.
  • Avoid large crowds and places with poor ventilation.
  • If you cannot avoid such places, consider using a properly fitted mask.
  • Prioritize handwashing, more often, with soap and water for twenty seconds, especially before eating.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Use hand sanitizers, when handwashing is not possible.
  • Avoid people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and discard or sneeze into your bent elbow.
  • Please stay home if you are sick!

Here is the letter I sent to the newspaper. Even though I might consider silver as part of my protocol, we cannot believe in any supposed miracle cure for Coronavirus or any illness:

I read your article about the silver solution product promoted by Jim Baker, and I want to address my concerns about their product claims as a professional naturopathic doctor with a degree from Bastyr University in Seattle, Wash., and a person who works daily helping craft natural medicines and supplements.

True, silver compounds have been used for many years to reduce or eliminate many pathogens, but most of the studies are done in test tubes. Outcomes in the human body are often very different from those in test tubes. There is zero professional research that shows silver solution products cure coronavirus infections. In fact, it is dangerous to offer people false hope during this critical time with an international epidemic.

In short, it is dangerous and potentially life threatening to suggest that silver solution products can cure the coronavirus infection. It would be dangerous and even deadly for people who may have contracted the illness to rely on untested, undocumented remedies. Such patients could not only endanger their own lives by delaying critical treatment by taking the silver solution instead of seeking professional medical care, but those patients could infect others while believing the silver solution had cured the coronavirus infection.

Naturopathic medicine is my career and I’ve helped many people with serious health problems, and have even taken a form of silver for other illnesses myself. However, no serious naturopathic practitioner who cares about patients or public health would suggest without documented, peer-reviewed research that silver solution products would cure a deadly pathogen like coronavirus.

Such unfounded claims not only endanger the public during an international epidemic, but also create unnecessary doubts about the good work of clinically-trained naturopathic doctors, like myself.

As a naturopathic doctor, I urge everyone who may be exposed to coronavirus to seek help from appropriate health professionals, and not just rely on unproven silver solutions sold by those hoping to capitalize on public fears.

Sincerely,

Laurell Matthews, ND

Beyond Thieves Oil for Wintertime Immunity

Yes, you can use herbs and essential oils to help kill bacteria and fight off wintertime infections. Many companies make blends of essential oils known as thieves oil or its numerous other names . These are probably not the original formula the thieves used during the plague as that probably included garlic. I am would much rather smell like eucalyptus, rosemary, cinnamon, lemon, cloves, or any of the other antimicrobial essential oils.

So how did this name thieves oil come about? In Europe during the plague known as the Black Death, a group of thieves made an herbal vinegar concoction to douse themselves in and successfully robbed houses and bodies without coming down with the plague. This vinegar concoction was thought to contain garlic and rosemary and a variety of other herbs that no one seems to agree upon. It possibly had thyme, sage and lavender, but there are so many herbs with antimicrobial properties that could have been used depending on what was available to them for each batch.

I am making a Four Thieves Vinegar. I will probably also use it for salad dressing.
I am making a Four Thieves Vinegar. I will probably also use it for salad dressing.

To protect yourself and your family from wintertime germs, there are a lot of options to choices from. If you like to make stuff at home, there are great recipes out there for Four Thieves Vinegar, which can be used as a surface disinfectant or taken internally as an immune booster. You can also make your own thieves oil blend from common essential oils. And you can support one of our local businesses by checking out Essential Arts Well Being oil. It is in a base of grapeseed oil so it ready to be rubbed into the soles of the feet or used as a chest rub for colds and coughs.
This just scratches the surface of all of the amazing way herbs and essential oils can be used to help us be healthy in the winter. So remember you can stay well and smell great doing it (if you leave the garlic out).

How to Make New Herbal Friends

Herbal medicine is just one attribute of naturopathic medicine, but it is one of my favorites. In my mind, herbs are like friends with individual personalities. While two herbs might share some of the same activities, they can vary in their strength and their affinity for different areas of the body. I am a huge fan of both marshmallow root and slippery elm bark. Both are soothing herbs that can be used for irritated mucous membranes. Marshmallow would be the best choice for urinary irritation, while slippery elm support the digestive tract, partially because it helps feed our good bacteria. Of course, if I only had one of these two herbs, I would use the one that was handy for either issue.

Photo copyright Henriette Kress, http://www.henriettesherbal.com

Marshmallow; Photo copyright Henriette Kress, http://www.henriettesherbal.com

Herbs are also usually very gentle friends that help me keep to the naturopathic principle  First Do No Harm. In fact herbs are so gentle, it can often be challenging to draw the line between medicinal herbs and food. Which of these is a medicinal herb and which a food: cinnamon, turmeric, myrrh?

Most of you realized that is a trick question. Depending on the culture and the use, all three could be either. In some cultures, myrrh is added to foods as a spice despite its strong flavor. It happens to also serve the medicinal benefit of lower cholesterol while being part of those dishes. (We would use its relative Guggul in a capsule instead to reduce cholesterol.). If you asked someone in that society why it is added to the dish, they would probably say that is the way they like it. This is probably how many of our culinary spices came into common use. They are all medicinal spices that we have grown to love and expect in our everyday cooking. We often start to love foods and herbs that are good for us.

When I learn a new herb, I like to understand its personality to help me remember it better. I do this by both studying and experiencing it.

Start with a few herbs or even just one. Experience it in as many ways as you can, with as many senses as you can. If you can find a living plant, spend a little time observing it. This might not tell you anything about the herb, but it gives you an image and the beginnings of a personality to connect with the other things you learn about the plant. If the plant doesn’t grow nearby, find a picture of it. Smell a crushed leaf from the plant. Taste a tea or tincture make from that medicinal herb. By engaging more of your senses, you are stimulating your memory on deeper levels. Sometimes the taste or smell or even appearance can help you make educated guesses about the activity of its medicinal components.

I also like the scientific side of things. I review studies when available to learn what conditions my herb treats. I will review the herbal medicine books to see what medicinal actions the plant has. Ideally, my herb has more than one of the activities I am looking. For instance, Echinacea stimulates the immune system while also having some antimicrobial benefits to help fight a particular illness on two fronts. The combination of these two activities can give you a much more rounded view of your chosen herb than if you just did an Internet search for “medicinal benefits of plantain” (hopefully my last blog will show up though). Take all that you have learned to create an idea of its personality. Is it a fierce herbal warrior like the antimicrobial yarrow or is it a calming nourisher like the heart-protecting hawthorn. These stories can help you remember when to choose a particular herbal ally.

I would love to hear about your experiences making new herbal friends.

 

Black Walnut: Powerful Herbal Warrior

On our farm on the western edge of the Ozarks, we have several magnificent black walnut trees. This is one of the native Arkansas plants I missed when in lived in Washington State. I came home to visit one fall around this time and actually carried a few of the freshly fallen nuts home with me on the plane. Other people may curse the black walnut trees in their yards because other plants have a particularly hard time growing in their shade. Black walnut trees practice chemical warfare by producing substances that inhibit the growth of many other plants so they can maintain their dominance. This attribute of black walnut gives us insight into the role this tree can play in our health.

Just as the black walnut trees fight off other plants, the black walnut hulls are used to help reduce the growth of pathogenic organisms, especially in the gastrointestinal tract. While black walnut hulls may be best known as part of an “anti-parasitic” formula, it may actually be better as an antifungal agent. It can also be applied topically to the skin. Black walnut hulls can have a fairly strong laxative effect on the gut, and in larger doses, can induce vomiting.

The green outer hull of the nut is the part of the black walnut that is used by most herbalists. The green hulls can either be used fresh or made into a tincture. If you want to work with the hulls yourself, consider using gloves because they can stain your hands. It is also worth going through the effort of cracking the very tough shell to get to the nuts. These have a very distinct flavor, but can be used like any other nut. When it comes to using the hulls, be cautious. This is a very strong herb that should only be used short term or under the supervision of a medical profession.