Annoying coughs seem to be doing the rounds at the moment, don't they?
You might remember in January I went down with flu (somewhat surprisingly for this healthy herbalist!), and noted at the time how it seemed to be particularly affecting my lungs. I didn't have my full range of remedies with me as I was in Italy at the time, so I was struggling with my Immune Drops mix alone, which appeared to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms, but wasn't helping my chesty cough.
I've seen my family members and close friends in the last few months, fall under the weather with colds and viruses going about and have noted that most people I am seeing right now are being left with annoying coughs, that seem to linger long after they shake off the cold/virus.
Well, if I was surprised by the dose of flu that I picked up in Italy- I was even more surprised to develop a nasty cough last week again, (when my son was off school with a cold) -which seemed to strike from out of nowhere.
I also mentioned in January that I lost my gran on New Year's eve, and this can also be a time when we get ill. Grief has been clinically shown to reduce immune defences and lower white blood cell count for up to 2 years after the loss of a loved one. So it isn't really a surprise that I personally have had an unusual run of being under the weather since losing my gran.
(If you have experienced any kind of grief, then be sure to look after yourself and take extra care to top up on nutrients and also to rest well and allow plenty time to recover.)
However, the fact that this has been a very bad cough and seemed to go straight to the lungs without warning, reminded me of the worst illness I had in my life... and that happened to be when I got a severe respiratory infection in China in 2003.
It was the time of SARS and Bird flu, and I ended up in hospital on intravenous antibiotics and was rapidly getting worse with suspected pneumonia UNTIL I was recommended a Traditional Chinese Herbalist who prescribed me the worst tasting medicine EVER! It was a bag of dried roots that had to be boiled into a decoction which turned black and looked like tar, and drunk regularly as a hot drink.
It worked immediately ! It was the first treatment in over a month that actually helped me to shift the heavy feeling from my chest and to feel able to breathe without pain.
It was also this healing experience that sent me on my way to becoming a herbalist. I signed up for a holistic therapies diploma when I got home and got a part-time job at Napiers the Herbalists in Glasgow, before going on to university to become a fully qualified herbalist.
What has all this got to do with annoying coughs and why am I posting this long story?
Well, SARS is a Coronavirus, and as the news spreads panic about the potential outbreak of this virus, I am reminded that the nature of Coronviruses is to affect the lower respiratory system, causing heaviness in the lungs and problems with breathing. coronaviruses, also often peak around the spring Equinox.
I am also reminded of the teachings of my late herbal mentor, Christopher Hedley, who had a great diagram of the different layers of the immune system- which he regarded as an 'onion'. He saw immune herbs as functioning at different levels of the immune system.
So as the herbalist in me questions how to approach the current threat of coronavirus and the seasonal coughs that are widespread right now, I am reflecting on the teachings of Christopher and thinking on how the herbs work to penetrate different levels of the immune system.
Last week, after a particularly bad night of sleep with a hacking cough. I woke in the morning and set about making myself a remedy to tackle the sensation of heaviness in my lungs, feeling somewhat deflated that my immune mix didn’t seem to be helping.
I gave myself a little shake and reminded myself that the herbs do indeed work, and it is first important to believe in the herbs working, and then, the second important factor- Choosing the correct ones!
Elderberry has been scientifically proven to prevent viruses, including coronaviruses, from entering the cells. It is incredibly valuable as an immune medicine in both preventing and reducing the severity and duration of infections.
Likewise, Echinacea can help at the onset of a cold and can be used to boost immunity during exposure to viruses and colds, but when an infection or virus takes hold in the lungs, we need a different strategy.
Lung herbs, such as those in my ‘foul-tasting but very effective’ Chinese medicine, often include roots, which are high in starch, and mucilage, and this helps to lubricate the mucus membranes and expel mucus. Other herbs, such as thyme, camphor, eucalyptus and menthol, have an expectorant action by oils which stimulate the lung reflexes, and ‘opening the airways’.
One herb in particular, which is of high value in treating lung problems is Elecampane. A beautiful tall plant in the daisy family with a golden sunlike flower. It’s root contains an immune-stimulating compound called inulin, that helps fight infections, while the demulcent action soothes the membranes and helps to expel stuck mucus.
It’s such an important immune herb, that in Scandanavian Folklore it has been called 'Elf-shot', because it was believed to be powerful enough to overcome those who have been struck by Elf arrows and fallen sick under their enchantment- (a very serious malady, calling for carefully chosen remedies!)
Taking all of this into consideration, I pulled down some bottles from my apothecary shelves and set to work:
Marshmallow root firstly, for the slippery mucilage and the soothing effect it can have on a cough.
Thyme, of course, for it’s expectorant action, but also the antiseptic effect and the volatile oils which open the airways.
Licorice another immuno-stimulant, expectorant and also anti-viral. Sweet tasting too, which is a bonus.
Plantain, the overlooked ‘weed’ that has a powerful effect on the respiratory system, so much so, it was awarded with the name ‘ribwort’. Good for stubborn stuck mucus and also allergies and coughs associated with allergic reactions.
Elderberry, Packed full of bioflavonoids and vitamins, but also protects against viruses entering the cells.
Echinacea, Important immune support during acute infections and can help reduce the symptoms and duration of a cold/ virus.
Last but not least:
For the elf-shot of course! If you have tried everything else, and you are still not getting better, then it’s time to tackle those elf-arrows. Bring out the elecampane and watch the miracles happen…
Using this tincture blend and taking 3 times daily for just 2 days- I really did witness a miracle and see my cough disappear overnight*.
*I also increased my water intake to help liquify mucus
This mix has been so effective for me that I have decided to make a small batch and will be selling it locally at the coming Cromarty Market this Saturday.
If you would like to pre-order a bottle, please let me know and I will keep one aside for you.
They come in 100ml bottles and are £10 each.
Fear not the coronavirus or arrows of elves… Claire’s Lung Elixir is here to the rescue!
Just drop me a message or email if you would like to purchase some. I will also post, and can provide P&P costs. Coming to the website soon!
Go Well !!