The author, Susun Weed, has been living the simple life for more than 30 years as an herbalist, goat keeper, homesteader, and feminist. In addition to being the author of four highly-acclaimed books on herbs and women's health, Susun lectures world-wide as the voice of the Wise Woman tradition, personally supervises 400+ correspondence students, is editor-in-chief of Ash Tree Publishing, and directs the activities of the Wise Woman Center, where she trains apprentices in the shamanic arts, and plays with the fairies. Her four books - Healing Wise; Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way; Breast Cancer? Breast Health! the Wise Woman Way and Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year - are used by more than a million women, and have been translated into German and French.
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Strengthen Your Immune System
Antibacterial herbs such as echinacea, usnea, or poke root, not only kill infection, but also help us keep our immune systems strong. These herbs have an extensive history of countering resistant bacteria and strengthening the body's natural defenses. Medicinal mushrooms, garlic, and ginseng help you during the winter season - and our thoughts affect our health too!
Echinacea root is the all-American immune system strengthener. It triggers production of white blood cells, interferon, leukocytes, T-cells, and B-lymphocytes, as well as directly inhibiting the growth of most bacteria and viruses. Peter Holmes, author of Energetics of Western Herbs, cites it as being effective against anthrax. Echinacea tincture is my first choice for countering infection. (Capsules and pills of Echinacea, if used for lengthy periods, may be counter-productive.) A dose of the tincture is one drop for every pound of body weight. I take this several times a week as a preventative; several times daily when there is active infection.
Usnea, a common lichen, is especially rich in a powerful antibacterial bitter called usnic acid (also usinic acid). I use the tincture of Usnea barbata (a dose is 1-2 dropperfuls), but other lichens show similar immune-enhancing and tonifying properties. There are no side effects reported from use of even large amounts of usnea tincture.
Poke root tincture (Phytolacca americana) kicks the immune system into gear incredibly fast. I’ve seen chronic infection of many years’ standing resolve after only one dose, and acute infection subside in a matter of hours. Poke’s effect seems to be focused on the lymphatic and glandular tissues of the throat and chest, making it the perfect counter to inhaled anthrax, which attacks the lymph nodes around the lungs. Poke is a specific against pneumonia and a protector of the lungs. It contains an antibacterial alkaloid and a special antiviral protein. It magnifies the effects of Echinacea and they work wonderfully well together.
Poke root is powerful medicine - in fact, a potential poison - and the dose is very small. One drop of poke tincture may be taken daily for no more than three months as a counter to possible infection. Alkaloids in poke root tincture can accumulate in the kidneys, making extended use risky. Caution: You can feel spacey and out of your body when taking poke, especially at higher doses. The first few times, take it after dinner and stay home so you can judge your reaction.
Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus) is widely considered the single most effective immune tonic and adaptogen in the herbal realm. Safe and inexpensive, it helps the immune system respond quickly to infection and mitigates the effects of stress. Astragalus root is also an excellent ally for building powerful immunity. Both, or either, may be taken daily for extended periods with no ill effects. I throw several pieces of these roots in every pot of soup I cook.
Ginseng root (Panax quinquefolius or Panax ginseng) is another exceptional ally for the immune system, especially when there is physical or emotional stress. In any form (tincture, tea, extract) it nourishes production of interferon, phagocytes, antibodies, and killer T-cells. So long as you need ginseng, there’s no overdose; if you take it when you don’t need it however, it may produce an unpleasant, jittery, speedy sensation.
Garlic has been used to prevent infection for thousands of years; and it still works! No need to upset your stomach (and loved ones) by eating it raw; cooked garlic retains its antibacterial powers, so long as you eat enough of it. During plague times, healers in some areas wore a "bird's beak:" a stiff cone was made of paper or bark, stuffed with garlic and spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg), and tied on over the nose to help prevent contagion. That's a little cumbersome for modern times, but inhaling the aroma of a cup of spicy tea (there are many blends available, or make your own) could help you avoid catching contagious disease.
Medicinal mushrooms are not only immune system tonics, they possess antibacterial properties which make them ideal for preventing anthrax infection, according to expert Paul Stametes. A tincture or strong infusion of any shelf fungus with pores can be used, he says. If you prefer to buy your mushrooms, rather than hunt for them, look for reishii (Ganoderma lucidum) or shiitake (Lentinus edodes). Both are adaptogenic, revitalizing, regenerative, and able to directly suppress infection. Side effects, even from large doses, are rare.
But herbs and medicinal foods alone are not enough. What we think, and what we consume, are also important parts of building strong immunity. Candace Pert, visiting professor of neuroscience at Rutgers University, has proven that every cell of the body participates in the immune system through an integrated network of chemical, electrical, and hormonal signals. The immune system is a network, she says, which resonates with the vibrations that surround it. It is as affected by emotions as by bacteria, as impacted by thoughts as by drugs.
Long-standing low-level depression, smoldering anger that is never expressed, bitterness and vengeance projected into the future are all known to depress immune functioning. Prayer, affirmations, positive thinking - no matter what you call it, talking lovingly to yourself builds powerful immunity. One of the fiercest old women I know, healer Margo Geiger, taught me to not only think good thoughts but also to unthink immune system stressing phrases like: "This is killing me," or "I’m dying to . . ." ("Let’s live for it!" she’d say.)
Specialized cells which eliminate bacterial and viral infections are made as needed by the immune system. Richly supply your immune system with nutrients, and it easily counters infection, building healthy white blood cells to kill anthrax and other germs. Starve your immune system and it will falter, leaving your lymph nodes and other tissues open to infection and destruction.
My favorite foods for nourishing the immune system include beets, carrots, garlic, medicinal mushrooms, seaweeds, and dark leafy greens (including nettle infusion). For rapid results, try miso soup with seaweed and wild mushrooms. Try Immune A Go Go Soup from my book Breast Cancer? Breast Health!
Carotenes strengthen and activate all parts of the immune system, especially the thymus (the "master gland of immunity"). A half-cup of dandelion greens, two cups of nettle infusion, a small baked sweet potato, or two large cooked carrots or beets is a "dose;" but ten times that much can be consumed safely. Repeated doses provide a cumulative effect starting about a week after you begin.
Selenium is a trace mineral with special abilities for building a healthy immune system. Best sources are organic garlic, medicinal mushrooms, and astragalus. Zinc helps build energetic white blood cells (which eliminate bacterial infections). Best sources are Echinacea, nettles, and seaweed.
The B-vitamin complex, especially B6 (pyridoxine), is critical to immune system health. Best sources are potato skins, broccoli, prunes, and lentils.
Virtually all drugs depress the immune system. This includes caffeine and nicotine, alcohol, prescribed drugs, "recreational" drugs, and vitamin/mineral supplements. For a healthy immune system, eat nourishing food and forgo the pills.
Both light and dark are necessary for a strong immune system. For optimum immune system strength, sleep in a totally dark room at night, and spend at least 15 minutes a day outside without glasses or contacts. Full spectrum sunlight is needed to trigger the production of important immune system components.
Exercise is an excellent way to tonify the immune system. A number of clinical trials have shown regular exercise to be strongly linked to heightened immunity. The emphasis is on regular. It is better to walk one mile four times a week for a month than to jog 16 miles once a month.
In Summary: Strengthen you immune system with a good diet, adequate sleep, regular physical activity, emotional well-being, and a few of the recommended herbal allies of your choice. Always remember to use herbs and herbal preparations simply and safely. Avoid immune compromising substances such as coffee, tobacco and medications. With a strengthened immune system you will not only enjoy better health, but you will be less likely to be susceptible to infection and possible death from bacterial and/or viral invasions. Faith in your body's ability to protect itself will continue to bolster and reinforce the immune system as your mental well-being improves. Enjoy the upward spiral of health as you follow the path of the Wise Woman Way.
Herbs For Those With Stomach Ache Ulcers And Heartburn
What is the biggest mistake people make about stomach ache?
Calling it stomach ache. The stomach (fortunately) does not ache. Usually when people say their stomach aches, they mean they have a gas pain. Gas pain can be severe pain. My friends who work in emergency rooms say you wouldn't believe how many people come in for what turns out to be gas pain.
What herbal allies would you recommend for those dealing with:
Herbalists, myself included, see heartburn as a lack of HCL (hydrochloric acid) in the stomach, instead of the prevalent opinion, that it is caused by too much acid. So instead of trying to turn off production of HCL (as drugs attempt to do), herbalists seek herbs that increase HCL, such as dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). In my book Healing Wise I devote an entire chapter to dandelion, with lots of recipes and ideas on how to use it.
You can use any part of dandelion: the flowers make dandelion wine, you can cook the greens, or eat them in salad, you can even cook the root, or make a vinegar with it (my favorite), or tincture it. Some people make a coffee substitute from roasted dandelion root. Any way you take it seems to work. (A standard dose would be 10-20 drops of the root tincture taken at the beginning of the meal.) Dandelion, and its friend chicory (Cichorium intybus), which is a fine substitute should you have access to one and not the other, are true tonics. That is, the more you take them, the less you need them. You don't have to keep taking this remedy forever. After 3-6 weeks you'll find you need it less and less.
In Europe it is customary to take bitters before a big meal. Most mild bitters, such as yellow dock (Rumex crispus), cronewort/mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), gentian (Gentiana lutea), barberry (Berberis vulgaris), and Oregon grape are liver tonics and digestives. They aid in digestion, and decrease risk of heartburn, by increasing production of both HCL and bile.
A few more tips for those who suffer from heartburn:
- Eat less at each meal
- Stay upright after eating; no lounging around or sleeping
- Avoid eating late at night
- Reduce the amount of coffee you drink
- Don't overdo it with the orange juice, either
- Use slippery elm lozenges (available in health food stores) for immediate relief from heartburn
The herbs that increase HCL in the stomach, such as dandelion, also decrease ulcers, which are the result of a bacterial infection. When stomach acid is increased, that bacteria has a harder time of it and is less likely to cause ulcers.
Amusing isn't it that medical science says "OK, there must be a mind/body connection, because gastrointestinal ulcers are caused by stress"; only to find out what my herbal teachers taught me long ago: bacteria cause ulcers.
Here's one way to kill that bacteria (besides taking drugs): Get a food grater with a very fine grating side. Grate a large potato as finely as possible. Into another bowl, grate ¼ to ½ of a cabbage. Let them sit for 10-15 minutes, until liquid starts to collect in the bottom of the bowls. Use your hand, or something hard, to press and squeeze the potato until it is dry. Throw away the pulp and keep the liquid. Repeat with the cabbage. Don't use a juicer. There are plant starches that you don't get when you use a juicer. A food processor is ok.
Put the liquids in separate jars in the refrigerator, taking 1-3 tablespoonfuls 2-3 times a day. The more severe the symptoms, the larger and more frequent the dose would be. I expect symptomatic relief within 36-48 hours. But this remedy is safe to take for weeks at a time if needed.
If you can't make the potato liquid, you can buy potato starch and mix it with water. Instead of the cabbage liquid, you could buy coleslaw. It isn't the same as grating the potato and the cabbage, but it is better than nothing. And even if it doesn't work as fast, if that is what is available to you, use it.
2C. STOMACH ACHE?
To me, this means gas pain. Herbs that relieve gas pain are called "carminatives" because they make you "sing" (carmen). Many aromatic herbs are carminatives, especially the seeds of members of the Apiaceae family including dill seed, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, anise seeds, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds. Just put a big spoonful in a cup, cover well with boiling water, steep five minutes, sweeten if you like, and drink.
Ginger is another readily-available carminative. Especially warming to the gut. You can make a tea with powdered ginger, or use up to a tablespoon of fresh ginger per cup of water for a strong brew. Ginger works best sweetened with honey. NASA found it would counter the nausea of space-sickness. You can also buy crystallized or candied ginger to take traveling with you.
The fastest remedy for gas pain is two capsules of acidophilus. I expect pain relief in 5-10 minutes. And I don't pay much attention to the expiration date on it. I keep mine in the refrigerator, and use them so rarely that I often have a bottle for ten years - and they still work.
Eating yogurt helps prevent gas pain, and can be used as a remedy, but it is not as fast as the acidophilus. A quart of yogurt a week is a good goal. And buy plain yogurt. No need to pay a fancy price for white sugar and poor quality fruit. Add maple syrup or honey and fruit of your choice, fresh or frozen at home. Make your own fantasy yogurt creation.
And the bitter tonic herbs mentioned above are also excellent allies to take long-term if you have frequent gas pains.
When I was in Spain I often had to eat late at night. Then I would take a sip of their very strong coffee, served in tiny cups. It had just the right amount of push to get that food into my digestive tract and still allow me to fall asleep at a reasonable time.
But most people in America drink coffee in the morning on an empty stomach. Might this be one reason so many are in such digestive distress? Instead of coffee, try this:
- Put one ounce by weight of dried peppermint leaf in a quart jar and fill to the top with boiling water.
- Cap tightly and allow to steep for 4-8 hours. (OK to let it steep while you sleep.)
- Strain the plant material out after the allotted time, squeezing it well.
- Then drink the liquid: hot or cold, salty or sweetened, with milk or whiskey or what have you.
- Refrigerate what you don't drink then. This will stay good in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.
Peppermint helps move the intestines and make you feel really awake, just like coffee. I would not use it if someone were feeling nauseated, as it tastes vile on the way back out.
3. CAN PEOPLE EXPECT QUICK RELIEF FROM THESE REMEDIES?
With dandelion, you often see results in the first 24 hours.
4. HOW OFTEN WOULD YOU HAVE TO TAKE THESE REMEDIES?
5. DO YOU THINK THE PUBLIC DISMISSES HERBAL REMEDIES AS A LAST RESORT?
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 90% of the health care given on any day is given in the home by the woman of the home. Just by cooking dinner a woman can heal her family and keep them healthy. She can protect her husband's heart by using lots of garlic. And protect his libido by serving less soy.
Many Americans have food phobias. Think about how many people are frightened of drinking milk. How many won't eat bread. I go into the health food store to get bread and there are loaves with no flour, and those with no yeast, and those without wheat, and I wonder where all the bread has gone.
We have a national history of food phobias, starting with Graham (inventor of the healthy graham cracker), continuing with Kellogg (of breakfast flake fame), and right into the modern day's current fads (no fat? no carbs? all protein? all raw?). Not too much has really changed. More and more people are learning about herbal medicine, but I am sure many of them think it is difficult and arcane. They may be unaware that herbal medicine is the medicine for the people, of the people, and by the people.
6. ARE THERE ANY WARNINGS ABOUT ANY OF THE HERBAL REMEDIES TAKEN TO RELIEVE STOMACH ACHE?
I specialize in safe, food-like herbs. I prefer them to drug-like herbs. The remedies I have suggested here are as safe as foods, taken in food-like quantities. When herbs are powdered and encapsulated, they can be dangerous. They are more like a drug and you have to be more careful. I use herbs because they aren't drugs.
7. ARE THERE FOODS THAT CAN INITIATE A STOMACH ACHE?
Beans! The magical fruit. So good for us, but so hard on the guts. And even worse when they are soy beans. The gas people get from tofu and tempe and soy beverage is outrageous.
From regular beans, try this simple five-step approach - guaranteed to reduce how much you "toot"
- Soak your beans overnight in a generous amount of cold water. Add a piece of wakame or kombu if desired.
- Rinse beans thoroughly in cold water (retain seaweed).
- Cover beans with fresh cold water, add retained seaweed, and cook until tender.
- Reheat beans to serve.
8. IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD?
Yes, I believe all peppers are upsetting to the digestive tract. I suggest avoiding black pepper and cayenne, jalapeno and all others if you are prone to heartburn, have frequent gas pain, or suffer from irritable bowel or even simple diarrhea.
Legal Disclaimer: This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner with a specific formula for you. All material contained herein is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care. Exercise self-empowerment by seeking a second opinion.
Name: Susun WeedCountry: US