All posts tagged: respiratory system

colts

Coltsfoot, Another Respiratory Tonic

Coltsfoot Tussilago farfara. Another asteraceae family member, coltsfoot has antitussive, expectorant, astringent (due to tannins), sedative, demulcent, antispasmodic and diuretic properties. The genus name tussilago means “cough dispeller”, and indeed it is a general respiratory tonic. “Coltsfoot was so popular in medieval times that it was chosen as the emblem to identify the local apothecary” (Gladstar, 324). Relating to the doctrine of signatures, Matthew Wood said that “Hairy or hirsute leaves and stems are a signature for the…hairs of the mucosa” and that “leaves that are thick from the content of mucilage (Slippery Elm, Coltsfoot) are good lung and mucosa remedies” (21). I first met coltsfoot while at Sage Mountain, often as a garden companion to another Old World respiratory remedy lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis). It grew abundantly along the edges of the gardens, its broad, gray-green leaves spilling over into the lawn. The leaves are interesting to the touch, squishy and thick with a fine hairy layer that rolls off between your fingers. Since coltsfoot is a soothing antispasmodic, it’s useful for chronic respiratory conditions …

eles

Elecampane – Inula heleniun

There are many Western herbs for helping the respiratory system: stimulating or relaxing expectorants, anticatarrhals, antispasmodics and relaxants, support for the immune and cardiac systems, antimicrobials, demulcents. Then there are the respiratory tonics like elecampane, coltsfoot and mullein. I have already talked a little about mullein. David Hoffmann describes this category as: “…pulmonaries, or amphoteric expectorants, have a beneficial effect upon both lung tissue and function.” (321). I like that explanation of respiratory tonics because elecampane, mullein and coltsfoot can be used more generally than other categories. They do, however, have their specific indications as well. Matthew Wood says (147) says that it along with other big leaved plants (mullein, comfrey, burdock) “…have strong actions on the skin and lungs” as they “stand for surface area and gas exchange or breathing hence the lungs and the skin”(147). Let’s look at elecampane. Preparations of the root of this Asteraceae family member have been used as an expectorant (on the stimulating side), diaphoretic, antimicrobial, and antitussive to stop coughs (560). Hoffmann states that it is indicated for …

mulflow

Respiratory Tonic – Mullein

Mullein, Verbascum thapsus, is one of the first herbs many think of for the lungs. It has many uses besides being a superb respiratory tonic and expectorant though. The flower can used for ear aches, topically with the leaf for the musculoskelatal system and as nervine. Have you ever smelled mullein flowers? They are incredibly sweet, delicate and flowery to the nose. Mullein is a member of the the Scrophularia (snapdragon) family and originally from Europe, and is one of the easiest herbs to distinguish with its downy lobed leaves, yellow flowers and tall flower stalk. I welcome mullein into my gardens (even though they can proliferate quickly) because they remind me of garden sentinels, keeping watch and adding interesting texture and line to the garden horizon. Just looking at the velvety soft lobe-like leaves one can see that they must have demulcent actions. At the same time, mullein is also a little irritating if it is rubbed in the skin too much. These soothing yet irritating qualities may seem contradictory, but this is precisely …

Cinnamon

Aromatic Digestives & Carminatives

What is a bitter user to do when she realizes they are too cold for her? Reach for the warm side of digestive remedies! Aromatic digestives are to be used for cold conditions, along with “circulatory stimulants as wells as ‘warming’ expectorants” for congestive dyspepsia, gas and belching, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and colic, often with a white slippery or sticky coat on the tongue, depressed circulation, copious urine, respiratory congestion, and arthritis as seen in cold-dampness affecting the digestion (Mills 423-4, 430). Both bitters and aromatic digestives stimulate the appetite, and act on assimilation of food in the digestive track, both work on “dampness” (cold-damp and damp-heat, respectively). Carminatives are rich in volatile oils, relax the stomach thus relieving gas, and stimulate peristalsis of the digestive system. In some herbals carminatives and aromatics are grouped together. Both contain herbs that have strong yet pleasant tastes and odors, and are used to “flavor” and “warm up” medicinal blends. No wonder I like to add cinnamon and cardamom to practically every herbal formula! And no wonder that …