Herbalism: A new era (Coronavirus – an Invitation) — John J Slattery Bioregional Herbalist, Forager, Author
A bioregional herbalist’s look at the Coronavirus (CoV 2019) and important herbs to consider prior to and during exposure
So I thought I’d take some time to write about some of the herbs that I feel will be important upon exposure to CoV-2, but first, to help put some of this in perspective.
Mexican elder leaf (Sambucus mexicana, syn. S. cerulea subsp. mexicana, syn. S. cerulea, etc.)
Elder s one that is often brought up in any discussion of viruses. Not only does elder help prevent attachment through inhibition of neuraminidase, but it also protects ACE-2 making it exceptionally important at the early stages of prevention and limiting the initial impact of the virus. Another aspect of the elder’s effect on humoral immunity is to increase T cell production. This is important due to the virus’ effects on the dendritic cells of the lungs as the progression advances. This hinders the dendritic cells’ capacity to generate an adequate immune response leaving us even more vulnerable. Elder (as well as licorice and red root) can significantly improve the response.
(Also known as Sambucus coerulea var. arizonica, Sambucus coerulea var. mexicana, Sambucus caeulea var. mexicana, Sambucus coriacea, Sambucus orbiculata, Sambucus velutina, Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea and you wonder why we’re confused)
Sambucus mexicana tolerates clay and seasonal flooding.
Sambucus mexicana is great for a bird garden.
Sambucus mexicana’s foliage color is green and type is deciduous.
Sambucus mexicana’s flower color is yellow.
Sambucus mexicana’s fruit is edible.
Communities for Sambucus mexicana: Chaparral, Coastal Sage Scrub, Freshwater Marsh, Riparian (rivers & creeks) and Central Oak Woodland.
|ph:||5.00 to 8.00|
|USDA:||6 to 10|
|height[m]:||2.00 to 4.00|
|width[m]:||2.00 to 4.00|
|rainfall[cm]:||98.00 to 532.00|
There’s two things to consider here: 1) how hemagglutinin is utilized to help the virus attach and 2) the points at which the specific virus is attaching.
1) This is where Baikal skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) and ginger (Zingiber officinale) are most helpful. Baikal skullcap should be part of a core protocol (as it is in Stephen Buhner’s Core CV Protocol). It can be used as a tincture. Ginger can be regularly and copiously added to foods, juices, smoothies, teas, etc. as a fresh root or dry. Ginger can also be tinctured and added to protocols. It may be more appropriate still in cases where nausea is a factor. I’m not sure though as the mechanism inducing the nausea may be different here.
Bioregional Herbalist’s Note: I have never used Baikal skullcap. I have mostly relied upon what I can find within my bioregion, or, on occasion, other bioregions that I visit. This way I ensure that I have a closer relationship with the medicine that I use. With that, I am intrigued to begin utilizing our native Scutellaria in the greater Southwest region. Not just any skullcap, but the species that are suffrutescent (herbs with woody bases) not the water-loving North American skullcap that is exclusively sold in commerce. As Baikal skullcap in commerce is just the root (and, generally, has entirely different applications that the Western skullcaps) I would like to begin utilizing the roots of our Southwestern species that fit this profile. But first, we need to begin cultivation as there isn’t enough in the wild, in my opinion, to begin gathering for just the roots.
Mexican elder (left) together with black willow (right)
Where to Find Elder
Fortunately, elder can be found throughout North, Central, & South America, Europe, most of Asia, South Africa, the Hawaiian islands, SE Asia, and SE Australia. Right now, mid-spring elder is fully leafed out and beginning to flower in our area (southern Arizona), and will be leafing out soon over the rest of North America and elsewhere. In our region, look to moist places. Elder is often an understory tree/shrub accompanies by mesquite, black walnut, canyon hackberry, black willow, ash, or perhaps soapberry. It is one of the first trees to leaf out in the winter here, but will stay leafed out throughout the mildest winters.
Chaparral, aka creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) in bloom, with seedpods
Chaparral (Larrea tridentata) is a broadly acting antimicrobial, antifungal, and most importantly here, antiviral agent. What I’d like to focus on is the steam inhalation. Gathering up a large amount of leaves and young stems (use generous amounts if the plant is abundant and easily accessible near you), add them to cold water in a pot of 6-10 qt and begin to set to boil. Allow to boil for 10-15 minutes, then turn off and let sit another 10-15 minutes. Bring the pot to a table (with something underneath as it’s still hot) and get ready to sit at the pot with a towel held overhead once the lid is removed. Stay under the towel for at least 2-3 minutes taking deep breaths. Close the lid and rinse the face with cold water, enhancing this hydrotherapy. Repeat 3 times to complete 4 rounds. This can be done 1-2 times a day as a preventative (viral replication can be taking place prior to any symptoms) and several times a day during acute stages of infection (Day 3/6-14).
Additionally, 2-4oz of the tea can be taken internally to aid in clearing dampness from the lungs (evident by belabored breathing). If body aches are present, then pour the hot tea into the bath tub and draw a hot bath to cover the affected parts of the body once finished with the steam. Repeat as needed.
Novel Coronavirus 2019
The current virus of concern, SARS CoV2, aka COVID 19, is believed to spread via droplets. Thus, it does not fly through the air at great distances like the chicken pox virus or measles, for example. It is believed, also, that it can remain active and viable on particular (steel, plastic, ceramic, etc), relatively cool (and out of the direct sun) surfaces for up to 9 hours. It also has an affinity for our nasal mucous membranes. This necessitates the commentary on consistent hand washing as we may touch something that the virus was deposited on (or touch something that touched something that the virus was deposited on in a public area; e.g. credit card, phone, hat, soles of shoes, etc.) and then go to touch our face (or rub our nose, touch our mouth) where the virus may easily gain entry to our mucous membrane layer of defense (some say it may enter through the eyes as well).
Interested in having John visit your location, group, or institution to present on the wide variety of subjects he offers?
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Some of the subjects John has presented on, both in the field and indoors, includes:
Bioregional Herbalism (basic principles applied to any location; developing relationship with Place & Plants)
Ethnobotany of the greater Southwest
Folk Herbalism of Sonora, Mexico
Field Classes: Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin. Internationally: Sonora, Mexico, Ireland, France *including plant ID, botany, ethical foraging and wildcrafting, herbal medicine making, and much more
Foraging for wild plant foods
Herbal Medicine Making
Plant Energetics (a theoretical and experiential approach to working with herbs for medicine)
Prickly Pear Foraging
Sonoran desert Ethnobotany
Sonoran desert Foraging
First, check out these virtual plant walks he will be offering over the next couple of months…starting tomorrow morning!
Sat. July 25 – High Elevation Mixed Conifer forest (Mogollon Rim)
Sun. July 26 – Oak Woodland-Mixed Conifer forest, Meadow and Pinyon-Juniper zone (Mogollon Rim #2: 2-part session)
Sun. Aug. 9 – Rocky Mountain Vegetation, Utah
Mon. Aug 10 – Mojave Desert, southern Nevada