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I’ve just come home from an amazing time teaching in a community I’ve been involved with for nearly twenty years called Reclaiming. While people come and ago, what unites us is our love for the land, the diversity of human beings, and our recognition of the Spirit (no matter what you call it) that animates all Things. For the first time in a long time, I felt a re-ignition of belonging. What gave rise to this feeling? A deep love for the land, for the people, and for the spirit of community. Good rituals or ceremonies sometimes require an element of risk. Healthy risk. Like surrendering the niceties of the mask we wear in everyday encounters. Having the strength to truly be vulnerable, even if that means expressing anger or unshakable tears in front of near-strangers. Allowing yourself to be held, like a child, as you release the fear that has been far too long stored in your bones. Saying what you’ve longed to say aloud standing in a circle of your beloveds. I feel an even deeper appreciation for ritual, for ceremony, especially as a shared experience among people. It’s ancient. It bypasses the logic of a domesticated mind and speaks to our timeless, wild, human soul. I am grateful for the traditions of healing that have survived colonization through the lines of shamans, witches, healers, priestesses and root doctors. I am grateful for those ancestors. With a full heart I arrive home to air thick with smoke. The air carries an impending stillness, the birds are quieter than normal, and my cats are sleeping inside instead of their preferred outdoors. The heavy thick air has been drying my lungs out. I look outside through these trees and think about the paradox of the stillness I see, and the fury and chaos of a raging fire that is eating the surrounding landscapes north, south and east of where I live. I send prayers, conjure spells and direct my magic to those lands. And donations to The Red Cross. Practical magic. 

I want to share what herbs to drink to protect our hard-working lungs right now. Please consider drinking these – and providing them to folks who are vulnerable like small children, elders, folks who are immune compromised and definitely the asthmatics in your life.
Slippery Elm

Ulmus rubra 

Slippery Elm is one of the best herbs to cool and soothe irritated mucosa. It’s sold at most health food stores / herb shops and most herbalists have it on hand. It’s cooling, soothing, and very moistening. This can help relax the lung tissue in folks suffering from tight hot dry lungs (it’s also brilliant for IBS-like symptoms of the gut). I put a heaping teaspoon into warm (not hot) water. Stir. It gets thick and goopy. That thick mucilaginous stuff is the medicine. Drink it down. If the texture prevents you from swallowing it, mix it in food or make a smoothie drink with it. Just don’t cook it.

*for the sake of health safety for individuals who are immune compromised, put the dried herb in a cup and do cover with boiled water to kill any potential pathogens clinging to the dried herb.

Althea officinalis 

Similar to Slippery Elm, this herb (the root) is slimy and makes a thick drink. It’s cooling, moistening, sweet tasting, and has an amazing relaxant effect on the lungs (actually, the whole body) without being a sedative. It helps to heal tissue of the respiratory and digestive systems (as does slippery elm). I like to combine both Elm and Marshmallow if I have them on hand. Also readily available at health food stores and herb shops. 

If you have the plant in your backyard, you can steep the leaves in hot water and drink as a tea.

Sambucus nigrans 

The berries of the elder tree contain powerful antioxidants that help protect the immune system, sinuses, and respiratory system. Make a strong tea of the berries and drink with a bit of honey to soothe the throat. This herb is a strong antiviral and antiinflammatory.  An article I wrote on elderberry here.

Verbascum thapsus 

One of my all-time favourite herbs. Make a strong brew of the dried leaves (and root if you can get them) but remember to strain through a fine meshed cloth as there are little hairs on the leaves that can irritate the throat. This herb is oh so soothing and relaxes respiratory constriction. This is in all my formulas for asthmatics. It’s a true lung healer. 

Elecampane or Osha
inula helenium & Ligusticum porteri

These two herbs are respiratory stimulants. I would only use them in small amount and in combination with cooling herbs such as slippery elm and marshmallow because they are hot and fiery. However, I’m listing them here because they really can help move stagnation in the lungs and open the airways. I would do one of these or the other, not both. 

(elecampane pic below)

Reishi or Turkey Tail
Ganoderma lucidum & Trametes versicolor

These are both powerful mushrooms, and once again use what you have on hand. Where I live, Turkey Tails grow abundantly in our forests. The best time to harvest is in the cool wet autumn, winter or spring. But if you can get your hands on a tincture or the dried herb of either of these, your body will be happy. If you obtain tincture, take 2 tsp a day. If you have the dried mushroom, simmer it over night in a crock pot or several hours on the stove top, strain, mix with any of the herbs above or mint and / or honey (because it’s a strong taste) and enjoy a few cups a day. These mushrooms help lessen inflammation and increase endurance and strength. Not to mention they are powerful antimicrobials helping to stave away infection and illness. Both of these have a huge range of application, but I’m keeping this short and sweet and to the top today. 

(turkey tail pic below)

Other useful tips:
Stay indoors as best you can particles and toxic gases are in air right now. Use air condition. Obtain a HEPA filtre if possible (craigslist, barter FB groups). Use a mask (like they have in hospitals, or a dusk mask). Keep your kids indoors. Close windows. Do not exert yourself (get back to your running program when the smoke clears. Avoid smoking…anything…to give your lungs a break. Supplement extra Vitamin C & D right now.

The homeopathic remedy called Carbo-Veg in a 30C potency works to take once daily if you have symptoms of “air hunger” or tight lungs, unable to take in a breath. It also helps the body remove toxins from the smoky air. (tip: you don’t need to “believe” in homeopathy for it to work 🙂  )

Sending healing prayers and practical magic to your world,


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