During a serious cold or flu, under the right circumstances, things can take a turn for the worse. The flu settles in your chest and you have a decidedly unpleasant cough that crackles, barks and is painful and exhausting. It is important that you see a doctor at this stage to avoid more serious infections.
Two of the more pressing concerns during a cold or flu this severe are how to get rest and be comfortable and how to avoid serious respiratory infections, such as bronchitis. This salve comes to the rescue in this scenario like a rock star!
The components of the Clear Chest Salve provide comfort, pain relief and a wide-spectrum antibacterial action that absorbs slowly and consistently into the chest administering medicinal constituents directly into the respiratory system where they are needed.
White Horehound, the big player in this salve, is a powerful antispasmodic, reducing the severity of the hacking cough, thus allowing you to rest more comfortably. It has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and has a special affinity for infected respiratory and pulmonary systems. There is documented research on its ability to draw out mucous, phlegm and other humours from the lungs and bronchi.
In a double boiler (or a pot nestled in a larger pot filled with a bit of water) over medium heat, add the oils and beeswax.
Stir until the beeswax melts and is fully incorporated.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a moment.
Add the essential oils. Stir.
Pour into clean and sterilised jars.
White Horehound: tonic, aromatic, antispasmodic, anticatarrhal, draws out excess mucous from the lungs and bronchi
Sage: affinity for sore throats and cough, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, relaxant, nervine
Thyme: analgesic, antibacterial, antitussive, antispasmodic, expectorant, nervine
Eucalyptus: antibacterial, decongestant, affinity for respiratory system, anti-inflammatory
During cold and flu season it is important to take care of comfort and avoid secondary infections. This spray is a champion on both counts. We have been using this spray for many years in my family. It is adapted from a recipe in Rosemary Gladstar’s book Medicinal Herbs.
For a dry, scratchy throat, it can be very soothing. For an angry, hot and inflamed throat it can be very cooling. For a painful sore throat, it can relieve that pain quickly. It has the added benefit of three antivirals that go to work on any throat or mouth infection reducing the risk of more serious secondary infections.
I find this throat spray a necessary part of our Herbal First Aid Kit.
Mix together the Echinacea tincture and honey.
Add the peppermint oil drop by drop until the spray has the right flavour for your taste.
Pour the liquid into a spray bottle.
Shake well before each use.
Spray directly into the back of the mouth, toward the throat, once every half hour or as needed.
Keep in the refrigerator.
This should last up to six weeks refrigerated.
Echinacea: immunostimulant, antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial. It has an affinity for bronchial and respiratory infections as well as throat and overall oral infections. It has a full complement of polysaccharides, which help protect cells against invasion by viruses and bacteria.
Peppermint: analgesic (pain relief), antiviral, antispasmodic, coolant, antibacterial, antifungal
Honey: vulnerary (wound healing), antiviral, antibacterial, high viscosity provides a barrier protecting against infection
Echinacea has been the subject of extensive research for many decades. Lauded for many years as the go to cold and flu prevention plant, comprehensive research has confirmed that “Echinacea raises the body’s natural resistance to infection by stimulating and aiding immune function. It works, in part, by increasing macrophage and T-cell activity, the body’s first line of defense against foreign antigens.” -Rosemary Gladstar
As critical concerns of immune issues worldwide grow and irresponsible over-harvesting continues, ethical management of Echinacea and wild-crafting of its constituent parts must be taken into consideration when working with this powerful plant. I grow both medicinal varieties in my garden: Echinacea angustifolia and E. purpurea. I harvest the aerial parts (flower, leaf and seed) of E. purpurea and will soon harvest the root of my small E. angustifolia. When I need more root than I have, I look online for ethical sources.
Echinacea is not only a strong medicinal, but the plant provides tons of fun for our whole family. Many days during the hot summer months, you can see the entire Coyan family participating in one of our favourite pastimes: bee petting. Bees, especially big, fat, fluffy bumblebees, are positively drunk on Echinacea. They are so overtaken by the intoxicating nature of the flower that it is possible to leisurely pet the bees as they feast on the nectar. This and looking at clouds top my list of Greatest Ever Things To Do.
This tincture should be taken at the first sign of cold or flu, taken often and in small doses at the onset for it to be effective at warding off the illness, or a couple of times a day if you are in close proximity to others who are sick.
Grind or chop the plant material as finely as possible. I use my juicer to grind the dried plant material.
Add the plant material to the jar: Dried- fill 1/2 of jar
Fresh- fill the entire jar
Add the alcohol. Fill to the brim. Keep an eye on it for the next several minutes and keep adding alcohol until all the plant material is covered.
Seal well and label with the plant name, date, percent and type of alcohol and the date 6 weeks out.
Shake the jar daily and store in a cool, dark place.
After 6 weeks, strain out plant material and decant the tincture into sterilised bottles for use.
Label bottles with the tincture name.
I prefer to make a tincture from the whole plant, thus I combine the root and aerial parts tinctures. This allows for the overall effectiveness of the tincture to be increased simply because different parts of the plant have differing strengths of similar properties.
Echinacea is an immunostimulant, antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial. It has an affinity for bronchial and respiratory infections as well as throat and overall oral infections. It has a full complement of polysaccharides, which help protect cells against invasion by viruses and bacteria. Other key constituents are: sesquiterpenes, linoleic acid, tannins, beta-carotene and Vitamin C.
Yesterday, the family and I hiked to a meadow replete with Red Clover. I use Red Clover in many of my recipes: Skin Solution Salve, Detox Tea, Red Clover Tincture and many more.
On the way, we got to see a lizard, a hornet nest and some drunk woodsmen. And the girls say we never take them anywhere good.
We grabbed plastic bags and picked our year’s supply. They are waiting on trays now to be dehydrated and put into jars.
Wildcrafting here in our area is easy and abundant.
Our bodies know what they need and are fully equipped under the right circumstances to heal themselves. Having said this, we do not live in ideal situations and often our bodies are overtaxed, worn out, under-nourished, stressed, dehydrated, exhausted, blocked up or suffering from a thousand other maladies that keep the body from recovering as it should. Herbs support a body’s natural instinct to regenerate.
Most of the time our body knows what it is doing, but we suppress its work because we are uncomfortable or we have been told that it is bad for us to have, for example, a fever.
When talking about fevers, we have to look at what the body is trying to do. If your body is heating up, it means that it has identified something unwanted and is trying to get rid of it by “cooking it out”. This is a process that should be encouraged. Obviously, there is a limit to how high a fever should get and how many days one should have a sustained fever. If you have a really high fever or are not seeing any improvement after three days, you should definitely see your doctor.
When we are uncomfortable it is only natural to want the discomfort to go away. In America, it is normal for us to take medicine to get rid of a fever. This is only suppressing what the body knows it should do, thus delaying true recovery.
This tea formula works with your body’s fever response, encourages a fever while addressing the uncomfortable symptoms, decreasing recovery time in a way that works with your body, not against it.
1 part dried and ground Yarrow leaves and flowers
1 part dried and ground Mint leaves and stems
1 part dried and ground Elderflowers
Use a heaping tablespoon per cup of tea.
Allow the tea to steep covered for 10 minutes or longer.
Drink up to 5 times a day during an acute illness or two to three times a day as a preventative measure against colds and flu.
During a fever, Yarrow acts as a powerful diaphoretic (fever supporter), antimicrobic and analgesic (pain relief).
Mint is a gentle diaphoretic, helping the natural system of fever to kill off vieruses and bacteria. It is a nervine, calming anxiety and tension. It is antibacterial and antiseptic and active against a wide range of bacteria.
Elderflower supports the immune system. The flowers are contain powerful antiviral and antimicrobials, they eliminate toxins and heat, drawing heat out from the periphery. They are anti-inflammatory and protect against irritation and stress with their antispasmodic and astringent actions.
This tea is a must have for cold and flu season and is an excellent support, decreasing the duration and severity of colds and flus as well as supporting the body’s natural fever response.
If you live in České Budějovice or nearby, please join us for the next Herbal Seminar. This workshop will focus on herbal remedies for the cold and flu season, specifically Echinacea Throat Spray for sore throats and coughs, Fever Doctor Tea to support the body during a fever and Clear Chest Salve against respiratory distress.
I will work with each participant, teaching how to create these remedies on your own and each person will leave with the products they have made.
I look forward to seeing you there!
In our neck of the woods, South Bohemia, treasure lies all around us. Here are the top eight medicinal herbs found on any walk around most areas where I live. I use these herbs in my daily life at home with my family, in making remedies for my friends and clients and they are the ones that are most pointed out when I do nature walks with fellow seekers.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) Jetel luční
Red clover can be found from mid to late summer in almost any empty field here in S. Bohemia. Pick from the center of an unsprayed field, not by edges of a field where cars or pets could have been. The flower heads and top leaves should be harvested when the flowers are a vibrant purple with no brown spots. Dry the flowers in a dehydrator or on trays in a warm dry area. Discard any brown flower heads and store the dried flowers in airtight jars or boxes.
Red Clover is an excellent addition to teas and can also be used in tinctures and salves.
Medicinal Actions: blood purifier, antitussive, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, affinity for cleansing metabolic waste, affinity for disorders of the skin, eases symptoms during menopause.
Plantain (Plantago major, Plantago lanceolata) Jitrocel
Considered an invasive weed, Plantain is a mainstay in my herbal repertoire. You literally cannot go 5 feet in our area without seeing a patch of plantain. It thrives on bad soil and cramped quarters. Poking out of stone pathways and asphalt, plantain is OK with neglect. I harvest plantain in the forest where big patches of gorgeous green leaves grow. I prefer this plantain as it hasn’t been mussed by car exhaust and pets.
Plantain is excellent chewed up and used as a poultice on a fresh bee sting or mosquito bite. It is great famine food if you are on a hike and super hungry. Its seeds are the producers of psyllium, for when you are a bit blocked up.
Harvest plantain when you can, dry it and use it throughout the year in teas, as poultices and in salves or oils.
Medicinal Actions: antitoxin, draws out toxins from the body, demulcent, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, affinity for easing itchiness, rich in tannins (helps draw tissues together to stop bleeding) and allantoin (a compound that promotes healing of injured skin cells)
Comfrey (Symphytum) Kostival
Comfrey has been used for centuries as a powerful vulnerary. Its use as a healing plant has been written about since 50 AD. In folk medicine it is referred to as knitbone as it has a special affinity for bones and sinewy structures and is the perfect remedy for sprains, strains, bumps and broken bones. I have saved my stubbed toes so often with Comfrey. Wrapping a sprained ankle in fresh Comfrey leaves overnight will bring about great results the next morning. Comfrey grows all around us in the forest where I live. I grow it in my garden, as well. Near by, there are man-made lakes that seem to attract Comfrey near the banks. I have found two types of Comfrey which are Symphytum officinale and Symphytum tuberosum. S.tuberosum is much smaller with yellow flowers and is documented as a much stronger plant medicinally. This I have begun to cultivate in my garden, but in the forest near my home along the banks of the Vltava River, it grows in abundance in May. I pick it in bushels and dry it, make oils and salves from it and rub it on any wounded person I meet!
Medicinal Actions: speeds healing due to its concentration of allantoin which promotes granulation and cell regeneration, it is high in Vitamin C and Calcium and is anti-inflammatory.
Safety note: due to its high levels of pyrrolizidine it should not be taken internally as it could damage the liver in extreme cases. It should not be put on open and infected wounds as it heals so rapidly that it will close up a wound with the infection still inside.
Burdock grows right next to the Comfrey I find lining the path to the forest. It is a biennial plant that produces leaves and thistle flowers that turn into the coolest sticky burrs you’ll ever see. These burrs were the inspiration for the invention of Velcro due to their hooks. We spend many fall walks throwing them at each other to see how many we can get to stick. The roots are harvested the first year in the fall and the flower heads (fruits) are harvested the following fall.
Burdock root is most useful for urinary tract disorders and for blood and lymph cleansing. It has been used for ages in Asian cuisine and is a delicious and nutritious food. Traditional Chinese Medicine has inspired the use of this herb, and it is now well known in Western Hebalism.
Medicinal Actions: Lowers blood pressure, aids in digestion, promotes hormone balance, detoxifies liver, supports skin health, boosts immune system.
Safety note: there is a rare allergy to Burdock so please consult your doctor before adding Burdock to your wellness regime.
In 2007, Krista Coyan along with her husband and two young daughters sold their house in California and everything they owned to move to the Czech Republic to work as teachers on a two-year teaching assignment. Ten years later, Krista has gone from teaching English in the local zakladni skola to becoming the director of the primary school at Townshend International School in Hluboka. She has studied herbalism for many years and makes several herbal products for family and friends. She recently received her Herbalism Certificate from the Herbal Academy of New England.
Q: You originally planned to stay only two years. Why did you decide to stay for the long-term?
K: We really appreciate so many things about living in the Czech Republic. For example, the culture is very genuine. We had many friends in California, but relationships there tended to be more superficial and materialistic. Here we have fewer friends, but they are deeper and more genuine relationships. It is also a much safer place than where we are from. In California, I wouldn’t feel safe letting my daughters go walking alone in town, but here I feel absolutely safe. I also really enjoy the nature and the Czech appreciation of natural things, like collecting mushrooms and berries in the forest.
Q: How did you get involved with herbalism?
K: My older daughter Rebekah was diagnosed 5 years ago with a chemical imbalance in her brain and was put on several strong medications. These have serious side effects and this led me to search for other ways to treat her condition. I began studying and taking courses in herbalism, learning about the amazing plants that grow all around us that can be used for so many different conditions. I recently received my herbal certification and plan to take a Master’s-level herbalism course over the next three years.
Q: Are there herbs growing here in Czech that are useful?
K: Absolutely. Most of the herbs I use in my products I find in the forest and meadows near our house. Amazing herbs like plantain, comfrey, nettles, St. John’s Wort, yarrow, burdock, and red clover are easily found throughout the country. I also grow plants like calendula, feverfew, and Echinacea in my garden which naturalize and grow almost without any care.
Q: What types of products do you make?
K: I make many different types of tinctures, salves, and teas. My favorite products include my Healing Herbal Salve, Stings and Bites Salve, Thyme Cough Syrup, Calendula Face Cream, Cold and Flu tincture, and Sleepytime Tea.
Q: Are these difficult to make?
L: Not at all. My goal is not to sell products, but to teach people how to make them themselves. Most things only require a few ingredients and less than an hour in the kitchen.
Q: Do you need any special equipment?
K: No. Most things you can do by hand and a stove. For example, I have a dehydrator that runs constantly from spring to fall to dry my herbs, but you could also hang them in a dry place. I also use some attachments for our Sana 707 horizontal juicer that let me press my own oil and grind my herbs to a fine powder, something I used to use a mortar and pestle to do.
Q: Tell us about your upcoming herbal workshop in Prague.
K: At our workshop, I will show how to make three different products: Echinacea Throat Spray, Fever Buster Tea, and Clear Chest Salve. I limit it to a smaller group so everyone will get a chance to see how it is done, and then can take home the completed products.
Q: Do you teach the workshop in Czech?
K: I have someone translating to make sure it is accurate. However, I’ve been speaking Czech for 10 years and most of the questions and answers and one-on-one conversations are in Czech.