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.
Ground herbs have a wide variety of uses. You can use them for seasonings, make your own teas, infuse them in oil for salves, even make your own herbal tinctures. In the past, I always used my big mortar and pestle or even scissors. Recently, my husband asked me why I don’t use our juicer, since it has a screen for grinding herbs. I had seen him use it to make cashew butter and salsa, but never realized it could grind herbs as well. So I tried it, and really couldn’t believe the difference. Because it ground my herbs more finely, there is more surface area for the herbs to interact with the menstruum (the liquid: oil, alcohol etc…). I noticed it right away in my infused oils and salves, which were a much more vibrant color, thus denoting a more medicinal infusion.
We like to collect and dry our own herbs to make natural herbal teas. Some of the plants we gather and dehydrate that we use for tea include Echinacea, yarrow, comfrey, chamomile, mint, and nettles. I also noticed that my teas I made using the juicer were stronger, since the water could infuse more of the finely-ground herbs.
If you own a horizontal juicer, give it a try!
My husband Dan’s face is in the sun constantly. For decades he has been hiking, biking and running every day outside no matter the weather. About 10 years ago, some spots showed up on his face that were sore, would peel and bleed. We were already living in the Czech Republic and weren’t sure what to do. We spoke with our general practitioner about it and he made an appointment for us with his mum (!) who is a dermatologist. When we arrived a few weeks later for our appointment, our general practitioner was there to meet us at his mum’s office. He was dressed super casually and holding his dog. His mum was really old school but funny as she was constantly bickering with her son during our appointment. He told her she was suffering from dementia and she told him to kiss her bleep. It was entertaining.
She looked at Dan’s spots and said not to worry and gave him some cream. We left laughing and happy that we have some cream and got to see the reality show that is our doctor’s home life.
Dan used the cream for a while and it worked well. The spots diminished and caused him no more problems. Unfortunately, on our trip to the United States that year, Dan accidentally left his cream at his dad’s house. Dan is not one to voluntarily go to the doctor, so he hasn’t had the special cream for years now.
Because my husband won’t go to the doctor, I researched medicinal herbs for skin irritation and precancerous cells. This formula works well, diminishes the spots and keeps them from pain, peeling and bleeding. When Dan doesn’t use it, the spots worsen.
Remember, I am not a doctor. Dan needs to see the doctor about his skin. If anyone has ideas about how to get a stubborn man to the doctor, please leave them in a comment below. Until then, I will help him with this herbal remedy.
Skin Solution Salve
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.
Safety: Mistletoe should not be used internally
Mistletoe (Viscum album): neuralgic and rheumatic pain reliever, rubefacient and vasodilator, nervine. Research is being conducted through clinical trials regarding mistletoe’s effectiveness against cancerous cells.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense): blood cleansing, pain reliever with an affinity for psoriasis and eczema, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and aid against skin cancer.
Clary Sage (Salvia sclerea): anticancer, nervine, antispasmodic, antioxidant.
Frankincense (Boswellia sacra): anti-inflammatory, nervine, vulnerary, cytophylactic, cicatrisant.
Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha): anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, research is underway regarding its potential anticancer benefits.