Updated: Apr 16, 2021
Resiliency is the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands.
Here in Northern California, we have entered the fire season. Thick smoke, dark skies, and ash have filled the skies up and down the state. With so many fires burning during this dry season, there is no way to predict how bad they can spread and how many people's lives will be impacted. With the global pandemic already causing much unease to folks living here in the state and across the globe, it's becoming even more important for us to take time to nurture ourselves.
Short and long-term exposure to smoke can lead to lung and throat irritation due to its hot and dry energy. The smoke is often filled with tiny particles of pollution that further cause further stress onto the entire body. It's important to remember that our respiratory system is susceptible and always directly connected with the outside world. It is also directly interconnected with the lymphatic system- which works to filter the blood and keep the body free of pathogens. Not to mention that exposure to fire, smoke, and high toxins is a fearful experience that causes the nervous system to jump into a sympathetic state.
How do you know if you're affected by the smoke?
Watery or dry eyes
Persistent cough, phlegm, wheeze, scratchy throat, or irritated sinuses
Shortness of breath, asthma attack, or lung irritation
Irregular heartbeat, chest pain, or fatigue
For more information on the way the nervous system functions under stress and how you can better support yourself with nervines and adaptogenic herbs during hard times- check out my other blog: https://www.rootgirlherbals.com/post/remaining-resilient-in-troubling-times
Caring for ourselves during these hard times can look a lot of different ways for different folks. Smoke exposure and increased stress will make us feel more fatigued- emotionally and physically. I believe it's best to follow your own intuition and focus on your needs. Rest when you need to. Disconnect when you need to. Take baths. Drink more water. Rely on plant ritual to pull you through. Simple herbal remedies can help support healing damaged lungs, soothe the nerves, and move through grief.
The plants are here to hold us and help guide us through difficult times.
Anti-oxidants – Smoke causes inflammation via oxidative damage, so increasing your anti-oxidant intake is a simple first line of defense. In addition to your standard supplements, many herbs and plant foods contain copious amounts of Vitamin C and other anti-oxidants. rose (leaf, petal, hip), elderberries, tulsi, goji berries, and stinging nettles are all great choices that can be used as food, beverage, and medicine.
Nourishing Herbal Infusions
Our modern lifestyle, with tons of chronic stressors and pollutants, increases our need for micronutrients. Our bodies require more B vitamins and magnesium to manage. We also need more B vitamins, selenium, and antioxidants to detox from the chemicals and pathogens we are exposed to daily. Giving your body the optimal nutrients that it needs daily will increase energy, resistance, mental clarity, stamina, balance and support the body’s major systems.
Nutritive herbs are a class of herbs known for their high amounts of minerals, trace minerals, and certain vitamins. When these plant materials are infused in hot water for hours, they naturally provide a nutritious broth-like liquid that is easy to digest and assimilate. A nourishing herbal infusion is different from an herbal tea/tisane. It is easy to make, takes about five minutes prep a day, and provides optimal nourishment. Nutrient-rich herbs add an extra dimension to your daily regimen and work synergistically to support overall health.
To make a nourishing herbal infusion, place about ¼ cup of dried herb into a quart jar. Fill it with boiling water, put a lid on it, and let it steep for 4-8 hours. Then strain out the plant material, compost it, and enjoy one or more cups of the liquid daily. Infusions are delicious warm or cold and can be sweetened with honey or any other natural sweetener.
● Stinging nettle is reputed to have more chlorophyll than any other herb. Chlorophyll is only one molecule away from the iron carrying hemoglobin. They also contain an abundance of vitamins A, C, D, and K, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, and iron. They are also a kidney tonic and diuretic- which can help with edema and supports the kidneys in gently eliminating toxins. Its high magnesium and calcium content support the nervous system.
● Alfalfa is a wonderful nervous system tonic; alfalfa acts as a cellular de-stressor with its high potassium content. Potassium is a mineral that allows nerve cells to relax; without this vital nutrient, the nervous system would be in a constant state of excitation. Potassium helps regulate a cycle of work and rest in the nervous system, helping the body cope with various stresses at any given time. Alfalfa also contains healthy amounts of calcium and magnesium, specifically for bone formation. These two nutrients have a special symbiotic relationship, where one helps with the absorption and assimilation of the other. Calcium sold in supplement form is often paired with magnesium for this reason. ● Milky Oats contain vitamins A, C, E, & B and the minerals calcium, zinc, iron, and magnesium. They act upon the nervous system as a nourishing tonic and have a normalizing effect on the entire physiology. The relaxing and nourishing qualities of oats ease emotions like fear, anxiety and can help with nervous stress, exhaustion, and insomnia. Demulcents will effectively soothe, cool, and moisten dried-out mucous membranes in the respiratory tract. These are best prepared as a cold infusion, as they fully extract the mucilage from the plant matter. Mucilage works to coat delicate tissue it comes in contact with- mainly the throat and stomach lining. They are also very hydrating to the body when tissues are dehydrated, inflamed, and irritated.
Slippery Elm Bark
Marshmallow Leaf + Root
To make a cold infusion- add 4 Tbsp of dried herb to a jar and cover with 4 cups of cool water. Cover and leave overnight. Strain in the morning, making sure to squeeze all the gooey goodness out. Store in the fridge and use within 3 days.
Respiratory Relaxants relieve symptoms of respiratory tension, spasming, and the inability to take a deep breath.
Lobelia (in drop doses of tincture)
Peach Leaf Tea
Mulberry Leaf Tea
Elecampane Root is a general lung tonic. It is indicated where the cough is moist, which is rare for those suffering from wildfire exposure, but, nonetheless, dampness in the lungs can happen for those who have pre-existing respiratory conditions.
Reishi lessens inflammation and nervous system reactivity while increasing lung capacity, endurance, and energy. Reishi is an adaptogen with an affinity for the respiratory system. As such, it is best used consistently over time. Reishi has a wide range of actions, but is a true ally to those affected by wildfire smoke exposure because of how it increases energy, decreases inflammation, calms the nervous system, and the way it protects and heals the lungs.
Yerba Santa opens up the lungs and removes accumulated phlegm. I like to use it as steam to help relieve congestion and excess phlegm. Yerba Santa is indicated for moist coughs, where the reflexes are becoming weak and struggling to bring up phlegm or when the throat is raw. Since yerba santa dries up the membranes, I like to combine it with moisturizing demulcent herbs such as marshmallow or licorice to give it balance.
Spikenard acts as a mild adaptogen with a particular affinity for the mucosa of the respiratory tract. It works best when given long-term, especially where there are signs of fatigue, chronic inflammation, and overall deficiency. I’ve used it as a tincture, elixir, infused honey, and decoction, and all preparations work well. The key is consistency over time.
Steams are an effective remedy to help clear the lungs of congestion as well as moisten dry tissue. Their warming energy gently penetrates the mucosa of the body. I prefer to steam with whole plants over essential oils. It allows me to use what I have growing in my bioregion or garden, and they are generally safer for the body due to the oils being less concentrated. Additionally, you can make them with fresh or dried plant material.
To create a steam pot: pour water into a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer. Sprinkle in handfuls of herbs into the water and stir until they are completely submerged. Cover the pot and turn off the heat. Allow the plants to steep for about 15 minutes in the water. Put a towel or thick blanket over your head, and close your eyes, putting your face over the steaming pot. Take long and slow breathes of the steam. Take breaks as needed. Repeat 3-5 times.
The steam pot can be left on the counter or on the stove to continue steaming your house. It leaves a pleasant aroma and keeps killing microbes.