Pacific School of Herbal Medicine Masthead
Angelica sp.

Angelica sp.

Clinical Plant Tidbits

Hops (humulus lupulus or americana)
is a good sleep inducer. Best prepared as freeze dried capsules (available from Eclectic Institute, Sandy, Oregon). Dosage 4 caps, 1 hour before attempting sleep. Besides helping with short term insomnia and with trouble falling asleep (increased sleep latency in medicalese), it will help with long-term severe insomnia from depression, chronic fatigue syndrome and many mild and moderate disorders. It usually doesn't help when there is a reset of diurnal rhythm, with post traumatic stress disorder, elevated corticotrophin release hormone, or sleeplessness due to mild or strong elevations in thyroid hormones.
Mullein (verbascum thapsis)
Excellent simple for asthma. Hot infuse 1/2 - 1oz dried leaves in a quart of water per day, infused for at least an hour. Drop dose for children. Drink in 2-3 portions daily. Simple, gentle, and very effective if used over time. Also a good support tea for those whose asthma is in remission, when they are challenged by allergies or particulate irritation. It will cool out mild wheezing short term and often its attendant snoring.
I learned of this use while hanging out in an herb market in the Mission district of San Francisco. This neighborhood is home to a large Latino population, and a lot of hipsters of many backgrounds (I pass for a hipster.) While pretending to work there, an older Latina woman, asked me where the Gordo Lobo was. Handing her the jar of Mullein, another name for Gordo Lobo, I asked her how she uses it. She replied that she gave it daily to all the people with asthma in her extended family. She said it kept them breathing well. I often learn more disguised as a clerk, than presenting myself as an herbalist. As ever, grandmothers' remedies rock.
Osha (ligusticum porterii)
Increases oxygenation of the blood. Dosage 5-30 drops up to 6x daily (do not use in pregnancy as it can cause uterine contractions) Fresh root, nibbled appropriately. Syrup, ad libitum (Take Freely).
Osha root increases alveolar gas exchange increasing the oxygenation of the blood. This action has broad applications that are very helpful.
  1. Altitude Sickness: Any of us from low elevations who dig this high mountain root and have chewed a fresh piece while harvesting have experienced how quickly it works. Most people notice an increase in mental clarity, decrease in headaches and dizziness, malaise, lack of hunger, and an increased ability to do aerobic exercise within minutes of taking osha. Its efficacy already excellent, is improved by taking some red root concurrently. Drinking a lot of water helps also.
  2. Pneumonia: both acute and recuperative stages. Clients will see an increased ability to tolerate exertion, and increased mobility. This herb seems to lessen alveolar edema, or at least helps compensate for it by increasing gas exchange in the rest of the lungs.
  3. Post operative Pulmonary Alveolar Edema: When clients have been on artificial respiration during surgery they loose surface area of the lungs where gas transport happens. Fluid leaks into the lungs, filling some alveoli. The situation is much the same as in pneumonia. Loss of surface area in the lung for gas exchange. Increasing blood oxygenation by increasing gas exchange through the intact alveoli, Osha helps the client's energy return quicker. Post operative lethargy decreases for clients who have had abdominal surgery or intestinal resectioning: they don't get as tired walking around the hospital floor. Walking promotes better intestinal peristalsis and healing. They can get more exercise. Normalizing bowel function more quickly through exercise will allow these clients to be discharged from the hospital sooner. Shorter hospital stay, lower medical bills, and clients happy to be back at home sooner. Very helpful for pulmonary edema after cardiac surgery too.
  4. Asthma: often viewed as an inflammatory or allergic disease, the bottom line is the clients' ability to breathe successfully enough to meet their needs. These needs range from staying alive to being very physically active. The bottom line in asthma is hypoxemia. Osha is a supportive secondary herb in lessening the use of or replacing standard inhalers for acute asthma attacks. For mild to moderate and sometimes severe attacks try Osha tincture by the mouthful with tincture of fresh grindelia flowers (grindelia spp.), 1:2, dosage 1-3 tablespoons, or tincture of fresh horehound (marrubium vulgare), 1:2, 2-3 tablespoons, or juice of fresh horsetail (equisetum spp.) 2-4 tablespoons.
  5. Quality of Life: for people dying of invasive lung cancer. Osha will not treat the malignancy, nor can I claim that clients dying of mesothelioma live longer from using osha. I have found that clients who have lost a lot of lung tissue to both surgery and cancer, and who are facing mild respiratory depression from the very appropriate use of opiates to lessen pain in the very end of their lives benefit from Osha. They get more blood oxygenation, which leads to more mental clarity. It gives a little more comfort and a little more time awake to visit with loved ones, and that is precious time for a family when death is expected within a few days.
The bottom line in asthma, postoperative pulmonary edema, and altitude sickness is hypoxemia (lack of blood oxygen). Osha increases PO2. You can see this easily by measuring someone's PO2 with laser pulse oximetry, which measures blood oxygen saturation. Give your client some Osha, wait five minutes and measure the PO2 again.
Horsetail (Equisetum sp.)
Harvesting: Pick it in a clean area. Best time to harvest is midsummer when plants are large but still somewhat succulent. Contrary to modern herbal pseudo-factoid, the plant is safe to use internally when picked midsummer. Picking when plant is large lets us get more medicine while disturbing fewer plants than if picking when the plants are small and young. It is considerate of the plant and habitat to pick this way. (This modern American herbal-factoid goes something like this: "As this plant ages the silica crystals get too big. Those big silica crystals can do harm to the kidneys.")
Horsetail (equisetum sp.)

Horsetail (equisetum sp.)

I have never seen this be an issue nor have any of the scores of herbalists I've asked. Consider: The silica from the plant will be mostly solution not in crystal form in tea or fresh plant juice. Any silica crystals that make it into the tea, or juice, or that precipitate into existence from the extract in the intestines will be too large to be absorbed through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream. The intestinal cell walls and the gap junction between them serve as a barrier to keep silica crystals out of the bloodstream and thus from getting to the kidneys.
If there were holes in the intestines large enough to let silica crystals pass through, our poor client would not be in need of an herbalist. They would be in the emergency room or ICU being treated for acute peritonitis with sepsis. That is to say, the silica crystals in this tea are only an issue for those clients with acutely perforated intestines.
This is a good example of how some knowledge of anatomy and physiology can help the thinking herbalist to harvest more ecologically. Less damage to plants, more medicine, happier habitat, and more time for the wildcrafter to sit in wild hot springs, watch dragonflies and hawks, or just doze off. Our intellectual knowledge of bodies should be integrated with our environmental concerns as harvesters. Our care for land, our concern for habitat should fuel our study of every aspect of health care. So, harvest these plants midsummer when they are large.
Preparation and Uses:
Hot infusion and succus or fresh juice preserved with alcohol: a remedy for chronic and acute asthma respectively.
infuse 1/3-1oz per day of dry herb in a quart of water for at least 1 hour.
Use: chronic asthma
Horsetail infusion is a safe, gentle anti-inflammatory for chronic low-grade to moderate asthma. Drunk daily alone or with mullein, this tea will calm most moderate asthma, reducing wheezing, chest tightness, and allergic hyper-responsiveness and attendant snoring. While best used over months, many people will find their wheezing backs off in an hour or two after drinking a pint of this tea. Acutely more effective when the wheezing is from mold and plant allergies, it will help some people, sometime a little and once in awhile a lot with cat induced wheezing.
Succus or Fresh Juice:
Dreadful and difficult, and worth the effort. I have tried to juice this plant with hand mills and manual wheat grass juicers to no avail. I have always broken the mills and gotten just a few teaspoons of juice. Some vigorous electric juicers work well, but juicing horsetail shortens their life. It would be worth buying a juicer with a good warranty, and returning it after each season or two of horsetail juicing. Preserve each four parts of horsetail juice with one part of 95% grain alcohol.
1-3 tablespoons, practically, take a large mouth full.
Unlike the dry tea, the fresh juice of horsetail can break down riboflavin, and should not be used long term, or short term by pregnant or nursing women.
Use: Acute asthma attacks
For the attack that would normally send you scrambling desperately for an inhaler. If you can wait 5 minutes before going to a hospital and don't need to consider a tracheotomy this is an excellent remedy. It rates up there with Datura smoke. It works well when the trigger is environmental, particulate exposure, or allergic, including molds dust and cats.
Significant relief usually takes 5 minutes with continued improvement over the next 15 to 20 minutes. Take a second dose a half hour after the first for good measure. The relief from bronchial spasms and inflammation is improved and speeded up by taking with an aromatic cough syrup. I prefer osha or California Spikenard syrup. Take these syrups by the mouthful.
Horsetail has not been commonly used in modern American mainstream herbal medicine for asthma. Tea and juice are used for asthma in German herbal medicine. The tea is used as a remedy for pediatric asthma in Japan. I have seen tea used for asthma in Puerto Rican communities and in African American communities that are in proximity to Puerto Rican communities.
Ambrosia spp. Common Ragweed
Its use internally for lessening acute secondary allergic responses to pollen allergies is well known to herbalists, both mainstream and Californian Native/Hispanic. Its a wonder it hasn't been embraced by the mainstream herb marketers (take the hint). It quickly relieves the burning itchy eyes and eustachian tubes, and slows the copious fluid discharge from eyes and nose. It usually works within fifteen minutes. Puts eyebright (euphrasia) to shame and is far more abundant. Ambrosia is a common weed throughout North America. It gives small but helpful relief to asthmatics with cat allergies. It wont stop their wheezing but does add a little kick to more appropriate herbs. It will lessen the itching in those hard to reach places between the back of the throat and the middle ear that can drive sufferers to maddening pursuit of methods to scratch "back in there"
Ambrosia works by stabilizing mast cells. It keeps them from secreting histamines and leukotrines that cause the familiar itching and burning sensation. Mast cells have a life cycle. Most of them live quiescently below the surface of the mucosa where they gently mind their own business of regulating local tissue function with out bothering anyone. A few of them migrate to the surface where they mature and are easy to irritate. Irritated mast cells will call their quiet coworkers to action on the surface when irritated to create a histaminic uprising in response to a few harmless bits of botanical genetic matter.
Understanding this gives rise to a second use for ambrosia: allergy prevention. Take 1-3 squirts of Ambrosia tincture 3x/day for at least two weeks before allergy season starts for you. Ambrosia stabilizes the mast cells, keeping more of them quiescently working in the background and less of them ready to be irritable on the mucosal surface. Properly prepared the upper respiratory mucosa do not get as inflamed and irritated by pollens. A great many gardeners, arborists, and professional outdoor guides swear by this use of ambrosia.