Herb Support for Respiratory System and Body in Prairie Burn Season. 

Topeka herbalist Joanne Bauman* has provided us the following information about how to use herbs to treat the short and long term irritating and allergic effects of smoke from Kansas prairie burning. 

Driving through the Flint Hills to Manhattan , the smoke from Spring prairie burns is thick and lingering. The foggy haze engulfs Kansas this time of year. Our respiratory systems become assaulted with this noxious stimulant and can trigger allergic type reactions, irritation and damage to sensitive mucosa. Coughing, bronchial spasms, scratchy throat, sinus irritation, sneezing or runny nose, headaches, stinging and burning eyes, are just some of the symptoms of short-term or long-term smoke exposure. Long-term inflammation can lead to secondary health issues (e.g., immune system) as well. People who have asthma, COPD pulmonary obstructive disease, emphysema, heart disease, or even seasonal allergies will be extra susceptible.

When the body is under stress or environmental assault, it is important to nourish your body with good nutrition, high quality whole foods such as bone broth and fermented foods. Get adequate rest and push fluids (drink water!!).  Nourishing  herbal daily infusions, such as Mullein leaf, Nettle leaf, Oatstraw or Linden are an excellent source of absorbable vitamins and minerals, combat fatigue, ease nerves, and support numerous bodily systems (respiratory, adrenal, immune, cardio-vascular, endocrine, etc).

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus).  Mullein Leaves are an excellent tonic for the entire respiratory system. To soothe and relieve  hacky or wheezing cough, throat irritation and lung problems try drinking 2-3 cups of Mullein Leaf infusion daily. As an expectorant, Mullein aids the lungs in expelling mucous and phlegm. To strengthen the lungs, or to restore health to lung tissues after "assaults" such as tobacco smoke or radiation: 1-2 cups of mullein infusion daily for six weeks is suggested. To relieve allergies and asthma, 2-4 cups of Mullein infusion every day for 6-8 weeks is helpful. Mullein Leaves are fuzzy, so either use a muslin bag for making your infusions, or strain through tightly-woven cloth (cheesecloth or even a coffee filter) before drinking. Drink warm or cool according to preference. In addition, a compress made from plant strained from the infusion, can be applied to the chest to ease congestion. A warm poultice of leaf can be applied to swollen glands.  (Peoples’ carries cut and sifted Mullein Leaf.)

Lemon Balm, (Melissa officinalis).  Fresh Lemon Balm is much better than dry, for it loses its fragrance in drying.  Drink Lemon Balm as a tea, use in tincture form, or infused honey, or as a bath tea.  Lemon Balm is mood boosting, uplifting, calming and nourishing to the nerves. For headaches, Lemon Balm tea or a handful in some white wine, helps ease the pain. Other herbal nervines like Skullcap tincture in low doses can sometimes relieve headaches. Lemon Balm assists energetically in healing from the effects of smoke/smoking, so try rubbing Lemon Balm infused oil on your chest.  (Available at People’s Grocery dried and just emerging, fresh from our herb garden.  It makes a delicate and delicious tea by itself or combined with other herbs like Oatstraw or Nettle with a bit of honey.)

Marshmallow Root (Althaea officinalis).   Malvas /mallows are cooling, soothing demulcents--relieving inflammation or irritation to lungs, dry tissue, mucous membrane. You can use the dried root, leaves and flowers in infusions and the powdered root in honey pastes/balls to help moisten the lungs and soothe dry tissues. To make a mallow root cold infusion , simply fill a jar 1/4 of the way with dried marshmallow root. Then fill the jar with lukewarm water and cover with a lid.  Let sit for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight. The water should change color to a soft yellow.  Strain off the roots.  The resulting liquid should be thick and viscous.  Marshmallow can boost the immune system, soothe an inflamed sore throat and moisten the lungs in cases of dry hot conditions, such as hot coughs with little to no expectoration.  (People’s carries cut and sifted Marshmallow Root.)

Elms.  Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra), and allied elm species (Red Elm ,Siberian Elm, Ulmus pumila).  The bark of Elms is mucilaginous and gooey when steeped in water.  Powdered Slippery Elm Bark can be stirred into water or a drink.   It is mild and sweet tasting and wonderful as a daily nourishing infusion during fire season .   (People’s carries Slippery Elm Bark powder.)

* Joanne will also be teaching a class, “Common Healing Yard Weeds: Their Nutritional and Medicinal Values,” on April 15th, 1-3 PM, at the UFM (University for Man) House Solar Annex, 1221 Thurston St., Manhattan, KS.  Sign up online at tryufm.org or call 785-539-8763.  To see a list of other classes Joanne teaches or to get directions for making an infusion, visit Joanne’s website, Prairie Magic Herbals, www.prairiemagicherbals.com.    You can contact Joanne at prairiemagic@gamil.com.