California Fires: How to support your body with the smoke.
San Luis Obispo, (SLO), is right in the middle of two massive fires. We have been feeling the smoke for a couple days now. Headaches, burning sinus's and eyes, sneezing, asthma... This happened last year as well. There's no way to get away from it, but there are definately things we can do to support our systems through it.
I love herbs and homeopathy. I use both on a regular basis to keep me healthy, balanced and out of the conventional medical system. Below are some suggestions to help you through fire season:
1: Some simple basics we use in our home when the smoke becomes an issue:
-Close up the house. Windows, doors, vents.
-Turn on all the fans
-Turn on air purifiers in our rooms on high.
-Use humidifiers in our rooms. Even bowls of water around the house will increase the humidity.
-WATER. Lots and lots of water. Drink half a gallon a day minimum. I cannot stress the importance of WATER.
2: Homeopathic Remedies for smoke irritation:
(Please keep in mind if you are showing any signs of respiratory distress, see a medical professional)
-Bryonia: dry cough after inhalation of smoke. Thirsty for large quantities of water. Even the slightest movement makes the patient feel worse.
-Carbo vegetalis: for severe exposure to smoke where breathing is compromised. (This type of situation requires immediate emergency care, please call 911)
-Euphrasia: cough accompanied by red, burning, tearing eyes.
-Rhus toxicodendron: for exposure to fumes of poison oak or poison ivy (This can be life threatening, please seek immediate medical care)
-Spigelia: difficulty breathing and suffocating feeling with palpitations. Accompanied by a violent headache with piercing pain behind the right eye. (This type of situation requires immediate emergency care, please call 911)
_Ignatia: Great remedy for migrains caused by smoke exposure.
My favorite (link) eye drops!!!
For tearing, burning eyes that feel like you've been peeling onions, take Allium cepa (Especially if you also have a watery, burning nasal discharge
I'm a firm believer in steaming. Baths, showers, towel over your head over a bowl of steaming water. All of these help me. I really enjoy adding herbs to my steam treatments specific to my symptoms. I will list some herbs below I enjoy using.
This is a fantastic way to get your sinus's lubricated and also to help flush out anything you may have been exposed to which could be causing issues. Wild fires in California can really be problematic because of poison oak and other plants burning. Putting aside the chemicals necessary to put out the fires, we are also fighting the plant matter which is burned and being carried into our air. A netti pot once or twice a day for a few days can really help flush out what we are breathing in.
This article is such a great read I'm not even gonna bother dissecting it. If you use netti pots I highly encourage reading it. She really knows her stuff and has wonderful herb suggestions I will add to it:
I prefer herbs over tinctures simply to be cost effective. So a general rule for netti pot use with herbs is 1-2 tsp per 8 ounces of water. Less herb for something like ginger until you know if it will be too strong.
These are going to help lubricate your system and or bring over all ease to you and your body.
1: Mulberry Leaf and Bark (Sang Ye and Sang Bai Pi)
We actually consider mulberry leaf and mulberry bark separate herbs in Chinese medicine. Both herbs cool and moisten the lungs, which balances the hot and drying effect of smoke exposure. Mulberry leaf also cools and clears the eyes. Mulberry bark is colder in nature and works on a deeper level to calm wheezing and cough for individuals with asthma. Both can be brewed as a decoction.
2: Licorice (Gan Cao)-
We don’t have room to extoll all the virtues of licorice, but relevant to smoke exposure, licorice clears heat toxin and relieves sore or scratchy throat. Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is a demulcent (Lubricating) and is wonderful in protecting the mucous membranes from excessive particulate matter.
*does not taste like licorice. it has a wonderful taste which is pleasing to any palette. Its a great natural sweetener which tastes more like sugar than anything.)
Use about 1 tbls to 8 ounces of boiling water. Brew as you would tea. 5-10 minutes.
Peppermint is easy to find in many forms, even the cheap boxes of tea can be used (use 3 or 4 bags to get a stronger dose). Herbs high in aromatic essential oils can help create barriers to decrease inflammation. This is wonderful for opening the bronchials, increasing lung capacity. These oils can help decrease muscle pain and spasm (you can use the oil externally for muscle pain support) and aids in digestion Peppermint (Mentha peperita) is high in rosmarinic acid which is an anti-inflammatory. Please do not use peppermint in high doses if you have acid reflux, or GERD.
Many children are affected by these fires, and chamomile is my favorite children's herb. You can make a strong tea of chamomile (again, cheap tea bags okay but there are serveral places in the county to purchase it loose including Eastwellbeing and Tea Spa) to help children feel at ease.
A great herb to throw in a steam bath for soothing effects. Wonderful to add moisture to the skin. Honestly an all around wonderful herb for daily use but will really help with the dryness in the lungs, skin, and eyes.
* For an eye wash, make a cup of tea for yourself, take out the tea bag let cool down. Rub it gently over your eyes, squeezing a bit of the tea out into the eyes. This works in first aid situations and chronic eye care*
Turmeric (Cucuma longa) is wonderful for reducing overall toxicity through it's antioxidant compounds and reduces inflammation. This herb can be taken in very high doses in dried form (spice), and in extract or tea. Curcumin, which is the active constituent in Turmeric, is known to reduce heart disease and increase brain function.
6: Marshmallow Root-
Marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis) is also high in demulcents, and will help protect those sensitive mucous membranes. This herb is wonderful at cooling and soothing the entire system, especially if there is constipation associated with high stress. used as tea: 1tbls to 12-16 ounces of water. steep 5-10min.
The uses of this herb are many. My herb bible has about 1 page of information for every herb listed EXCEPT lobelia for which they have dedicated an entire chapter!
Lobelia inflata is a bronchial dialator and anti-spasmodic, helping with bronchitis, pnuemonia, or general cough. This herb should be taken in medium-low dose in tincture form (recommended dose on bottle) or tea in small amounts. I use about 1tbls to 12-16 ounces. For people with underlying heart conditions it is best to consult a trained herbalist. Lobelia in high doses can speed up heart rate)
Tulsi, or Holy Basil (Occimum sanctum spp.) is one of my favorite herbs to help heal the emotional heart during times of major change and to decrease stress load (cortisol and adrenaline) in the body. This can be made into a tea and taken during the day or before bed to help with sleep. Tulsi is high in aromatic essential oils so it will help with digestion and breathing.
This is my go to herb to help with sleep issues associated with stress. Ashwagandha is a beautiful adaptogen, and helps increase vitality during times of change. I recommend taking this in powder form with milk (it's added to Turmeric in our Golden Milk), you can take this in liquid extract tincture or capsules, and can always be used as a decoction (see below)
I love astragulus. Another herb with many uses. I take this every morning to boost my immune system, to help with stress, and is wonderful when used topically in oils for making skin silky smooth. This herb in general is a strengthening herb having positive effects on all internal organs.
Basic directions for how to make an herbal decoction are as follows.
Use one teaspoon to one tablespoon of herbs per cup of cold water.
Add the herbs and cold water to a pot.
Place that pot on the stove and bring up to a gentle boil.
Put a lid on the pan and lightly simmer for twenty to forty minutes.
Remove from the heat and let your decoction cool to drinking temperature.
Finish up by straining out the herbs.
You can often use these same herbs to brew up a new batch of decoction a couple more times as long as the decoction is still strong after brewing.
Refrigerate leftovers and use within 48 hours.
General Tea Brewing Instructions-
Flowers (chamomile, fever few etc...) boil water, let it sit for a few minutes then pour over flowers. Let steep no more than 3-5 minutes.
Lastly, be sure to take down time when necessary. Give your body rest as needed.
Peace and love.