Herbs for Fire Season

Posted by Nathan on 23rd Aug 2020

                                          Mullein (Flowering Tops: UC Gill Tract Farm, Albany, CA)

In these times of wildfires, there are many herbal allies that can support keeping your lungs healthy and immune system strong. Here are a few of my favorites:

Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus) (soothing, anti-inflammatory love for your respiratory system)
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) warming, anti-inflammatory, boosts immune system)
Pine Needles (supports both the respiratory and immune system)
Thyme (Thymus spp.) (especially helpful for coughs and congestion)
Elderberry (Sambucus spp.) (overall immune system love)

These can all be brewed as a tea, together, individually, and/or in simple combinations of two or three herbs can provide both symptom relief and overall health support.

A few tea options I like.

Pine Needle (pine, spruce, and fir needles all work). Note though that Norfolk Pine and Yew Pine are poisonous, so if you're plucking them from trees, make sure you know what Norfolks and Yews look like.)

Ginger and Thyme (a great combination and both are easy to find in grocery stores)

Mullein, Pine Needle, and Ginger (both warming and cooling/soothing at the same time)

Elderberry (rich, tasty flavor and good to have regularly during the late fall and winter months anyway)

Generally, I say it's best to use whichever of these herbs you have available already, or can get easily. These 5 are all pretty common, which is one reason I chose to highlight them.

Preparation: Medicinal teas are easy to make and can be use for both acute symptoms and for long term or preventative health. Make sure to brew any tea for at least 20 to 30 minutes. This will ensure that's it strong and potent. You can drink a few small glasses (or less) a day, or as needed.

In addition to the herb list I offered earlier for folks impacted by the wild fires in California, an easy way to address eye irritation and inflammation from smoky air is to use Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) tea bags. Chamomile tea itself is another good addition to your lung and immune system health list. So, you could make the tea as you normally would, then allow the wet tea bags to cool to room temp. Once cooled, place them on closed eyes and let them rest there for 10 to 15 minutes. For those who have an allergy to Chamomile, you can get somewhat similar benefits from using Cucumber slices.

More herbs to consider:

Respiratory support:

Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)

Grindelia (also known as Gumweed)
Elecampane (Inula helenium)

Liver health support:

Our livers are definitely getting taxed by all the toxins in air right now. Liver detox and liver protective herbs like Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) seed, Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus) (leaf or root), Dandelion (Taraxicum officinale) (root or leaf), and/or Burdock (Articum lappa) root would be good choices to add to the mix.

Tumeric (Curcuma longa) is also a possibility. It's not only good for liver heath, but is also anti-inflammatory, and supportive of improved brain function (note the increased levels of "brain fog" right now, due to the toxic smoke). However, Tumeric can be overly drying to the system (especially in larger amounts), and for people who generally have a dryer constitution (dry skin, overall lack of sweat and mucus, etc), Tumeric can actually be irritating and even aggravating. It's a great herb, and I'm seeing it on different wildfire herbal support lists, but it's one that needs a little bit of care in use.

Mood Support: Bad air quality and concerns about fires can definitely mess with your mood. Some people experience a lot of anxiety and/or depression. Herbs like Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), Wild Oats (Avena fatua), and Chamomile can be helpful for soothing frayed nerves and calming the mood.

Immune system support: In addition to Elderberry, you can consider adding Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) and Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum).