Thursday, October 01, 2009

Bio-regional herbs for the Cold and Flu Season

The Essential Herbal Magazine is pleased to be participating in a blog party hosted by Methow Valley Herbs. Visit Rosalee's blog for a list of other participants and read their takes on the topic!

Here in PA, I am most familiar with the PA German culture, and the things that my mother and her parents knew about. Here there is a centuries old way of healing called "pow wow" or Braucherai that blends the German, Native American, and Gypsy ways. It combines herbal medicine with ritual and was passed down through the generations. My friend Susan Hess has joined forces with others to record it before the old-timers who practice it are gone. They can be found here and you can read an article about them here.
The thing is, at one time, pow wow was something that everyone knew about, and most people knew at least one person whose life was saved by a practitioner. My mother was one such person, when as a small child the medical community gave up on her and her parents took her to see a man who chanted over her and used a few herbs - possibly burning them near her, she didn't recall.
Then, the Amish and Mennonite families who had always depended on this healing model became ashamed of it after a scandal in brought the attention of the modern world, and scorn and mockery came their way. Nobody spoke of it anymore, and nobody wanted to learn it. 2 generations or so later, and it is scarce and hard to find.
Otherwise, we have been relearning the herbal part as has most of the country. For cold and flu our favorite defense has always been elderberry because it is so good and so easy to make, use, find, store, etc. Once you have foraged elderberry with a seasoned herbalist, you will never have a hard time finding it again. It is on every backroad, every meadow, every woodlot. We use it in wines, vinegars, syrups, jellies, tinctures, and most recently I've been making hard candy so that I can have it with me wherever I go.
We recently spent a day with Barb and Fred Will in western PA, where we gathered lots of boneset for tincture. He told us that when he was growing up, each family had a crock where they kept the boneset for tea, and that because of the nasty taste, all the kids liked to pretend that they weren't sick until they just HAD to admit it. The tincture is extremely bitter as well, and I usually combine it with elderberry.
Some other easily grown anti-viral herbs that we also have in tincture form include lemon balm and St. John's wort. We use echinacea to support the immune system, and also a combination of holy basil and albizzia to help our bodies manage stress. Stress and the way we handle it can make a huge difference in our health and our immunity. Holy basil is not native here, but the albizzia trees are everywhere in the summer.
Eat well, get plenty of rest, and stay hydrated - and keep some good anti-virals on hand.


Comfrey Cottages said...

great post tina! last winter at one of the herbal seminars i attended in our state, susan hess was suppose to be one of the guest speakers, and i was so very very disappointed when the winter storms kept her from flying out! thanks for the link to the site i will enjoy exploring it! big herbal and honey hugs to you always:) and thanks for all you do and all you share:)

Lori said...

I know a few of the Pow Wow traditions that you are refering to. My father in law actually rid my son of warts this way: He put a potato on the warts, said something over it ( I don't know what), told my son to go put the potato away somewhere, and when it turned black the warts would be gone. The warts were gone within a week!