Mucosa, host defense, and the role of stress
In our quest to combat disease, modern medicine has developed an array of tools: from antibiotics and other antimicrobials, pharmaceuticals can provide a strong push-back against infection when necessary. Conversely, in cases where the immune system turns its fire against our own bodies (conditions collectively known as “autoimmunity”, for example rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or certain inflammatory bowel diseases), we see the use of steroids, anti-inflammatories, and immunosuppressants. And while in either case these modern interventions can be life-saving, both circumvent our immune systems: antimicrobials purport to take over the job of fighting pathogens, while steroids and immunosuppressive drugs just turn the immune system off.
But our immunity is a sophisticated, subtle learning system that works best when it is fully engaged. In fact, we’re starting to discover that some of the dysregulation in immune function (hypersensitivities, asthma and allergies, for example) might be linked to an overly sheltered, microbe-free environment:
without exposure, without challenge, the immune system fails to learn the language needed to operate effectively in a world full of both microbes and allergens.
To herbalists, the use of drugs that fight infection or suppress the immune response as a first-line intervention seems akin to a parenting philosophy that either does a child’s work for her, or tells the child to be quiet and go to her room. Neither, in the long run, produces healthy, well-adjusted adults.
We strive instead to support our immune system’s own functional processes, much […]
It’s that special time of year when many of our favorite plants are expressing themselves to their fullest potential and we find ourselves getting lost in their summer magic. We get to know them in their flowering stage of growth and experience their beauty as well as their medicine. Whether we dig their roots in the fall, or harvest their fresh greens in early spring, it’s safe to say that seeing plants at their peak potential during these sweet summer months is medicine in itself. We have a few that resonate with us this time of year, not only because they are in bloom but also because they are appropriate for the times we live in and can act as everyday medicine. Each of these plants has a special place in our medicine cabinets and can be found throughout our formulas as they confer unique qualities to each one.
Motherwort, Leonarus cardiaca
Parts used: Aerial, leaf, and flower
This weedy herbaceous plant is part of the mint family and is one of the most beloved herbs by herbalists. As a true nerve and heart tonic, Motherwort has been used throughout history to soothe worries and nervous tension. Motherwort is one of our best herbs for calming anxiety in the moment, especially when felt in the heart center.
True to its name, Leonarus cardiaca translates in Latin to “lionhearted;” and this plant sends a message of tough, fierce love during the times when we need it […]
Founder Jovial King in her garden (photo from DIY Bitters)
We have all heard that our moods (and even our thoughts) don’t live in our heads. For example, we’ve known for a while that serotonin, an important neurotransmitter that regulates mood, is found in abundance in the GI tract. Its role there includes managing mucus production and acid production, as well as – possibly – helping to regulate mood. Serotonin-producing cells in the GI tract, furthermore, seem to need the right signals from our gut flora (the beneficial bacteria that live in our intestines) to function properly, which lends additional credence to the notion that our moods are intimately connected to our internal ecologies.
But what of our external ecologies? Is there any evidence that being outside might positively impact our moods? We are, in fact, exploring this connection more and more: from “forest-bathing”, which consistently seems to reduce stress and anxiety, to Dr. Andrea Taylor’s work on relieving symptoms of attention deficit by walking in nature
As the year comes to a close, with some relief; and some anxiety about the state of our world in the future, we can turn to some simple routines to nourish ourselves. Sometimes it feels like time is moving too quickly, and the sense of longevity dwindles with the daily checklists and the demanding reality of our jobs, family lives, and social responsibilities. Time seems to speed up and the practice of personal time isn’t high on our lists. Living in a world that demands every ounce of your energy and attention requires radical self-care, particularly at the New Year and after the holidays. It builds the foundational blocks for the rest of the year and re-establishes a relationship with our deepest self and a genuine meaning of who we are and what we love.
Self-care not only builds our reserves and keeps our systems healthy and well, but it also de-clutters our mind and allows for more positive thinking to take place.
The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to turn inward and refocus on our needs. We will be better people for it. And our world needs strong and fiercely passionate people to be engaged and connected.
We all know what happens with elaborate New Year’s resolutions: they aren’t very lasting, and then we feel worse about letting them slip a week into the new year. Focus on small, tangible habits that will sustain the core of who you are and the changes you’d like to see. Everybody has different wants and needs— a nourishing ritual for […]