Friday, December 30, 2011

Adaptogens and Immune Tonics in Herbal Formulas

The turn of the year can bring a new resolve to live better, and for me that means canning the coffee, spending more time with my two teenagers, and addressing a persistently runny nose and occasional wheeze. I’ve already tried reducing dust and dander in the home and avoiding dairy allergens. Now I need a little help from the plant world.
Herbs that restore strength and stamina (adaptogens) or normalize the immune response (immune tonics) are an important ingredient in formulas for chronic problems such as allergies and asthma. The ginsengs (Panax quinquefolius, P. ginseng, Eleutherococcus senticosus) are the best known adaptogens but are not available for  harvest by most home herbalists. More accessible herbs for restoring health include holy basil in the garden, burdock (Arctium lappa) in fields, and turkey tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) in the woods. 

Arctium lappa (see Biennials)
Trametes versicolor (see Decoctions)

Ocimum basilicum
My budding herbalist sweetheart and I chose holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) as the local adaptogen for my formula because it also has the specific function of stabilizing mast cells, a desirable effect for allergies and asthma. The plant grows quite heartily in our garden, providing fresh leaves for salads and seasoning until early fall. The strongest medicinal effects are in the flowering tops so dead-heading has the dual function of prolonging leaf growth and providing the material to be dried for teas and tinctures. But don’t pick all the flowers – if left to it’s own fecund devices, holy basil will reseed itself for the next growing season. 

HERBALIST’S NOTES: 1)Your garden variety basil (Ocimum basilicum) can be substituted for holy basil for most medicinal applications, though it may not be quite as effective as an adaptogen or immune tonic; 2) Burdock is not widely recognized as an adaptogen but has the characteristics of one in that in normalizes most body systems to improve strength and stamina. 

Holy basil in tincture and dried for tea

DOCTOR’S NOTE: Recurrent or persistent wheezing should be evaluated by a medical practitioner because some causes are better treated medically.

No comments:

Post a Comment