Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Stinging nettles

Herbal formulas for chronic problems often include an alterative in addition to an adaptogen and one or more specifics.  Alteratives are important for recovery from long-standing organ dysfunction because they gently restore normal function. Common alteratives available for home medicine making and taking include mullein (see Biennials) in fields or red clover (Trifolium pratense) in the yard for the respiratory system. Gastrointestinal alteratives include chickweed (Stellaria media) in the yard and garden or nettles (Urtica dioica) in the woods. Cleavers (Gallium aparine) in fields or motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) in the garden or fields improve cardiovascular function. The urinary system is is normalized by nettles or dandelion leaf. The aerial parts (leaves, stems, or flowers) of each of these plants can be taken as tea or tincture to help restore organ function in the recovery from chronic illnesses.

HERBALIST'S NOTE: Before medicinal use of any plant, further study in a materia medica is recommended to be familiar with it's diversity of effects. My favorites are Medical Herbalism by David Hoffman, The Earthwise Herbal by Matthew Wood, and Medicinal Plants of the Southern Appalachians by Patricia Kyritsi Howell.  

Chickweed on January 1, 2012

Red clover

In last week’s post I let slip that I’m using holy basil as the adaptogen in my formula for a chronic runny nose with occasional wheeze. Since the wheeze occurs when I’m emotionally stressed, we chose motherwort as my alterative because it is a nervine sedative like most mints in addition to having smooth muscle relaxant properties to facilitate breathing and circulation. Last summer Shannon and I were ecstatic to find a patch in a nearby meadow where we walk the dog, and so far this winter it has survived a half dozen hard frosts and a couple snows here in the central Appalachians.

So my herbal formula now includes holy basil as an adaptogen and immune tonic and motherwort as a cardiovascular alterative and nervine sedative. Now I need to add herbs that are specific for the runny nose and wheeze. Do you know of any? Please help me out by entering your recommendation in the Comments section below.

Motherwort surviving a late December frost

DOCTOR’S NOTE: Avoid red clover when taking blood thinners or when there is a bleeding disorder because it has anticoagulant properties which could make bleeding worse.


  1. Well, I first tried St. John's wort with the holy basil and motherwort because of it's nervine tonic properties and specific use for asthma but the runny nose persisted despite stopping dairy. I switched to goldenrod for the runny nose and allergies and the congestion is improving, though the chest tightness has returned. Time to add the SJW back into the formula.

  2. I am not certain that your example of true trukey tail is actually turkey tail. It looks more like the look-alike, Violet Toothed Polypore (Trichaptum biforme). It appears your two samples may be Trichaptum biforme (Violet Toothed Polypore) and Stereum ostrea (False Turkey Tail). Be safe and triple check everything with a mycologist. Happy foraging!

    1. It can be difficult to distinguish any plant from a photograph. These shelf fungi were keyed using a Peterson's field guide to the mushrooms, and the turkey tails have contributed to many an immune boosting tincture formula.