As temperatures transition into the coolness of autumn, seasonal shifts can often bring changes to our state of health. At Ravencrest, we are tucking in our beloved plant babes for the winter while cutting back, clearing up and gathering the last few offerings for harvest before the winter slumber. Energetically, autumn is a time of release as energy starts to move inward and life moves back down into the roots. In the Northeast, we see this mirrored in the natural rhythms around us.
The Story of our Lungs
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the lungs are associated with the season of autumn and the emotion of grief. Like the shedding of leaves on a tree, this time reflects to us the question of what we can let go and what we will hold on to that will sustain us as we head into the darker days of winter.
The lungs are considered our most external organ, each breath we take connects us directly to the outside world. When the lungs are nourished and strong, we can more easily stave off illness. When weakened, the lungs are more susceptible to allergies or catching colds. This can be especially common during times of seasonal change and many people experience a resurgence of yearly lung issues such as bronchitis around this time.
Having a combination of warming, moistening and nourishing herbs on hand can help you move through these shifts with more ease. As cooler days approach, plant remedies that support the lungs and nourish the immune system are a key part of a well-stocked herbal medicine cabinet.
Preparing for Fall and Winter
Supporting the body through seasonal changes can happen through diet, lifestyle and herbal remedies. Transitioning to more warming, hearty meals and away from foods such as salads and cold beverages encourages optimal digestive function, which in turn builds our vital energy and immunity. Wear your hat and scarf and keep your kidneys warm, your throat and adrenals will thank you! And if you do start noticing a cold coming on, supplementing with warming, aromatic and antimicrobial herbs in teas or tinctures can help shorten the duration of sick time. We formulated our Deep Breaths Tea precisely for this purpose - gentle but powerful herbs such as elecampane, thyme and hyssop help warm the airways and keep illness at bay.
Read on to learn more about these essential herbal allies and others to support vibrant lung health as the colder seasons moving into the land.
We love the gentle energy of Marshmallow, whose tall, slender stems sway gracefully throughout our gardens and offer the seemingly endless gift of their tender white blossoms. The root, leaf and flower can all be used for slightly different effects and are harvested at different times through the season.
Marshmallow is moistening to tissue, making it one of the top soothing remedies for a host of dry, irritated conditions throughout the body, especially the lungs. The root contains the most mucilage and is typically prepared in a longer infusion of room temperature water which allows for the best extraction of its moisture rich and calming properties.
Often used in cases of inflamed tissue, Marshmallow provides relief to a cough by gently moistening the mucus membranes and encouraging the release of congested mucus, making it a key ally in our popular Lung & Throat Comfort tea. In addition to its effects on the lungs, it provides gentle relief for both digestive and urinary irritation.
The long, white, sweet root of codonopsis, a beautiful perennial vine, is an excellent tonic for the lungs. Codonopsis supports the body’s replenishment of vital energy while restoring fluids that may be depleted through illness, overwork, or other imbalances. Codonopsis is often referred to as a more mild substitute for asian ginseng and carries the nickname “poor man’s ginseng”.
Codonopsis is used to nourish the lungs when there is a chronic cough, especially with a dry throat and shortness of breath. It can be used both as a longer term tonic when paired with more aromatic, dispersing herbs to balance its sweet and nourishing nature and as support during illness to keep the body’s reserves from becoming depleted.
The root of this tall and upright, bright and sunny plant in the aster family is one of our indispensable lung herbs, offering actions that support a wide variety of conditions. One encounter with this unique herb and you will see why: the pungently aromatic, sweet and bitter taste reflects its variety of different actions in the body supporting health of the lungs and digestion.
Elecampane is both nourishing due to its sweet quality, while its aromatic taste helps it disperse energy. These different actions make it helpful for both active infections and as a longer term tonic. Elecampane pairs synergistically with a variety of other pungent and soothing herbs in our Breathe Easy formula.
This potent and aromatic root shines in cases of repeated coughing accompanied by wheezing and phlegm that just doesn’t want to move! Elecampane helps open the lungs to allow for deeper breathing which helps move us more confidently through the seasonal change.
Sage is a familiar herbal friend for many, most often used in the kitchen yet well loved for centuries because of its profound curative properties. Rubbing their leathery leaves releases an unmistakable aromatic scent, a common characteristic of some mint family plants. At Ravencrest, you’ll find large clusters of sage leaves peeking out from our raised terraces cheerfully stretching up towards the sun.
Sage is antibacterial which makes it a great choice to support lung health during oncoming sickness. It also aids the respiratory tract by allowing the lungs to release mucus more effectively. Its soothing, anti-inflammatory properties can aid a tired, sore throat and support faster healing which makes it a key part of our Lung & Throat Comfort tea. It is also known to have gentle mood boosting powers, helping to lift spirits and disperse stagnant energy in both the body and mind.
Astragalus, a member of the pea family, is one of the prized remedies to restore vigor back to a weakened immune system. This sweet, nourishing root helps support the wei qi of the lungs, which is the body’s protective energy that helps keep illness at bay. Astragalus is often indicated for a tired, worn down state that benefits from gentle, ongoing nourishment. For those that have chronic lung issues, weakened immune function, or general exhaustion from overwork or persistent illness, astragalus can help restore balance when taken over time as a tonic.
As the weather cools, you’ll often find astragalus simmering away in a large stock pot in our kitchen dancing away with other immune nourishing herbs. However, due to its consolidating energy, astragalus is often avoided during an active illness in favor of herbs that more directly support the movement of pathogens out of the body. This gentle immune building tonic is an important part of our Immune Education tincture blend, which supports the body to build resiliency through regular use.
Thyme is a classic spice rack remedy often found in the kitchen pantry. This small but mighty herb is both drying, dispersive and antimicrobial, making it useful when you feel a cold coming on. Thyme is an essential ally to have on hand to soothe a cough while encouraging the lungs to move out excess phlegm.
Thyme can be enjoyed as a simple tea, or incorporated into a handy herbal steam. Inhaling the aromatic oils of thyme can help to expand the airways and allow for deeper inhalation when lungs are feeling boggy. Along with the delightful zest of thyme, our Breathe Easy formula includes a spectrum of fragrant, nurturing herbs to bring relief to taxed lungs while nourishing back vitality.
The vibrant purple flowers of hyssop attract both pollinators and herbalists in the garden. Hyssop is an ancient plant beloved by many for its deliciously spicy and fragrant aroma. This gorgeous mint family relative is pungent and slightly bitter which helps to stimulate lungs to expel dried, stuck mucus. Its warming, circulatory supporting effects help to break up stagnation while helping to moisten dry tissues. When taken over a longer period of time, it has an overall drying effect.
Hyssop is a key herb to have on hand to relax tension in the lungs when there is wheezing or repeated coughing and it has an important seat in our Lung & Throat Comfort tea. If a fever has set in, hyssop encourages the body to sweat which moves heat from the center of the body out to the periphery, aiding in the recovery process.
Make friends with these plant lung allies and incorporate them into your daily life with teas, tinctures, or a lung and sinus steam. Adding herbs like thyme to soups and stews, or marshmallow root powder to oatmeal will turn your food into medicine and care for your lungs.
Wishing you a healthful and restful winter ❄️, Susanna