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When I witness the respect shown to one’s elders it warms my heart. This week, when our nephew Andrew visited this weekend, I noted the respect and politeness he showed to not only me, but most important, to his grandmother, my mother-in-law.

I took note as Andrew’s small gestures added up. He waited for his grandmother when we got out of the car, paid for her snacks when she went into the store, and when the cobwebs in the house were driving her nuts, he made sure to remove them all. I believe his kindness and respect has bonded them firmly.

Respect important to me, my husband and our nephew as they should be. As we sat around the living room after dinner, and my mother-in-law recounted her memories, we all listened with interest, wrapping our imaginations around the interpretations of her life. She even started to give us a list of some of the songs, food, and memories that she wants us to share in her honor at her wake. It’s good to know how she wants us to respect, honor, and remember her when we’re no longer together.

As a person who finds parenting to be a cornerstone of our communities, I see teaching and modeling respect to be of primary importance. Clearly, Andrew's parents taught and modeled a deference to elders.

Teaching respect is often more difficult when extended beyond the realm of grandparents, because some strangers seem more difficult to respect than others. Regardless, respect is a practice—the more we place emphasis on it and put energy into it, the more empathy we build into our daily actions. When we practice respect, it enriches our communities and society.

I recently saw a post on Instagram about the anniversary of a woman’s grandfather’s passing: "He was an amazing role model and my hero . . . remembering the importance of giving respect and deference to things and knowledge that came before." I know long after his grandmother is gone, Andrew will have lasting memories of time spent together and the warmth in their hearts connecting.

How do you model and teach respect to the children in your life? What memories do you hold dear of the elders who are no longer alive? How would you like to be remembered? Are you sharing those memories with your loved ones?

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Having whiter teeth is something that many people strive for. It's also an important aspect of physical appearance that can make or break a first impression with others.

There are a wide variety of products available that can help do the trick, but they can cost a fortune and may even damage your teeth, especially when you use them frequently. Fortunately, there are easier and safer ways to whiten your teeth, without footing another bill.


Eat Something Tasty

One way to help whiten your teeth is something not everyone thinks about: Adding certain foods to your diet can result in whiter teeth. The list includes foods such as strawberries, nuts, cheese, milk and yogurt. Each has their own way of making your teeth whiter and they won't cost you much at all.

Onions, for example, are a common ingredient in many recipes. They aren't necessarily the first item that comes to mind when it comes to whiter teeth, but onions are a powerful antibacterial that can help protect your teeth and gums. It's recommended to eat onions raw to receive the maximum benefit.

Rinsing with water is also helpful for not only cleaning your mouth, but also for getting rid of leftover food particles as well.

Use Baking Soda

Some ways to whiten your teeth are cut and dry, such as putting whitening strips on your teeth for 10 minutes. Others aren't so obvious, but can get the job done just as easily.

Did you know that you can brush your teeth with a baking soda paste? All it takes is a little baking soda and hydrogen peroxide and you have a new way to naturally whiten your teeth. The hydrogen peroxide acts as an antibacterial mouth cleaner that also helps your gums. Baking soda is really gritty, so be sure to have enough hydrogen peroxide to avoid losing enamel.

Another benefit of baking soda is fresh breath. It also helps with plaque and stains on your teeth.

Here is one way you can make toothpaste with hydrogen peroxide and baking soda:

What You Need

• 2 tbsp baking soda
• 1 tbsp of hydrogen peroxide – 3 percent solution


When mixing the ingredients, a thick paste will form. More hydrogen peroxide can be added to thin it out to your desired consistency.

Place the paste in a jar and close it tight. Store it in the medicine cabinet for about a month.

Make a Lemon Twist

Another way to help whiten your teeth is with lemon juice. Mix it with soda bicarbonate to make a paste.

You can then use the mixture in several ways; one way is to take a cotton ball, dip it in the paste and rub it on your teeth.

Lemon juice and baking soda can also make a great pair in a mixture. This YouTube channel describes some different methods.

What You Need

• 2.5 tbsp lemon juice
• 4 tbsp baking soda
• A bowl


Put the lemon juice in the bowl, then add the baking soda. The mixture will bubble and look like butter when it’s ready. Dip your toothbrush in the bowl and use it. You should not using the mixture on your tongue because of the bad taste.

Other methods include rubbing a banana peel on your teeth and putting baking soda on your toothbrush before adding toothpaste. Using a banana peel to whiten your teeth doesn’t seem like a good idea, but it’s filled with minerals and vitamins that are great for your teeth.

A banana peel should be used twice a day for two minutes.

Safely Manage Your Teeth

There are many home remedies that can help whiten your teeth and you don’t need to spend a fortune doing it. Each has its own benefit and will help you reach your whitening goal. 

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 


Are you determined to exercise more this New Year? Adding music to your workout will make exercising more enjoyable, but does music make you run faster as well? Research shows that music helps divert your attention from the workout, making you work out harder while enjoying it more at the same time.

Why Does Music Help Exercise?

Music can impact your exercise experience in a variety of ways. For example, music can increase your motivation to exercise,[1] help during a workout by synchronizing your movements to a certain tempo,[1,2] and lower heart rate and improve recovery afterwards.[3]

And certainly, for many people, music helps make exercise more enjoyable. Studies show that people who listen to music during exercise report higher levels of enjoyment both during and after exercise compared to those without music.[4] These results apply to high intensity workouts, as well, such as sprint interval training.[5]

Does Music Make You Run Faster? 

Shifting Focus

But there is more to the story than music simply being enjoyable. Our brain is constantly taking in massive amounts of information, and it must choose what to filter out and what to pay attention to. This is the same during exercise, with information from different sources competing for your awareness.[6]

Listening to music during a workout adds another piece of information competing for your awareness; the music will capture some of your attention, making you focus less on feelings of fatigue, exertion, and other negative signals.[1] As one study puts it, “theoretically, the auditory stimulus is expected to prolong time to exhaustion by acting to limit the processing of fatigue-related cues.”[7] Studies show that music does, in fact, allow you to increase the amount of work being performed without paying as much attention to your level of exertion and fatigue.[6,8]

However, music can only help at lower intensities, before a threshold is reached. After a certain point, your brain has to focus on only the most important signals it is receiving, which during high intensity exercises come from within your body (not from external signals like music). Music can reduce perceptions of effort by about 10 percent at low-to-moderate intensity exercise.[2]

So, Does Music Make You Run Faster?

Studies show that listening to music can, in fact, increase your speed while running. One study found that people who listened to fast tempo music during exercise chose to run at a faster speed.[3] But music seems to be most important only at the beginning of a run. In one study, researchers found that during a 5 km run, people who listened to music ran faster, but only during the first 800 meters of their run. They also expressed more pleasure during their workout, and had better markers of preparation and recovery for the workout.[7] Another study found that people who listened to music during the first 1.5 km of a 5 km race ran faster during the first and second kilometers than those who did not. Music during the last 1.5 km had no effect, however.[9]

Music doesn’t just help you to run faster, but it can improve your physical performance in other forms of exercise as well. Those doing sprint-interval exercises with music had higher peak and average power outputs than those not listening to music.[5]

Boost Your Next Workout with Music

Why not try listening to music during your next workout? It might make you find exercise more enjoyable, push a bit harder, and run a little faster. Let us know if you find music to help you during exercise in the comments section below.

Read more on Natural Health Advisory institute for exercise tips like what to eat before a race and how to get motivated to exercise.


[1] Ann Behav Med. 2014 Aug 21. [Epub ahead of print]

[2] Int Rev Sport Exerc Psychol. 2012 Mar;5(1):44-66. Epub 2011 Dec 7.

[3] J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2014 Oct 30. [Epub ahead of print]

[4] J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2014 Oct;36(5):528-41.

[5] Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014 Sep 8. [Epub ahead of print]

[6] Physiol Behav. 2014 Nov 20;139C:274-280.

[7] J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jul 15. [Epub ahead of print]

[8] Int Rev Sport Exerc Psychol. 2012 Mar;5(1):67-84. Epub 2011 Dec 7.

[9] Int J Sports Med. 2012 Oct;33(10):813-8. Epub 2012 May 16.

Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


chaga mushroom pieces

Chaga mushroom – Inonotus obliquus – the birch loving mushroom that does not look like one, is an ancient remedy that has been valued for its many health benefits for centuries. You will find it while walking through temperate forests looking for encrusted black formations on wounded or dying white birch trees. The sterile and cork like mycelium grows out of remaining tree cavities after storms and other impacts break branches, as if to cover the tree's wound and protect it from invading micro organism. A tree and its chaga companion can co-exist for many years and the mushroom can be harvested several times over the course of time.

Before harvesting anything, be it in the wild or in my garden, especially before I harvest any kind of medicinals, I approach the plant or tree with respect, a prayer of gratitude and a pinch of tobacco as an offering. If you like to read more about how harvesting can be a spiritual practice and deepen your relationship with the natural world, you can read my blog, Wild Crafting: A Plant Meditation.

How to Harvest Chaga

Harvesting chaga without damaging the tree and thus allowing both tree and mushroom to continue to grow requires care and mindfulness and a couple of tools. A small hammer and a chisel can be used to harvest the woody mushroom in large chunks without cutting into the tree wound the chaga is keeping sealed. Please do not use a hatchet or ax and carelessly cut into the bark.

Back home, break and cut the chaga into smaller chunks. It is a very good idea to do that while the amber colored inside is still somewhat soft. After a couple of weeks it becomes hard like a rock and increasingly difficult to work with. Dry the small chunks in a dehydrator or simply spread them out on a paper towel for a couple of weeks and store in a sealed jar in a dark cool place. It will keep its medicinal properties for years.

chaga mushroom on birch

The charred look of chaga mushroom reminds of a cancerous tumor, which mirrors its medicinal properties as a immune boosting remedy with strong anti-tumor activity. This phenomenon of a plant's similarity to the the organ or disease it will heal is an herbal perspective cultivated during the middle ages, called “The Doctrine of Signatures."

Health Benefits of Chaga

Most of the medical research on chaga has been done in Russia where the mushroom grows in abundance as it prefers cold climate forests. Chaga mushroom is an adaptogen. Adaptogenic plants and mushrooms help to bring the body back into balance and have beneficial effects on the nervous system, immune system, the GI tract, the cardiovascular system and the endocrine system. By supporting the body and mind in these ways, adaptogens help us to cope with stress, stay healthy during the cold and flu season, fight cancer, and lift us out of the dark depths of depression and adrenal burnout. They have immune-modulating properties that make them helpful in treating auto-immune diseases and have high levels of anti-oxidants that protect cells from damaging free radicals. Adaptogens gently tone and support the body systems over time and need to be taken for a minimum time of two months to develop the full effect of their healing powers. Enjoying a cup of delicious chaga tea daily during the fall and winter months ensures that your are receiving support when it is needed most.

Chaga mushroom tea has a pleasant and oh so slightly bitter taste with a hint of vanilla and reminds of a blend between strong black tea and coffee without the nervous jitter as it does not contain caffeine or any other stimulants. I enjoy it very much with almond or hazelnut milk and sweetened with a touch of maple syrup or honey.

It is an excellent alternative for people suffering from ulcers or adrenal fatigue who have to stop drinking coffee. Not only does the taste and color of chaga resemble coffee, it will also help to heal the underlying caffeine induced health problem.

I always have a pot of chaga on the back of my stove during the winter months. It is my daily warming power beverage on winter days when my energy is turned inward and I spend most of my time inside. Tasting chaga evokes in me the sweet memory of the lush forest in summer time and reminds me to feel gratitude for the woods surrounding us, now sleeping under a thick blanket of snow. The crushed chaga chunks can be boiled over and over again until the raven black color of the tea finally starts to fade. Then a fresh chaga batch can be brewed by adding a few new chunks the water. Chaga is sterile and anti-bacterial and I have never encountered chaga tea fermenting, even after sitting on the stove for many days.

Chaga Beverages

Chaga Tea: To make a simple chaga tea take a handful of small chaga chunks and simmer them in about one quart of water with the lid closed for at least 10 minutes. If the color looks light like tea, simmer a little longer. Strain and enjoy with optional nut milk and/or maple syrup.

Chaga Chai: We have been making Raven Black Chaga Chai Tea at Raven Crest Farm this winter and it turned out to be everybody's favorite. Deliciously sweet, warming, and spicy. You can add other spices than the ones we are using, the sky is the limit. Be creative and make small batches until you find the spice mix you like most. You can also add medicinal herb roots to your blend to give it even more beneficial action, such as astragalus, burdock, or eleuthreo.

• 4 oz chaga chunks or powder
• 1 tsp maca powder
• 2 tsp cinnamon back chips
• 2 tsp dried orange peel
• 1 tsp dried rose hips
• 1 tsp cardamon pods
• 1 tsp cardamon seeds or powder
• 1 tbsp fresh ginger, thinly sliced

Blend all dry herbs together and store in an airtight jar. Boil 4 tablespoons of the chaga blend together with the fresh ginger in 1 quart of water until raven black. Strain and serve with almond milk and optional honey or maple syrup. Boil same blend at least 10 times.

You can buy all herbs online at Mountain Rose Herbs.

chaga chai tea

If you enjoy a little caffeine, try a dirty chaga chai by adding a shot of coffee to your cup of chaga.

Iced Chaga Chai

Same recipe as above, enjoy chilled and add some dairy free coconut ice cream. Yum!

Chaga Foods

Chocolate Chaga Chai Pudding: It is easy to incorporate chaga into other foods. You can make a chocolate chaga chia pudding by stirring chia seeds, almond milk, cocoa powder, raw cocoa nibs, and maple syrup into chaga tea and letting it sit for two hours. Top off with chopped almonds, coconut flakes and fresh blueberries. Yum.

You can also prepare your oatmeal with chaga tea rather than milk or water.

Chaga Kombucha: If you make kombucha and like to add flavor and carbonation, use sweetened chaga or chaga chai tea for the second fermentation. It's delicious.

Chaga Extract

If you don't entirely enjoy the taste of chaga beverages and foods and still want to benefit from its healing medicine, you can purchase a chaga tincture and take 50 drops three times daily.

Or even better, make a big batch of your own chaga double extraction. It's easy and you will have enough tincture for yourself and friends to share with. You can even use it in cocktails if that is calling you.

chaga tincture

Chaga Double Extraction Recipe

Homemade chaga tincture recipe

Chaga Skin Care

Skin care companies are starting to value the medicinal properties of chaga in topical applications as well. Chaga makes a very nice exfoliant in soaps and skin scrubs and you can now also find chaga facial creams with anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant properties.

Get your chaga on! - and embrace this beautiful gift from the forest. It's good for you.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.   


Simple pleasures are such a gift. A dozen home grown eggs from a generous coworker was a beautifully simple and nourishing end to this past very hectic and harried work week.

Some weeks are harder than others. When these types of weeks pop up I try to make a persistent practice of gratitude, reminding myself of life's abundance and my aptitude to persevere.

Julie's eggs are a perfect example of this abundance. When she presented her gift, she opened the carton and told me about each of the eggs and which chicken variety laid it. My favorite egg was pale green and seated atop some wood shavings, distinguished. As she described her chickens and their eggs I felt closer then I have ever felt to an egg and the nourishment it would be providing. I was instantly reminded of how easy it is to disconnect ourselves from our food sources. While I love our summer CSA and sunny weekends at the local farmers markets, my winter hibernation mode doesn't initiate that connection as often. Thank goodness for Julie's eggs.


Over the years, Mark and Carly have talked about getting some chickens and collecting our own backyard eggs. Each time the subject comes up I think about the work attached and opt out. We have the good fortune of having backdoor neighbors who raise chickens, so I get to hear them in the morning, without the maintenance, and their sounds always make me smile. That said, I still don't envision any chickens in my foreseeable future. Luckily, I do have a dear friend who just committed to 76 more chickens, so I will now be able to add home grown eggs to my list of sustainable practices.

As I was pondering the small farm idea, I got to thinking about our own family's communal offerings. Our homegrown gifts come in the summer in the form of figs, green gage plums, and fresh cut flowers. In the past, I have shared these gifts here and there but not with as much intention as Julie does. This summer when I go to share our home grown gifts, I plan to be more mindful of how I share them.

I love it when a seemly "small" act of kindness can set off a grateful reflection of the abundance of blessings in my life. Thank you so much for the blessing Julie. I plan to pay it forward.

What do you share with others? Can you share any home grown gifts? How do other people's gifts effect you?

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


5 Easy, Healthy New Year Resolution Ideas&

Forget to make a New Year resolution? Already having trouble sticking to the one you already made? It’s not to late to make a resolution – one that you will actually keep. Here is a tip: start small. Some resolutions, such as training for a marathon or going 100 percent sugar-free, can be daunting. This often means you’ll get overwhelmed and not make it to your goal. Instead, try making manageable changes to your lifestyle this year. These five New Year's resolution ideas are easy and simple, and they will help you take small, but significant, steps toward better health.

1. Drink more water. Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your health. While severe dehydration is dangerous and symptoms will be obvious, chronic, mild dehydration often goes unnoticed – but the effects on your body are significant. Insufficient water intake can impact physical performance, reduce cognitive functioning, alter mood, cause constipation, and more. Good hydration is associated with a reduction in hypertension, coronary artery disease, and urinary tract infections, and might even be important for preventing some cancers.[1]

You should drink at least 1.5 liters of water each day, or more if you are physically active. Keep track of how much water you are drinking with a water bottle or cup placed in a place you will see it throughout the day, such as your countertop or desk. Set a goal for how much water to drink every hour, and set an alarm to remind you to check on your progress. Straws or other convenient lids make it easier to reach for a sip, as well

2. Cook more at home. Cooking your meals at home has substantial health benefits; people who cook at home consume fewer total carbohydrates, fats, and sugar.[2] Home-cooked meals are more nutritious, and allow you to avoid preservatives, dyes, artificial ingredients, as well as excessive fat, sodium and sugar. The time you spend preparing food at home will be well worth it, and your body (and taste buds) will thank you.

Cooking at home can be easy, delicious, and fun. For tips on how to save time cooking at home, read more from the Natural Health Advisory.

3. Choose natural personal care products. Many personal care products are loaded with preservatives, chemicals, and artificial ingredients that can be toxic when applied to your body. Some are endocrine disruptors that interfere with normal hormonal functioning in the body. Pthlalates and parabens, both commonly used in personal care products, can increase cell proliferation and growth of breast cancer cells in laboratory studies.[3,4] Antibacterial agents like triclosan that are found in toothpastes, soaps, and deodorants may produce carcinogenic compounds that increase the risk of certain cancers.[5,6]

Do yourself a favor, and replace your deodorants, shampoos, lotions, soaps and other personal care products with natural alternatives free of toxic ingredients. Read labels carefully, and be sure to avoid the term “fragrance” in products, as this can mask hundreds of potentially harmful chemicals.

4. Laugh more. Who knew that one of the secrets to good health was laughter? One of my favorite healthy New Year's resolution ideas is to simply get more laughter in your life. The health benefits of laughter are widespread. It decreases stress hormones, exercises your muscles, stimulates circulation, increases pain tolerance, and more.[7,8] It can be one of the best ways to relieve stress, and improve mood and self-esteem.[8] Laughter can protect against anxiety and depression, too.[9]

What could be more fun than a resolution to laugh more? You might even consider joining a laughter club or laughing yoga class, both activities for people to come together and simply laugh.

5. Walk for 30 min each day. Getting regular exercise should be one of your top priorities for improving your health. And while rigorous exercise regimes are overwhelming, research shows that any exercise is better than none. Physical activity is extremely important for lowering blood pressure, keeping cholesterol in check, boosting mood and increasing your energy. It can protect against diseases like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, and decrease mortality rates as well.[10]

You don’t need to be a marathon runner to get exercise. Even taking a short, 30-minute walk every day can do wonders for your health and help protect you from disease. If you have a hard time keeping up with an exercise routine, try identifying what factors hold you back. Are you too busy? Try taking a short walk on your lunch break at work. Or, include your family or friends on your walks, so that you can use the time to socialize as well. Too tired? Exercise will improve symptoms of fatigue, but the key may be to try graded exercise to build up your strength. For more tips on how to get motivated to exercise, read more from the Natural Health Advisory.

Share your experience What are your favorite New Year's resolution ideas for living a healthier lifestyle? Share tips and ideas in the comments section below.


[1] Nutr Rev. 2010 Aug;68(8):439-58.

[2] Public Health Nutr. 2014 Nov 17:1-10. [Epub ahead of print]

[3] Climacteric. 2014 Aug;17(4):377-84.

[4] J Appl Toxicol. 2013 May;33(5):390-8.

[5] J Appl Toxicol. 2011 May;31(4):285-311.

[6] Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2012 May;19(4):1044-65.

[7] Complement Ther Med. 2011 Jun;19(3):170-7.

[8] J Psychosoc Nurs Ment Health Serv. 2004 Mar;42(3):18-25.

[9] Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2014 Jan;19(1):36-40.

[10] Cell. 2014 Nov 6;159(4):738-749.

Contributing editor Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Sean Donahue, Herbalist

Asthma is a condition that troubles many people in this country, but it can often be effectively eased by the use of natural plant medicines. Kiva and I have sought to address the problem both in Plant Healer Magazine, and in a class taught at our annual classes and celebration The Traditions In Western Herbalism Conference by the increasingly popular herbalist teacher Sean Donahue. A detailed essay and notes from that class and many others are available on Amazon in the newly released book Traditions in Western Herbalism, but we also want to share the helpful wisdom with all of you here. Sean tells us:

“From a purely physiological standpoint, asthma is a misfiring of the immune response within the respiratory tract. When the body perceives a threat, the inflammatory aspect of the immune system gears up to heal any potential injuries. In someone with asthma, that aspect of the immune system in the respiratory tract  is on a hair trigger alert, and any perceived threat — an infection, an allergen, or emotional stress can kick it into high gear, releasing inflammatory cytokines and histamines at levels far above normal. This in turn causes the mucous membranes to swell up and the smooth muscles of the airway to spasm. Over time this exaggerated immune response can cause damage to bronchial tissue, which in turn exacerbates the response because the body now also has a real set of injuries to respond to.

7 herbs I Use Most Often for Asthma Relief

Hawthorn: If we look at breath as the thread that connects us to the world, it makes sense that in moments of intense stress, for some people the airways can close, keeping the outside world from entering. In many people with asthma, this pattern gets established early on in response to a specific trauma and then becomes the default mode — because the body views any response to stress as successful if a person survives it. And if the body has learned that closing the airways will allow it to survive, then until it learns another equally successful strategy with regards to breathing in stressful situations the pattern will continue.

Hawthorn Berries

Traditional Chinese Medicine provides a framework for understanding this as well — the concept of disturbed Shen. David Winston defines Shen as "[ . . ] or your individual spirit. It is a person's mind/consciousness and emotional balance. Disturbances of shen produce anxiety,insomnia, bad dreams, moodiness, listlesness, and poor memory."

I think of disturbed shen as that leap out of the body that happens in a moment of shock. Disturbed shen is most noticeable as an acute condition, but can also become a chronic condition contributing to asthma. If the person with asthma also has ADHD, chronic anxiety, frequent panic attacks, a mood disorder or chronic insomnia, overall health can be helped tremendously by calming the shen.

Shen resides in the heart, and from an energetic perspective, the heart's proximity of the lungs allows disturbed shen to translate into disturbed breathing in those whose lungs are already deficient.

Hawthorn is a tonic for the heart that also has traditional use in TCM for calming disturbed Shen. It is also a plant rich in flavonoids that help to cool inflammation – so especially useful for Pitta asthmatics in combination with Peach or Cherry, but relevant for all constitutions.

Naturopath Deborah Frances pioneered the use of Hawthorn for acute asthma attacks — she recommends 3-4 doses of 30 drops at 1-2 minute intervals. In acute attacks, I've only tried this in combination with an antispasmodic herb, but definitely have had good results.

Schizandra: Shizandra is a plant in the Magnolia family that produces a fruit that exhibits all five of the flavors recognized in the Chinese tradition — sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and salty.

The sour taste is most apparent, suggesting the plant's astringent qualities. In Chinese medicine, it was traditionally used to "astringe the Jing" and help seal a "leaky Jing gate" — addressing problems marked by profuse loss of fluids from diarrhea to excessive urination to turberculosis to excessive sweating to vaginal discharges to premature ejaculation. All of this is associated with the kidneys.


It also serves the same function energetically — when you are leaking life force through the holes left where you jumped out of your skin, Schizandra helps gather the energy back within you and stop the leak. When you are unconsciously giving more of yourself away than you can afford to, Schizandra helps you hold onto some of your life force for yourself.

In Chinese medicine, the kidneys also play a role in breathing, "grasping" the lung to pull in the breath. When the kidneys are two weak "the kidney fails to grasp the lung" and inhalation tends to be incomplete – its impossible to get a deep breath. Schizandra is a traditional remedy for this condition.  And for calming disturbed Shen. Schizandra also helps to restore and regulate the adrenals – especially when they have been depleted by the use of steroid medications. I give a strong decoction or 30-60 drops of the tincture daily.

Elecampane: Elecampane is a warm, pungent expectorant that is wonderful for damp congestion in the respiratory tract. Especially well suited when there is also a bacterial infection – and many asthmatics are prone to bronchitis and pneumonia.


At an emotional level,  the lungs tend to hold on to grief, which, being a watery thing, tends to flow downward, settle in deep, and become stagnant and cold. Elecampane aids in letting go of old — releasing and cleansing buried grief just as it brings up old, infected mucus. 5-10 drops daily for chronic situations. 30-60 drops in acute situations. Kapha can use continuously. Pitta or Vata may find irritation after a few days' use.

Eastern Skunk Cabbage: is an excellent anti-spasmodic and expectorant that is ideal for Kapha asthmatics whose attacks are typically marked by both spasms and excess mucus secretion (it stops the spasms while at the same time encouraging a non-spasmodic cough to bring up excess mucus. It is also deeply calming due in part to the presence of Serotonin.

Skunk Cabbage

William Cook called it a nervine “of the most innocent and effective soothing character.” Too drying for many Pittas and Vatas. I've had a 15 drop doses top an attack. Avoid in pregnancy. Use caution in combination with SSRI's or MAO inhibitors (theoretical possibility of excess serotonin build up in the first case, likelihood in large doses of psychedelic effect in the latter.)

Black Cohosh: Black Cohosh is an excellent anti-spasmodic well suited where asthma is accompanied by periods of deep depression or brought on by panic associated with feelings of doom.

Black Cohosh

The person who will benefit from Black Cohosh will tend toward melancholy and will be easily and deeply impacted by the emotions of others and often by larger events in the world. When depression sets in it will tend to be deep and seemingly intractable. I give 3-10 drops of the tincture for depression, but up to 30 drops for acute spasmodic asthma attacks.

Lobelia: Lobelia acts almost instantaneously to stop the spasms and open up the airway. It also calms the anxiety associated with an asthma attack. I use an acetract — made by macerating the fresh plant in a combination of alcohol and vinegar. Dosage varies widely from person to person, many will get the desired effect from 5 drops, I use 10-15.  More than 30 and vague feelings of nausea generally set in. But actual emetic doses are far higher than nauseating doses — more on the order of 90-120 drops in my case. David Winston suggests that you can find the ideal dose by (not in a moment of crisis of course) taking repeated drop doses and counting them out until you feel the first hint of nausea. The ideal dose is one drop less than a nauseating dose. But in emergency situations I'll just give someone a half dropper or so. Lobelia will also help to encourage healthy expectoration of excess fluids.


Lobelia has a calming and protective energy which is also tremendously helpful in restoring the sense of safety necessary to allow a person to breathe more deeply after an acute asthma attack.

New England Aster: Jim McDonald introduced me to New England Aster, a resinous dark purple aster that flowers in autumn in New England.

New England Aster

A tincture made from the flowering tops can immediately help relieve muscle constriction around the airways. I tend to use about 15 drops in acute situations — most effective when there is tightness around the airway that signals an attack is imminent but spasms have not yet begun. Other sticky, aromatic asters seem to have similar effects. I tend to combine New England Aster in equal parts with False Solomon's Seal which I see as a specific for relaxing the connective tissues associate with these muscles (largely by restoring their pliability).

Best wishes with your healing efforts, from the Plant Healer family! – Jesse Wolf & Kiva Rose

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