The technical side of my research is usually split between books and publications of research studies, but I think it’s really important to gather online resources to share. So here are some great resources to further connect you to each plant. You’ll find the emphasis on most of the resources is chemistry and biology, but you can read my description again, below, for a broader view of the plants including historical uses and energetic associations. Cheers!
Herbs in ‘Be Swell’ and some online resources:
Wild cherry bark:
Take a dive back into my own write up:
One of my favorites, with its mystical springiness and gnome-beard qualities is usnea - it’s easy to love. Usnea isn’t actually a plant, but a lichen, formed by a symbiotic relationship between fungus and algae, which is totally wild. If you look closely at a strand of usnea, and give it a gentle tug, you’ll notice the algae crack and break, while the white fungus inside gives a deep stretch between your fingers. Usnea is found all over the world and while it has a diverse list of uses, I love it for this blend because of the usnic acid’s strong antibiotic qualities, the gentle expectorant behavior that helps us cough mucus up from the lungs, and its immuno-stimulating polysaccharides, of which and more you can read about in this NIH article on Usnea! Less technically - usnea is the lungs of the forest, the lungs of our planet, helping us process carbon, retain water, and growing only where the air is clean - their absence acting as a great air-pollution red flag. What an amazing symbiotic relationship to hold in your body. But there are other things going on in this tea. A lot of other things.
…like MARSHMALLOW! I’m sure you know marshmallow from the favorite sweet treat that we roast for smores, and once upon a time marshmallows were really made with the marshmallow plant (and by once upon a time, I mean from 2000 BC in Egypt when they were a more of a honey candy, until the late 1800’s in the USA). Marshmallow acts as such a strong mucilagin that it it makes a great thickening agent - it does the same thing in the body: coating membranes with mucilage (think extra mucus) so it’s been used for thousands of years to protect and heal damaged tissues, especially internally, as discussed in this ethnopharmacology article. It doesn’t just act on the GI tract as one would expect. It also has an interesting relationship with the lungs, acting - according to current research - as a bronchodilator and as a smooth muscle relaxer in the lungs, in addition to being a moistener. Mullein, like usnea and marshmallow, was chosen to play with the lungs, but in a different way. Mullein has slightly lighter mucilage - supporting respiratory pathways, while it works phlegm out of the lungs. It is also gently antispasmodic, which can have a calming effect on a severe cough, as is shared in this phytotherapy research article. Unlike usnea, mullein is not native to North America, but it sure seems happy here with its wooly, bepetalled, phallic stalks that wave to you from sometimes 5 feet tall on your road trips. It’s the third pillar in the lung-support-trifecta of this blend.
One of the most famous herbs used for immune support - a plant that you probably know if you’ve read this far, is echinacea; and if you guessed that it’s in this blend: you’re a genius! You can see echinacea everywhere, too! Just look for those summery cone flowers flocked by bees. As multiple studies have shared, like this one published by the NIH, echinacea stimulates the immune system and improves resistance to infections. The echinacosides in echinacea are antibiotic and the alkamides are anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. It’s kind of an amazing beast, really. To support us in that rush of an immune shift, I’ve paired echinacea with nettle.
Nettle gives the tea body - a certain, fullness in the mouth and complexity of flavor and terroir (I know - it sounds like wine), that I think is a great sensory representation of the high content of vitamins and minerals, including iron, that nourish us as we imbibe. Nettle is also noted for its anti-swelling properties, as detailed by Science Direct as well as other reviews. Since nettle is a common plant in the wet parts of Oregon and the larger Pacific Northwest, pulling up so many of its vitamins and minerals from our exquisite soils, drinking it is also a really beautiful way to connect with this land, and pull it into you - to ground in home.
Wild cherry bark is probably another familiar ingredient. If you look at cough syrups from times of yore, or just in the health sections of your herby grocery stores, you’ll probably notice that it’s still on the ingredient list in some cough syrups. Due to its astringent, sedative, antispasmodic, and bronchodilator actions, it dries mucus, increases expectoration, eases coughing, and opens the airways - it partners with the usnea for expectoration and yet softens spastic coughing and hacking. It dries and moves, and so keeps mucus generated by the marshmallow in balance - soothing but not too wet. Read more about wild cherry bark here.
There’s the mighty licorice, noted by Dr. Marisa Marciano, ND for its antiviral qualities, among many others including adrenal restorative and anti-inflammatory. The licorice was meant to marry well with the eleuthero and chaga. Eleuthero, also known as Siberian Ginseng, has been used as far back as medical texts of Chinese medicine date and is commonly known as an adaptogen, that is: a substance that helps to balance imbalances in the system with which it interacts. In energetic medicine practices, eleuthero is said to strengthen and invigorate qi (chi or energy), while in western herbalism, the same “qi strengthening” is referred to as “improving endurance or stamina”. It’s also said to be used to lessen sleeplessness from excessive dreaming, to lessen fatigue, weakness and stress, while acting as an immunostimulant, according to an article on the biologically active compounds of Eleuthero from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences. Chaga also has adaptogenic qualities but, like Usnea, is not actually a plant. It's a fungus probably best known for its star role in anti-cancer research - it’s also rich in antioxidants. Some research shows (as in this research from the Memorial University of Newfoundland), that the best infusion in terms of making Chaga bioavailable happens between 100°F and 140°F; this makes it a questionable thing to include in a tea, as we often brew tea at temperatures around 200°F. That being said, how you brew your tea, and what qualities chaga may impart at different temperatures varies, and there was an energetic necessity for this one in the mix.
I’ve also included ginger in the recipe, for flavor but also because, in the words of The Naturopathic Herbalist, Ginger increases the flow of saliva and is a stimulating tonic for the digestive system. It reduces cramping, gas and nausea. It’s indicated for motion sickness, increases the peripheral circulation and detoxifies the body from toxins associated with rheumatism. Helping to keep the warmth of ginger, and other moving agents in check, are the last three ingredients. Peppermint - a hybrid of spearmint and watermint - is traditionally used for gastrointestinal orders in Germany, according to this article on phytotherapeutics, and is both a stimulating and cooling herb - helping to calm hot tissue.
Feverfew, as cited in this article on the chemistry of feverfew, has a similar effect to aspirin albeit a stronger and slower, and is traditionally used for alleviating migraines and headaches, as well as fever, (go figure), inflammation and stress related tension. Another plant traditionally used for anti-inflammation is the bark of white willow, which snuggles in nicely with feverfew as a cooling plant. Traditionally used to treat pain, fever, and headaches because of its salicin content (similar to feverfew), it’s also been tested as a use for the aches and pains of rheumatism, as discussed by this publication from the University of Zurich. Like with chaga, the effects of white willow are said to be more effective when infused at lower temperatures. So, experiment away with your tea brewing and see which temperature suits your fancy!
***Everything you put in your body has an effect on you. Folk Tea suggests that you consult with a qualified healthcare professional before using herbal products, particularly if you take other medications, or if you are nursing, pregnant, or expecting to become pregnant.
This information is for education purposes, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration