Fighting Off Colds

It’s official. I’ve caught the head cold my husband had a few days ago. I had thought that I had dodged it, but no. To make matters worse, I could have been more proactive in preventing this. One of the worst parts of being an herbalist is knowing what plants I could have used to bolster my immune system effectively. There are dosages of tinctures and teas that I should have been downing the moment I knew that Josh my husband was sick.

So, instead, dear reader, learn from my mistakes. Colds are going around. Winter is a time for close quarters and the inevitable sharing of bugs the kids picked up from school. Make friends with a few immune boosting herbs at the first sign of a spreading cough. It could save a few sick days.


Ganoderma lucidum (or tsugae)


Reishi is a mushroom with a long history of medicinal use. Chinese medicine has used it for millenia. It boasts a long list of medicinal qualities such as helping with asthma, reducing stress, and improved cognitive function. The main ability that is specific to this blog entry is its immune boosting properties.

Around my parts, we have a relative of the Chinese Reishi. Its common name is rather plain: Hemlock Varnish Shelf Mushroom. Anyone who knows the scientific name (Ganoderma tsugae) would recognize that it shares the Ganoderma genus with Reishi. Once one sees it, the relation is undeniable. They are amazingly similar in their unique look. They are also used interchangeably medicinally.

I remember the excitement I had when I found my first Reishi. I was wandering around the property lines of the forest below my house. As I followed where the growing forest of my property met the clear cut forest of the neighboring property, I felt a pull to head a little farther into my woods. Soon, I came upon an old hemlock stump about five feet tall. There, red waxy shelf mushrooms caught my eye. The strange way that they grew out was unmistakable.


I was so excited. I took photos and shared with fellow herb nerds. I had found what has been called the “king of the mushrooms.” The mushrooms were passed, but I knew I had to mark this spot to revisit it later in the year to see if new ones grew. I did my best to mark my return path with fallen birch. Unfortunately, not well enough. I never found that stump again.

It would take me awhile to find a new Reishi patch, but this year was certainly my year. Not only was I pointed to a spot with heavy Reishi production 15 minutes away, I also found a spot a few hundred feet from my house.

The downside to Reishi? The taste! I would imagine this is what dusty feet would taste like (its smell is pretty similar). Once you get past the taste (and, in my experience, one usually does), it’s an amazing immune support herb.


Inonotus obliquus


This mushroom is an easy one to identify. To start with, it doesn’t really look like a mushroom. When you come across this mushroom in the woods, it looks like a strange burnt growth off the side of a birch. Should you break into this blackened lump, the woody flesh will be surprisingly bright and golden.

This is another one with a litany of medicinal uses, amongst them being immune support. This parasitic fungi that prefers birches and the brutal cold is a slow grower found in northern places like Russia… and northern Vermont. I have a few spots that I am slowly harvesting from in my woods. The taste is far more pleasant than Reishi. We used to make a morning Chaga decoction. We would take smashed Chaga, put it in a saucepan full of water, and let it sit on the stove at a heat below a simmer. There would be steam and water evaporation, but no bubbling. After leaving that for a bit (a half an hour to an hour), we would strain some and drink. Its dark earthy flavor would be a great way to start the morning. With the busy months that we’ve had, though, we haven’t had the time to break up the most recent Chaga harvest for use.

Hence us getting sick.


Echinacea purpurea

You didn’t think that I would forget about Echinacea, did you?


This North American native has been the darling of modern herbalists for a while. With research showing Echinacea root leading to an increase in white blood cell activity, it’s no wonder it’s often suggested as a way to prevent getting sick. Rosemary Gladstar has a fantastic recipe in her book “Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide” for a whole plant tincture of the plant that involves making different medicinal extracts from different parts of the plant at different parts of the year, and its formulation strikes me as magical as it is medicinal. It is an interesting process of really working with the cycle of the plant and it is on my list of projects for 2019. Due to the way that it boosts your immune system, it is suggested that this is not an herb to use daily extensively. Use it up to 8 weeks before giving it a break. Let your immune system stand on its own for a bit.

Another fantastic way to fight off the bugs going around is Fire Cider. You can read all about that in a past blog entry linked here.

And now it’s time for me to tango with one of the best remedies for colds: Sleep! I wish you a good night, and a fantastic New Year.

Until next time

  • The Green Mountain Mage

Adventures in Burning and Smelling

What’s the first thing that you think of when you hear the word “incense?” Do you think of the 90s? Do you think of hippies trying to cover up the smell of pot? Even when I was a kid, it’s always made me think of magic (and the other ones as well). There was something mystical in the way that the smoke rose from that burning incense stick and there were some base smells in most of the different incenses that really called to me.

It makes sense that incense would have a sense of magic in our collective consciousness. Using the smoke of fragrant plant matter in ceremony is an old practice. It even made its way into the early Old Testament (Exodus 30:1-10, 30:34-38), though the practice is older than that. It was used in acts of purification and offering. The Catholic Church still uses incense in its Mass. They use an older method of incense, one which I want to talk about today.

Incense in the form of sticks originated in India and China. Before that, folks had to throw their odorous plant matter on coals to release the pleasant smelling smoke. This practice carried over in magical and religious traditions outside of the far East. Even now, making your own incense blend to burn in a heat proof bowl with a glowing ember is an effective method to add to one’s magical and/or religious practice.

A photo of frankincense courtesy of a Google search

A photo of frankincense courtesy of a Google search

Let’s use the incense that the Catholic Church uses as an example. The recipe, as found in John Michael Greer’s book “The Encyclopedia of Natural Magic” is ten parts frankincense, four parts benzoin, and one part styrax. Frankincense is a solid priestly resin, used in blessing and purification for thousands of years (if you checked those Bible verses I mentioned earlier, you’ll see that they mention frankincense… seriously, this plant resin has history). Benzoin has a history of use in purification and protection. Styrax is both botanically and magically related the benzoin. All three have very solar energies, so they work together very well.

Knowing the energies of the plant material in the incense mix is the first step in its magic. While having a pleasant smell is rather nice, it’s more important that the herb’s energies work together well. Having conflicting energies in the plants would be counterproductive. Having their energies work well with whatever you’re trying to accomplish is also super important. While solar energy is generally useful in magical practices, I wouldn’t necessarily choose them for a water ceremony. Not that it would be seriously counterproductive. It would bless, purify, and protect. It just wouldn’t be helpful beyond those purposes.

To use these plant resins, one would take this mix and grind it in a mortar and pestle. Here is the second step in the magic. You could grind it up in a coffee grinder. That would certainly be easier. Doing it by hand gives you a chance to imbue it with intention. You could even take the next step and imbue it with prayer (super appropriate for this specific mix). You could sing into the mix. You could even use the pestle as a sort of wand and use it to direct your energy into the mix. There is a lot of room to imbue an incense with more power at this point, so that’s why I suggest waiting to powder your incense mix until right before you use it. If you’re extra ambitious, you can work with what’s happening astrologically that day for both the grinding of the incense and the ceremony work.

Charcoal discs, also from Google images

Charcoal discs, also from Google images

Now, for the moment you’ve been waiting for. The burning of the incense. At this point you have to acquire a self-starting charcoal. The easiest to find are the disks made for hookahs. They’re soaked in salt peter, and begin to hold an ember when you light it on fire. We carry some in our store, and a disk of the kind that we carry lasts for about an hour. There are bowls designed for the heat of a burning charcoal disk (which we also sell), but a bowl filled with sand or salt will do in a pinch. Once you light your charcoal disk and place it in its heat resistant spot, sprinkle away with your powder. In the situation of a ceremony, you’ll want a mound that it will slowly burn through. Once you have enough ash that there is a layer between the charcoal and the mix, you’ll have to clear a little away.

Some mixes are considered spells by themselves. Scott Cunningham mentions a mix he would burn around his house to deter break-ins. I don’t know how effective that was, or if there’s a way to even determine it, but it seems that it helped. Josh and I mixed up a blend to encourage the beloved dead to work with him in his medium work. We mixed Copal, Myrrh, Vervain, and Tansy. It had a good feel and Josh did great medium work. While it was mostly his talents as a medium, the blend acted as an invitation to the beloved dead that he was reaching out to as well as protection from any parasitic spirits.

There are a lot of great recipes out there. Scott Cunningham has a few books with quite the selection of recipes. Try some out (using herbs you know are SAFE to burn in your space). It’s a fun exercise in the correlations between smell and vibes.

Happy adventures in smelling and burning

Until next time

  • The Green Mountain Mage

Herbs and Salves

One of the reasons I love working with herbs is their accessibility. Yes, I can make an herbal product for you, but with the right know-how, you can also make the same product. When you grow or harvest that herb yourself, that makes that self care product your own. You begin to step into the role of your own healer.

That’s why I enjoy teaching herbal workshops. I feel like I’m empowering folk in both self care and connection to the plants growing around them. I have a workshop on salve making coming up and I wanted to share a little information about some of the herbs that I will be using in that workshop. These three herbs are easily grown up here in northern Vermont and more than likely can be grown or wildharvested where you live.


Calendula officinalis

This photo is from Fedco seeds. This is their Resina Calendula, a great medicinal variety

This photo is from Fedco seeds. This is their Resina Calendula, a great medicinal variety

This lovely yellow-orange flower is an attractive annual that is pretty easy to grow. It’s even been known to reseed itself in my garden to unexpectedly surprise me the next spring. Happy to live in a flower bed looking for a touch of gold, this beauty is also well known for its medicinal qualities. One of the first things that you will notice after harvesting a few of these flowers is the sticky resin. That’s the medicinal magic of this herb.

This herb is known for its skin healing properties, as well for its antifungal and anti-inflammatory abilities. It is gentle enough for the skin of a baby, but the first herb that comes to my mind in speeding the healing process for bruises. It’s also used internally for complaints like diarrhea and lymph issues (as well as a lovely edible garnish for salads), but for today I want to focus on how it’s one of my go to herbs for salves. There are a lot of beautiful varieties of calendula out there, but for the purpose of medicine the most resinous tend to be the yellow-orange varieties. Usually the seed catalogue that I order them from mentions the most resinous (and therefore the most medicinal) variety out of all that they offer to make it easy. If you are just buying the flowers harvested and dried, then I’m sure the variety that the company is offering for medicinal use is appropriate.


Symphytum officinale


When I acquired my first comfrey plant over a decade ago, I was sure that I had found the perfect spot for this vigorous perennial. I distinctly remember my friend Annie dubiously watching me with the plant, warning me that I should choose the spot carefully. Once it was in there, I wasn’t getting it out. I don’t think I properly believed her warning. Now, years later, my planned comfrey patches are nowhere near that original plot, as that spot is part of my larger garden. The comfrey doesn’t care. I weed it intensively every year. Every year, it returns.

Comfrey is an amazing herb. It also seems to be borderline invasive if you don’t give it a spot with clear borders (like a mown lawn). It has a long history of medicinal use that is revealed through its older common names like knitbone and boneset. The plant contains high levels of allantoin, a constituent that promotes cell growth. This is why it’s amazing in salves. It can speed the healing process of cuts and wounds.

While the debate about certain constituents known to be harmful to the liver in high amounts that comfrey contains still continues, it is generally considered safe for topical use. The research often cited involves incredibly high levels of said constituents (specifically pyrrolizidine alkaloids, if you’re feeling sciency) tested on rats. While I don’t know of any examples involving people taking normal dosage, it is still usually skipped in medicines that are taken internally. When it comes to using comfrey in salve, I believe we do far worse things to our livers on a day to day basis than apply comfrey salve to a wound.

St. John’s Wort

Hypericum perforatum

St Johns Wort

This plant can be found in fields and roadsides across Vermont. The Latin name perforatum comes from the fact that when one holds a leaf of St John’s Wort up to the light, little pin pricks can be seen. These holes are actually oil glands. This plant is another one with a long history in both medicine and magic. I happen to use it for both. Focusing on the medicinal side of this amazing plant, it is the flower and the flower bud that is used for salve. You know the flowers are ready when you squeeze a flower bud and it “bleeds” a dark purple sap. When extracting the flowers into an oil for use in a salve, the finished oil takes on a rich red color.

This herb has been used topically as an antiseptic and a ally for nerve healing for centuries. I recall a story (though I can’t remember where I read this) a story of soldiers on the way to one of the Crusades packing a sack of oil with these flowers before they left. The sun would beat down on the oil sacks and extract the properties of the flowers as they traveled. By the time they reached Jerusalem, the now red oil was ready to help heal any wounds that would be inflicted on the soldiers. This herb actually has a lot of interesting Christian lore attached to it (which is unsurprising considering its name and solar energy). If you’re interested in reading one a story that connects it to Jesus and Mary Magdalene, click here.

To use these herbs in a salve, you have to infuse them into an oil. To learn that art and how to turn those oils into salves, there are a lot of places to find information and recipes to try out. Or, you could sign up for my workshop on the 18th at 6pm by emailing me at . If you live close by, I’d love to have you at the workshop.

Lessons in Weeding

It’s been a little crazy over here in my corner of the world. I love Spring, yet the season moves at its own pace. Sometimes it feels like it’s taking forever. When everything starts going, though, it can be quite the adventure trying to keep up. The plants are on their own time and they plan on doing their thing with or without me. The race between the plants and I is on.

Along with that race, my husband and I are in the midst of putting together the plan for our studio space, its set up, and what we are doing in it. Reiki, runes, shamanic work, tea, and more… it’s quite the fiasco! The date of our Open House closes in, and there is still so much to be done.

I know that this is the craziness of late Spring. Summer creeps upon us to envelope the sweet unfurling from the Winter months to greet us with a verdant world wrapped up in hot weather, plants everywhere, and adventures to be had.

It’s overwhelming and glorious.

In this craziness, I have to remind myself to take moments to enjoy it all and listen. This is a big part of my shamanic practice: taking time to stop and listen. My teacher Adhi has her apprentices taking time everyday this month to find something that the Earth offers and eat it. Whether it’s burdock, dandelion, or sorrel, we are to take time to taste and commune. If there’s a plant type that we continue to hit up, take some time to sit with it. Maybe make offerings or rattle to it. See what happens.

I’ve been turning my weeding regimen into a chance to explore this practice. Goutweed has found a home in a few of my garden beds and if I am not careful in eradicating it, it will happily (and aggressively) take over any space it can get. It’s also a medicinal and edible plant. It was used primarily for arthritis and (did you guess?) gout. While I am not aware of any magical history with goutweed, it is an interesting plant that is very intent on covering open spots.


So, I am exploring my relationship with this weed. It’s tenacity is surely part of its magic. Its taste is a little unusual for the more modern palate, so I understand why it’s not a popular food in our cuisine. I have yet to really sit with it and listen. When I do, though, this is my plan. I can start with giving a plant an offering of tobacco. Say hi. Introduce myself. Then, I sit and listen. I don’t just listen with my ears. I use my entire body. I am in stillness, receptive to anything that the plant might throw at me. I can also try rattling to get my brain in a more receptive state, as well as another method of honoring the plant.

Take some time this week. Sit with a plant that you can identify. Taste it if its edible. Sit with it in silent meditation. What does it look like? What does it make you think of? Why? See if you can get any impressions from it. Plants and trees have surprised me many times with the insight that they have offered.  Don’t expect a voice (though, if your brain is wired to receive information that way, it’s possible). It can be a gut feeling. It might be connected to a thought. You can even try sleeping with a piece of the plant under your pillow to see if you can get something in dreams.

I’m still in the beginning stages of my relationship with this plant that I am trying to keep in check. I’m sure that there’s something to be learned even in the antagonistic nature of this plant. I just have to dig and find it.

In other news, I had mentioned in a blog a while ago about a project that I wanted to do with planting amulets under trees and seeing how it affected the surrounding area. For those of you who are interested in participating, please reach out to me. I’ll supply the amulet. All you have to do is get a tree and plant the amulet beneath it. Worse case scenario, you have a beautiful new tree in your yard.

I hope it has been as beautiful where you are as it is up here. Stay tuned to hear more about the new studio space and all the things that we will be offering there.


Until next week


  • The Green Mountain Mage

Clearing Space With Herbs

Using the smoke of cleansing herbs has long been in my practice. Physically, the smell helps bring me into the mental space I need to be to do spiritual work. Smell has strong links to memory, as the information from smells go from the thalamus to the hippocampus and amygdala, key brain regions involved in learning and memory. It’s certainly a fascinating, underappreciated sense! The herbs also interact with the vibes of the area. Most plants used in clearing work have a fiery nature.

I was recently reading the work of author Josephine McCarthy who suggested that there is a connection with these cleansing herbs and the area that they grow. She mentions that she doesn’t have a lot of luck with white sage (Salvia apiana), an herb commonly used in energetic clearing, because she lives in England. White sage is endemic to the warmer, drier areas of the states and has a long history being used by various Native tribes in ceremony. She prefers using frankincense, which does not grow on the British Isles, but has a long history there via the Church.

I’ve read articles about people calling out the overuse of white sage in cleansing as disrespectful and culturally appropriative. I believe it to be situational. It would be cultural appropriation if used in a quasi Native American ceremonial way without correct context, cultural connection, and cultural permission. Used as an herbal agent that works in a certain way seems to me to be working with the land. As a white man in an area that white sage does not grow, you can take my thoughts on that as you’d like.

In my practice, I’m fond of Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens). It’s wood from a tree that grows in South America. The name means “holy stick” and I am sadly unaware of its history beyond that. It’s commonly used in energetic clearing, and has a pleasant smell. It does the work, and does not offend the noses of those who dislike the smell of white sage.

Following the idea that plants that have a connection (historical or ecological) to the area you are cleansing are more effective, I wanted to mention some plants that I’ve used in this work that you can grow or harvest in northern Vermont. I will be using some of these in my work in the future, but not all the time. As they carry some of the skunkier notes that make people dislike white sage, they may not be for everyone.


A twig of the cedar tree up the road from me

A twig of the cedar tree up the road from me

The type of cedar that grows around here is white cedar (Thuja occidentalis). It has a very fiery nature, its astrology being Jupiter in Sagittarius. They are commonly found in graveyards due to a symbolism of eternal life. Interestingly, cedars seem to have a history in different cultures in dealing with death and purification. It might have something to the compound called thujone in it, which acts as an insect repellent, a wormer, and a mild neurotoxin (not one to repeatedly take internally in large doses, especially in essential oil form). That also protects the wood from rotting quickly. Our bodies deal with it just fine in small amounts, which is why it’s perfect for a cleansing smoke. It smells great, and has been used in conjunction with white sage for a very long time.

Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina)

Taken from Wikipedia

Taken from Wikipedia

This was a plant introduced to me last year. While it does have a sweet scent, it is not an actual fern. It is a deciduous bush that has history of being used as a medicinal plant. I have yet to personally explore that aspect of the plant, but the claims range from an expectorant, to treating ringworm, to covering a host of other ailments. What I do know about it is that a teacher suggested using it to clear space. She felt that it worked better than white sage. I don’t know if part of it is its connection to the land, but that is part of my theory. There is one drawback… when burnt, it really smells like pot. If you’re using it in a situation where that doesn’t matter, it’s great. It’s probably not appropriate for a lot of client situations, though. Depends on the space and the client, I guess. That being said, it works very well. I use it in a mix when I’m doing ceremony for myself.

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

Also taken from Wikipedia

Also taken from Wikipedia

This herb can be found growing beside roads pretty much everywhere up here. It also has a rich and varied history in the magic and medicine of China, Japan, Korea, medieval Europe, and beyond. Plants in the Artemisia family seem to have that in general. Its astrology is Venus in Cancer, and it is another fiery plant. It is used medicinally for menstrual and digestive issues. Magically, it has a history of use in works of protection and awakening psychic powers. I like to make a tea out of it with lemon balm before I work with clients to help me with compassionate insight. As a tea, it is also used to encourage dreaming. Chinese medicine has long used burning mugwort in a process called moxibustion, where a stick of mugwort is burnt over certain pressure points to restore proper flow. Burnt in a ceremonial sense, it can clear a space and open your third eye a little. My husband uses it to clear his space for readings. This one also has a pot-like smell, but not as strong as sweet fern.

Common Sage (Salvia officinalis)

It's still dead out there. I have to keep using pictures from Wikipedia.

It's still dead out there. I have to keep using pictures from Wikipedia.

Yes! You can totally use culinary sage! I had a teacher who said that it worked way better for her than white sage (again, that possible connection between the plant and where you use it). It has a lot of history in medicine and food. Yet another fiery herb, its astrology is Jupiter in Taurus. I have yet to try out home grown sage in this work. I live right at the edge of where you can grow sage, so I haven’t tried until last year. I’m still waiting to see if the plant made it through the winter. If not, I have to try and create a better microclimate for it. I will get it, someday.

So, there you have it. Four herbs to try out in cleansing space that you can forage or grow up here. Feel free to comment here on the website, or on the Facebook page as to whether you’ve worked with any of these. I’d love to hear about your experience.

Until next week

-The Green Mountain Mage

Fire Cider

I have a favorite immune support concoction that I love to start my morning with when I have it on hand, especially during the winter. I always seem to have a hard time setting aside time to actually making it, though, which is a shame. It’s a recipe called “Fire Cider.” The well-known Herbalist and Author Rosemary Gladstar came up with it in the 70s (though recipes like it may have been around before that) and she has been perfecting it ever since. There is an interesting legal battle concerning the name “Fire Cider” that’s been waging for a few years now. I urge you to look into it, as it highlights some interesting quirks of herbal work and copyright, but it’s not the focus of my post today. Instead, I want to talk about the product itself, how to make it, and where it plays a part in magic.

The recipe for Fire Cider calls for an apple cider vinegar, preferably unpasteurized. The herbal ingredients are:

  • ½ cup of chopped horseradish root

  • ½ cup chopped onion

  • ¼ cup chopped garlic cloves

  • ¼ cup grated ginger

  • Chopped fresh or powdered cayenne pepper to taste

  • Chopped fresh or powdered turmeric (an addition of mine that usually matches the amount of cayenne I put in, if it’s powdered. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on fresh turmeric, maybe an ⅛ of a cup?)


You may notice that these herbs are all food. That being said, the amounts of this recipe can be tweaked to taste or availability. Take these herbs, mix them together in a mason jar, cover them with the apple cider vinegar, gently warmed, but not hot. Put the cover on, and shake it once a day. Usually it’s suggested to do this for a month, but if you’re feeling like working a little extra magic into it, you can do it for a moon cycle.

When you’re ready, strain out the fire cider with a cheesecloth, add honey to taste (or not, if you don’t want or need the sweetness). Take a shot a day, or more if you’re worried about getting sick. This recipe leaves a lot of room to change things around. Some people add orange peel for the taste (and maybe some Vitamin C), or Cinnamon for its taste and medicinal properties. The important parts are the apple cider vinegar, onions, garlic, horseradish, and ginger. The cayenne is highly advisable, but I don’t think it’s a deal breaker.

The herbs in this concoction are generally warming, and are great at taking out a lot of different sicknesses before they settle in. If you take it before your coffee, its zing and heat will wake you right up. It’s also great for your circulation, and you’ll have the immune system of a champ with it.

While looking at the jar of Fire Cider sitting on our kitchen counter recently, I began to wonder what the magical properties of the herbs I’m extracting via vinegar are. That has to have some effect on the imbibing individual, doesn’t it?

These herbs actually have a lot in common in the more esoteric senses. As garlic and onion are related, this makes sense. They both have connections to Mars, and are used as protection against hostile magic and malevolent spirits. I think that magic and physical response are two sides of the same coin, and this makes sense. As these herbs dispel illness, they also dispel bad vibes. They are protectors that also have a connection to martial matters and male sexuality. With their history as ways to support heart and circulatory health, it would make sense that they are also connected to these things.

Ginger also has connections to Mars (a Mars in Aries astrology, just like garlic). It is used in magic concerning protection and sexuality. Could this be another connection to its use as an herb of the circulatory system?

Horseradish is also connected to Mars, and used for purification and protection. It’s medicinal uses are many. When grinding it, sometimes I have to use goggles it makes my eyes burn. It is well deserving of its fiery reputation.

I actually couldn’t find anything on the esoteric uses of cayenne, but I’m sure they’re out there. It’s certainly a fiery herb, and great medicinally for getting things moving, circulation, and kicking out illnesses. It also has a good amount of Vitamin C.

Turmeric has a history in magic as an herb of protection. Medicinally, it has some great anti-inflammatory actions that are a fine addition to the Fire Cider. I also like the taste, it fights blood clots (like a lot of the other herbs in this recipe), and there is interesting research on it helping the body fight cancer.

Vinegar itself has often been used in magical practice. I have a few herbal vinegar extracts that are waiting to be finished and mixed together to make a home cleansing vinegar wash. Vinegar itself has protective and cleansing qualities. It’s used in exorcism and banishment. I’ve even read that some people put out a bowl of vinegar in energetic troubled areas to make it difficult for negative energies to take shape. It is also classified under something that has a fiery energy.

Fire Cider has more fire in it than just in taste. All of these ingredients seem to have some use in protection and banishment, which is essentially what an herbalist is trying to do to winter illnesses with this concoction. Not only will it keep you physically healthy, it might also do the same thing for you energetically. Now, if you don’t mind, I think I’m going to strain out the batch in my kitchen and take a shot. Yeah, it’s early afternoon, but it’s sounding like a good idea to me to get a shot in.


Happy experimentation!


-The Green Mountain Mage

Freedom To Breathe

There is a certain magic to working with herbalists in finding ways to stay healthy. You get to use plants, or extracts of plants to find a body balance. You’re working with someone who is (hopefully) setting time to really listen to you, someone who isn’t bound by the strict schedule a doctor has to work with. The medicine can be cheap, or even harvested by the person looking for a little bit of healing.

It’s not that people shouldn’t use our medical system. We have amazing ways to test for different issues. Antibiotics, when used appropriately, are a game changer and life saver. If I break a bone, or have a heart attack, you better believe I’m headed to my local hospital.

Both fields, though, have their failings. As anyone can call themselves an herbalist, it can be difficult to choose who to listen to. You can go the route of only trusting herbalists who have gone through specific programs, but that can discount a lot of knowledgeable folks out there. It is also sometimes difficult to get good information on herbs. With some sources being a mix of valuable information, and useless drivel, sometimes an herbalist has to figure out how to deal with a problem as they go.

I am having one of those situations.

I have asthma. Upon contact with the right mix of allergens and weather, my airways become inflamed and have difficulty getting in air. For those of you who have not had the experience, it feels like someone is sitting on your chest, and you can’t expand your lungs enough to get the air you need. The worse it gets, the less air you can get. In severe cases, without medication the asthmatic can die. My first asthma attack was when I was two years old, and it’s been a reoccurring problem ever since. I have gone as long as a year without an asthma attack. Sometimes it’s minor. Sometimes, if I don’t have the medicine I need on hand, I have to go to the ER.

This is one of the cases that is generally left to our general medical system. An albuterol inhaler is used for an asthma attack in progress, while steroids are used as a preventative method. I had tried a few herbal remedies, but for the most part they were relatively useless to someone with moderate to severe breathing problems. The closest I could find to something that helped was a mix of essential oils (peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, and thyme, if you are wondering). It would help, but it was in no way strong enough to get me through even a moderate attack.

The problem with the medicine is that not only do I have to jump through the regular hoops to get the prescription written out, they have jumped in price around 2009. This came about due to pharmaceutical lobbying using the movement to protect the ozone as a chance to make more money. It’s an interesting and frustrating story, which you can read about in depth here and here.

I recently had a scare with my inhaler where it looked like I might not be able to refill my prescription in time, meaning that I would have to hit up the ER, and pay the ridiculous bill that would follow. All to be able to breathe. It made me realize how vulnerable I am with this health issue, and how much I depend on the medical system to keep me alive. It definitely inspired me to continue my research about how I can be more self reliant in my medical care.

There is an herb that has shown to be actually useful in asthmatic care. In fact, the active ingredient in my albuterol inhaler is a modified version of norepinephrin, one of the constituents in this herb. It’s called ephedra. There are a few plants in this family that have the needed constituents in varying degrees, but the common one used is Ephedra sinica (Chinese Ephedra, or Ma Huang). At the turn of the century, supplement companies began to promote and sell ephedra, but not as a way to deal with asthma. They noticed that they could use it as a performance enhancing drug and a way to lose weight. While it was effective, the amount that was recommended for use started showing side effects, including possible death. It became enough of an issue that in 2004, the FDA banned sale of products containing ephedrine alkaloids. They didn’t want to deal with dosage safety, or supplement companies making dangerous miracle claims with a plant that needs to be respected.

We still use constituents present in ephedra. Pseudoephedrine shows up in allergy medicine and decongestants (now you know where the name Sudafed came from). Ephredrine and norephedrine, other constituents in ephedra, are still used in medicine. In controlled amounts, it is a helpful medicine. Used indiscriminately, it can be dangerous.

This is where the importance of research and experience come in. While products containing ephredrine alkaloids cannot be sold, the plant ephedra can be sold. Using it isn’t illegal, just selling it for use is. With continued research, and careful care of the plants when I get them, maybe I can find a little extra freedom from a medical system that has an uncomfortable amount of power in my life.

Interestingly, there are three other herbs that might be able to help. One is my all time favorite, stinging nettles (you can find out about it’s energetic properties in my store). It’s a wonderful herbal ally that I have never heard of having any undesirable side effects. It has the reputation as a tonic that will help the body’s response to allergens (amongst many other things). I find that it’s something that I need to take continually to reap any benefits in that department, but its help is there.

The second is a lovely plant called elecampane. It has been used in asthma lozenges in times past, and I find it does minorly help open up the airways. It’s great for someone with a little wheeze, but it is only so useful against major asthmatic issues. It’s a good ally in maintenance and minor issues.

The third is one that I’ve yet to experiment with. Around these parts, we have relative of the famous medicinal mushroom reishi. Reishi has a host of benefits. One of these benefits is helping with lung inflammation. I’ve read about supposed asthma help. I was walking through the woods with my teacher Adhi this past weekend as she stopped at the base of a dead tree. “Hey, that’s reishi!” she said as she pointed out a red, orange, and white glossy shelf mushroom. I picked the gigantic mushroom, gave thanks, and I am presently in the process of chopping and drying. Next step is to make an extraction, and see if it is any help. I can only hope.


Wishing you all a beautiful weekend


  • The Green Mountain Mage