As the winds die down here and the danger of the wildfires have passed, we are left with our valleys filling with harmful smoke that can impact our breathing and health. Those with lung or heart diseases and other health conditions are the most at risk for complications due to exposure. Children and the elderly are also susceptible, however, even healthy adults can experience symptoms. Prolonged exposure can also lead to other issues in the future.
First step is to avoid exposure. If you are able to leave the area during these intense days following the fire, that would be ideal. Neti-pot and sinus rinses help to flush out inhaled particles as well as drinking lots of water to stay hydrated and flush out toxins. Staying indoors and wearing an appropriate respirator when venturing outside is recommended by the CDC—they have some other great recommendations here.
Herbs that can help support the lungs in these situations are ones that are calming and soothing to the tissues. For example, licorice root and marshmallow root help to soften and soothe scratchy throats and protecting from particulates in the air. Licorice root is excellent in that it also acts as an expectorant, expelling mucus from the lungs. Other helpful expectorant herbs are elecampane, grindelia, osha, horehound, yerba santa and mullein.
Another thing to consider during this time of loss and grief as homes are lost, families are displaced and our beautiful open spaces are instantly transformed into a charred alien landscape, are herbs to support our emotional well-being. Stress and anxiety can run rampant during these times. Our herbal allies can help us as we navigate these challenging times. One of my favorites is tulsi (also known as holy basil) which helps to calm the emotional heart while lowering cortisol levels (stress hormones) in the body.
Other supportive herbs during stressful times are passionflower and California poppy. These are especially helpful for those long days and nights that you are laying in bed, anxiety-ridden and sleepless. Sleep helps us recharge and renew but seemingly endless days of wildfires that last weeks or more end up leaving us drained, exhausted and stressed out. These two herbs are my favorite for helping to turn off the mind that runs in circles and for a restful full night of sleep.
My heart goes out to all those affected by the recent Woolsey and Hill Fires. I was evacuated from my home and apothecary for 24 hours, anxiously waiting and watching the flames as they devoured my beloved landscapes here in my community of Thousand Oaks. Unfortunately the fires are swallowing up the neighboring Santa Monica Mountains and Malibu, also areas very dear to my heart. Please feel free to reach out if there’s anything I can help with.
For single herb extracts of the herbs listed above, contact me directly. Other herbal formulas that include these key herbs can be found in my shop.