The transition from winter to spring can be challenging for our bodies. The shift in seasons and increase in allergens can affect our sleep patterns, energy levels, and mood. When we are mindful of these changes and take intentional steps, it can be easy to support our health during this time.
Bevin Clare, Program Director for the Master of Science in Clinical Herbal Medicine at Maryland University of Integrative Health offers seven tips to help our bodies transition from winter tospring.
Eat more sour and bitter foods. These flavors are associated with springtime and can help to cleanse and detoxify the body. A few examples include drinking water with fresh lemon or eating fresh grapefruit, endive, arugula, spinach, artichokes, or chicory. Many excellent, warm, nourishing soups are perfect for spring and a wonderful way to cleanse or detoxify.
Drink detox teas. Consuming teas that support detoxification is a fantastic way to support the liver and lymphatic system. Some of the best detox teas for springtime include dandelion tea and red clover tea.
Limit your exposure to allergens. Springtime is the peak season for pollen allergies. If you are allergic to pollen, try to limit your time outdoors or wear a mask when outdoors.
Try herbs for allergy prevention and relief. Some herbs, like nettles, are considered natural antihistamines that may inhibit the receptor sites where histamine typically activates. Licorice root can be helpful as an anti-inflammatory. Eyebright and Euphrates Mint herbs can help with colds and allergy relief and have anti-inflammatory actions.
Try local honey for allergy prevention. Local honey is a fantastic way to introduce yourself to local pollen and prevent seasonal spring allergies.
Get moving. Movement is a great way to support your lymphatic system. Even raising your arms above your head is simple and effective practice. Ashwagandha is an herb you can try to support overall stamina and energy levels during the day.
Use a diffuser. Get an aroma therapy diffuser and diffuse supportive herbs, such as lavender or eucalyptus for lung health. Doing some deep breathing can also be extremely helpful.
For 40 years, patients have received healing experiences from the Natural Care Center, the student clinic at Maryland University of Integrative Health. To craft a personalized nutrition plan, experience relaxation with yoga therapy and acupuncture techniques, and achieve balance with herbal medicine, visit NCC.MUIH.edu
Author: Donna Koczaja, MS, RH(AHG) is a Registered Herbalist and a graduate of MUIH’s Herbal Medicine program. She is the owner of Green Haven Living, LLC, where she helps individuals achieve their wellness goals using herbs. She also occasionally helps out at the MUIH Herbal Dispensary – a healing place of its own. Learn more about Donna, what she does, and why she does it at www.greenhavenherbalist.com.
Fall is underway!
The days and nights are cooler, the air is crisp, and nature is preparing to hunker down for the winter. When I think of “herbs for fall”, I think of roots and seeds, and warm, spicy herbs for the chilly nights.
In the cycle of the seasons, it is natural to correlate roots (and seeds) with autumn – the natural decline of the growing season. This is because the herbaceous parts of plants begin to die down and start to put their energy into fortifying the roots to overwinter and re-emerge in spring. Traditionally, fall is the peak time to harvest root herbs for this reason – their nutrient and medicinal content is maximized at this time.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the root herbs I tend to associate with fall are also warming, spicy, and hearty – just the ticket for those cooler, darker days. To that end, here are 5 herbs that I would consider essential partners as we head into fall:
Ginger root (Zingziber officinalis)
No list of warming, fall root herbs would be complete without ginger. In fact, renowned British herbalist, Simon Mills, often says that if he had to pick only two herbs to use, ginger would be one of them! (Hint: His other go-to herb is at the end of my list!).
Ginger is perhaps best known for its anti-nausea effects. Remember when your Mom gave you ginger ale for an upset stomach? Mild, gentle, and zingy, a warm, ginger tea is quite soothing. Pregnant women sometimes use it for morning sickness, and cancer patients can also benefit.
Not a one-trick pony, ginger also boasts anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, and is a great febrifuge (induces sweat to help break a fever). And it tastes great!
Burdock root (Arctium lappa)
Continuing with the root theme, burdock is a hearty, earthy herb primarily used to enhance digestion. In particular, burdock root promotes the production and secretion of bile from the liver and gall bladder. Bile is necessary for fat digestion, so it would be useful to have burdock root handy for the Thanksgiving meal and other upcoming holiday festivities. As a bonus, burdock is also helpful in maintaining bowel regularity, and even assisting when bowels are, well, ‘not so regular’.
Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinalis)
I consider dandelion root a sister herb to burdock, because its medicinal properties are similar. Both the leaves as well as the root are used medicinally (and sometimes even the flower – not just for dandelion wine!), but each plant part has slightly different properties. Sticking to my ‘roots’, though, like burdock, dandelion root also increases bile production and secretion. It’s slightly bitter, and as a general rule bitter herbs enhance digestion by stimulating digestive enzymes. Think about when you taste something very bitter – does your mouth water? That’s actually very good, because saliva breaks down carbohydrates right at the beginning of the digestive tract.
Cardamom seed (Elettaria cardamomum)
The therapeutic part of cardamom is actually the small seeds enclosed in a larger seed pod. It’s classified as an herbal aromatic due to its spicy, warm, and even tingly taste. Yet it’s quite different from ginger (but pairs well!). Cardamom is a common ingredient in herbal chai teas, giving chai that distinctive, spicy flavor. Medicinally, cardamom is considered a ‘carminative’, which is a fancy word meaning ‘relieves gas and bloating’. It helps to relieve spasms in the gut, which in turn breaks up painful gas bubbles. Like burdock, a must-have for your Thanksgiving dinner!
Cinnamon inner bark (Cinnamomum cassia, C. verum)
You guessed it – cinnamon is Simon Mills’ other go-to herb. Not a root or a seed, but an important fall herb nonetheless. Like ginger, it’s spicy and warm, but it’s more sweet. In addition to flavoring your muffins and other delectables, it has a wealth of health benefits. I use cinnamon as a very mild circulatory and/or digestive stimulant, and its mild astringency means it is also indicated for loose bowels. I also use it for my clients who need a little help with regulating their blood sugar. And, of course, like most herbs and spices, cinnamon is also anti-inflammatory. I love the taste of all things cinnamon, and I suggest using it liberally in cooking. In fact, cinnamon is also a natural preservative, so adding it to baked goods can prolong their shelf life as well as make them extra tasty!
Why I love these herbs for Fall
These are just 5 of my favorite herbs for fall. All are very safe for regular, daily use, and are very easy to find. Many health food stores have bulk herbs at reasonable prices – buy some and try blending your own teas to taste. Root, seed, and bark herbs are best simmered in a covered pot over direct heat for about 20 minutes before straining and enjoying.
Powders are great to sprinkle on your oatmeal, yogurt, or applesauce. Just keep in mind that burdock and dandelion roots are slightly bitter. But it’s well worth the taste – the bitter is actually what makes these herbs so effective!
Finally, ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom are also wonderful additions to fall-favorite baked goods such as pumpkin breads and muffins. Add a therapeutic punch to your autumn traditions!
Written by: Dr. Haneefa Willis – Johnson, Western Herbal Dispensary, Assistant Manager
Licorice Root for the use of Gastrointestinal Inflammation
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are small enzymatic molecules that are produced by cells in the mucosal lining of the intestines as well as activated innate immune cells. ROS enzymes: superoxide (02-), hydroxyl (OH), and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) are pivotal in fighting infection and wound healing however it is essential that epithelial exposure to ROS is balanced. A breakdown in the antigenic signaling pathway can result in a hyperinflammatory response. A toxic level of ROS production jeopardizes the integrity of the intestinal lining & efficient pathogen removal leading to chronic gastrointestinal (GI) inflammation (Aviello, 2017). In adults (>18 y/o), the occurrences of GI inflammation have risen by 0.9% since 1999 (National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2019). Conventional treatments include aminosalicylate (5-ASA) drugs, immunomodulatory agents like corticosteroids, and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation from an antigen-matched donor (Aviello, 2017).
Alternatively, Licorice root Glycyrrhiza glabra is a traditional medicinal plant that has exhibited an impressive propensity to combat inflammation activity (Eichenfield, 2007). A major phytoconstituent of Licorice is the bitter-tasting triterpenoid saponin, glycyrrhizin. Numerous therapeutic capabilities of glycyrrhizin have been linked to antiviral, antibacterial, antihepatotoxic, and cytoprotective effects (Murray, 2020, p.642-643). Additionally, evidence-based laboratory research shows that glycyrrhizin also balances the excessive accumulation of neutrophil-mediated ROS (Akamatsu, 1991). Neutrophils are innate immune cells that activate in the presence of an antigen or allergen (Hosoki, 2016). Researchers Akamatsu, Komura, and Niwa (1991) looked at the three main functions of neutrophils (1) mobility to a target, (2) ability to ingest a target, and (3) generation of ROS each in assay systems concentrated with 0.05, 0.5, and 5.0 mg/ml of glycyrrhizin. Akamatsu et al. (1991) found that the presence of glycyrrhizin at any concentration made no impact on the neutrophil’s mobility or phagocytic capacities. However, they found a significant decrease (P <0.05) in the neutrophil-mediated ROS production (O2-, OH, H202) which directly correlated to the glycyrrhizin concentration. The inhibition of neutrophil metabolism of ROS in the presence of glycyrrhizin can reduce the damaging effects seen in chronic gastrointestinal inflammation by limiting a hyperresponsive immune system (Akamatsu, 1991). Together, this finding and the scientific discovery of bitter taste receptors (T2R) in the GI lining clarifies the medicinal benefits observed clinically in a wide variety of cultures that expand thousands of years (Wu, 2002).
This newsletter article is for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional care by a physician or other qualified medical professionals. It is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you are looking for help in your journey, we recommend you seek out a qualified MUIH herbal practitioner that can personalize herbal formulas specific to your needs. Contact us at (410)888-9048 ext. 6676 or for more information. Licorice root is not for use in persons with hypertension, liver disorders, edema, severe kidney insufficiency, low blood potassium, or heart disease.
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Herbal Medicine Programs at MUIH
MUIH’s one of a kind herbal medicine programs recognize and respect the power of nature and herbs in promoting health and wellness, by integrating cultural traditions and contemporary science and research. Graduates support the growing consumer use of herbal medicine in community health and wellness, clinical, research, manufacturing, and retail settings. The Herbal Dispensary at Maryland University of Integrative Health is a unique and valuable resource of the Herbal Medicine academic programs. The dispensary provides the tools and space for students to get hands-on experience creating, formulating, and compounding herbal preparations.
Akamatsu, H., Komura, J., Asada, Y., & Niwa, Y. (1991). Mechanism of Anti-Inflammatory Action of Glycyrrhizin: Effect on Neutrophil Functions Including Reactive Oxygen Species Generation. Planta Medica, 57(02), 119–121. doi:10.1055/s-2006-960045
Aviello, G., & Knaus, U. G. (2017). ROS in gastrointestinal inflammation: Rescue Or Sabotage?. British journal of pharmacology, 174(12), 1704–1718. https://doi.org/10.1111/bph.13428
Eichenfield, L. F., Fowler, J. F., Jr, Rigel, D. S., & Taylor, S. C. (2007). Natural advances in eczema care. Cutis, 80(6 Suppl), 2–16.
Hosoki, K., Itazawa, T., Boldogh, I., & Sur, S. (2016). Neutrophil recruitment by allergens contribute to allergic sensitization and allergic inflammation. Current opinion in allergy and clinical immunology, 16(1), 45–50. https://doi.org/10.1097/ACI.0000000000000231
Murray, M. T. (2020). Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice). Textbook of Natural Medicine, 641–647.e3. doi:10.1016/b978- 0-323-43044-9.00085-6
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP). (2019). Inflammatory Bowel Disease Prevalence (IBD) in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Retrieved June 27, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/ibd/data-statistics.htm#2
Nguyen GC, Chong CA, Chong RY. National estimates of the burden of inflammatory bowel disease among racial and ethnic groups in the United States. J Crohns Colitis. 2014;8:288–295. DOI: https://academic.oup.com/ecco- jcc/article/8/4/288/386357external icon. Accessed May 2, 2018.
Wu, S. V., Rozengurt, N., Yang, M., Young, S. H., Sinnett-Smith, J., & Rozengurt, E. (2002). Expression of bitter taste receptors of the T2R family in the gastrointestinal tract and enteroendocrine STC-1 cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 99(4), 2392–2397. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.042617699
Though we are in the dead of heat now, summer has been flying by and the crisp air of fall will be upon us soon. In preparation for the summer season peak, we sat down to chat with Andrea Miller, a student in the Master of Science in Therapeutic Herbalism program and the new gardener in the herb garden at MUIH. Andrea shared her knowledge with us about what’s in season, what we should plant now in preparation for cooler months, and what some of her best practices for gardening include.
We’ve got a few more weeks left of winter – wouldn’t it be great to stay strong and healthy during this time? We asked several faculty members from our yoga, nutrition, herbal medicine, health and wellness coaching, and acupuncture and Oriental medicine programs to answer this question: What are some of the top tips you’d give a client to help them maintain a strong immune system during this time of year?
When I think of some of my favorite wintertime herbs, I am drawn to warming, moving, and nurturing plants that help provide balance to the colder, more sluggish and stark energies of winter. As a believer in food as our primary medicine, I have chosen herbs that can all be added to one’s meals or sipped on as an enjoyable tea—bringing our medicine into our daily lives with ease.