Fighting Candidiasis

Fighting Candidiasis


Guest post by Shanti Cox




Candida albicans is a type of parasitic, yeast-like fungus that inhabits the intestines, genital tract, mouth, esophagus and throat. It is a fungus that resides in every human system. It usually lives in balance with other yeasts and beneficial bacteria in the body, but various factors can create conditions that alter the balance, weaken the immune system and set a perfect breeding ground for multiplication and result in an infection known as candidiasis (Balch 183).


Candida albicans lives in your intestines originally. It is when you become imbalanced that the fungus can spread to other areas of the body or make way to your blood system where you then are dealing with a systemic infection. The fungus thrives on nutrients in the body and can create a cycle of deficiency (Gates 24).


Over the last thirty years, the overgrowth of Candida albicans has become an all-too familiar health problem in our society. This rapid increase has been attributed to an increase in the overuse of antibiotics, birth control pill use and diets high in processed foods and sugars. All of these common culprits can throw our body ecology off. Experts estimate that one in three Americans have candidiasis, but most don’t make the connection between their symptoms and this “modern epidemic.” Numbers are much higher in young adults, especially young women (Gates 5).




Candidiasis is widely misunderstood because of its variation. It can manifest in many parts and areas of the body and more complexly, symptoms can vary from obvious ones like a vaginal yeast-infection to not so obvious ones like mental fuzziness or recurring headaches. So many of the symptoms that stem from candidiasis could easily be mistaken and blamed for other diseases and health issues. Some of the symptoms most often associated with candidiasis are food allergies, fatigue, digestive disorders, PSM, skin rashes, chronic constipation, recurring headaches, chronic vaginitis, chemical and environmental sensitivities, poor memory, mental fuzziness and loss of sex drive (Gates 5).


Not only do symptoms vary in general, but they also vary between males, females and children. When candida infects the vagina, it results in vaginitis characterized by a large amount of white, cheese-like discharge along with itching and burning. This can become problematic and easily transferable during vaginal childbirth when a mother can pass the fungus on to the newborn baby. Candida can infect the mouth, also called thrush and it often resembles while milk spotting sometimes accompanied by sores (Balch 184).




Candidiasis has become known as one of the more difficult conditions to treat due to its vicious cycle abilities. When the body becomes imbalanced, the fungus proliferates easily and produces toxins that weaken the immune system further. Because Candida albicans feeds and thrives off so many common diet foods, it can be quite tricky to break the cycle and restore balance. Although there are some pharmaceuticals on the market that contain the potency to kill off the fungus, the most successful approach is a comprehensive one that involves strong dietary restrictions combined with herbal support.


Any article, research, book or information website on the topic of candidiasis will agree that diet is crucial for beginning to heal. Sugar is the top nutrient for Candida albicans (this can include fruit, honey, maple syrup and especially refined sugar) (Crook 101-108). Other triggers that seem to feed the yeast are dairy products, mold and yeast-containing foods like alcohol, cheeses, peanuts and dried fruits (Murray 381-383). According to Gates and Murray, boosting immunity and providing cleansing at a deeper level is necessary. Candidiasis is a sign of a depressed immune system. “A compromised immune system leads to infection, and infection leads to damage to the immune system, further weakening resistance,” states Murray (382). Both recommend looking at the liver. They both claim that that liver function may be one of the most critical factors in healing from candidiasis.




Going beyond the initial understandings and implementations of immunity and cleansing support, you can begin to add in herbal support. There are many plants that have shown themselves to be key supporters for combatting Candida albicans. These include berberine-containing plants like Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis) & Oregon Grape Root (Berberis aquifolium) along with Pau d’arco (Tabebuia avellanedae), Garlic (Alium sativum) and the extracts of Oregano (Origanum vulgare) & Olive Leaf (Olea europaea).


Goldenseal and Oregon Grape Root both contain berberine, a chemical constituent that has shown to inhibit Candida albicans as well as pathogenic bacteria. The recommended dosage for berberine is 25 to 50 mg three times per day. Garlic has shown in research to be more potent than more than eight anti-fungal medications on the market. A daily dose of at least 10 mg of the active component allicin is recommended daily. This is equal to about one clove of fresh garlic (Murray 386). As for Oregano and Olive Leaf extracts, it has shown most effective when administered in an enteric-coated capsule. This is to make sure that the oils will be delivered to the small and large intestines. Oregano has shown to be 100 times more potent in anti-candida activity than caprylic acid—a very popular natural candida-fighting supplement on the market. The phenols in oregano oil and the oleuropein in olive leaf extract are highly concentrated and extremely effective in fighting bacterial infections, fungal infections and candida overgrowth.(Murray 385-386). Pau D’arco (also known as lapacho or taheebo) is a South American tree that contains antibacterial and antifungal constituents and has been shown to have strong effects with combating candidiasis. The recommended dosage is 2 tablespoons of herb per quart of water and to decoct for twenty minutes (Balch 185).


Candidiasis is a complex infection with many paths to various health conditions. If left untreated, symptoms can increase with vigor and manifest into deeply seeded, more distressed problems. There are Candida questionnaires online and in many books that can be a good starting place for questioning if you have a yeast overgrowth in the body.







Balch, Phyllis A., and James F. Balch. Prescription for nutritional healing. 3rd ed. New York: Avery, 2000. Print.



Crook, William G.. The yeast connection handbook. Jackson, Tenn.: Professional Books, 1999. Print.



Gates, Donna. The Body Ecology Diet. Carlsbad: Hay House Publishers, 2011. Print.



Murray, Michael T., and Joseph E. Pizzorno. Encyclopedia of natural medicine. Rev. 2nd ed. Rocklin, CA: Prima Pub., 1998. Print.



Herbs for the Migraine Sufferer

Herbs for the Migraine Sufferer

Guest post by Arica Bray


Although I don’t suffer from migraines, they have been, for me, a constant lurking nemesis. Breathing in the shadows since childhood, they seem to clutch hold of the men in my life that I believe to be my indestructible giants. As a kid, I can recall the occasions I had to tip-toe past my father’s bedroom, the door shut and lights turned low. Inside the darkness of the room I knew my father was battling a monster invisible to my untrained child eyes. “Migraine” is what my mother called this fiend. Now that I am married, I’ve experienced with helpless arms the same childhood culprit take hold of my husband, and like my father, forcing him to retire to the cool shadows of a room for some amount of relief.


If you have ever experienced migraines or know someone who has, you know just how miserable and completely debilitating the pain can be. Migraines are similar in effect to headaches; however along with the intense throbbing and pulsing sensation in the head they are often, but not always, accompanied by nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness and/or blurred vision. Just like my father and husband, those that suffer from migraines often seek seclusion, wanting nothing more than to curl up into a ball and disappear in a dark room until the storm passes, which can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days! According to Medical Herbalism by David Hoffman, migraines affects as many as 25% of all Americans. These attacks can develop in early childhood, although a majority of sufferers recall first experiencing symptoms between the ages of 10 and 30 years.


Migraine attacks commonly take one of two forms. The more common of the two is called “migraine without aura”, which affects 85% of all migraine suffers. These include episodes of severe pain which affects one, if not both, sides of the head, usually described as a painful throbbing. As if that weren’t enough fun, the signature of these headaches is often, but not always associated with a sick feeling in the stomach, sensitivity to light & sound or movement of the body. The second type is considered the classical migraine or the “migraine with aura”, which accounts for the remaining 15% of sufferers. An “aura” is a disturbance in the nervous system that precedes a headache. An example of such disturbances include seeing bright flashes, black spots or even loss of vision, and/or numbness in parts of the body. These auras reportedly last less than an hour before the onset of a migraine, and thankfully pass with no lasting effects. Auras seem to act as a signal to the sufferer, letting them know a migraine is well on its way.


Much is still yet to be discovered on what exactly is the cause of migraines, although genetics and environmental factors appear to play a vital role. Theories suggest that migraines may be caused by changes in the major pathway of the brainstem and its interaction with the trigeminal nerve. (The trigeminal nerve is the largest of the cranial nerves and is responsible for sensation in the face and other certain motor functions, such as biting and chewing). Imbalances in brain chemicals, like serotonin- which helps regulate pain in your nervous system, may also be involved. Research continues to done on the exact process of migraines, however, there are a number of things we do know when it comes to what triggers them and possible risk factors.


As suggested before, up to 90 percent of all migraine sufferers report a family history of migraine attacks. With that said, if one or both of your parents encounter migraines, unfortunately for you; you too have good chances of also having migraines. Studies have also found that women are three times more likely to have migraines then men. Women also report having increased migraines around the time of their menstruation, during pregnancy and before menopause. This may be in effect to hormonal shifts and changes in the body.


As you might well have realized by now, migraines and headaches are dynamic systems of a much bigger problem. Although one might want to find remedies, pills or herbs to address the pain, often times it succeeds in doing nothing more than suppressing the pain to then manifest again at a later time. When treating migraines it’s important to take a look at the underlying cause, and actively working on ways towards effective migraine prevention. Migraines can be triggered by a wide variety of reasons, anywhere from food allergies and sensitivities, pollutants, stress, neck and shoulder tension, to hormonal changes, low blood sugar, and constipation. Almost anything in one’s lifestyle or environment can serve as a migraine trigger. These “triggers” don’t actually cause the pain; rather they help to activate an already predisposed chemical mechanism in the brain. And the more triggers that are present at a given time lead to the greater likelihood a migraine will occur.


The first and most important step in migraine prevention is identifying the trigger and then avoiding it like the plague! An awesome way to find out what your triggers are is to keep a headache diary. This is a chart that includes the date and time of a headache, specific location and sensation of pain, how long the headache lasted, what possible triggers you may have been exposed to, and what (if anything) helped your headache. Feel free to be very descriptive, as the more in depth you analyze and track the symptoms, the better you will be at succeeding in exposing the migraine culprit(s) overtime. A list of common triggers includes but is not limited to: caffeine, chocolate, aged cheese, alcohol, soy, red meat, peanuts, tomatoes, wheat, shellfish, foods containing MSG, ice cream, nitrates (found in hotdogs or deli meats) skipping meals, too much or too little of sleep, menstruation, birth control , stress or anxiety, bright lights, weather changes, medications, strong odors or pollutants. It is also important to be aware that there is a phenomenon called “medication overuse headache” (MOH). MOH is the overuse of certain pain medications such as Tylenol, narcotics, aspirin, caffeine, and ibuprofen which one might be taking specifically to help alleviate their headaches; however, in reality these medications may begin to be a large precipitating cause of the migraines. It is good to be aware of this potential and often unnoticed trigger as it might be beneficial to stop your pain medications, if at least for a few months to see if it helps.


The second step in preventing migraines is to work on managing stress. Adequate sleep, meditation, visualization, yoga, breathing exercises or simply taking some alone time away from people and/or responsibilities for an hour, can be a great way to quiet the mind and delve deeper into your own personal health. Sometimes illnesses are our body’s way of manifesting an issue (be it emotional or physical) that we, for various reasons, are refusing to deal with or solve. Master herbalist, Aviva Romm, suggest exploring an even deeper level, and asking yourself how the migraine impacts your life. What event do you skip or miss when you have a migraine? Was it work or a stressful event? She goes on to explain that “sometime our bodies, in their infinite wisdom, create symptoms for us when we are not able to speak for ourselves.” Although this may not be the sole solution to our ailment, often times, there are stress related components associated with chronic problems, so it may be something worth further exploration.


Neck and back tension is also huge contributing factor to headaches and migraines and in most instances it is very easy to relieve. Massage therapy, physical therapy, acupuncture and oesteopathic manipulation can all help to relieve neck and muscle tension and with it, your gnarly migraine. However, if you have a history of reoccurring tension, take a good examination at body posture (at work and at home), congenital alignments or any previous pulled or sprained muscles, as these may take more specific practice or medical attention.


Okay, so we have already covered a lot of information about how migraines work and various ways to identify and prevent them from occurring. But you may be asking yourself “what about the herbs!?” After all, this article is entitled “herbs for the migraine sufferer”, rest assured, our fine verdant friends can help too! One of the most renowned herbs, with an affinity for migraines, is the ambrosial Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium). Feverfew is not an immediate cure for headaches and migraines, however with consistent attention (typically 4-6 weeks) Feverfew has been found successful in reducing the number, duration and severity or migraines. Feverfew is an herb that works as a natural anti-inflammatory. The recommended daily dosage is 25mg, (or acutely at up to 2g!) of leaf and flower extraction. Yet even a single fresh leaf one to three times a day has been for some, an adequate tonic. Word of caution to avoid Feverfew if you are on any blood thinners, as it can interfere with medication and increase bleeding. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) and Butterbur (Pestasites) also offer relevant properties at a dose of 120 mg and 150 mg per day respectively. Along with anti-inflammatory herbs, another great thing to consider is reducing the amount of pro-inflammatory foods in your diet, particularly sugar, red meat, poultry and processed foods. This, along with simultaneously adding antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables, and quality oils such as fish oil, olive oil, walnut oil and coconut oils, can all help to reduce migraine frequency.


Migraine prevention is the key to effectively fighting your migraines, however, what can be done if you already have a migraine? Like mentioned before, it is best to figure out for yourself what type of headache and what may be the cause. Once you have a good idea, you can look for herbs that address that specific condition. For example if you know your headache to be caused by crazy neck spasms or tension, Peony (Paeonia albaflora), Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), Vervian (Verbena officinalis), Mullein flower and root (Verbascum thapsus), Elder flower (Sambacuscanadensis), Anemone spp., and Pendicularis spp. are known to work well for easing and relaxing the body. Poplar (Populus sp.), Birch (Betula spp.), Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) and Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) all contain pain relieving salicylic acid that can help in pain relieving inflammation, similar to how aspirin works to alleviate pain. One great formula for migraines associated with stress and hypertension include equal parts of Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), Linden (Tilia platyphyllos), Wood betony (Stachys betonica), Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), Cramp bark (Viburnum opulus); dosage being 2.5 ml three times a day.


Although there is no concrete cure for migraines, there are a great number of ways you can prevent and alleviate the awful and debilitating pain migraines create in your life and/or in the lives of those you love. And, as always, may plants be your allies in your journey towards greater health.







  4. Medical Herbalism by David Hoffman









Guest post by Angi Hronek, herbalist

In America today, about 1 in 6 people have Osteoarthritis (1). It occurs at varying
levels of severity and often requires a complex treatment regimen. A well-rounded
treatment plan includes lifestyle changes, pain-relieving techniques, and supportive

Osteoarthritis, also known as Degenerative Joint Disease or Wear and Tear
Arthritis, primarily effects the cartilage of the body causing it to wear and decay. This
often leads to pain and even disability. Osteoarthritis involves less inflammation than
other types of arthritis. Symptoms are, but not limited to- early morning stiffness, joint
pain, loss of function and/or range of motion, etc. It primarily effects weight bearing
joints. The most common of these are fingers, neck, low back, knees and hips. Women
have a higher incidence of Osteoarthritis, especially after age 45 (1,2). It is usually broken
down into two categories: 1.) Primary Osteoarthritis- or wear and tear- which involves
no predisposing abnormalities. 2.) Secondary Osteoarthritis- involves a predisposition
for joint degeneration from joint abnormalities or previous joint inflammation issues.

There are many factors that have been found to play a role in developing
Osteoarthritis. Misalignments and skewed musculoskeletal dynamics influence both
types mentioned previously. Some studies have shown a link between estrogen levels
and the occurrence of arthritis. Higher estrogen levels were found in women with
Osteoarthritis, and estrogenic medicines like Estradiol were shown to worsen arthritic
symptoms (2). High levels of stress can also increase the severity of Osteoarthritis
onset. Stress increases pain, muscle tension, and makes one more prone to illness (4).
All of these varying factors naturally produce a wide array of treatment possibilities.

One of the first considerations for treatment is reducing pain. Pain reduction will
often provide the relief necessary for someone to follow through with other helpful
treatments like exercise, which benefits the body and mind. Relaxing the mind can help
one deal with pain. There are many relaxation techniques like meditation or deep
breathing that have proven to help reduce pain. Some find relief using a cane or shoe
inserts to take pressure off of certain joints, allowing them to rest. Hydrotherapy uses
hot or cold water treatments to reduce pain. It helps to relax muscles and improves
strength and joint movement. Many people turn to over-the-counter pain killers like
NSAIDS, or Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs, like Aspirin or Ibuprofen. NSAIDS
aren’t the best choice for this condition because they work by reducing inflammation,
which isn’t the primary issue with Osteoarthritis. NSAIDS can actually be
counterproductive by increasing the rate of cartilage degeneration and inhibiting
collagen synthesis (2). Osteoarthritis may respond to Acetominaphins like Tylenol for
pain relief, but responds best of all to supplementing with Glucosamine.

Glucosamine sulfate treats and prevents Osteoarthritis at the root of its cause,
cartilage degeneration. It has proven to reduce pain better than NSAIDS. Long term use
will wield the best results. Overweight patients may require higher doses to see results,
and people with peptic ulcers should always take this with food. If you are also taking a
diuretic, you should increase the dose to compensate for the amount that may be
getting flushed out- this goes for most supplements. Many have seen results after 8
weeks of taking glucosamine, but it can take longer. There are many other vitamins and
minerals suggested to improve this condition. Chondroitin has similar effects on
Osteoarthritis, but it is widely viewed to be less effective than glucosamine. Taking
these two together has not proven to make them more effective. Another beneficial
supplement which improves joint function, strength, endurance and range of motion is
Niacinamide. One to three years of continual use is recommended. Vitamins can also
have favorable affects on someone dealing with Osteoarthritis. Vitamin E is fat soluble
and has an antioxidant and membrane stabilizing action. It is found in whole grains and
nuts. Vitamin C deficiency can lead to altered collagen synthesis and compromised
connective tissue repair. It has a synergistic effect when taking with Vitamin E on
cartilage stability. It is a water soluble vitamin. Good sources of Vitamin C are broccoli,
leafy greens, and citrus to name a few. Vitamin D depletion is also linked to increased
risk and progression of Osteoarthritis. Though most people get Vitamin D through
supplements especially during the winter months, the best source is time spent in the
summer sun. It is also found in sardines, salmon, and wild mushrooms. Vitamin A, E,
Copper, Zinc and Boron are all required for the synthesis and maintenance of normal

It is recommended for those with Osteoarthritis to have a well balanced diet of
whole unprocessed foods, including a high intake of fruits and vegetables-especially
greens. Dietary fiber and complex carbs are also recommended. Liberal consumption of
flavanoids, often found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, is beneficial. Diets high
in antioxidants can help reduce risk of cartilage loss. Some examples of antioxidant rich
foods are berries, garlic, broccoli, and green tea. Avoid nutrient-thieving foods that
accumulate as toxins in your body, like processed foods containing additives and
preservatives. Reducing toxins can help to benefit the healing process. It is
recommended to drink a lot of fluids to help flush out your system. Also if you find
yourself reacting to any food, whether mildly or severely with an allergy, it is best to
avoid these foods all together. Most common food allergies tied to Osteoarthritis are
gluten and dairy intolerances. There is a wide variety of food suggested to avoid or
minimize intake of. I think this long list shows that different things will work for different
people, and each individuals reaction can vary. Some foods from this list are: red meat;
dairy; sugar; high acid foods (not including citrus); nightshades like tomatoes, peppers,
eggplant, and potatoes (studies of a certain alkaloid which nightshades contain have
shown that they may inhibit normal collagen repair (2); and oxalic acid containing foods
like rhubarb, currants and sorrel; coffee and alcohol. A good diet can also contribute to
weight loss, which in itself can improve joint function by relieving stress on the joints. A
study by the CDC showed 66% of arthritic adults are overweight or obese.

Exercise lessens joint pain and stiffness, increases flexibility and muscle
strength. The type and amount needed will vary case by case. The best exercises are
Isometrics and swimming. This can include range of motion exercises, strength training,
aerobics, and yoga. Swimming helps to increase circulation and strengthens
surrounding muscles without straining joints. Diet and exercise used together help one
to reap the maximum potential healing benefit.

Herbs can also be used to support the healing process. Herbal therapy for
Osteoarthritis should focus on liver function, circulation, elimination, pain relief and
quality of life improvement (1). Here are some actions performed by herbs that would be
beneficial for Arthritis. Anti-inflammatory herbs are indicated when inflammation is
present. Inflammation isn’t the main issue with Osteoarthritis but it can still play a part.
Anti-rheumatic herbs help to relieve the pain of rheumatism (joint pain). Diuretics can
help reduce the rate of joint deterioration, and help to flush the system. Adaptogens help
the body adapt to many different kinds of stress. Cholagogues help support normal liver
functioning, helping the body to process and reduce toxins. Alteratives are known as
blood cleansing herbs and are helpful for systemic problems.

Many herbs can perform more than one of these actions. Each herb has unique
ways in which they best benefit the body. Some are best drunk as a tea, while others
are more beneficial taken in tincture form. For most, either option will work well.
Remember to check contraindications for each herb, especially if someone is taking
medications to be sure there are no complications. Better results will emerge with
regular long-term use, but remember to check each herb for their specific intake
recommendation. Here is a list of some herbs that can be helpful for Osteoarthritis, and
the actions they perform.
-Dandelion Root (Taraxacum officinale)-anti-rheumatic, diuretic (leaf), cholagogue,
-Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) leaves and flower- anti-rheumatic, diuretic.
-Black Cohosh Root (Actaea racemosa)-anti-rheumatic, anti-inflammatory.
-Cayenne (Capsicum spp.) external and internal- anti-rheumatic, increases circulation.
-Ginger (Zingiber officinale)-anti-inflammatory, increases circulation, specifically
indicated for knee pain.
-Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) external and internal- anti-rheumatic, diuretic, alterative.

Other herbs that are indicated for performing one or more of these actions I
mentioned are: Horsetail (Equistetum spp.), Arnica (Arnica spp. use topically for pain),
Oregon Grape Root (Mahonia spp), Chickweed (Stellaria media), Tulsi (Ocimun
tenuiflorum), Lavender (Lavendula spp. essential oil effective topically) and
Licorice (Glycrrhiza glabra). Licorice also acts as a phytoestrogen, helping to balance
high estrogen levels in the body.

Here is a sample tincture formula by David Hoffman
from his book, Medical Herbalism:
2 parts Bog Bean (Meyanthes trifoliata), 1 1/2pt Meadowsweet (Filipendula umlaria), 1pt Black Cohosh, 1pt Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum
americanum), 1pt Celery Seed (Apium graveolens), 1pt Angelica (Angelica archangelica)
and 1pt Yarrow. Take up to 5mL 3 times a day. It is possible to obtain most of these
herbs from an herbalist in your area. Something that may be more accessible would be
to drink a tea of Ginger, Nettles, Yarrow and Dandelion 2-3 times a day, or any
combination of the previously mentioned herbs. Dry herbs often make a more potent
tea. You can get more medicine out of your roots by simmering them in hot water for
10-15 minutes rather than just steeping. There are many topical herbal preparations for
pain on the market. Salves that contain Arnica and Cayenne have helped relieve pain for
people who deal with arthritis.

Remember everyone’s situation is different, therefore it will depend on the person
as to what aspects of treatment are most important or will have the greatest effect. The
best path to healing is to incorporate dietary changes along with a supportive exercise
routine, ample supplementation, supportive herbal medicines, stress reduction and
relaxation, and most importantly pain relief to support the body and mind of an individual
dealing with Osteoarthritis. A healthy state of mind, unhindered by extreme pain, will
help one find the correct path to healing. An individually tailored treatment plan involving
these modalities can bring about great change.

1.)Medical Herbalism by David Hoffman
2.)The Clinicians Handbook of Natural Medicine by Joseph Pizzorno Jr, Michael Murray, Herb Joiner-Bey.

5.) The Yoga of Herbs by Dr Vasant Lad & David Frawley.

Angi Hronek is an herbalist currently residing in Leicester, NC.


Alternative Approaches to Hypothyroidism

Guest post by Sarah Clarkson, herbalist

Many of us know a friend or family member with hyper- or hypothyroidism,
disorders that appear to be increasingly common in North America. This article will
focus on hypothyroidism, or a slowdown of thyroid hormone production, resulting in
decreased metabolism. While conventional medical treatment of hypothyroidism is
fairly safe and well-accepted, dietary and and lifestyle changes, as well as certain
herbs, can play an important role in the successful management of the disorder.

The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped organ located at the base of the
neck, just below the Adam’s apple. Its proper functioning depends upon a cascade of
hormonal reactions, beginning in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus produces
thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) and sends it to the pituitary gland, which responds
by secreting thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH then signals to the thyroid gland
to use iodine to produce thyroid hormone (TH), which actually consists of two
hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). T4 is the primary hormone produced
and released into the bloodstream and it is then converted to T3, mainly in the liver.

TH, considered the bodyʼs major metabolic hormone, is responsible for body
temperature regulation; carbohydrate, lipid, and protein metabolism; and the normal
development and function of the gastrointestinal, nervous, cardiovascular, muscular,
skeletal, reproductive, and skin systems. TH essentially works on every cell of the body
aside from those in the thyroid gland itself, the adult brain, spleen, uterus, and testes.1
Healthy thyroid function is vital to human life.

Early signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism are not always easily associated
with the disorder. For example, symptoms such as “fatigue, lack of energy, cold
intolerance, severe constipation, heavy menstrual periods, and weight gain despite a
diminishing appetite may go unnoticed or be attributed to other conditions, such as
stress, depression, and overwork.” 2 Because the onset of hypothyroidism is most likely
to occur in oneʼs 50s or 60s, such symptoms may also be mistaken for the normal
process of aging. Symptoms that can occur as the condition progresses include slowed
speech, droopy eyelids, muscle loss, puffy eyes and face, slow pulse, dry skin and hair,
and sluggish reflexes and mental function.3

Hypothyroidism is diagnosed by measuring T4 and TSH levels in the blood. The
pituitary gland continually receives feedback regarding TH levels in the bloodstream. If
those levels are low, it will produce more TSH in order to stimulate the thyroid gland to
produce more TH. Therefore, if the thyroid is underactive, a blood test will show an
elevated level of TSH and a low to normal level of T4, depending on the stage of the
disorder. A health practitioner may also test for antithyroid antibodies that attack the
thyroid gland. The presence of these antibodies points to Hashimotoʼs thyroiditis, an
autoimmune condition which usually develops into hypothyroidism.

Hashimotoʼs is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States
and it is about seven times as likely to occur in women than in men.4 Hypothyroidism in
general has been estimated to affect between 4.6 and 9.5% of the US adult
population.5,6 Aside from Hashimotoʼs, hypothyroidism can be caused by surgical
removal or radiation of the thyroid due to hyperthyroidism, congenital hypothyroidism,
excessive iodine in the diet, or a chronic lack of dietary iodine (the most common cause
in non-industrialized countries). A family history of hypothyroidism increases the
likelihood of developing it.

Stress, lifestyle, and environmental factors, such as endocrine disruptors, may
also contribute to the development of hypothyroidism. Endocrine disruptors, or
hormone disruptors, “are human-made chemicals in the environment that interfere with
the development and function of body systems in animals, including humans.” These
chemicals, such as those found in plastics, pesticides, municipal drinking water, and
body care products may bind to thyroid hormone receptor sites, thereby preventing our
thyroid hormones from doing their job.7 Ryan Drum, herbalist and seaweed harvester,
strongly believes that exposure to iodine-131, a radioactive iodine isotope regularly
released by nuclear plants, is responsible for most current thyroid disorders.8

Conventional treatment of hypothyroidism consists of thyroid hormone
replacement therapy. Supplementation with synthetic T4 (Synthroid) is most common,
though synthetic T3 (Cytomel) supplementation may occasionally be necessary. Dried
animal thyroid (Armour Thyroid), preferred by naturopathic doctors, is another option,
but synthetic T4 supplementation is generally prescribed because hormone levels can
be more precisely controlled.9 Those who require hormone replacement therapy must
continue daily treatment for life, according to most conventional sources.

Little research has been performed on the influence of plant medicine on thyroid
function, so some herbalists tend toward working to support the thyroid “to help the
body deal with the repercussions of the condition and its treatment.” 10 Herbal medicine
can be effective in managing a mild case of hypothyroidism without the use of
pharmaceuticals. However, for more advanced cases, particularly those in which the
thyroid has been removed or radiated, thyroid hormone replacement therapy is often the
best or only option. Additionally, if one does decide to pursue alternative treatment, it is
important to continue to monitor thyroid levels every six months and to avoid combining
herbs that significantly increase thyroid function with synthetic thyroid hormone
replacement therapy.

Given the cautions mentioned above, natural treatment plans for hypothyroidism
will vary depending on the stage of the disease, its origins, and whether someone is
taking pharmaceuticals. However, anyone dealing with hypothyroidism can begin by
making dietary and lifestyle changes. Stress reduction and a regular exercise plan are
essential for increasing metabolism and strengthening the endocrine system, including
the adrenal glands, as “supporting adrenal function is often a necessary component in
treating hypothyroidism.”11 Adaptogens, or herbs that help the body “adapt to and
defend against the effects of environmental stress,” provide support in working toward
stress reduction, increased energy, and mental clarity.12 Some adaptogens specific to
hypothyroidism include Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera), Gotu Kola (Centella
asiatica), Siberian Ginseng (Eleuthrococcus senticosis), Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra),
and Reishi (Ganoderma spp.).

As for dietary changes, begin with an elimination diet to remove antigenic foods
that might elicit a response from antibodies, such as gluten, dairy, and soy. It may also
be useful to reduce intake of goitrogens, foods that interfere with iodine absorption.
These foods include most soy products, peanuts, turnips, cabbage, and other
vegetables in the broccoli family. On the other hand, do consume brown seaweeds
such as kelp, kombu, and wakame in moderate amounts, especially if iodine levels or
absorption are low. Also consider consuming or supplementing with nutrients essential
to thyroid function, including Omega-3 fatty acids, Zinc, Selenium, Vitamins A, B, C, and
E, plus Tyrosine for vegans and vegetarians with low-protein diets.

Several other herbal actions are indicated for hypothyroidism. Immune
modulators will help with the autoimmune component by supporting the immune
system. There is some overlap with adaptogens here, with Ashwaganda, Licorice, and
Reishi indicated. Hypothyroidism speeds up the development of atherosclerosis and
increases the risk of coronary artery disease. Cardiotonics, or herbs that support the
cardiovascular system, are therefore recommended. David Hoffman suggests
Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), Gingko Biloba (Gingko biloba), and Garlic (Allium
sativum).13 FInally because T4 is primarily converted into T3 in the liver, “thyroid
metabolism may be stressed by liver congestion.”14 Hepatics, such as Dandelion root
(Taraxacum officinale), are herbs that tone, strengthen, and help clear stagnation from
the liver, so they may be helpful in increasing T3 levels.

Included below is a sample treatment plan for subclinical to mild hypothyroidism
that does not include the use of pharmaceuticals. For those on thyroid hormone
replacement therapy, Bladderwrack (Fucus spp.) is unnecessary and the tincture
formula may need to be adjusted to reduce or eliminate herbs that increase thyroid
function (Ashwaganda), as well as hepatics that will affect the rate of drug clearance
from the liver (Licorice). For more information on safely using Bladderwrack to limit or
eliminate oneʼs dependence on synthetic hormones, Ryan Drum offers a protocol based
on his experience with hypothyroid clients.15

Hypothyroidism clearly requires a multifaceted approach to address the various
factors that can affect thyroid function, from autoimmunity to liver congestion.
Fortunately, a nutrient-dense diet, stress-reducing lifestyle habits, and herbs offer
excellent support for those affected by the disease. We can also nourish and protect
our thyroid glands with these practices even without a diagnosis of hypothyroidism, as a
preventive measure to ensure a lifetime of optimal health for such an important organ.

Sample treatment plan

1. Dietary and lifestyle changes described above
2. Vitamin and mineral supplementation as necessary
3. Bladderwrack (Fucus spp.), 2-5g powdered, divided evenly and taken three times a
day; consume in capsule form or as a slurry.
4. Tincture blend, modified from Aviva Rommʼs formula:16
(Dosage: 5mL, twice a day – morning and noon)
• 20 mL Coleus root (Coleus forskohli) – hepatic
• 20 mL Ashwaganda root (Withania somnifera) – adaptogen, may increase T4 levels
• 10 mL Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) – adaptogen, adrenal and liver support
• 10 mL Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale) – hepatic
• 10 mL Stinging Nettle leaf (Urtica dioica) – detoxification
• 10 mL Reishi fruiting body(Ganoderma spp.) – immune modulator
• 10 mL Hawthorn berry (Crataegus spp.) – cardiotonic
• 5 mL Ginger root (Zingiber officinale) – stimulant

Hoehn, K. & Marieb, E. N. (2007). Human Anatomy & Physiology (7th ed.). San Francisco, CA:
Pearson Benjamin Cummings.
Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT:
Healing Arts Press.
Beers, M. H., Fletcher, A. J., Jones, T. J., Porter, R., Berkwits, M., & Kaplan, Justin L. (Eds.). (2003).
The Merck Manual of Medical Information (Second Home Edition). New York, NY: Pocket Books.
National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service (NEMDIS). (2009). Hashimotoʼs
Disease. Retrieved from
Canaris, G. J., Manowitz, N. R., Mayor, G. & Ridgeway, E. C. (2000). The Colorado thyroid disease
prevalence study [Abstract]. Archives of Internal Medicine, 60(4):526-34. Retrieved from http://
Hollowell, J. G., Staehling, N. W, Flanders, W. D., Hannon, W. H., Gunter, E. W., Spencer, C. A., &
Braverman, L. E. (2002). Serum TSH, T4, and Thyroid Antibodies in the United States Population (1988
to 1994: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). The Journal of Clinical
Endocrinology & Metabolism, 87(2):489-99. Retrieved from
Blankespoor, J. (2011). Endocrine Disruptors. Retrieved from
Drum, R. Thyroid Function and Dysfunction. Retrieved from
Caldecott, T. Hypothyroidism. Retrieved from
Romm, A. J. (2010) Botanical Medicine for Womenʼs Health. St. Louis, MO: Churchill Livingstone/
11 Caldecott, T.
12 Hoffman, D.
13 Hoffman, D.
Frances, D. (2002). Botanical Approaches to Hypothyroidism: Avoiding Supplemental Thyroid
Hormone. Medical Herbalism, 13(1):1-5. Retrieved from
Approaches to Hypothyroidism– Avoiding Supplemental Thyroid Hormone.pdf
15 Drum, R.
16 Romm, A. J.

Infantile Colic

Infantile Colic
Guest post by Betula Lenta, MD


       All infants cry. It is a baby’s major means of communication with her caregivers in the first few months of life. Crying can mean, “I’m hungry,” “My diaper is dirty,” or simply “I’m tired and over-stimulated and don’t know what to do about it!” An average infant cries for almost 2 hours a day during the first two months of life. So when is crying too much? When does normal crying cross the line and become colic?


In 1954 Dr Wessel defined colic as crying for more than 3 hours per day, 3 days per week for at least 3 weeks. (1) In practice, colic can be used to describe an infant who cries inconsolably for no apparent reason. Most caregivers feel that crying associated with colic is different from “normal” crying, often being more high-pitched and frantic. The baby frequently stiffens, drawing the legs and arms in to the body. The episodes also cluster in the evening and nighttime hours. Colic is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that other causes of inconsolable crying need to be ruled out before saying that a baby has colic. Some such causes are a broken bone, infection, hair tourniquet (rare situation in which a hair becomes very tightly wrapped around a digit or the penis), foreign body in the eye, gastro-esophageal reflux, heart anomalies, metabolic disorders or intestinal structural anomalies. Any inconsolable crying associated with fever, green-tinged or forceful vomiting, bloody stools, markedly decreased urine output, a distinct change in feeding or difficulty breathing should be evaluated by a physician.


Infantile colic is extremely common, occurring in up to 19% of otherwise healthy babies. Symptoms usually start at 3 weeks of age, peak at 6 to 8 weeks, and resolve by 3 months. Colic occurs at the same rates in male and female infants and across all racial groups. It also occurs at approximately the same rates in both breast and formula fed babies. (2, 3) Colic does not seem to have any lasting negative effects on infants. Babies with prolonged colic, or symptoms lasting beyond 6 months, are more likely to be diagnosed with a food allergy, but this only occurs in a very small percentage of affected babies. (3) Colic can cause significant stress for already tired caregivers and can be associated with earlier weaning, increased rates of postpartum depression, and increased rates of child abuse.


Despite its prevalence, the cause of colic remains unknown. Caregivers generally feel that colicky babies are experiencing abdominal pain or excess intestinal gas. Many researchers have looked for a gastrointestinal cause of colic such as milk protein intolerance, food allergies, gastro-esophageal reflux, excess gas and intestinal dysmotility. (4) These studies have not shown a consistent cause. Other researchers examined family stress as a cause of infantile colic, but while colic can heighten family tension it is not necessarily caused by stress. More recent studies examined differences in types of bacteria colonizing the intestinal tracts of infants as a way to explain the symptoms of colic, but much more research is needed in this area. (5)


Since the cause of colic remains unknown, there is no simple universal treatment. Swaddling and rocking a baby are some of the simplest interventions and can be very effective. It is important to leave babies some freedom of movement at the hips when swaddling because excessively tight swaddling around a baby’s legs can put too much pressure on the hips. Also, it is not recommended to continue swaddling a baby after two months or when she starts attempting to roll over. Never lay a swaddled baby face down because it significantly increases the risk of suffocation. Sometimes taking a crying baby for a short car ride or walk can lull him to sleep. Other caregivers put on soothing music or white noise in the form of the vacuum or clothes dryer. Overfeeding a colicky baby can actually exacerbate the problem, so pacifiers can also be helpful and help some babies to self-soothe. Finally, abdominal massage, or gently rubbing a baby’s abdomen in a clockwise direction, can soothe a colicky baby.


Many caregivers alter a baby’s diet to decrease gas and symptoms of colic. Some gas-provoking compounds can pass through breast milk and affect the baby. A breastfeeding mother of a colicky baby can keep a food and symptom diary to determine which foods could potentially be making the baby uncomfortable. Another option is to eliminate some more common culprits. Foods in the Brassicaceae (Mustard family) such as cabbage and broccoli are often thought to increase colic symptoms. Caffeine and chocolate can also pass through breast milk and cause a baby to be fussier. Other potential triggers include dairy, soy, wheat, peanuts, and eggs. It is not necessary for a breastfeeding mother to eliminate all of these foods from her diet, but a trial elimination for a few days can help her identify problem foods.


For formula fed babies, a simple change in formula can alleviate symptoms. Several large trials have examined formula change and its effects on symptoms of colic. In general, changing from a cow milk formula to a soy formula can decrease the symptoms of colic, but there are concerns regarding the phytoestrogens in soy formula and future development. Switching to a hypoallergenic formula (formula in which the proteins have been extensively broken down) also seems to help the symptoms of severe colic. However, hypoallergenic formula is significantly more expensive than cow milk formula and it is not clear that it alleviates the symptoms of more mild colic. (6) Many formula brand names include such words as “soothe” or “gentle” because the proteins are slightly more broken down than in standard cow milk formula. Caregivers often feel that their babies do better on these formulas, but there is no evidence to support their routine use. Recently, researchers have begun to look at ways to alter a colicky infant’s intestinal flora to reduce the amount of gas-producing bacteria in the intestines. Many infant formulas now contain probiotics, or bacteria that promote intestinal health. Recent studies have also looked at Lactobacillus spp supplementation to improve colic symptoms in breastfed babies. These probiotics have been shown to be very safe and effective in otherwise healthy infants. (7)


The most commonly recommended pharmaceutical treatment for colic is simethicone (Mylicon), which is available without a prescription. Simethicone theoretically breaks up gas bubbles in the intestine, but several trials have demonstrated that it is no better than placebo in reducing symptoms of colic. (6) Some babies are also given medications to reduce gastric acid (ranitidine or omeprazole), but since colic is usually not due to gastro-esophageal reflux these medications are not generally effective. Even in the case of reflux, feeding a baby upright and burping her well after feeds is more effective with fewer potential side effects than using medication.


Many herbs have been used traditionally for infantile colic. In general herbs for colic have carminative or calming effects. A carminative is an herb that removes gas from the intestines thereby relieving discomfort. The simplest way to give herbs to a baby is by a standard infusion or tea. Pour one cup of hot water over one teaspoon of dried herb and steep for ten minutes. Strain and give directly to the baby when it cools to an appropriate temperature. Babies can drink tea from a dropper, medicine cup, or bottle. It is not necessary to sweeten the tea, and it is important not to give honey to infants under 12 months. A starting dose of tea is one ounce of standard infusion three times a day. This amount can be increased, but excessive intake of tea could potentially affect a baby’s appetite and milk intake. Another option is for a breastfeeding mother to drink one cup of the tea three times a day so that the active constituents pass through the breast milk to the baby. Finally, many herb extracts in glycerin are available commercially and can be given directly to the baby.


One of the most commonly used herbs for colic is fennel (Foeniculum vulgare, Apiaceae). The seed has carminative properties and can reduce intestinal spasms while aiding digestion. (8) Nursing mothers can also find it helpful to drink fennel seed tea because it stimulates milk production. An extract of the seed is used in many commercial “gripe water” preparations, often in combination with other herbal extracts. Several clinical trails of fennel seed extract or tea blends have consistently shown a decreased duration of crying in colicky infants. (9)


Other popular herbs for colic are chamomile flower heads (Matricaria recutita, Asteraceae) and lemon balm leaves (Melissa officinalis, Lamiaceae). Both herbs are carminatives and decrease intestinal spasms. They are both relaxing to the nervous system and can help ease tension and anxiety. Lemon balm additionally has some anti-depressant effects, and can also aid a potentially stressed mother of a colicky infant. Aviva Romm recommends “tummy ease” tea for colic consisting of a standard infusion of equal parts fennel, lemon balm and chamomile. (10) David Hoffman additionally suggests catnip (Nepeta cataria, Lamiaceae) and linden flowers (Tilia spp., Malvaceae). Both help ease tension and relax the nervous system. Linden also helps ease intestinal spasms and is generally calming. (8) Other useful herbs are ginger root (Zingiber officinale, Zingiberaceae) and peppermint (Mentha piperita, Lamiaceae). They are both classic herbs for indigestion, safe in children, and readily available.


Many other botanical blends are available for colic. A popular European tea blend includes fennel, chamomile, lemon balm, licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra, Fabaceae), and vervain (Verbena officinalis, Verbenaceae). Several herbal extracts of fennel, chamomile, and ginger are widely available in the United States. My preference is to use simple manipulation of maternal diet combined with infusions of fennel, chamomile, and lemon balm or whichever herbs the family has on hand. The mother can also drink the teas for their calming and soothing effects. These interventions along with swaddling and gentle rocking can be extremely effective.


Colic is not the same for every baby, and caregivers should use what works best for them and their infant. Above all it is important for caregivers to maintain a sense of calm. Infants can sense tension, and this can increase their crying and distress. If the caregiver is feeling overwhelmed by the crying, it is okay to put the baby safely in her crib, walk away, and take a deep breath. Emotional support from a grandparent, family member or trusted friend can also be immensely helpful. Colic is extremely stressful. Relax, drink a cup of lemon balm, give an ounce to the screaming baby, and remember that it will get better.



  1. Wessel MA, Cobb JC, Jackson EB, Harris GS, Detwiler AC. Paroxysmal fussing in infancy, sometimes called colic. Pediatrics 1954;14:421-434.

  2. Lucassen PL, Assendelft WJ, van Eijk JT, Gubbles JW, Douwes AC, van Geldrop WJ. Systematic review of the occurrence of infantile colic in the community. Arch Dis Child. 2001;84(5):398-403.

  3. Hide DW, Guyer BM. Prevalence of infant colic. Arch Dis Child. 1982;57(7):559-560.

  4. Barr RG, Rotman A, Yaremko J, Leduc D, Francoeu TE. The crying of infants with colic: a controlled empirical description. Pediatrics. 1992;90:14-21.

  5. de Weerth C, Fuentes S, Puylaert P, de Vos WM. Intestinal microbiota of infants with colic: development and specific signatures. Pediatrics. 2013;131:e550-e558.

  6. Garrison MM, Christakis DA. A systematic review of treatments for infant colic. Pediatrics. 2000;106:184-190.

  7. Savino F, Cardisco L, Tarsco V, Palumeri E, Calabrese R, Oggero R, Roos S, Matteuzzi D. Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 in infantile colic: a randominzed, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Pediatrics. 2010;126:e526-e533.

  8. Hoffman D. Medical Herbalism. Rochester: Healing Arts Press. 2003.

  9. Rosen LD, Bukutu C, Le C, Shamseer L, Vohra S. Complementary, Holistic, and Integrative Medicine: Colic. Pediatrics in Review. 2007;28:381-385.

  10. Romm A. Herbs for Kids. 2012.

Herbal Approaches to Pertussis

Pertussis, commonly known as Whooping Cough, is an acute, highly communicative bacterial infection of Bordetella pertussis or B. parapertussis affecting the respiratory tract. B. pertussis/parapertussis bacterium attach to the cilia of the epithelial cells of the respiratory tract, produce toxins that paralyze the cilia and cause inflammation, and this in turn interferes with the clearing of pulmonary secretions (1). General symptoms may include cough, runny nose, low fever, vomiting, and diarrhea (2). It is characterized by a deep spasmodic cough, often with a sharp, noisy intake of breath, during stage two of the infection. The illness can be broken down into three stages: the catarrhal stage, when the patient is contagious, and mild flu-like symptoms appear one to two weeks after exposure (lasting 1-3 weeks); the paroxysmal stage, when the infection has gone deep into the lungs and the whooping cough is at its peak (lasting 1-6 weeks); and the convalescent or recovery stage, which may include a chronic cough (lasting 1-4 weeks) (11, 12, 13).

Populations affected by pertussis span across all groups. The complications associated with pertussis in healthy people are low. In normally healthy adults, it may present as nothing more than a mild, irritating cough. The “whooping” cough is most prevalent in young children, sometimes causing vomiting, and in infants (0-4 months) it can be fatal in cases where breathing may become obstructed and stop. Complete recovery is expected unless there are major complications (5).
The pertussis vaccine (now given combined as DTaP- diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis) is only considered effective against (and may be ineffective or may actually cause) pertussis after the fourth shot at the age of one year. According to the medical establishment and government, resistance decreases rapidly after vaccination, becoming ineffectual in 3-4 years or less (13). Therefore, it is directly ineffective for those that are at highest risk from the infection due to age. Because the pertussis vaccine has been implicated in a large number of negative vaccine reactions, because it requires frequent updates, because full vaccination does not necessarily confer immunity, and for a variety of other medical, personal, and political reasons, fewer people are now electing to get the vaccine or get re-vaccinated as frequently as suggested (4).

Special Considerations for Infants
Since the contagion stage is often asymptomatic or mild, infants are often inadvertently exposed to pertussis by adults and other children who do not realize they have contracted the illness. If caregivers believe an infant has been exposed to pertussis but has not yet contracted it, it is prudent to immediately give herbal antibiotics/antimicrobials (as described below) through the breastmilk, added to formula, or directly (if the infant is at least one month old). If the illness has already been contracted, antibiotics will not change the clinical course of the illness, but may reduce the spreading of infection to others (this applies to all age groups) (3, 11).
Infected infants should be given small but frequent feedings, especially if they are breastfed and their mother is taking herbs for them. After one month of age, infants can take non-breastmilk liquids as well, in a daily amount of up to one ounce per month of age. For example, at two months of age, an infant can tolerate up to two ounces of herbal tea per day, broken up and given in small doses throughout the day (16).
The infant’s passages should be cleared frequently with a bulb. If any complications with breathing appear, the infant should be taken to the urgent care or emergency room immediately for breathing assistance. For babies under two months, the parents or caregivers may wish to take the child in for constant respiratory monitoring.
Unless otherwise noted, herbal recommendations made below are appropriate for a breastfeeding mother to take for her baby, and to be given directly to the baby in small amounts with consideration for their age, health history, and other factors. Honey should not be given directly to babies under one year of age, due to the risk of botulism.

Chinese Medicine
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), pertussis is called “the 100 days cough”. It is considered a challenge to the spirit of the child, and that when they get through it they will have reached a new level of enlightenment. Lo Han Kuo Infusion/Luo Han Guo Chong Ji TCM formula is recommended to soothe the cough (6). Ma-Huang Combination is given for severe coughs: ma huang (Ephedra sinica) 5g, cinnamon twig 4g, licorice 1.5g, and apricot seed 5g, as a decoction (8). Use caution in giving ma huang to infants, as it is very stimulating.

Herbal Suggestions
Herbal remedies can be used to help strengthen the immune system, soothe symptoms, and aid in faster, healthier recovery. Honey with crushed garlic (Allium sativum) (8, 10, 11), and garlic macerated in olive oil (10) are excellent to help fight the infection- give 1 teaspoon every two hours, or make a tea from the honey and garlic, adding a small amount of lemon if desired for taste (10, 11). This can also be combined with teas such as thyme (Thymus vulgaris) for spasmodic cough (10, 8) and other symptoms. It is most beneficial to give demulcents during the day and spasmolytics at night to help the patient sleep. Aviva Romm, MD, midwife, and herbalist, recommends the following recipes for pertussis:

Pertussis Syrup: 1/2 oz each of the following tinctures: echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia or E. purpurea), marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis), licorice (Glycorrhiza uralenis or G. glabra- DGL free if person has blood pressure or adrenal disorders), thyme, anise (Pimpinella anisum), and passionflower (Passiflora incarnata). Combine with 1 oz of elderberry (Sambucus nigra or S. canadensis) syrup. Give 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of this mixture every 2-4 hours. This formula is anti-microbial to prevent secondary infections, breaks up cough, soothes respiratory passages, promotes relaxation, and has anti-inflammatory action.

Whoop Ease Tea: 1/4 oz each of: dried thyme (Thymus vulgaris), dried red clover blossoms (Trifolium pratense), and marshmallow root (Althea officinalis). Make a tea with 1 quart of water and steep for 1 hour. Strain and add honey for children over 2 (can be taken honey-free for babies). Give 1/4 to 1/2 cup every 2-4 hours. Soothes the respiratory passages.

Tincture for sleep and relaxing the cough: 1/2 oz each of: black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), anise seed, passionflower, and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) tinctures. Give 2-3 mL, every 15 minutes if needed, up to 3 doses.

Other herbal suggestions include:
Antimicrobials: tinctures of usnea (Usnea spp.), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), garlic.
Immune Stimulants: elderberry (syrup: 1-2 teaspoons 3x/d) (11), spilanthes (Spilanthes acemella), echinacea.
Antispasmodics: wild black cherry bark (Prunus serotina- can be made into a syrup for coughs), california poppy (Eschscholzia californica) (10).
Decongestants: elder, mullein (Verbascum thapsus), elecampane (Inula helenium- not for infants), bee balm (Monarda spp).
Demulcents: Marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis), slippery elm inner bark (Ulmus rubra or U. fulva), Glycorrhiza uralenis or G. glabra- see note above).
Pure honey can be taken for cough (for those over the age of 2): 1/2-1 1/2 teaspoons, several times a day (11).

Lifestyle Recommendations
Infected people should be quarantined to prevent spreading the illness to others. This means no school, no work, and no outings until completely recovered! This is an important community health measure. Those infected should be given as much rest as they can take and more, and they should keep well hydrated to prevent mucous from congealing (10). Baths with thyme (Thymus vulgaris) herb (8) or essential oils of thyme, eucalyptus, rosemary, menthol, camphor, or pine will help to clear congestion. Chest rubs with these essential oils can also help. Menthol, camphor, and all essential oils are very potent, so care must be taken not to use too much. They should always be blended with a carrier oil, and applied in small amounts at first. Caregivers should be particularly cautious when using these oils on children under two years of age. All these essential oils are also helpful in steams and showers and can be added to a humidifier for this purpose. The humidifier is also useful by itself to help the person keep from drying out and further irritating the membranes. (10).

Dietary Recommendations
Lots of fluids and small, frequent meals are best (7). Foods should be nutritious, easy to chew and swallow, and hydrating, such as soups. Reduce or eliminate intake of dairy, wheat, and sugars (10, 12), as these foods can increase mucosal secretions and lead to more coughing and choking.

Vitamin C may reduce the longevity of the illness and aid in rebuilding immune system health (14).


3. Clinical Naturopathic Medicine, Leah Hechtman (pg 494)
4. Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent’s Guide, Aviva Jill Romm
5. Patient and Professional Information on Conditions, Herbs, and Supplements (Quick Access)
6. Chinese Herbal Medicine, Thomas Joiner
7. The Holistic Pediatrician, Kathi Kemper
8. Manual of Natural Therapy, Olshevsky PhD, Noy MD, Zwang PhD, Burger
9. Journal of Pediatrics, Volume 115, Issue 5, Pages 686-693, November 1989
10. Whooping Cough Webinar, Rosalee de la Foret and Michael Tierra (Notes:
11. Whooping Cough: In the Thick of It (Pertussis Webinar), Dr. Aviva Romm (available at
13. Pertussis Outbreaks, presentation by Zack Moore, MD, MPH
16. Presentation by Chelsea Gomes, herbalist

Coconut Honey Herbal Ice Cream!

And now, for a long overdue post, but perfectly appropriate for the summer solstice at hand!
No dairy, no sugar, absolutely delicious without a drop of guilt to be had, even if you eat the whole batch in one sitting.
You need an ice cream maker for this, and coconut milk, and honey. All other ingredients are flexible to your creativity and desires!
The coconut milk has to be at least “22%” fat on the nutrition label. Yes. Healthy fats. Eat it. It’s good for you. I buy Thai Kitchen Whole Unsweetened Organic in a can, it works wonderfully- sorry for the ad but it’s the best I have tried and has the appropriate fat content.
For the honey, I use local wildflower, and often use one of my infused honeys, such as lavender, mint, elderberry, or hibiscus.
Simply blend the chilled coconut milk, honey, and whatever else in a blender, to taste. Try not to eat it all just yet, though it will be delightfully tempting already. Keep in mind that things taste slightly less sweet when they are really cold. Pour into the ice cream maker, and in half an hour YUM AMAZING.

Here are some delicious herbal ice cream ideas:
Lavender Honey with Fresh Mint Leaves (or a drop of peppermint oil)
Honeyed Hibiscus Pieces
Fresh Elderberry

And the usuals:
Raspberry, Blueberry
Cinnamon, Almond, Chocolate

What creative coconut honey ice cream ideas have you tried?