Asthma is a debilitating and often scary condition that arises in the lungs and is often linked to the emotion of grief that has not found a way to be expressed. Asthma is often seen in those individuals that appear robust and strong but ‘feel’ the world around them very strongly- highly sensitive. The immune reaction that occurs in asthma is known medically as a hypersensitivity reaction and this applies to the asthmatic character type too. If it hasn’t been safe to express grief or the opportunity wasn’t there, and a picture of sensitivity to the world around is already there…emotions can become locked in.
When you are a sensitive person, you are highly responsive to the emotions of others, it is possible that you even feel the emotions of others yourself. We do not treat ‘asthma’ we treat the person this is the same with every dis ease. We support and work with the individual to identify grief, to look at the patterns that have resultantly set up in the body such as reactions to food, allergens, certain materials…
Through a program of support and the most fitting herbs, the sensitive asthmatic can learn to be in the world with more breath, more participation without the restriction of the asthmatic picture.
The lovely Jolie is one of our Sensory Herb Apprentices…she is a creative wonder and here talks about her journey with herbs and asthma. In Sensory Herbalism, we characterise plants to help to understand their medicine reviving ancient folklore and creating new stories simultaneously.
Jolie reflects some of her connections to the herbs she is taking here in this wonderful informative piece….
In September 2019 I was an eleven stone asthmatic with an allergy to insect bites. It is now April 2020 and I am eight and a half stone, off all asthma medication, am glowing with health and discovered recently on a trip to Australia that I’m no longer allergic to mosquito bites. In our current uneasy climate this could not have come at a better time. So, how has this all come to pass?
I began a love affair with herbs…
In September 2019 I began a one-year apprenticeship with the Seed Sistas Karen and Fiona at Sensory Solutions. Beforehand I’d felt a deep appreciation for Mother Nature and all her gifts but had not really understood clearly what her gifts were and what they did. This had included my body.
It had not occurred to me that my asthma was an allergic reaction to something I’d been ingesting every day for the whole of my life thus far. With guidance from Karen and Fiona I began to cut out mucous inducing foods from my diet; these include diary, wheat, and sugar. Then Karen sent me a special healing tincture of liquorice, rose and hawthorn.
I’ve fallen in love with all these herbs.
If I were a herb…
If I were a herb then I would be rose. Aphrodite is my archetype and rose is Aphrodite in herb form. The orbit that Venus dances in with the Earth makes a five petaled mandala over a forty-year period and I’ve had this rose mandala tattooed on my shoulder, which I got for my fortieth birthday.
Rose medicine is sensual and soothing. She has kept me calm. A big part of asthma is the psychology of it. I used to carry around empty inhalers, rather than throw them away before getting a new one, because I would start to have attacks if I didn’t carry one with me. Even empty ones kept the attacks at bay, like a kind of talisman. By trusting and sinking into the loving embrace and wisdom of rose I’ve been able to let go of my fears and open my heart up to the possibility of being held and supported by her.
Liquorice feels like he will now be my lifelong ally. He cleanses my lungs by producing healthy mucus that cleans out my old cloggy mucus. He also reduces stress by stimulating my adrenal gland producing cortisol.
Hawthorn is full of wisdom. What a wonderful plant she is. Delicious heart medicine. She is the virgin, mother and crone. Her fresh leaves, blossom and berries all offering different medicines. She is a boundary, the hawthorn. She marks the boundaries of men, and between humankind and the otherworld. She is a gateway to fairyland. In Sark, in the Channel Islands, the blossoms are known as “Virgin’s cunts” because of how beautiful they are and sweet they smell. Their innocence glows in contrast against the aged skin of the bark. The virgin and the crone. In autumn she also reveals the mother, as rich red berries burst forth, shaped like anatomical hearts, shinning the colour of blood, issuing forth in abundance, feeding the eyes, satiating the birds and offering up heart healing medicine; soothing the blood flow, softening the arteries and lowering cholesterol. During the apprenticeship Karen and Fiona shared a recipe for hawthorn ketchup, which I found it went particularly well with wild venison sausages.
Another ally on this journey has been oats.
Oats were the card I pulled at the beginning of the apprenticeship year, as a herb for me to get to know and form a special relationship with. And I’ve slept with him every night since then in the form of a magic sleepy herb pillow. He has entered my dreams and I adore him. He’s a rugged Scottish strong man, not too dissimilar to Jamie in Outlander. He keeps me safe. Oat is the best nervine tonic there is. Very gentle and not sedative, like chamomile and valerian. During the lockdown oat has stopped me panicking. His medicine is fortifying me and strengthening my heart.
picture by Mikey
I made the changes to my diet in October and watched two stone fall off. My skin cleared up and it became more alive and responsive. I’m glowing with health. People have told me that I seem calmer. More solid. Stronger. Someone I’ve known for years told me, totally unprompted, that I had clearer boundaries.
In January I climbed Devils Dyke with a spritely friend who is a 29 year old trapeze artist and I was chatting away with her all the way to the top and only when we got to the summit did she comment on how impressed she was that I’d how climbed the slope so easily. I told her that a few months ago I’d have been wheezing with asthma.
Then the Coronavirus hit, and it felt like all the changes I have made could not have happened at a better time. I still have asthma inhalers with me at home. More than enough, so I have them if I need them. But I also have no need now to go to the GP or put any unnecessary pressure on the NHS or pharmacists by having to acquire repeat prescriptions. I feel that my lungs are the strongest they have ever been at any time in my life.
I wouldn’t recommend giving up asthma medication on your own.
I had the support of Karen and Fiona, professional herbalists who prescribed me herbs specifically for my constitution, everyone’s body is different and what has worked for me might not be the same for you. I had to ween myself off the steroids for my asthma over many months because they had stopped my adrenal gland from working. If I had gone cold turkey it would have killed me. It needs to be done with professional support.
But it is possible to support your asthma and lungs by cutting out mucus inducing foods and by introducing these herbs to your diet as herbals teas, for example. They are nourishing and supportive. And I hope you enjoy getting to know them too.