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How to get the immune system of the Rocky Mountains

Famous Rocky Mountain Peaks – The Tetons

We live in a potent place.  High mountains and valleys.  Rivers running through, tributaries and hot pools.  The beings that thrive here, do so for a reason.  Resiliency is key to longevity.  Shifting with the seasons, the days into nights are essential for a healthy existence up here.  We know how to layer our clothes and travel higher when days are hot.  Each of these aspects are components of wellness in the Rocky Mountain life. 

I came here as a budding herbalist.  Yearning to know the high mountain plants of the Rockies.  They were concentrated, essential for life in the old ways, and called to my green heart like nothing else.  Osha root, Ligusticum filicinum, Pulsatilla, Anemone patens, and Coneflower, Rudbekia laciniata.  They are ones specific to our region.  And plants that I needed to know in person. 

The plant world blew my mind up here in the high country.  Not only are the specific species who thrive here densely populated.  They are rich in medicinal compounds, and nutrients.  They grow rapidly, and seeds are thrown into the gusts of winds to be spread efficiently.  The famous roots are deep in the top soiled places of parts of our ecosystem.  The flowers brilliant, and never ending.  I had found my heaven on earth. 

The first couple of harvesting seasons were intense.  I don’t really think I got much done to be honest.  My books were coming to life.  I was overwhelmed with the energies of creek beds.  Rocky cliff sides, and the life that grows above tree line.  Fascination and passion captivated my young herbalist heart.  I knew I had found the place where I would implement my years of research and dedication to medicinal plants.  The Rockies became home. 

Bioregional Herbalism

The concept of working with in ones’ immediate region was one that rang true to me from the beginning.  Not only does it make sense for sustainability factors.  Wouldn’t the plants that grow in a place be ones who could support the humans there too?  This question didn’t seem like one to me.  It felt like a fact.  Duh.  We are nature.  So are our plants.  So why wouldn’t the natural place we live in provide the support we needed from nature…?  Do you see my point?

We have lots of plants that grow all over the country, and the world!  Dandelions, Stinging Nettles, Yarrow, and Mint.  Then we have species that are perfectly specific to here.  Osha root grows on the Coast, but it is tiny in comparison to ours.  Pulsatilla grows in the southern regions of our country, but the Medicinally rich species thrives in the Rocky Mountains.  Don’t these examples speak to this question…  Bioregional herbalism, bioregional food, and lifestyle… don’t they all go hand-in-hand?

To me, a hard YES vibrates through my being. 

Bioregional Immunity

Because of our bioregion, we are stressed during the darker months of the year.  We need extra help from our heating.  Our farmers are extra stressed during harvest season.  Did I mention our masterful ability to layer quickly when going outside?  These components of life in the Rockies mirror our need for support to our immune systems.  We need a boost.  And who better to serve our needs than our High Mountain Plants. 

We created a blend of immune supporting plants for supporting the Rocky Mountain Immune system.  Feeling that bioregional techniques make perfect sense for those of us who thrive here.  The blend is simple and effective.  Coneflower, a cousin to Echinacea with some extra special actions within the body.  Catnip and Nettles with their surprising abilities to support immunity.  And Red Reishi mushroom.  This fungus is a prize component of the centuries that Traditional Chinese Medicine has been thriving.  The four of these plants are blended to create an immune supporting extract like no other you will find. 

The plants

Coneflower, Rudbeckia laciniata is the number one component.  Known as an immune stimulant, this plant has been used for decades as a wild substitute for Echinacea.  Purple coneflower is known throughout the herbal community and beyond.  Teas, tinctures, glycerites, and farms are dedicated to this lovely flower and root.  As history would have it, our plains were covered in Echinacea.  Known by Local Native Peoples as black root.  It is a traditional remedy in Reservation Country.  However, the populations of this wild plant have nearly been wiped out.  It is slow growing and once covered a very dry area of our region.  It was over harvested when colonization came through like many other currently endangered species of plant and animal. 

Coneflower and Echinacea are very similar in action.  Though coneflower is a much more aggressive grower.  This taking the place of wild Echinacea perfectly.  Unlike it’s slow growing cousin.  Populations of Coneflower are much more easily maintained.  I have seen many root crowns transplanted in fall become towering summer flowers the following year. 

I have worked with the fresh root for years and feel that it is a perfect substituted for Echinacea.  It stimulates secretions, respiration, and the skin and kidneys.  This giving it an all-around wellness action, where Echinacea is very specific to the lymphatic system.  The native populations would eat the fresh green leaves of coneflower and cook the root into lard for ‘keeping well’.  Doesn’t this key perfectly into what we are striving for in an immune blend…?

Stinging Nettle in the Forest of the Rocky Mountains

Stinging Nettle

Urticia diocica, another famous plant for backyard burns.  Most of us have memories of this plant from childhood when we accidentally fell into a patch…  I loathed Nettles back then and would watch for it in the forests of my childhood.  I guess that makes it my first positive ID!  Probably for many of us. 

I use Nettles in many of my blends.  It is an incredibly fast-growing plant, and a diligent harvester can get 3 cuttings in one season while still allowing the plant to flower and go to seed.   Sustainability dream land.  Those of you who have been around ECA for a while know I talk about this plant a lot… sometimes I must postpone a post, so they don’t pile up on each other!

Famous not only for its sting, but it’s ability to sustain.  We could LIVE off this plant if it came down to it.  Nutrient density at it’s finest.  Proteins and fats.  Paired with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  A perfect food for someone who may be lost in the wild.  It is bitter and traditionally used as a springtime tonic.  Waking up a slumbering digestive, immune, and circulatory system after the season of hibernation.  Nettles are a diuretic and astringent too.  This helping to flush the body while tightening tissues that may be overflowing with fluids.  Can you say runny noses? 

There is promising research showing Nettles ability to flush and encourage a rapid response from our T cells.  Sending them swiftly to an infection site while warming the body.  Natives used this plant as a decoction for coughs.  I think it would make a great addition to any cough syrup recipe.

Reishi Mushroom – Wild Rocky Mountain Medicinal Herb

Red Reishi

There is fungus among us!  A first for ECA!  Red Reishi mushroom is stunning to find in the forest.  I always pause in awe…  staring at them, and realizing I am surrounded by these conk mushrooms.   Their reds and oranges are breathtaking.  Making one wonder, how on earth you could walk by a fallen tree and not see them.  The lip turns white after sporring, and harvesting may begin. 

This extract is made from dry mushroom body.  This being the traditional way in Chinese Medicine.  A concept of Herbal Medicine that is centuries upon centuries old…  There are OVER 400 bioactive compounds in Reishi…  It is a powerful fungus!  It is known as a potent all-around Tonic.  With the Red Reishi being highly bitter, and most medicinally potent.  Enhancing memory, vitality and all organ functioning. 

Specifics to the immune system are that Reishi stimulates our fighter cells.  Lymphocytes, Killer T Cells, and activates macrophages.  All of these components of the immune system lead to viral and bacterial free bodies that maintain wellness throughout the year.

Cat Nip

More well known for its sedative effects and making our kitties CRAZY.  Catnip is less well known as a fever reducer and cold remedy.  The Cherokee people would use it for infants who were struggling with colic, indigestion, colds, and coughs.  Syrups were made of this skunky mint family plant to calm phlegmy and dry coughs.  I’d like to say that Catnip is a dynamic mint. 

We grow this plant at the farm, and it gets to be 3 feet high in the shade.  It self-seeds prolifically, and I love it.  The bees love its flowers, and rabbits hate the smell.  SO garden border GALORE!

Rose Hips

Wild and cultivated alike.  These little berries are PACKED with Vitamin C.  Bioavailable plant nutrients of the high mountains.  The answer to all my prayers.  This herb adds a balancing nutrient component to the immune blend.  Vitamin C is known to assist the immune system in many fascinating ways.  It is a perfect addition to cold and flu tinctures, teas, or baths. 

Rocky Mountain Immunity can benefit many bodies.  Especially those of our high mountain region.  Thank you for reading and connecting.  I am always Happy to be YOUR Herbalist.