The Platters had it right, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes indeed! The National Weather Service out of Minneapolis has issued another Air Quality Alert, effective through Friday afternoon, due to "northerly winds behind a cold front will bring smoke from wildfires located north of the Canadian border... into Minnesota... Smoke will remain over the area into Friday... fine particle levels are expected to be in the Orange AQI category, a level that is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups... Sensitive groups, such as people with lung disease (including asthma), heart disease, and children and older adults, should limit prolonged or heavy exertion."
Just last week, midway through our annual week with our family at Campfire Bay Resort we ended up with an "inside day" due to northerly winds carrying heavy smoke from those same wildfires, making it impossible to even see across the lake. (Which brings to mind another musical reference, with the riff that has tortured parents of teen guitarists since 1972: Smoke on the Water). It was quite eerie to look out on the empty beach and resort as everyone else has also chosen to sequester themselves inside due to the strong smell and stinging eyes and coughing that ensued when you stepped outside. I cannot imagine living in or close to an area with a wildfire!
The Herbal Highway, a podcast I listen to regularly, just did a two-part program on herbs to support respiratory and mental health during wildfire season. Being located in Berkeley, California, they have first hand knowledge of the effects of wildfires and offer very sound and practical tips. Rosalee de la Forêt has also written an article, "Herbs for Smoky Skies", that is well worth checking out, too.
Here are my thoughts on local plants beneficial and very accessible to use for our lungs right now.
Mullein leaf - if you've spent any time with me during smoky times or the annual cold/flu season, you are not surprised that this one is first on my list! Mullein leaf is very supportive and soothing for our lungs, both as a preventative and a treatment for respiratory issues. Check out the information I've posted in the forum area as well as this recipe for mullein chai from a couple years ago.
The good news is mullein leaf is prime for gathering right now! Mullein is very easy to spot currently, with its tall flowering stalk. For lung health, we use the leaf (you could add some pretty flowers, too) and I would suggest crafting a tea. A huge tip: strain mullein leaf tea very, very well as those little hairs that make the leaves feel so cuddly will make your throat feel very irritated and cause an uncontrollable cough. I typically strain mine through a coffee filter, not using cheesecloth in this case as those little hairs can sneak through that. I often add honey for extra soothing. You could also add lemon juice if you would like - the extra vitamin C boost is great for all things respiratory (and everything else) too. Check out those links above for more information about making the tea.
If interested, I encourage you to also make a tincture from the leaves for easy use year-round. Mullein tincture is in my top-10 list. I often add a few drops of tincture to my tea in order to include those compounds best extracted by alcohol.
Plantain leaf - also very soothing and healing for lungs and so accessible everywhere - perhaps in your yard. If not, visit me at the You Pick garden for the largest, longest plantain leaves you'll ever see! Check out my brief info page in the forum for my information as well as Rosalee's plantain monograph. I would consider plantain to be one of my top-3 medicinal herbs (along with yarrow and dandelion). With plantain being such a good insect bite remedy along with its benefits regarding gum disease, I often ignore its huge benefits for supporting and soothing irritated lungs.
I would consider adding plantain leaves to your mullein tea.
Marshmallow leaf - the root is most often used medicinally, but I think the leaves have much to offer us, too, especially as they, too, are very accessible right now. Here is Rosalee's info on marshmallow. I add the leaves to my tea all summer long as I think they lend a bit of sweetness as well as a better "mouth-feel" to the tea due to their mucilage. If you have visited the You Pick garden with children while marshmallow is blooming, I've likely invited them to taste marshmallow flowers - so tasty. I make an herbal infused marshmallow flower each summer - I like to think it tastes like marshmallows. (You could also purchase dried marshmallow root to use for making tea right now, too, if you prefer using the root. I also like to add powdered marshmallow root to smoothies, etc as it is so good for digestion support, too. I digress...).
I just took a moment to look at Rosalee's "Herbs for Smokey Skies" article - she suggests mullein, plantain, and marshmallow, too! I must be doing something right after all! I'm guessing she is referring to marshmallow root, but with the leaves and flowers so accessible right now, I encourage using the leaves and flowers instead or in addition to the root.
So, for a very accessible-to-everyone-today and free tea blend, gather some mullein leaves, plantain leaves, and marshmallow leaves and flowers, chop up, steep for 30 minutes, strain well, and enjoy with honey and/or lemon if desired. (If you have dried licorice root in your tea stash, I would add that, also, as licorice is very protective and soothing to your lungs and helps all the herbs work well together). If you have a tincture of any of these, add several drops to your tea as well for full-spectrum benefits.
Even easier, but not free - there many respiratory tea blends available in grocery stores or Just Food Co-op. I encourage you to check the ingredients to be sure it includes mullein leaf. One brand I found that includes mullein leaf is the Yogi Breathe Deep. (This is a photo I used in a previous blog about tea - thus the stack of boxes).
Well, the smoke smell is getting stronger - might be time to head inside for a bit. I hope this has been helpful. The Herbal Highway presentation is also very interesting. The herbs I wrote down while listening to just the first 30 minutes include mullein, comfrey, plantain, garlic, marshmallow, licorice root, fennel, dandelion root or leaf, burdock root, milk thistle, elderflower, elderberry, medicinal mushrooms (turkey tail and reishi in particular for the lungs), and nettles. And I may have missed some - whew! I was also intrigued by the steams that they mentioned later in the broadcast. Worth a listen, too, if you have time.
I would appreciate any further tips you may have, too. Feel free to contact me if you would like more information about any of this as I could keep going and going...