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In the Pacific Northwest, we’ve been enjoying a relatively warm and very wet winter. Nettles are up, wild mustard is flourishing, I’m hearing bird song that I haven’t heard in a long time. Oregon grape has flower buds on it already. As I nibble on plant bits, I can taste their strong medicine, which means sap is flowing. What I can tell you is that it’s going to be an early spring and there is a lot of mold and mildew happening. The fungus among us.

Fungi are everywhere – in the ground and air, on plants, animals, and humans. It is considered neither a plant nor animal, but has itsย own kingdom. That’s something to be appreciated about any organism, eh? It has countless benefits. Fungi help plants converse with each other. It is the Great Composter and ties together the earth and all life upon it. Stroganoff wouldn’t be stroganoff without crimini, shiitake, button or any of the edible wild varieties of fungiย available for the harvesting. We literally could not live if all the fungi on the earth were destroyed. I have always enjoyed a deep and passionate love affair with a wide variety of mushrooms and fungi. It’s just that when it wants to take up residence on or in us is when exception is taken.

lavcloseupFor those of you who work out at health clubs and use the showers and locker rooms as I do, it can be a constant battle to keep fungus from taking up residence on the feet. Kids bring home ringworm from school. Fungal infections can runย rampant in the body. Itching, redness, pain, swelling. Weird looking talon-like toenails. Oh joy. Once a fungus takes up residence, it can be very hard to eliminate. A complete and total commitment to the application of antifungals must be made in order to eradicate the infection. Fortunately, there are several plants which are powerful enough to work. Can I get an amen?!

The garden plants rosemary, sage, oregano, lavender, all the mints, and monarda/bee balm are amazing in their ability to kill fungi. A simple essential oil blend in a roller bottle can be applied twice a day to the infected areas, externally. I can personally attest to the efficacy of these herbs. I used to have a farm and wore muck boots all day long. One day I noticed my toes were itchy and red. I recognized this as a fungal infection and brought out my bottle of lavender essential oil. There was almost immediate relief from the itching and redness. I was consistent in the application of the lavender oil twice a day for a week. I had caught it early, so a week was all it took to eliminate the fungus. These days, every time I get out of the shower at the gym, I use my roller bottle of antifungal essential oils on my toes. It certainly keeps the fungus in check. For those with a nasty fungal infection, the essential oils may have to be applied twice daily for weeks or even months. Something to consider when doing an antifungal treatment of long duration is to be kind to your liver, as it will be working hard to eliminate not only the fungus, but the essential oils which will be entering the bloodstream. You might think about adding dandelion greens or roasted dandelion root tea to your daily diet while on an antifungal regimen.

PeelingOregonGrapeRootFor internal fungal infections, it’s important to note that most herbal antifungals also contain antibacterial elements. While there is controversy on taking capsules of essential oils internally, please think about this: EOs such as thyme, lavender, peppermint, oregano, sage, and rosemary are antifungals and antibacterials, both. Our gut contains a vast variety of bacteria that are of extreme importance to the health of our cardiac, nervous, immune, and digestive systems. The gut bacteria serve not only to digest the food we eat and help to eliminate waste, but these bacteria also tell our bodies to produce hormones for a wide variety of body functions including immune and nerve activity. It is now common knowledge that gut bacteria govern our moods, emotions and even brain activity. EOs that kill bacteria, kill ALL bacteria. They do not discriminate between “good” and “bad” bacteria. In my never humble opinion, this means that when taking antifungal herbs internally, it is a bad idea to ingest essential oils. Instead, use the herbs in safer applications such as teas or in soups, stews, salads, herbal vinegars, and dressings. It is always beneficial to take a good probiotic for the duration of the treatment.

In the wild, cedar, salal, saxifrage, and Oregon grape serve very well as antifungals. I make a medicinaloil from these freshly harvested plants. This oil can be applied externally to relieve not only the symptoms of fungal attacks, but kill them dead! In addition, Oregon grape and salal, which grow together, can be infused in apple cider vinegar and used either externally or internally to kill fungus. A half cup of this antifungal vinegar in a footbath brings welcome relief at the end of the day. Make sure to pat the feet dry after soaking for about 10 minutes and let the feet hang out to breathe. Remember that fungus likes it wet. Dry feet are the enemy of fungi!

antifungal (1)Incidentally, all of the plants above, in essential oil, alcohol tincture and/or herbal vinegar form can be used in the home and pet areas safely and effectively to kill mold, mildew, and fungi. For a few years, I lived in a home built in the 50s and had the aluminum window frames which would get wet and covered in nasty black mold. Ack! I frequently rubbed down the aluminum with cedar essential oil. As long as I stayed consistent in the application of the cedar essential oil, I was able to keep the black mold at bay.

There you have it. Natural relief for the downside of this amazing organism!

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Happy Valentine’s day! Ich liebe dich.

Suzanne "Queen Bee" Tabert ๐Ÿ

Suzanne Tabert, bioregional herbalist, speaker, and author, is director of herbal education and herbal mentor at the Cedar Mountain Herb School. An herbal medicine instructor for 35+ years, Suzanne teaches with great passion and excitement, bringing her wealth of herbal knowledge to students in an engaging and vibrant manner. She is the primary instructor at CMHS and an adjunct faculty at Bastyr University. Taking students to wild places and giving them tools to engage and connect with flora, fauna, and the exquisite beauty of nature is the icing on the cake of life, and one way that Suzanne is making a difference in the world, one person, one group at a time. Cedar Mountain Herb School is a member of the American Herbalists Guild, Partnership in Education with United Plant Savers, and the American Herb Association.