GET RADICAL, BOIL ROOTS
A Kitchen Witch’s Guide to Wellness in the Time of COVID-19
Prepared by Gina Badger
with collaborative feedback and contributions from Claire Chuck Bohman, Tracey Brieger, Renée Camila, Vadi Arzu Erdal, Sarah Holmes, Vanessa Radman, Samantha Ray Roberts, Fern Tallos, Bonnie Rose Weaver
Our immune systems are equipped with powerful mechanisms to fight off infections.
There are many ways we can support and develop this innate capacity. In this guide, we highlight some time-tested, accessible immune-boosting practices, foods, and herbal medicines.
It may feel like a lot of information at once, so how will you know what to focus on? Start with what is accessible to you right now, what you feel drawn to, and/or whatever feels most urgent. Create a simple protocol with a few plant allies you have on hand, and rotate through different approaches to support your system on many fronts. Pay attention to the specifics of your symptoms and what you already know about your body’s pre-existing strengths and weaknesses. Work with what you have, start now, and keep at it. And remember—while herbs are powerful, nutrition and lifestyle go a long way in building immunity and staying healthy.
The medicine you have on hand is exactly the medicine you need.
We will say this again and again: there is no right way to do this, no right herbs or protocol to use. Please please please do not rush out to the grocery store or herb shop to buy a bunch of stuff! Stay home, you have everything you need <3
This guide is especially made for kitchen witches and community herbalists, i.e. folks with some basic knowledge of working with herbs, access to plant medicines, and/or ability to make preparations. We encourage general readers without familiarity with herbs to seek out a knowledgeable person in your network to resource, support, and learn from. This is also a good time to consult with a clinical herbalist if you have the resources to do so. See Referral List: Clinical Herbalists who are currently offering sliding-scale consultations.
We expect that as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the great majority of mild cases will be treated at home, in community, using folk knowledge and commonly available practices, foods and herbal medicines—perhaps without ever being diagnosed. There is great value in resourcing the caregivers in this role because they will help keep people out of hospitals and ease the pressure on our health infrastructure. If you are offering care of this kind, remember to take care of yourself! We’re in this for the long haul, and we need to take it slow & steady.
Severe cases should be treated at an emergency medical facility.
See symptom description in Early Infection Phase. If you or someone you are caring for is having severe respiratory difficulty (if they are unable to speak a full sentence without stopping to breathe), call 911 and let them know that you suspect COVID-19 infection so that first responders can come prepared.
COVID-19 is a new type of infection caused by a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) for which there is no established treatment. Closely related viruses caused the 2003 SARS (Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak as well as the 2019 MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak. The research we have drawn on is based on those other epidemics, clinical information shared by TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) practitioners who have treated COVID-19, as well as western herbalists who have been working to adapt those protocols to the North American context, including some who have begun to support people with COVID-19. That said, this situation is changing every day and we are unable to review all relevant documentation. We do not claim to have a comprehensive understanding of COVID-19 or to have authoritative experience supporting people who are infected. Our goal has been to review, in a short time, as much as possible and to make recommendations for accessible approaches to building immunity, as well as supporting people who are experiencing the initial mild upper respiratory phase of this disease.
As you consult this document, please keep in mind that we are not medical doctors and this is not medical advice. It’s beyond the scope of this document to outline all possible drug-herb interactions, but this is an important consideration in working with herbs especially at higher acute therapeutic doses. If you or someone you are caring for is taking pharmaceutical meds, please consult with a knowledgeable person before adding herbal medicines to the mix. Please be proactive about safety concerns and ethical sourcing. This public health emergency is unprecedented in our times, but we also know it will not be the only one. We need to hold ourselves to the highest standards of sustainable practice, in every sense of that word.
Remember that herbal medicines are drawn from living beings who are spiritually wise.
Plants are both of this time and out of this time, and they carry wisdom and experience beyond what we can grasp at any particular moment. Do not come to them with an expectation that they will cure you. Rather, approach them with humility and an intention to build reciprocal relationships, and allow this interdependence to be your anchor in these frightening times.
Preventative Care Practices | Herbs to Support Immune Function & Lymph | Herbs to Support the Lungs | Herbs to Support the Liver & Digestion | Herbs to Support the Nervous System | Early Infection Phase | Resources | Clinical Herbalists | Sourcing Herbs
A Note on Sustainability and Choice of Herbs
In our clinical practices we prioritize the use of weedy, widely available herbs, the ones in our gardens and kitchens, and we have focused on those plants here. In an effort to respect Indigenous knowledge and resources, we avoid commercial use of sacred Indigenous plants as well as plants from traditions and geographies that we are unfamiliar with.
That said, because of the best information currently available on herbal protocols for coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, some herbs in this document are widely used in TCM and come from that tradition, and some come from Indigenous medicine traditions.
We have deliberately excluded some herbs that are Indigenous to Turtle Island (aka North America) and are at risk of becoming endangered due to overharvesting and habitat destruction, including Lomatium, Ligusticum (Osha), Anemopsis (Yerba Mansa). We do not believe these herbs should be widely used, even though they would likely be supportive for this illness, and you will see others recommend them. We urge you to never use these herbs unless you can verify that they have been organically grown (instead of harvested from the wild, or “wildcrafted”). For more information about endangered and at-risk plant species, please see United Plant Savers.
We believe the herbs we have included in this guide will do what we need clinically and can be used without threatening the long-term population health of herbs that are crucial to Indigenous healers and their communities.
Please use your best judgement in sourcing herbs with an eye to upholding traditional knowledge-keepers, prioritizing Indigenous access to traditional medicines, and safeguarding sustainability in the widest possible sense. While this is certainly an urgent situation, it is not the first and it will not be the last, so we must work collectively to uphold the highest ethical standards of practice.If we want the herbs to take care of us, we must in return take care of them.
The full “Get Radical, Boil Roots” guide can be viewed as a live google doc (copying and printing not enabled).
For more about Gina Badger’s orientation to energetic herbalism, self and community care in these times, and my top herbs for the pandemic, check out my recent interview on the home|body podcast.