An Herbalist’s Perspective on Autumn Care

A footpath through an autumn forest.

Autumn in the northeastern United States means that green becomes gold as plants stop producing chlorophyll, the pigment that makes leaves green, causing the familiar and fleeting warmer pigments to shine through. The trees are preparing for the coldness and darkness of winter. One way they do this is by consolidating and drawing their resources down and inward. Plants also release parts of themselves that cannot be sustained, mostly their foliage, as an answer  to Autumn’s call of necessity and discernment. 

The transition seasons are beautiful and embody an energy of "bothness." For this reason Autumn and Spring may require us to spend a bit more attention orienting to time and space, our bodies, daily rhythms, and both the kind of and preparation of  herbs, foods and beverages we have daily. What metaphorical foliage are you called to drop as you move into the quiet and fertile darkness of Winter’s womb? What are you drawing inside for sustenance?

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Tonic and Adaptogenic Herbs for Seasonal Health

 When it comes to seasonal health we immediately think of remedies that can help us cope with acute situations. here are 10 of our favorite herbs that we can use on a daily basis to bring our bodies back into natural balance.
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Fortify Your Soups with Immune Broth


For over 20 years, Avena Botanicals has combined certified organic roots and mushrooms into a blend for making your own immune broth at home. Unlike many competing products in the marketplace, 100% of the mushrooms we use are grown in the USA. Our Immune Broth contains certified organic Astragalus root, organic Burdock root, organic Eleuthero root bark, sustainably wild-crafted Red Reishi mushroom, and organic Shiitake mushroom.

I recommend that you cook the herbs and mushrooms for a minimum of 8-24 hours, adding water as needed, and then strain and pour the cooled concentrated liquid into ice cube trays. Once frozen, store the ice cubes in a sealed bag in your freezer (approximately 6 weeks of ice cubes per person when taken daily). The ice cubes are ready to use on a regular basis, daily or several times a week, by placing into a warm bowl of your favorite soup or into a cup of warm miso soup (my favorite miso is made by South River Miso Company). Winter is the season for soups with an added cube of Immune Broth! I recommend an ice cube a day, or three times a week, per person, to strengthen the immune system, digestion, and the respiratory system and to protect the body from exposure to inclement weather and environmental toxins.

Below is information about the fortifying ingredients in Avena Botanicals' Immune Broth.

Astragalus root (Astragalus membranaceus)
Astragalus is an essential herb for the time in which we are living as it gives us the nourishment and strength to think clearly, to stand up, and be our authentic selves, to be informed by inspiration, to digest both our food and life experiences fully, and to strengthen our lungs and immune system. Astragalus when taken regularly in soup (Immune Broth), or as tea or tincture, helps us be less “thin-skinned” and stronger in our ability to stand upright, emotionally and physically, and to receive the breath qi (chi)-inspiration in all its forms. To be guided by inspiration, and to receive inspiration from the beauty of the natural world (and from music, literature, theater, art, children, Elders, and healing dances and songs), can help humans be kinder, more caring, and compassionate towards ourselves, each other, and our planet.

Burdock root (Arctium lappa)
Burdock’s mildly sweet and bitter taste stimulates digestive activity, clears toxins from the gut, lessens sweet cravings and relieves gas, indigestion and constipation. Its sweet and oily properties benefit the endocrine system and nourish people who feel tired and run down. Burdock improves liver function and supports women’s hormonal shifts throughout their menstruating and menopausal years and even beyond menopause. Burdock root contains inulin, a rich source of fructo-oliogosaccharides (FOS), which enhances the growth of healthy bowel flora. Burdock root has long been revered for its ability to remove accumulated waste from the tissues and bring the body back into a balanced state of health.

Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus, also known as Siberian ginseng)
Eleuthero has been one my most favorite herbs for many years. When I take it consistently over several months, I feel like I am standing on solid ground. This deeply rebuilding and restorative tonic increases overall vitality, physical strength, and endurance. It strengthens the immune system’s reservoir, improves digestion and absorption of nutrients, supports healthy liver function and maintains healthy blood flow through the arteries to the brain-improving memory, concentration and overall mental clarity. During my recent trip to study in Ecuador, I used tinctures of Avena Botanicals' Eleuthero and Hawthorn Plus, starting a month before my travels, to support my immunity and ability to be at higher altitudes (10,000 feet). Eleuthero is far less stimulating than American or Chinese ginseng. See below for more information about our Eleuthero tincture, which is also now back in stock.

Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma tsugae)
This red shelf mushroom is found growing in hemlock groves on old stumps and fallen down trees in Maine and throughout New England. I enjoy cross country skiing and hiking through hemlock groves-pausing to deeply infuse with their spirit and beauty. Reishi has become a popular mushroom for enhancing the immune system, improving adrenal function, easing stress, and reducing allergic reactions and inflammation.

Shiitake Mushroom (Lentinula edodes)
Shiitake is a commonly cultivated mushroom, usually grown on hardwood logs such as oak. It strengthens the immune system, improves overall circulation and cardiovascular health, assists people who feel chronically tired and run down, supports healthy cholesterol levels, and enhances an overall feeling of well-being. It has long been used in Asia as a food and medicine.