Mar 162020

For most people, the change of seasons from winter to spring is something to look forward to. But it also means a time when people tend to get sick or seasonal allergies start to flare up. This can make things miserable for a lot of people. As the weather fluctuates between freezing cold and warmer, sunnier days, it also wreaks havoc on our immune system and our sleep. Frequently, our bodies can’t keep up with the constant changes and we get physically run down. But there are some things everybody can do to help during the time of transition from one season to the next.

One of the most common things we hear during this transition time is to stay warm.  This may seem like common sense, but so many people who are sun worshippers just waiting for the warmer days to return, forget this bit of advice as soon as the days start to warm a little. By wearing less clothing or clothing that is not as heavy and warm, we make ourselves susceptible to illness. Even if it’s warm out, you still need to dress appropriately. Save the shorts for a little later in the season.

Another way to stay healthy during the changing seasons is to make sure that you’re getting enough sleep. This is another common sense statement, but with longer hours of daylight, many people’s sleep cycles become disrupted. This can cause the immune system to become compromised, making it easier to get sick or for seasonal allergies to flare up.

A study from the National Institute of Health showed that dry winter air allows cold and flu viruses to survive longer and transmit more easily once everything starts to warm up.  With this being said, hydration is important. If dry air makes it more convenient for germs to remain dormant, then flushing them out by keeping your body hydrated is a great way to avoid an infection.

Eating according to the seasons is very important too. As the weather gets warmer, most people gravitate towards healthier food options in an effort to lose some of the winter weight. For spring, eating lighter, more natural foods will actually give the liver a chance to repair itself and that alone can help us feel more energetic and improve our clarity of thought. The immune system also functions better when excess sugar and dairy are removed.

Acupuncture is another great tool that can help make the transition from winter to spring easier. Acupuncture can balance the body as it reacts to the changes in the weather and activity levels. Regular acupuncture treatments have also been shown to boost immunity. Spring can also cause flare ups associated with seasonal allergies and acupuncture treatments can help with the inflammation, sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes that accompany the allergic reactions.

Contact us to learn more about how Traditional Chinese Medicine can promote greater health.

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Jan 202020

There are several acupressure points that are known to treat stress and stress related symptoms. It’s important to understand that acupressure is not the only form of treatment and having a balanced diet, exercise regime and lifestyle will also decrease the chances of stress being a factor in your life.


The following five acupoints are known to help alleviate stress and other related symptoms.
LU 1—Zhong Fu
GV 24.5—Yin Tang
KI 1—Yong Quan
LI 4—He Gu
S 36- Zu San Li


Lu 1, Zhong Fu– This point is often used to treat vomiting, stops coughing, disperses fullness in the chest, stops pain and regulates Lung Qi. It’s located in the upper chest in the space below the first rib, six cun from the midline. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Lu 1 regulates Lung Qi and stimulates the Lung Qi to descend. It also disperses fullness in the chest and stops coughing.

KI 1, Yongquan, Bubbling Spring– This acupoint is located on the sole of the foot approximately at the junction of the second and third toes. Indications that this acupoint will aid you are if you’re experiencing headaches, dizziness, loss of voice, blurring of vision and so on. In TCM, this acupoint is known to subdue wind and empty-heat, clear up the brain, and tonifies yin.

LI 4, Hegu, Joining (Union) Valley– The LI 4 is known to treat swelling and pain of the eye, nasal obstruction, toothache, facial swelling, deafness, sore throat and much more. In TCM, it’s said to dispel exterior wind, stimulate the dispersing function of the lungs, removes pain, and harmonizing descending and ascending functions. This point is located on the back of the hand at the apex of the webbed triangle between the thumb and the index finger.

ST 36, Zu San Li– This acupoint is often used to treat vomiting, stress and fatigue and gastrointestinal discomfort. This point is located along the outside of your shin bone about 4 finger lengths from the knee cap. You will know you’re in the right location because a muscle will mom out as you move your foot up and down. In TCM, this point is stimulated frequently to promote health and longevity.

GV 24.5, Yin Tang, Third Eye– This point is located about one finger above the point between the eyebrows and will be almost directly in the middle of the forehead. Working this point is said to calm the mind, clarify ideas and intuition as well as strengthen mental projection. It can be used to alleviate dizziness, stress, vertigo, sinusitis and headaches.


Each of the above points can be used to aid in relieving stress and/or other symptoms that can cause stress. It’s helpful to bring a list to your Acupuncturist of any symptoms you may have or are looking to treat, any information will be helpful in curating your individualized treatment plan. Please communicate with your Acupuncturist if you are pregnant or looking to become pregnant as some pressure points may affect you.

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Jan 062020

Winter’s element is water and is associated with the kidneys, which in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is considered the source of all qi and energy within the body. Winter is also associated with the bladder and adrenal glands.

Focusing on inner reflection, rest, energy conservation and storage during the winter months is when it’s most important as it helps us to properly nourish our Kidney Qi.

Below are a few methods you can learn about and apply during this season in order to maintain a balanced qi.

Balancing your lifestyle

For most people, a reduction in activity is common during the winter months whether it’s due to the frigid temperatures, damp weather, or lack of activities available in the area where you reside.

Given that reduced activity is likely a factor for many, it’s important to also consume less food this time of year to avoid unnecessary weight gain. Food that should be gravitated towards would be warmer foods such as beans, ginger or garlic, and even soups and stews.

Rest & Relaxation

Although the days are shorter during the winter, it’s important to stay in line with our circadian rhythm. This can be done by having an earlier bedtime and waking up after the sun has had time to warm the earth in the morning. Not only does getting more sleep helps with balancing our Yang Qi, it helps give our body the necessary rest we need in order to prevent common winter illnesses such as the flu, colds, and general aches and pains. Not only that, but according to TCM, unresolved anger, stress and frustration can throw your immune system thus off allowing pathogens to affect the body.

Relaxation is also a way to stay balanced during this time of year.

Drink Plenty of Water

We’re all aware that drinking water is extremely important to our survival, but it does more than simply keeping us alive.

Drinking water has many benefits including the fact that it’s essential for proper kidney function and can even prevent kidney stones. It’s also known for lubricating the joints, delivers oxygen through the body, regulates body temperature, and maintaining blood pressure.

If you have a hard time drinking water, try adding lemon to it to amplify the taste, drinking tea, or adding a vitamin flavor enhancer.

Wash your hands

Winter time is the time of year where we are in close proximity with others because we tend to stay indoors more. That being said, we are more likely to spread our germs to others and vice versa.

Washing your hands often can help prevent the spread of germs and keep you healthy. Other ways to avoid coming in contact with germs is to keep a container of sanitizing cloths with you so you can wipe down door knobs, grocery cart handles, and even condiment containers at restaurants before handling them.

Acupuncture Points

The acupuncture point that we suggest catering to is Du 14. It helps regulate blood circulation and can also strengthen the outer defense layers of the skin and muscle to prevent the intrusion and duration of germs and viruses.

Du 14 is a crucial point that is used to release the Exterior and treat Wind-Heat.

Applying Traditional Chinese Medicine to your active lifestyle is beneficial for your health and should be made a priority.

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Dec 162019

Governing Vessel 14 is called The Great Hammer. This point is located below C 7 on the spine. C 7, the seventh cervical vertebrae is the one which is the most prominent. Traditionally the vertebrae were referred to as hammers because of their resemblance to the tool. This point is great because it is the intersecting point for all of the Yang meridians in the body. In winter time, this point is often used to treat colds and other illnesses that are common this time of year.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine there are six types of evils that can afflict the body. Wind, cold, heat, dryness, dampness, summer heat are the six evils, or excesses. Governing Vessel 14 is good at expelling pathogens in the body, including invasions of wind and cold, as well as summer heat. Wind cold can enter the body through the area between Governing Vessel 14 and Bladder 12. This is why it is important to wear a scarf in the winter. You want to protect your body from an invasion of wind cold. If you do become afflicted you may get a cold, fever, flu and experience coughing. In the summer, excess heat can cause high fevers and GV 14 is effective in reducing them. GV 14 can also be needled to keep the wei qi (the protective qi, akin to the immune system) strong, thus protecting the body from external pathogens.

Due to its location on the neck, GV 14 can be used for neck pain or stiff neck, pain along the spine, headaches, toothache and sore throats. As you can see, Governing Vessel 14 is not only a great point in general, but a critical point during the winter months when cold and flu season are upon us and the threat of evil wind and cold is all around us.

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Dec 022019

Traditional Chinese medicine teaches that humans should live in harmony with the seasons. According to traditional Chinese medicine there are five seasons: winter, spring, summer, late summer and fall. Each season has many associations that help us change our habits, allowing for a more balanced mind and body. When these systems were being developed, people were living in harmony with nature. People rose with the sun, ate what was available during the different seasons and they were much more aware of their natural environment. What to wear, when to wake up, when to go to sleep and what activities to engage in were all dependent on the weather and the environment. Because of this, people were capable of staying healthy throughout the year and their immune and organ systems were strong enough to ward off disease.

1. Get some rest

In TCM, the season of winter is a time of repair and rejuvenation. Winter is associated with the kidneys, which hold the body’s fundamental energies. Rest is important for revitalizing the kidneys.This is why some animals hibernate during the winter months. We should also spend more time resting during the winter months to help prepare our bodies for the months ahead when most people expend more energy.

2. Incorporate self reflection

Winter is a really good time to turn inward and do some reflection. Practices like tai chi, qi gong and yoga can be very beneficial during the winter season. These practices help us connect to our inner selves, while supporting the kidney energy. They also help relax the mind and calm our emotions. Things like journaling and meditation are other ways of reflecting during the winter months. Long term, these practices can be very helpful at extending a person’s life.

3. Drink water, lots of water

The kidneys are closely associated and ruled by the water element, which is the element associated with winter, so it is important to remember to drink water during wintertime. Drinking room temperature water is a vital step to maintaining sufficient kidney qi throughout the winter months.   

4. Eat warm, seasonal foods

Choose foods that grow naturally during the winter. Items such as squash, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, root vegetables like beets, greens, carrots, mushrooms, apples, pears and cabbage are great. During the winter months, cold foods like salads and raw foods should be avoided as they will deplete the immune system. There are also foods that specifically target and nourish the kidneys, including kidney beans, beef, goose, duck, black beans, lamb, chicken, dark leafy greens, garlic, ginger, walnuts, quinoa, asparagus, celery, onion, fennel, scallions, cloves, watercress and turnips. Sea salt is also helpful, because salty is the taste associated with the kidneys. As with anything, moderation is key. Too much salt can actually tax the heart, which then causes the kidneys to work overtime.

5. Treat yourself to some TCM

Traditional Chinese Medicine utilizes numerous modalities and tools to help keep the body balanced and prepped for the seasonal changes. Acupuncture and moxibustion are two of the tools that are regularly used to boost the kidney qi. Moxibustion is a practice where dried mugwort is burned very near the skin to warm and boost the qi within the body. There are certain acupuncture points that are essential for boosting kidney qi. Most are located either on the lower abdomen, below the umbilicus or on the lower back above the hip bones, in the areas of the kidneys. Applying moxibustion to these areas is a wonderful way to boost the energy reserves of the kidneys.

When we align ourselves with the natural processes of life and the seasons, our bodies will adjust and perform optimally, just as they are intended to.

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Jan 032019

By Meghan Gemma and Juliet Blankespoor
Photography by Juliet Blankespoor

The cold months of the year bring a flurry of beastly germs to our doorstep. These wee-but-wicked pathogens must sense that our immune systems are vulnerable—especially during the holidays when rich food and drink prevail. I like to start bolstering my family’s immune systems early in the cold & flu season; well before everyone around us is sniffling and sneezing. Practices like eating a nourishing diet; getting plenty of sleep, sunshine, and water; and proper hand washing are essential, but I also rely on a handful of tonic herbs to keep us healthy and resilient.

Herbal immune tonics are traditionally taken on a daily basis during the fall and winter months to strengthen immunity and lessen our chances of succumbing to common viral infections. These herbs are slow-acting with a prolonged effect, so they must be taken regularly to be beneficial. They differ from immunostimulating herbs (also known as immune stimulants) like echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) and spilanthes (Acmella oleracea), which are taken right at the onset of an illness for on-the-spot protection.

Therapeutically, immune tonics are also used to address poor immune resilience—for example, individuals who experience frequent infections—and to boost the immune system in preparation for cold and flu season. You’ll notice that two of the remedies we feature in this article are mushrooms: reishi and turkey tail. This is no coincidencemany of our premiere immune tonics are fungi. We use the term “herb” loosely here at the Chestnut School to include therapeutic medicinal trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, and mushrooms.

Most immune tonics fall into the category of immunomodulators, which are herbs that have balancing, or amphoteric, effects on the immune system (making them more appropriate, in general,  for folks with autoimmune conditions, as compared to immunostimulating herbs). You can read more about both immunomodulators and immunostimulants in our in-depth article on Herbs for the Immune System.

Please note that this article is introductory in scope and doesn’t fully cover each medicinal. If you plan to forage any of these herbs, you’ll need to seek out trustworthy identification tips. You’ll also need to learn foraging ethics before you harvest any plant from the wild! There are deadly poisonous plants and mushrooms out there, so proper identification is paramount. See our Foraging and Wildcrafting resources on the blog for more guidance.

Before we dive into the herbs and mushrooms, we’d like to share a reminder that a healthy lifestyle is the best immune booster! Herbs are excellent supporting players, but we can’t rely upon them to be the only stars in the show. To read up on our suggestions for holistic immune health, visit our comprehensive article on Herbs for the Immune System.

Hemlock reishi (Ganoderma tsugae)

Five Luminary Medicinals to Boost Immunity

1. Reishi (Ganoderma tsugae, G. lucidum, G. curtisii, G. martinicense, Ganodermataceae)

Parts Used: Mushroom fruiting body

Preparations: Long decoction, syrup, preserved concoction

Herbal Actions:

  • Immune tonic
  • Immunomodulator
  • Antiviral
  • Antibacterial
  • Adaptogen
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-anxiety
  • Cardiotonic
  • Hepatic

Known as the ‘mushroom of immortality’, reishi is an herbal immune tonic and immunomodulator. Taken regularly, it can enhance and fine-tune the body’s immune response. It’s especially helpful as a daily remedy for those who have weak lungs or who frequently succumb to respiratory infections. It strengthens the circulatory system and is a legendary adaptogen, making it a supreme ally for increasing overall resilience. Reishi is also a traditional tonic for anxiety and can help impart calmness in a slow and sustained manner.

Reishi is better prepared as a tea than a tincture, as some of its medicinal properties are destroyed by high percentages of alcohol. Simmer the mushrooms for a few hours to fully extract its polysaccharide compounds, which are the active immunomodulating compounds.  Its flavor is slightly bitter, so I like combining it with pleasant-tasting herbs like astragalus (Astragalus propinquus), licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)*, and cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) —it’s particularly delicious in herbal chai blends. I also add a handful or two of dried reishi slices to bone or vegetable broth when I have a pot simmering.

Hemlock reishi mushroom (Ganoderma tsugae)

Reishi can be purchased online or at local health food stores, cultivated at home, or gathered from the wild. There are a number of medicinal species in the genus. We use our local hemlock reishi (Ganoderma tsugae) and artist’s conk (Ganoderma applanatum). If you’d like to try foraging this mushroom, please research which Ganoderma species grows near you—and if they’ve been used medicinally—along with  referencing a good mushroom field guide or reliable online source (I always cross-reference sources when using the internet). Here are a couple online resources to get you started:

Contraindications: Use cautiously with blood-thinning medication. Avoid if you have mushroom allergies.

*Avoid licorice if you have high blood pressure, edema, or a cardiac condition.

Elderberry honey

2. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra var. canadensis and S. nigra, Adoxaceae)

Parts Used: Berries and flowers

Preparations: Syrup, tincture, infusion (flowers), decoction (berries), infused honey

Herbal Actions:

    • Berries:
      • Immune stimulant
      • Immune tonic
      • Antibacterial
      • Antiviral
      • Antioxidant
      • Diaphoretic
      • Anticatarrhal (decongestant)
      • Anti-inflammatory
    • Flowers:
      • Immune tonic
      • Antiviral
      • Anti-inflammatory
      • Diaphoretic
      • Anticatarrhal (decongestant)
      • Astringent

The berries of elder are one of our most treasured immune tonics—they are effective, nourishing, and delicious when prepared as a dark purple syrup. Taken daily throughout the fall and winter, elderberry offers us protection against colds, flu, and other viral infections. One study demonstrated elderberry’s antimicrobial effects against two strains of the influenza virus and several bacteria that are commonly responsible for secondary, or concomitant,  sinus infections with the flu.

And in the case of an illness, elderberry is immune stimulating, diaphoretic (helps to break a fever), and anticatarrhal (decreases mucus in the respiratory passages). Studies show a lessening in the duration and severity of cold symptoms as well as the flu.

I prepare elderberry syrup by combining equal parts elderberry tincture, elderberry tea, and elderberry-infused honey. Children love this remedy, which can be made alcohol-free if you prefer (you can substitute a vinegar extraction for the alcohol-based tincture). Doses can be liberal (by the tablespoon), several times per day. Do not give elderberry honey or syrup containing the honey to babies younger than one-year-old.

Elderflower (Sambucus nigra var. canadensis)

Elder flowers also demonstrate strong antiviral activity against influenza, and can be integrated into your elderberry syrup along with other immune-boosting herbs like cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) and ginger (Zingiber officinale). Curious to see a step-by-step demonstration on making herbal syrups? Visit our video tutorial and download our syrup guide!

Dried elderberries can be purchased online from sources like Mountain Rose Herbs, and fresh, frozen elderberries can be purchased from organic farms (you’ll need to do an online search for these). However, elder is also a classic garden-grown medicinal and forageable herb. If you plan to forage elder from the wild, you will need to do some serious botanical detective work. There are several deadly poisonous look-alikes, including water hemlock (Cicuta spp.).

I highly recommend reading Sam Thayer’s write-up on elderberry and its look-alikes in his book, Nature's Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants. You can also reference this online resource for identification tips:

Contraindications: Eating raw (uncooked or untinctured) elderberries can cause nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea in many people. Once the plant has been purged from the system, there is no lasting illness. In general, we suggest starting with small doses and working your way up to assess tolerance. The flowers, tea, tincture, syrup, and cooked berries are unlikely to cause any side effects.

3. Garlic (Allium sativum, Amaryllidaceae)

Parts Used: Bulb

Preparations: Raw, tincture, fire cider and other infused vinegars, honey

Herbal Actions:

      • Immune tonic
      • Immune stimulant
      • Antimicrobial
      • Diaphoretic
      • Hypotensive (lowers blood pressure)
      • Anticatarrhal (decongestant)

This beloved spice has been used medicinally for over 5,000 years; one of the first accounts of its use was to sustain the health of the Egyptian laborers who built the pyramids.1 Later, it was a powerful field remedy in World War I, saving thousands of lives and limbs through its infection-fighting capabilities.2

Garlic is an essential staple in my kitchen as a potent immune system tonic and antimicrobial herb. It can be highly effective in preventing infections such as the common cold and flu, as well as infections of the digestive tract. The volatile oils in garlic are excreted through the lungs, making it especially beneficial for infections of the respiratory system. One randomized controlled study showed that garlic reduced the incidence of common cold. Here’s a review of garlic’s demonstrated activity against various pathogenic bacteria, fungi, and protozoans.

A bouquet of garlic scapes

Our family prepares a special garlic sauce every week made of raw garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt, and nutritional yeast. The sauce goes on avocado toast, eggs, pasta, chili, soup, baked potatoes, you name it. We keep it in the refrigerator (important, as garlic oil can harbor botulism and has made people sick) and literally pull it out at every meal. Our family of three goes through a quart a week and we rarely catch colds.

Garlic is easy to add to the diet as a culinary herb, and I always save my garlic skins to toss into broths. The suggested daily dosage is one clove per day, added to food. My favorite garlicky preparation is fire cider—a sweet and spicy tonic made with apple cider vinegar. I recommend trying our ruby-red recipe for Hibiscus Pomegranate Fire Cider. To fully capitalize on garlic’s antimicrobial and blood thinning qualities, it should be eaten raw.

Contraindications: Garlic can aggravate heartburn and gas, especially if ingested raw or in large quantities. It can also aggravate peptic ulcers. Coating garlic with olive oil or preparing it in an oil-based sauce helps minimize these effects. Avoid high doses of raw garlic one week before surgery due to its blood-thinning qualities. If taking blood thinners, consult a cardiologist before taking high doses of raw garlic.

Astragalus pressed roots

4. Astragalus (Astragalus propinquus, Fabaceae [formerly Astragalus membranaceus])

Parts Used: Root

Preparations: Decoction, powder, soup and stew stock, goo balls

Herbal Actions: 

      • Immune tonic
      • Immunomodulator
      • Antiviral
      • Antibacterial
      • Adaptogen
      • Antioxidant
      • Cardiotonic
      • Hepatic

Astragalus has become a renowned tonic in Western herbalism over the past two decades, primarily for its adaptogenic and tonic immune qualities. Scientific studies demonstrate that astragalus regulates white blood cell (immune cell) activity and stimulates our natural killer cells (NK cells)  to present a strong front against pathogens. Astragalus has also demonstrated increased interferon production (an antiviral and immune-signaling agent produced by the body).3

Astragalus is best used as a daily remedy to build immune strength—its medicine is slow and sustained, with full benefits reached after weeks of daily ingestion. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, astragalus augments the Wei Qi, which can be likened to a protective sphere, shielding the body from harmful external pathogens.

Astragalus, or Huang qi (Astragalus propinquus)

Because astragalus is a food herb, it’s safe to take relatively large amounts regularly. I love adding a handful to broth, integrating the fine-flavored root into herbal chai, and mixing the powder into goo balls, cookies, and other treats. Tincture is not recommended because alcohol doesn’t optimally extract astragalus’ immune-enhancing polysaccharides. These polysaccharides are water soluble and more readily extracted with prolonged decoctions or simmering.

Astragalus root has a sweet, beany flavor (it is in the legume, or bean, family, after all), making it easy to sneak into the diets of picky eaters, including kids. Toss a few of the pressed roots (these look like tongue depressors, and are pictured above) into any simmering stew, soup, or sauce, and it will impart only the tiniest of flavor imprints! The roots can be pulled out of the dish, much as you would pull out a bay leaf, right before serving.

Contraindications: Because astragalus stimulates immune activity, it could potentially weaken the effects of immunosuppressive pharmaceuticals, such as cyclosporine and corticosteroids. This adverse reaction is theoretical in humans but has been verified in animal studies.4 In high doses (30 grams or more) and via injection, astragalus has caused itching and allergic skin reactions. Symptoms of overdose may include headaches, insomnia, dizziness, hot flashes, and hypertension.

Fresh turkey tail

5. Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor, Polyporaceae)

Parts Used: Mushroom fruiting body

Preparations: Long decoction, soup stock

Herbal Actions:

    • Immune tonic
    • Immune stimulant
    • Antiviral
    • Antitumor
    • Antioxidant

Turkey tail is a medicinal mushroom and immune tonic par excellence, with significant antiviral and immune-balancing qualities.5It’s beneficial for anyone who wants to prime their immune system, but especially for those who experience general immune weakness or frequent upper respiratory infections. In addition to boosting immunity, some herbalists believe turkey tail enhances the effects of antimicrobial herbs.6Turkey tail is a foundational herb for supporting the immune system in alternative cancer therapy and prevention.7

Like other medicinal mushrooms, turkey tail is best taken as a decoction or added to broth blends. Again, this is a perfect time to incorporate the warming flavors of chai. Turkey tail is mildly bitter—combine it with other medicinal mushrooms that are pleasant in flavor, such as shiitake (Lentinula edodes), maitake (Grifola frondosa), or lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus).

I make an herbal broth over the winter that contains astragalus, reishi (just a little, so it’s not too bitter), shiitake, turkey tail, calendula (Calendula officinalis), and seaweed. We add the broth to soups, stews, and marinades, and my picky daughter doesn’t notice the herbal flavor.  However, her immune system certainly takes note!

Turkey tail mushrooms

Turkey tail is one of the most common woodland mushrooms in the world—it’s likely growing near you! It can be found exclusively on dead hardwood trees, stumps, and branches (and sometimes on dead conifers).

Turkey tail does have some look-alikes, and proper identification is essential. That being said, many people successfully learn to know and recognize turkey tail. Its fruiting body is fan-shaped—bearing a likeness to a turkey’s opened tail feathers—with colored bands of blue, brown, red, gray, and white. Its undersides are white or tan in color and spotted with tiny pores (NOT gills). False turkey tail mushrooms (Stereum spp.) have a matte, tawny underside with no visible pores.

Here are some online resources to help you with identification:


After you’ve successfully identified it, look for healthy, young flushes of mushrooms to harvest. Leave plenty behind, so the mushroom can make spores and reproduce. Our family likes to chew on a piece or two while hiking for a fun fungal gum alternative.

You can also find turkey tail in medicinal mushroom preparations online and in your local health food store.  

Contraindications: Avoid if you have mushroom allergies.

References and Recommended Reading

      1. Moyers S. Garlic in Health, History, and World Cuisine. Suncoast Press; 1996.
      2. Bergner P. The Healing Power of Garlic: The Enlightened Person’s Guide to Nature’s Most Versatile Medicinal Plant. Prima Lifestyles; 1995.
      3. Denzler K, Moore J, Harrington H, et al. Characterization of the Physiological Response following In Vivo Administration of Astragalus membranaceus. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016.
      4. Chu DT, Wong WL, Mavligit GM. Immunotherapy with Chinese medicinal herbs. I. Immune restoration of local xenogeneic graft-versus-host reaction in cancer patients by fractionated Astragalus membranaceus in vitro. J Clin Lab Immunol. 1988.
      5. Hobbs C. Medicinal Mushrooms: An Exploration of Tradition, Healing, and Culture. Book Publishing Company; 2002.
      6. Rogers R. The Fungal Pharmacy: The Complete Guide to Medicinal Mushrooms and Lichens of North America. North Atlantic Books; 2011.
      7. Patel, S, Goyal, A. Recent Developments in Mushrooms as Anti-Cancer Therapeutics: A Review. 3 Biotech. 2012.

Looking for more blog articles on herbs for the immune system? We’ve compiled our most comprehensive free herbal resources on the subject, and they’re all right here for your convenience.

Meet Our Contributors:

JULIET BLANKESPOOR founded the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine in 2007 and serves as the school’s primary instructor and Creative Director. She's been a professional plant-human matchmaker for close to three decades. Juliet caught the plant bug when she was nineteen and went on to earn a degree in Botany. She's owned just about every type of herbal business you can imagine: an herbal nursery, a medicinal products business, a clinical practice, and now, an herbal school.

These days, she channels her botanical obsession with her writing and photography in her online programs and here on her personal blog, Castanea. She's writing her first book: Cultivating Medicinal Herbs: Grow, Harvest, and Prepare Handcrafted Remedies from Your Home Garden. Juliet and her houseplants share a home with her family and herb books in Asheville, North Carolina.

MEGHAN GEMMA is one of the Chestnut School’s primary instructors through her written lessons, and is also the principal pollinator of the Chestnut School’s social media community – sharing herbal and wild foods wisdom from the flowery heart of the school to an ever-wider field of friends, gardeners, healers, and plant lovers.

She has been in a steady relationship with the Chestnut School since 2010—as an intern and manager at the Chestnut Herb Nursery; as a plant-smitten student “back in the day” when the school’s programs were taught in the field; and later as a part the school’s woman-powered professional team. Meghan lives in the Ivy Creek watershed, just north of Asheville, North Carolina.


Are you intrigued with the idea
of foraging but intimidated by where to start?

The course begins with the basic ground rules of foraging safety and ethics, and then moves on to botany and plant identification. Before you know it, you’ll have the skills and confidence to safely identify and harvest wild plants.

You’ll befriend THE most common edible and medicinal wayside plants, including dandelion, stinging nettles, violet, yarrow, burdock, rose, goldenrod, and many others. The printable manual is hundreds of pages long and filled with close-up photos for identification, medicinal uses, and loads of easy-to-follow recipes. In fact, most of our plant profiles contain more detail than you’ll find in any book on wild foods and herbs.

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Nov 012017

We all love the monsoons or winter after the hot summer. But not to forget are the diseases and infections that come along with winters. Most of the people are more prone to diseases and infections while in winters due to increased fungal and bacterial activities. Let’s not let these infections or diseases spoil the serene beauty of the winter! Right? So here are some Ayurvedic tips that’ll help you remain healthy this winter! Let’s begin!

1) Good foot care

Foot region is more prone to fungal infections in the winters. Make sure you keep your foot dry always. Try not to wash your foot too often and use socks which will help you in keeping your feet clean and dry. You can also dusting foot powders to ensure that your foot dry all day long.

2) Take warm water oil baths

It’s very important to use oils to massage your body in winters as your skin is prone to lose its moisture content. The best oils recommended are the neem oil and coconut oil. Take a good massage from these oils and bathe in warm water.

3) Consumption of multivitamin capsules

By taking the recommendation of your Ayurvedic specialist, consume multivitamin capsules as these are going to help you in retaining all the necessary vitamins your body would need. We may not to be able to consume these vitamins directly. Thus, we have to consume by way of eating capsules.

4) Drink herbal teas

Herbal teas that consist of Tulasi leaves and other spices like cloves, cinnamon are going to keep your digestion in tact. Adding some drops of lemon juice to your regular hot beverage can do wonders for your digestion.

5) A tablespoon of Chyawanprash before meals

One tablespoon of Chyawanprash before or after meals can help in better absorption of essential nutrients and minerals and also boosts your immune system. You can also eat this whenever you feel fatigue as it instantly helps in providing energy.

6) Keep your body hydrated

Just because it’s winter, it doesn’t mean you must drink less water. Water always remains most essential to your body. You have to drink at least 2 to 3 litres of water everyday. You can also use cold creams to get rid of dry skin.

7) Warm lemon juice

Drinking a glass of warm lemon juice is a great way to begin your day in winters as it boosts your metabolism and helps you get rid of your tiredness when you wake up! If not for lemon juice, you can also drink a glass of buttermilk with crushed ginger and garlic in it.

8) Say no to uncooked food

It’s always a best idea to only eat cooked food in winters. Unwashed fruits and vegetables or unboiled fruits and vegetables can have numerous bacteria in them especially in winters. To avoid infections, cook these food well before eating.

They were some Ayurvedic tips for this winter! Follow these tips and experience a disease free winter!

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