Last week, as I came to grips with the seriousness of our situation with the spread of Covid-19 (including our administration’s cruel and incompetent response), and felt my own anxiety, fear, and panic rise as I went to our grocery store for our regular weekly needs and saw bare shelves (and came home with perhaps slightly more pasta than is technically necessary for our household…and a packet of Jaffa Cakes), I became edgy, grumpy, even a bit despondent. I’m grateful for friends and beloveds who listened and didn’t judge, who let me just have my feelings.
I realized how important it is to be nourishing not only our immune health and washing our hands, but also nourishing on our nervous systems that are holding all our responses to this situation. Grief, fear, rage, confusion, loss, stress, anxiety, fatigue from rapid change and adaptation, trauma and PTS, the impact of physical isolation — it is A LOT. And it is OK to have feelings, lots of them (even when they might contradict). This is a *normal* response to have feelings about this situation (ever grateful for my therapist who taught me this).
Add Covid-19 to an already stressful political situation and wow. Our nervous systems need some love! And! Added bonus: A nourished nervous system helps strengthen our immune systems.
So here are some ways to love on our nervous systems with herbs.
First, here is a tea blend I have developed for our home (in fact I’m drinking it as I write this). This blend includes herbs that nourish the nervous system and the adrenals in particular, along with rose hips to nourish the immune system. These are also herbs that deeply nourish the whole body as well, like drinking your vitamins and minerals. 🙂 If you’re not used to herbal teas it will taste quite “herby” which I love. Savor it!
2 Parts Nettles
2 Parts Oatstraw
1 Part Each Dandelion Leaf and Root
1 Part Linden
1/2 Part Rose Hips
1/4 Part Licorice Root
A “part” can be anything — a teaspoon, a scoop, a handful, whatever. Blend that together. You will get the most benefit by doing an “overnight infusion” — letting your tea steep overnight (or at least 8 hours) to pull the most constituents out of the herbs. Here’s how to do that:
I like a french press best (but not one you make coffee in), but a teapot or even a cooking pot is fine. As long as it will hold 4 cups of water. Put 8 teaspoons of the tea blend in your press/pot and add 4 cups of water off the boil. Cover with a tea cozy or towel to keep the heat in. Steep overnight (at least 8 hours). Strain if needed (like if you use a cooking pot) and drink throughout the day. Give the “mark” (the herbs left over) back to the earth.
The recommendation with a “remedy” tea is you drink it at least 5 days a week. Some people like to take a break and drink water or another herb/blend. I drink my blend pretty much every day. So, whatever feels right in your body.
If you want to play around with your own blends, here are herbs from my materia that I recommend for this situation.
Adrenal Nourishers: nettles, borage, dandelion leaf/root, licorice root
For Stress/Anxiety: oatstraw, lemon balm, vervain, chamomile, marshmallow leaf/root, rose, linden
Lymphatic Nourishers (this also helps support the immune system): calendula, cleavers, chickweed, thyme
Immune System Nourishers: elderberry, rose hips, hibiscus
Where to get herbs? Search for a local herb shop/apothecary (in places where cannabis is legal you may get lots of results for CBD shops, FYI, so look for shops with a broader materia). Some local shops have online ordering so you can get things delivered to your house and practice good physical isolation! A couple of bigger companies I use are Mountain Rose and Frontier Co-Op.
Maybe you are not sure about making your own blend, and that’s cool! Pick one or two from those lists for the infusion (fyi vervain is pretty bitter by itself, and thyme is SUPER powerful — you only need pinch in a blend, so maybe don’t choose those if you’re only doing one).
And! It’s spring which means dandelions are making their appearance, so you don’t even need to buy any herbs. Harvest enough roots/leaves to fill a couple handfuls and drink medicine from your own spot of earth. (Obviously don’t do this if the area is sprayed with chemicals or the soil is contaminated…or your dog has peed there!).
In addition to herbs, get plenty of rest, drink a lot of water, keep your body moving in a way that feels good to you (dance breaks in your house are my favorite so far). Remember to breathe. Nourish your body inside and out with food and touch (massage your feet, snuggle your pet, take a long bath).
Here’s a thing about eating: under stress bodies crave energy sources they can store for the long haul for survival. It’s how we evolved. Salt. Fat. Sugar. Now is not the time (and also it is never the time) to shame folks (including ourselves) for eating what helps them feel better. I think, if a little salt/fat/sugar tells your body it’s safer, trust that — in moderation and with wisdom with any chronic issues you might have (like diabetes or high blood pressure or whatever) obviously.
Also! You may find yourself thinking you are “wasting your time” if you aren’t being “productive” during this time we’re asked to stay home/restrict activity. I struggle with this so much! Let’s help remind each other that “production = worth” is a capitalist, ableist value — our worth has nothing to do with our ability to “produce” for a capitalist system that doesn’t actually care about us (and that is totally evident now, if it has not been). Check out The Nap Ministry for more about this. Rest right now. As much as you can.
I have appreciated the re-framing from “social isolation” to “physical isolation and social connection/solidarity.” I love the ways people are finding ways to connect while maintaining physical distance/isolation — we are so immensely creative and it helps to remind each other that we are not alone. And that isolating our bodies right now is an act of love for one another — for our families, our neighbors, the strangers in our town and across oceans. Staying home — and if we can’t stay home, doing all we can to reduce risk — is an act of love for the whole world, especially the most vulnerable among us, not only the immunocompromised but also, for example, those workers who are still being told to go to work but their employers refuse to pay for sick leave (always inhumane, not only now).
These systems — capitalism, ableism, racism, white supremacy, all of it — have always been failing us. Indigenous, Black, and People of Color leaders, especially queer/trans and/or disabled leaders, have always been telling us these systems are failing us. They are meant to fail us. This should be crystal clear to us now if it has not been before — these systems do not care about us. The wealthy few who benefit from these systems do not care about us, about tender fleshy bodies, about elders and children, about the earth and its creatures.
And what this moment shows us — in the explosion of offerings to connect: via mutual aid networks to make sure folks have food and supplies, via free online streams of everything from book readings to emotional/spiritual care to operas to museum virtual tours to…wow it’s a long list, via text groups to check on neighbors, via organizing and advocacy efforts to make sure folks have paid sick leave, don’t get evicted, don’t get utilities shut off, and prisoners and detained immigrants get released — what this moment shows is the superpower we have to care for one another. To shape our way to a different future through the choices we make right now.
I’ll stop here because this is long, but in the “love your neighbor” spirit, if you need support, reach out to me via my contact form (if you know me personally, you’ve got my info). I’m happy to chat herbs (include if you have symptoms) or connection ideas or just listen to your feelings. We have each other.
Beloveds: Wash your hands. Nourish your adrenals. Love your neighbor.