Essays from
Giving Ground


Dear Pam, Do you have any recommendations for preventing and treating flu?  Thank you, Amanda

Hello, Amanda, Write back and tell me a little about yourself:

What's your height and weight, age? Please include a short "day in the life of..." - not any long thing but something about yourself. Do you have allergies? Do you take medications regularly or sometimes? What are your blood pressure numbers? Do you have chronic challenges?

I would have a couple of recommendations, but as a person can be allergic to anything, I don't like to write out over the ether. Herbs ARE medicine and as such they can be powerful preventatives, but they also have caveats for some people. Are you going to treat children? If you are, what are their ages and heights/weights? Do they have allergies? Are they taking any medicines? Do they have any health challenges?

Dear Pam, Thanks so much for responding. In answer to your questions:

I am XX years old and weigh approximately XX pounds. I don't have any allergies and am not taking any medications. My blood pressure is regularly within a normal range (120/70) and I do not have any chronic health problems. I won't be treating any children.

From: Pam Thompson (

Re: flu question

Hi, Amanda, Thank you for writing back - it gives me a better feeling to know a little something - meds, allergies, etc. As I'm sure you know, anyone can be allergic to anything, so take these suggestions with that in mind. If you try one of my suggestions and you don't feel "right," PLEASE discontinue right away.

I'd suggest boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) - this isn't the similar-sounding comfrey or "knit-bone." Boneset is a close relative of Joe Pyeweed or "Gravel Root"- both are eupatorium - NOTE: this is used only for healing a viral infection - not as a preventative -

Boneset is hugely anti-viral and anti-bacterial and will also bring down a fever and check a cough, which (cough) seems to be a symptom on the news of H1N1. It is also an immuno-stimulant - but I wouldn't start to drink a tea made from it unless or until you begin to feel symptoms. I would not use it regularly or for simple coughs. Matthew Alfs maintains (I have huge regard for anything he says) that boneset (tea or tincture) is a better immune-enhancer for people with the Type O blood types but echinacea works better for people with Type A blood types. Note also that drinking a large amount of boneset tea in a short time may cause vomiting.

Here are some cautions: Do not use this during pregnancy. Also, if you are gathering make sure you do not gather its poisonous cousin, white snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum). (If you're not sure, ask someone you trust to identify it for you.)

Directions: Drink three cups a day of hot/warm tea: you can prepare this by pouring 8 ounces of boiling water over 1 generous tsp of dried boneset leaves, left to steep, covered, for 10-15 minutes. This is an adult tea dose. A tea dose for a 60-pound child = 1/2 cup, made as above, 3 times a day. You can add honey or maple syrup to a child's or adult's dose.

An adult tincture dose = one scant tsp of tincture 3 times a day for an adult, half that dose for a 60 pound child.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): NOTE: This is not for pregnant women, nursing mothers,  or for children or animals as it contains salicylic acid (precursor of aspirin.) You can use same doses as above, made into tea or as tincture. Yarrow tea pulls down fever (although the fever is part of the body's cascade of immune system activity and is there to burn out the virus. But if fever gets too high and you are uncomfortable with it, call a doctor.) Yarrow is powerfully anti-viral and anti-bacterial. BEWARE: Yarrow contains coumarins and can show up disrupting the blood-clotting factors of people on warfarin or coumadin very quickly.

Self-heal - (Prunella vulgaris) - this is a small mint-family plant, often low-growing in lawns that haven't been sprayed.

DOSE: Hot tea made of self-heal - same proportions as above - hot/warm tea is thought to be the best way to get this medicine into a body. It's high in tannins, so you don't want to ingest this regularly for more than a week or two. But it can be very effective for viruses and bacterial infections. A study in 1992 found it to effectively inhibit HIV-1 replication!

It could be used, in the same doses and proportions as above, for children (you can go by weight of child: for instance, if 8 ounces of boiling water poured over a generous tsp of the dried vegetable material and left to steep, COVERED, for 15 or so minutes, is an adult dose for a 120-150 pound person, then a 60- pound child would get a 1/2 cup at a time (3 times a day). A person can also just keep sipping that tea, the same doses, but one doesn't have to down the cupful or half-cupful all at once. A person can just keep sipping that warmth, and it helps re-hydrate as well. You can use maple syrup or sugar or honey. You can put the child's doses into some orange juice to "disguise" any bitter taste.

Herb Availability: Do you have a distributor from whom you can order these things, or are you comfortable wild-gathering these plants? It sounds as if you are very well along your herbal path already and have a real knowledge store. I can give you the name of my distributor; the company is completely organic, quick packing up orders, lovely to work with. I order herbs from them which I need but can't grow enough of this far north.

I hope this information helps. I think we are all alternately whipped up by the media frenzy over this flu while trying to tamp down our own panic. This morning I heard that the "regular" flus that come every winter kill 36,000 people (I think they meant just in this country, so if my math is right, sort of 700 per state) every winter, and though every one of those lives was very valuable, and those people are sorely missed, we aren't there yet.

It surely wouldn't hurt to pick up some N-95 face masks (they are called respirators, but they are just better masks than the round carpentry ones - better fitting around facial features) at a hardware store - we get them issued as part of our First Responder kits, for going into people's houses when someone there has TB etc. And it might be prudent - for any incident or catastrophe - to have a couple of weeks' or a little more, of animal companion and people foods, litter, medicines, water, etc. ready for the "just-in-case" thing. None of those items would be very perishable, in case this isn't "it," but the next one is.

And then: Take a few child-birth breathing exercise breaths. (I'm not laughing at you at all. I am saying this every bit as much for myself!!) It is the unknowns in the news which are the culprits - and, as I bet you're well aware, we have wreaked so much havoc on our good bacteria and environmental balances, that these things become harder and harder to predict.

Get a mess of fresh watercress or "store-bought" organic if you can, and pile it onto good whole-grain bread and butter, with a dish of yogurt on the side. Remember how Hippocrates, who lived 90 years in a time when lots of people didn't, said, "Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food."

Very best,

Pam Thompson

1-218-848-2302; 1-888-276-1336

Wow Pam, thank you so much for all of the information you passed along. It solidified my determination to apprentice with you at Giving Ground. That was very generous and much appreciated! Amanda Wikan, Minneapolis

Copyright 2008 by Pam Thompson

Return to Giving Ground Essays


Phone: 218.848.2302
Toll Free: 888.276.1336



Giving Ground
Superior National Forest
1223 Little Creek Road
Brimson, MN 55602