How to boost your immune system with herbs – Red Root
Eight Herbs for the Immune System
Common Names: In the old days it was supposedly called “New Jersey tea,” but I never heard anyone use that phrase, at least when referring to a plant.
Species Used: Homo dissertationus has determined that there are 50 or 60 or 4 to the third power species ofCeanothus in the Americas, from Canada to Guatemala. The genus doesn’t grow anyplace else. (However, it has been widely planted as an ornamental in Europe. Take a flashlight and go late at night.) Most species can be used medicinally; the most common are C. velutinus, C. cuneatus, C. integerrimus, C. greggii, and C. americanus. All species are apparently identical in their medicinal actions. My personal favorite is Ceanothus fendleri, a.k.a. Fendler’s ceanothus, which grows in my region and which I have been using for over 25 years. The important part is the color of the bark.
The root or inner bark of the root.
Preparation and Dosage
Red root can be used as a tincture, tea, strong decoction, gargle, or capsules.
Dry root, 1:5, 50 percent alcohol, 30–90 drops, up to 4x daily.
1 tsp powdered root in 8 ounces water, simmer 15 minutes, strain. Drink up to 6 cups daily.
1 ounce herb in 16 ounces water, simmer slowly 30 minutes, strain. Take 1 tablespoon 3x or 4x per day.
Gargle for tonsillitis or throat inflammations: Gargle with strong decoction 4–6 times per day.
Take 10–30 “00” capsules per day.
Properties of Red Root
First and foremost a lymph system stimulant and tonic. Red root is anti-inflammatory for both the liver and spleen. It is also an astringent, mucous membrane tonic, alterative, antiseptic, expectorant, antispasmodic, and exceptionally strong blood coagulant.
Finding Red Root
North and Central America, the Internet, herb shops, gardens throughout Europe.
Alternatives: Poke root (Phytolacca) is an excellent alternative; however, dosage should be one-third that of red root. Cleavers (Galium) will have some of the same effects, but the dosage should be four times that of red root. The fresh juice of the plant is best. Cleavers, additionally, strongly inhibits elastase (by about 60 percent) and is useful for bacteria that use elastase as part of their infection strategy.
Side Effects and Contraindications
No side effects have been noted; however, it is contraindicated in pregnancy.
Should not be used with pharmaceutical coagulants or anticoagulants.
Habitat and Appearance
The various species in this genus seemingly grow everywhere in North and Central America, from Canada to Guatemala, from sea-level coastal scrublands to pine forests at 9,000 feet (2,750 m) or higher. They can grow in hot, humid locations and semi-arid desert areas. They are widely divergent in appearance, too, from tiny deciduous ground covers (up to 12 inches tall) to large evergreen bushes (to 9 feet tall) to “small” trees to 25 feet in height. Their foliage ranges from tiny leathery leaves to large broad softies. Some species’ branches have “spines,” some don’t. They do all have leaves, though, so identification should not be a problem.
The flowers grows in tufted clusters and are intensely fragrant. (Yummy to my nose—at least with C. fendleri.) The seed capsules are identical on all species I have seen, three-lobed triangular things that, again in all species I have seen, turn a reddish color, the exact color of the root bark (and tincture), when mature. That and the flowers, once you have seen them, are the easiest ways to identify the genus.
Cultivation and Collection
This genus has been intensively cultivated and there are scores if not hundreds of cultivars and hybrids. Adding to the confusion, the plants mix with abandon in the wild and … well, basically they just have sex whenever and with whomever they wish and the result is a very variable genus. In any event, you can get a large number of types if you wish to grow the species yourself. The genus should grow in just about any geographical location and I would be surprised if it had not already made a home in other places than the Americas by first masquerading as an ornamental (ahh, it has!). If so, it will soon escape into the wild, where it will be found to be invasive, for, in ceanothus habitat, there are some two million seeds produced per acre once the plants establish themselves. They are propelled under great force out of the capsules (to extend their range) and can remain viable for centuries. I love these guys.
The plants are propagated by seed or cuttings. The seeds need to be scarified first (show them horror films?) and then stratified. They are usually soaked in water for 12 hours followed by chilling for 3 months—mimicking winter.
The roots/inner root bark should be harvested in the fall or early spring—whenever the root has already had a good frost. The inner bark of the root should be a bright red and this color should extend through the white woody root as a pink tinge after a freeze. The root must look like this to be actively medicinal. If you get the roots in the late spring, summer, or early fall, they will be white throughout with just a hint of pink in the inner bark. They just will not work like that. It takes that cold snap to stimulate the production of the chemical constituents that you need the plant for.
Caution: The root is extremely tough when it dries. It should be cut into small 1- or 2-inch pieces with plant snips while still fresh or you will regret it. Really. Trust me on this one thing.
Store the cut and dried roots in plastic bags in large plastic bins in a cool place and they will last you for years.
Betulin, betulinic acid, bacteriohopanetetrol, ceanothic acid, ceanothenic acid, ceanothine, ceanothamine, ceanothane, americine, integerressine, integerrenine, integerrine, methyl salycilate, a lot of tannins, flavonoids, flavonol glycosides, flavonones, dihydroflavonols. The leaves have a somewhat different profile, but I won’t include it here as the root is what we are dealing with. The plant is fairly high in protein, iron, copper, zinc, and magnesium and very high in calcium. The roots are nitrogen fixers and possess nitrogen-filled nodules.
Traditional Uses of Red Root
Red root is an important herb in many disease conditions in that it helps facilitate clearing of dead cellular tissue from the lymph system. When the immune system is responding to acute conditions or the onset of disease, as white blood cells kill bacterial and viral pathogens, they are taken to the lymph system for disposal. If the lymph system clears out dead cellular material rapidly, the healing process is enhanced, sometimes dramatically. The herb shows especially strong action whenever any portion of the lymph system is swollen, infected, or inflamed. This includes the lymph nodes, tonsils (entire back of throat), spleen, appendix, and liver.
TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE
WESTERN BOTANIC PRACTICE
Red root has a very long history in the Americas. The indigenous cultures used the plant for a wide range of complaints from arthritis to influenza, primarily as an astringent. The early American herbalists picked it up and the Eclectics then developed the use of the plant considerably, using it as an astringent, expectorant, sedative, antispasmodic, and antisyphilitic. It was used specifically for gonorrhea, dysentery, asthma, chronic bronchitis, whooping cough, general pulmonary problems, and oral ulcerations due to fever and infection. Its primary use, however, was for enlarged spleen and, to some extent, enlarged liver.
There hasn’t been much study on the plant, however, and really nothing looking in depth at its actions on the lymph system, including the spleen, though there are some nice hints here and there.
In recent years there has been a minor amount of exploration on the antimicrobial actions of red root. Several of the root compounds have been found active against various oral pathogens including Streptococcus mutans,Actinomyces viscosus, Porphyromonas gingivalis, and Prevotella intermedia. The flowers are active againstStaphylococcus aureus and a couple of candida species; the roots probably are, too.
Betulin and betulinic acid, which are fairly prominent in the root, have a broad range of actions, both in vivo and in vitro: antiplasmodial, anti-HIV, anti-inflammatory, anthelmintic, antioxidant, antitumor, immunomodulatory. Ceonothane is fairly strongly antistaphylococcal, antiplasmodial, and antimycobacterial. These various actions are going to have some effect on bacterial diseases, but exactly what and how much is not clear.
There is some evidence that red root’s activity in the lymph nodes also enhances the lymph nodes’ production of lymphocytes, specifically the formation of T cells. Clinicians working with AIDS patients, who historically have low levels of T cells, have noted increases after the use of red root. It is especially effective in reducing inflammations in the spleen and liver from such things as excessive bacterial garbage, white blood cell detritus in the lymph, and red blood cell fragments in the blood in diseases like babesiosis. There is evidence, clinical, that it has broad action throughout the lymph system and helps reduce not only the spleen but also the appendix when inflamed and that it stimulates lymph drainage as well in the intestinal walls.
A number of human trials have used the herb as a tincture extract (usually 10 to 15 ml per person). The trials focused on heavy bleeding, including excessive menstruation, and the plant was found to be a powerful coagulant and hemostatic in all studies. A marked reduction of clotting time was noted.
In one study, a single oral administration of 3.5 to 7.0 ml of a hydro-alcoholic (tincture) extract of Ceanothus(americanus) resulted in an interesting effect: At low doses accelerated blood clotting occurred within 10 to 20 minutes after administration. However, at higher doses coagulation decreased 1 hour after administration. This raises interesting speculations about the herb’s range of actions.
In vivo studies have shown marked hemostatic activity and hypotensive action. In vitro studies have also found a strong reverse transcriptase inhibition and a broad antifungal activity.