Back to School - The Herbal Way

Aug 29 / Lori Rose, PhD
I relish my summers off with my girls. Sleeping in, sunny days swimming and tanning, no one telling us to eat our veggies. The lack of structure is amazing and restorative after a tough school year, but there is always something a tiny bit welcoming about the impending routine of “back to school.” Just about the time summer boredom sets in and pants start to get a little tight from the summer ice cream and snow cones, back-to-school swoops in to save us from our lackadaisical selves.

When it comes to using herbal allies to nurse us into a back-to-school schedule and lifestyle, it’s best to start a few weeks in advance. Preparing for the predictable immune and stress challenges in a gentle way is the approach I favor most. Ya know, the whole “slow and steady wins the race” wisdom.

To support the immune system, I want to make sure and start building the nutrients back into meals. Broths are the perfect way to get immunomodulating herbs like mushrooms (for example shitake and maitake) and astragalus root daily for the weeks leading up to the return of school. You can even throw in immune-stimulating calendula flowers for an extra boost! Combining the already nutrient-dense chicken broths with these immune-supportive herbs is a powerful way to prepare your entire family without a single complaint. Broth is yummy!

You don’t just have to eat your herbs, though. Nutrient-dense nourishing infusions, a medicine-making technique that uses large amounts (think ounces) of mineral and vitamin-rich food like herbs steeped for several hours, are an easy and possibly yummy (depends on who you ask) way to give your body an extra shot of support. Everyone tends to have their favorite nutrient-dense herb out of the nourishing infusion herbal options, including burdock root, oatstraw, stinging nettle leaf, violet leaf and flower, hawthorn berry, rose hip, alfalfa, mullein leaf, red clover, and dried chickweed if you’ve got it. You can just drink your favorite one daily, drink different ones each day, or even combine them with each other. You can add other plants at the end for flavor like lemon, lime, mints, vanilla, cinnamon, and other aromatic herbs that you love. You can even add a pinch of marshmallow root to add some gooey moisture to these nourishing infusions. Drink them lukewarm, hot, or cold.

In addition to immune support, it’s important to prepare the body for the stress that a change of routine, new surroundings, and new pressures will bring. Even good changes are hard on the body and the brain. Adding in nutrients will help with this, too, so those broths and nourishing infusions (especially of oatstraw and rose hips) are double whammies! However, there are some specific neurotropic herbs that can prepare your nervous system for change. Taking milky oat tincture for several weeks before the start of school is a great supplement to those nutrients. Skullcap (lateriflora) tincture is another great option as a plan-ahead way to build the nervous system before the start of school.

Stress-supportive herbs to have on hand for the daily stressors once school begins could be lemon balm tea or tincture (to help calm after a busy day), chamomile tea or tincture (also calming, probably at the end of school days), and/or rosemary tea or tincture (perfect for before or during school when a non-caffeinated natural mental boost is needed). Holy basil would be a great, yummy addition to this daily during-school list. You can continue the milky oats and skullcap tinctures for long-term support as well.

If any of these herbal remedies sound daunting to make, the Herbal Medicine Making courses are the perfect next step to take advantage of your back-to-school herbal allies! 

The information provided in this digital content is not medical advice, nor should it be taken or applied as a replacement for medical advice. Matthew Wood, the Matthew Wood Institute of Herbalism, ETS Productions, and their employees, guests, and affiliates assume no liability for the application of the information discussed.