Written by Elliott Brinkley, Clinical Herbalist
Being raised in the southwest leaves one with a certain kinship and understanding of the winds that spring can bring. However, this year holds a different quality and magnitude. The word I keep hearing used to describe these winds, that blow in so much dust that a mere silhouette of the closest mountains can barely be distinguished, is apocalyptic. This phenomenon is laced with eco-grief, with the type of uncertainty that can only come from unprecedented circumstance. In addition to the larger collective concern, these winds have a direct effect on our bodies, our minds and emotions.
From the lens of Ayurveda or elemental herbalism, when the wind element is out of balance we can feel ungrounded, agitated, and flustered. The wind makes us feel parched, blown around, like we cannot fully gather ourselves. Knocking up pollen from near and far, many people are also experiencing respiratory problems, headaches, and fatigue.
Below you will find 5 ways to support yourself during excessive wind. These tools are also for folks who are living in areas affected by wildfire smoke, who are feeling ungrounded in their daily lives, or who live in dry climates.
1) Help the body retain moisture
After spending time in the wind, one can feel like all of their moisture has blown away- leaving them feeling parched and dehydrated. Utilize all known practices to cultivate the element of water within yourself to help neutralize and ground the element of air/wind.
-Demulcent herbs help the body retain moisture and are tremendous allies for anyone living in a dry climate. My all-time dearest moistening herb is Marshmallow. Marshmallow root is best taken as an overnight cold infusion to extract the demulcent sludge- aka polysaccharide starches that coat the lining of the GI tract, soothe inflammations and quench an inner thirst.
Simply add 1 handful of marshmallow root to a mason jar, fill the jar with room temperature water, let steep overnight or for at least 4-6 hours, strain and enjoy.
Some people are adverse to the flavor of marshmallow as a simple. Try combining with other more palatable herbs. My favorite triplet is 1 part Marshmallow, 1/4 part Licorice, and 1/2 part Rose petals. *Consume marshmallow or other demulcent herbs at least 3 hours away from medications as it slows down the absorption time of prescription medications.
-Eat enough good quality fat such as olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, grass-fed butter, fish oils, etc. Quite like the demulcent herbs, this will moisten your body from the inside out.
-Moisturize topically: lathering your body with good quality oils helps to soothe the nervous system and retain moisture through the skin. After getting out of the shower, moisturize your skin from face to toes. Use herbal infused oils, body butters, salves, or lotions. Be sure you are using high quality simple organic products like the ones that we make at Dancing Willow Herbs.
2) Tend to your respiratory system
This load of dust and pollen can be problematic for many people with a propensity toward allergies, or respiratory conditions like asthma. Work with herbs to help break up congestion, and tone the lungs and mucous membranes at this time.
-Respiratory Steams can be wonderful tools for helping to combat congestion while providing moisture and volatile oils directly to the mucous membranes. This is the respiratory steam that we make at Dancing Willow Herbs that is specific for breaking up congestion and bringing antimicrobial essential oils to disinfect and tonify tissues, Steam Inhalation. You can also use kitchen herbs that you have on hand like rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, mint, lemon balm, lavender or just the steam itself. Simply bring a pot of water to boil, throw in a handful of the herbs of your choosing, let steep for 5 minutes with the lid on, once the steam is to a temperature where it won’t burn your delicate tissues, place your head over the pot with the lid removed and a towel over your head- breathe deeply for as long as the steam remains.
*Caution- use only whole plants and herbs for this process, never steam with essential oils because this could damage your delicate mucous membrane tissues.
-Lung tonics: using herbs which help to bring more strength to the lungs and respiratory system will help those struggling with asthma or allergy like symptoms at this time. Mullein, Coltsfoot and Licorice are great herbs to work with when taken as a tea. Our Breathe Freely is a great daily lung tonic formula which tastes quite pleasant. Easy Air tincture also works great in addition, for those who are experiencing more symptoms in their lungs. Aller-Relief tincture works great in addition, for those who are experiencing more symptoms in their sinuses or burning/itching eyes.
3) Eat grounding, regular meals
The element of wind tends to make us a little scattered, with a tendency that might make you forget to eat all together. Making sure that you are taking the time to sit down to eat a meal at regular times will help you feel more structured and grounded throughout the day. Choose foods that are going to optimally nourish you. Try to focus on things like high quality proteins, dark leafy greens, cooked root vegetables, mushrooms, and flavonoid rich berries.
4) Create time for yourself to slow down
Especially as this windy season is corresponding with the transition of spring into summer, schedules are filling up with social obligations and things to do. Be sure to pencil in time for yourself- time to slow down and do the things that makes you feel grounded, more fully embodied as yourself. This will vary from person to person, but it may look like meditation, yoga, cleaning your house, going grocery shopping, going for a hike, doing laundry or reading a book. Whatever it is that helps you slow down and feel grounded, focus on creating the time to do just that!
5) Treat water as sacred
The main element that we need to call upon during this time is water. Rain will help to mitigate the risk for wildfire, and will keep the soil on the Earth. Our snow is melting much faster than it should be, and feeding a quick and early run off into the rivers, threatening our summer’s water supply. This can feel out of our control, but what is in our control is the way that we interact the water which we do have access to at this time. Be mindful of your water consumption and give gratitude to the water when you are interacting with it- when you are in your shower or doing dishes. If you have the privilege to live in a place with a stream, river or lake, as we do here in Durango, give offerings to the waters of flowers, herbs, songs, poems or prayers. Play in the waters near you, and cherish the feeling and experience of its movement on your skin. If you keep an altar, consider placing a bowl of river, lake, or rainwater there to keep it sacred.
I hope that these practices will help you feel supported, grounded and at ease during these windy times. More like a well rooted tree, dancing with the wind yet secure where it stands.