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The Willow Journal

Herbs for High Altitude Pursuits

Herbs for High Altitude Pursuits

Summer is finally upon us! Many of us will load our cars and back packs with provisions to explore new territory, be it travel abroad, heading into the back country, or climbing local peaks. It's exhilarating to find your groove with the expansive feeling of summer.

Tons of tourists will pour into Durango! Visitors from near and far find this mountain biking, trail running town at 6700 ft of altitude to be laid back and beautiful. They also notice that it's a bit more difficult to breath easily for their unaccustomed lungs. Even those of us who live here feel a thinning of air when we venture to our favorite peaks! Mt Eolus, Red Cloud and Handies beckon from their looming positions but even a local notices that these elevations push us a bit harder and dampen the usual spring in our steps!


I look to the the wild for plants that bring their gifts to those who venture into altitude! There are herbal allies who's very constituents evolved with our needs in this harsh climate of higher altitude, the plant world perfectly fitting into the evolution of both animal and humanity.

Osha root, (Ligusticum porteri) with its thick aromatic and pungent root hairs and verdant lacy leaves smells of wild parsley and cumin. You can find it scattered on  north facing slopes growing in deep loamy soil and often mixed with wild geraniums and green gentian. Hungry bears will seek it out to awaken lazy digestion and boost their constitution after a long winters rest. It's also a wonderful herb for us humans! :) 


I will collect these magnificent roots in the beginning of fall to treat dry raspy lung infections, colds, flu and itchy sore throats.   And at high altitude, it's my go-to in formula form with Nettles and Red root. Dancing Willow's High Altitude formula is a local favorite! Let's take a closer look at each ingredient!


Osha Ligusticum porteri:  supports the pulmonary loop helping fresh oxygenated blood to circulate from the heart to lungs and to feed tissue with oxygen rich blood.


Nettles Urtica Urens: Rich in chlorophyl, nettles help to build our blood literally like a plant blood transfusion! It's very interesting that chlorophyl is structurally similar to our hemoglobin -  rich in platelets to carry our red blood cells. They have similar structures, both having a metallic element. Hemoglobin has iron in the middle, while chlorophyll has magnesium in the middle. They are both composed of the same four elements: carbon, hydrogen,nitrogen and oxygen.

Red root or Ceanothus: a wonderful lymphatic mover, but most importantly in this formula, it serves to hold our red blood cells together. As we rise in altitude our red blood cells, which are suspended in plasma, begin to loose their polarity and break down as their edges begin to fray from lack of oxygen. Red root strengthens the structure of red blood cells to prevent the common thickening of blood that is linked with pulmonary edema headaches and altitude sickness.


Whether you are traveling to other high altitude areas, visiting from afar, or are a local hoping to bag a few 14'ers, we know that our High Altitude Formula is a must have in your travel bag! Drop by the shop or order online!