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April 2020 HerbWalks &
OjaiHerbal Newsletter - COVID-19 Special Edition

I'm sure this quote from "the father of medicine" had nothing to do with sheltering in place but, on the other hand, he could be speaking for Mother Earth right now. This pause in human activity, especially travel, has been a good remedy for her, significantly reducing global CO2 emissions. Now we have to make sure we don't offest that by using too much non-renewable energy while we're staying home. That brings to mind another Hippocrates quote that I like: “Walking is a man’s best medicine.” I can't join you right now in person but I have an option to propose (see article below). Hopefully, you're still getting out to exercise and enjoy nature. Did you get to see some of the "miracle March" snow on the Topa Topa Bluffs? I trust you're using this time on the trails to test the plant knowledge you've picked up on Herb Walks. I believe those plants are part of the solution to our challenges going forward in this new world.  Photo: Josh Kaplan

With COVID-19 on all our minds these days, I'm devoting this extra long, special edition newsletter to sharing some pertinent info. You can read comments or watch video from some of the top herbalists I know, including past and future presenters at the Ojai Herbal Symposium, scheduled for this year on November 14-15. One local plant that comes up often these days in discussions about herbal antivirals is elderberry ( Sambucus nigra spp. caerulea), shown above. The flowers and berries have shown good results in preventing and treating the common cold and other respiratory viruses although it's too soon to know if its abilities apply to COVID-19. It's in bloom right now!

The sold-out April 7 Supermoon Sunset Herb Walk had to be cancelled due to stay-at-home orders and concerns about overcrowded trails. I'm hoping we can revive the tradition on May 6 if everyone does their part to stop the spread. After transferring some reservations from April, there are still a few spaces left for the May Full Moon Sunset Herb Walk if you want to click that link and get on the list. Painting:  Winter Moonlight (Christmas Eve), George Inness, 1866.

Herb Walks Events

New videochat consulting option with Lanny now available

In case you're wondering, I will not be doing any Zoom virtual herb walks during this health crisis. I still believe there is no substitute for you getting outside and meeting the plants in person. So I have an alternative that I think is much more effective. Using either FaceTime for iPhone or Google Duo and Facebook Messenger for all other smartphones, you can take me into your yard or on the trail with you. I'll guide you in identfiying the plants and send you a plant list afterwards with common and scientific names for your further study. Thanks to Justin C. and his family who suggested this and tried it out successfully with me. Email to learn more.
Video from the Wild Medicine School YouTube page

DIY herbal hand sanitizer

This looks like a really good recipe for homemade hand sanitizer using natural aloe vera leaf gel. I'll confess I haven't tried it yet but I plan to as I have the ingredients and I'm pretty sure it will have a better consistency than others I've seen made with processed aloe vera gel from a bottle. If you try it, please let me know how it works out for you. It's from the Wild Medicine School YouTube channel where you'll find lots more informative videos.

Wouldn't it be nice (to kick off Earth Week in Matilija Canyon)?

There's no telling at this point if I'll be able to take a small group into the Matilija Wilderness on Sunday, 
April 19, to start off Earth Week with an Herb Walk. Just in case we can, it's still on the calendar at Refunds will, or course, be issued if we have to cancel. Check it out and register at this link. If it doesn't work out I'll be leading a hike there for sure later in the year.

Khabir Southwick explains "good immunity"

Fortunately for me, Khabir Southwick's office is just a few blocks from where I live. He introduced me to the 3000-year-old Indian healing system of Ayurveda and taught me about my dosha,  my constitution. I am thankful to him for that.

In this time of coronavirus, many of us are having a collective epiphany, realizing the vital importance of maintaining good immunity.

I encourage you to click on this link and watch his short video titled "What is good immunity? Is your immune system strong?" I bet you'll thank me. 
Photo: Samantha Hoapili 

May Full Moon Herb Walk

Who knows if we'll be able to go on the trail as a group by then to watch the full moon rise as the sun sets. In the event that we can, I recommend that you reserve now for Wednesday, May 6, at this link. You can also check there for updates.

David Crow's comments on COVID-19

In his latest video, as he did so eloquently at the 2019 Ojai Herbal Symposium, herbalist David Crow makes striking connections from ancient Chinese and Ayuredic wisdom to our current situation. Rather than focus on quick fixes, he looks at the bigger picture and explores how “plants might help restore the balance of the biosphere which is really the top priority and most important form of preventive medicine for humanity.”

He's well worth watching at this link to a video blog.

Community Care from Alquimia

Eric Baumgartner, LAc, DAOM, and Cheserae Scala of Alquimia in Meiners Oaks have stepped into the void to offer Community Care, an online program designed to promote "well-being in a time of crisis." As they explain on their website, "An epidemic of previously unknown proportions is upon us.  Many of us have been entirely focused on the physical part of this crisis, washing hands, social distancing, and extra hygiene.  Others have been focused on staying well mentally, avoiding the highly contagious virus of fear, and trying to stay positive amidst the chaos.  The truth is that this global emergency is equal parts pandemic and mental health crisis, and we need to address both parts, all parts, in order to weather this storm.  Most importantly, though we are necessarily isolated from social contact, we must remember that we are not alone, and that to make it through this time we need to collaborate in a meaningful way." 

Click on this link to learn more.

John Hickey shares a Chinese formula

I'm thrilled to announce that John Hickey, co-founder of the Santa Barbara College of Oriental Medicine, will be presenting at the Ojai Herbal Symposium on November 14-15. For the acupuncturists reading this newsletter, he wanted to share a published study on a prevention formula developed in Hong Kong during the SARS 1 epidemic. It combines two formulas plus two additional herbs:

“Yu Ping Feng San” (Jade Windscreen formula) consisting of Astragalus root, Atractylodes root, and Siler root

“Sang Ju Yin” (Morus Leaf & Chrysanthemum Flower formula) consisting of Morus leaf, Chrysanthemum flower, Mentha, apricot seed, Platycodon, Forsythia flower, Phragmites root, and licorice root

Isatis leaf & Scutellaria root.

It was offered to 16,437 doctors, nurses, & attendants working on the wards. 1063 volunteers took the formula for two weeks. Of the 1063 there were no infections. Of the 15,374 not taking herbs there were 64 infected. The calculated probability P value was 0.035% which equals 95% effective.

Here's a link to the study.

John added this opinion:  "It is important to note that this was the SARS 1 corona virus. The current COVID-19 has a 96% identical DNA structure, so a 4% difference. The effectiveness against the current virus has not been tested; however, because of the broad spectrum action of herbs and their synergistic enhancement it should be considered." 

You can find John online at

Herbal pharmacology info from James Adams

Dr. James Adams of the USC School of Pharmacy will return for the 2020 Ojai Herbal Symposium on "Herbs: The People's Medicine" in November. I asked him to comment on the pandemic from the perspective of a phytopharmacologist. 

"COVID-19 infection leads to lung damage that can be life threatening. But people also can die from liver, kidney and heart damage. Symptoms usually start out as a high fever and dry cough. This can proceed to lung damage, acute respiratory distress and hospitalization. The virus causes inflammatory dendritic cell formation in the lungs, neutrophil invasion and cytokine production. The lung vasculature becomes leaky, especially in peripheral regions of the lung. Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and other neuraminidase inhibitors are not effective. Steroids are not recommended. Only one antiviral has activity, but limited activity, remdesivir. It is being tested against COVD-19 and is an inhibitor of viral RNA polymerase. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine have limited activity and are being tested. These drugs have many actions in the body, including inhibition of inflammatory dendritic cell activation.

Echinacea and elderberry flowers are also known to inhibit inflammatory dendritic cell activation, due to their content of anthocyanins and flavonols. California everlasting ( Pseudognaphalium californicum) contains flavonols. It is not known if these flavonols inhibit inflammatory dendritic cell formation.

Elderberry flowers stimulate cytokine formation, especially tumor necrosis factor alpha. This has led to speculation that elderberry flowers could cause cytokine storms and increased mortality in COVID-19 infection. This will have to be tested. Elderberry flowers have been tested in many clinical trials of various viral infections without any evidence of cytokine storm induction. They should be used early in the disease at the first sign of a fever or dry cough."

Dr. Adams' book, Healing with Medicinal Plants of the West, is available at this link.

Please visit and "like" the Herb Walks facebook page and follow me on Instagram at ojaiherbal. Thanks!
Mela Gaskins Butcher of Center for Ayurveda

Ayurvedic Plant Medicine Course now online

While you're holed up in your house practicing self-isolation this may be a good time to take an online course on herbal medicine. How about joining Mela Gaskins Butcher, founder and director of the Center for Ayurveda and November 2020 Ojai Herbal Symposium presenter, for her fun and inspiring 12- week online course?
You will learn the names, identification, and preparations of 100 of nature’s most treasured plant medicines. Each week you receive your curricula via emailed voice memos which Mela has written and recorded. You then discuss that week’s curricula in a 30 minute private one-on-one phone session with Mela. 

Call (805) 448-9758 or email    for more information! 
Rosalee de la Forêt, author and education director at

"What Are Antiviral Herbs?" just published an excellent article by Rosalee de la Forêt entitled "What Are Antiviral Herbs?" It's well researched and features local herbs that we often see on my Herb Walks like elderberry, yarrow and wild rose. You can read it at this link.
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