Sunday, May 1, 2016

Materia Medica - New England Aster

New England Aster 

We begin our blog with a post on one of our most incredible herbal allies--New England Aster.  This plant is still becoming known in the herbal community, but it is a welcome addition to any medicine chest!  It is a first-rate lung tonic and lung relaxant plant, able to help bronchial passageways ease tension and allow for more easy breathing.  So let's learn all about this delightful plant!
Botanical Name: Symphyotrichum novae angliae
Plant Family: Asteracea 
Other Common names: Michaelmas Daisy

1.  Identification  and Habitat

Habitat and Growing Conditions: New England Aster is one of the last plants to bloom in the season in temperate climates in North America. As the nights grow colder in September and October, at the same time that Goldenrod is blooming, you will find New England Aster.  The flower clusters have a distinct aromatic smell, and that aromatic smell contains much of the medicine.  New England Aster is a plant native to North America and is widely distributed.  You can often find it on edges and fields, in waste areas.  It is also easily cultivated and loves full sun conditions; it will tolerate a variety of different soil types.  It needs light to germinate.

Harvest Notes:  Look for stickiness and an aromatic smell when harvesting—that indicates more potent medicine. Harvest the fresh flowering tops and tincture them while fresh (in alcohol or glycerin). New England Aster will go to seed as it dries, so you cannot use it easily as a tea. An alternative is to freeze the fresh flowers and brew into tea.

Botanical Identification Features: New England aster can be identified by the following features:
  • Leaves clasp directly to the stem 
  • Leaf pattern is alternate and simple (not compound). Leaf edges are smooth. 
  • Flower blooms deep purple but intensity of color can vary plant to plant, centers are yellow 
  • Flower heads are clustered (with many flowers, up to 20, on the same stalk)
  • Flower heads are a combination of disk flowers (center) and ray flowers

II. Herbal Knowledge

Energetics:  Aster is tonic, dispersive, stimulating, relaxant (strong, lung specific), slightly astringent, warming, and drying.
Lung Relaxant: New England Aster is a first rate lung tonic herb.  It is specifically used for tension in the lungs or asthma issues.  It is also useful for spasmodic coughing, lungs aggravated by cold weather, tightness from tension in the bronchial passageways. 

Various Lung Conditions and Coughing: For dryness in the lungs, you can mix New England Aster with mullein and plantain.  For dampness in the lungs, use on its own or mix with ground ivy. If you have a wet cough, mix New England Aster with Pleurisy root for relief.

Lung Tonic:  Aster is a first-rate lung tonic for the respiratory system, it has a long-term rebuilding and tonic effect on lungs. 

III.  Our Experiences

I (Dana) was a chronic asthmatic since the age of six. By my 30's, I had had several near death experiences with asthma and many hospitalizations; my doctors considered me a very chronic and at-risk case, and told me often that I would be on Asthma medications for the rest of my life.  My asthma attacks were caused by cigarette smoke, chemicals, changes in temperature, exercise, and humidity.  I assumed that I would always have asthma, and always be on the medications.  The meditations I was on were Advair, Provent, Abuterol Inhaler, and a Nebulizer.  I took the first three of these each day, and the fourth as needed.  The medicine made my hands shake terribly and made me feel really jittery; it was hard to write on the board when I was teaching. When I was 31, the effects of the four medications were seriously impacting my life.

I met herbalist Jim McDonald (who I started studying with soon after) and he encouraged me to try the New England Aster for my asthma.  With a change in my diet (the elimination of gluten) and the use of New England Aster, I was able to get off of all four medications in less than 4 months.  In the many years since I began taking it, the Aster has literally rebuilt my lungs—I can exercise in heat or cold; I have a lot more resistance to smoke and chemicals, and I can breathe freely.  I now only take the aster about 1-2 times a week to keep my lungs strong.  Its seriously the most amazing plant.

Many others have reported similar experiences: New England Aster allows them to breathe
Aster freshly tinctured!
more easily, to stop taking both long-term and fast-acting inhalers, and really begin to live again.  It is a highly effective plant!

IV. Preparation and Use 

Parts Used:  Flowering tops

Preparation: New England Aster is best used as a tincture; it can also be used as a tea. When you try to dry it, it immediately goes to seed if its in full flower stage. If you dry it a little earlier, when its a bud, you might have better luck drying it. You can use it as a tea only if you freeze it or use it fresh. The seed pods are OK for tea, but we prefer to freeze the flowers. The best way to use this plant is to tincture it--make a tincture with the fresh flowers in high proof alcohol (standard 1:2 ratio) or you can also make a glycerate.  

Dosage:  For a standard tincture,  5-15 drops 3-5 times a day, or as needed is a typical dose.  We have found that you can use it as needed for acute conditions, or take it over a period of months to rebuild the lungs.  

Hillside of Aster and Goldenrod in late Summer/Early Fall
Aster and goldenrod in the sun!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much, im so happy to have learned about aster, i will certainly try it this fall!