Herbalism, Actually…(self treatment, strep throat, and overdoing it)

Monarda bloom

Its easy to perform herbal healing wonders for others…confidence in your tools, and skills and knowledge grows when your client before you- believes in you.  Its also a bitch.  Because sometimes they’ll need to take your tincture 25 times. A day.  (Convince them of that!!  Hard sell.)  Sometimes you just need to stay in bed for 4 days.  Sometimes its not perfect, sometimes its not easy.    What appears as a simple UTI turns out to be kidney stones.  What seems like a vacation turns into a 2 week battle with multiple infections.

Sometimes as an herbalist, your biggest job is to stand by and nurse someone.  Make sure they stay in bed and take their medicine every hour, even when it tastes of ass.  Sometimes its to tell them, hey, I can’t help you until you stop eating the gluten that is wrecking your guts and making you depressed.

Its having faith that you will know when to say when- refer out when your over your head, or send them for further medical screening.

Sometimes its simply to offer that cup of chamomile tea at the end of the day to your overwhelmed friend.

Every situation is different, every herbalist different, and every client is different.

But the game changes dramatically when YOU become your client.  

I can’t recall how many times I’ve heard from other herbalists, “oh i am my worst client.”  “I can’t figure out my own protocol.”  or even just “I need more accountability than I can give myself.” I’ve had those herbalists as clients myself.   And I’ve joined them in those statements and have asked other herbalists to see me.  I can stand over a bed and nurse a sick friend back to health and make sure they take their medicine every hour.  I can dole out the flower essences that shift peoples perspectives dramatically,  I can counsel someone into fully understanding and go full speed on gluten withdrawl.

me, the sick herbalist, and very unhappy about it

But I go on my first vacation all year- after 6 months of grief, heartache and depression- I don’t sleep enough, eat too much junk, drink too much-  I fool myself I can eat just a little gluten here or there.  And I’m down. The summer of yeast.  And then… Two infections.  At the same time.  A UTI and Strep Throat.  I treated my UTI for a few days.  It seemed to go away.  And then I went out to dinner with friends…and came home with a 100.5 degree fever, recurring UTI and a burning red, patchy strep throat.

And everything goes out the window.  All my confidence – in my medicines- in my ability to nurse myself- in understanding what is actually going on in my own body.  Seemed non existent.  I am afraid.  Crying in pain. Feeling like a failure.

I know deep inside its about the lacksidaiscal level of self care I’ve shown myself over the year.  Depression and grief can really do a number on your give a shitness.  Even only half assedly taking my essences all summer to help with my grief and difficulty in letting go.

And I caved. I didn’t think I was strong enough to deal. I couldn’t think straight. I called my friend for advice. “What do I do?  What if i have strep in my kidneys?”    Shame faced and somewhat relieved, I made a trip to urgent care for antibiotics.  I knew it was a bandaid for the acute infections, but that I needed to stay in bed.  I need to get my balance back.  Here was the wake up call.

And I shamefully swallowed those red pills in hopes it would give me an easier, faster,  recovery.  I stayed in bed for two days.  I took my silly red pills.  It seemed to help.  I was on my way     And half way through the regimen-  The strep started to come back.  Maybe I didn’t rest enough. (That would be typical- even though I did stay in bed for two days).  Or maybe its a superbug resistant to the antibiotic.


But I knew better.  Why didn’t I just go with herbs from the beginning.  I’ve treated strep successfully before in others- why did I doubt myself?  Because I’m not a good patient to myself…  but I’m grateful, because here is the opportunity to learn to trust in myself, trust in my plant medicines, and to trust that my body, as out of balance as I am, when given rest, good nourishing food, and whole herbs, harvested with all the love and ceremony I offered each year, can come back into balance.    And that sometimes we take the more challenging, long road, in order to relearn, reconfirm, or cement what we need to know.  And its okay to be imperfectly, beautifully human. Afraid at times, weak, uncertain.    Sometimes thats where we are.  Its our journey to learn from, not to judge ourselves.

As an herbalist, I allow myself to be human.  I get sick.  Sometimes i’m out of balance.  Sometimes I take their medicines.  Sometimes I fall on my face….and I learn.  I get closer to knowing myself.  To knowing my truth.  Because, really,  I needed my ex boyfriend to yell at me while I was sick, so I could see more clearly the bitter truth I didn’t want to face.   I needed to see that I could trust my medicine more than I did. I needed to see so clearly how I’ve not been as kind to myself as I could have been, and dust off my ass from the floor, get up and say, hey, I deserve better.

So I made soup.  I made tea.  I made herbal turmeric hot toddy.  I am sucking down my medicine 25 times today.

Its back to the basics of plant medicine.  To the allies I know can combat this infection.  To bed early, and waking late, making soup, drinking nourishing infusions, eating fermented foods.


In my random searches of the internet I didn’t find any actual herbalists writing about treating strep naturally.  So- in the interest of education- here’s my tips from experience with successfully treating strep throat at home.

Stay in bed.  Especially during fever, but at least for 2-4 days.


Take your medicine hourly.  Not kidding.

Drink lots of hot tea-  favorites include Turmeric Hot Toddy,  or yarrow, peppermint, white sage and monarda.

Gargle with warm salt water and herbs 6 x a day. (or more)

Raw garlic. Eat it.  Smother it in yogurt or honey.  6 x a day.

Herbs to consider as tinctures and throat spray/gargle:

Monarda, Alder Bark, Elecampane, Honeysuckle, Pine or Myrhh Resin, Oregon Grape Root, Echinacea, White Sage, Creosote Bush, Licorice Root

(there are others too- this list is not exhaustive, but what I keep on hand in the apothecary for such infections and have been successful in combating strep)

Hot soup/broth.  Easy to digest foods, broths, well cooked veggies, beans and meats.

Hot baths/showers.  Hydrotherapy.  Wrap up warm and cozy after a hot bath and sweat. Use wet socks treatment!

Be gentle with yourself, rest as much as you can, ask for help from friends and family.

Find ways to laugh, breathe fresh air, get some sunshine.

You should see improvement within 12-24 hours, and dramatic improvement within 36-48 hrs.  If not, you should still consider visiting the doc for antibiotics, because complications of untreated strep are nasty.  Don’t risk it.  Consult with your herbalist if you need advice/assistance.


also, interesting to note…cdc is worried about antibiotic resistant bugs.  self treatment of infections is going to become more important.   http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/09/cdc-amr-rpt1/


7 thoughts on “Herbalism, Actually…(self treatment, strep throat, and overdoing it)

  1. I love when herbalists share their real life. I try to share as much as mine as I can as well with my clients. I shared this piece with my Land of Milk&Honey Herb of the Month Club and I think it will help us all to know that none of us are perfect. We just do our best but there is learning no matter what path you take. Thank you for your humor and your honesty.

  2. Hope your are feeling better. Thanks for your honesty and sharing your journey in tackling this nasty ailment. Being a mother, I have always had issues being the patient and following the same holistic routine the I would nurse my family with. I will definitely be adding your protocol to my go to file. Thanks again and sending good thoughts that these next few months will be easier for you.

  3. I grew up having strep throat as a kid in to my twenties until I came across a throat spray with propalis in it! I it was Herb Farm’s spray from Williams Oregon. Then I tried a spray by New Naturals called throat control spray and anytime I start to feel it coming I use it and have not had strep throat since!

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