Lemon balm – a member of the mint family, this plant grows well in the cool, temperate climate of the Pacific Northwest. Its Latin name is Melissa officinalis, and its leaves are used medicinally and are full of volatile/essential oils with a lemony scent.  As is the case with most plants that are a member of the Lamiaceae (Mint) family, this herb has an affinity for the nervous system and the digestive tract.  Because our stomach and intestines are highly innervated (surrounded with nerves), this herb can help relax the nerves and smooth muscle around the intestines, calming a nervous/anxious or tense stomach and helping to dispel gas and bloating.
Lemon balm’s primary actions in the body are: nervine, antispasmodic, carminative, antidepressant, anti-anxiety (calming), antimicrobial (including antiviral), diaphoretic, and hypotensive.
Based on these primary actions, lemon balm is indicated for both anxiety and depression and for nervous heart palpitations and digestive upset.  It is a fabulous calming herb, considered cooling and sedative, gentle enough for children to help promote restful sleep.  It is used during colds & flu for its diaphoretic action, helping to break fevers and promote rest.  Its antimicrobial properties also make it a beneficial herb or use during viral or bacterial infections, particularly as a hot tea where it can promote perspiration.
Lemon balm is also one of the few herbs that is indicated for use in hyperthyroidism.  One herbalist, Sharol Tilgner, found that the fresh juice was most helpful for this (she would press and freeze the juice in ice cube trays to be used when needed).
As a carminative, antispasmodic, and nervine, lemon balm is indicated when someone has gas, bloating, or general indigestion.  The volatile oils act locally on the smooth muscle surround the intestines to relax and promote passage of gas so there is not as much gripping and pain.
The essential oil has all of these properties, as well as being used in salves topically for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory effect for herpes/cold sores.
The fresh herb is the most flavorful, and if you have access to it in your yard or garden, use this to make a tea.  However, the dried herb will certainly suffice, using about 1 Tablespoon herb/cup of hot water and steeping approximately 10 minutes, and has a grassy, mild lemon-y flavor.  The tincture or glycerite (extract in vegetable glycerine) are also great, because they are extracts of the fresh plant.

Immune Power Balls
Adapted from “Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health” by Rosemary Gladstar
Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons Astragalus root powder
1 Tablespoon Maca root powder
1 Tablespoon Reishi mushroom powder
½ Tablespoon Spirulina, Blue-Green Algae, or Chlorella powder (optional)
1 cup sesame butter (tahini) or peanut butter
½ cup honey (or more to taste)
½ cup crushed almonds
Your choice of shredded coconut, cocoa or carob powder, raisins or goji berries, chocolate or carob chips, and granola for flavor
Instructions:
Combine the powdered herbs and mix well.
Combine the sesame or peanut butter and honey, mixing to form a paste.
Add enough of the powdered herbs to thicken, and add the almonds and the other optional components to your liking.  Thicken to consistency with carob or cocoa powder.  Roll into walnut or teaspoon size balls and eat two per day.  Store in the refrigerator or in a sealed glass jar and eat within a week.
The herbs in this recipe:
Astragalus root is from the Chinese system of medicine, as a long-term, supportive immune system tonic, antioxidant, liver protectant, antitumor, and adaptogen (stress/adrenal support).
Maca root is from high in the Andes and is eaten as a food, as a nourishing root vegetable high in B vitamins, protein, and carbohydrates.  This food and herb has been used to support a healthy immune system, increase energy levels, and enhance libido.
Reishi mushroom is used as an immune tonic for strengthening the immune syste and supporting the body’s ability to fight viral infections.
Spirulina/Chlorella/Blue-green algae are superfoods, high in chlorophyll, beta-carotene, and many trace minerals, and are detoxifying.

Dandelion – a very common plant most people know for its sunny yellow flowers, its puffy seed heads that can be blown into the wind, or pulling it up in their yards when they see it as a blemish on their lawn, its Latin name is Taraxacum officinale and it is native to northern temperate zones around the globe.  The leaves and root of this plant are both used as medicine, and the leaves as food.  The leaves are best harvested fresh in the spring and can be eaten as a bitter salad green to stimulate digestive juices, as well as being an excellent diuretic.  The root can be harvested in the spring or fall and is used primarily as a digestive and liver tonic herb.
Historically, the leaves were eaten as a vegetable, the roots roasted and brewed as a coffee substitute, the root fermented into beer, and the flowers made into wine.
The leaves primary actions are: diuretic, bitter digestive, mineralizing (high in potassium in particular).
The roots primary actions are: liver tonic, liver detoxifier, digestive stimulant, diuretic, mild laxative, anti-rheumatic.
As a diuretic, the leaf is considered stronger in its action and contains enough potassium that it does not leach the body of this important mineral, as many pharmaceutical diuretics can do.  Therefore, both the leaf and root can be used to increase the flow of fluid through the kidneys, helping move kidney stones, lower blood pressure, and reduce edema (swelling due to water retention).
As a bitter digestive, the leaf is more bitter tasting, but both have this action, which is basically stimulating the flow of digestive juices through the reflex action of the bitter taste on the tongue.  They stimulate bile flow, the mucosal lining of the stomach and intestines to secrete mucus, and the pancreas to secrete enzymes.  This is useful when someone has sluggish or poor digestion and dyspepsia (digestive discomfort), particularly when taken before meals.
The root more so than the leaf, is considered a liver tonic, helping to promote liver health and to detoxify the liver through stimulating it to release toxins that can then be excreted.
This plant also has some anti-inflammatory effects, and combined with its action on the liver and digestion as well as fluid excretion, it is used for joint inflammation and other rheumatic complaints.  The root is also commonly used in formulas for skin conditions, because of its action on the liver and kidneys, two primary detoxification organs that can help take the burden off the skin to detoxify when its experiencing inflamed skin conditions such as eczema or acne.
Dandelion is also useful for overall stagnation in the body with symptoms of poor skin with a dull color, slow or poor digestion, lethargy or fatigue, swollen or inflamed tissues and organs, and poor circulation.  In these cases, dandelion works by helping to move the blood and eliminating toxins from the body
Traditionally, dandelion was not recommended in patients with liver or gallbladder disease, based on the belief that dandelion stimulates bile secretion.  Dandelion leaf and root should be used cautiously with people who have gallstones or any obstruction of the bile ducts.  Dandelion should also be used cautiously in the case of stomach ulcers or gastritis, as it may cause overproduction of stomach acid.
Dandelion root and leaf are both sold loose at Herban Wellness to be used in teas, they are also both sold in liquid extract (tincture) form, and in capsule form.  The roasted dandelion root is also sold to make into a tea that has a rich, roasted flavor.  Dandelion root is included in my Rebalancing Cleanse Support Tea, helping to promote movement of toxins out through the liver and kidneys.

Astragalus root – A medicinal plant whose use comes to us from Chinese medicine, its Latin name is Astragalus membranaceus and it is a member of the Fabaceae family, also known as the legume/pea family.  The root is the part that is used, and it is considered a quintessential immune tonic or immune modulator.  This means it can help with immune system weakness, when someone regularly gets sick with viral or bacterial infections or takes a long time to recover, or immune hyperactivity, when someone has an autoimmune illness such as rheumatoid arthritis.  In Chinese medicine, it is considered a tonic herb that can increase vitality and longevity.
Its primary actions that have been borne out in traditional use, clinical practice, and/or laboratory research are that astragalus is: immune modulating, adaptogenic, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, cardiotonic, diuretic, hypotensive, antioxidant, hepatoprotective, cancer preventive, tissue regenerative, and protective against drops in white blood cell count during chemotherapy or radiation.
Based on the above actions, this herb is used in cases of immune weakness due to chronic stress, because it has a protective effect on the adrenal glands, heart, liver, and kidneys and can help decrease chances of immune weakness when under stress.  It can act as a prophylactic against the common cold, upper respiratory tract infections, and other viral infections.  It is also potentially protective against a compromised immune system during cancer treatment, and because of its antitumor, heart & liver protective effects, and its antioxidant properties, astragalus is often useful for someone diagnosed with or at risk for cancer, improving chances for recovery and longevity.  Astragalus may also be useful as a hypotensive, because of its heart tonic and diuretic actions.
Astragalus is used medicinally in a decoction, meaning that the root is cooked/simmered in water or broth for a certain length of time, usually a minimum of 20 minutes; as a tincture, or powdered in capsules.  Traditionally, the root slices were added to soups/stews in fall and winter and cooked in the broth, then removed and the soup and broth consumed.  This is a great way to get the health benefits of astragalus root into your diet.  At Herban Wellness, I sell astragalus root in shredded form for decoctions/teas and the root slices (they look like tongue depressors) for decocting or adding to soups/stews.  I also sell the powder that can be added to food.  Generally speaking, you need to consume this herb regularly for several weeks to help strengthen a weak or debilitated immune system.  The general dose is 1 Tbls or so of herb/12 oz or so of water.  Add 3-4 root slices to a pot of soup.
Because this herb seems to strengthen and tonify the immune system over time, it is generally not taken or recommended for acute infections.  It is mostly used for chronic immune and adrenal weakness and to strengthen and protect organ systems over time.