Pro-plant, anti-flu 

Just because you weren’t short-listed for a flu vaccine this year doesn’t mean you can’t take measures to stay healthy.

“There are lots and lots of herbs that can be used to support the immune system,” says Lorie Beck, who this year created Montana Earth Herbs, a small Missoula business that promotes the use of herbs “from plant to product.” Beck describes herself as “very pro-plant.” A glowing jade plant greets visitors at her front door. Near a wide window in back of her kitchen sits a wild and brambly rosemary bush, which Beck says is 7 or 8 years old.

For four years, Beck has been teaching classes including an upcoming series at Meadowsweet Herbs, and providing private consultations for people who want to learn how to make plant-based salves, body-care products and tinctures. This year, she is releasing the recipe for her energy and immune-system-boosting Missoula Winter Tincture.

“A tincture is an extract that is done with alcohol—I use Everclear and water,” says Beck. The recipe includes astragalus, licorice root, holy basil, lemon balm, sage and nettles. While the blend will not kill the influenza virus, some of the herbs have anti-viral properties, she says.

Rustem Medora, professor of pharmacology at UM’s School of Pharmacy, confirms that astragalus “does have some modest immune-stimulating properties,” but expresses doubt about the efficacy of the other ingredients in Beck’s Missoula Winter Tincture. Plenty of herbs, he says, can kill viruses in test tubes; whether they have the same effect in the body, Medora says, would require clinical evidence to evaluate.

Today, Beck is pulling together materials for a class focusing on how to make a tincture called the Sun Wizard’s Herbal Cough and Throat Syrup. A pink tub sitting on her kitchen table holds some class materials: a strainer and a measuring cup; a bottle of brandy; a well-worn book of medicinal plants.

“Most people are usually fascinated that they can actually do this in their own homes,” says Beck.

The Missoula City-County Health Department’s Ellen Leahy says there is no sign of the flu vaccine shortage improving. An informational recording on NOW Care Clinic’s voicemail recommends simple precautions for keeping the flu at bay, like washing hands frequently and keeping them away from your face.

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