Wild Fires


Last week, I attended the American Herbalists Guild annual symposium, held at the beautiful Oregon Gardens in Silverton, OR. The theme of this year’s symposium was Herbalism in Action, with a strong focus on community clinics, health care for under-served populations, and the role that herbalists can play in health care crisis situations. I had intended to write about that.

Oregon Gardens Resort

As I returned from Silverton, driving down I-5 through Ashland, OR and back to San Francisco, the news broke about several fires burning in Napa and Sonoma counties. While wildfires are not uncommon in the Pacific Northwest in the summer and fall, these fires are presently raging through densely populated urban areas. The death toll and property damage is high.

Surrounding counties are feeling the impact of refugees. As we drove back to the Bay area, we pulled in at the last rest stop on I-80 before crossing the Carquinez bridge. The parking lot was completely full, and the exit ramp was lined with cars - but the rest area facilities were not crowded. We realized that these were people who had been told to evacuate, and may not have had anywhere else to go for the night.

Surrounding counties are also feeling the impact of the wildfire smoke in the air, reducing visibility, casting an eerie red glow, causing dramatic red sunsets and moonrises. Ash is visibly drifting through the air, and settling a layer of dust on cars. Some people are wearing air filter masks - and more people should be. The air quality is at dangerous levels.

In this environment, it was an easy decision to save my thoughts on the symposium for another time, and use this space to share some easy recommendations for coping with smoke inhalation. Following are a few basic reminders, tips and recipes that can help to reduce the overall burden of air pollution. I hope you find them useful.

Food & Nutrition Recommendations: Water, Pears & Persimmons

A. The first reminder is to drink plenty of water. Smoke is heating and drying, so it is imperative to rehydrate. If you are not already in the habit of carrying a re-usable water bottle with you, now is a good time to start. (Remember the theme of my practice: Plant Seeds of Health: every day, we have an opportunity to begin.)

How much is enough? A general guideline is 64 ounces of water daily, although this varies according to demographics and individual needs. (For a very in-depth discussion, here’s an NIH study on Water, Hydration & Health.)

8 oz = 1 cup

2 cups = 1 pint = 16 oz

2 pints = 1 quart = 32 oz (4 cups)

2 quarts = ½ gallon = 64 oz (8 cups)

Drink a cup of water upon rising in the morning. Know the capacity of your re-usable water bottle. I use a stainless steel 24-oz Kleen Kanteen, and fill it in the morning, then re-fill it again later in the day. Drink a cup of water in the evening. (Maybe not right before bed, as most folks don’t appreciate a full bladder waking them up in the middle of the night.)

Remember that coffee and green & black teas are diuretic, not hydrating. Consider that for every cup of coffee or caffeinated tea, you’ll want to drink an extra cup of water, in addition to the base-line 64 oz. The same is true for alcoholic beverages: they are dehydrating.

B. Nutrition recommendations

Fresh Pears