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  • Writer's pictureJames Keskimaki

Aralia "Ginseng for the lungs"

Updated: Jan 3

A few weeks ago I went out on a wildcrafting mission with the specific intention of harvesting Western Aralia root (California Spikenard). It had been quite a few years since I harvested this beautiful plant known for its powerful tonic action on the lungs and Respiratory system. Aralia belongs to the ginseng family and is a sister of another ginseng family plant found in the Pacific Northwest - Devil's Club. It is quite serendipitous that I live in the area where Western Aralia and Devils club both exist. The latter grows south from here into California and Devil’s Club grows north up into Alaska.

It was so early in the year that the only way to find it was the hope of a young shoot or an old stalk. Pretty early on I found an old stalk and investigated the area. I dug up a little bit of root to make sure I had the right medicine. As it turned out I definitely did, that ginseng smell is so familiar and was quite pungent. Storing that little bit in my harvest sack I continued down the path looking for a better and more abundant stand to do a proper harvest. A bit farther down I came across a creek that flowed through a rich stand of old-growth trees surrounded by Oregon Grape Root and many different species of mushrooms covering the moist ground. Following my instinct, I climbed over the downed trees through the thick underbrush, heading upriver where I laid my eyes upon a beautiful stand of Aralia. It was growing right along the side of the river! Where the root was basically exposed on the bank. This would make the harvest quite easy and cause less damage to the area.

Before I began harvesting I sat with the plants saying some prayers and thanking the spirits for the medicine and assistance in helping whoever may need this medicine. It is a good practice to slow down and allow ourselves to be present when harvesting. These plants are very powerful so giving them respect is important. This will also connect you more deeply with the spirit of the plant, the land and waters, making the medicine more spiritually connected ,infusing it with all that energy. Which in turn will make your medicine more aligned and potent.

Aralia is an excellent warming remedy for lung conditions. It will restore secretions in dry coughs along with thin and liquefy the thick stagnant mucus characteristic of moist lung problems. It reduces inflammation and can repair tissue damage in the lungs. A great tonic for heavy smokers and folks with a history of lung issues, not to mention the excessive smoke from wildfires that have been raging in the western United States and Canada along with many other places in the world. This is way it is considered the “Ginseng for the lungs”

Being in the ginseng family Aralia is also an adaptogen that helps regulate the body's reaction to stress, anxiety, adrenal burnout, and exhaustion. Aralia is a great ally in these times of high stress be it in your personal life or the global situation we all find ourselves in.

Western Aralia is listed on the United Plant Savers “To Watch” list (“Species At-Risk List”) so it is something we don’t want to over harvest and we only harvest when it is abundant and only “Take What We Need”. With that being said we only supply a very small amount of this medicine and only harvest once every few years.

Written and photo by James Keskimaki

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