Foraging In The Fall 

Immune Building Herbs

The forecast is snow in September for Taos this week.  The already short summer season for garden growing has come to a halt. Harvest at a hurried pace. It’s time to unpack the sweaters and coats and prepare your pantry for the cold season ahead. With the COVID lingering, it is essential to fill your cabinets with immune building herbs, syrups, and tinctures for the winter ahead. 

Even with the week-long cold front, Taos will most likely warm up again to a crisp fall temperature to enjoy the outdoors and mountainous hikes before the real snow comes in late November. The Fall season offers up a plethora of plants that are easy to harvest. So many in fact, I will cover just a few. I encourage harvesting the flowers and seeds offered from the plant without damaging the root systems. Although, the fall is the best time to harvest root herbs, such as licorice, burdock and OSHA as the energy is strong when the plants start to “root” in preparation of the cold season ahead. Osha is strong cold/flu medicine for the winter but has been over-harvested and it is a plant that our Native American neighbors have used traditionally for centuries so I leave them out of respect. Besides, you might mistake it with Hemlock root, highly poisonous, and that would be Karma. There are other abundant herbs we can harvest in its place such as Goldenrod flowers. The Goldenrod flower makes a great tasting tea, to soothe a sore throat with its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. As an expectorant, goldenrod can expel mucous easily from the lungs. Try it infused with honey or as a tea with honey added. 

It is highly antioxidant too to help rid the body of free radicals. Some say it is higher in antioxidants than green tea!

It is not to be mistaken for ragweed that causes fall allergies instead it is an antidote that can ease runny eyes, runny nose and sneezing.  So many benefits, the astringent and antiseptic qualities tighten and tone the urinary system and bladder making it useful for UTI infections.

The flowers and the leaves can be infused with oil or used as a poultice for wounds and burns. The infused oil combines well with plantain, yarrow, and St. John’s wort (all of which are summer/fall herbs to forage) for a nice wound healing skin salve. It also makes a nice rub for tired achy muscles and arthritis pain.

Goldenrod has a slightly bitter astringent value as well as a sweetness.  You taste the astringent bitter when it goes down. I prefer goldenrod tea mixed with some mints; recipe as follows:


2 cups boiling water
1 Tablespoon of fresh goldenrod or 2-3 teaspoons of dried
1 Tablespoon of mint or 2-3 teaspoons of dried; add local honey to taste


  • Bring water to a boil and combine it with herbs.
  • Steep for 15 minutes then strain; add honey and serve.

My staple at home is Rosehip seed. There is abundance growing along the base of the mountain riparian and acequia’s of Taos, NM. High in Vitamin C, this red bulb filled with nourishing seeds can ward off cold/flu. Adding Hawthorn berries can be a perfect tea in the winter to calm and nourish the heart and soul. It is loaded with antioxidants that help build your immunity.  

The Rosehip seed is the only vegetable oil that offers Retinal A; is collagen building and reduces inflammation. Did I mention may reverse aging skin? I infuse with olive or nourishing oils of almond or avocado and apply directly on the face and skin. It helps relieve acne, dark circles under the eyes and firms, and tightens skin.  Rosehip seed oil is expensive in the stores and Taos has it in abundance most likely in your back yard as mentioned along the acequia. Take advantage of the abundance offered this fall season. I highly value the Rosehip seed concentrate in my propriety blend for Oshara Face Care products from Desert Blends .

High in omega oils and essential fatty acids rosehips can nourish your insides too and help eradicate free radicals. Free radicals may cause cancerous cells and accelerated aging. We can get free radicals from our stressful lives, undercooked meat and unhealthy environments. 

I would be remiss in not mentioning Elderberry. Medicinally, Elderberry has immune-enhancing and antiviral properties. It is a powerful natural remedy in treating viral infections like colds, cases of flu, upper respiratory infections, and herpes outbreaks. With COVID among us, this herb can offer protection against the virus. You may find the clusters of berries at the local farmers market that have already been harvested; or I would recommend consulting with the local resident Master Herbalist, Lucy McCall, where to find the plant to harvest. There is a process to harvest and prepare medicines for tinctures and cough syrups, a must-have in your winter cabinet. I have provided a link to the methods here Foraging Elderberries.

Taos residents are blessed with the surrounding nature to explore. I encourage taking one plant at a time for study in your area and over time you too can become an expert in plant identification. Nature can provide healing for your body and soul. We are blessed indeed.

This is a guest post from Toni Leigh, Herbalist, Chief formulator for Desert Blends.

Desert Blends are available exclusively at Cid’s in Taos



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