The 1918 Influenza Pandemic killed more people than World War I—more lives were lost to the flu epidemic in just one year than in four years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague. Americans attempted to beat the flu with castor oil, tobacco, morphine, and aspirin, but with little success.
A Carson City, Nevada doctor named Ernst Krebs noticed that the local Washoe people were healing quickly and completely. That’s because they were treating their sick with a natural flu antibiotic: lomatium, an herb belonging to the Apiaceae (carrot) family. It appeared to possess remarkable antibacterial and antiviral properties, and Dr. Krebs reported in 1920 in the Bulletin of the Nevada State Board of Health:
“Whether a coincidence or not, there was not a single death in the Washoe tribe from influenza or its complications, although Indians living in other parts of the State where the root did not grow died in numbers. It was such a remarkable coincidence that the root was investigated by a practicing physician who saw apparently hopeless cases recover without any other medication or care of any kind.”
What Is Lomatium?
Lomatium grows wild in the Pacific Northwest, Nevada, and Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. It goes by many names: biscuit root, pungent desert parsley, Indian consumption plant, desert parsnip, fern-leafed lomatium, ferula dissoluta, leptaotaenia dissecta, tohza, toza, and wild carrot. Its antiviral effects are attributed to the presence of tetronic acids and glucoside of luteolin, and researchers are currently examining the coumarins in lomatium as a potential treatment for HIV infection.
Lomatium helps boost immunity by lowering inflammation in the body. Its anti-inflammatory effects have been praised for easing muscle and joint pain, decreasing swelling in the joints, and treating bloating and edema, making it a viable treatment for autoimmune diseases like fibromyalgia.
Native Americans traditionally peeled the root, and then dried and ground it into flour to make sweet biscuits. All parts of the plant are edible, and they also ate the seeds raw or roasted, or ground them into flour. They’d use the herb to treat urinary tract infections and respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, bronchitis, chronic cough, and asthma.
Lomatium’s antiviral effects extend to hepatitis, mumps, shingles, measles, chicken pox, upset stomach, mononucleosis, and Epstein-Barr virus.
Lomatium can also be applied topically as a poultice for cuts, scrapes, rashes, and wounds.
Supplementing with Lomatium
In 1999 the state of Montana issued a moratorium on the harvesting of lomatium in the wild, because the plant is endangered over parts of its range. If you have a home garden, consider growing your own supply of lomatium. Dry the leaves and steep one to two teaspoons in boiling water for 25 minutes to enjoy a lomatium infusium. When dried correctly, lomatium retains its therapeutic properties for up to three years.
If taking lomatium in tincture form the standard dose is 10-30 drops up to 4 times a day, and in extract form 1-3 ml 3 times a day.
Lomatium has been shown to cause nausea and rash if taken at too high doses. If you are susceptible to skin rash, then use lomatium isolates, which are lomatium extracts that have had the resins (the rash-inducing culprits) removed.
Always consult your health care practitioner before adding an herb to your nutrition regimen. Lomatium has been shown to amplify the effects of blood thinners and immune-boosting drugs.