Note: The Clinic Memoirs are based on real experiences from Occupy Medical clinic, a free, integrated health clinic that serves patients primarily, but not exclusively, in Lane County, Oregon since 2011. The names of the patients and a few personal details are changed to protect patient identity.

It was easy to see that Gus desperately needed yarrow. His eyes were bloodshot and watery. His nose was raw and red from constant swipes from his crumpled pocket tissue. His brow was furrowed due to a sinus headache. Allergies were beating him down.

Gus came to our clinic because the over the counter allergy medicine was working for him. He had struggled through a weekend of sneezing and coughing and was ready to try anything – even herbs. A college roommate had recommended our clinic after a bout of reactions to mold in the rainy season.

We talked about diet and the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables. Gus was willing to try adding broccoli to his ramen noodles and would eat a salad before the usual pizza dinner. I gave him some vitamins and then tucked in to talk about herbs.

Gus had never tried tincture before. I decided not to overwhelm him. I gave him an immune booster combination with reishi, nettle, plantain and astragalus. He rolled the bottle around in his hand for a minute before opening it up and squirting a dropper full into his mouth.

He made a terrible face. I suggested adding the next dose to a bit of water. He wanted relief now.

“Do you have food stamps?” I asked.

Gus nodded.

“Perfect. Go to the local health food store. There is one open just a few blocks away. Go to the bulk aisle and buy some dried yarrow flowers. You will only need enough to fit in a sandwich sized baggie. This should only set you back a few bucks. It is very astringent. This yarrow is going to drain your sinuses.”

Gus was with me. I was blending his need for relief with his need to breathe.

I took a deep breath and continued, “What you need to do a facial steam. When you get home, throw a handful of the yarrow in a bowl, add hot water and then use a towel as a little tent to keep the steam focused on your face. Do circular breathing from your mouth and out your nose.”

Gus nodded fervently. He was ready to shoot out the door to buy the yarrow as soon as possible.

“One more thing,” I added as he rose from his seat, “Make sure you have a couple of tissues next to you when you do the steam. This gets messy.”