Each fall, Oakland-based herbal pharmacy Five Flavor Herbs stocks up on mullein, marshmallow root, and wild cherry bark. These herbs are tools to protect against fire season, an annual necessity since nearby Santa Rosa was devastated by a series of wildfires in 2017.
In 2020, over 3.5 million acres have burned in California alone—and brush fires continue to rage across the state and Oregon. The unprecedented scale of blazes sweeping across the West Coast, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, has infused new urgency into lung protection. Mutual aid organizations are stocking community fridges with free herb bundles, and herbalists are sharing tutorials for how to steam kitchen herbs like rosemary and thyme.