How Botanical Sexism Agitates Your Allergies

By Elizabeth Crews

This post contains Affiliate Links.


After years of his wife suffering with severe allergies and asthma, Thomas Leo Ogren was determined to find a solution to suppress her symptoms. What began as a singular journey to help his wife transformed into decades of research that established him as an allergy expert and the author of the most comprehensive botanical allergy books in existence. He realized that the number of individuals with allergies was increasing exponentially, although one of the causes for this suffering is simple: botanical sexism.

Male v. Female Plants in Landscaping

In The Allergy-Fighting Garden, Ogren discusses the reproduction of plants and trees, focusing specifically on those that are dioecious. These plants have distinct male or female reproductive systems. The males produce pollen, which travels  to the females to create seeds and fruit.

Male plants are most often used by cities and homeowners because they do not produce seeds or fruit like the females. Because of this, females are considered to be high-maintenance and require more upkeep, whereas the males are considered easier to manage. This practice is called botanical sexism.

Issues with Botanical Sexism

Ogren maintains that the best treatment for allergies is avoidance. There are medications and inhalers we can use when we experience reactions; however, he states that intentional planting  is the key to decreasing reactions. The males are designed to create pollen and they will continue to send the highly-adhesive particles into the air. If there are no females there to accept the pollen, it seeks another tall surface to adhere to: often people . Breathing in these sticky particles  causes trouble for those with asthma, allergies, and compromised respiratory systems. While planting male trees is often perceived as lower maintenance, the lowest-maintenance option is actually to plant females alone: they do not produce the same high rates of irritants, and without pollination they cannot produce messy seeds and fruit.

That being said, there are benefits to planting males and females together for sexual reproduction. The singular incorporation of male plants and trees has decreased  biodiversity, which increases vulnerability to diseases like the Dutch Elm Disease. It was introduced in 1930s and laid waste to male American elm trees, which were commonly used for their shade. Their close proximity allowed the disease to easily spread from one elm to the next until they were all but completely wiped out. The impressive American elm population never recovered from that devastation.

Governments have also planted male clonal trees. Groups of asexual clonal trees or plants are called colonies, and they are genetically identical and connected by the same root system. As a colony asexually reproduces, single cells multiply to create more, and mutations can occur at a higher rate than during sexual reproduction.

In a study of famous clonal aspen trees nicknamed Pando, botanists have noted that the trees’ sexual fitness decreases with age, meaning the trees do not reproduce as rapidly. If dangerous mutations occur and are asexually produced rapidly, the organism runs the risk of continuing to produce mutated cells, which make them even more vulnerable to diseases like the Dutch Elm Disease.

OPALS: The Solution

To help people plan the most allergy-friendly gardens and landscapes, Ogren developed the OPALS system. The acronym stands for the Ogren Plant Allergy Scale and it details the least to most allergenic plants in an easy-to-read scale of 1-10. It is currently the most comprehensive guide and it was met with such high esteem that branches of the USDA have incorporated it into their landscaping. In addition to landscaping with low-OPALS-rated plants, planting females to receive male pollen (especially in public spaces) will dramatically decrease human exposure to allergens. This book and the rest of Ogren’s work have made it possible to easily create a garden that is allergy friendly.

To learn more about how you can apply this to your own home or homestead, we recommend purchasing Ogren’s book! Using this link to Amazon doesn’t cost you anything, but we are paid a percentage of Amazon’s profit from your purchase!


Homemade Cold & Flu Medicine: Sweet Licorice Fennel Syrup Elixir

Fall is here! And that means a lot of wonderful things that your acquaintances likely plastered all over social media.

Fall is wonderful, yes.

But it also means cold & flu season.

Since pledging ourselves to exclusively exploring natural wellness options, we’ve been researching and experimenting, taking classes, and asking questions.

There are an unbelievable amount of natural alternatives to traditional cold and flu medications, all varying in dosage and effectiveness.

I {Rebeccah} chose to explore Licorice Root – Glycyrrhizza glabra – as a final project in my Herbal Medicine Making Class at Bastyr, and learned that one (of many!) medicinal uses is for cold and flu, and here are a few reasons why. Licorice is an:

  • Expectorant – provides upper respiratory relief by freeing mucus/saliva
  • Antispasmodic – relieves muscle spasms/pains
  • Antioxidant – prevents cell damage by hindering production of free radicals
  • Antiviral – treats viral infections/viruses
  • Antibacterial – fights bacteria & prevents future bacterial growth

Dried Licorice Root for Cold & Flu Fighting Syrup via Everything Needs Cheese

A few important notes about Licorice Root (and have you read our Terms and Conditions??), before getting started: Daily use for long periods of time has been linked to increased blood pressure. For that reason, it is not recommended to the following demographics:

  • Pregnant Women
  • Heart or Kidney Disease Sufferers
  • Those with High Blood Pressure

Now on to the fun stuff!


  • 1 oz Licorice Root – Dried
    • This can be purchased at health food stores like Whole Foods, or online.
  • 2 oz Wild Fennel Tops – Fresh (Domestic will work also)
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 1 ½ Cups Sugar
  • 2 TBSP Cognac (Brandy) – Optional

Licorice Fennel Sugar Syrup Recipe, a Natural Alternative to Traditional Cold & Flu Medicine via Everything Needs Cheese


  • Combine all ingredients but Brandy in a (covered) pot and bring to a boil.Boiling Decoction of Dried Licorice Root, Wild Fennel Tops, and Sugar for Homemade Cold & Flu Herbal Medicine via Everything Needs Cheese
  • Stir occasionally, but otherwise keep covered for 60 minutes, or until liquid has reduced by ½, to about 1 cup. Keep an eye on it as it may bubble up.
    Cheese Cloth Straining Licorice & Fennel Cold Flu Elixir DIY Alternative Medicine via Everything Needs Cheese
  • Strain with cheesecloth inside a mesh strainer. A ricer would work well also if you have one. Make sure you squeeze as much of the liquid out as possible. Compost your cheesecloth/leftovers.
  • Stir in Brandy and pour into a bottle or jar.
  • Keeps up to 6 months on the shelf, longer if refrigerated, although sugar crystallization may occur. If it does, reheat in a pot of water or microwave (without the metal lid) to create a smooth, syrupy texture.

Homemade Licorice Root & Fennel Natural Cough, Cold, & Flu Medicine Recipe & Instructions via Everything Needs Cheese

Recommended Dosage:

  • Take 2-3 TBSP daily at the onset of cold/flu symptoms. Can be taken straight (it’s dangerously delicious!!), or added to a tea, smoothie, yogurt bowl, or other food/drink.
  • For best results, spread out doses, ex: 1 TBSP in the AM, 1 TBSP in the PM.
  • Note: this particular preparation is not recommended for use with children because of the alcohol. Brandy is also an antispasmodic, which adds to the cold & flu fighting properties of this recipe, but can easily be omitted to make it kid-friendly.
  • If adverse symptoms are experienced, discontinue use and immediately contact your health practitioner.
  • Do not take for more than 4 consecutive weeks. No cold/flu should last that long anyway!

    This post contains Affiliate Links to Amazon, so you can shop easily for the necessary products. This post was also recycled with permission from a sister site: Everything Needs Cheese.

    © Landerholmstead, 2016