Here we go again…
Cold and snow, long days inside, kids and families and friends crammed into closed up spaces. It’s inevitable. We will share our germs along with our spaces. I can’t lie, I do occasionally enjoy an excuse to snuggle on the couch all afternoon without worry over the dishes stacking up, phone ringing or other various items on my to do list. But there is little I like less than a runny nose or hacking cough. Ick.
Now, everyday there are endless commercials raving about the effects of day-this or night-that, but did you know that while these products can make you temporarily feel better and help you trudge through your day by masking your symptoms, the very act of masking or suppressing those symptoms, can make you sick longer? Eeww. Not to mention the fact that you are adding more toxins to your already compromised immune system. Take a fever for instance…. A fever is a sign that the immune system is under attack. But it does more than that. A fever assists the body in producing interferon, an antiviral substance. Interferon is necessary for fighting infection. A fever also increases the activity and movement of white blood cells. By suppressing a fever, you are suppressing your bodies ability to fight off the virus. Certainly there are exceptions, but for the most part, a fever is a natural and welcome part of the healing process.
*If a fever reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit or above and lasts more than 4-6 hours or for a fever in infants under 6 months of age seek professional advice.
Obviously, a fever, and many of the other symptoms of the common cold or flu are rather uncomfortable and certainly can and should be treated, however, you can fight that cold naturally instead of reaching for those over the counter products full of chemicals. And many can already be found in your kitchen! And the best remedy for staying healthy is prevention. Add some of these to your daily regimen and you can beat those colds and flu.
Here are some of my favorite cold fighters-
Astragalus root has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to strengthen the immune system. It has antiviral and antioxidant properties. Take Astragalus root in capsule, tea or tincture to fight an existing cold or regularly during the cold and flu season to help prevent infection. You can also add the root to your home-made broth. Available at your local health food or herbal store.
Valued by Native Americans to treat cold and flu, boneset is primarily used to treat fever. It is native to North America and is a remedy that can be supplied for free through growing your own or foraging. (Of course I don’t need to tell you this, but DO KNOW YOUR PLANTS before foraging or consuming!) Boneset can be taken in tea form by placing 1-2 teaspoons of the dried herb in boiling water and steeping 10-15 minutes. Take every half hour during high fever. Or by making a tincture. 2-4ml taken 3 times a day.
Echinacea may be the easiest found cold fighting herb. Today it is widely recommended and available in tea, tincture and capsule form. Echinacea helps boost the immune system and helps fight off illness. Although I don’t feel Echinacea alone is the best treatment for a cold, adding it your arsenal is a great way to help beat that cold.
Oh, sweet Elderberry. This is one of my favorites. I take it regularly to help prevent colds and flu. Elderberry is full of vitamins A, B and C. All essential in staying healthy. It also contains antiviral and antioxidant properties. Studies have actually shown Elderberry to treat/cure the flu faster than Tamiflu. It could even help fight cancer! Although the elderberry is more popular in fighting cold and flu, the flowers are also very beneficial. Both parts of the plant have been used in herbal medicine for centuries. Made into teas and tinctures, syrups and even wine! You can find it at your local health food/herbal store. Elderberries are native to the US and can be easily grown under a variety of conditions.
Do avoid eating the stems, leaves and root.
1/2c elderberries (1c fresh)
2T fresh ginger (1T dried)
1 cinnamon stick
3/4c raw honey
3c distilled water
Add all ingredients except honey in a small pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Be patient. Turn burner to its lowest setting and gently simmer for about 45 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half, stirring occasionally and breaking up the berries. Strain and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Add the honey and stir until fully dissolved. Place in sterilized glass containers. This will store for 2 months in the refrigerator. Take 1 teaspoon a day for prevention and 3-4 daily at the first sign of cold or flu.
You can also add other healing herbs to this recipe like clove, Echinacea and lemon. You can make this with just elderberries and water to flavor foods and drinks!
Garlic is one of the oldest remedies for preventing and fighting infection and colds. It can be taken in many forms – added to broths, teas, remedies and eaten raw. I suggest adding it to your cooking daily. When fighting a cold, increase your intake some. Generally 1 to 2 cloves daily for prevention, double for fighting an existing cold.
I love honey. Love it. I use it on my face, in my tea, everywhere I can. It is easily my most favorite home remedy item ever. It is amazing at soothing coughs and incredibly antibacterial. And is another that has been used for centuries to cure a variety of ailments. Try this Lemon Honey Gargle for a sore throat. Read more about my love of honey here.
Licorice root is a very impressive, yet overlooked herbal remedy. It has been known to treat an array of conditions including athletes foot, canker sores, chronic fatigue, depression, heart burn, HIV and viral infections, menopause. The list is extensive. It also is great at fighting the common cold and flu. It boosts interferon levels, increasing the body’s ability to fight infection. It also contains antioxidants, is an anti-inflammatory and expectorant. It even has an asprin-like action that helps reduce pain. Licorice root is easiest taken in capsule. Many do not prefer the taste. It can be made into or added to tea and can be easily found at your local health food/herbal supply store.
Believe it or not, onions are great for fighting off colds. I spoke of the many reasons to love onions here. Here is a recipe for a syrup to help fight off a cold without eating a bunch of raw onions. This one is great for kids because of the sweetness. Generally sugars are not good for helping fight colds, however, if it means getting your kids to actually take it… sweeten away.
Onion Cough Syrup
1 medium onion
1T Honey (add more or less to you liking)
Grate or juice the onion. Put the juice into a glass jar. Add the honey and stir or shake well.
If your kids do not like the taste of honey (work on this one by adding it their diets in small amounts and increasing it slowly so they might acquire the taste. It is VERY healthy stuff.) here is a variation on this, however, not my first choice. Sugar can increase mucous secretion.
Organic Raw Sugar to taste
Glass jar large enough to hold onion
Slice the onion into thin rings. Place one layer of onion in the jar, layer with sugar and repeat. Leave over night on the counter. The resulting juice is your syrup.
Store both of these in the fridge. They will last 2 days. Take 1-2 teaspoons every hour.
Sage is a natural expectorant and helps calm a cough. Add sage extract to warm water or make a tea from fresh or dried leaves. Use it regularly in cooking and grow it easily in your herb or kitchen garden. It even does well grown inside in a sunny location.
This common kitchen herb is a fantastic healer. Best used to treat respiratory ailments such as cough and congestion. Add fresh or dried to foods, broths and teas. Or make a tincture and store in a dark bottle. Grow Thyme in your garden easily. It produces an ample amount of leaves for use and generous flowers that create a pretty addition to paths and borders.
Yarrow is of mythical nature! Said to have cured Achilles’ famous heel. Yarrow contains a number of substances shown to cure a number of ailments. When taken at the very first sign of a cold, it can shorten the life of the virus. It can also be used to help prevent infection. Drink yarrow tea daily for prevention and every hour during a cold. It too can be added to syrups, soups and broths and easily grown in your herb or kitchen garden.
What ever you have in your pantry or grow in your garden, what ever you find more comforting, start treating your and your families ailments in the kitchen! And never be afraid of those nasty toxins or that knock out effect of over the counter products.
Do you have a favorite home remedy to treat colds and flu?