This is a good time of year to go over ‘must-have’ herbs for winter health. Since I am feeling “under the weather” today it also makes it a good time to review. Herbs that I have found most useful to treat and prevent colds and flu include elderberry, echinacea, thyme, sage and garlic. Infection is a combination of exposure to a critical number of bacteria or virus and the immune system not being able to handle the exposure. The herbs mentioned have both antiviral and antibacterial properties and several also have immune stimulating properties.
Elderberry is an important herb for flu and medical studies have found it to be effective. It contains neuraminidase activity, the same activity of the drug commonly used to treat the flu, Tamiflu. The best part is that elderberry tastes delicious. You can make a syrup from elderberry using these instructions. You can also make a liquor with elderberry by covering the elderberries with vodka, let set for two weeks and then add honey to taste. Alternatively, you can leave it with just vodka and use it as a tincture.
Thyme is a traditional herb used for bronchitis and upper respiratory tract infections. Thyme can be used in a number of ways; added directly to tea or make thyme honey to add to tea or use as a cough remedy.
Sage is a great herb to use for a sore throat. It too can be used to make a honey or as a tea itself. Echinacea is best used as a tincture; you can make this yourself (directions coming in another blog) or you can buy this. If you have Echinacea in your yard you want to harvest, this is the time of year to dig up the roots to make your tinctures; after the aerial parts of the plant have died back.
Garlic is a valuable herb that stimulates the immune system and has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal activity. I like using garlic fresh as garlic toast. To do this first make a piece of toast from whole wheat bread. Then rub a garlic clove over the rough surface of the toast so that the garlic goes all over the surface of the toast. It may bite a little when you eat it, but it does great good!
For more information on what you can do for minor infections see my book “The Antibiotic Alternative”. This month I am celebrating the 10th anniversary of its publication. You can see more about this book here.
Colorado Aromatics sells a product I call Thyma-Flu, a play on the drug name, Tamiflu. This product is a mix of immune stimulating herbs and antiviral herbs. You add drinking alcohol of your choice to the herbs to make a tincture. Take this at the first sign of cold or flu to prevent the symptoms from arising.
You can find this product here.