January 28th, 2013 by Cindy Hebbard
By now, we must all know someone who has had the stubborn cold/ flu thing going around. While it doesn’t go away easily, it responds to several tools you may already have in your ‘herbal tool kit’. Here is how you can strengthen your family’s immune system!
First, and most importantly, limit all refined sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and the white stuff. One can of commercial soda can have 8 to 12 teaspoons of sugar! Sugar dampens our immune system for about one hour for every teaspoon consumed. Average Americans eat more than 20 teaspoons daily. Fruit juices, including orange juice, are loaded with sugar. If you limit bottled juices, you’ll strengthen your immune health. Try drinking vegetable juices, hot broths and herbal teas instead.
When you eat organic whole milk unsweetened yogurt, you boost your immune health in many ways. Over 70% of the immune system is believed to reside in the digestive tract. Restoring digestion with beneficial bacteria can provide a strong barrier that prevents entry of harmful microorganisms, and boosts the immune response to a germs and unwanted microbial overgrowth. A daily probiotic like New Chapter’s All Flora boosts your immune defenses, too.
We know we should wash our hands with soap often, but we should stay away from chemical antimicrobial soaps and gels as they contribute to the creation of super-bugs, infections and flu-type illnesses that have become resistant to medication. And they don’t make our hands any cleaner than soap and water! Check out the great natural herbal soaps in the Wellness department of your local co-op or health food store.
When you’re stressed, you’re more likely to get sick, so keep excess stress at bay whenever you can. Get enough sleep, and a little extra when you feel on the edge. Have you tried Holy Basil (Tulsi) yet? Research shows it is helpful for stress, digestion and the immune system.
Essential oils of eucalyptus, thyme, lemon, tea tree or lavender have a powerful influence on our immune system. Put two or three drops of any one of these oils on your scarf or hankie when you’re headed outdoors on a cold day. Try a couple drops on a tissue or in a diffuser placed on your child’s nightstand when s/he is stuffed up. You will all be breathing free in no time! (Please note that most essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin. Always mix into a carrier oil like almond or jojoba. Only lavender, tea tree and clove should be applied directly.)
Olbas Oil is an old Swiss remedy that works from head to toe! Olbas helps clear the nasal passages and sooth your tired feet, sore neck or back. My favorite use for Olbas Oil is to rub it on my upper back when I have a cough or tightness in my chest toward the end of a cold. Other Olbas products include lozenges, an herbal inhaler that really opens my sinuses, a soothing bath potion, and a cough syrup I find delicious and effective.
Garlic is a powerful immune enhancer, as long as you crush it with the side of your knife to release the oily benefits! Raw or cooked, garlic helps boost your ability to fight off what ails you.
Elderberry syrup and tincture are my favorite herbal immune remedies. Traditionally used by children and adults to help prevent colds and the flu, it was taken in small amounts in the morning and evening. Like echinacea, elderberry can be used more frequently at the onset of symptoms, and when you find yourself sick in bed, research shows it can help shorten your down time.
Herbal throat sprays are wonderful for a raw throat or raspy voice. Sprays can also be helpful for stuffy sinuses, laryngitis, a cough, and when lungs feel cold or painful. Have you tried Herb Pharm’s Soothing Throat Spray? It helped my daughter end years of recurring strep throat, and relieved my annual bouts of bronchitis.
Raw honey, especially locally produced, is a valuable medicinal food. A small amount, say 1/4 tsp, was traditionally considered a healing dosage, yet more is not necessarily better, just sweeter. A 1/2 tsp of raw honey offers essentially the same medicinal benefit but with twice as much sugar. So just a little bit frequently throughout the day could be beneficial.
Homemade cough syrup can be made by grating 1 TBSP organic ginger, and squeezing the juice into a small bowl, adding 2 TBSP organic lemon juice, and a tsp or two of raw honey. Take small amounts as desired or mix into hot, but not boiling, water and sip throughout the day.
Fire Cider each morning was my Dad’s choice for immune support. Shire City Herbals is a local company offering a delicious, spicy fire cider. If you like to use spicy immune boosters, try this one. It’s powerfully refreshing!
Virtually all herbal teas help support the immune system in the winter months. Try Throat Coat, Herbatussin, Breathe Deep, Cold Care PM, and many more!
Ginger tea can warm us up when we’re chilled, or help cool the excess fire when we feel overheated. Want to make a great ginger tea? Instead of boiling slices or using a tea bag, try this method; grate organic ginger, and squeeze the juice out into a mug. Add hot, but not boiling, water and natural sweetener, if desired.
Sage tea is a great immune booster, too. Remember, if you want to receive the medicinal benefits of all your herbal teas, get a cover on your cup as soon as you pour the hot water. Otherwise, much of the nutritional value and other health benefits are released into the air with the steam. Your room will smell nice, but you will have missed up to 90% of the medicinal benefits you hoped to receive from your tea!
Now you can choose some of your favorite herbal tools to keep your family healthy all winter long!