I knew it the first time I heard it…. the telltale customer’s persistent cough and dreary expression…the season had begun….
As with every cold & flu season, as soon as I hear the first few people coming down with symptoms, it’s only a matter of time before it spreads quickly. For me, I almost always get sick when the season hits, but how long it lasts, and how bad it is, is all up to me. If I take the precautions as soon as I know it’s coming; I can always lessen my sentence and make the process easier. Or if you’re someone like Steve, who rarely gets sick, the extra defense is just a plus 😉
The key to this is to know your vitamins, and your herbs…
Step 1: Break out the Echinacea!
Echinacea is a lifesaver for me when it comes to boosting my immune system, and it works for so many different types of sicknesses. If you start taking Echinacea daily when you know the season is coming; you can even avoid getting sick all together (or at least up your defense against it).
Echinacea or Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) (This is the most commonly used variety of Echinacea) is a lovely purple flower that you will often see used in people’s flowerbeds. Often times people use this lovely bloom as a colorful accent flower without even realizing what a treasure they have.
(Parts used include: Roots, leaves, and flowers)
If you’re going to use Echinacea I recommend either growing it yourself or buying the dried herb and making your own tea, tincture, or capsules (MountainRoseHerbs.com has good prices on it). While you can buy the capsules from the vitamin section at most pharmacy-containing stores; the quality is not guaranteed. You have no idea of the concentration, how old the herb is (because it is stored, manufactured, and then shipped out on a large-scale), or what methods of over-processing and preservation may have depleted the potency. Growing your own is, of course, the best option because you know where it came from, and you know it’s fresh. The next option is to get it from a good herbal supplier that is guaranteed to give you quality stock (not too old, and not grown with chemicals). Having it dried and stored up also gives you a bit of control over the dosage. Echinacea is considered a very safe herb, but of course…do your research, try a small amount the first time to check for allergies, and talk to your doctor or do your research if you’re afraid it might conflict with medication. I can say that I have been taking Echinacea since I was a child with no ill effects, however, everyone is different. I like to take my Echinacea as a tea. Place a couple teaspoons (I usually do a couple tsp, but I tend to mix mine with other herbs) of the dried herb into either a tea-ball or tea screen and place in a hot cup of water, let sit for 5-10 min, press excess water out of the herbs, add honey and drink! I would recommend taking it 3 times a day, and continue taking it even if you get sick. I like the tea because the hot water is soothing to your throat and it is a fast way to introduce the herb into your system. Making a tincture requires more time compared to the first two methods, but you don’t need to use as much, and you can add it to your regular drinks (Put a few drops into your morning orange juice, etc…). http://adelightfulhome.com/how-to-make-echinacea-tincture-its-easy/ is a good website for learning to make the tincture. The tincture itself is VERY easy to make, but it takes time because it will have to sit in a dark closet/area for 4-6 weeks.
If you’re always on the go and you don’t have time for tea, then use capsules (you can also use capsules as a filler, and drink the tea when you have time). MountainRoseHerbs.com also sells capsule makers and capsules (though I believe you can also get those at vitamin and herb shops), I found the price was good online, however. This is a simple matter of grinding down the dried herb that you have (just a bit, you’re just trying to make it more fine so it’s a better fit for the capsule). I have several different mortars and pestles in my herb cupboard (different sizes and types work better for different things). Dried Echinacea is easy to grind down, so a basic mortar and pestle is fine (I’m sure you could use a food processor, but I enjoy using the mortar and pestle). You will then use the capsule maker to fill the capsules with the ground up herbs. Viola! They are now ready to be stored and taken at your convenience!
Step 2: Find your Immune Health Herbs
There are tons of immune boosting herbs out there! I know when I make my Echinacea tea, I am often adding additional herbs into the mix depending on what my body is telling me (I wouldn’t recommend going above 4 different herbs at one time because it can distort the effects and potency). There are really too many out there to go into details, but I recommend getting some good herb books or utilizing the internet and doing some research of your own. Certain herbs may even be available for you to gather personally (As always however, if you are wild gathering NEVER take more than you need or can be spared. The rule of thirds – 1/3rd for you, 1/3rd for the animals, leaving 1/3rd for plant itself to reproduce. If there is not enough for you, then don’t take it.) I will give you a list of some of the other herbs that I use for immune system health (click the names for more information!).
Note: Also if you partake in wild gathering, be sure you know where you are getting the herbs from. Dandelions are chalk full of nutrients, but if you fertilize, weed + feed, or spray your yard then I wouldn’t recommend using the plants in your yard. You want fresh and all natural 😉 OK! On the the herbs! –>
Stinging Nettle – This is a great one!
Garlic – Delicious!
Goldenseal – This works AWESOME when you couple it with Echinacea! The dynamic duo of cold control! I will note however, that Goldenseal is VERY bitter; so while it’s great as a tea, it tastes terrible!! Many prefer to make capsules or tinctures with this one.
Cleavers (Galium aparine)
And some extra links to get you started!
This should give you a good start! In addition to this it always helps to drink plenty of water and gets lots of vitamin C. These herbs are a great and natural way to care for your body without the use of antibiotics like NyQuil that only MASK the problem. If you already have the flu there are thousands of herbs at your disposal to help with symptoms as well. Boneset and Willow Bark are great for relieving aches and pains associated with flu. Osha root is great for breathing and respiratory issues. Yarrow is excellent for fevers. These are just a few examples and you will be amazed at just how well these natural remedies work!! The use of natural herbs to help and heal the body is ancient in practice, and the clinical/prescription medications of today have roots in, and derive ingredients from these very same herbs.
Step 3: Be consistent
Many herbs have a gentle action on the body that can take some time to be metabolized to their full effect. For this reason, many people give up on herbs when they don’t get instant results. For herbs and natural dietary supplements to have a real effect you should be consistent in taking/drinking them. Make sure you create a schedule for yourself and follow it daily where applicable. Also, be sure to do research based on the particular herbs you choose to use. While I can generally take Echinacea daily with no issues; it is not recommended to take Goldenseal regularly for more than 2 weeks. Mix it up, and work out a schedule that works for you and the herbs that you’re using. Research is key, some people assume that herbs are all safe and mild, this is NOT true. Many herbs can have potent results. For example: Poke Root has a lot of valuable health benefits, including helping rheumatism, skin diseases, and as an alternative cancer treatment (as well as many, many others), however, it is meant to be used as a lotion, tincture, or infusion. If you were to make too much of this say, as a tea, you would find yourself vomiting consistently for the rest of day on the floor. Not pleasant right? What I’m trying to say is that I did extensive research before using my herbs. I can give you recommendations but I am not a doctor or master herbalist, make sure you know what you’re doing before you do it. Now that I’ve gotten the warnings out of the way; I hope you take the time to explore more into this world of natural healing. Despite all the warnings I just gave; I use herbs regularly and I love the way they make me feel and lack of side-effects. Everything in balance, and knowledge is key 🙂
“The art of healing comes from nature and not from the physician. Therefore, the physician must start from nature with an open mind.” -Paracelsus
Slàinte mhor a h-uile là a chi ‘s nach fhaic (Great health to you every day that I see you and every day that I don’t) 😉
– Ashley S.