Treat your Flu and Cold with Healing Herbs
The summer is now waning and many people are dreading the fall and winter because of the usual flu and colds that accompany the turning leaves and drifting snow. Luckily these illnesses can be controlled and even avoided using herbs.
* Garlic: Is very effective in improving the function of the immune system and should be taken proactively to avoid catching the flu or colds.
* Yarrow: This lovely yellow flower is great to treat the fever associated with the flu and can be used in conjunction with Elder to fight this debilitating symptom.
* Elder: Most people have heard of elderberries in wine and never realized that the compound that gives these berries their deep color also can shorten the duration of the flu. The flowers are also useful to treat sinus congestion and fever. There are several sinus congestion teas on the market that have dried elder flowers as the main component.
* Marshmallow: This plant root has been used for centuries to treat sore throat and coughs due to many different viruses. It is very effective in relieving the irritated throat passages and ease lung congestion due to mucus buildup.
* Thyme: although most people use this herb with great effect in culinary creations it also is an extremely powerful antimicrobial which can treat respiratory infections successfully. Do not ingest the essential oil of this plant but instead infuse either dried or fresh leaves in boiling water and drink like a tea.
* Sage: This herb is actually an ingredient in many commercial preparations designed to sooth sore throats. Similar to thyme, sage has antimicrobial properties and can be used to gargle with help relieve sore throat symptoms.
These are the most commonly used effective herbs for the various symptoms relating to the flu and common cold but care must be taken just as one would with synthetic drugs. Dosage and preparation should be carefully adhered to and you should always follow the producers’ instructions or carefully study the best amount. People on blood thinners or heading towards surgery should avoid taking garlic and yarrow supplements. Elder berries need to always be cooked and elder flower must not be used for long periods of time. Avoid yarrow if you have allergies to Echinacea and stop taking it if sensitivity to sunlight develops. If you are on other medications marshmallow may reduce their effectiveness and do not take this supplement if you are diabetic. If you are pregnant or breast feeding any herbal supplementation should only be done with the supervision of a professional.
There are many ways of improving your health the natural way, and a lot of very helpful books have been written on the subject, such as The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual. Spices have always been a part of Grandma’s Old-Time Remedies, so this article might repeat remedies you have already heard of, but I am sure it will also offer some new insight even if you are a well versed home remedy user already
Spices do more than make food taste great. Recent research is showing that spices can promote health and well being through a series of actions that are anti-aging and inhibiting of degenerative disease. The vegetarian diet so often associated with good health and lack of disease relies heavily on the use of spice. But you don’t have to be a vegetarian to gain the amazing health benefits these inexpensive flavor enhancers have to offer.
The addition of spices can turn up the taste of almost any food. Add some chili pepper, cumin or turmeric to mashed potatoes or rice. Sprinkle marjoram or rosemary on your salads, and dress up cottage cheese with whatever spicy flavor appeals to you. Add spice to vegetable dishes and sprinkle it on meats, poultry or fish before cooking. Spice up your veggie juices and smoothies. Any way you do it, adding spice means adding a wealth of health benefits.
Recent research continues to show the power of these natural medicines
Spices have more antioxidant power, measure for measure, than fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants help prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and premature aging. In a study reported in the British Journal of Nutrition, fifteen aromatic herbs and spices consumed in Central Italy as part of the Mediterranean diet were studied to reveal total phenolic, flavonoid and flavanol content as well as their antioxidant potential as measured by oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC). Comparison was made between salads to which aromatic herbs had been added. The addition of lemon balm and marjoram increased by 150% and 200% respectively the antioxidant capacity of a salad portion, corresponding to an intake of 200 mg. of phenolics and 4000 ORAC units. Among other spices tested, cumin and fresh ginger made the most significant contribution to antioxidant capacity.
Plants for Medicine
Plants have been used throughout the ages for healing purposes. As far back as 4500 BC, people traveled great distances to Ethiopia, the main trading area for herbs and spices. These prized plant products were used for preserving food, cooking and medicine. Ancient Egyptian papyrus scrolls list the cooking and healing properties of coriander, fennel, cumin, ginger and thyme. The Egyptians also placed garlic cloves and mint leaves in tombs to be used in the afterlife.
Ancient Romans and Greeks also relied on herbs for medicinal uses. Hippocrates developed a list of 300 herbal-based remedies for conditions ranging from digestive problems to asthma and uterine cancer. Rosemary was recommended to improve memory.
Plant-based medicine is an important component of other cultures as well. The Chinese developed an extensive use of herbs and spices in prepared foods for wellness and healing. The traditional medicine of India, Ayurveda, also makes use of herbs and spices to prevent disease and promote health.
Herbal therapies continue to be a popular form of alternative medicine in the U.S. A survey by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine found nearly 20 percent of Americans use natural products to promote health or treat ailments.
The Kitchen Medicine Cabinet
The herbs and spices used by ancient healers are still grown today. And many of them can be found in your kitchen cabinet. Scientists have been testing many of these herbs and spices to determine the real medicinal value of the products. Some herbs and spices have a very strong effect on the body, while for others, the research is not very strong or has produced mixed results. Here is a list of some common herbs and spices and their potential uses:
- Basil – potential cancer-fighting properties.
- Cardamom – inhibits blood clots, reduces gas and aids in digestion.
- Cloves – eases the pain of toothaches.
- Garlic – lowers cholesterol, decreases blood pressure.
- Ginger – eases digestive problems, nausea and vomiting. Also potential for treating pain, colds, fever, arthritis and joint and muscle pain.
- Rosemary – may have potential to fight some cancers.
- Sage – improves cognitive function.
- Salt – combined with water to ease sinus congestion and cold symptoms.
- Thyme – fights fungal infections.
In addition to the herbs and spices, two other kitchen ingredients may have potential medicinal uses.
* Honey may soothe a sore throat and cough, treat diarrhea or constipation and ease insomnia. There is some evidence to show it may also reduce nausea, lower cholesterol and, when applied to the skin, improve wound healing.
* Peppermint oil may be used to treat stomach upset, irritable bowel, headache, respiratory congestion and muscle pain.
Nancy Welliver, N.D., a Naturopathic Physician with Bastyr University, has been using kitchen-based medicine for many years. She says many families have all the herbs and spices they need to treat some of the most common mild medical complaints, like colds and flu, respiratory problems and stomach upset. Two of her favorite herbal recipes are ginger syrup and berry honey. To make the ginger syrup, peel and slice the ginger. Place the ingredients in alternating layer (i.e., ginger, sugar, ginger, etc.) in a container and let stand. After 12 to 18 hours, pour the mixture through a strainer to remove the ginger. Store the remaining syrup in a bottle and use a teaspoonful for stomach upset, nausea or vomiting. The ingredients can also be used to make home-made ginger ale by adding equal parts of mineral water to the syrup.
The berry honey is made from dried blueberries or bilberries that are ground in a coffee grinder. Add a half of cup of honey and mix well. This mixture is a good tonic for diarrhea and can be used straight from the container or spread over crackers or toast.
Welliver also makes an herbal chai tea that she says promotes calming for the mind and energy for the body. The tea is made from boiling water, whole cloves, black peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, ginger root, and black tea and sweetened with honey or maple syrup. The recipe follows (makes two quarts of tea):
- Boil two quarts of water in a 3-4 quart pot.
- Add 15 whole cloves. Boil for one more minute.
- Add 20 black peppercorns, 3 cinnamon sticks, 20 crushed or split cardamom pods, and 8 or more slices of fresh ginger.
- Cover and boil gently for at least 30 minutes. (Best results obtained by boiling over low heat for 2 to 3 hours.)
- At the end of the boiling time, turn off the burner and add 1 bag of black tea.
- After the tea has steeped, pour the mixture through a strainer into clean containers. It can be used immediately, stored in the refrigerator or frozen.
- Prior to serving, sweeten to taste with honey or maple syrup. Add soy or dairy milk.
sage, tea leaves
- To help grayness fade away again, mix 2 heaping tbsp each of dried sage and tea (either black or orange pekoe) in a heavy ceramic mixing bowl. Fill half full of boiling water, cover, then put in the oven for a couple of hours at 275F. You can also place the bowl in a large pan of boiling water on the stove top for several hours. Remove, stir well, strain. Rub a small quantity of the infusion into the roots of the hair 4-5 times a week until the gray begins to fade, then for maintenance only once or twice a week.
- 7 oz (about 3/4 cup) Fettucini
- 6 tbsp chopped shallot bulbs, raw
- 8 slices of dried tomato
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter, melted
- 4 tbsp white wine
- 10 olives
- basil, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and parsley to taste
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Boil pasta al dente. Drain, add 1 tbsp butter and Parmesan cheese, mix well.
Sautee shallots in the other tbsp butter and the oil, add dried tomato slices, olives and white wine. Reduce heat slightly, then add herbs to taste. Toss with pasta.
sage, pineapple, rosemary
The following solutions help against eczema, psoriasis, jock itch, diaper or poison ivy rashes, and similar skin conditions.
Any kind of intense itching can be relieved and cured by bathing the affected area in a solution of sage. Steep a handful of freshly cut and slightly crushed sage leaves in 1 pint of water for an hour, then strain. Bath the affected parts. While still wet, sprinkle whole wheat flour (not white) over the entire area. Relief is said to come within 10 minutes.
You can also bath the affected areas in a solution of pineapple rind and rosemary. Simmer for 35 minutes the cut rind of one pineapple and 1 tbsp dried rosemary in a quart of boiling water, uncovered. Wash the affected skin frequently with this solution.