3 Preventive Herbs for Cold and Flu Season
The smell of fall is in the air, with leaves dropping, rain falling and temperatures cooling. The holidays are coming, people are shopping, feeling stressed and spending more time indoors—a perfect breeding ground for cold and flu viruses. This year, just say no to cold and flu season with support from local herbs.
When plants wilt, get yellowed leaves during the growing season or fall prey to a fungus or pest, their heath may be compromised, and adding compost tea or worm compost often remedies the problem. The compost supplies nourishment in the form of vitamins and minerals, and imparts antifungal and antibacterial properties. This nourishing boost activates the plant’s immune system, allowing it to perk up and fight off the disease or pest.
Herbs are like a compost tea for the human immune system. Viruses are on the lookout for weaknesses in our defenses, so our goal is to prevent them by nourishing the immune system with herbs. Of course, getting enough rest and relaxation, eating fresh vegetables and drinking fluids are also important. Cold and flu season may be a thing of the past (or greatly reduced) with these three herbs on duty.
Garlic (Allium sativum) is not only delicious, but a powerhouse immune stimulant. It activates cells to patrol for cold and flu viruses and destroy them. Eating garlic uncooked preserves the nutrients that provide the most benefit, and pesto is a delicious way to eat raw garlic. Give it a nutrient boost by adding greens such as stinging nettles, lamb’s quarters or kale. Pesto can be used on pizza and added to sandwiches, pasta or grains.
Make a garlic dip to eat with whole grain bread by pressing one or two cloves into extra virgin olive oil, adding a pinch of chopped thyme and rosemary and a little salt and pepper. Garlic breath may even add an extra layer of protection by keeping people and their germs at a distance.
Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia, E. pallida and E. purpurea) is a beautiful perennial flower that is much loved by gardeners and pollinators. The root is harvested in fall to make an alcohol-based tincture that can be taken upon first exposure to a virus, or at the initial signs of illness, to enhance general immunity and boost the immune system. Much like garlic, echinacea stimulates immune cells to find and destroy viruses.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) syrup is a tasty herbal remedy commonly used to treat flu viruses. When taken upon exposure, or at the first signs of symptoms, it can decrease their severity and illness duration without side effects. Make a syrup this fall from elderberries, ginger and thyme-infused honey and keep it on hand for flu season.
Raw, local honey, while not an herb, is an amazing menstruum (solvent) for immune-boosting herbs. The healing qualities and flavors of the herbs are infused into the honey, which can be taken alone or added to teas, syrups, lozenges or other herbal preparations. Honey itself possesses antiviral, expectorant and immune-stimulating properties, along with a host of other benefits. The combination of honey, often produced from the nectar of medicinal plants, and herbs, is like a one-two punch to many common winter viruses.
Michelle Hickey is the co-founder of the nonprofit organization The Resiliency Institute, located at 10S404 Knoch Knolls Rd., in Naperville. For more information, visit TheResiliencyInstitute.net.
The Resiliency Institute will be hosting the Let’s Make Herbal Immune Boosters class from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., November 5. Participants will learn which herbs to use and how to prepare them to support a healthy immune system. They will also make an herbal infusion and herb-infused honey in class to take home, and sample some prepared remedies.
Those interested in learning more about the power of bioregional herbs to nourish and heal and in creating a personal herbal apothecary may register to take The Resiliency Institute Bioregional Herbalism series, beginning in March 2018 one Saturday a month for nine months.
Let’s Make Herbal Immune Boosters, Tinyurl.com/HerbalImmuneBoosters.
2018 Bioregional Herbalism Series, Tinyurl.com/BioregionalHerbalismSeries.