Herbal Help for coughs, colds and ‘flu
It has been said that there’s no cure for the common cold because the common cold is the cure. Far from being an enemy to be stamped out at all costs, the occasional cold is a healthy immune reaction to a virus. You could see it as the body asserting its need to retreat from our hectic way of life and get some well earned bed rest.
Whilst its generally frowned upon these days to take time off work unless you’re actually on your death bed, most of your colleagues probably don’t want to be around you whilst you’re coughing & sneezing. The thought of a few days in bed is very appealing to most of us, but the harsh reality of being a busy wife, mum, or career woman means that it’s not always practical. So here’s a quick guide to keeping the bugs under control with good old herbs.
Boosting Your Immunity
One or two proper colds a year are fine as long as you’re back to your old self in a month or so. Taking antibiotics is not only a waste of time, they kill virtually all your friendly gut bacteria, weakening your immune system and inhibiting your ability to absorb certain vitamins. You may have noticed that colds seem to get harder to shift every year and irresponsible use of antibiotics is largely to blame. Please do us all a favour and don’t ask for them unless you absolutely have to – there are usually plenty of suitable alternatives.
Garlic will certainly help to see off most of the common viral, bacterial and fungal infections you’re ever likely to encounter. In China garlic juice is given intravenously to patients in isolation wards as a treatment for MRSA, and there are so many constituents that it’s much more difficult for germs to become resistant. The smelly bit is called Allicin, and it’s what does the job, so de-odorised garlic simply won’t have the same effect. A clove of garlic a day is perfect for fighting colds, and if you’re worried about the smell you can cut it into small pieces and take each one as you would a tablet.
Contrary to popular belief, Echinacea is unsuitable for treating a fully fledged cold. The rule with Echinacea is to use it when you want more of the same, so only start taking it when you feel completely well, and avoid it if you have HIV/AIDS. There’s no firm evidence to confirm that it should only be taken for a few weeks at a time, but that should be enough to get your immunity firing on all cylinders again anyway.
The correct way to treat colds depends on how you’re feeling at the time, so it’s a question of listening to your body and giving it what it needs. Generally though it’s best to avoid mucous producing dairy foods until the cold is gone, especially where children are concerned.
Sore throats can be easily treated with an Echinacea root or Sage tea either used as a gargle or put into a spray bottle and used as a throat spray. Echinacea will cause nausea and vomiting if you overdo it, so probably best to spit it out after a minute or so.
If you feel cold and unable to warm up, your core body temperature is likely to be on the rise. In this situation we naturally gravitate towards warming, nourishing, spicy food and drinks. Fresh lemon and ginger tea is lovely but you could use whatever you have in the kitchen cupboard. Experiment with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger, black peppercorns or cumin to your heart’s content, wrap up warm and claim the sofa!. It’s important to keep a close eye on little ones if they look shivery or feel cold to the touch as they can’t regulate their body temperature as easily as adults. You can sponge them down with tepid (not cold) water with a few drops of peppermint oil to make them comfortable, and get medical advice if you’re worried.
If you feel hot, your fever is breaking and your temperature is going back down, so use herbs that will help support this by making you perspire. Sweating is the body’s natural way of controlling a fever and can be life saving, so it’s safer and kinder to support this reaction than suppress it with aspirin or paracetamol. Elderflower cordial is available in most supermarkets and if you drink it hot you’ll notice yourself breaking into a gentle sweat within a couple of minutes. It also has a drying effect on the mucous membranes in your nose, helping to reduce catarrh and clear your head – a real must in all kitchen cupboards!. Peppermint or Yarrow tea will also help bring down a temperature quickly and safely.
Elderberry juice or syrup is packed with immune boosting vitamin C and Sambucol which helps to deactivate the cold virus. It stops the virus from latching onto cells by interfering with the spikes it has on the outside, and making the coating less sticky. Some books recommend that you just take Sambucol on its own, but whole Elderberry is totally safe and delicious, so why not indulge yourself?
Boneset tea is excellent for controlling muscular aches and pains, and will help control temperature at the same time. Get yourself some and keep it on standby!
To make a cough syrup that actually works, you need about an hour, a clean jam jar, some onions or fresh (fat, juicy) garlic and some brown sugar.
Put a 1cm layer of sugar in the bottom of the jar and on top place a layer of peeled, sliced onion. On top of that another layer of sugar, then more onion, and repeat until you finish with a slightly thicker layer of sugar on top to form a kind of crust. Leave it at least an hour, but overnight if possible, strain it and pop it in the fridge. You can take as much as you like and your cough’s days will be well and truly numbered. Add some grated horseradish root for an extra kick!
As always, if symptoms persist, please go to www.nimh.org.uk to find your local herbalist and ask for advice.