by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac
Several herbs are effective for treating not only the symptoms of too much winter, but the causes of colds and flu Impaired immunity to virus/bacteria, maintaining blood circulation and warmth, ensuring vitality of the lungs and reducing the build up of congestion in the body.
Star Anise is an herb. The seed and oil are used as tea. Star anise is used to soothe the respiratory tract, lung inflammation, cough, bronchitis, the flu (influenza), swine flu, and bird flu. They are also use for digestive tract problems including upset stomach, gas, loss of appetite, and colic in babies. Women can use star anise for increasing the flow of breast milk, promoting menstruation, and easing childbirth. Star anise is also used for increasing sexual drive (libido) and treating symptoms of “male menopause.” Some people inhale star anise to treat respiratory tract congestion or use as a soothing incense.
Ginger: Ginger is used for the prevention and treatment of various forms of nausea. These include motion sickness, the nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (morning sickness), and post-surgical nausea. Note: If you are pregnant or undergoing surgery, do not self-treat with ginger except under physician supervision. Weak evidence suggests ginger might be helpful for osteoarthritis. Ginger has been suggested as a treatment for numerous other conditions, including atherosclerosis, migraine headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol, burns, ulcers, depression, impotence, and liver toxicity. Stops cough and stops vomiting. In traditional Chinese medicine, hot ginger tea taken at the first sign of a cold is believed to offer the possibility of averting the infection.
Elderflower : Elder flowers are highly effective in managing upper respiratory congestion and infections. Picked from the elder tree in mid to late summer, they seem to capture the dry warmth of this time of year, perfect for drying up that runny or blocked nose. These tiny pale white flowers have a delicate floral taste and contain flavonoids and small amounts of mucilage and tannins, a perfect combination for soothing healing and protecting mucous membranes. An old tradition was to make fresh Elderflower wine in summer ready to drink in winter.
Yarrow: Yarrow’s principle action is on the circulation. As the cold of winter slows down and redirects blood circulation, Yarrow dilates blood vessels allowing increased blood flow, oxygen and warmth to surface tissues (like the skin and mucous membranes). This enables the immune cells to function at their peak, warding off infection and keeping channels clear and open. The whole flowering tops are used in a tea or other forms in mild fevers or minor congestion where circulation is a concern.
Sage: Sage is a most powerful and effective herb for treating sore throats. The different essential oils in sage exert an antiseptic effect in the respiratory tract and helps to keep both the throat and lungs free of infection. The additional effect of stimulating digestion aids to minimize congestion in other parts of the body, making fresh sage a valuable ingredient to winter recipes.
Rose hips : Rose hips form in Autumn following the rose flowers of summer. They are the fruit around the rose seed, full of nutrients to protect the seed during winter until the arrival of spring Let them do the same for you. As a rich source of Vitamin C and flavonoids Rosehips aid with nourishing you for defense against colds and flu.
Echinacea : First used by the Indigenous North Americans who harvested the plants for extensive use in the treatment of infectious wounds and burns or eruptive skin complaints. It enhances the phagocytic activity of white blood cells- identifying and retiring bacterial, viral and fungal infections, in addition to the clearance of these from the lymphatic system. Higher doses are often used for affecting acute immune responses.
Mullein : The leaves of Mullein are used as a soothing expectorant, facilitating easier removal of lung congestion. This action is ideal during or after colds where the persistence of dampness or mucus impairs adequate lung function and clearance. Mullein soothes and strengthens the mucosal membranes of the respiratory system where these have been painful, irritated or sore from infection.
Astragalus : To be used after colds or infection to rebuild immunity, Astragalus is a sweet tasting herb effective in restoring both resilience to future respiratory infections, and efficiency of metabolism to ensure optimal nutrition for immune reserves to fight off those winter chills. This herb is the best for restoring energy to the body very quickly.
Thyme: The pungent oils found in Thyme are an effective anti-microbial in the treatment of respiratory infections. When taking Thyme, people often note tasting it on their breath as the oils permeate through the respiratory system to reduce the proliferation of viruses during infections. It also warms the digestion and reduces metabolic congestion, aiding to clear the body of conditions for infection.
Garlic : Garlic was worshiped by the ancient Egyptians, chewed by Greek Olympian athletes and thought to be essential for keeping vampires at bay! But it is also good for zapping bacteria, keeping your heart healthy, warding off coughs and colds. Garlic is an antibiotic that can actually kill infecting bacteria and at the same time protect the body from the poisons that are causing the infection. It is known that the most sensitive bacterium to garlic is the deadly Bacillus anthracis, which produces the poison anthrax. Even the forefather of antibiotic medicine Louis Pasteur acknowledged garlic to be as effective as penicillin and late studies showed similar activity to a more modern antibiotic, chloramphenicol. Even the blood of garlic eaters can kill bacteria and it is also reported that the vapor from freshly cut garlic can kill bacteria even at a distance!
Fenugreek: Soothes sore throat pain and coughs. From ancient times through the late 19th century, fenugreek played a major role in herbal healing. Then it fell by the wayside. Now things are once again looking up for the herb whose taste is an odd combination of bitter celery and maple syrup. Modern scientific research has found that fenugreek can help reduce cholesterol levels, control diabetes and minimize the symptoms of menopause. The ancient Greeks fed this herb to horses and cattle. The Romans then started using it, too, calling it “Greek hay.” (In Latin, “Greek hay” is foenum-graecum, and that evolved into “fenugreek.”) As fenugreek spread around the ancient Mediterranean, physicians learned that its seeds, like many seeds, contain a gummy substance called mucilage. Mixed with water, mucilage expands and becomes a gelatinous soother for irritated tissues.
Marshmallow : Marshmallow stimulates the immune system and the production of white blood cells. It also soothes inflammation, slows production of mucus, and reduces sugar levels in the body. Marshmallow leaf and root are used for pain,swelling and inflammation of the mucous membranes that line the respiratory tract. They are also used for dry cough, inflammation of the lining of the stomach, treating diarrhea, stomach ulcers, constipation, urinary tract inflammation, and stones in the urinary tract. Marshmallow leaf and root can be applied directly to the skin for skin infection, abscesses and skin ulcers and can also be applied as a poultice for skin inflammation, burns and other wounds, including insect bites. Marshmallow root is applied to the skin as an ingredient in ointments for chapped skin, as well as, for pain and swelling of the feet and hands due to exposure to the cold.