Today I would like to help everyone survive the winter with 5 must haves for the cold and flu season.
Probiotics are the first must have for the winter season. With the majority of our immune system in our gut, by keeping our gut healthy we are also able to keep our whole system healthy and prevent illness before it happens. There are many ways to take probiotics. My favorite is through fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso soup, yogurt, temphe and kefir to name a few. I feel that it is an evolutionary treatment to utilize food as medicine. If you are unable to incorporate these foods into your diet, then a supplement will do. There are so many different kinds of probiotics supplement that I am sure you can find one that fits your needs, as well as your wallet. I suggest switching between a few different kinds of probiotics supplements. This way you can get several different strands of probiotics into your system, making a sure your variety of gut flora is strong and healthy. Check out a previous blog post on Probiotics for more information on the topic.
2. Homemade Veggie Stock
This is my favorite thing to have on hand for the winter season. It is so easy to make and store and it’s jam packed with vitamins and nutrients to help heal the body. Click here for instructions on how to make it. Be sure to add lots of kitchen herbs like parsley, rosemary, basil and thyme to help increase the effectiveness of its healing properties. Once it is strained, you can use it to make chicken or vegetable soup or can drink it as a tea to nourish and re-hydrate.
Echinacea is amazing at helping the body fight off invaders. It helps in several ways. First it increase our body’s own defenses by increasing macrophage, neutrophil, monocyte, eosinophil and B-lymphocyte activity and initiating destruction of the pathogens. It also provides a physical enzymatic barrier by impairing the pathogen’s ability to penetrate and destroy healthy cells. It is effective against both bacteria and viral infections anywhere in the body and is safe for all ages.
Some people use echinacea preventatively for daily immune support; however, this is not an appropriate use of this herb. Continued use, decreases the effectiveness of this important herb. My suggestion would be to only use echinacea when you feel an illness coming on and to cycle use: 5 days on and two days off.
At the first sign of illness take frequent small doses. Hoffmann suggests 1 to 4 ml of tincture (1:5 in 40% etoh) 3 times a day or a decoction of 1 to 2 tsp of root in one cup of water taken several times a day. I will also note that echinacea is a sacred plant of the Native Americans and because it has been exploited in the wild, many species of echinacea are now at risk. I suggest only using the cultivated Echinacea pupurea to preserve echinacea in the wild.
4. Elder berries and flower
Elder is another herb that is a must have for the cold and flu season. The flower is an excellent diaphoretic, inducing sweating and helping to reduce fevers. The berry has amazing immune enhancing properties. It helps to increase cytokine production which strengthens the cell membrane to prevent viral penetration. In vitro it is effective against 10 strains of the influenza virus and helps to decrease the duration of flu symptoms by 3 to 4 days. It is a sacred plant to the Gypsies, claming it has abilities to help all ailments of man kind.
Both the flower and the berry can be made in to an infusion. 1 cup of boiling water over 2 tsp of herb, infused for 10 minutes and taken 3 times a day.
One great way to utilize the healing properties of both echinacea and elder berries is to make a syrup. It is great to make a large batch in the early fall and then have it throughout the winter season. I made a large batch in July and I just ran out. When I feel a cold coming on I take a tablespoon every couple of hours for several days. Usually I feel better after the first day but it is important to continue to take it for the extra day to ensure that I have kicked the bug. Click here for direction on how to make this winter must have.
Garlic is an herb that most people have in their kitchens year round and don’t even realize its healing properties. Its sulfur and volatile oils are powerful antiseptics against bacteria, viruses and parasites. The volatile oils are excreted through the lungs, which is why you get garlic breath if you eat a lot, making it especially useful for infections in this area, including bronchitis, catarrh, colds and flus. It also supports the growth of gut flora while killing off the bad bacteria. During acute infection, I suggest 1 clove 3 times a day. It is best to ingest garlic as food, but the active ingredient in garlic is destroyed with cooking. My favorite way to get a lot of garlic into my system is to add chopped garlic to soup right before it is served or to add a lot of garlic to some salsa and chew it as quickly as possible. If you can stand it go ahead and chew on a clove.
Thank you to all my readers for your continued support. I hope you find this blog helpful in keeping you healthy for the winter season.
Gladstar, R. (2001). Rosemary Gladstar's family herbal: a guide to living life with energy, health, and vitality.
: Storey Books. North Adams, Mass.
Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: the science and practice of herbal medicine.
: Healing Arts Press. Rochester, Vt.
Levy, J. d. (1997). Common herbs for natural health (Rev., expanded ed.).
: Ash Tree Pub..