Oct 032016

There are lots of herbs and spices that you’ll find growing in the wild, or in your kitchens, that make fast and effective remedies for coughs, colds and flu. They all, variously, have potent antibiotic, antiviral and antiseptic properties, and promote sweating (which is the body’s way of reducing temperature and fever). They’re soothing, comforting and taste good, too!

Ginger, lemon and honeylemons are placed with vitamin C

The classic herbal cold and flu remedy. It’s best to use fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale), chopped or grated (you don’t have to peel) and freshly squeezed lemon juice (Citrus limon). Make a tea with the ginger and leave to infuse for at least ten minutes before straining and adding honey and lemon juice. The stronger the better, but make to taste – the idea is to enjoy it!

liquorice, cloves and cinnamon add warmth to herbal teasCinnamon (Cinnamomum spp.), clove (Syzgium aromaticum) and cayenne (Capsicum frutescens)

Lovely warming spices that are so comforting when you are feeling cold and shivery. They stimulate circulation, warming you right down to the tips of your fingers and toes. Add to your infusion, as above.

Thyme and lemon balm

These are my favourite herbal teas to help relieve the muscular aches and pains you can get with colds and flu. I grow them in the garden, harvesting and drying in the summer. Elderflower (Sambucus nigra) helps too, and blends well with thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis).

Inhaling the vapours of aromatic herbal infusions is part of the healing and comforting process, by the way!

You can also add strong infusions (use about 25g dried herb) of thyme and rosemary to a bath to help relieve aching muscles and soothe the senses.

Sage (Salvia officinalis) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

The antiseptic and astringent properties of these garden herbs make them ideal for sore throats and infections. Use the cooled teas as a gargle. Thyme works well, too.

GarlicGarlic is a potent antimicrobial remedy

If you can bear it, garlic (Allium sativum) is one of the best herbal remedies for colds and flu. Its antimicrobial properties are unsurpassed. The best way to take it is to squeeze through a garlic press, or pound in a pestle and mortar, mix with honey (ideally local and organic), and eat it. Smelling it on your breath indicates that it has passed through your lungs, confirming its deep, penetrative action.

And finally, look after yourself…

Drink plenty of fluids such as herbal teas, and juices and smoothies made with antioxidant-packed berries. Cut out dairy products, as they are so mucous-forming. Keep warm. Rest as much as possible. And trust in the healing powers of nature and the body’s innate ability to heal itself, given the right support!

For more advice, take a look at the following blogs, which you can find by scrolling down the side panel entitled Herbal Ramblings Posts.

  •  ‘A soothing herbal remedy for coughs and sore throats’ : Make your own cough ‘n’ cold linctus using fresh elderberries and kitchen spices.
  • ‘Echinacea and the immune system’: Does it really work?
Oct 032014

echinacea_3480386_ml_72I’m often asked whether Echinacea really is a helpful herb to take to prevent or speed recovery from colds and flu. And whether it’s safe to take if you have an autoimmune disorder such a chronic fatigue syndrome or psoriasis, or an allergy, when the immune system has gone awry.

Firstly, Echinacea has a long tradition as an immune-enhancing herb. If you’re tired, rundown and stressed out, your immune system will struggle to protect you against any ‘bugs’ that are going round, such as colds and flu. By strengthening your immune system, Echinacea can reduce the risk of you going down with something and, if you do, reduce the severity of the illness.

I find Echinacea is very effective at ‘knocking a virus on the head’ if taken at the very first sign of a cold, ie when you get that familiar fuzzy head, scratchy throat, tickly cough of snuffly nose. We all know the signs.

How effective Echinacea is depends on lots of things, including how rundown your immune system was to start with, and the quality of the Echinacea you are taking. There are many different brands that can be bought on the high street and internet, and it can be a bit of a lottery finding a good one. In any case, you’re unlikely to find Echinacea anywhere near the strength used by a reputable, qualified herbalist. I have what is known as 1:1 and/or 1:2 Echinacea tinctures in my dispensary. This means one part herb to one or two parts of water/alcohol. Commercial brands of Echinacea are generally 1:4 at best, and often 1:10 or less.

The efficacy of the herb also depends on which species of Echinacea, and which part of the plant, is used.

Herbalists are legally only allowed to sell herbs to someone following a consultation. This is primarily for safety reasons, but also will influence how effective treatment is likely to be, as herbal medicine is prescribed on an individual basis. Obviously, you’re unlikely to pay for a consultation because you think you’re going down with a cold, but I am able to provide remedies, including Echinacea, for acute ailments such as coughs, colds and flu to patients already on my books.

With regard to whether or not Echinacea can be taken by someone with an autoimmune disorder, the answer is yes, it can sometimes be very helpful. Echinacea is an immunomodulator, rather than an immunostimulant, which means it helps the immune system find the right balance and ‘normalise’ its function. But it’s strongly advisable to use it in this way under the supervision of a qualified herbal practitioner.

In my experience, when good quality Echinacea is taken, in the right circumstances, it can be an amazingly effective therapeutic herb.