The Best Herbs and Spices for Colds and Flus – Plus How Your Kitchen Sink May Help You Stay Healthy

The Best Herbs and Spices for Colds and Flus - Plus How Your Kitchen Sink May Help You Stay Healthy

This is the final post in our “Cold and Flu” series.  One could go on almost indefinitely with healing options, as our bodies are very complex and a great many things influence our immune response, but I think this series represents some of the best “tools” available for boosting your immune system.

This post discusses how herbs, spices, traditional remedies and your kitchen sink can help boost your immune system and protect you from colds and flus.

Herbal Antibiotics for Colds and Flus

You are probably aware (hopefully) that most colds and flus are not caused by bacteria, they are caused by viruses.  Therefor, standard antibiotics are useless as a remedy for colds and flus.  There are now anti-viral medications, but they are most effective if administered early on, and may have some side effects.  Plus, who really wants to schlep into the ER when you feel lousy and your immune system is already compromised?  Secondary infections are often more dangerous than the original virus.

It turns out that many common herbs are not only antibacterial but also antiviral, and have minimal to no side effects.  In the book Herbal Antibiotics, Stephen Harrod Buhner presents his top choices for cold and flu fighting herbs, including echinacea, wormwood root, balsam root, boneset, red root, licorice, sage, garlic and honey.  (While not technically an herb, honey is often used in herbal medicine and so is included in the book.)  Complete dosing instructions and contraindications are given in the text.  I highly recommend the book, as it gives not only practical information on herbal use, but an overview of the history of antibiotics and how antibiotic resistance spreads.  Technically, he includes both herbs and spices in his arsenal, as various plant parts are used.

An example of the easy to use recipes that Stephen provides is The Best Cold and Flu Tea, which contains:

2 teaspoons sage
juice of one lemon (or one teaspoon lemon balm herb)
Pinch cayanne pepper
1 tablespoon (15 ml) honey

To prepare the tea, pour one cup boiling water over sage and allow to steep for 10 minutes.  Strain out herbs, ad remaining ingredients, and drink hot.

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Mountain Rose Herbs has an excellent stock of organic herbs and spices.
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Best Herbs and Spices for Colds and Flus

One of my favorite remedies for cold and flu season is a big batch of chicken soup. Chicken contains an amino acid called cysteine, which can thin the mucus in your lungs and make it easier to expel.  Proper soup often includes an assortment of herbs and spices, many of which have healing properties.  The Weston A Price Foundation website states:

Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons–stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.

I always include bay leaf in my soups, which is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.  Parsley is loaded with vitamins and minerals, and can act as a stomach soother.  Sage is another herb that is popular with poultry, and is also anti-bacterial and anti-viral.  Fresh sage is best when available because many of the beneficial compounds are concentrated in the oil.  Celery, too, has a long history of medicinal use.

Other spices that are commonly used in holiday cooking that help boost your immune system are cinnamon, nutmeg, rosemary and cloves.

Rule of thumb:  strongly scented and flavored herbs and spices come with strong oils that can add flavor, improve your health and often extend the life of your food

Put some extra cinnamon or nutmeg in your eggnog.   Be generous with the spices in your pumpkin pie or scones.  Throw some extra sage in the stuffing.  Make a rosemary vinaigrette for your salads.  Experiment with the flavors.  Regular use over time will help boost your immune system.

copper faucets

Copper faucets are antibacterial

How Can Your Sink Fight Germs?

While frequent hand washing is an obvious answer (please skip the anti-microbial soaps – plain soap and water acts as a surfactant to lift germs away without breeding superbugs), your sink may help keep you healthy in another way – if you use copper faucets.  A recent study in Europe demonstrates:

Under normal daily conditions the level of multi-resistant Staphylococci Aureus (MRSA) bacteria decreased by a third, and their resettlement on copper door handles and switches decreased considerably.

In our home, we have copper handles on all the cabinets, and copper faucet in the kitchen and brass door handles (brass is typically 63% copper and 37% zinc).  Not as much copper as in the study, but we’re not coping with MRSA.  If you don’t have a big budget, you may want to consider just swapping out drawer pulls in your most germy/heavily used areas, like near the kitchen or bathroom sinks.

copper drawer handle

Copper drawer handle

If you’ve found this post useful, please share it with your friends.

You may also enjoy the other posts in the series:

Preparing for Cold and Flu Season:  Step 1 – Probiotics
Coping with Stomach Flu Symptoms (Why the BRAT diet may not be your best choice)
Preparing for Cold and Flu Season with Essential Oils
The Best Vitamins and Minerals for Fighting Colds and Flus

and the related post:

Elderberries:  How to Make Syrups and Jellies

This post has been linked to Fat Tuesday and Homestead Barn Hop #38.


How to Make a Salve with Infused Oils

How to Make a Salve with Infused Oils - Plantain Salve

In summer 2009 I posted about my first experiments with common plantain in Grandma Called it “Medicine Leaf” and Real Healing Potions.  Plantain is a common lawn and garden weed.  It has many medicinal properties, which are listed in the previous post, along with instructions for making an oil infusion.  The leaves themselves can be applied directly to the skin, but for ease of use and long term storage, I infuse them in olive oil.

bcartIf you don’t have fresh herbs available, you may infuse a high quality dry herb like those from Mountain Rose Herbs or other medicinal herb suppliers.  Fresh is best, but sometimes you need to get creative.  If you choose to purchase through my site, I received a small affiliate payment at no extra cost to you.  Thank you! [Read more…]

Queen Anne’s Lace – Weekly Weeder #6

Queen Anne's Lace - Daucus Carota - Weekly Weeder #6

Today’s featured weed is Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus Carota

Queen Anne’s lace is also known as Wild Carrot, Bird’s Nest Weed, Bee’s Nest, Devils Plague, garden carrot, Bird’s Nest Root, Lace Flower, Rantipole, Herbe a dinde and Yarkuki.

The World Carrot Museum states that the name “‘Herbe a dinde’ derives from its use as a feed for young turkeys – dinde.”  (Personally, I’d never heard of that name before.  Maybe it’s a UK thing?)   The Woodrow Wilson Foundation Leadership Programs for Teachers cites the origin of the name as follows:  “Queen Anne’s Lace is said to have been named after Queen Anne of England, an expert lace maker.  When she pricked her finger with a needle, a single drop of blood fell into the lace, thus the dark purple floret in the center of the flower.”
[Read more…]

Protect Yourself from Salmonella and E Coli Naturally

Prevent Food Poisoning - Protect Yourself from Salmonella and E Coli Naturally @ Common Sense Homesteading

Are you wondering when the next massive round of food-borne illness will occur?

It seems like every time you turn on the news there’s another food recall.  If you check the FDA food recall list, there are literally dozens of products listed at any given time.  Big gatherings where food sits out for hours – for instance, Superbowl Parties – often end up with people ill from some degree of food poisoning.  There are ways you can help protect yourself from salmonella and e coli naturally. [Read more…]

Chicory – Weekly Weeder #5

Chicory, Chicorium intybus - Weekly Weeder #5

Today’s featured weed is chicory, Chicorium intybus.

Chicory is also known as Blue Sailor, Ragged Sailor, Coffeeweed, Cornflower, Succory, Wild Succory, Garden Endive, Wild Chicory, and Blue Dandelion. [Read more…]