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.
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.
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.
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: