Oct 19, 2012

Herbs that can help cold and flu

      Mention colds and flu to most herbalists and they will recommend echinacea. The purple cone flower,  Echinacea purpurea, and its narrow leaved relative, E. angustifolia, have been shown to increase T-cell activity and related immune system activity. When taken in the early stages of illness, echinacea wards off viral infection and is most effective when taken frequently, in large doses, for brief periods. Echinacea is often combined with goldenseal or Oregon grape root, both of which contain berberine, a strong antibiotic substance. Goldenseal enhances immune function by stimulating circulation to the spleen, toning the lymph system.

      Echinacea and goldenseal work well with licorice root, an herb that supports the immune system through its effect on the adrenal system. Tinctures containing these combinations are widely sold, or make your own for even better results. I learned to appreciate echinacea and goldenseal when a wet blizzard soaked me to the skin. My teeth chattered so loudly my husband said they sounded like castanets, my bones felt frozen and I sneezed and coughed all over everything.

     Most unpleasant! Beginning in the afternoon, I took 1/4 teaspoon of a combined echinacea and goldenseal tincture every half hour plus a gram of vitamin C every hour until I fell asleep at midnight. The next morning, not only had every trace of illness disappeared but I felt better than I had in months. This strategy works best if used on the first day of cold symptoms. Astragalus root is an increasingly popular Chinese herb used to flavor soups and rice dishes. Chinese research has shown it to increase activity of the immune system, and it's easy to add a piece to whatever you're cooking to boost winter immunity.