Herbal Remedies for Cold and Flu Season

coldsEvery fall I teach a class at the local community college on herbal remedies for cold and flu season.  I teach from a primarily Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) point of view, that contends that we are surrounded by pathogens and the way to prevent “catching” them is to ensure a healthy immune system.  In other words, prevention is the first order of defense.  I would suggest you read my blog post at Changing of the Seasons. to get a better idea of some ways you can increase your immunity.

To get started there are several Westerns categories of herbs that are particularly useful for addressing cold and flu symptoms including:

  • Alterative-Alters or improves functioning
  • Antibacterial
  • Antiviral
  • Antibiotic
  • Antipyretic-lowers fever
  • Diaphoretic-induces sweating
  • Expectorant-expels mucus

The good news is that there are numerous herbs that are helpful for colds and flu, although in this article we are only going to cover a few,  I would encourage you to continue to read and learn.  Many herbs have several properties and in Western Herbalism they would use them according to what symptoms are being presented. Many herbs cover several categories, so it is important to know their individual actions.comparison It is helpful to know all of the properties of herbs, for example Goldenseal, which is antibacterial is also very astringent, drying up mucous, yet with colds mucous is a natural and necessary body defense, mucus should not be stopped, it is better to thin the mucus, using expectorants rather than a drying antibacterial.

Wearing a scarf can help reduce exposure to cold

Wearing a scarf can help reduce exposure to cold

Prevention:  Hand washing, hand washing, hand washing, enough said.  There are several tactics that I recommend for increasing immunity as we go into the fall season.  Although not a herb, adequate supplies of Vitamin D, which contain calcitriol are a must. Recent research indicates that calcitriol enhances innate immunity by prompting cells to produce a large numbers of antimicrobial peptides that are like broad spectrum antibiotics. Fatty fish is the only natural source of vitamin D. A 3.5 oz serving of cooked salmon, for example, has 360 IU; 3 oz. of canned tuna has 200; and 13.4 oz. of canned sardines has 250.  Most experts now believe 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day from all sources—sun, diet, supplements—may be what we need for optimum health.  Look for supplements that contain vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), which is three to four times more potent than vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol).

Mushrooms are another go-to in terms of building immunity.  In Japan and China, medicinal mushrooms, such as shiitake, maitake and reishi, have long been regarded as longevity tonics. Research indicates that all these fungi are powerful allies for strengthening the immune system.  Shitake and maitake can both be incorporated into our meal preparation, reishi needs to be taken as a supplement.  Here is a web site that has much more detailed information on using reishi medicinally.

Last but not least Astragalus, (Astragalus membranaceus) is considered an adaptogen, providing deep immune-system support.  There have been many clinical studies showing how astragalus not only boosts the immune system, but also encourages an increase in immune cell (T-cells, natural killer cells, macrophages, immunoglobulin) activity, production, and function.  Both astragalus and mushrooms contain polysaccharides, which have been found to improve immune function by increasing the activity of macrophages, which have a voracious appetite for harmful microorganisms and cancerous cells. Since astragalus is a mild tonic herb, 1 oz a day is the suggested dosage, for chronic

Taking action: We can take several steps to try to mitigate or reduce the symptoms of colds and flu by tuning into our bodies.  At the first sign of an imbalance, sneezing, runny nose, or sore throat, take immediate action.  One of the remedies that I swear by, is Fire Cider Vinegar.  In fact I just received a call a local actress, who had used my Cold and Flu Kicker (fire cider vinegar) and was desperate to get some more before her play started.

Fire Cider Vinegarfire cider

Fill a mason jar with:

  • 1 part minced garlic
  • 1 part grated horseradish (let it sit for three minutes in a bowl before adding it to the mix.)
  • 1/2 part grated ginger (no need to peel)
  • 2 parts minced onion
  • 2 rhizomes of grated turmeric (optional)
  • ¼ -1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Cover with organic apple cider vinegar and let sit for 4-6 weeks. Strain off. At this point you can add ¼ -1/2 cup of honey and take by the tablespoon full as a daily tonic or when you feel a cold coming on, although I usually just add some to water and drink straight. Warning it can be quite potent.

Scallions:  The record shows that the Chinese started use scallions in the late Han dynasty (25-220AD). This remedy is for the very early stages of wind cold.  It induces sweating by warming and unblocking the yang and can treat both abdominal pain and distention or nasal congestion when the blockage is from “cold”.

Cinnamon and Scallion Cure: Finely chop the white part of one scallion. Put it into a teacup and add two slices of raw ginger and a dash of powdered cinnamon. Fill the cup with hot water, let the herbs steep for 10 minutes, then drink. The cinnamon and ginger induce sweating, and the scallion clears the sinus.

garlicGarlic:  Cultures around the world have embraced garlic as a cure for everything from colds to cancer. Prior to the discovery of penicillin, garlic was the treatment of choice for infections, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, tuberculosis and dysentery.    It is believe that the sulfur compounds that imbue garlic with its characteristic odor and flavor that are responsible for the herb’s health benefits. Most of the research has focused on the sulfur compound allicin, which has antimicrobial properties. Allicin is created when alliin, a sulfur-containing amino acid in garlic, comes into contact with another garlic compound, the enzyme allinase. This enzymatic reaction takes place when garlic is chopped, crushed or chewed, but it is destroyed during cooking.  Eating raw garlic, or better yet, combining it with olive oil and spreading it on bread is a great way to get lots of garlic into your system.  Suggested dose is 3-5 cloves a day, at the first sign of symptoms.

Echinacea (ssp): Echinacea has been used for as a natural antibiotic in that it activates leukocytes and T-cell formation to assist your body ability to fight off infections.  Echinacea is considered an alterative, a class of herbs that alters your body ability to function.  The trick with using Echinacea is to take it every two hours, due to our livers filtering system.  Furthermore according to several leading herbalists, it becomes ineffective after 10 days.  Again it is one of those herbs that one should use immediately when one starts to experience symptoms.

Elderberries (Sambucus nigra): All parts of the elder tree are medicinal but for this elderberriesblog we are going to concentrate on the berries and flowers.  The berries are not only delicious but they are antiviral and effective for dispelling colds. In research conducted in Israel, Hasassah’s Oncology Lab, determined that elderberry stimulates the body’s immune system and they are using it therapeutically. My preferred method of preparation is making a decoction of elderberries and then preserving it with 30% alcohol.  For every cup of water I add one oz of elderberries, simmering this covered for 1 to 2 hours (crook pots work well).  Straining the mixture, I measure and add 30% alcohol which acts as a preservative.  There are

Is it a Cold or the Flu:  Although a seemingly simple question it can make a big difference in an herbal treatment protocol.  This is a simple chart that help to distinguish whether you are dealing with a cold or flu.

Cold or Flu Chart

Cold or Flu Chart

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) a cold is considered wind cold and the flu is considered wind heat.  Wind is considered one of several pernicious influences in TCM.  Why this is important is that the herbs that are used to address a cold or the flu are based on the energy or nature of the illness.  A simple way of looking at this is that stimulating or heating herbs are used to address wind cold and cooling or cold energy herbs are used to address wind heat.  Furthermore if we know the constitution of the person experiencing the illness, we can then include herbs to strengthen the person’s response.

A Wind-Cold pattern may include a slight fever with more chills than fever, aversion to wind coldcold, sudden onset and the throat is itchy and slightly sore. Herbal strategies for this type of sickness include releasing the exterior with stimulating diaphoretic herbs. Some Examples of stimulating diaphoretic herbs scallions, cinnamon, cayenne and ginger, or Fire Cider.

Cold be Gone Tea: 1 Tablespoon cinnamon cassia stick, broken up and  simmered in 1 pint of water for 20 minutes.  After I remove from heat, I add  1 Tablespoon of grated ginger and 1/8 tsp of cayenne.  I then sweeten with honey and sip throughout the day.

wind heatA Wind-Heat pattern may include a high fever with slight chills, sweating, aversion to heat, yellow secretions (through coughing, nasal discharge or even a yellow coating on the tongue) and a swollen sore throat. Herbal strategies for this type of sickness includes releasing the exterior through relaxing diaphoretics and using bitter, cooling herbs.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium):  Yarrow is one of my favorite herbs in that it grows all around my house and has enough uses that it deserves its own chapter, but in this case it can be very specific for fever.  It works as a diaphoretic by opening up the pores and letting trapped internal heat escape.   It causes sweating relieving the first signs of flu, fevers, chicken pox and measles (it helps eruptions come out faster). and is extremely effective for breaking a fever.

  • Create an infusion by covering one ounce of dried yarrow with a quart of boiling water. After 4 hours, strain the infusion. For small children, add the infusion to a tepid bath (ask your doctor first.) For older children and adults, the infusion may be sipped as tea.
  • Alternatively, yarrow tea may be made by steeping 1-2 teaspoons of the dried herb in one cup boiling water. Drink three times daily. In capsule form, 2-4 grams may be taken three times daily.

Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum): is in the aster family. Boneset is a fabulous herb for fevers, colds and flu. It does not taste good, but it does the job, although it needs to be taken when warm to be effective. It was considered a miracle herb in the 1918 epidemic influenza. It should only be used for a short time, for acute conditions. Infusion of 1 T in cup of water, or 10-40 drops of tincture.

Fever Reducing Teatea

2 parts catnip

2 parts yarrow

1 part peppermint

1 part echinacea root

In parting, a Traditional Chinese Patent formula that I always include when talking about Wind Heat is Yin Chiao. Yin Chiao is known to remove excess heat in the blood which, in yin chaotraditional Chinese medicine could become a health hazard for many body systems. It also helps remove harmful toxins in the body through expelling heat.

The most interesting thing about this formula is the comparison between it and the best-selling cold and flu medicine “Airborne”.  Planetary Herbs Yin Chiao contains Forsythia Fruit, Japanese Honeysuckle Flower, Platycodon Root, Chinese Mint Aerial Parts, airboneLophatherum Leaf, Chinese Licorice Root and Rhizome, Schizonepeta Whole Plant Parts, Prepared Soy Bean, Burdock Fruit and Phragmites Rhizome. Notice the small print on the label of “Airborne”, many of the herbs are the same, begging the question of whether “Airborne”  is effective due to its vitamin content or the Chinese Traditional herbs that are specific to reducing fever and having antiviral properties.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Potpourri Incense
    Nov 11, 2014 @ 11:32:00

    This is excellent, great idea. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: