It’s Cold & Flu Season…

Posted on Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

As you transition from Winter to Spring your body is stressed from a number of factors and you are more vulnerable to catching a cold or the flu. Here are some simple things to do to resist catching a cold, as well as easy recipes for coping with colds or the flu.

Strengthen the Immune System

The flux of the temperature from warm days and cold is ever changing. When you are cold, your body shifts its resources into keeping your body warm, and takes energy away from your immune system. In addition, school season starts and there are more bacteria and viruses being traded among people as re-group. You are also indoors more of the time where these pathogens get trapped and swapped more easily.

There are simple things you can do to strengthen your immune system for fall and winter to avoid getting sick and to strengthen your healing process when you do get sick.

Wear a scarf

It is a good idea to use scarves to keep your neck warm to help our bodies stabilize with temperature.  In Chinese Medicine this is known as protecting the “Wind Gate”.

Eat or take a Tincture of Shitake Mushrooms

Shitake (Lentinula edodes) has been used medicinally for hundreds if not thousands of years. You can use Shitake to increase your stamina, circulation, control cholesterol, improve your immune function and to protect yourself from viruses. Shitakes are a good source of protein and have high levels of antioxidants.

Eating Shitake Mushrooms:

  • Cut up and add a few Shitake mushrooms to your soup
  • Stir-fry with tofu and snap peas and onions – add raw garlic at the last moment.

Onions and Garlic are both anti-microbial, acting on bacteria and viruses.  Cooked Onion retains these qualities but you want your garlic as raw as possible to reap the medicinal benefits.

For those of you that don’t like the smoky flavor of mushrooms, you can take as a daily tincture.

Drink Elderberry Tea

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is an enchanting berry tea that strengthens your cell walls to resist invasion of bacteria and viruses; it is an immune system stimulant. Elderberry also comes to the rescue when you get sick, easing aches and pains, coughing, nasal congestion, and fever.

Dosage:  Make 1 cup of tea with 1 Tablespoon of the dried berries, several times daily.

Adding a wedge of lemon and some raw honey makes a very tasty tea.

What to do for your cold or flu?

If you do happen to come down with a cold or a flu, you want to continue eating and drinking your immune strengthening Shitake and Elderberry.  In addition, it is important to drink lots of fluids, and “sweat” out your fever if you have one or feel one coming on.

A fever is your body’s natural way of killing any virus or bacteria it encounters.  If you speed-up the fever process by using herbs that make you sweat (diaphoretic herbs), you can “sweat out” the virus more quickly, and reduce the symptoms as well as the duration of your cold or flu.

To sweat out a fever, you want to take a very hot bath (or shower if you don’t have a bath), and drink your Flu Tea while in the tub. Soak as long and as hot as you can then jump into bed with as many covers or layers as possible. Have water by your bedside as I am certain that you will sweat and get thirsty during the night. Many people use Hot Tubs regularly during the winter to avoid getting sick. The idea is to get your core temperature above 102 degrees for at least 20 minutes to be effective.

Flu Tea Recipe

Equal parts Sage, Peppermint Yarrow, Ginger to taste (don’t be shy) and a sprig of thyme.   Make a pot of this up at a time and drink every few hours. Raw Honey is also great to add as it is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and is a great antioxidant.

This tea has a mixture of herbs to assist with sweating, relieving muscle spasms, clearing mucus, microbes and increasing circulation.  All these actions helps your body feel better and clear the fever sooner. Make sure you are covered-up in layers when using this tea as it opens up your pores.

Garlic Ear Oil for Ear Infections

So many people get clogged ears when they get sick. It is also one of the most common reasons antibiotics are prescribed. Here is a classic, simple and safe remedy to relieve the pain and congestion of ear infections.

Mince a few cloves of garlic and simmer with olive oil on the lowest heat that you can.  Make sure not to brown the garlic.  After simmering the garlic as long as you can without it turning brown, remove from the heat.  I generally simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Strain garlic out and cool the oil.  Put into a clean dropper bottle.

Use 5 drops in each ear, hold head sideways for a bit to make sure that oil sinks in as deep as it can.  Tug on your ear lobe to open the canal.  Stuff part of a cotton pad in your ear to keep the oil in place.  Do the other side.  Keep in cotton pads in place for an hour or so.

Use this oil at first sign of ear congestion.  Use as needed.  It generally takes a few nights of use to clear the congestion.

Sinus Congestion

Using a Neti pot to clear sinus congestion is a classic remedy.

Use 10 drops of Yerba Mansa tincture and one drop of peppermint oil in some warm water.  Irrigate each nostril. If you don’t have access to Yerba Mansa, use a pinch or two of salt and a drop of peppermint oil. It is always less painful to use the Neti pot at the first sign of congestion.  Use Neti pot 3x a day until sinuses clear.

Immune Support Soup

Soups are a great way to nourish and support our bodies as the seasons change. The changing weather challenges our bodies, and we can become more prone to illness. Soups help to keep us warm as the winter chill begins and can nourish us with herbs, seaweed, and mushrooms for wellness and vitality.

Bone marrow is a critical ingredient in my homemade stock. My Slovenian grandmother Antonjia would suck the marrow out of the bones after our roast chicken meals. She was a bastion of health and wellness her entire life. So rather than having a clarified stock, I have my butcher cut the chicken bones up so the marrow extracts more easily into the soup. This leaves a cloudy stock that I believe has more nutrients than a clear stock. However you can also start from an organic stock and go straight to the soup recipe.

If you don’t have all the ingredients list below – don’t worry – use what you have.  Be creative.

Stock recipe:

5 lbs organic chicken parts or chicken from a butcher (If using a whole chicken, remove chicken meat just after stock is brought to boil and reserve.)

10-12 cups fresh water

3 carrots, cut into thirds

2 parsnips, quartered

5 celery stalks, cut into thirds

2 onions, quartered

1 oz astragalus root

4 inches of kombu seaweed, leave as a large piece

3 bay leaves

1 leek (optional), cut into thirds

1-2 tsp salt

Bring all ingredients to a boil. Skim the top layer of the stock and discard. Then cover and simmer for at least 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Strain and keep stock. Discard veggies and chicken carcass. Transfer astralagus and kombu to stock.

Soup recipe:

Add to stock:

Reserved chicken

Reserved astralagus

Kombu from stock, cut into small pieces

8 – 12 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms

1-2 burdock roots, sliced into bite-sized rounds

2 inches grated ginger root, or enough to taste

6-8 cloves garlic

Simmer 15 minutes to ½ hour. Serve immediately.

You can freeze extra stock for times when you need a boost. I tend to eat from the same soup for several days. I simply add the veggies and herbs I like for each bowl. Carrots, corn, broccoli, tomatoes, and cabbage are among my favorites. Some immune herbs you can add to soup are fresh or dried sage, thyme, or parsley. These herbs can be added generously for their antioxidant and antibacterial properties.

Copyright ©2006 Jennifer Blythe Adams, Community Herbalist