Achoo! Herbal Tips for Cold Season

What’s the first thing you recommend doing if I feel a cold coming on, or suspect my kid is getting one?
With fall weather, many people will soon be getting their first cold of the season. It is hard to avoid, so it is best to be prepared. Here are a few items to have on hand to support the body’s natural defenses and to ease the discomfort and inconvenience of fall’s first cold.
But first….REST! If you are feeling run down, you probably are! According to a 2015 study, sleeping less than six hours a night greatly increases your chance of catching a cold. So do your immune system a huge favor and go to bed, take nap, and/or a relaxing bath. Now for the herbs…
Elderberry Syrup – The moment you feel that first tickle in your throat, notice you are suddenly sneezing a lot, or are simply experiencing that drained feeling that signals you may be coming down with something, reach for the elderberry syrup. Several small clinical trials and thousands of years of use, have demonstrated that elderberry syrup can reduce the bothersome symptoms of a cold. The dark purple elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra) is loaded with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavanoids. One of the ways it seems to work is by preventing the virus you’ve been infected with from replicating, thus shortening the duration and annoying symptoms of your illness.
In our home, we make a batch of of elderberry syrup each fall (scroll down for the recipe!), but you can also buy excellent products in most natural food stores or online. Here’s an elderberry syrup formula we keep on hand, or take with us when traveling. This syrup is also widely available online and is wonderful.
While there isn’t any modern research yet on effectiveness of taking elderberry syrup as a preventative, many herbalists highly recommend it. Its delicious, safe and nutritious and you may just find that a teaspoon or two a day, especially when colds are going around school or the office, will keep you healthier. My kids have grown up with it and love the taste, so there are no complaints when I add this in to the breakfast routine in autumn.
Echinacea Tincture or Capsules – Chances are good that even if you are new to natural health, you’ve heard of echinacea for colds. Its very popular, and a mainstay in western herbal medicine, despite modern research and news questioning it’s effectiveness. Much of the research conducted hasn’t used proper dosing or preparation —be sure to take a good quality product (here’s a nice echinacea tincture) and take it throughout the day (every two hours!) if you are feeling ill!
Ginger Root Tea – If you have that chilly feeling that accompanies the beginning stage of a viral infection, try making a strong ginger root tea. Simply slice/chop two inches of ginger root, cover with 16 oz water and boil on the stove for 15 minutes or so, until the water has reduced by half. Add honey and sip. Too strong? Add more hot water. This will stimulate circulation, warm you up and may be just the nudge your body needs to fend off a virus. Plus it doesn’t hurt to breathe in steamy tea and warm up and moisten your nose…the rhinovirus, which causes the common cold, thrives at 91 degrees and in dry noses.
Throat Spray – The second you feel a sore, scratchy feeling, spray this terrific remedy on your throat. It has a strong taste but it is instantly soothing and contains anti-microbial herbs to help fight off any viral or bacterial invaders. This is such a simple and helpful remedy and one I wish more people knew about and had on hand! With a little persistence and patience you can get kids to give it a go (my kids squirm at the unusual flavor, but sigh with relief at the soothing).
Here’s hoping these plants (and extra rest!!) help you and your family have a less bothersome cold season!
RECIPE: Elderberry Immune Syrup
1 cup dried elderberries
2 cinnamon sticks
10 cloves
2 Tbs. fresh sliced ginger
1 quart water
2 cups honey (raw and unfiltered)
Place all herbs and spices in a pan. Add cool water. Cover pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced by 1/2. Strain. Allow to cool. Stir in honey and place in jars. Store in refrigerator. Adults 2 tsp. (children 1 tsp), four times daily when ill, or as a preventative: Adults 2 tsp/day and children 1 tsp/day.

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