Just because it’s cold outside, doesn’t mean you have to catch a cold. In the west, we commonly refer to the winter months as “cold and flu” season, though this is largely due in part to a job well done in the marketing and branding department of the pharmaceutical industry, and to our lack of self-care during this time of year. Of course, almost all of us get sick once in a while, but it’s not necessarily a yearly requirement as some may think. Here are a few of the medicinal tools my husband and I are using to protect and nourish our immune systems this winter:
1. Astragalus Root: Astragalus is an adaptogen, which means it helps the body adapt to stress and balance the body, protecting it from disease and some research even suggests it can protect against diabetes and cancer. Astragalus is commonly used for preventing colds by supporting the immune system and protecting the liver, due in part to its antibacterial and antiviral properties. I take Astragalus root multiple times per day in liquid capsule form, and it’s non-toxic even in high doses.
2. Chaga Mushroom: Chaga Mushroom is known in the mushroom world as the Mushroom of Immortality. Its popularity has begun to sweep through North America just recently, though Chaga has been traditionally used by Siberian Shamans and other Chinese cultures throughout history. The Chaga mushroom grows into the tree, becoming part of the tree, which is what makes this mushroom so unique. It’s also a medicine to be highly respected due to the ecological impact harvesting can have. You can brew Chaga as a tea, and you’ll get a really dark color with a gentle vanilla flavor (it’s delicious). Chaga is loaded with antioxidants, containing a very high concentration of betulinic acid and studies on Chaga show this mushroom has antiviral and antibacterial components that are strong enough to mutate cancer cells. We drink Chaga tea daily, and often have a pot of it boiling on the stove. You can get some from our friends over at HarmonicArts.ca or LongevityWarehouse.com.
3. Camu-Camu Berry or Acerola Cherry Powder: Camu-Camu berry is natures most potent source of Vitamin C in the plant-kingdom. It’s a berry, commonly found in countries like Peru and Ecuador and known to us in the west as a Superfood for its high levels of antioxidants. Camu-Camu is anti-viral and anti-fungal, and let’s not forget it’s ability to reduce inflammation in the body. Acerola cherry contains lower doses of Vitamin C and tastes delicious (if you like cherry). You can also use this to reduce inflammation. It tastes great stirred into water, teas, added to probiotic yogurt or even oatmeal. I mix Acerola powder into magnesium and water daily, and usually drink it in the evening.
4. Honey, Lemon and Ginger Tea: A tea of local, organic honey, fresh lemon and grated ginger are a traditional yet very wise combination of immune boosting, antiviral and antibacterial ingredients to support or prevent a cold from knocking your immune system down. These 3 ingredients work together as a power team, helping your body to fight off infection, reduce inflammation and repair more quickly. Here’s a recipe for you:
Immune Boosting Tea:
- 1 cup hot water
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 1 inch piece of grated or sliced ginger root
- 1 tbsp. local, organic and unpasteurized honey
- 1 tsp. cinnamon*optional add on
How to: Let steep for 10 minutes and enjoy. You can also double or triple this recipe and leave it simmering gently on the stove throughout the day if you’re suffering from a cold. This is a great way to keep hydrated and consistently dose yourself with the protective ingredients that will heal you up faster.
5. Zinc supplements: Zinc is a traditional “cold and flu” go to, yet the scientific jury is still out on whether zinc truly helps prevent a cold yet. One study showed zinc may shorten the length of a cold, though more research needs to be done. Zinc can leave a bad taste in the mouth or cause nausea, so if you’re taking zinc, eat something first. I personally take a supplement that includes both Vitamin C & Zinc for immune-boosting and skin enhancing properties.
6. Probiotics and Fermented Foods: Probiotics and fermented foods both help to replenish the gut with good bacteria, and fight off the bad guys. If you’re preventing, or warding off a cold this season, these two will be your secret weapon. Picture this, you’ve got a cold or the flue, and inside your gut you’ve got bad bacteria taking you down for the count, then low and behold, you load your body up with probiotics and ferments, and all of a sudden you’ve got a small army of “good guys”, wiping the “bad guys” out for good. Fermented foods are also one of the best ways to detoxify, so add a tablespoon or two to each meal for a boost in energy and protection against illness.
7. Local Organic, Unpasteurized Honey or Bee Propolis: Honey has been used medicinally looking back as far back as ancient Egypt. Egyptians used honey for healing wounds and making offerings to their gods. Today, we use honey medicinally to boost the immune system, suppress a cough or gently soothe a sore throat. Bee Propolis is harvested by wild crafters for its potent medicinal qualities and is often used reduce pain and inflammation, boost the bodies own healing capacities due to its antioxidant contents, and sooth a sore throat. May I be abundantly clear when I mention conventional, pasteurized honey is not the same as local and organic unpasteurized honey. They are entirely different, in the sense that convention honey is often messed with, laced with additional additives and sometimes even high fructose corn syrup prior to be stocked on the shelves. Conventional honey is also an issue because many larger corporations have little respect for the bees and take more honey than they should. Purchase your honey from reputable, local bee keepers or sellers whom you know respect bees and the entire process. We use a honey infused with bee propolis, look for one local to you at your farmers market or health food store.
8. Elderberry tea: Elderberries are loaded with antioxidants and have antiviral, antibacterial components that make it a medicinal tool for preventing or treating a common cold or flu, and prevent cell damage in the body. They’ve also been used to help relieve sinus pain, by unblocking sinus passages and mucous membranes. Elderberries must be cooked because in raw form they contain a chemical similar to cyanide. Most commonly, elderberry is found in tincture or tea form, and you may even come across elderberry syrups at a local farmers market.
9. Echinacea: Echinacea is a blood cleanser, helping to remove impurities from the blood stream thus warding off infection. It’s a Native American herb found in the Rocky Mountains and used in American and European medicine. Herbalists will generally recommend an extraction, as that is where the most potent medicinal qualities can be found. Taking Echinacea to fend off a cold or infection in the body works because the plant extract is stimulating your body’s ability to purify, and recycle out cell wastes from the body. If you’re not into Echinacea, you could also check out burdock root for another blood cleanser that also supports a healthy complexion.
10. Goldenseal: Goldenseal is a bitter tonic, and most certainly not for daily use because of its potency, however it pairs well with Echinacea. While Echinacea is busy warding off waste in the body, Goldenseal can keep inflammation under control, thus protecting your immune system from a crash. This can help to fight an infection more quickly and get back into a state of health. Herbalists generally don’t recommend you take Goldenseal for any more than 2-3 days out of a month, so don’t go gung ho on this stuff as a daily immune-booster. I once knew a Nutritionist who with an extreme sinus infection, snorted a bit of Goldenseal and claimed it helped her immediately. Not recommending you try this at home, but you could consider a Neti Pot instead for clearing your sinuses instead if you’re clogged up.
Disclaimer: Please do your own research before utilizing plant-medicines in your own healing protocol. While most of these superfoods and herbs are safe for anyone, some have contraindications and should be used with consideration. If you’re pregnant, nursing, on blood-thinners or other medications, always consult your care provider before using something new. Not all of these remedies are safe for children.
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