Cold and flu season is looming on the horizon and as the saying goes, "The best offense is a good defense!" With so many variations of the flu virus and "common cold" at large, even the best vaccinations and due diligence may not protect you and your family from becoming infected, and it's never too early to make sure your other forms of defense are ready.
For those wanting to rely on Mother Nature's medicine cabinet, there are several great herbal alternatives for not just masking symptoms but for restoring the body to its natural state of health. From personal experience, Yarrow and Elderberry are two of my favorites.
To break a fever: Yarrow is known as a diaphoretic, or sweating, herb. Diaphoresis, or sweating, is known in alternative medicine and herbalism as one of the best ways of restoring health. Though running a fever is a cause for worry, especially among parents of small children, a fever is actually the body's way of ridding itself of toxins and restoring circulation to its equilibrium. Herbs like Yarrow help bring a fever to its breaking point, where the body is rid of its toxins and equilibrium is restored.
Administering a hot infusion of Yarrow raises the heat of the body, equalizes circulation, and produces perspiration. Pour one pint of boiling water over one ounce of Yarrow, cover for a few minutes, then give freely as warm as can be tolerated. It may help to strain the infusion before drinking or to put the loose Yarrow herb in a cotton tea bag before pouring the water over it to avoid getting the herbs caught in your mouth. From a taste perspective, it may also help to add a touch of stevia as the taste of Yarrow itself can be somewhat bitter. However, when faced with the flu or when sick with a cold, a quick shot or two of a yarrow infusion to curb the illness is well worth the few minutes of bad aftertaste that may follow!
To treat the general symptoms of colds and flus: Elderberry (also known as black elder) has been used for centuries as a tonic for colds, flus and sinus infections, and I see it making a comeback on store shelves today. Sambucol is sold in local drug stores as both a syrup and as tablets and should be taken at the first signs of sickness. You can also find pure Elderberry extract syrup sold at vitamin and supplement shops or via their online sites. Though most parts of the elder flowers have historically been used for medicinal purposes and certainly have their own set of benefits, recent studies by Israeli virologists have suggested that Elderberry extract might be most effective against the flu virus by blocking replication.
If you'd prefer to "do it yourself" and create your own flu remedy, try combining Elderberry flowers with Peppermint leaves, which are also known to have antiviral properties. The following is an adaptation of a recipe taught to me by Dominion Herbal College, North America's oldest school of herbal medicine.
Bring one pint of distilled water to a boil. Combine one ounce of dried Peppermint leaves and one ounce of dried Elder Flowers in a saucepan. Pour the pint of distilled boiling water over the top. Cover and keep warm on the stove for 10-15 minutes. Do NOT boil the mixture as Peppermint is very volatile and should never be boiled. After 10-15 minutes, strain the infusion and keep it warm and covered. Administer to adult patients in 2- to 4-ounce servings every 30-45 minutes until the patient breaks a sweat. Once the patient is perspiring, reduce the dosage to two tablespoons (0.5 ounces) every one to two hours. Be sure to give warm and until the patient sweats freely, then let the patient rest overnight.
Copyright © 2013 Dale Barr. All rights reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be, or to serve as a substitute for, professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis or treatment. Dale Barr does not provide medical advice; diagnosis or treatment; or legal, financial, or other professional services advice and disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.