As cold and flu season approaches, it seems there are so many herbal remedies to choose from. So how do we know what to use and when. Here's the low down on a few of the herbs and when and how to use them.
Echinacea~ A key immune herb, Echinacea's use for immunity dates back to ancient Native American tribes. It is an immunostimulant, acting to increase non-specific immunity; this means it enhances our bodies immune system so it can greater resist infection of any kind. Despite a traditional use in upper respiratory conditions, Echinacea can be used as a preventative, during infection and for recovery from infection. It is not directly anti bacterial or anti viral; rather it is stimulating your bodies own immune response. Despite some claims Echinacea should not be used in pregnancy, many other authoritative sources do not support these restrictions. Personally I would perhaps avoid it in the first trimester but after this would feel comfortable taking it for illnesses whilst pregnant.
Andrographis~ A Chinese herb traditionally used as a digestive tonic, Andrographis has a role in stimulating the bodies immunity especially where the person is fatigued, frail or is experiencing chronically lowered immunity and repeated infection. Andrographis is a cooling herb and can help bring down a fever and improve a persons recovery.
Astragalus~ This wonderful herb strengthens and restores the bodies immune system whilst improving general vitality. This herb is of particular use to those with general lowered immunity such as an adjunct therapy to chemotherapy, cancer, autoimmune disease and chronic illness. This is the herb to take when your after something long term to help build up your body when you feel you are vulnerable to opportunistic infections.
Thyme~ Unlike the herbs mentioned above, Thyme does not stimulate your bodies immunity, rather it acts as a direct anti microbial, anti bacterial, antiseptic and expectorant. This herb is fantastic for treatment of coughs, bronchitis, catarrh and tonsillitis. It is an excellent addition to a throat gargle, cough mixture or mouth wash.
Olive Leaf~ Olive leaf is a potent antioxidant with up to 400% more antioxidant effect than vitamin C. Antioxidants protect our body against the effect of a poor diet, pollution, alcohol etc has on our cells. Olive leaf also stimulates circulation and has a direct anti viral, anti bacterial effect. Clinical trial on the effectiveness of Olive leaf are lacking and the anti viral effect are mostly publicised by those marketing the product. Will Olive leaf help your immune system? The answer is probably yes however it would not be my first choice. Will olive leaf help your general well being? Definitely Yes, the antioxidant and circulatory stimulating effect will increase your energy and general health.
Cats Claw~ A traditional herb from the Amazon, the alkaloids found in Cats claw have immune stimulating properties as well as being directly anti microbial, anti bacterial and anti viral. It has powerful antioxidant effects and is used in cases where the immune immune system is compromised such as in cancer, HIV and other chronic infections.
Golden Seal~ A part of the Berberis genus, Golden Seal (or Hydrastis) is particularly useful where there is a lot of mucous! It is anti microbial and anti parasitic and is also used for many digestive infections and complaints. This winter use Golden Seal for ear infections, sinus infections and chesty coughs.
Ginger~ When your cold there is nothing better than some ginger tea to help warm you up from the inside! Ginger is a great addition to any immune mix where you are feeling cold and achy. Ginger is also great at breaking up mucous to unblock your nose or help loosen phlegm in the chest. You can have it as tea, liquid, tablet or fresh!
Licorice & Marshmallow~ Whilst not having a direct influence on the immune system, these two herbs are used to soothe a sore throat. Having these herbs in their liquid form will help take the inflammation and hoarseness out of your throat.
Inula~ Known to herbalists as a lung tonic, this herb helps to strengthen lung tissue. It is therefore helpful for those who are prone to chest infections or asthma or those with a cough that just won't go away.
Leah's Top 3 favorite Immune Products:
Herbs of Gold "Hit Cough" A blend of Inula, Licorice, Echinacea, Marrubium and Thyme. This is a great mix for a sore throat, chesty or dry cough or general cold and flu. I would reccomend this in the Acute phase of infection.
Ethical Nutrients "Immune Defence" A blend of Echinacea, Andrographis, Siberian Ginseng plus vitamin C and Zinc. This would be perfect for those who are busy, a bit stressed and fatigued. It can be used as a treatment or preventitive and should be taken for at least two weeks following a cold or flu to ensure a good recovery.
Fusion "Astra 8" Helps aid in recovery following an illness or for those who feel they have a low resistance to recurrent infections. Great for people who have chronic health conditions which impacts their immunity or those who are suseptible to picking up everything thats going around.