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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

immune boost and germ protection

Okay, I know you already are looking at these lists below and wondering why I don't simplify things a bit further. Why blog long lists of herbs? I wanted first to provide you with a source of reference to understand the reasons I have suggested the use of certain herbs together in the recipes at the end of this blog.

It is October, and once again the cold and flu season is upon us. For the last month or two, I have been having various conversations that touch again and again on this topic. How do we keep ourselves, and our families, well? How can we recover faster and better from these common viruses? Well, start by actually having a look at these lists. Antibiotics and antiseptics help fight germs, in the body and out. Anticatarrals help rid the body of mucus, so when you get a snotty, disgusting sinus infection you probably should consider some of the herbs and foods from this list. Antispasmodics? Well, when you're coughing like mad, it hurts, and you will want something to help suppress those coughing spasms. And lastly, flu usually brings fevering along with its other joys, so refrigerants are greatly beneficial in that respect. All five of these lists are taken from the book, Practical Herbalism, by Philip Fritchey. He includes even more than these herbs in each list. I have included these herbs because they are either quite commonly known and available, or they are especially beneficial as ingredients in my recipes below. Herbs in italics are found in more than one list and are especially worth noting.


Antibiotics (Anti-bacterial)
Black Walnut
Cloves
Colloidal Silver
Echinacea
Garlic
Honey (raw)
Rosemary
Sage
Thyme

Anticatarrhals (decrease mucus in respiratory and digestive systems)
Black Walnut
Capsicum (chili pepper)
Cloves 
Comfrey
Echinacea
Fennel seeds
Flax seeds
Garlic
Ginger
Horseradish
Lemon
Milk Thistle
Raisins
Sage
Thyme
Vinegar and honey
Yarrow

Antiseptics
Black Walnut (hull and leaves)
Blackberry
Comfrey
Echinacea
Eucalyptus
Garlic
Horseradish
Nettles
Plantain
Rosemary
Sage
Thyme
Wormwood

Antispasmodics
Anise seed (infants)
Capsicum (chili pepper)
Catnip
Chamomile
Fennel
Garlic
Lemon Balm
Oats
Passion Flower
Peppermint
Red Clover
Red Raspberry
Rosemary
Sage
Spearmint
Thyme

Refrigerants (to cool the body's temperature and reduce thirst)
Alfalfa
Catnip
Cranberries
Lemon Balm
Lemons, limes, oranges
Licorice


Are you starting to see the common threads? Notice that of the herbs listed here, garlic is the most useful, being indicated to use for all our purposes except as a refrigerant. Let's start with garlic, then.

Garlic: anti-microbial, antibiotic, anti-fungal, immuno-stimulant (boosts the immune system), anti-oxidant, anti-spasmodic, expectorant (removes mucus from throat and lungs), to name a few. Garlic is even valuable as an aid to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels for diabetics.

Shortly before my 15th birthday, my family upped and moved to Northern India, up in the Himalayas. One of the most common problems where we lived was, mercifully, not mosquitos and malaria traveling with them, but something we called "Delhi Belly". Nasty bouts of giardia, caused by drinking impure water, producing major disruption in the gut, diarrhea, vomiting. You could live uneasily with a mild case of Delhi Belly for days or weeks, if you were lucky enough that it did not increase and take over, but the simplest way to handle it was usually a quick trip to the school nurse and a course of some kind of medication. Our protection against this ugly bum-chafing illness was garlic. Raw garlic. Most Indian food typically has garlic in it, so we were already getting some garlic in our daily diets. But this was a step beyond the culinary arts, and besides, cooked garlic has reduced healing properties due to the breakdown caused by heat. Breakfast included personalized combinations of homemade granola, oven toast, scrambled eggs, homemade yogurt, but always, always, a peeled clove of raw garlic, swallowed either whole or in two or three large chunks with a glass of milk. I remember being able to bring myself faithfully to the daily challenge much better than did my younger brothers, who I would hear trying to wriggle out of their garlic with excuses of forgetting or having just brushed teeth, but I also had fewer battles of tummy trouble than they did in that first year.

My sister-in-law loves to travel. She also loves Jesus, and loves mission work, and she is a medic. Inevitably, the combination has taken her to some interesting places in the world, places where mosquitos are not merely irritating but can be harmful or deadly due to borne diseases. Anyone who knows the long list of common side effects from malaria tablets will understand the desire to avoid taking them unless absolutely necessary. However, even when a body is protected against malaria, other diseases, such as malaria-related Dengue fever, do not yet have protective inoculations either by needle jab or pill packet. My sister did some research and discovered a simpler way to keep herself well and protected from the nasty insects: garlic tablets and tincture of black walnut, daily. So simple. I have since heard more reports, particularly from mission families, of the same prevention from mozzies.

I could go on and on about the benefits of raw garlic! It is wonderful stuff. Let me make a few suggestions, though, for those of you who are not yet accustomed to the thought. Odorless garlic tablets are available. I still suggest raw, fresh cloves, as they are not only the cheapest and most readily available form of garlic anywhere in the world, but the natural, organic form is untreated by chemicals or processing. If you are brave enough to try the real stuff, start by taking it with a meal. Garlic burps are by far less likely to occur if you have some food in your stomach, even just a bit of toast or half a banana. Then, there is the taste on the tongue. I can and have swallowed many cloves simply with water. Milk does a great job of hiding the flavor as the garlic goes down, though, and is a good option for older children. Younger children might want a small teaspoon of honey with just a few tiny bits of fresh crushed garlic folded into the center. You might be surprised how willingly a child will eat garlic if they get something sweet as well! So, there is my first tip for immune-boost and germ protection this season. Consume raw garlic. 

A few other things are helpful to keep around the house, too. As I hope you noticed, herbs are great at multi-tasking. Here are a few recipes to try, and why.

Immune-Boost Tea
Echinacea root and herb, elderberries, and rosehips 2 parts each by weight
Nettle and peppermint 1 part each by weight

Mix together and store sealed, dry, dark, as you would with all herbs. To use, make a decoction by simmering for 20 to 30 minutes in a non-aluminum pot with a lid on before straining and drinking a cup at a time. Echinacea has a very long list of uses, both inside and outside the body, due to it's remarkable effect of increasing white blood cells. This tea is for emergency use, however, such as after exposure to illness or when you start seeing symptoms of cold and flu. The reason for this is that echinacea bears huge and wonderful immune properties when not used as a regular cure, but overuse or regular use of echinacea reduces the stimulant in the body and eventually will stop working. So, this common Native American tribal herb is best used internally at the time of need, or externally at the point of injury. Elderberries help reduce a fever.

Honey Tincture for Kids
Pack a glass canning jar 2/3rds full with echinacea root and elderberries. Fill up with honey, and cap. Either in a crock pot on low or on the stove top, keep the jar hot by sitting it in a hot water bath not quite bubbling for a full 3 days. Once strained of the herbs, this herbal infused honey "tincture" can be given to children for immune boosting properties simply on a spoon. This is great for children who are not so thrilled about drinking tea.

As you can see in the lists above, the mint family is wonderful for combating illnesses that are already contracted but also helpful as prevention. Unlike the echinacea-based tea, this next recipe is one you may drink far more regularly without fear of dulling your body's response. This is a light, refreshing drink, lovely both hot and cold, and in my experience goes down very well with grumpy men with sore throats as well as children who are under-the-weather or trying not to be ill.

Lemony Throat-soother Tea
Blend equal parts (by weight) of lemon balm and catnip along with a slightly lesser portion of thyme. Add fresh or dried lemon peel (use a vegetable peeler to get the colored part only) as desired.
Do not simmer to brew, as you did for the Immune-Boost! Catnip is a delicate herb that requires careful attention more than most, or you might accidentally compromise it's marvelous qualities with too much heat. Infuse this tea: place dried herbs in a pot with a lid, pour boiling water directly over them and cover immediately. Allow the herbs to infuse the water for 10 minutes or so, covered the whole time, and drink hot or allow to cool completely as you desire, and sweeten with honey. But please remember not to simmer, and to keep covered. For children, give up to 2 ounces every hour while cold and flu symptoms persist.



Listerine mouthwash contains thymol, taken from thyme herb, as one of the main ingredients, and Listerine Antiseptic still adheres to almost the same formula that Joseph Lister produced in 1874. Thyme has a remarkable quality for killing germs and made one of the first official surgical theater sterilizing cleaning fluids by Lister, twinned with the use of eucalyptus. Lemon Balm is most commonly used by herbalists to ease all symptoms considered to "proceed from a disordered state of the nervous system." It retains similar properties and benefits to catnip but I include it in this recipe especially for it's anti-depressive quality, as I find illness so easily lowers the spirits. Catnip, though, is the one that I want to particularly make a fuss over. It is, among other things, antispasmodic (cough suppressant), refrigerant (reduces fever), emmenagogue (aids flow in menstrual cycle, thereby reducing pain), sedative and nervine (soothes nervous system), antacid (soothes tummy), and astringent (shrinks mucus membranes). The flowering tops of catnip is one of tradition's most often used remedies for cold and flu, aids sleep without causing sweating, and is especially wonderful for use in the treatment of children since it covers such a broad range of complaints and yet is mild in flavor.

I hope this provides you with an abundance more information, and some helpful ways to keep your family healthy during these cold months. The lists at the top of this blog include many more foods and herbs than I have listed in my recipes so that you not only have avenue for more ideas but can look through your pantry and pull out oatmeal with raisins, and cranberry juice, for example, as a breakfast well-suited to further reducing cold virus symptoms. Check out my posts, also from October 2012, on herbal hand sanitizer and cleaning spray, for more ideas on combating nasty germs while avoiding high costs and damaging chemicals.

My family and I wish you Healthy Holidays!

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