This article was authored by Klaus Ferlow, HMH (Honorary Master Herbalist), innovator, lecturer, researcher, writer, founder Ferlow Botanical Enterprises Ltd, Vancouver, B.C. manufacturing/distributing organic toxin-free medicinal herbal and personal care products to professional health & wellness practitioners in Canada and parts of USA since 1993.
There are many theories as how people get a cold & flu as there are treatments. When our immune systems are compromised it is a challenge to fight these dreadful illnesses.
Interesting enough human beings are able to go to the moon, but are unable managing and preventing this disease or can we? Colds cause clogged and runny noses, sore throats and often dry cough. Flu symptoms are much more severe and will cause high fever and chills, a feeling of exhaustion and the whole body may ache. This includes headaches, backaches and sore muscles. Flu viruses are stronger, more infectious and more harmful than colds. Isn't it ironic that many allopathic doctors still treat it with antibiotics which will have no effect and even create more health problems by decreasing the healing power of your immune system!
But whichever one you may be plagued with, there are numerous alternative herbal remedies to PREVENT and manage them. One of the most important consideration is to strengthen and supporting the immune system starting in early September of each year. Here are suggestions which will give you an overview what you can do and what is available without harmful negative side effects.
You probably are familiar with the quote..."You are what you eat" and let's add on ..what you drink. Unfortunately many eat processed "junk-food" (read the book from Eric Schlosser "America - Fast Food Nation"), loaded with chemical additives and especially MSG (Monosodiumglutamate, a neurotoxin, creating brain damage and other health hazards). A healthy diet with lost of raw certified organic vegetables and fruit grown without chemical fertilizers, herbicide and pesticide spraying, irradiation, carrots, parsley, celery, watercress, garlic, fermented products like sauerkraut, kefir, yoghurt, unrefined flaxseed and hemp oil are excellent sources for omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids. And don't forget our grandmother's secret recipe - chicken noodle soup! Citrus fruits containing Vitamin A and C are very important too.
Try to avoid pop drinks with artificial sweeteners like aspartame, neotame, sodium saccharine, sucralose and carbonated sodas, instead use stevia, tagtose or xylitol which are plant derived sweeteners. Drink enough liquid daily preferable chlorine free water, to prevent dehydration, most elderly people don't drink and often don't eat enough.
Most of the raw vegetables can be also used in a drink, red beet juice makes the flu virus inactive. Condensed grape juice has an immediate effect in strengthening the heart muscles and coconut milk is also very healthy.
Herbal teas should play a major role what you drink regularly such as yerba mate, roibosh, Japanese green tea, elderflower, linden flower with 2 drops of lemon balm oil, thyme, rosehip, yarrow , st.john's wort, peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, sage tea just to name a few since most herbal teas are helpful fighting cold & flu.
Another effective method is using inhalation (hot water and add a few drops of eucalyptus, chamomile, thyme oil, put a towel over your head and inhale). It helps loosen mucus, heals the throat, nasal passages and bronchial tubes. Horsetail inhalations reduce swelling of mucous membranes. Onion or nasturtium inhalations disinfect, ginkgo biloba leaf kills bacteria and heals the cells of the damaged mucous membranes almost immediately. Inhale steam for fifteen minutes three times daily in acute stage, when the condition is improving, inhale steam in the evening before retiring for a week or so to help heal the bronchial passages. To help alleviate and disinfect dry air passages, add 10 drops of tea tree oil to a bowl of hot water or vaporizer and leave it in the bedroom overnight. (not recommended for children).
Other cold and flu busters include cayenne pepper (capsicum) and wild crafted Mediterranean oregano oil infused in grapeseed oil with mint flavour, hemp or olive oil. Furthermore, certified organic pumpkin seeds that have a high percentage of zinc and zinc lozenges are highly recommended. Zinc has a long list of health claims such as immune enhancing properties, anti-inflammatory and is an aid in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, hair loss prevention and prostate problems. Additional dietary sources of zinc include wholegrain products, brewers yeast, wheat bran and germ, oysters and meat. Zinc supplements can be found under the names of zinc sulphate, acetate, gluconate, citrate, dipicolinate, aspartate, orotate and amino acid chelates of zinc. Zinc is especially important for the elderly. A zinc deficiency can cause significant alterations in the immune system. Liquids are nourishing and help cleanse our system and promote healing!
Vitamin C and Vitamin A (avoid during pregnancy) play an important part to fight cold & flu.
The most effective herbal tinctures are Cat's Claw (Uncaria Tomentosa), Echinacea (Echinacea Purpurea & Angustifolia), Pau D'arco (Tabebuia Impetiginosa), Grapeseed tincture'extract(Vitis Vinifera), Grapefruitseed (Citrus paradise)extract, it has anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties and can be used as an oral rinse, and Echinacea throat spray which will boost your immune system and enhance the healing power of your body.
Washing your hands often is the key to practise preventing or spreading cold and flu viruses!!
Infrared saunas can help to arrest the beginning of a cold and flu and other benefits are detoxification of heavy metals such as mercury, lead etc.. and you will experience pain relief from arthritis, fibromyalgia, sport injuries, weight loss, relaxation, excellent results in the treatment of acne, eczema, cellulite, psoriasis and other chronic pain conditions.
Your body is going to need energy to detoxify and fight off the cold and flu. Rest in bed as you work up a sweat from ingestion of the teas. After about one hour, dry off from the sweat, change the cloth and try to get more sleep. This process stops cold and flu before it becomes full blown. Avoid stressful situations and keep warm. A hot and cold foot bath with Himalayan Alexander crystal salt, Celtic or Epsom salt can do wonders before retiring. Consider a juice fast. Even lemon with cayenne and maple syrup in hot water can speed up recovery time. Hot apple cider or ginger teas are also effective. Get plenty of fresh air to clear your lungs, but avoid drafts. A relatively healthy person can break a cold and flu in a few days or eventually avoid it altogether!
As I child I had many times fever and my mother used the pure elderberry juice she made herself and we picked the berries from the bushes, she headed the juice up, added lemon juice and honey to it and I had to drink two big cups before retiring. She also put a wet poultice around my neck and sometimes even on my chest and legs and I sweated it all out overnight, and next morning the fever was gone and I never missed a day in school.
We used this system with our two boys when growing up and even now we have our own elderberry bush in our garden and use the elderberry juice as well as elderflower tea with the addition of Swedish Flaedersaft (Elderberry flower drink concentrate) from IKEA as prevention and therefore don't know what fever, cold and flu is.
Legend of the elder: the elder bush/tree was reputed to be the favourite of witches, who supposedly resided in its branches. In the Middle Ages nearly everyone knew that the cutting down an elder tree would incur the wrath of the witches who called it home. There were many tales of angry witches taking vengeances on babies who unwitting parents put them in a cradle of elderwood.
For centuries, the berries from the elderberry tree has been a popular Gypsy remedy for cold, flu, influenza, and neuralgia. Scientific studies report that ingredients extracted from the berries provide the first line of defense against different flu strains by neutralizing and preventing the replication of different flu strains. It is a specific detoxifier for cold, flu and upper respiratory congestion such as hay fever, sinus, chronic nasal catarrh and spasmodic croup. Clogged ears due to colds respond well to the flowers and both have anti-inflammatory properties to fight arthritis and rheumatic pains. It is also used as ointment for tumours, burns, cuts, chapping, skin eruptions and inflammations. Also used for night sweats, dropsy (excessive body tissue) and syphilis. Elderberry wine was an old European tradition.
Finally, there is solid scientific evidence to back up the folklore, thanks to Israeli researcher Dr. Maeleine Mumcuoglu, Ph.D. of the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center. In 1980 Dr. Mumcuoglu, intrigued by the elderberry's reputation as a cure for colds and flu, did her thesis on the antiviral effect of elderberry. She patented a procedure to isolate the potent disease fighting compounds form elderberry, then tested the extract (Sambucol) on patients of the flu outbreak at a Kibbutz Aza in Israel and this was the testing result:
"Twenty percent of flu sufferers who used it showed significant relief of fever, sore throat, inflammation, coughing and other symptoms within 24 hours, and another 73% felt better after the second day. In three days, 90% were reported complete cured! Internal uses also for sinusitis, hay fever, bronchitis, eczema, boils, dermatitis. In a similar group that received inactive treatment ( a placebo) only 16% were improved in two days, and took most of them six days to feel well again.
Compounds in elderberry bind with viruses before they can penetrate the walls of cells, thereby inhibiting their ability to spread. Since elderberry is non-toxic when cooked, it is safe even for children. The hot tea from the flowers and/or juice from the berries promote sweating, preferable adding on lemon juice and honey and is soothing for the upper respiratory infections, also considered to be anti-rheumatic, laxative and detoxifying. In ancient times, elderberry bushes and trees were believed to have special mystical properties, and it was considered good luck to plant a tree or bush near your house to protect against disease and evil spirits.
Elderberries are a good source of Vitamins A, B, C. Cooked berries can be used for pies and jams, as lemonade and you can make a wine. Applied externally as a poultice, useful for burns, rashes, and minor skin problems. Caution/Contraindications: should not be used when pregnant and lactation.
Sambucol and Sambuguard also stimulates the immune system and has shown activity in preliminary trials against other viruses, such as Epstein-bar, herpes and even HIV and is available in North America and you may find it in health food stores.
American Indians used the leaves and flowers in antiseptic wash for skin diseases, and the berries to dye their hair black and dye the strands of grass they use in their basket designs. Others have used the tea of the leaves as a diaphoretic, the inner bark as a cathartic, the flowers simmered in oil for preventing sunburn, and steeped in water as a compress for a headache. The flowers contain a oil that is used in perfume and cosmetics. Elderflower water can be used as a wash for dry skin or as a cooling wash for the eyes. According to an ancient recipe, washing your face with elderflower water in the morning and at night, and leaving it there to dry, will remove freckles and morphew (hardened skin). American Indians used the leaves also for pain relief and to promote the healing of injuries. Don't you agree, that the healing power of this eldertree/bush is incredible and fascinating and can bring relief to so many health problems.
If you follow the natural way that Mother Earth provides us as suggested in my article, you will do no harm to your body and strengthen your immune system. I am soon 70 years old and followed these rules all my life from childhood on and therefore rarely suffered from a cold and flu and can't even remember when it hit me last time. These natural herbal remedies have been part of my health regime for as long as I can remember. You do not have to dread the cold and flu season, just be prepared to support your bodies healing power with these natural herbal cold & flu busters.
Let me close therefore with these wise words:
"For every disease we know, MOTHER EARTH provides a herbs to grow!"
"When we open up our consciousness and dwell in the beauties of Nature, we allow healing to enter our lives."
Dr. Bernard Jensen , DC, Ph.D. (1908 - 2001)
Herbs & Things, Jeanne Rose
The Green Pharmacy & The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook, James A. Duke, PH.D.
Herbal Antibiotics, Stephen Harrod Buhner
The Herb Book, John Lust
Indian Herbalogy of North America, Alma R. Hutchens
Strengthen Your Immune System, Reader's Digest, Canada
See also the second part of this article.
This information is offered for its educational value only and should not be used in the diagnose, treatment, or prevention of disease. Any attempt to diagnose and treat illness should come under the direction of your health care practitioner.