Colds and Flu

It’s that time of year when many are suffering from colds and flu. Being overcome with a sudden illness can be overwhelming and frustrating, especially when we have busy lives with many demands on our time.

Fortunately, there are many herbs and natural remedies which can help your body both fight off and recover from illness, as well as relieve some of the more unpleasant symptoms. Herbs which are useful in the cold and flu season include:

Elderflower and Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis),
Peppermint (Mentha X piperita),
Catnip (Nepta cataria)
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis),
Onions (Allium cepa),
Garlic (Allium sativum),
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp),
Cedar (Thuja occidentalis),
Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum),
Elecampagne (Inula helena),
Mullein (Verbascum thapsis),
Sage (Artemisia ludovociana),
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
and many more.

Cedar bough (Thuja occidentalis)
Cedar bough
(Thuja occidentalis)

It can be tempting, when looking for natural “cures”, to look for a magic herb or remedy which is going to kill your cold or flu and instantly make you feel better. Herbs work by supporting the body’s natural defenses. A combination of using the right herbs for you as well as getting rest, and nourishment from food, are the best way to feel better quicker.

Many of us know when we’re starting to get sick. Maybe you feel chilled and are having a hard time getting warm. It could be the tell tale body aches and pains, a sore throat or a cough. For me I usually notice that I am feeling more tired than I should be and I get the familliar ache in my armpirts. That ache is the lymph nodes- part of our immune system- swelling slightly and gearing up to fight off the infection.

When you feel you are getting sick remember these things:

Try to slow down!

I know we can’t all take a day off work, but maybe you can go to bed earlier or find some time to nap or rest; recruit a friend or family member to cook for you, put off that chore that seems so important for another day when you have more energy;

Keep yourself warm!

Fever is not a pathology that needs to be suppressed; it is a slight warming of the body to help kill bacteria and viruses. It is best not to try and kill the fever with medications. Warming herbal teas can support the body and release excess heat through the pores of the skin – sweating it out;

Eat easy to digest nutritious foods!

Think chicken soup with lots of onions and garlic! Your body is busy fighting off an infection; you need nourishment! Brothy soups are an excellent choice because they deliver a lot of easily digestible nutrients. This means your body is getting what it needs and can focus its energy on making you better and not so much on digestion;

Stay hydrated!

A fever can dehydrate us, which makes the bosy work extra hard to fight off the infection. Water, warm teas and soups are preferable to juice and other sugary drinks.

Brew some tea!

This is also a good time to brew up some warming, immune supportive herbal teas.  Here are a few recipes to get you started:

Elderflower and Peppermint Tea

1/2 oz of Elderflower
1/2 oz of Peppermint

Place the Elder-Mint blend in bodum or tea pot. Pour on 1 litre of boiling water and cover this tightly with a lid to keep the steam in. Let it steep for 15 minutes. Strain and pour the tea into a thermos to keep it warm.

Sip this tea frequently. Try to avoid cold drinks and keep yourself covered up and warm. And get some rest! The idea here is to help the body through the fever process and allow it to throw off excess heat by sweating it out through the pores of your skin. If you cool yourself off with cold drinks you will limit or completely negate the effects of the herbal tea. Elderflower boosts the activity of the immune system, helping you to get back to good health faster. You can order the Elderflower – Mint Tea here.

I like to make this tea in the evening. When I start to sweat, I will drink one more teacupful and then go to bed. A few drops of relaxing herb tinctures added to the tea will help ensure you get a good rest!

Elderflower - Mint Tea
Elderflower – Mint Tea

Cedar and Boneset Tea

This is an excellent tea to make if you have a flu or illness that lingers on and on and just wont go away, especially when accompanied by bodily aches and pains. This is a tea we like to use at home and was adapted from a simple cedar tea which I was taught to make by Elders from Stoney Point.

Cedar is anti-viral and can be good at loosening up mucous in the sinuses. Boneset is an excellent herb to stimulate the immune system, to induce sweating, reduce inflammation, relax smooth muscles and… it is bitter!

To make this tea:

Put a handful of cedar boughs and a handful of dried boneset tops (flowers and leaves) in a pot;
Pour on about 5 to 6 cups of water;
Put a tight fitting lid on top;
Put the pot on the stove and heat it over medium-high heat until it is just starts to boil;
Remove the pot from the heat and, keeping it covered, allow it to steep about 10-15 minutes.

Cedar and Boneset in the pot.
Cedar and Boneset in the pot.

I was taught to put a bag of black tea in the pot at this point. You can add this if you wish, or skip this step.

After you are done steeping, strain the tea and pour it into a thermos to keep it warm. Much like the Elderflower and Peppermint tea, sip at this tea frequently. You will soon start to feel yourself warm up and even sweat. Now, get yourself some rest! Keep yourself covered up and resist any urges to cool  off with a cold drink. This will negate the effects of the tea.

Please consider that this is strong tea and does not have the most pleasant taste. It would not be my first choice for young children because the taste is not likely to appeal to them. Our whole family does drink cedar tea (without the boneset) as a beverage. Also, drinking frequent cups of this tea over a long period of time can upset the stomach, so go easy!

Catnip Tea for Babies

The above teas are rather strong for babies and many small children. A good herbal solution for babies is Catnip Tea! Catnip tea is excellent for babies who are feverish, restless and may have an upset tummy. Like the Peppermint and Elderflower tea it will help a baby or young child through a fever by assisting the body to release excess heat through the pores. Catnip is milder than the Peppermint and Elderflower tea, however, and perfectly suitable to babies and young children. Catnip also excels at calming and settling babies and young children; it will help them get the rest they need and soothe anxieties about being sick and uncomfortable. You can order catnip here.

To make Catnip Tea:
Steep 1 Tablespoon of Catnip in a cup of boiled water. Again, cover this tightly with a lid to keep the steam in. Babies can be fed lukewarm tea with an eyedropper. Young children who are able can drink small cups of Catnip tea. Sweetening the tea with honey for children over 2 helps “the medicine go down”.

A glycerin tincture of Catnip is also appropriate for babies or children who are too fussy to drink tea. The tincture can be administered by placing an eye dropper of tincture directly in the mouth.

Catnip leaves (Nepeta cataria) emerging in the spring. Catnip is a must have herb for herbal baby care.
Catnip leaves (Nepeta cataria) emerging in the spring. Catnip is a must have herb for herbal baby care.

These are some teas, simple to make at home, which can help you to fight off the infection that makes you sick and help get you over that sore, achy, feverish state. Even if you feel better after drinking these teas, you may still have some symptoms that are making you uncomfortable- sore throat, stuffy nose, cough, etc. Check back often for more recipes to help alleviate other symptoms!

This post is for informational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or illness. If your condition does not improve or worsens, please seek the advice of a Traditional Healer, qualified Herbalist or Medical Professional.

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