MARCH 2014
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Tools for the Cold and Flu Season
By Linda Conroy

The cold and flu season is in full swing. Before deciding what to do,  It is helpful to understand that when we have a cold and/or the flu we are dealing with respiratory viruses.  In order to avoid these common ailments I find that prevention is the best defense. I am not inclined to get the flu shot and so I work to nourish myself, to build and strengthen my natural immunity. As the saying goes an ounce of prevention can go a long way, even if you do get sick. 

A good rule of thumb during cold and flu season is to minimize contact with large groups of people. While not always possible, minimizing contact is ideal. We all know that kids in schools pass viruses readily and often. 

It also is important to eat whole unprocessed food. Long cooked bone broths are very helpful and of course it is important to get plenty of rest. To learn about bone broths you can visit our blog post on the topic at this link.  During the winter months, it is important to get more sleep than usual. Really take an example from the hibernating bears, 10 hours really is not to much. And naps, well take an example from cats and dogs, they are master at napping.

Drinking nourishing herbal infusions: Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus), Nettle (Urtica dioca), Oats (Avena sativa), Red Clover (Trifolium pretense) and Roseship (Rosa sp) is a powerful way to keep your body healthy and strong. To find out how to prepare nourishing herbal infusions click here.

In addition to keeping your system strong, you can prophylactically or preventatively ingest Elderberry (Sambucus sp) tincture, tea or syrup. This is a powerful antiviral herb that can be ingested on a daily basis for long periods of time. If you are not able to make your own, preparations of this herb are becoming increasingly easy to find.

At the first sign of a cold or flu I like to ingest Echinacea ( to learn more about Echinacea sp (click here) and/or Elderberry (Sambucus sp). These two herbs can be ingested as a tea, tincture or syrup. They are very effective at warding or minimizing the duration of a cold or flu.  I like to take large quantities of these herbs. In tincture or syrup form I take 1 tsp every 2 hours for the first day or two of the illness. If ingesting these herbs in tea form taking a cup or two every couple of hours. You really cannot ingest too much of these herbs. There are herbs that you want to be more cautious around, but these are safe and effective.

For relieving symptoms once they are established the following herbs can be helpful:

Elecampane (Inula helenium) This is a European herb in the Asteracea family. This plant is easy to grow and it is beautiful in the back of the herb garden. The root is the part of the plant used for medicine. I typically take this in a syrup or tincture form. Medicinally, Elecampane is a wonderful expectorant. I find it to be a very effective lung tonic as well as a treatment herb for relieving congestion during the cold and flu season. This is the main reason I like to have it available in my winter medicine cabinet. To learn more about this plant visit our post here.

St Johnswort (Hypericum perforaturm) While many think of this herb as a nervine or one that can ease mild depression, when I think of this plant I typically think antiviral. This plant, relieves pain, inhibits cancer growth, relieves/prevents muscle aches, is antiseptic, anitmicrobal, antiviral, heals burns, cold sores, herpes and shingles, relives sore muscles, bones, heals nerves, reduces inflammation and eases sciatica pain. I typically ingest this in tincture form, 1 tsp every two hours for acute situations. I decrease the dose as the symptoms decrease.

Yarrow (Achilia millifolium) This plant is a common weed, in the Astercaea family. This plant is another under-utilized viral fighting plant. Not only does it fight viruses, it also relieves pain, reduces inflammation, stops bleeding and is a great insect repellent. Yarrow tea is wonderful and/or for immediate relief the tincture can also be useful.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) This plant is a member of the mint family. It grows easily and readily in any garden. Lemon Balm is also viral fighting and is specific for fighting herpes infections, particularly during acute phases then pain is present. It can be ingested as well as applied topically to fight viruses, to soothe pain and irritation and to add a cooling affect both internally externally. A tincture, tea, oil or salve can be made. To  learn a little more about Lemon Balm click here.

There are many other herbs that can be enlisted to support our bodies during the cold and flu season. The above plants are ones that I have had good results with and find are simple and safe to use.

I hope you are all feeling well and if you are in areas where the arctic blast has brought very cold temperature that you are staying warm!

Many Green Blessings,

Linda Conroy is a bioregional, wise woman herbalist, educator,wildcrafter, permaculturist and an advocate for women's health.

She is the proprietress of Moonwise Herbs and the founder of Wild Eats: a movement to encourage people and communities to incorporate whole and wild food into their daily lives. She is passionate about women's health and has been working with women for over 20 years in a wide variety of settings.

Linda is a student of nonviolent communication and she has a masters degree in Social Work as well as Law and Social Policy. Linda has been offering hands on herbal programs and food education classes for well over a decade.

She has completed two herbal apprenticeship programs, one of which was with Susun Weed at the Wise Woman Center and she has a certificate in Permaculture Design.

Linda is a curious woman whose primary teachers are the plants; they never cease to instill a sense of awe and amazement.

Her poetic friend Julene Tripp Weaver, eloquently describes Linda when she writes, "She listens to the bees, takes tips from the moon, and follows her heart."

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