Winter is a time to slow-down, hibernate and rest. And whilst cold and flu are unwelcome visitors, their arrival can also help show us the need to stop and take a break, to highlight just how run-down we have become, and give us permission to rest. The symptoms of cold and flu - the sore throat, blocked nose, cough and aching muscles, are actually cause by our immune systems response to the virus. In herbal medicine, we aim to support the body to fight the virus, rather than suppress the symptoms and immune system.
Both common colds and the flu are caused by viruses, which means modern medicines, such as antibiotics (which have an effect on bacteria, not viruses), are unable to treat them. Rest and plenty of fluids (hot soup!) is always the best advice, but dealing with the symptoms suck. Fortunately, there are some extraordinary herbs which can help give your immune system a boost, and help to relieve the common symptoms of cold & flu faster.
Here I've listed some of my favourite immune loving herbs, which are all easily available from your local health food store and maybe even your garden, and can be used as teas or added to cooking.
Some of my favourite immune boosting herbs -
Bright and Sunny Calendula is a traditional European immune tonic, taken to prevent illness in Winter. Calendula helps support the lymphatic system, and can help to shift lingering infections and swollen glands. Lovely in teas, add to soups or as a herbal bath soak. You can find Calendula in our Glow Bath Soak.
Lemon Balm is one of my personal favourite herbs, working both on reducing anxiety and also boosting the immune system, working as a powerful anti-viral. Often long-term stress can depress the immune system, and in this way, Lemon Balm can work wonders in helping to keep calm, rest and prevent illness. Good as a lemony tea with honey. We use Lemon Balm in our Calm Balm, Sleep Balm & Dream Bath Soak.
Both elder flower and elder berry have immune enhancing properties, and is one of the best remedies for supporting the immune system in children. Elder is a relaxant, and can help relieve spasmodic coughs. It is especially good at helping to clear sinus and respiratory tract congestion. Elder berry syrup goes down easily! We use Elder in our Eucalyptus Rub & Winter Lips Lip Balm.
Thyme is one of the best sore throat remedies, helping to ease coughing as a syrup. It is a strong detoxifier, and can help move stagnant, lingering infections. It has an affinity for the respiratory system, and can help clear out mucus and coughs. Thyme can be added to flavour savoury dishes.
Basil is high in Vitamin C, and has been used since ancient times for it's immune benefits. It helps remove mucus from the lungs, and help clear out the sinuses. As a tea, it helps to finish-off lingering cold & flus, and recover from the exhaustion of illness.
Garlic is a detoxifying anti-microbial, in fact, it's bacterial killing powers are extraordinary! Garlic is excellent to start taking at the onset of a head cold, when you can feel burning or itchiness in the throat, but also helps clear out infections, preventing swollen glands. Garlic can be added to all kinds of dishes, and can also be rubbed directly on the soles of the feet or chest to break-up mucus.
These immune herbs will help to give you a boost, not only to help speed the recovery from cold and flus, but to help prevent you from getting run-down in the first place. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time for rest and relaxation in these colder months, and if you do get sick, be sure to take your body's message to slow-down, rest and recover.