If you feel like you are coming down with a case of the sniffles - don't despair.
There are some natural remedies that can help you feel better in no time by boosting your immune system.
A Natural Defense for Your Stomach
If you have ever had a stomach bug, and who hasn't, you know it can really put you out of commission. But there is something you can do to stop a stomach virus in it's tracks. Research shows that plantains, which are a relative of bananas, help protect the gut and stomach lining from unfriendly bacteria. They contain a large amount of insoluble fiber, which has been proven to reduce E. coli in the digestive tract by more than 80 percent. Plantains are also rich in potassium and immune-boosting nutrients like vitamin C and vitamin A.
A traditional remedy used by Native Americans, echinacea is also known as purple cone flower. Many human clinical studies have shown that echinacea, a traditional herbal cold remedy, does in fact reduce both the severity and the duration of colds. Your best echinacea remedies are those made from fresh echinacea. Try the Gaia Herbs brand or the Herb Pharm brand of fluid echinacea extracts, or Echinaforce by A. Vogel. You can also get echinacea as an herbal tea. Try Traditional Medicinal’s Echinacea Plus.
One way to decongest clogged sinuses is to breathe the vapors of certain aromatic substances including menthol or eucalyptus. The Swiss company Olbas makes a couple of terrific products in this category. One, the Olbas inhaler, contains menthol, oils of peppermint, cajeput and eucalyptol, one of the components of eucalyptus. You just apply the inhaler to your nose, take a nice breath, and the vapors open up the sinuses.
When I was conducting plant research in South Africa, I was introduced to a funny-sounding plant called umcka. This is a traditional San tribal name for the South African herb Pelargonium sidoides. Especially when taken at the onset of a cold, umcka can cut the entire misery short. Human clinical studies show that umcka works well. My two favorite brands are umcka by Nature’s Way, and Cold Check by EuroPharma, which contains both umcka and another cold-fighting herb, andrographis.
Don’t even try to pronounce this one! Just call it “oscillo” for short. Did you know that almost all flu comes from birds, mostly ducks? It’s true. This is why the national flu research center keeps tens of thousands of samples of duck organs in its lab refrigerators. Made from a highly dilute extract of the heart and liver of the Barbary duck, oscillo helps to reduce both the duration and severity of the flu, especially when taken at the first signs of sickness.
In various human studies, elderberry has demonstrated anti-flu activity. This is due to a group of antioxidant flavonoids in elderberry that bind to the influenza virus and prevent infection. While some health authorities question the real efficacy of elderberry as a flu-fighter, it does demonstrate some value. One study of elderberry extract and the (scary) H1N1 virus showed that the antioxidant compounds in the berries inhibit the proliferation of that virus. While further work must be done on this, the study suggests that at least, elderberry may help to reduce the activity of this flu. Hippocrates, widely recognized as one of the greatest pioneers of medicine, called elder his medicine chest, and he knew what he was talking about.
Fresh ginger root is my favorite pick for cold care. Buy ginger fresh (preferably organic) and cut a piece about an inch and a half long. Either chop the ginger finely, or grate it. Put the finely minced ginger into a tea strainer, and put the tea strainer in a cup. Pour fresh boiling water into the cup. Let the tea sit for five minutes. Remove the tea strainer, and squeeze the ginger with a spoon to get a bit more of the ginger juice into the cup. Flavor with a spoonful of honey, and sip. Ginger contains a group of compounds called sesquiterpenes, which kills rhinoviruses, the agents that cause colds. So when you have a cold, several bracing cups of fresh ginger root tea can help you to reduce the severity and duration of that unwanted event. Ginger tea also helps to relieve a sore throat. Drink three or more cups daily until you are well. For children, dilute the concentration of the tea, so it’s less spicy.
Sometimes called the stinking rose, garlic has long occupied a special place in natural healing. This fragrant and pungent member of the allium family enhances overall cardiovascular health, fights various types of cancer cells well, and is a potent immune booster. But garlic goes beyond this, actually killing many of the types of bacteria that cause food poisoning. Heavy use of garlic is prevalent in places and cultures where food preparation hygiene may be poor, and where refrigeration is not always available. Adding fresh-pressed garlic into food, or cooking with garlic, may prevent sickness due to bacterial contamination. And if you have a cold, press a clove of garlic into a cup of hot water, add the juice of a lemon, mix in a teaspoon of honey, and drink it down. This shot to the immune system will help you to get rid of the cold faster.
Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. He teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is Explorer In Residence. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide. His field research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France. Read more at www.MedicineHunter.com
Jessica Mulvihill contributed to this article.