I read once, in a book by the herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner, about herbal ‘antibiotics’ and why they’re so much more effective than chemical ones. Viruses mutate. Its a fact of life. You know what else mutates? Plants. Fact. So just as a virus can psychically pass on all its viral information to other viruses (and by the way, can we please learn to communicate like that more?), plants do the same. So some guy in a lab coat extracts one chemical from one plant that reportedly kills X virus but its only a matter of time before the virus figures out the chemical and mutates so that it is no longer affected by it. Kinda like people, who, under duress for long enough will mutate to accept those circumstances as normal. So there’s this chase-and-catch up thing where people try to manufacture things that kill viruses and then the viruses mutate and then another chemical needs to be made, and its a frantic, circular dance. But then you have plants, some of which have over a hundred chemicals in them. A HUNDRED*! In one little plant! One hundred chemicals are a good adversary for a nasty virus because its too complicated a code to crack. And even if the virus does manage to mutate, plants are clever. There’s a whole conversation going on out there in nature that we’re not privy to, and I trust it to carry on in the same way its been carrying on for millennia.
My point being that there are things out there that are perfectly suited to helping our bodies not get sick, or dramatically reduce the length of a sickness. Elderberry is one of them, and its probably in my top-ten-most-used list. While it isn’t one of those clever things that kills viruses (garlic, anybody?), it does help your immune system quite dramatically.
On ingredients: Elderberries are really abundant in nature, and I really recommend you get out there and find some local bushes. But its the middle of winter and you’re unlikely to find any right now unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, so you can order them, and everything else on the list, from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Elderberry Immune Elixir
Quantities are for a quart jar, and using dried ingredients. If you use fresh, reduce the volume by half please. Dosage is for adults over the age of 21 as it contains alcohol.
1 cup dried elderberries.
1/2 cup dried elderflowers.
1/4 cup dried mullein leaf
1/4 cup dried boneset
1 inch fresh ginger, chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
peel of 1/2 lemon
Alcohol of your choice-brandy, vodka, tequila,whisky. Ok, this is the easy part. Once you have all your ingredients, put them all in the jar, then fill a third of the way with honey. This will take a while as the honey is thick. Don’t worry, just pour it, and come back every 20 minutes to re-pour until its a third of the way up. You can also heat the honey before pouring to make it easier, I just don’t like to do this as it destroys some of the lovely things that are in the honey. After the honey’s in the jar, top it up with your alcohol. Voila. Done. Now, screw the lid on the top. Give it a good shake, and leave it somewhere prominent that you can shake it once a day or so. After six weeks, its ready. Strain it out and pour it into a pretty bottle.
Dosage: upon first sign of getting sick, start taking about a quarter teaspoon every couple of hours. Take it until all signs of sickness are gone. If you do actually get sick (which is rare, but with these bugs going around right now, its happening), keep taking it as often as you can.
Cold Flu Tea
When you’re huddled at home nursing a cold or flu, a warm cup of herb tea is comfort in itself. An advantage to drinking tea is that the liquid thins congestion and flushes out toxins. It’s true that tea is time-consuming, but try to find time to take care of yourself when you’re sick. Drinking two to three cups of the following tea, nice and hot, will make you sweat and lower a fever. Afterward, if possible, tuck yourself into a warm bed.
– 1/2 teaspoon Yarrow flowers (Achillea millefolium)
– 1/2 teaspoon Elder flowers (Sambucus canadensis)
– 1/2 teaspoon Peppermint leaves
– 1/2 teaspoon Echinacea root
– 1/2 teaspoon Schisandra berries
– 3 cups boiling water
1.Combine the herbs in a teapot and pour the boiling water over them. Steep for at least 20 minutes.
2.Strain and drink throughout the day. You can make a double batch and keep it in the refrigerator. Just be sure to warm it before drinking.
Sore Throat Gargle with Sage
The Sage (Salvia officinalis) used in the following recipe is a classic gargle, but other herbs such as Marjoram, Thyme or Hyssop can replace it. Opera singers once used Marjoram to ease a strained throat.
-1 cup boiling water
-2 teaspoons fresh or dried Sage leaves
– 1/4 ounce salt
1.Pour the boiling water over the sage, cover and steep for 20 minutes.
2.Strain and add the salt. Gargle as needed. Store in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
Warm, moist air opens nasal and bronchial passages. Combined with herbs, steam is one of the most effective, all-purpose cold and flu cures. To humidify and disinfect the entire house, simmer the water with the herbs or essential oils on low heat for half an hour. Essential oils can also be used in most commercial humidifiers, but check the instructions.
-3 cups water
-5 drops essential oil of Lavender
-5 drops essential oil of Rosemary
-5 drops essential oil of Bergamot
1. Simmer the water in a pan. Remove from the heat and add the oils (you can get the same effect by putting 1/8 cup total of fresh or dried herbs in the simmering water instead of the essential oils).
2. Hold your face over the steam and cover your head with a bath towel. Tuck the ends of the towel around the pan so the steam doesn’t escape. Breathe in the fragrant steam as deeply as you comfortably can, coming out for fresh air when needed (about every minute or so).
Lemon Antiseptic Throat Spray
A diluted lemon spray is one of the most effective tools to knock down a cold or flu. Other herbs to use in a throat spray are lavender, eucalyptus, lemon, and peppermint. When sprayed through the air, terpene compounds in these oils combine with oxygen to increase the oil’s antiseptic properties.
-15 drops Lemon essential oil
– 5 drops Peppermint essential oil
– 1/4 cup water
– 1/4 cup lemon juice
1.Combine the ingredients and pour the concoction into a spray bottle.
2.Shake well, then gently spray into your throat throughout the day.
Essential Oil Vapor Rub
Ointments called vapor rubs are designed to be rubbed directly on the chest and throat. They rely on essential oils such as peppermint and eucalyptus to produce a heating sensation that reduces constriction by stimulating blood circulation. The oils in a vapor balm are also absorbed through the skin to relieve congestion and kill infection. They serve double duty – the antibiotic scent is also inhaled into the lungs. Vapor balms sold in pharmacies still use compounds derived from antibiotic essential oils (or synthetic counterparts), such as thymol from Thyme and menthol from Mint.
-10 drops Eucalyptus essential oil
-10 drops Peppermint essential oil
-3 drops Thyme essential oil
-1/8 cup Olive oil
1.Combine the ingredients and rub on your chest and throat.
2.To increase the warmth of the balm, rub the oil briskly onto the skin. A warm piece of flannel placed on the chest after ward will increase the warming sensation.