It’s the back-to-school time of year again and it’s not long before kids are bringing artwork, homework and germs home to share. What more can you do besides staying hydrated, covering those coughs, and a lot of handwashing? Here’s a list of take-home work you and your kids can do to get and stay healthy.
Top Ten Herbal Allies
- Astragalus is a good immune booster and can be taken throughout the cold and flu season. This root can be added to soups and stews or brewed in a tea once or twice daily for best results. If you have autoimmune disease or chronic infections, this is not the herb for you.
- Cleavers is an herbal ally for the lymphatic system. At its peak in the Spring, fresh cleavers is much stronger than dried, and either form is best used in a tea. This herb was the inspiration for Velcro and those sticky little “hairs” will irritate the throat if not made into a tea first. Drinking one cup of this tea twice a day is enough to help move lymph and fight infection.
- Echinacea has been used for colds and flus by Native Americans for centuries. This bright purple coneflower was easy to spot in fields until it was over-foraged, creating a shortage of the wild form. The leaves are commonly used in capsule and tincture form to fight colds and boost the immune system for not more than 6 weeks at a time. It’s readily available in a glycerin-based tincture made for children. You can take it as often as every two hours at the first sign of a cold and taper down to twice a day once cold symptoms are under control.
- Elderberry is a bush native to North America with dark berries ripe in late summer and early Fall. This potent anti-viral is a favorite flu fighter. Whether you buy Sambucol or make your own syrup with cloves, cinnamon and honey, elderberry can be taken up to 4 times daily when a virus attacks.
- Garlic contains allicin, a powerful sulfur-based antimicrobial that enhances immune function. It can be supplemented in odorless pills, but will not be as effective. The best way to get enough garlic is to chew a raw clove. But, if you’re not that hard core, then add generous amounts to food at the onset of a cold or flu at least once or twice daily.
- Honey in its pure, raw form is antimicrobial. Manuka is the most potent form but any raw honey will help. A good way to soothe sore throats is to stack alternating slices of lemon and fresh ginger in a small glass jar and fill with honey. Store in the refrigerator and take 1 teaspoon twice daily. Remember, children under a year old should not be given raw honey.
- Mullein Leaves are a good respiratory tonic. It’s one of the few herbs that cleanses the respiratory system without causing a decreased respiratory drive. So while it won’t suppress your cough, it will make your cough more productive, helping you through the illness more quickly. Take as a tea twice daily and breathe in deeply as you drink to inhale the oils escaping in the steam. Mullein is also the active ingredient in earache oils, which are quick and effective at soothing painful ears even in the middle of the night. Take care to not use these oils if the eardrum is ruptured.
- Olive leaf is an antiviral especially effective against Epstein-Barr virus, also known as infectious mononucleosis, the “kissing disease.” Taken as an extract in capsule form twice daily, olive leaf has been shown in studies to stop viral replication, lessening the severity and duration of Mono.
- Oregano Oil is a broad spectrum antimicrobial with a strong taste and odor. While it is effective on its own, it also helps other herbs do their job better so will pack a more powerful punch taken in combination. This strong tasting herb is best taken as an oil in gelcap form twice daily.
- Thyme is a popular cooking herb that also has antiviral properties. Thyme supports the thymus, the master gland of the immune system. Thyme is an aromatic herb that is best taken as a tea once or twice daily to get over the viruses that seem to keep holding on.
Immune Boosting Vitamins
Vitamin A is especially important for the gut’s immune system and increases the overall tolerance of the immune system, which is important for health. 10,000 IU is generally considered safe to supplement.
Vitamin C is naturally antibacterial and antiviral, and can decrease the frequency and duration of colds, and also thins mucus for easier drainage from the sinuses. Because Vitamin C is water soluble, it needs to be taken more often or in a time-released formula to stay effective. Supplement to bowel tolerance or at least 2,000mg daily.
Vitamin D is the newest superstar in immune function and a blood test can determine your levels. If you can’t get regular sunlight to exposed skin to boost your levels, then 5,000IU daily is recommended to get levels back to normal and increase immunity.
Vitamin E is the most overlooked immune system boosting vitamin. It stimulates production of natural killer cells in the tonsils, which seek and destroy germs. Supplement 400 IU daily to raise your levels and support your immune system.
Minerals that Heal
Iodine is an often overlooked but great germ fighter. Important for immunity, Lugol’s solution can be painted on tonsils daily to fight infection at the source. 95% of the body’s natural killer cells are located in the tonsils, so supporting these important immune structures is essential for healing.
Selenium and Zinc are antioxidant minerals important for immune system function. 200mcg of Selenium and 50mg of Zinc daily can be taken daily to ward off colds and flus. Zinc throat sprays are also effective relief for sore throats.
Salt is an antimicrobial best used in a gargle for not just pain relief but infection fighting. Packed full of minerals, the best forms of salt to use are Celtic, Himalayan and RealSalt from Utah.
Move That Lymph
Steam and sauna during a cold are great allies if you are well hydrated. Both help move lymph and stimulate the immune system to fight infection. Neither are advised with a fever present.
Alternating hot and cold showers also move lymph and can be done even with a low-grade fever (under 101 degrees F). Shower for 2 minutes as hot as you can stand, then 30 seconds as cold as it goes. Repeat this cycle 4 times and end on cold in the morning and hot in the evening.
The Nose Knows
Known by many different names and steeped in folklore, the Thieves blend of essential oils is an effective antibacterial and antiviral whether diffused, used as a cleaner or diluted in carrier oil and applied to the skin. The story goes that thieves from the middle ages who worked in the perfume factories would put this oil blend on a cloth over their noses and mouths to loot the villages of people affected by the plague and did not get sick. Whether that’s true or not, it does seem to help the pain of strep throat when applied to the neck in a carrier oil.
One trick of modern herbalists to make breathing easier is to put a drop of peppermint essential oil in the palm of your hand, rub your hands together, then place hand over nose and mouth and inhale deeply several times until the nose clears. Be careful to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water afterward so you don’t get the peppermint oil on sensitive skin.
Neti Pots are an ancient sinus support brought into the modern era. Studies show they’re effective against sinus infections by flushing germs and allergens. Sinus rinse bottles are also effective. If you don’t feel comfortable flushing your sinuses, a saline nasal spray with xylitol will also help fight infection and mildly rinse sinuses.
Support Your Adrenals
In our fast-paced lives, it can be hard to rest and recover with so many places to go and things to do. Supplement with an Adrenal Formula with Spleen and Thymus glandulars for those worn out, stressed out times you just can’t seem to get ahead of it all. Tired adrenals suppress the immune system and can lead to repeated illnesses or colds you just can’t shake.