It's that time of year again when a chill in the morning air can be felt and the cool evenings tempt us to cosy up by the heater. Winter is traditionally seen as a time of rest and slowing down, of inward reflection and contemplation, a time to nourish and restore ourselves before the new beginning that comes with Spring. Unfortunately it can also be a time when we are more susceptible to becoming sick with colds and flus. A lowered body temperature can provide an ideal environment for viruses to thrive and the cooler weather may also affect the thickness of our mucus, making it less effective in clearing out pathogens from our respiratory systems.
To protect ourselves against the variety of infections prevalent in the cooler months, it is important to ensure our inner defence systems are strong. Providing warm nourishing foods to the body, ensuring sufficient exercise and dressing appropriately with extra layers are essential factors as well as avoiding smoking and minimising stress. Herbs and nutrients can be of assistance by supporting the immune system and helping to reduce the symptoms of colds.
Boosting Your Defences with Herbs
Certain herbs are effective in helping to maintain the health of the immune system and keeping the body's resistance strong. Herbs that fall into this category include Astragalus, Echinacea, Cat's Claw, Andrographis, Olive leaf and Cordyceps and they are suitable to be taken as a preventative approach. Vitamin C is also beneficial during cold and flu season.
Herbal Help for Colds
Despite our best measures, sometimes we still fall sick. Fortunately there is a selection of herbs that can help with symptoms of colds and mild respiratory illnesses. It is always best to start taking these herbs at the very first signs of a cold for best effectiveness.
Olive leaf can be used to help with cold symptoms due to the demonstrated antimicrobial properties of its active component oleuropein. To help clear congestion, it's hard to go past Fenugreek which is known to have an expectorant action, helping to expel excess mucus. Golden seal is often referred to as 'nature's antibiotic' and can help with symptoms of colds and congestion.
For irritation in the airways, the herbs Marshmallow and Mullein can help soothe throats and ease dry coughs, and Eyebright as its name suggests, is the herb to turn to for irritated watery eyes as well as sinusitis.
Sage Throat Gargle: For a sore irritated throat, gargles are an effective way of directing a herb to the specific site of discomfort. To make your own gargle at home - add the powdered contents of two Sage capsules to one cup of boiling water. Allow to stand for 10-20minutes, strain and use while warm.
As we approach the coldest months of the year, now is the ideal time to begin taking steps to help ward off illness so you can enjoy the magic of Winter.
Written by Aimee Wilkins BHSc. (Nat.), N.D., Dip. Nut.