Herbalists Get Colds? (Plus Elderberry syrup!)
Yep, it has been known to happen. As a matter of fact, I had a full-blown cold this past weekend with all of the classic sniffly symptoms: Sore throat, mild headache, drippy nose, disrupted sleep, droopy eyes…
Sometimes when I tell people I have a cold, they give me this look that says, “How can you get sick?”, like there’s no hope left in the world. But honestly, herbalists are no more immune to the common cold than the rest of the general public – we just may know how to dance with it a little more efficiently. I’m around people feeling unwell basically every day, so it’s incredibly important to me to keep my immune system strong, and to have a solid arsenal of herbal allies when I catch a bug floating around. It’s been my experience that people always have at least 4 symptoms that are the tell-tell signs of coming down with a bug, and when you can identify them and act quickly on symptom #1- you can really increase your chances of warding off the invasion before it takes hold. For instance, when I’m getting sick: Sign #1 – my throat feels ticklish and sore; Sign #2, my head starts to feel heavy and foggy; Sign #3, my nose turns into an unstoppable faucet; Sign #4, everything moves to my chest, takes up residence and refuses to leave. At that point, I’m basically sleeping until it goes away. So, I know what Sign #1 feels like, and as soon as I feel it I act within an hour. Here’s my roadmap of navigating a cold attack:
- Cold Coming on Tea:This is for the “I’m getting sick” stage – dry throat, lack of fluids in the body – bugs are trying to get in, and you want to add heat to your body to push the bugs back to the surface. Other great herbs for this are Cayenne, garlic, and GINGER. See my last post on Fire Cider, which I always keep around and include 1 tbps daily in times of need.
Finally, I take echinacea root consistently and in high doses for 48 hours. I usually prefer taking the tincture in this circumstance. I take a loading does of 1200mg (about 2 tsp), then 1/2 tsp every single hour the first day. Day two, I take 1/2 tsp every 2 hours. Mix the tincture with a little water, as echinacea is pretty strong! [http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2012/841315/]
- Still drinking tea ALL day if my cold has progressed into the “I know I’m totally sick stage” with a stuffy nose, inflamed membranes, sore throat/lymph nodes, red and hot symptoms. This is where yarrow, elder flowers & peppermint come in. These are more cooling herbs to modify the hot inflamed symptoms going on. I really love Traditional Medicinals Gypsy Cold Care tea and I add some honey and fresh lemon to each cup.
SLEEP – No matter what I have planned that day – it’s usually always more important to rest and allow my body time to just get over this situation. The more I push myself the longer the illness lasts. Please don’t go to work sick… that’s how other people get sick. I know it’s never convenient to get sick, but when you are, you are. Take some time to recover.
- Finally comes the much anticipated “I think I’m getting better” stage – you’re blowing everything out, it’s bright and colorful, mucosa is boggy and membranes are still a little puffy, but there’s active expelling of stuff happening. Now it’s time for the clean up-crew: Goldenseal! I still prefer tincture, and I take about 1tsp 3x daily. This herb is ideal for cleaning up the dregs of a cold. It has a really astringent flavor, so mix with a little water when taking. Remember, goldenseal is an endangered herb so only take when you absolutely need it and for short periods of time. It does it’s job effectively and should be discontinued after about 4 days.
Some other helpful remedies for cold symptoms and prevention:
Mullein tea – for dry, unproductive coughs. Mullein is very moistening to counter-act the dryness of hoarse bronchioles. Dose 1tsp in 1 cup hot water steep 7-8 minutes, covered. I sometimes have up to 6-7 cups a day when needed.
Thyme tea – for wet, productive coughs. Thyme is very drying which will counter act the excess moisture from too much mucus in the chest. Dose 1tsp in 1 cup hot water, steep for 7-8 minutes, covered.
Food based vitamin C – 1 orange a day will give you plenty of Vitamin C
Decrease/completely eliminate dairy and sugar from the diet. Dairy will just add to the mucus problem, and sugar is like giving the bugs more ammunition to fight against you. Soup and broths are really helpful, along with plenty of easy to digest foods like apple sauce or oatmeal with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and berries.
Drink fluids all day long, either herbal tea or just water. Aim for at least 64oz – you want to flush your system out as thoroughly as possible while still increasing your nutrient intake with good foods and herbal medicines. Nettle tea is a great way to add nutrients into your water and is a potassium-sparing diuretic.
I take elderberry pretty frequently throughout the year to keep my immune system strong, even when I’m feeling just fine. Here’s my favorite recipe for Elderberry Syrup – easy to make and cost effective.
It’s true…an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Even when you’re feeling spry and healthy, remember to take care of your immune system and keep it strong with daily doses of good, nutritious foods.
Lindsay Kluge M.Sc, CNS, LDN | HealthCoach@EllwoodThompsons.com