Over the last few days, I have watched the media accelerate in alerting us to the possible shortage in the H1N1 Swine Flu vaccinations. We are warned that the H1N1 virus will hit this winter in pandemic proportions. Many of us are quite frankly confused as to the prevenitive / treatment approach for ourselves and family members. As practicing herbalist, I have been asked my opinion on this provocative issue.
Vaccinations are sometimes necessary. The elderly, persons with a compromised immune system and very young children should be protected. Caregivers are needed and are often not enough. Therefore, caregivers and educators should consider getting vaccinated. With that being said, the decision to be vaccinated should be weighed carefully. Are there sensible and easy options to protect you and your family without being vaccinated, while the choice is still ours? Sure there are, and one choice is to use an herbal approach.
Herbalism like prevention, is all about personal responsibility, responsibility to yourself and others. If you are sick, prevent others from being so by self quarantining. Most employers have viewed the H1N1 virus as a serious enough threat to encourage their employees to utilize their sick days when feeling ill. Some have even allowed employees to take days even when you have exhausted your sick time.
Prevention in this case and all other health concerns, is the most worthy consideration. Specifically for this flu season, building your immune system should be your utmost concern.
Herbs that build the immune system and can be taken prior to feeling ill are:
A stragulus (Astragalus Membranaceus) – A potent immune enhancer. Best taken before cold and flu season strikes, it builds the body's resistance.
Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus Senticos) – Has anti-viral properties and boost the immune system.
Codonopsis Root (Codonopis pilosulae) – For immune deficiency and frequent infections
Schizandra Berries (Schizandra chinensis) – Boost the body's immune function
Reishi Mushroom – ( Ganoderma lucidum) – Stimulates the immune system
All of the herbs listed above can be taken as a tea or a tincture during this flu season on a preventive basis.
What to do if you are feeling ill:
Know your body and recognize the symptoms of illness. Everyone begins to feel ill in a different way; fatigue, sore throat, headache, nausea, chills, etc. The first hour of an illness setting in is most important in treating that illness. An herbal approach to treatment of the flu includes all of the following: clearing toxins and excess conditions by increasing sweating, killing germs and reducing fever, pains, stiffness and congestion.
His is accomplished by stimulating a natural immune system response.
– At the first signs of the Flu – a diaphoretic remedy such as Osha Root ( Ligusticum porteri) which can be taken, it will encourage sweating and help to eliminate toxins. Osha Root was first used by Native Americans to treat colds, flu and upper respiratory infections. It is a powerful, antimicrobial, anti-flamatory and antiseptic herb. An Osha tea or tincture can be taken in small doses every half hour to an hour.
– If your cold symptoms become inflammatory, take an herbal antibiotic or anti-microbial – such as Golden Seal (Hydrastis canadensis) or Echinacea ( Echinacea purpurea ) in tea or tincture of up to 7 days. These are both powerful herbs and should be considered as such.
– If you are confused, have a cough or phlegm present – use an expectorant, astringent, and antispasmodic herb. Echinacea can kill germs and dries phlegm. Echinacea can be a drying herb, so you should not take when you have a dry cough. Use an herbal steam of Peppermint (Menta piperita ) and Eucalyptus ( Eucalyptus globules ) to help with the congestion. Other herbs that can help are: Yarrow ( Achillea millefolium ), Mullein ( Verbascum thapsus ) and Wild Cherry ( Prunus serotina ), Elecampane ( Inula helenium ) and Thyme ( Thymus vulagris ).
– For a sore throat – use a soothing demulcent (an herb which provides moisture) such as Marshmallow Root ( Althaea officinalis ) and Slippery Elm ( Ulmus rubra ). Osha can also be taken to reduce inflation, it will soother and anesthezie. A gargle can be made with Yarrow, Sage ( Salvia officinales ) and or Echinacea.
– For Ear Infections – An ear infection usually begins in the throat and spread to the inner ear via the Eustachian tube. Use an anti-microbial such as – Garlic, Echinacea, Mullein or / and Meadowsweet ( Filipendula ulmaria ) for the pain.
– For a Fever use an herb that is febrifuge (brings down a fever) and diaphoretic (promotes sweating), such as – Ginger, Boneset – treat aches and pains, Peppermint, Elder Flowers, Catnip (especially great for young children) and Yarrow .
here is also much to be said about using herbs topically to prevent the spread of infections. According to the story, in Toulouse, France during the time of the plague four thieves were robbing and stealing from the dead, without falling ill from the plague. When they were finally apprehended, and sent to death for their deeds, a judge allowed them their lives if they reveal their secret of how they were able to handle the diseased bodies and remain immune themselves. Their secret was a formula of herbs and essential oils that is antimicrobial, astringent and antiseptic properties!
ou can easily make similar formula to use as a room spray and hand sanitizer to protect yourself and others from getting ill. Use two ounces of distilled water to 1/2 ounce vodka, and add 30-40 drops of any of the following essential oils: Sage, Thyme, Frankincense, Pine, Lavender, Rosemary or Oregano. Shake well and spray on surfaces, in the air and on hands.
Above all use common sense when feeling ill; avoid cold, raw foods, dairy products, dress warmly, and get the rest your body needs. Do eat lots of garlic in your diet, miso soups, and organic vegetable broths. Take care of yourself and each other this flu season!
"The above information is not intended to diagnose or treat the flu, and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration"