- Publish Date
- Monday, 30 April 2018, 8:30AM
Before the winter months really start to set, it's a good time to integrate plant medicine into your daily routine to build and strengthen your immune system, especially if you know you're prone to catching colds and flus.
Building up your immunity when you are well is essential as it helps prime the body for the colder months and supports the body to adapt to the stressors that will come its way during high-risk times.
Medicinal plants work on the physiology of the body and have the unique ability to improve the way your body functions. Traditional plant medicines have been used for centuries to protect and fortify the human immune system. Having immune support on hand as we lead into the early winter and flu season can help to prevent upper respiratory infections or reduce the severity and duration of infection if something has managed to pass by your defences.
With 60 years of clinical research and longstanding traditional use, Echinacea root (Echinacea purpurea) is perhaps the most well-known and frequently used immune herb.
Echinacea is scientifically confirmed in a meta-analysis by Schapowal, Klein and Johnston to reduce both the severity and duration of colds and flu. It increases the number and activity of immune cells, resulting in a more efficient attack on viruses and bacteria.
Unlike synthetic cold and flu medications, Echinacea can be successfully taken as a preventative medicine over longer periods. Preparations made with freshly prepared (not dried) Echinacea roots are particularly potent. A 2015 study by Raus et al confirmed that such preparations are as effective as Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) in the early treatment of clinically diagnosed and virologically confirmed influenza virus infections with a reduced risk of complications and adverse events.
The anti-infective, antibacterial and antiviral properties of Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) as demonstrated by Dorman and Deans in 2000 make it a winter essential.
Thyme is particularly useful for coughs and chest infections. The German Commission E of the German Ministry of Health approved thyme for the treatment of whooping cough. As an expectorant it helps to clear mucus from the airways and is a key herb for asthmatics and those who are predisposed to infections that move to the chest. Using medicinally prepared thyme in the early stages of an upper respiratory tract infection can help prevent the infection from taking hold in deeper levels of the lungs; an important tip for those wanting to prevent another season of antibiotics.
Angelica (Angelica archangelica) is another powerful expectorant that is used for the prevention and treatment of contagious infections, including influenza and respiratory tract diseases such as bronchitis. This anti-infective plant that is a key medicine in the natural pharmacy of cold Nordic countries is also useful to support recovery after a serious illness.
If you do fall ill this winter – traditional medicine advises that you increase the frequency of intake of immune strengthening plant medicines, eat freshly prepared bone broths and vegetable soups (preferably organic), to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and to incorporate steam inhalation for symptomatic relief. Once you have recovered, take the time to rebuild your immunity and resilience, which is where plant medicine excels.
If your symptoms persist or do not improve, please see your leading health care professional.
This article was first published on NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.