Herbs for the Flu
Where I live, the two topics du jour are Snowmageddon and the Flu. I always say that there is an herb for everything and while there are plenty of herbs to add to your snow cream that’s about it for snow. The flu however is an entirely different subject.
There are so many herbs to help ward off, fight off and speed up healing from the flu but I’ll stick to my favorites. This is a list of herbs to help with the Flu, but each person is different and individuals will have different varying symptoms to treat. These are the broadest working herbs I use against the Flu, but I never rely on just one and never repeatedly. The Flu strains change and adapt rapidly so your tools need to change also. For instance, my elderberry syrup is never the same. Most commonly it has 12-14 different herbs in it but the amounts of each herb change depending on the symptoms for what the majority of people report. I also change it depending on weather conditions, damp season versus dry season need different approaches.
Astragalus- A Chinese herb that has been used traditionally to improve the immune system. It’s historic use is in the youngest children up through the elderly in TCM is unmatched. It is a tonic herb that works on building immune strength and the whole body. It’s an herb that benefits through longer term use and can be taken or eaten most of the year.
It’s primary action seems to be on the lungs, circulatory system and fortifying the immune system particularly in the the aid of rebuilding bone marrow.
This plant can be added to your soups, rice or porridges to cook. It lends a very slight earthy flavor and really isn’t very noticeable. It’s easy to take as a tincture or glycerite. It blends easily with most other herbs.
**It really doesn’t have any counterindications historically but as more people are diagnosed with auto immune issues, more people are reporting them. I have several clients with auto immune issues who do well with Astragalus but I know people who do not.
Garlic- known as Russian penicillin or poor man’s penicillin, this herb has one of the longest known use as an herb to treat most any illness. It is a wonderful herb to increase in your diet or medicine cabinet all year but especially during the winter months. Garlic is effective after the air has worked it’s magic with the Allicin in the plant so I recommend that you chop, mince or grate it and let the air do it’s work on it for 10 minutes, then cook or eat it.
Garlic contains high levels of vitamin C and has a high potassium content so it helps with the absorption of essential nutrients. Thanks to the pungent smell that garlic emits, our body reacts by a signal that travels to the brain to release watery fluid in the lungs to counter the pungent property, thereby helping clear the lungs.
I love using aired and minced garlic to create a honey to take as a preventive in the winter.
1 cup of local raw honey
3 or more garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried Thyme leaves
2 tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar
Throw everything in a a pot and simmer over a stove for about 2 minutes. You do not want to cook the herbs, it’s only to infuse the honey so stir often. You can strain or leave the herbs in there. Take 1 tablespoon a day for an adult
1 tsp for a child 12 and under.
Elderberries/elderflowers- Across Europe both the flower and the berries are utilized in syrups, teas and jams for their medicinal actions of inducing sweating and stimulating the immune system but in the US, we tend to use the berries much more. I like a combo myself and find that it’s more thorough to use them together.
Elderberries are a stimulant to the immune system and thankfully they are delicious as well. They blend well with lots of herbs flavor wise and healing movement wise. Elderberry Syrup is quickly becoming one the fastest DIY medicines with recipes popping up all over the web and getting pinned on Pinterest.
Numerous studies are always being done on the effectiveness of Elderberries and it’s syrup. Most studies show that it can reduce the length of the flu for an average of 3-4 days, which is roughly the same as prescribed drugs without the harmful side effects. Also Elderberry is used as a preventative around the world. I won’t speak to doses because everyone has a different recipe and it would change depending on the recipe.
Elderberries can also be made into jams and sauces that are eaten through out the winter months. Elderflower makes a great many beverages ranging from teas to cordials. And both can be made into a tincture.
Olive Leaf- Numerous studies confirm that olive leaf has antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging properties.
Researchers found that comparing Olive Leaf to Green Tea, it has twice the antioxidant capacity of green tea and none of the caffeine.
Olive leaf has antiviral properties. It is used to treat viral infections such as influenza, swine flu, common cold, herpes and hepatitis B.Studies show that some of the bioactive phytochemicals in olive leaf disrupt the replication of viruses including those responsible for common cold and influenza, stopping the viruses from continuing to grow wreak havoc in your body since one of the major steps involved in infection is the replication of the infective pathogen. When a few influenza viruses enter into human cells, they immediately set about creating more of their kind. If this replication proceeds far enough to produce a considerable population of such viruses, influenza infection sets in. By blocking the process by which influenza virus reproduces, olive leaf breaks the chain of replication and ensures that the population of flu virus is not significant enough to overwhelm the immune system.
This antiviral property of olive leaf has been shown to win against influenza viruses including the strains (influenza A viruses such as H1N1 and H3N2) responsible for the 2009 swine flu pandemic.
The antiviral properties of olive leaf have been shown to provide full cover against the major viruses responsible for upper respiratory tract infections during the flu season. In fact, studies show that olive leaf extract was especially effective against viral infections when fever was also present, making it a great enemy of the Flu.
Thyme- This tiny little leaf packs a whallop. It’s anti microbial, anti fungal, loaded with anti oxidants, boosts the immune system, has anti stress activities, protects the heart and clears the respiratory system.
For today’s article though we want to focus on it’s antioxidant values, respiratory actions and it’s stress busting. With one of the highest antioxidant concentrations in any herb, thyme has been praised for thousands of years as an overall health booster. The phenolic antioxidants found in thyme, including lutein, zeaxanthin, and thymonin contribute to neutralizing and eliminating free radicals throughout the body. Free radicals are the dangerous by-products of cellular metabolism that can do major damage to your healthy cells by causing apoptosis or spontaneous mutation. These antioxidants help prevent oxidative stress present in your organs, as well as your neural pathways, heart, eyes, and skin.
Thyme acts as an expectorant and an anti-inflammatory substance. It eliminates phlegm and mucus from the respiratory tracts, eases inflammation to help breathe, and prevents microbial development that can lead to illness.
One of the vitamins in thyme (B6) has a powerful effect on certain neurotransmitters in the brain that are directly linked to stress hormones. When we are ill, the last thing we need is to add more stress to the situation since stress hormone imbalance is linked to longer and tougher illnesses to fight.
Kalmegh- This is hands down my favorite flu fighter. I found it while doing research three or four years ago and I can honestly say it is a miracle herb. I will also warn you that it is the worst tasting herb I’ve ever taken but boy oh boy is it worth it!
Andrographis (Kalmegh) is a plant that is native to South Asian countries such as India and Sri Lanka. The leaf and underground stem are used to make medicine. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine where it is known as “the cure for all diseases” and it really has been used for practically everything. It is used for digestive complaints including diarrhea, constipation, intestinal gas, colic, and stomach pain; for liver conditions including an enlarged liver, jaundice, and liver damage due to medications; for infections including leprosy, pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, syphilis, malaria, cholera, leptospirosis, rabies, sinusitis, and HIV/AIDS; and for skin conditions including wounds, ulcers and itchiness.
Some people use kalmegh powder for sore throat, coughs, swollen tonsils, bronchitis, and allergies. It is also used for “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), and prevention of heart disease and diabetes.
Other uses include treatment of snake and insect bites, loss of appetite, kidney problems (pyelonephritis), hemorrhoids, and an inherited condition called familial Mediterranean fever.
I use it mainly for it’s swift action against colds and the flu and I'm not the lone fan. In fact many claim that kalmegh stopped the 1919 flu epidemic in India. I wouldn’t be surprised, I’ve seen it knock out the flu in as little as three days. It’s one of the main ingredients in my herbal flu shot tincture.
Vitamin C is another great thing to load up on and it’s part of all the herbs mentioned or you can take it as a supplement but make sure you are getting Vitamin C because it’s an antioxidant and they are disease fighters. Vitamin C also plays a crucial part in the production of collagen, which is essential for the creation and repair of cells, muscles, tissues, and blood vessels.
I have used and witnessed all of these herbs work against the Flu as either a solo herb or as part of a bigger formula. I also tell people to be kind to yourself and loved ones while recovering and that means lots of good food and rest. Don't try to power through, we are chronically under rested and that is an issue for another day.
Wife, Mom, herbalist and friend. Feel free to change the order of the description to fit your needs, I do several times a day.