Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Herbs to help fight those winter bugs

The cold weather puts extra stress on our immune system. In conjunction with with plenty of sleep, vitamin D, exercise and a healthy diet, there are herbs that can help keep fight those bugs. I have formulated an immune tonic based on the herbs below.


AstrgalusAstragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for thousands of years. Astragaus is called an adaptogen, meaning it helps protect the body against various stresses, including physical, mental, or emotional stress. The dried root is used medicinally.

Astragulus is used for common cold, upper respiratory infections, allergic rhinitis and to strenghten and regulate the immune system. It is also used as for fybromyalgia, as an antibacterial and antiviral tonic. People with autoimmune disease should speak with their doctor or herbalist first before taking Astagalus because it may stimulate the immune system.


Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera, fam. Solanaceae) is commonly known as “Indian Winter cherry” or “Indian Ginseng”. It is one of the most important herb of Ayurveda (the traditional system of medicine in India) used for millennia as a Rasayana for its wide ranging health benefits. The root and the berry are used medicinally.
Ashwagandha is traditionally used for arthritis, anxiety, insomnia, tuberculosis and chronic liver disease. It is also an adaptogen. It is used for immunomodulatory effects, improving cognitive function, decreasing imflammation and fibromyalgia. It also appears to reduce stress-induced increased of plasma corticosterone.


Traditionally used by Native Americans for hundreds of years, Echinacea (Echinacea Echinacea angustifolia; Echinacea pallida; Echinacea purpurea) is probably the most widely known herb. #It is a beautiful genus of herbaceous flowering plants in the daisy family, Asteraceae and is also known as the American coneflower.

Orally, echinacea is used for treating and preventing the common cold and other upper respiratory infections and is also used orally as an immunostimulant  . Echinacea is used orally for nasal cattarh, allergic rhinitis, gum disease and tonsillitis. Other uses include chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), rheumatism, migraines, dyspepsia, pain, dizziness, rattlesnake bites and swine flu. 


Elderflower (Sambucus nigra)  has been used in traditional medicine all over the world for it's antispeptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Both the flowers and berries in the Elder plant can be used when properly prepared, but all leaves, sticks and roots should be avoided.

Orally, elderflower is used for sinusitis, cold, influenza (flu), swine flu, bronchitis, and diabetes. It is also used as a laxative for constipation, as a diuretic, to promote sweating, and to stop bleeding. It is rich in antioxidants. Because of it's great taste, elderflower is often used as in a cordial.It is generally very well tolerated and a  very gentle herb suitable for all ages.

Wild Oats

Oats (Avena sativa) are primarily used for acute or chronic anxiety, excitation and stress. People with nervous exhaustion, depressive states and insomnia benefit from this herb.

Although there is unlikely to be any problem with Wild Oat infusion or tincture for celiac patients I don’t prescribe it because patients feel anxious about it in the remedy. This is traditionally used as a very nourishing herb for stamina in the nervous system. Particularly good for exhaustion from chronic stress especially with a poor sleeping pattern. It is suitable for all ages.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)is a perennial herbaceous plant in the mint family and is considered to be a calming herb. It is native to North Africa, the Mediterranean region, south- central Europe and Central Asia. The leaves are used to make medicine and have a mild lemon aroma.

 Orally, lemon balm is used for anxiety, insomnia, dyssomnia, restlessness, dyspepsia, bloating, flatulence, colic, and for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Lemon balm is also used for Graves' disease (overactive thyroid), painful periods, cramps and headache. It is also used orally for Alzheimer's disease, melancholia, nervous palpitations, vomiting, and high blood pressure. Topically, lemon balm is used for cold sores (herpes labialis).


Thyme (Thymus vulgaris; Thymus zygis) is also a member of the mint family. It is an evergreen herb. It is best cultivated in hot, sunny country with well drained soil. The flowers, leaves and oil are used as medicine
Orally, thyme is used for bronchitis, whooping cough, sore throat. Thyme contains the essential oils and several other constituents It also contains flavonoids, polyphenolic acids and other constituents.
Thymol, the primary constituent of thyme is rapidly absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract. Preliminary research suggests that thyme has antimicrobial activity and modest antibacterial effects.It also seems to have antiviral activity.

Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)  has antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, laxative, and soothing properties. The applicable part of licorice is the root. It has a lovely sweet taste. 
Licorice is used for stomach and duodenal ulcers, sore throat, bronchitis, gastritis, indigestion, colic, adrenal glands insufficiency of the adrenal cortex and cough. 

The effect of liquorice on the Adrenal Glands is beneficial for most patients, however a small group of patients are sensitive to the effects on blood pressure. Under normal circumstances this would not be significant for short term low dose use. It can be monitored by taking blood pressure and many chemists have a blood pressure machine patients can check during treatment if you do not have resources to check the blood pressure.


Ginger (Zingiber officinale) has a long history of use for helping
with digestive issues such as loss of appetite, nausea and motion sickness.It's room or underground stem (rhizome) can be consumed, fresh, powdered as a spice or juice. Ginger belongs to the same family as cardamom and tumeric. 
Ginger is also used for upper respiratory tract infections, coughs, bronchitis, for the promotion of sweating, as a circulatory stimulant and for treating stomach-ache, diarrhea and nausea for any reason. It can also be used for reducing pain.

Although herbs are generally very safe, if you are on medication or have an underlying medical condition please check with your doctor or herbalist prior to taking any herbs. 
For further details on any of the herbs above, take a look at my materia medica

Disclaimer: Please note this information is based on the traditions of empirical science. These traditions account for observation over generations and centuries. They have not been traditionally used with pharmaceutical medicines and you are advised to seek professional advice from a well qualified medical herbalist if you take pharmacy medication.

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