Posts Tagged ‘echinacea’

IT’S FLU SEASON!!!!!! Oh My God!!!
Don’t just lay there and turn into a glassy-eyed zombie while mutant viruses hijack your cells and turn them into viral reproduction centers! DO SOMETHING! Fight back!  So you didn’t get the flu vaccine for whatever reason, you can still protect yourself, your friends, your kids, and grandma. You’ve got to STAY STRONG, okay?  Here are a few simple things you can do to avoid being a disposable pawn in viral warfare.

Support The Resistance

Let me begin by stating that I am profoundly grateful to have been born after The Germ Theory of Disease became widely accepted. And yet, being sort of a firebrand when it comes to modern medicine and how it is practiced, I take issue with our narrow fixation on a bacteriological or viral cause for disease.  Though I strive to practice very diligent hygiene, washing ones hands fifteen times a day does not strengthen the immune system, it just protects a fragile one (and may even weaken it by letting it off the hook).  My problem with germaphobia and compulsive hand-sanitizing is that it ignores the whole concept of host resistance.  It is curious to me that scientists can inject the cold virus directly into the noses of study participants, and some get a cold while others do not.  Sometimes you have to step back from the microscope and look at the big picture.  In doing this we see that viruses and bacteria are clearly not the only factor in illness.  And as all of you gardeners out there know, if the soil is rich and the plants are healthy and robust, it doesn’t matter if there is a pest or two hiding out, the plants are strong enough to handle it.  Rather than attempting to tightly control the environment and eliminate any factors that may be challenging for us, (it doesn’t work in agriculture either) we could concern ourselves with supporting our natural defenses. This is a heartening thought for those of us that don’t want to live in a bubble.

Folk medicine may have evolved before microscopes (and therefore any notion of germs) but it did understand the concept of strengthening innate resistance.  This was accomplished by bolstering defenses and avoiding pernicious influences that undermine health.  I treasure these little pearls of folk wisdom wherever I find them.  Here are a few pre-germ theory practices that we would do well to revisit.

Stay Warm

Exposure to cold is considered a weakening factor in most traditional systems of healing such as Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda. While I don’t have the western science to support the claims of your Russian grandmother,  I do feel more robust and healthy when I keep my feet warm and wear long-johns under my pants. Try soaking in the bathtub and raising your body temperature when you are feeling stiff, cold or worn out. Remember “Put a scarf on or you’ll catch your death!” ?  Well, there may be a bit of truth in that. Though lack of scarf-wearing may not be an official cause of death, it might hurry you to your eventual arrival at death’s doorstep.

Cook food

Staying warm also pertains to the temperature of the food you eat. Though it seems rather obvious, December is not the time for frozen banana smoothies. Cooked foods are easier to digest in the cold months when you need all your strength to stay warm and ward off germs and other morbid creatures.  Raw foods and even salads (!) are not suitable choices in the winter for all of us living off the equator. Try switching to sturdier cooked greens like kale, collards, chard or mustard greens, sauteed with garlic, ginger and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Raw foods are  cooling and cleansing by nature and can be weakening to digestion during these challenging winter months. We need warm, nourishing and building foods when the weather has turned against us. This is especially prudent if you feel spacey, chilled and fatigued and are suffering from loose stools.

It turns out that a good homemade chicken soup, full of tissue-healing protein, alkalizing greens and veggies, immune-boosting marrow and nourishing electrolyte-rich broth, may actually be the most healing food you can eat when you are feeling under the weather.  See, you already knew that!  Just quietly tune in to what your body wants and give in.


Put yourself to bed.  Seriously.  Sometimes you just need to let go and sleep it off.  The dishes may be piled up in the sink, the floor may be unswept, but that’s why we sleep with our eyes closed.  Never underestimate the power of sleep.  Our culture’s disapproval of rest is a powerful hex on all of us, who feel guilty catching a little shut eye.  Often all it takes to avoid a cold or flu is leaving work a bit early and going to bed.  While you are alive and desiring to remain in that state, there is no higher authority than the bodies’ demands. Winter wellness depends upon your compliance. You could be sleeping right now! (if this wasn’t such a damn good read!)

Take your herbs!

Echinacea, E. purpurea, E. angustifolia

You have probably heard of Echinacea, as most people who are inclined to try herbs have taken it at one time or another, if a little half-heartedly.  That’s the thing with this one, you’ve gotta trust it.

There are a few herbs that have to be taken in small, measured doses to avoid unpleasant side effects or danger.  Echinacea is not one of them.  It’s a friendly little prairie plant that has powerful effects on the immune system.  The only contraindications are that it not be taken in autoimmune conditions, where the immune system is already too active, or by those with HIV or AIDS, or if you are allergic to the plants in the Asteraceae (Sunflower) family.   For all of the rest of us, there is nothing to fear.  In my professional opinion, Echinacea must be taken liberally to have a noticeable effect.  Some tinctures that you buy in the store might recommend meek little doses on their labels, but I am here to tell you, this is how people lose faith in Echinacea. Taking one capsule or a few drops of the tincture per day probably won’t speed your recovery.  The optimal dose is one dropperful every 30 minutes to an hour when you are coming down with something or in the acute suffering stage. I have averted many plagues with this “pulse” dosing routine.  For general prevention, I recommend taking  2-3 dropperfuls once or twice per day, for a couple of weeks, then take a couple weeks off.  Echinacea in therapeutic doses stimulates the immune system from many different angles, increasing white blood cell production, interferon (the body’s natural virus-killing substance), and gently buffering waste products and speeding their removal from the body.  Echinacea works best if you take it just as soon as you think you are falling prey to a bacterial or viral infection, but it can still help even if you are in the throes of illness.  Just have faith and take frequently.

Boneset, Eupatorium perfoliatum

This lovely plant is a less popular cold and flu remedy, but it’s been around for a long time.  It was a favorite of the old Eclectic physicians, back in the times when the drugs were plants (often tinctures).  Boneset seems to be very well suited for helping us humans out with that damn clever virus, the flu. Specifically when the flu causes horrible “bone breaking” aches and pains.  This is another prairie plant, though the batch of tincture I made is from plants grown in Twisp, Washington by some lovely herb growers.  It is a tall crinkly-leaved plant with flowers that look like butterfly bait.  Beautiful bone-white clusters rising above the prairie grass. (I am imagining here, having never seen it in its natural habitat).  Like Echinacea, Boneset can be used in the early or late stages of illness to swiftly resolve the matter.  The indications for Boneset are as follows: aching, stiff muscles, fever, fatigue, upper respiratory congestion, sluggish digestion, malaise and hopelessness about having the flu.  Basically it will relax the muscles, relieve aches and pains, break a fever,  brighten the eyes, stimulate digestion and expectoration and restore faith.  And all this from only 30 drops every hour or two until you are feeling better (shouldn’t be long, now!)
(Caution: Don’t go overboard on this one. Though not actually toxic, it will make you barf in high doses.)

Next time: The Excellent Elder Plant: Another foe of influenza!


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