Here we are, still learning and working on preventing cold and flu in our second article. And not just prevention of colds and flues: the strong immune system can ward off many more complex health challenges. Before we dive into herbs and recipes, let’s look into a few nutrients that are crucial for effective function of immune system.
Vitamin D3, actually a hormone produced in our skin, especially in contact with sun, reduces inflammation and produces the type of protein that fights the virus. 20 minutes on sun daily, exposing a lot of skin, not just face, while sun is in 45 degree angle, will inspire your body to make a good dose of vitamin D. If climate does not permit exposure to sun, supplement D3 by 5,000-10,000 IU.
Zinc reduces inflammation, supports lymphocytes and assists in producing antibodies. Sources are shellfish and pumpkin seeds.
Vitamin C is found in fresh fruits and veggies. If the produced is boxed up or sits for extended time in the fridge in supermarket, the levels of C will go down. So buy as often as possible freshly harvested fruits and veggies. Vitamin C is also sensitive to high heat, so avoid overcooking your veggies. Rose hips are great herbal source of vitamin C.
Vitamin A is important for healthy skin and mucus membranes. The lack of it is reflected in dry skin, insufficient production of mucus (which is important when it comes to influenza) and formation of acne. Sources are butter and cream, cod liver oil.
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Herbs used for prevention are usually taken for long periods of time. They are known as immunomodulators, meaning they are good for overall health and strength of the immune system. We take them when we are healthy.
Astragalus – ancient Chinese medicinal plant recommended as a tea (decoction – simmering root for a period of ½ -1h, until water evaporates to about half). It is used in cases of allergies, to protect heart and liver. It is herb that has potency to build your “protective chi”. It can be added to soups and eaten like that, or you can make a tea. Since the part used is root, make sure you cook it first, before adding other veggies. Recommended dosage is between 15-30 grams.
Reishi – a mushroom highly praised in ancient Chinese medicine where it was used for longevity. It is very hard mushroom, so buy it sliced and cook for at least an hour. It can be eaten as food, in rice and soaps. It supports immune system and liver as well; used to fight cancer; goes well with astragalus. Now days it is commercially added to coffee (ganoderma coffee) and chocolate. Recommended dosage 3-15grams.
Codonopsis – sweet tasting herb, it is also called poor men’s ginseng. It is specific in supporting immune system, but not as stimulating and hot as ginseng. And not that expensive either, hence the nick name. Recommended dosage 15-30 grams.
Ashwaganda- known as “Indian ginseng”, it is specific for weakness, exhaustion, chronic illness, inability to sleep. If used every day to prevent illness 1 gram is enough; if used during the illness 5-30grams a day is recommended dosage.
Ginseng – if feeling chronically tired, cold, and weak (all symptoms of deficiency) ginseng is herb for you. It is one more longevity herb, stimulating and hot in nature, very nourishing. Dosage 6-9grams.
Garlic - commonly used in food preparation, garlic is strong antimicrobial, increases circulation and improves digestion. We include it in many recipes we share.
And here are the recipes! The most interesting part of herbal studies and practice is when you get hands on experience.
Most of these recipes are formulated by Rosalee de la Foret, clinical herbalist and one of my teachers.
Immune Chai recepie
2 tablespoons dried ginger root ( I prefer grinding fresh. Reduce amount if it is too hot for you)
2 tablespoons dried orange peel
1 tablespoon cinnamon chips
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon hulled cardamom or two crushed cardamom pods
1/4 teaspoon cloves (about 3 to 5 cloves)
10 to 20 grams astragalus
6 to 9 grams sliced reishi
1 1/2 l water
Put ingredients in a pan and cover with water. Bring it to a boil and then lower the temperature. Simmer for about an hour. If not using reishi and astragalus, but just making regular chai, you do not need to cook it for so long. Strain it and add honey and almond milk, if desired.
De-seeded dried rose hips
1 teaspoon honey (or to taste)
1 cinnamon stick
Tart cherry juice (or apple cider juice)
Fill an 8-ounce jar 1/4 of the way full with rose hips. Add the honey and cinnamon stick. Fill the jar the rest of the way with cherry or apple juice. Let it sit overnight. In the morning, the rosehips should have soaked up all the juice, forming a pulpy preserve. Remove the cinnamon stick and use the spread on breads, deserts, etc. Refrigerate and use within days.
Herbal Vitamin C pills
1 tablespoon rose hip powder
1 tablespoon acerola powder
1 tablespoon amla powder
Orange peel powder (optional)
Mix together the powdered herbs, breaking up any clumps. Pour slightly warmed honey into the powdered mix. Pour a tiny bit of honey, stir, add a bit more and stir. You want the final consistency to hold together but not be too moist or sticky.
Once the powders are mixed with the honey, form the mixture into pea-sized balls. These can then be rolled in orange powder or another one of the powders in the mixture. Makes 45 pea-sized pills. Store in an airtight container. These should last a very long time.
To use: Take 1 to 3 balls per day. It’s safe to take more than 3 pills a day; the adverse effect from getting too much vitamin C is loose stools. If you get loose stools, then stop using them for the day and use less in the future. Vitamin C shouldn’t be taken in excess during pregnancy.
I find it easiest to take herbs with my food. Instead of making only tinctures, especially with that herb like food ingredients, we can make nutritious, antiviral and antibacterial vinegars. They can be consumed on their own as a medicine, or as addition to food.
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers
2 tablespoons dried rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons dried sage leaves
2 tablespoons dried thyme leaves
4 tablespoons dried angelica root (Angelica archangelica)
Apple cider vinegar
Fill a quart jar with the herbs. Fill the jar with the apple cider vinegar. Cover with a plastic lid or put plastic between the jar and a metal lid. Let this steep for 3 to 4 weeks. Strain. This will keep indefinitely.Use 1 to 2 tablespoons a day to prevent illness. Use a 1 teaspoon every half hour if you feel like you have something coming down.
In our next article, when we meet again, we will talk about what to do when we already got sick.
Be well and stay healthy,
Northeast School of Botanical Medicine graduate