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It’s that time of year again when colds, flus, and infections start popping up everywhere.  With the kids back to school lots of families are exposed to all kinds of viruses and bacteria just waiting to grab hold.  Here are some easy herbs that fight these infectious little stinkers:

Garlic – Garlic is currently being studied in the treatement of bacteria resistant to pharmaceutical antibiotics and the results are promising.  Researchers have found that garlic posseses anti-bacterial properties on it’s own but they have also found that garlic enhances the effect of chemical antibiotics on resistant bacteria.  Garlic is also anti-fungal and anti-parasitic.  Studies are inconclusive if it works against viruses but traditional medicine uses garlic for all sniffles, coughs, fevers, and infections.  Add extra raw garlic to hummus, pasta sauce, soups, stews for yummy flavour and microbe killer action!

Basil – We have a ton of basil growing in our garden this year.  In fact, 5 of our neighbours have sheepishly admitted to stealing our basil leaves!  I think my enthusiastic mini-lecture on it’s wonderful anti-microbe properties took them by surprise.  But, truly, I love this herb.  Basil’s anti-bacterial properties are also being studied for usage in drug-resistant bacterial infections.  Specifically E. coli infections.  And happily, basil works to kill these super-adaptive little guys.  It has also been shown to kill viruses – and researchers are checking into it’s anti-parasitic characteristics.  One of the reasons I love this herb is that kids will often chomp on basil without complaint.  You can add it to everything.  You can make your own basil oil by adding a bunch of fresh or dried basil to olive oil and let it sit for several hours.  Add garlic and, boom, microbes don’t stand a chance.

Rosemary – Have you seen those gorgeous rosemary potted “Christmas trees”?  They’re beautiful and so easy to care for.  And…anti-microbial! Rosemary also works to kill E.coli resistant to conventional antibiotics and is used to kill fungus, parasites, and viruses.  Studies have focused specifically on the Herpes virus and, again, results are positive.  Rosemary is a pretty strong flavour but can be added to potatoes (especially roast potato skins), meats, breads, pasta and rice dishes.

Ginger -Ginger kills all kinds of nasty microbes.  Here are a few germs that researchers have found ginger to be effect against: Streptococcus, E. coli, Pseuomonous, H.pylori (these are bacteria – some of which are resistant to pharmaceutical antibiotics), herpes simplex virus, human respiratory syncytial virus, Blastocystis hominis (a tiny and determined parasite), Candida species.  So… bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungus.  Pretty great.  Lately my hubby has been putting ginger into sauces with honey and garlic which are delish.  The kids will dip veggies and sausages in ginger honey sauces.  And they’ve enjoyed ginger, lemon, strawberry popsicles.  Nice.

I haven’t even mentioned that garlic helps the cardiovascular system, rosemary and basil work as tremendous antioxidants, and ginger works as an antinausea.  Oh, and all of them have anticancer properties.  Oh, and they’re delicious!

Here’s to lots of flavourful herbs to kill microbes and keep us healthy.

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Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s wort) aka “The Sunshine Herb”. As the light changes this season, a few drops of the tincture can be lovely. (If you’re taking meds, check with an ND before taking Hypericum).

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I’m a big believer that kids want to do what feels good for their bodies but, let’s face it, sometimes things taste bad or feel icky.  Here are excerpts from an email from a mom who read my previous blog post, “Natural Remedies for Acute Cough”, and the game she and her boys played to fight those viruses!

Here’s the email:

Thanks for the call yesterday. I’ll let you know as soon as we get in to see the MD. In the meantime, this should make you smile.

Picture the kids and I sitting with mugs of tea in hand.
“This is a new tea that will help to kick the last of your coughs out of your chest.” says I bravely, knowing that the crushed garlic and honey water will most likely be rejected.
The 5 year old willingly takes the first sip… “ooooh it’s spicy!” he says wrinkling his nose

The 7 year old looks at his cup suspiciously…

I frantically cast my mind about, searching for strategies… and then I remember the beginning of your blog post!

“We’re going to play a game – the ‘Take That’ game!” I say triumphantly.

Now everyone is listening…

“Think of something in you body that is bugging you and/or makes you feel unhealthly and take a big sip of tea and yell ‘TAKE THAT'”

Needless to say they were hooked immediately (the yelling was an important component of the game) and the garlic tea disappeared in mere seconds.  Long after the tea was gone they continued gleefully verbally abusing their coughs, itchy bums, runny noses, etc.

Thank you!

So, here’s to a rousing game of “TAKE THAT!” for all of you.  No more colds, flus, viruses, bacteria, worms, lice, whatever!

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In our house, we’re just going through our first family cough of the season.  And as the elder kid hacks, she says, “Ha!  Take that, virus!  Get out!”

Apparently sheʼs actually been listening to me all along.

Coughs, as you may know, are our bodiesʼ way of moving a virus / bacteria / fungus / pollen / foreign body out of our airways. As we cough, air if forced out and along with it, any intruder that might be causing trouble. Add some mucus to trap that intruder, and itʼs an ingenious system to expel pathogens.

That all said, coughs can be uncomfortable and shouldnʼt last beyond 7 -10 days. There are many wonderful naturopathic therapies to help soothe a coughing airway and support your body to purge the germs causing the illness. Good to know since pharmaceutical cough medicines are no longer recommended for children under the age of 12. And the puffers recommended for coughs are pretty heavy duty. Great to have them if necessary, but even better to help the body do the work, itself.

Here are a few natural cough helpers:

Honey

Soothing for the throat, it actually contains antimicrobial properties to help kill germs. Conventional medicine has been studying honey recently and the conclusions have been that it is an effective medicine for coughs. Local honey that is not highly processed is best. Add it to a warm water with lemon, herbal tea or warm rice milk with a little organic cocoa to entice a sick kid to drink it up. Babies under 1 year old should not have honey.

Mullein

I love this herb. It soothes irritated mucus membranes (the lining of airways) and helps spasms of coughing. It doesnʼt suppress the cough altogether but it calms down spasms and eases breathing. We call it the “sore throat cough tea” in our house. The flavour is mild and if you add honey to it, youʼve got a double whammy cough remedy. Mullein is generally safe, however, it is best to check with a qualified practitioner (ie. herbalist of naturopathic doctor).

Homeopathic Remedies

Homeopathic remedies are quite specific in their effectiveness for coughs. Some work best for dry coughs, others work best for productive, gunky coughs. Like mullein, homeopathics donʼt suppress the cough, but help the body work more efficiently to get the intruder out. Some common remedies for coughs include: Pulsatilla, Phosphorus, Drosera, Ferrum phos. Check with your practitioner to find a precise single remedy or remedies may be combined in a liquid cough medicine, available at most health food stores and some conventional pharmacies.

Elderberry

Elderberry juice, elderberry tea, cooked elderberries – all are wonderful to help ease coughs and fight colds and flus. (Sadly elderberry pie has too much sugar to join the list.) Cooked elderberry products are generally safe for children and most adults, however, uncooked berries and ariel parts of the plant are poisonous if not cooked. If you have young children around the house, I would suggest using the pre- made juice or cough syrup so there are no tempting berries for little ones to eat. Elderberry juice with honey added is delicious as well as soothing for coughs.

Garlic

Garlic is tremendously anti-microbial when used raw. Raw garlic can sometimes be a hard sell for children, but I find that if I add extra crushed up raw garlic to hummus, dips, or spreads, I can usually get a little extra into my kids. For adults and kids with a wide palate, crush a clove of garlic in a mug, pour boiling water over top and add honey. Drink as a tea and eat up the garlic bits at the bottom of the mug.

These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg of naturopathic remedies we can use to help the immune system fight pathogens. There are deeper acting herbs and remedies that may be used for people dealing with recurrent infections or infections that take ages to get better. These are best recommended by a qualified practitioner – ie, an herbalist or naturopathic doctor.

Hereʼs to supporting a cough and getting rid of that infection!

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