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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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1.  EAT VEGETABLES.

It seems so obvious, doesn’t it?  Before I was a mom, I thought my kids would eat 10+ servings of organic fruits and veggies every day.  I was sure they’d grow up thinking kale was wonderful and broccoli delightful.  Well, of course, I was wrong.

I do find that they consume more veggies using these tricks:

  • cutting veggies into fun shapes eg. carrot circles for eyes, red pepper slices for eye brows spinach for hair, beets for ears
  • playing “who can make the loudest crunch”
  • adding dips (hummus, balsamic vinegar and olive oil)
  • making smoothies with veggies or greens powder
  • blending veggies in soups
  • making vegetable based baked goods like pumpkin bread and zucchini cookies

And, while processed “kid food” cuts out vegetables all together, most children will eat a few veggies if they know the veggies help kill germs that cause colds and coughs.  It’s a treat when a child comes for a follow up visit bursting to tell me that they’ve been eating green beans or swiss chard!

2.  AVOID PROCESSED SUGAR.

Sugar slows down the white blood cells responsible for attacking bacteria.  Once again, I find that kids make great choices when they understand the reasoning.  If you eat sugar, you’re more likely to get sick.  And stay sick longer.  Keeping sweets as treats for once in while helps the body stay strong to fight infections.  You can read labels with your children to check if there is added sugar.  For example, I never remember which tomato sauce is free from added sugar.  The kids love reminding me.

Click here for a link to video of a white blood cell engulfing some bacteria.  The bacteria are the little dark ovals in clusters.  The white blood cell overtakes them in a process called phagocytosis.  My kids love to cheer for the white blood cell.  And we talk about what foods will make it strong and fast.  We boo for which foods will slow it down.

3.  EAT HONEY.
Honey contains antimicrobial properties that help the body fight infections.  It has been shown to be an effective alternative to pharmaceutical cough syrup and topical antimicrobial for burns.  It soothes sore throats and helps prevent viral and bacterial infections from taking hold.  Local honey is best and the less processed, the better.  Babies under the age of 1 year should not consume honey.

4.  SLEEP.
Again, I was certain, pre-children, that mine would go to bed early, sleep peacefully, and generally regulate themselves with rest.  Hilarious.  Home from after school care / daycare, dinner, homework, reading, bathing, lice prevention combing, after school playdates and activities – it’s next to impossible to fit it all in.  As parents, we need to be mindful that children need loads of sleep.  Not only to recharge their bodies to fight infections, but also to dream away stresses of the day, to process new skills, and to recalibrate all kinds of systems of the body.  If any of these jobs are not completed, the child becomes more susceptible to colds and flus.  I enjoyed this recent article from the Globe and Mail about back to school sleep routines.  I, myself, must remember that bedtime is non-negotiable.  And earlier is better.  (Grown-ups take note for yourselves as well!)

5.  SUPPORT THE IMMUNE SYSTEM WITH HERBS AND SUPPLEMENTS.
There are so many helpful herbs and supportive supplements to help the body fight colds and flus quickly and efficiently.  Some herbs you can add to foods include: garlic, tumeric, cumin, oregano, basil, onion.  Deeply therapeutic herbs to support the immune system include: Astragalas, Codonopsis, Eleuthrococcus, Elderberry, Yarrow, Mullein.  These are wonderful for children but best taken under the supervision of a qualified practitioner (ie – naturopathic doctor or herbalist).  Some supplements that help children’s immunity include: fish oils, vitamin C, vitamin D, B vitamins, zinc.  Again, best to check with a practitioner for dosages and strengths.

Here’s to a healthy fall season for your children!  (And you too!)

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