Wash Away the Winter Flus

by Rene Minz MD, ND and Southeast Neighbor

Hi, I am Rene Minz MD, ND, retired physician, herbalist. I am always looking for ways to increase my family’s health and get closer to the earth, of which we are a part. This includes growing food and medicine, spending time outdoors and using as few toxins as possible.

I would like to share some ideas on prevention and healing of winter respiratory illnesses

Here are three important preventive tools:

  1. Stay well. OK, this should be obvious, but I know that, especially at holiday time, it is easy to forget. Get enough sleep-this is the time of year to slow down and get extra rest. Eat healing foods high in vitamin C (All fruits and vegetables. Those brightly colored are usually the best). Drink warming teas. See ideas below.
  2. Wash your hands. Soap and water is the best. If there is active illness in the household, practice washing to ABC song or Row, row, row your boat. If you must use hand sanitizer (e.g. school, work) use ethyl alcohol 60-90%, unscented. Scents and anti-bacterial soaps are toxic to your health and the environment.
  3. Avoid indoor/outdoor air pollution which can cause your family chronic respiratory disease by not using wood-burning stoves. At the very least, make sure your stove burns efficiently. Consider alternative energy (e.g. solar), electric, propane or gas. More information available on-line at LRAPA (Lane Regional Air Protection Agency)

Here are some Healing ideas that focus on herbs you can grow yourself or are easily accessible.

Grandma’s “penicillin”: hot soup. You can either use chicken broth as a base or miso (fermented soy, stir it in at the end).  Make sure you use plenty of garlic (kills viruses and bacteria), thyme and oregano (also kill germs), and greens from the brassica family (cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower). Ginger is especially good if there is a cough as it is a natural anti-inflammatory and cough medicine. Bright vegetables like tomato are also high in vitamin C

Herbal “teas”.

Honey is a natural anti-biotic. Consider adding it to whatever kind of tea you make. A spoonful of sweetness helps the medicine go down.

A simple tasty tea for a cold is ginger root, lemon and honey. Buy ginger root and store it in your freezer, grate it when you need it. Use fresh lemon or lemon peel (vitamin C). Boil water and pour over grated ginger. Cover for 10-20 minutes, add lemon and honey and enjoy. Whenever you buy an organic lemon or orange, grate the peel, dry on a screen near heat and save for future teas.

The Immune Tonic Tea we use requires simmering as the ingredients are dry/hard and will not extract with simple steeping. Bring ~1 quart of water to a boil. Turn to low and add dry rose hips, berries (elder especially good for flu), oregon grape root (antibiotic), fennel seed (soothing, sweet taste), lovage root, lemon or orange peel. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add honey to taste.  Drink several cups/day. This is a typical tea we make because we have these herbs growing in the yard. Find these or substitutes, or premade tea bags at organic grocers.

HERBS easy to grow: Lovage, a perennial celery substitute, tastes a little stronger and grows 6′ tall. Put it in the back of your perennial bed. In the fall, dig up some root and dry or freeze it for putting in winter stew and tea. It is a wonderful immune tonic herb and easy to grow. We use lovage as a preventive when someone comes home with a respiratory infection to help the rest of us stay healthy.

Elder– many traditional people grew elder near the house. Collect and dry some flowers and use them in your healing tea especially if your illness includes fevers and chills. The native blue or European black berry (NEVER red elderberry which is poisonous) is non-toxic when cooked,is high in vitamin C and is used for flus as well. Elder syrup, berries cooked down with honey and flower added, is one of our favorite flu remedies.

Rose, especially rugosa, which have large hips(the red fruits) are easy to grow or wild-harvest in the fall after they are red, but before they start to rot. Collect them, slice open to remove the seeds, and dry for including in your teas.

Warming socks. This is the easiest treatment for a cold, it sounds uncomfortable, and once you try it you will be hooked. It works by drawing congestion from the upper body to your feet.

You must start with warm feet, It they are not warm, take a warm foot bath, a hot shower, or go to bed for a while to warm up. If you are cold when you start it may simply suppress your circulation and make you colder. You need 2 pair of socks: 1 thin cotton pair and one thick wool pair. Before going to bed, wet the foot of the cotton socks with cold water. Wring them out so they are damp. Put them on and cover them with the wool socks. Go directly to bed. Avoid getting chilled.

After the initial surprise, your body will increase blood flow to the feet and the socks will dry while you are sleeping.  People always awaken feeling better than when they went to bed. Try it…it is very easy and my personal favorite. Sometimes I peel the dry socks off my feet midway through the night and do it again.

These are my favorite home remedies. I hope you find them helpful.