As requested – a blog about a few common herbs that have antiviral, antibacterial and immune enhancing natures. Just in time as herbs are abundant in gardens right now. July and August are a great time to start gearing up and strengthening your immune system before the fall and school season starts.
A virus, cold or flu in the eyes of Asian/ Chinese medicine is an exterior invasion. Something is attacking the body from outside. Like all exterior invasions, to treat it we need to identify the nature of the disharmony using the 6 Exterior Evils (Pathogens) wind, cold, heat, dampness, dry, and summer heat. When it comes to colds and flu wind, cold, heat and dampness are the most common culprits. Read more about exterior and interior patterns here.
Having formulas like Ge Gen Wan and Gan Mao Ling and single herbs like propolis, goldenseal and echinaccea are on hand is a good idea. No one wants to run to the store or herbalist when you are sick. However, none of these herbs are delightful to nosh and it isn’t appropriate to ingest them frequently.
Before we get ill, we have an opportunity – the chance to implement preventative habits and build our immunity by regularly ingesting foods and herbs in their simplest form. These foods fall into the “release the exterior” and bitter and pungent (spicy) – and they are abundant. Actually, I had a bit of challenge to choose just twelve. Including some of these foods and herbs regularly in your diet can make a world of difference the next time Violet Virus comes to play. I crack out the formulas or propolis when a vicious battle looms.
Cinnamon – Sweet, hot and pungent, astringent and drying. Cinnamon stimulates, restores and strengthens. A classic herb for women it relieves chills, circulates the Qi, relieves pain, and promotes menses. In high doses use it to bring on sweat when you are fighting a cold. Regular use in smaller amounts creates overall strength, warmth and boosts the immune system. Men who run cold or lack yang and strength should add in cinnamon to create strength. Add sticks of cinnamon to tea or chai, or applesauce.
Cranberry – Tart and bitter little cranberries are high in vitamin C and loaded with antioxidants. They are antifungal, antibacterial and antibiotic. They are famous for entering the Lower Burner and fighting off Kidney and Bladder infections – but they don’t stop there. Add these gems to your diet.
Elderberry – Elderberry has a long history of regular use. Ease to grow and abundant the little berries were harvested and preserved in wines, liquor and jellies. It’s gentle yet powerful. It is neither too hot or too cold so it can be safely used by anyone of any age. I keep elderberry in my medicine cabinet in some form (lozenges, syrup, tea) all year long and it’s the first thing I reach for when Clara comes home with story of how many kids are out with the flu or cold. Pull it out preventatively at the start of the season or when you feel weak. Double up when you are feeling under the weather.
Garlic – Very hot and pungent, garlic is famous at fighting off invasions–if you can handle the heat. For those who are sensitive use it in small amounts. Antiviral, antifungal and anti-infective, garlic is wonderful in the diet. Avoid if you have chronic heat patterns like bleeding gums, IBS and heavy, early menstrual flow.
Ginger – Another warm-hot herb. Use in the diet regularly in small amounts to bring on warmth, create circulation and to aid digestion. In higher amounts, use it bring on a sweat at the first signs of a cold with chills. Like garlic, ginger is antiviral, antifungal and anti-infective. Avoid excess ginger in chronic heat conditions. I also limit its use by women in their first trimester of pregnancy because it is a powerful emmenagauge and can bring on the menstrual flow in high doses. Use it in cooking, in teas or add it to a bath if you are very cold or suffer from Reynaud’s syndrome.
Lavender – Pungent, slightly bitter, and a little warming or cooling–lavender is an excellent exterior releasing herb that is neither too cold or too hot. Antiviral, anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, it bolsters the immune system. Famous for clearing out “sick rooms” diffuse lavender in the air to open the sinuses and lungs. And, yes, you can eat it.
Licorice Root – Licorice root is strongly nourishing and strengthening to the adrenal and endocrine system and Kidneys. Fabulous for those with low blood pressure, low libido or lack of drive. It regulates the immune system and is antiviral and antibacterial. Avoid licorice if you have “hyper” conditions like hypertension and hyperglycemia.
Mint – Mints fall into the pungent and sweet category. Most are cooling save peppermint which is slightly warming. Mints are masters at handling wind invasions, releasing exterior conditions and clearing the sinuses, aiding digestion, reducing phlegm and relieving headaches. Make sure you have some mint teas readily available.
Oregano – Oregano is a little like lavender in that it can have a slightly heating or cooling nature, which depends on its variety. Bitter and pungent, it disperses and releases to the exterior. Eat it, drink it, use it topically. It clears phlegm heat and opens the lungs, clearing out infections like bronchitis.
Rosemary – Warm, sweet and drying. Rosemary move Qi, drains dampness, lifts the spirits and the immune system. Prone to cold hands and feet and weak lungs – really, try some rosemary tea.
Thyme – Warming, pungent and bitter. Thyme astringes and helps move out excess phlegm and mucous. Antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic, antifungal–it works wonders on infection in the lungs, skin and sinuses. Add thyme to roots, soups and stews. Wonderful as a household cleaner too.
Here’s to a stronger immune system!