New Year's is a time when many of us connect with family, friends, and our community. But be aware: cold and flu viruses can spread like wildfire at this time of year, spoiling all the fun. Fight back with natural health strategies and herbal remedies to keep you well through the winter days.
Catch it early! There's a short window, just as a virus is setting in, when you can often reduce its effects, or even prevent it. As soon as you get the first symptoms (scratchy sore throat, sneezing, or a temperature) work with your body's natural defenses. In healthy adults and children, some experts believe it can be safe to have a mild fever; according to this viewpoint, increasing core temperature can actually stop the virus from replicating in one's cells. If possible, take a warm bath with essential oils such as eucalyptus or ginger.
Then wrap up in a blanket and sip a warming herb tea. One traditional blend that helps to manage a fever is equal parts of elderflower, yarrow, and peppermint. Ginger and other spices can also increase internal heat and echinacea is well known for its immune-boosting properties. I like to punch up the power of traditional lemon and honey with this protective recipe, which combines virus-fighting elderberry and lemon balm, immune system-boosting echinacea, and warming spices.
It's great as a tea, or take the same recipe and create a delicious and versatile honey syrup which can be taken with a spoon, stirred into hot water to make an instant hot drink, or it can even be used as a festive cocktail ingredient.
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon dried elderberries
- 1 tablespoon dried echinacea root
- 3-5 slices fresh ginger
- ½ cinnamon stick
- 3-4 sprigs fresh lemon balm (if available)
- Zest and Juice of ½ lemon
- Honey to taste or preserve (see instructions)
- Put all the ingredients -- except the lemon juice, honey and lemon balm (if using) -- into a pan.
- Bring to boil and then reduce the heat, cover and slowly simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove pan from the heat. If you are using lemon balm, add it now and allow to steep for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes (or immediately if you are not using the lemon balm) strain and add the lemon juice.
You can add honey to taste and serve it just like this, or, to create a honey syrup:
- Return the liquid to the pan and bring back just to simmering point.
- Simmer gently with the lid off until the liquid has reduced by about one third.
- Remove from heat and pour into a heat-proof measuring jug to see how much liquid you have.
- Add the same volume of honey as you have liquid and stir until the honey is dissolved. You may have to return it to the pan and warm it a little to get all the honey to dissolve.
- Bottle and label then store in the refrigerator where it will keep for three weeks.
Writer Paula Grainger is a highly regarded British Medical Herbalist. After graduating with first-class honors from The University Of Westminster, she created Lemon Balm, a popular Herbal Apothecary and Clinic in London's Camden Town. She has worked with people of all ages using herbs to enhance their health and wellness and has a wealth of experience in communicating the power of plants through her workshops and writing. In 2011 she moved with her husband (the novelist Michael Marshall Smith) and their young son to Santa Cruz, California where, when she is not growing herbs or making herbal preparations, she continues to share her love and expertise of plant medicine with people on both sides of the Atlantic. Her first book INFUSE (co-written with Karen Sullivan) was published in Spring 2016.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.