Seasonal health — fighting colds and flu
With the change in seasons comes the beginning of cold and flu season. Preventing and limiting the duration of colds and flu is a household art that has broad social application especially when it comes to taking antibiotics to get rid of a cold.
Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections and up to even three years ago many doctors still prescribed antibiotics for viral infections. It is very important not to overuse antibiotics. As predicted by Alexander Fleming, the physician that popularized penicillin, the overuse of antibiotics has led to the evolution of stronger strains of illness-causing bacteria that are antibiotic resistant. Medical journals around the world have devoted articles to this current crisis in antibiotic resistance. The excessive inappropriate use of antibiotics is a contributing factor to this crisis. Forty million pounds of antibiotics are used annually in the United States. Many medical experts are advocating that we stop using antibiotics for the more common infections and save them to use on occasion for life-threatening infections.
Hospitals are now issuing statements in their membership newsletters about how taking antibiotics can increase your chance of later being infected with resistant bacteria that antibiotics cannot take care of. Pharmaceutical antibiotics go into the body and kill not only the pathogenic bacteria that may be making you sick but it also kills the hundreds of beneficial bacteria that help you do many things such as digest and assimilate your foods. When you kill your beneficial bacteria with antibiotics you become more susceptible to future illness.
Herbs offer us a solution. Let’s use herbs for viral and less serious infections and save the anti-biotics for the more serious infections so that we will actually have some antibiotics that can work against the life-threatening infections. Herbs that have antibiotic activities only kill pathogenic bacteria and do not harm your beneficial bacteria. Many herbs help with viral infections as well as with bacterial infections whereas pharmaceutical antibiotics will not help treat a viral infection that causes a cold or flu.
One of my favorite anti-biotic herbs is Sage (Salvia officinalis). It is an herb that most people have in their herb and spice rack and it is very easy to grow. There are many beautiful Salvias (sages) grown for their colorful flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. These ornamental salvias are not your medicinal varieties of Salvia. When purchasing Salvia to be used for medicinal purposes make sure that it is Salvia officinalis; yes, good old turkey stuffing, garden sage. Garden sage has been cultivated for centuries in Europe for its medicinal and antibiotic properties. Sage is especially good for upper respiratory and throat infections. You can drink three cups of strong tea a day for a week or do a steam inhalation.
Sage Tea Steam
Four tablespoons dried sage
One quart of water
Put herbs into pot of water and bring to a boil with a lid on the pot. Turn off the heat and let herbs steep for 15 minutes. Reheat the tea until it is hot. Take off the lid and place a towel over your head and breathe in the steam from the tea. Make sure the steam is a temperature that is comfortable for your facial skin. Do this for 10 minutes and rest.
Another one of my favorite antibiotic herbs is ginger. You can buy fresh ginger root in the produce section of most grocery food stores. Ginger is known for its strong antibacterial activity. Ginger is an important addition as a culinary additive because of its antibacterial activity against food-borne pathogens. As our food supply becomes increasingly contaminated, ginger helps us by fighting against the bacteria in our foods such as e-coli and salmonella. Ginger has been used traditionally to treat colds, flu, and bronchial infections. You can add freshly grated ginger root to your vegetable and rice dishes or make a healing ginger tea
Healing Ginger Tea
2 cups of water
4 tablespoons freshly grated Ginger root
Place in pan with a lid on bring to a boil; turn off the heat and let sit for two hours. Re-heat the tea strain the herb from the tea and drink
Kami McBride is the author of The Herbal Kitchen and has helped thousands of people learn to use herbs in their daily lives in ways that are healthy, safe and fun. She is the director of Cultivating the Herbal Medicine Woman Within, an experiential training in using herbs in the home for everyday health. An intuitive and inspiring teacher, Kami works to revive the cultural art of home herbal care and teaches herbology as a relationship with the Earth and a way of life. For a schedule of classes or herbal consultations, visit www.livingawareness.com