‘This is unprecedented’! I can’t count on 20 hands the number of times I’ve heard that sentence in the last few years. But today, it’s more relevant than ever. Covid-19 is the first pandemic we’ve seen since the H1N1 flu in 1918. Technological advancement means we should be better equipped to handle a virus outbreak, and while we wait for a vaccine, don’t overlook the one medicine that has been working since the Paleolithic age, herbal medicine.
Heavy hitters in this field like Simon Mills, Kerry Bone, Stephen Buhner, Joe Pizzorno & Rosemary Gladstar have spent their lives in the study of pharmacology and modern applications. Modern medicine or allopathic medicine has a strong research role in treatment development and testing to preempt disease, with a focus on symptom treatment and relief, it lives in the science of black and white. Herbal medicine has a unique offering, working diligently in the fields of grey: prevention, nourishment, support, adaption, stimulation and elimination. Herbal medicine fortifies systems to work optimally, and works alongside allopathic medicine in the incidence of acute disease. We work WITH body systems, and not against them.
The immune system is a perfect example of how it can work optimally once it is fortified. Using tonifying or, adaptogenic herbs for every day use can allow the immune system to behave as it should when confronted by a pathogen. The immune system has everything it needs to combat germs naturally. For people who are immuno compromised, or frail, this is extremely difficult. For the average person, healthy and active, the immune system will behave accordingly, and with the aid of immune support, it can work optimally in this capacity. Herbs like Astragalus, Olive leaf, Elderberry, Osha and Echinacea purpurea are deeply adaptogenic, modifying and nourishing to the immune system to fortify itself against germs. The dose for herbs is regular but low to moderate depending on the season, health risk and environmental situation.
What about when we’re sick? Just like the immune system, we switch gears. We use immune-stimulating herbs with antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial and antibiotic properties. Some herbal medicines that are valued for everyday fortification may also be used in acute situations for their pharmacological properties, but the dose will increase substantially. Herbs for acute cold and flu or respiratory infections include Echinacea angustifolia, Andrographis, Lomatium, Thyme, Ginger root, Pleurisy root, and Japanese honeysuckle. The dose would be higher and more frequent, as you’ll see with the below recipes.
Consulting with a Naturopath or Herbalist is always the best way to get custom blends specifically for your needs and knowledge of contraindications with medications. However, making herbal medicines at home to protect your family is relatively simple, and here are two recipes you can try for fortification and daily protection.
Herbal therapeutic teas vs tinctures. Dried bulk herbs can be extremely effective when simmered and steeped to treat simple conditions such as urinary tract inflammation, sore throats, chest colds, stuffy noses, congestion, mouth ulcers etc. Dried bulk herbs can also be extensively useful for topical skin conditions and rashes when taken internally and used in a soak or paste applied directly to the affected areas.
Herbs with barks and roots will need to be simmered for longer to extract the medicinal properties, however, the properties extracted will only be the water-soluble ones. This is why teas are considered less potent than tinctures/ herbal extracts. Tinctures are not subject to heat, instead, they are ‘soaked’ in either ethanol and water or vegetable glycerin and water. This is a technique that takes practice and patience but can be done at home. Using both ethanol and water and soaking the herbs for several days to weeks allows for both the water and fat-soluble nutrients including essential oils to be extracted from the plant, and so making it a more potent and stronger medicine. Glycerin works the same way as ethanol and is a better substitute for people adverse to consuming alcohol, and for children, it has a sweet taste. You can also combine the methods- which I have done below in step 2. This is useful when making large quantities from smaller amounts of herbs and ensuring you are getting all of the medicinal properties.
Daily immune protection formula.
Dosage: Adults 10ml daily, 5-12 yrs 5 ml daily
Echinacea purpurea 1 part
Olive leaf 1 parts
Thyme leaf .5 part can also use Lemon balm
Elderberry 2 part
Ginger root .5 part
Acute flu and cough relief formula.
Dosage: Adults 5ml 4 x daily, 5-12yrs 5ml 2-3 x daily
Echinacea angustifolia 1 part
Pleurisy root 1 part
Thyme leaf .5 part
Ginger root .5 part
Lungwort .5 part
Licorice root .5 part can use Rhodiola also
Lomatium 1 part
As I write these in parts, you can convert it to cups, ounces, grams, or whatever suits you. Let’s calculate this as cups to keep it as simple as possible. The formula above will yield around 5 cups.
In a medium-size saucepan put dried herbs with 10 cups of water. Simmer gently for 2 hours with a lid on ajar – not on all the way. Do not replenish liquid until it looks completely dry- if it is, you are cooking at too high heat. After 2 hours set aside, set aside and let stand for another hour. Filter using a muslin cloth or tight wire strainer. You can stop at this step if you prefer and drink 10ml every day for immune support. It will not contain all of the essential oils and fat-soluble constituents however it will still be effective and a great way to support immune health. Place herbal tea in a large bottle and store in the fridge. I prefer medicinal amber bottles which you can buy online, I recommend using a funnel to pour the liquid easily into the bottle. Whatever bottle you choose, ensure there is plenty of room to add the liquid from the next step. If you are continuing onto step 2 assume you will need another 1-2 cups space. If you choose to stop at this step, you can discard the herbs and store medicine in the fridge.
Step 2. Complete all of step 1 and DO NOT DISCARD HERBS.
In a med bucket/pot with a lid add strained and damp herbs. Add 1.5 cup high-quality vodka, vegetable glycerin. Put on the lid and stand in a cool dry place for 72 hours. Strain liquid (using thin wire strainer or muslin cloth) carefully into a bowl. Discard used herbs. Add vodka/glycerin mix into the herbal tea mix bottle. Put the lid on and shake vigorously. The alcohol or glycerin also acts as a preservative, so the mix will not need to be refrigerated once added. Herbal medicines do not expire for years. If kept in an amber bottle in a cool dry place, your homemade immune mix will last for 12 months easily.
If you find yourself with influenza, hydrate! I recommend drinking organic bone broth throughout the day for gut-friendly, anti-inflammatory nutrients. There are several complementary treatments to fevers that work with allopathic medicines such as white vinegar baths. Fill a bath with lukewarm water, add a cup of white vinegar and sit in the bath for as long as possible. The vinegar acts as a conduit for the heat to escape the skin into the water. When the patient starts to shiver, it’s time to get out of the bath. You’ll notice the bathwater will still be warm, that’s the heat escaping the body. This can be particularly useful for children who are running a temperature, or, in a feverish situation where they are vomiting and can’t keep down medications.
To order bulk dried herbs in the US I recommend Herban Wellness or Mountain Rose Herbs. In Australia, I recommend Austral Herbs. For questions related to this post or other herbal medicine related questions leave a comment.