Herbal Medicine Cab­i­net

Fend off the “nas­ties” with nat­u­ral, im­mu­nity-boost­ingh erbs

Modern Pioneer - - Contents - By Kristi Cook

Fend off the “nas­ties” with nat­u­ral, im­mu­nity-boost­ing herbs

“Used for thou­sands of years in tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine, as­tra­galus is con­sid­ered by west­ern herbal­ists to be one of the lead­ing im­mu­nity-boost­ing herbs avail­able.”

The fol­low­ing herbs are some of the most highly re­searched, as in­di­vid­u­als and mod­ern medicine alike search for an­swers on how to best as­sist the im­mune sys­tem in ward­ing off ill­ness and dis­ease. The good news is that each of these herbs read­ily grows around the coun­try. If you’re not into grow­ing your own herbs, plenty of rep­utable sup­pli­ers ex­ist to help fill your herbal medicine cab­i­net.

Sci­en­tific Name: A. mem­branaceus Com­mon Name: As­tra­galus

If only one herb could be se­lected, as­tra­galus would be the win­ner. Used for thou­sands of years in tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine, as­tra­galus is con­sid­ered by west­ern herbal­ists to be one of the lead­ing im­mu­nity-boost­ing herbs avail­able. Cur­rent clin­i­cal stud­ies not only con­firm the herb’s abil­ity to fend off mi­nor ill­nesses, such as the com­mon cold and in­fluenza, they also sug­gest as­tra­galus is ben­e­fi­cial in re­build­ing a weak­ened im­mune sys­tem fol­low­ing chemo­ther­apy and ra­di­a­tion. Stud­ies even in­di­cate this po­tent herb may be use­ful in treat­ing di­a­betes, a dis­ease that fur­ther re­duces the body’s im­mune func­tion.

A peren­nial that grows 2 to 4 feet high, this herb is highly adapt­able. Plant seeds out­doors af­ter the last frost date in a sunny spot with well-drain­ing, loose, sandy soil and thinned to about 1 foot apart. It does take about four years be­fore the roots—the medic­i­nal part of the plant—can be har­vested, so pa­tience will be a virtue. Al­ter­na­tively, you can pur­chase high-qual­ity dried roots from rep­utable herb sup­pli­ers, or cap­sules, tinc­tures and ex­tracts at many health-food stores. The sweet-tast­ing root is best in­gested in tea form or pow­dered and added to smooth­ies, yo­gurt and even ice cream.

Sci­en­tific Name: Echi­nacea pur­purea or E. an­gus­ti­fo­lia Com­mon Name: Echi­nacea

Em­ployed by Na­tive Amer­i­cans to fend off colds and other ill­nesses com­mon in win­ter, echi­nacea is bet­ter known by many as the pur­ple cone­flower. Re­search con­ducted at the UK’S Com­mon Cold Cen­tre at Cardiff Uni­ver­sity found this na­tive herb re­duces both the num­ber of colds con­tracted and the du­ra­tion of ex­ist­ing colds by an av­er­age of 26% when com­pared to a placebo.

Un­like as­tra­galus, all parts of echi­nacea con­tain medic­i­nal prop­er­ties. How­ever, some herbal­ists pre­fer the roots over the leaves, stems and flow­ers, be­liev­ing the root’s medic­i­nal con­stituents are more po­tent. Oth­ers opt to uti­lize only the above­ground parts to avoid dam­ag­ing the plant’s over­all health. All parts may be pur­chased as tinc­tures, cap­sules or in dried form, or you can har­vest your own.

Re­gard­less of which parts you pre­fer, echi­nacea is a hardy peren­nial that grows eas­ily in most of the U.S., en­joy­ing both dry, poor soils and fer­tile gar­den soils. The main re­quire­ment is a well-drain­ing, sunny lo­ca­tion. Seeds read­ily sprout out­doors when sown in either spring or fall or as in­door starts. Be aware that flow­ers will not ap­pear un­til the se­cond grow­ing sea­son, so you may wish to avoid har­vest­ing the first year. If har­vest­ing roots, it’s best to plan for a large plant­ing and dis­turb the plants as lit­tle as pos­si­ble.

NOTE: Those with al­ler­gies to other mem­bers of the Aster­aceae fam­ily should ex­er­cise cau­tion with echi­nacea due to the pres­ence of echi­nacea pollen.

Sci­en­tific Name: R. can­ina or R. ru­gosa Com­mon Name: Rose Hips

If ever you needed an ex­cuse to plant a rose bush, now you have one. Used by the Bri­tish govern­ment dur­ing World War II to prevent scurvy in its mil­i­tary, rose hips con­tain ap­prox­i­mately 20-60% more vi­ta­min C, pound for pound, than or­anges. How­ever, not just any old rose bush will do. While hy­brid teas are de­light­ful and of­ten quite fra­grant, medic­i­nal rose hips are found on R. can­ina (dog rose) and R. ru­gosa (hedge­hog rose), both of which grow wild through­out the coun­try.

Grow­ing these wild roses is eas­ier than grow­ing hy­brid teas, with the ru­gosa rose be­ing the least finicky. The far­ther north you live, the more you might want to look into the dog rose, and those liv­ing far­ther south should con­sider the ru­gosa rose, yet many re­gions suc­cess­fully har­bor both species. How­ever, each species re­quires some­what dif­fer­ent cul­ti­va­tion, so de­ter­mine their pref­er­ences for your spe­cific lo­ca­tion. The fact that they’re a bit more par­tic­u­lar than the other herbs men­tioned here is proof that, while hardier and a lit­tle wilder than a prim and proper tea rose, they’re still roses.

There are many ways to con­sume rose hips. Cut them open and scoop out the ir­ri­tat­ing, hairy seeds, then pop the shell into your mouth for a sweet treat. Or, find a tasty jam, jelly or syrup recipe to try. You can even make a sweet, flo­ral-tast­ing tea to en­joy. You can read­ily pur­chase the hips dried, some­times pow­dered, and rarely in cap­sule or ex­tract form.

Sci­en­tific Name: Al­lium sativum Com­mon Name: Gar­lic

Gar­lic wards off not only vam­pires, but colds, flu and the plague (re­ally). Fed to an­cient Egyp­tian slaves to in­crease stamina and re­duce ill­nesses, this com­monly used herb is likely sit­ting in your pantry. Best con­sumed raw when used as a pre­ven­ta­tive, gar­lic’s an­timi­cro­bial prop­er­ties work by in­creas­ing white blood cells and block­ing en­zymes that lead to vi­ral in­fec­tions. In­cor­po­rate one to two whole cloves into your diet daily by adding

to salsa, but­tered toast, salad dress­ing or spaghetti sauce. Or, press the cloves and mix with a ta­ble­spoon of honey in the morn­ing and evening. Since raw gar­lic can cause stom­ach up­set, be sure to con­sume a bit of food, too.

Note: If tak­ing blood thin­ners, do not con­sume non-di­etary amounts of gar­lic with­out first con­sult­ing your physi­cian.

While you may wish to pur­chase raw gar­lic at the lo­cal farmer’s mar­ket, grow­ing it is easy, with fall plant­ings gen­er­ally pro­duc­ing larger bulbs than spring ones. When select­ing bulbs for the gar­den, or­der cer­ti­fied dis­ease­free stock. Be­gin with loose, fri­able soil and amend with com­post. Place the largest cloves 2-3 inches deep and cover. Keep soil moist, but not wet, as soggy ground causes cloves to rot. In the spring, wait un­til the green tops be­gin to break cover, then har­vest care­fully to avoid dam­ag­ing the bulbs. Save the largest and health­i­est-look­ing bulbs for the next plant­ing, and use the rest to build your im­mune sys­tem.

Sci­en­tific Name: Sam­bu­cus ni­gra

Com­mon Name: Black El­der­berry

Another Na­tive Amer­i­can medic­i­nal, el­der­berry grows wild along for­est edges, and is one of the most ef­fec­tive—and tasty— an­tivi­ral herbals avail­able. Most com­monly taken as a syrup, el­der­berry is clin­i­cally proven to prevent colds, flu and other up­per­res­pi­ra­tory-tract in­fec­tions. As a bonus, el­der­berry syrup is so de­li­cious that even chil­dren will hap­pily en­joy it smeared on pan­cakes, driz­zled over ice cream or even straight from the spoon.

To grow, el­der­berry only re­quires moist, mod­er­ate soil in par­tial to full sun. Once es­tab­lished, lit­tle care is needed. While wait­ing a few years to ob­tain the medic­i­nal berries, pur­chase dried berries from a rep­utable source to make your own syrup or pur­chase qual­ity man­u­fac­tured syrups or tinc­tures.

Bol­ster That Im­mune Sys­tem

Cre­at­ing an im­mu­nity-boost­ing herbal arse­nal as win­ter ap­proaches is a good way to help your fam­ily fend off the “nas­ties” that come along with cooler weather. And, the good news is that you don’t have to wait un­til spring to start build­ing your im­mune sys­tem with qual­ity, dried herbs, tinc­tures, cap­sules and more, all avail­able at your lo­cal health food store and on­line. Start plan­ning your fu­ture herb gar­den now while sip­ping a rose-hip tea or en­joy­ing el­der­berry pan­cakes.

“… el­der­berry grows wild along for­est edges, and is one of the most ef­fec­tive— and tasty—an­tivi­ral herbals avail­able.”

(be­low) Dried rose hips are read­ily avail­able in most health-food stores, or you can for­age for wild hips or grow your own. (op­po­site) Any va­ri­ety of gar­lic is suitable for boost­ing one’s im­mune sys­tem. Se­lect one you find palat­able and that grows well...

(top) As­tra­galus is a pow­er­ful im­mune-sys­tem-boost­ing herb. Stud­ies have in­di­cated that it might be use­ful in treat­ing di­a­betes and in boost­ing im­mune sys­tem func­tion fol­low­ing chemo­ther­apy. (op­po­site, top) Pur­ple cone­flower, aka echi­nacea, is at home...

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