Do you get sick more dur­ing the win­ter months? Here’s how to use herbs to stay well all sea­son

Better Nutrition - - CONTENTS - BY EMILY A. KANE, ND, LAc Emily A. Kane, ND, LAc, has a pri­vate naturopathic prac­tice in Juneau, Alaska, where she lives with her hus­band and daugh­ter. She is the author of two books on nat­u­ral health, in­clud­ing Manag­ing Menopause Nat­u­rally. Visit her o

Herbs for Cold- Weather Days Herbal tips and tricks to help you stay well this win­ter, in­clud­ing the best botan­i­cals for your blood type.

A lesser- known, but po­tent, an­tivi­ral herb, paracress is a key in­gre­di­ent in im­mune ton­ics.

I get sick ev­ery win­ter with a cold or flu. Why is this, and what herbs should I take to avoid it? — Sue P., La Mi­rada, Calif.

a:It’s true that we’re sim­ply more vul­ner­a­ble to con­ta­gious ill­ness dur­ing the colder days and longer nights of win­ter. Cold winds can lit­er­ally drive pathogens into your sys­tem, so bun­dle up. Warm hats, scarves, and gloves can re­ally help, and so can warm­ing herbs such as gin­ger, cumin, cin­na­mon, and the whole range of pep­pers ( cayenne, pa­prika, etc.). I love fresh, hot le­mon­ade with gin­ger and a tiny pinch of cayenne as a win­ter tonic.

Bit­ters Boost Im­mune Health

Keep­ing your gut and your im­mune sys­tem in top shape can also help ward off win­ter woes. My fa­vorite plant medicines for a healthy di­ges­tive tract are “bit­ters.” Th­ese po­tent herbs stim­u­late di­ges­tive se­cre­tions, thus en­hanc­ing the break­down of food into fun­da­men­tal units ( amino acids, sim­ple sug­ars, and es­sen­tial fatty acids) to al­low for op­ti­mal ab­sorp­tion. A clas­sic bit­ters for­mula would con­tain about 50 per­cent gen­tian ( Gen­tiana lutea), which works by di­rectly stim­u­lat­ing the pro­duc­tion of saliva and gas­tric juices. Even small doses gen­tly stim­u­late peri­stal­sis ( rhyth­mic con­trac­tion of the colon to trig­ger evac­u­a­tion of the pre­vi­ous meal’s waste) with­out speed­ing up the pas­sage of food through the tract.

In ad­di­tion to gen­tian, a good bit­ters for­mula might con­tain about 20 per­cent anise ( Pimpinella anisum) and 20 per­cent gin­ger ( Zin­giber offi cinale). For a sweeter bit­ter, fen­nel ( Foenicu­lum vul­gare) is a good ad­di­tion. And if your GI tract is ir­ri­tated, add slip­pery elm ( Ul­mus rubra). Take one drop­per­ful or about ½ tsp. be­fore all main meals.

Top An­tivi­ral Herbs

Some of my fa­vorite im­mune sup­port herbs con­tain an­tivi­rals, be­cause vi­ral ill­ness is so preva­lent and diffi cult to treat. Viruses get in­side our cells and can mess with DNA and mi­to­chon­drial func­tions ( where our en­ergy is pro­duced). An an­tivi­ral/ im­mune tonic might con­tain echi­nacea, St. John’s wort, osha, cedar leaf ( Thuja oc­ci­den­talis), and paracress ( Spi­lan­thes acmella), a lesser- known, but po­tent, an­tivi­ral herb. Look for equal parts in a tinc­ture or glyc­erite, and take 2 tsp. daily for health main­te­nance or 2 Tbs. twice daily for acute vi­ral ill­ness.

Best Herbs by Blood Type

Ther­a­peu­tic herbs that can be made into bev­er­ages or in­cor­po­rated into cook­ing will go a long way to keep­ing you free of colds, fl u, and aches this win­ter. For blood type O, sea veg­gies are par­tic­u­larly benefi cial— for both their min­eral con­tent and their abil­ity to bind lectins ( es­pe­cially wheat and other grain lectins, which tend to drag down the O im­mune sys­tem). Dulse is a su­per­food for type Os. You can of­ten fi nd it pul­ver­ized in a shaker jar all ready to sprin­kle on all your sa­vory meals or even at the top of a smoothie. Carob and curry are also benefi cial condi­ments for Os.

Blood type As can trend a bit ner­vous and tend to have low stom­ach acid, so eat­ing slowly and chew­ing your food well is es­sen­tial. Herbal medicines to help type As man­age day- to- day stress in­clude Siberian gin­seng ( Eleuthe­ro­coc­cus sen­ti­co­sus), ash­wa­gandha ( Witha­nia som­nifera), holy basil ( Oci­mum sanc­tum), and ginkgo ( Ginkgo biloba). Ex­plore th­ese herbal medicines in tea or tinc­tures and fi nd one, or a com­bi­na­tion, that works for you. Type As also benefi t

greatly from green tea ( don’t over­brew, 30– 60 sec­onds max) and aloe juice. Both will soothe the in­testi­nal tract and help pre­vent po­ten­tial in­fec­tions from get­ting deeper into the body.

Blood type Bs tend to in­ter­nal­ize stress and can ben­e­fit from long- term strate­gies to re­duce a ten­dency to pro­duce high cor­ti­sol lev­els. Like As, they ben­e­fit from adap­to­gens such as gin­seng, ash­wa­gandha, and holy basil. Licorice is a won­der­ful herbal medicine and adrenal sup­port for type Bs, who also ben­e­fit from Ba­copa mon­niera leaf ex­tract, which pro­vides an­tiox­i­dant sup­port for the brain and ner­vous sys­tem.

Neu­ro­chem­i­cal bal­ance for type ABs ( the most mod­ern blood type) is en­hanced by rho­di­ola species read­ily found in cap­sule form, and B vi­ta­mins ( es­pe­cially im­por­tant for veg­e­tar­ian ABs), in­clud­ing fo­late ( not the syn­thetic folic acid). Kitchen medicine for ABs in­cludes curry and pars­ley.

Use Herbs Long- Term

All blood types can ben­e­fit from us­ing herbal medicines reg­u­larly. The longer you take herbal medicine, the more it will pro­tect your im­mune and ner­vous sys­tems. Medic­i­nal mush­rooms are highly ben­e­fi­cial, es­pe­cially as wa­ter ( not al­co­hol) ex­tracts: cordy­ceps, reishi, maitake, and turkey tail have been shown to im­prove NK ( nat­u­ral killer cell) func­tion.

My all- time fa­vorite herbal medicines for long- term use ( teas, tinc­tures, or glyc­erites) re­main gin­seng, as­tra­galus, licorice, and echi­nacea. One caveat: Echi­nacea isn’t great for blood type Os. If you have type O blood, opt for larch ara­bino­galac­tan as your go- to im­mune tonic in­stead. If you are us­ing an herbal medicine to pre­vent ill­ness, or main­tain health, use as di­rected. If you’re treat­ing an ill­ness, dou­ble the sug­gested dose for 3– 10 days un­til res­o­lu­tion. While herbal medicines may take a bit longer than phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals to man­i­fest re­sults ( maybe 10– 14 days of tak­ing 1 tsp. of tinc­ture or 1 cup strong tea daily), they don’t pro­duce the un­wanted side ef­fects com­monly as­so­ci­ated with drugs.

Do you have a ques­tion for Dr. Kane? Email it to ed­i­to­[email protected] bet­ter­nu­tri­tion. com with “Ask the ND” in the sub­ject line.

26 Paracress is just one of the many herbs that can help keep you well this win­ter.

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