Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Natural Medicine Cabinet: Gearing Up for Cold & Flu Season


“Common colds and influenza do not require medical treatment, and the medications often used to treat them, will merely relieve symptoms. The effects of doing this may be counterproductive, because they interfere with the body’s efforts to cure itself.”-Robert Mendelsohn, MD and author of "How to Raise a Healthy Child...In Spite of Your Doctor"
 
 
When it comes to getting your body the healthiest it can be, there are many factors to consider. 
We all know the benefits of health that come from our diet and lifestyle, but there are also basic vitamins and minerals that are bodies need.
Unfortunately, the content of these minerals in our soils, thereby our foods, have been depleted from using modern-day commercialized food production methods.
Fortunately, we have access to high quality supplements that we can take in addition to eating our veggies & fruits.

The Basics:
First and foremost, most people take a daily multivitamin. 
That's all fine and good, but it's not enough. 
In fact, many of the RDA's aren't even met and the combination of so many vitamins and minerals all at once it not optimal for absorption. 

So you might be thinking, what do I suggest instead?
Well, for my family, we drink Nutrient Tea almost daily.
Nutrient Tea is a blend of herbs that attend to the basic vitamins and minerals that one needs in it's most natural and absorbable form.
I blend my own (and can blend one for you as well) and have also enjoyed the Vita-Blend Tea from Mountain Rose Herbs as well as my friend Keri's Nutrient Tea
Often times ingredients in these types of vitamin and nutrient packed teas include nettles, comfrey, alfalfa, oatstraw, red clover blossoms and /or red raspberry leaves among others. We add a little honey to sweeten and drink up! We all enjoy drinking our teas!

Next up, there are several vitamins and minerals that are essentials for basic health and well-being as well as immune function. Vitamin C, D, Zinc and Magnesium are the ones I consider most important and if you're going to do the basics and nothing else...start here!
Vitamin C: anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-toxic (essential to help the body get rid of toxins), anti-histamine, broad spectrum antibiotic

The most bioavailable form is sodium ascorbate. It can be bought in bulk, powdered form to add to smoothies, drink, homemade popsicles, etc or capsules. For the kiddos, I like these chewables.
Vit C is important for so many reasons. Above anything else, it alone enables the immune system to do it's job. It's essential for daily health and essential when you're sick. Our standard dosing is 1 500 mg tab a day for the kids and I personally take anywhere from 1000-3000mg a day. When we're sick, Vitamin C is boosted to bowel tolerance (meaning loose stools). For the kids that's 1000mg-1500mg and for me 3000mg-5000mg. Therapeutic values for serious illness and disease have been effective at 3x that amount and more (under the supervision of a physician). Dr. Irwin Stone, a pioneer in the use of vitamin C, recommended taking 1.5 to 2 grams by mouth at the first sign of a cold and repeating the dose at 20 to 30 minute intervals until symptoms disappeared. He said this usually happened by the third dose.


Vitamin D: essential to healthy immune and nervous systems, plays critical role in controlling infections, essential for normal cell growth (research shows it actually prevents cancer cells from dividing!), bone/teeth/muscle health


We're lucky. In Mississippi, we don't really need much supplementation of Vitamin D unless you have known deficiencies (easily tested via a blood draw). We have lots of sunlight almost year round. In the winter, it is important to supplement and in any time of illness, it is important as well. Vit D is one of the few vitamins we can't reliably get from a food source. There are a few foods with minimal D content, but our source is the sun. When supplementing, the new recommendations are 1000 iu's/per 25 lbs of body weight. During times of illness, one should double and even triple that dose for therapeutic value. For my kiddos, I simplify things with these D3 drops. They get 1 drop each during the winter. I personally take a capsule form from the local health food store. It's less expensive and a quality brand. The Vitamin D Council has a wealth of info on their website for your researching pleasure.

Zinc: trace element essential for cells of the immune system, and zinc deficiency affects the ability of T cells and other immune cells to function as they should

Zinc deficiency is likely one of the most common nutrient deficiences in our diets. It is essential for proper T cell and natural killer cell function and proper lymphocyte activity; it may be directly involved in antibody production to help you fight infection. Some of the key functions of zinc include: alcohol and amino acid
metabolism, protein digestion, and energy production, as well as in immune function and in the body’s fight against damaging free radicals. Zinc is found in oysters (which have the highest zinc content by far), shellfish, meats, eggs, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Pumpkin and squash seeds are especially good sources.
I generally take 30 mg a day or every other day. When sick, there's no skipping it! 
Magnesium: mineral that is essential for transmission of nerve impulses, body temperature regulation, detoxification, energy production, the formation of healthy bones and teeth, protein sythesis, and of course, supports a health immune system

Magnesium is another essential nutrient that we are in general, deficient in and desperately need to function. It is essential to over 300 biochemical processes in the body and is especially important for women. Magnesium can be found in many foods like dark, leafy greens, tomatoes, lima beans, artichoke, sweet potatoes,
buckwheat flour, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, oat bran, barley, cornmeal and dark chocolate. Nettle leaf is an excellent source as well and is found in my nutrient teas mentioned above. Magnesium promotes healthful sleep and I take mine before bed every night. Personally, I take 400 mg a night of magnesium glycinate, the most bioavailable form. Epsom salts in the bathtub are a great way to relax and to calm the kiddos down for the night as well. The magnesium in the epsom salts is absorbed through the skin and is a great source for the mineral.

Now that we've got the basics covered, let's talk herbs that specifically boost immunity.
 
A very wise friend of mine says, "Astragalus before you get sick and Echinacea after."
Astragalus is regarded as a potent tonic for increasing energy levels and stimulating the immune system. Research has shown that it positively augments the white blood cells fighting the disease and removes the ones making the body more vulnerable thereby, strengtheing immunity. It also has shown lots of positive effects of supporting the adrenal cortex system. Echinacea works to increase the activity of the immune system by stimulating white blood cells, which attack the viruses and bacteria that lead to illness or infection. Research has shown it to be an effective anti-viral and anti-fungal. I prefer tincture form of these (and most) herbs. In order to make it more palatable to my kiddos, I general get the alcohol-free kind. Most herbal tincture are fairly strong tasting and I find grape juice really hides it well ;)

Once you're sick and you've increased your vitamin/mineral intake to enable your body to function at it's highest potential, you've specifically boosted your immune system function with herbs, NOW you need the specifics to attack the infection and the natural remedies to help soothe and relieve the symptoms.
(not pictured that we had on hand Thursday....Oil of Oregano and Tea tree oil.)

Olive Leaf Extract: immune system builder, anti bacterial, anti fungal, anti viral

Simply put, Olive leaf extract is amazing! No other single herb has demonstrated such a medicinally wide spectrum of uses. It works by interfering with certain cellular process that in effect kill off the culprit whether it is a virus, bacteria or fungus. It directly boosts the immune system by increasing phagocyte production and has high antioxidant properties. The other incredible thing is that OLE has shown incredible structural properties that have proved to be highly effective in preventing infectious micro-organisms from developing resistance. No natural medicine cabinet is complete without Olive Leaf Extract. Olive leaf tea is very yummy too!

Oil of Oregano: strong anti fungal, antiseptic and anti microbial
Oil of oregano at relatively low doses was found to be effective against Staphylococcus bacteria and was comparable in its germ-killing properties to antibiotic drugs such as streptomycin, penicillin and vancomycin. These effective antibacterial properties against common pathogenic germs are especially of importance as more and more bacteria are becoming antibiotic resistant. OOO is also effective at holding up against the resistant strains. It's antifungal properties are very popular in treatment of yeast (Candida). OOO is very strong and should never be taken without being diluted in coconut oil or olive oil. Some can purchases pre-diluted but generally it is not. Make sure you read your labels!

Colloidal Silver: very effective anti bacterial/fungal/viral, studying CS formed the basis for modern pharmaceutical antibiotics

Many studies seem to reflect that Colloidal Silver has been proven to be useful against many different infections and is toxic in concentrations of 3 - 5 ppm (parts per million) against all species of fungi, bacteria, protozoa, parasites and certain viruses, in the laboratory, in a petri dish.It's very effective against in combating influenza and tummy bugs.

Symptom Soothing Natural Remedies:
Elderberry Syrup: great for coughs and sore throats

Essential Oils-Lavender, Eucalyptus, Tea Tree: all very cleansing and anti bacterial, all open and clear breathing passageways. Diffuse some in hot water and cover with a towel for a steam inhale or steam the bathroom and drop some into the shower to open up your stopped up nose or sooth your lungs. These eo's can also be added to your humidifier or vaporizer. I also like to add a few drops of eucalyptus to sesame or coconut oil to rub on the chest/back to relieve congestion.

Garlic Oil for Earaches: Simmer several cloves of garlic in evoo or coconut oil for several minutes, but do not let the garlic brown (low and slow).  Strain and allow to cool until it is no longer hot, just warm. Drop into infected ear and/or massage around the ear and neck area close to the ear. Never put cold drops into an aching ear. Also, you can make garlic oil and store it, warming a small amount as needed (place a 1/4 lb of peeled garlic into a mason jar and fill with olive oil. shake daily for 2 weeks, then strain and use as needed)

From the Kitchen:
 Never look further than your kitchen for many effective natural remedies! You can even mix up your own Master Tonic to have on hand to ward off everything infectious and possibly even evil spirits ;). 
Kidding. 
Sort of. 
And if you've ever made this, you'll understand my joke. It's potent stuff! But it works.

There are many items in your kitchen that are effective at kicking a cold or the flu and many more to help relieve the symptoms including: garlic, onion, coconut oil, ginger, spicy peppers like cayenne, local honey (preferably raw), unfiltered raw Apple Cider Vinegar, horseradish and foods like Bone Broth and cultured Probiotic drinks and veggies.

Garlic: antiseptic, anti inflammatory, anti bacterial/fungal/parasitical/viral
Onion, Ginger, Horseradish, Cayenne: Increase blood flow and circulation
Coconut Oil: antimicrobial, antifungal, antioxidant, antibacterial, soothing properties, digestive benefits
Honey: prevents seasonal allergies (local), soothing, antibacterial, antioxidant, antiseptic, cleansing properties (internally and externally)
ACV: antibacterial, antifungal, soothing/healing properties for the skin and digestion
Probiotics: this can be an entire post (book!) so instead I will link a few good sources to read. Basically, in order for our body to function properly, you must have probiotics either via supplement or via cultured foods or both! Benefits of Probiotics & Make your own cultured Foods!


So, there you have it...
Your basics to stock your Natural Medicine Cabinet for the Cold & Flu Season!
By no means is this comprehensive and my disclaimer:
I am not a medical doctor. I am a mother and woman interested and self-educated in natural medicines/remedies. I research and research some more. I do use all the above remedies for my family, but not everything is right for everyone. Always consult YOUR health care provider in addition to doing your own research. Feel free to contact me if you'd like more information or have any questions. Also, I'm not promoting certain brands or places from which to order. I do recommend going to your local health food store and have found the most affordable sources online to be Amazon, iHerb, Pure Bulk and Vitacost.

What are some remedies, herbs or supplements or other natural health care practices that you think are essential for combating cold and flu season?

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