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Posts Tagged ‘sore throat’

I absolutely love spring because it ushers in new beginnings.   Fresh and vibrant plants which lay dormant all winter are now poking their little heads up to feel the warm air and greet the sun.  This is about the time of the year when our Southern Dewberries (Rubus trivialis) start to bloom.  The berries won’t come in until sometime in late April or early May, but the blossoms are just a reminder that soon we will be gorging ourselves on their juicy ripe berries.

The Dewberry is often confused with the Blackberry as they look quite similar.  However, Dewberries fruit earlier and grow close to the ground like a vine, while the Blackberry grows on upright stems or canes.

Like the Blackberry the Dewberries are edible and are a great treat on a warm spring day.  Dewberries like Blackberries can also be used medicinally (more…)

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I found myself under the weather about a month ago intially dealing with a sore throat and then having it move into my chest presenting with an irritable dry cough.  Depsite the fact that I try to keep my immune system strong there are occassions when even herbalists become their own patients.

When I encounter a dry and irritable cough I know that its time to reach for a demulcent.  A demulcent helps to soothe irritated tissue and moisten the mucus membranes.   A demulcent is indicated when there is a dry irritable cough with little expectoration.  I was also looking for an herbal expectorant.  Expectorants  increase the flow of mucus and help expel thick excess mucus from the lungs.   The last thing I want to do is suppress a cough and have it move into a more severe condition. 

I love using remedies that are inexpensive and readily available.  A wonderful demulcent that quite a few people might already have at the house are flaxseeds.  Flaxseeds not only fit the bill as a wonderful demulcent, but they are also an expectorant.  So for my cough I prepared myself a tea using 2 tbsp of flaxseed to one cup of water.  I boiled the water and poured it over the flax and let it sit for about 10-15 mins or until it got real slimy and thick.  I then strained off the seeds and for an extra boost I added some elderberry syrup.  The elderberry syrup added a nice flavor as well as an immune boost.  If you don’t have elderberry syrup around you can add some fresh lemon juice and honey.  I took a tablespoon of the mixture as often as I felt like I needed.  It really helped with both the sore throat and the irritable cough.  By helping to relax and soothe the underlying reflex without completely suppressing the cough it allowed my body to get some rest from the irritation of the cough.

Demulcents help to lubricate or moisten all mucus membranes to include those of the bowels.  Because of their moistening effect Flaxseeds can also be a wonderful aid for constipation and Irritable bowel conditions.    Some other benefits of Flaxseeds is that they are high in the good Omega-3 fatty acids, high in fiber and manganese.  Flaxseeds are also a good source of magnesium as well as antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals.  

Besides making them into a tea Flaxseeds can be ground up and sprinkled on food or used when cooking muffins or breads.  Flax seeds can be found at most grocery stores or health foods stores and are an inexpensive and a beneficial addition to any medicine/kitchen cabinet.

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I have to admit I have become a compulsive label reader.  So… just out of curiosity I read the label of a children’s pain reliever and fever reducer.  I won’t mention the name, but I will tell you that it rhymes with Mylenol.  I was absolutely blown away by what was in this over the counter drug that is given to millions of children each year.

Anhydrous citric acid, butylparaben, FD&C Red#40, flavors, glycerin, high fructose corn syrup, microcrystalline cellulose and carboxymethyl cellulose sodium, propylene glycol, purified water, sodium benzoate, sorbitol solution, sucralose, xanthan gum.

Just looking at these ingredients makes me cringe….what are we feeding our children?  According to the FDA, “Most drugs prescribed for children have not been tested in children.”  The FDA also goes on to say that, “…only about 20 percent of drugs approved by the FDA were labeled for pediatric use. By necessity, doctors have routinely given drugs to children “off label,” which means the drug has not been approved for use in children…”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel real comfortable with those facts.  With that said I’m here to tell you that there are a lot of wonderful herbs that can be used with kids in lieu of over the counter or prescription drugs and they are much safer and very effective.  Even many of the spices you may have in your kitchen cabinet can be very effective when it comes to treating acute conditions.

Some wonderful herbs and spices to have around the kitchen include:

  • Garlic –  This herb is one of the most valuable herbs you will ever have around the house.  Often called, “Poor Man’s Penicillin”, garlic is by far much more effective and safer than any antibiotic on the market.  Garlic is highly effective against both viral and bacterial infections and can be your first line of defense against antibiotic resistant infections. 

Remedies using Garlic:

Asthma (acute) – Simmer two cloves of garlic for 20 minutes and drink a glass once the mixture is cool.

Congestion – Soak a 1 pound of garlic in a quart of boiling water for 10 or 12 hours. Strain out the garlic and mix the liquid with 4 pounds of honey and bottle. Take 1 teaspoon for congestion.

Ear Infection – Chop up several cloves of garlic and soak them in olive oil for a minimum of 30 minutes or overnight. Strain out the garlic and warm the oil to body temperature. Place several drops in the infected ear. Also treat the none infected ear.

  • Ginger – Not only is ginger a very effective antibacterial herb, but it is also a very good expectorant, pain reliever, circulatory stimulant, immune stimulant and diaphoretic (increases circulation to skin).  Ginger is often used for motion sickness as well as nausea associated with chemotherapy or morning sickness.

Remedies using Ginger:

Cough/Cold/Flu –  Add a thumb size piece of ginger root to one quart of water and bring to a boil.  Simmer with lid on at low heat for 30 minutes.  Let the mixture cool.  Strain and drink ½ – 1 cup as desired.  May sweeten with honey.  (Do not use for a dry unproductive cough)

 

  • Honey – This sweet treat is loaded with vitamins and minerals and is like a first aid kit all rolled up into one remedy.  Honey is extremely effective taken as a preventative or during the course of colds, flu and respiratory infections.  Honey is also a very effective wound healer if applied topically to burns, ulcers and various other skin afflictions. Caution:  Do not give to children under 1 year of age.
  • Sage –  Often found in most kitchen cabinets this culinary herb is a wonderful antiseptic/antibacterial herb and can be applied topically for infected wounds or taken internally as a tea for various conditions such as sore throats, respiratory infections and dysentery.
  • Cayenne – This hot and spicy herb can be used topically to stop bleeding, to reduce inflammation and as a counter-irritant which may help relieve pain.  Internally Cayenne is taken as a digestive aid, anticoagulant and circulatory stimulant.
  • Cinnamon – There is some research to indicate that cinnamon may be effective in helping to regulate blood sugar and is a wonder addition to any diet.  As a carminative (alleviates gas/bloating) Cinnamon may be useful for colic, cramping, nausea, flatulence and vomiting.  Cinnamon is also astringent and may be effective in acute cases of diarrhea.
  • Anise – Not only good for the digestive system, but anise has also been used as an expectorant for chest congestion and mucus.

Anise may be used in the following applications:

–   Seeds may be chewed to help relieve indigestion or as a breath freshener.

–   A compress made from the tea can be used topically to help relieve pain.

–   The seeds can be used to make a syrup or tea which may be beneficial for coughs.

–   A tea made with Anise may help to stimulate the flow of mother’s milk.

–   Taken as a tea it may help to remedy colic, flatulence, cramp/griping, bloating and indigestion.

–   A nice addition to herbal recipes to enhance flavor.

  • Clove – Because of its pain relieving action, Clove has traditionally been used as a popular folk remedy for toothaches. Clove is also known to naturally relieve inflammation and is antifungal therefore making it potentially beneficial for parasitic infections.

CAUTIONS: Do not give to children under 5 and always dilute clove oil in water or oil.

  • Basil – An herb used for centuries in both culinary and medicinal applications, Basil is said to be both cooling and heating in its actions. Traditionally, it has been used in instances of melancholy (depression), indigestion, and for insomnia related to nervous tension. Basil is also used for conditions ranging from colds, fevers, kidney and lung troubles.

Remedies using Basil include:

–   Make a tea using basil for headaches, indigestion, fevers, colds, flu, menstrual

cramps, nausea, and vomiting.

–   Apply as a poultice for bacterial infections and burns.

–   Crush leaves and apply the juice topically to help with the itch of insect bites and inflammation of the skin.

–   Use as a steam for head colds.

–   Mix the juice of the leaves with honey for coughs.

The list of beneficial herbs found in the spice cabinet are endless.  Just about all culinary herbs can be used for various conditions which range from digestive issues to respiratory ailments.  Why rely on over the counter drugs which are loaded with various synthetic chemicals when you can use natural alternatives which are very safe and effective and have been used for centuries.

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059Well it’s that time of the year for the crud…coughing, sneezing, fever, sore throat, etc. Unfortunately, we can’t lock ourselves in a hermetically sealed room all the time and therefore we are exposed to millions of germs each day. Germs include bacteria, fungi, protazoa, and viruses. However, just because we are exposed to these germs doesn’t necessarily mean we will get sick. Fortunately, we have a built in defense which helps to protect us from foreign invaders….our immune system. Think of the immune system as a huge fortress with soldiers standing guard. On the outside of the fortress is the germ army preparing an attack. The germ army is looking for all kinds of ways to penetrate the fortress and attack the inhabitants. So in order to keep our immune system strong and prevent illness we can do a few simple things all the time:
* Get plenty of sleep. When the body is deprived of sleep it is more vulnerable to attack.
* Eat healthy foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
* Avoid sugar. Germs feed off of sugar.
* Reduce stress
* Practice good hygiene.
* Laugh a lot. You’ve heard the proverbial saying, “Laughter is the best medicine”, and well it’s true. Laughter helps to increase the number of immune cells that attack foreign invaders in the body.

My mother woke up with a very dry cough which brought her lurching forward to hold her rip cage. She described it as a tickle in her throat that wouldn’t go away. Compelled to relieve her from what I knew to be extreme discomfort I made her some slippery elm lozenges. The recipe is rather simple:

Add slippery elm powder to honey until you get the consistency of play dough. Roll it between you hands to make a snake about the diameter of your pinky finger. Pinch off about a quarter of an inch and roll into a ball. These can be rolled in licorice root or more slippery elm powder and dried in a low temp oven.

Because my mother needed help immediately I gave her the lozenge without drying it. It stuck to the roof of her mouth like peanut butter, but within less than 15 minutes she was no longer coughing. She sucked on the lozenges for the rest of the day and the coughing completely disappeared and has not returned.

After the crud had run it’s coarse with the rest of the family it settled in with me despite my attempts to keep my immune system strong. (There was that fit that my 7 year old threw which stressed me to the max) Sometimes these little germ guys just find there way in regardless of what you do. I’m probably the worst patient I have and continue to run and do and skip my herbs. However, the nasal congestion had gotten to critical mass with pressure which seemed like my head would literally explode. I remembered an article that herbalist Jim Mcdonald had written about Yerba Mansa nasal spray. At this point I would basically try anything. I made up a batch of Jim’s nasal spray and within minutes felt some relief. I also took a few drops of the tincture internally for good measure.

I guess the moral to this story for me is to take time out and take care of myself before things go full blown.

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