Honey, herbs and spices may be obtained in bulk inexpensively from your health food store. As a certified herbalist, let me make some brief mentions about a few herbs and their uses, cautions and contra-indications here:
About Echinacea: Studies have shown that Echinacea stimulates the immune system. This is a desireable effect for the short-term, but for the long-term (after ten days) it also causes a drop in immune T-cell production, as if the immune system becomes tired out. Use safely for seven days but then take several days off to give your immune system a rest. Do not use over long periods of time, even if given rest periods: Use only to short-circuit a cold or flu. It is most effective at the onset stage than in the full-blown stage. Contra-indicated in cases of auto-immune disease such as certain forms of arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, etc.
Immune system tonics such as ligustrum, astragalus, osha, schizandra, codonopsis, and reishi mushroom make better long-term alternatives to Echinacea. Tonics nourish and strengthen a body system over the long haul, where stimulants may tire them out.
Berberine-containing plants, or those with an alkaloid of yellow coloring which stimulates the liver’s bile flow and which is anti-microbial, are often good natural flu-killers. Of these berberine-containing herbs, goldenseal is most popularly used since it is very effective as anti-microbial. (Note that not all yellow plants necessarily contain berberine). CAUTION: Follow up any antimicrobial with an acidophilus supplement or better yet, a pro-biotic supplement containing many more strains than just acidophilus (such as bifidus, streptococcus faecium, etc) to replenish any killed-off friendly bacteria in your system. This is very important to prevent yeast over-growth in your digestive tract, which can become parasitic and immune-inhibiting if overgrown. NOTE: It is even more crucial to follow up conventional antibiotic supplements with probiotics to prevent such yeast overgrowth. Conventional antibiotics kill the friendly bacteria along with the unfriendly ones, and are far more potent than their herbal equivalents.
Irish moss is a herbal antibiotic of extreme potency but should be used under the guidance of an experienced herbalist or naturopathic physician. Under such professional and licensed guidance, Irish moss extract (which is much stronger than an herb alone) can even clear up staph infections.
For colds and flu, asthma and upper respiratory infections: Respiratory Defense (formerly called Lomatium-Osha, since it contains both those herbs) is the name of a formula by Gaia Herbs, available at your local health food store. Also contains the herb grindelia, from which asthma medication used to be made. Excellent!
Chamomile and ginger are both useful during stomach upset and flus. Ginger is drunk by pregnant women to allay morning sickness, while chamomile is anti-inflammatory and mildly anti-bacterial, a specific for stomach upset. Drink the tea liberally during stomach flu.Mint is helpful to break up stomach gas and is tasty besides! Makes a great iced tea or suntea. Pairs nicely with chamomile in case of stomach flu.
St Johnswort contains hypericins which are natural anti-inflammatories. The oil, used topically, is a superb anti-inflammatory for repetitive motion stresses, plantar's fascitis in the feet, etc. The hypericins and hyperforins are natural anti-depressants due, in large part, to being MAO inhibitors, nervous system tonics and nervous system anti-inflammatories. Clinical studies in Europe have proven St Johnswort extract (much stronger than the herb alone) to be very effective in combatting anxiety and mild to moderate depression. The herb is used as widely in Europe for both conditions as Prozac in America. There are no side-effects except a rare allergic reaction in humans, in which increased photosensitivity may result in skin rashes after sun exposure. In that rare case, discontinue use. NOTE: St Johnswort raises liver enzymes P450 and CYP3A4, and may interact with certain drugs. Check with your doctor or pharmacists, telling them of these exact enzymes to be sure they know whether or not there is a drug-herb interaction, if you are taking any medication. Do not use with other MAO-inhibiting drugs, since St JOhnswort is itself a MAO inhibitor and will exacerbate the drug effects to an unsafe extent. Here is an excellent St Johnswort antidepressant product which is standardized and contains herbs supporting St Johnswort's functions: www.amoryn.com
Cinnamon makes a tasty natural preservative, breaks up intestinal gas, helps to stabilize blood sugar and kids love it too, especially in applesauce.
Honey is mildly anti- bacterial, has many minerals and is a natural food preservative. Not to be used by anybody with blood sugar instabilities and not for infants.
Lemons are good food preservatives in canning, being very acidic. High in vitamin C, they also make good gargles for sore throats. Just squeeze a lemon into warm water and gargle, always spitting out the remains. Never swallow, since there will be bacterial toxins in the mix after gargling! This coats the throat with vitamin C, facilitates healing, kills unfriendly bacteria while supporting the healthy ones, and is at our fingertips at any time. Use only fresh-squeezed, not canned or frozen lemonade. Ironically enough, although citrus fruits are acidic, they also cause an alkalizing of the body, thus helping to ease out hyperacidity in the gastro-intestinal tract. Use mild and well-diluted, fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice to cool a hyperacidic stomach.
Grapefruit are high in vitamin C. Because the juice causes the liver to secrete P450, an enzyme, it can interact with certain drugs.
Here is a marvellous product for tonifying (strengthening) the adrenal glands: www.newchapter.com/products/stress-take-care
The adrenals play a role in blood sugar regulation by "Telling" the liver when to release glycogen, a blood sugar metabolite. They manufacture hormones such as cortisol, your body's natural anti-inflammatory hormone, activate the flight-or-fight response in emergencies, make the hormone DHEA which mimics other sex hormones in the body (thus aiding PMS and other symptoms), and many more functions. Osteoporosis may be an offshoot of excess adrenaline and stress, writes endocrinologist Diana Schwartzbein in her book Schwartzbein II. Thus, to support the adrenals can help in part to stabilize blood sugar, regulate energy, decrease inflammatory responses (in part), prevent osteoporosis, and many other health benefits.
SCIENTIFICALLY-RESEARCHED HERBAL REFERENCE SOURCES:
Phtyotherapy is the new scientifically-based herbal movement originating from Europe but now in America too. Chemical constituents are isolated from each plant, clinical tests are done as are double-blind studies, laboratory studies, in vitro and on animals and consenting humans. Drug-herb interactions are being logged and recorded, though this latter topic is still a growing science. At this point in time, the phytotherapy community says of drug-herb interactions: "None known" if a plant or its constituents as of yet seemst to have no drug-herb interactions.