Top 5 Immune Boosting Herbs from Your Spice Rack… Plus 3 Natural Home Remedy Recipes!

ginger_rootBy Mélanie Pulla

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

With the back-to-school season upon us, and cold and flu season looming around the corner, taking care of our immune health now becomes of paramount importance. Instead of combing through your local drugstore or health food store aisles searching for the right remedy, consider looking for that flu-busting remedy right in your very own spice rack!

Several common culinary herbs and spices are known to have powerful immune boosting and microbial-fighting properties. Here are my top five herbs and spices that I recommend having on-hand as cold and flu season approaches. And I’ve also included some useful recipes to help you better use these five common herbs to help boost your immune health this season.

Melanie’s Top 5 “Kitchen” Herbs to Boost Immune Health

Most of you can easily source these five herbs. They can be used both fresh and dried. And wherever possible, I recommend sourcing organic quality – or better yet, grow your own in your backyard garden!

Cayenne Pepper (Capsicum annum, frutencens)

Cayenne is the fruiting body of the Capsicum plant, originating from Africa. While this hot powdered chili pepper is commonly used to flavor dishes, it is also a potent medicinal plant with a long history of use.

Cayenne is a powerful stimulant and diaphoretic that encourages your body to produce more respiratory secretions and digestive juices.[1] Cayenne is excellent to use at the very first sign of a head cold when your nose and throat are very dry. It’s also a great remedy for painful dry throats caused by hacking, explosive coughs.[2] Cayenne, in fact, is the number one agent to re-establish proper secretions in the upper respiratory system due to acute colds, sore throat, and hoarseness.[3] These upper respiratory secretions are loaded with immunobodies that are a crucial part of the first line of defense of your immune system!

Cayenne is also an excellent circulatory stimulant that encourages capillaries to dilate, sending blood to your extremities.[4] The indications for Cayenne are poor respiratory secretions, dryness, and pale membranes.[5] Cayenne should be avoided with active inflammation or hot, red, burning conditions.

Garlic (Allium sativum)

Garlic is a bulb that grows underground, and is a member of the same group of plants as the Onion family. A common seasoning in dishes, Garlic also has a long history of medicinal use dating back to the Ancient Greeks.[6]

Garlic is a respiratory antiseptic with mucolytic properties: this means it dissolves thick mucous, clears statis, and is anti-bacterial (specifically with gram-negative bacteria).[7] Like Cayenne, Garlic is another herb to start taking at the first sign of a head cold. It does not have a direct effect on viruses, but will speed up resistance and response.

Garlic is also a well-known expectorant, and is therefore useful in bronchitis, as well as chronic or frequent colds, assisting with the constant rattling of mucous in bronchi.[8] The syrup of garlic is useful for asthma or coughs that make it difficult to breath, and the oil of garlic rubbed on the chest will ease lung afflictions (and keep vampires away!).[9] Take raw garlic to fight respiratory bacteria and fungi.

Overall, Garlic is best for those damp and mucousy coughs without pain, and should be avoided with active irritation or inflammation.

Ginger (Zingiber officinalis)

Ginger is a perennial root that grows underground in tuberous joints. A popular food, spice, and medicine, Ginger is one remedy that you’ll want to have on-hand all year round!

A powerful anti-inflammatory, fresh grated ginger in hot water can fend of the very first sensations of a cold, and quickly improve symptoms.[10] Ginger tea taken with a hot mustard footbath is known to address symptoms of acute colds, and produce a restful sleep.[11]

Ginger is also a sialagogue, which means it increases the flow of saliva, as well as a stimulating diaphoretic. Taken before bed, Ginger is known to “break up” a severe cold.[12] Ginger is used for dry nose that feels blocked, dry hacking coughs, and scratchy throats.[13] It also has a history of use for chronic bronchitis.[14] Use Ginger when feeling chilled with cold extremities.

Ginger should be avoided with blood thinning meds (warfarin, aspirin), and not more than 2g per day should be consumed in pregnancy. And always remember that Ginger may increase absorption of other drugs.

Cinnamon (Cinnamonum verum, zeylanicum)

Cinnamon is a tree bark originating from Ceylon, and is now largely cultivated throughout Asia and South America.[15] Cinnamon is a warming aromatic and circulatory stimulant that prevents infection by inhibiting the growth of microorganisms in colds and flu.[16] It is used to stimulate immune defenses in acute infection.[17]

Cinnamon tea with grated ginger can fend off the first sensations of a cold and improve mucosal symptoms.[18] A warming expectorant that dissolves thick mucous, Cinnamon (along with ginger) was highly prized in cold damp climates of northern Europe for treating chest problems and respiratory difficulties – a simple infusion of fresh ginger and cinnamon continues to be a wonderfully effective home remedy for the common cold.[19]

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Thyme is a very common perennial plant that is cultivated in most countries with temperate climates. It has an extremely long history of lore and use for both medicinal and antiseptic properties.

Thyme is a full-spectrum antibacterial (effective with both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria), which has a direct effect on oral and upper respiratory tract bacteria by perforating their membranes.[20] Thyme is also a fungicidal and antispasmodic that helps to soothe the lower respiratory system.[21]

A known antiseptic and disinfectant, Thyme is anesthetic to mucous membranes, making it an excellent addition to syrups for sore throats, as well as remedies for treating respiratory infections in children.[22] The tea promotes perspiration at beginning of a cold, and acts as a powerful antiseptic to respiratory passages.[23] Use as a nasal spray or steam inhalation for laryngitis, bronchial affections, or coughs.[24]

Immune Boosting Kitchen Herbal Recipes

1. Fire Cider

Summer is the perfect time of year to begin making Fire Cider, as it needs to infuse for a minimum of 4 weeks (ideally up to 8 weeks) before it’s ready. Fire Cider is extremely warming and stimulating, making it an excellent choice for dry, boggy, congested membranes, and for breaking up congestion. It’s also a great preventative tonic for staving off the cold and flu. However, due to its warming properties, Fire Cider should be avoided with active inflammation, or red, hot, burning membranes.

This is an easy, effective, and inexpensive way to stay healthy during the cold and flu season. Internal dosage can vary from 3ml up to a “shot” (one ounce) per day depending on your affliction and heat tolerance. You can also rub this on sore muscles, or soak a cloth in fire cider and apply to your chest to ease congestion. Fire Cider is a great replacement for regular vinegar in your vinaigrettes or other recipes.

Ingredients:

½ cup grated Horseradish (very pungent – process in well ventilated room!)

1 bulb of crushed Garlic

½ cup grated Ginger

½ cup chopped Onion

½ to 1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper (depending on your heat tolerance)

1 quart (1000ml) Apple Cider Vinegar

1 – 3 Tbsp. Honey

Directions:

Place the first five ingredients in a wide mouth quart mason jar, and cover with Apple Cider Vinegar.

Mix all ingredients together. Make sure that the vinegar is at least two inches above the herbs, and one inch below the lid.

In order to prevent the vinegar from corroding your metal Mason jar lid, consider adding a piece of cellophane or wax paper between the jar and the lid.

Allow infusion to sit in a cool, dark place for 4-8 weeks.

Strain into clean jar and add honey.

Note: If you’re using unpasteurized vinegar, then you may find a thin film on your cider once you uncork it, which is perfectly normal.

2. Cinnamon Ginger Tea (Medicinal Strength)

With most herbal teas, infusing herbs in hot water is generally an adequate way to extract the medicinal constituents from plants. However, when using barks or roots, a decoction is necessary in order to create a medicinal cup of tea.

A decoction involves bringing herbs to a boil in water, and then simmering for a specified amount of time. Since Cinnamon is a bark, and Ginger is a root, creating a medicinal cup of Cinnamon Ginger tea requires decocting the plants together in water. Here’s a simple recipe to get you started.

Ingredients:

2 cups water

2 Cinnamon sticks (crushed)

¼ cup thinly sliced Ginger

1 tsp. Honey (optional)

Directions:

Bring the Cinnamon, Ginger, and water to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.

Allow mixture to simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until water has been reduced to half the volume (1 cup).

Remove from heat and allow infusion to sit for an additional 5 minutes.

Strain and add honey to taste.

3. Thyme Steam Inhalations

One of the best ways to alleviate respiratory congestion during the cold and flu season is with a Thyme steam inhalation. As a full-spectrum antimicrobial, Thyme will not only improve your symptoms, but will also address the cause of both your upper and lower respiratory congestion.

Ingredients:

1-2 tsp. dried Thyme

Large pot of water

Bring water to a boil, and remove from heat.

Add Thyme to water and cover pot with lid. Allow to stand for up to 5 minutes.

Remove lid from pot and place pot on heat resistant surface.

Drape a towel over both your head and the pot, and inhale steam deeply. Continue until there is no steam left.

Repeat several times a day until symptoms improve.

Article resources:

[1] David M. R. Culbreth, A Manual of Materia Medica and Pharmacology (New York: Lea Brothers & Co., 1906) 538.

[2] William Boericke, Materia Medica with Repertory (Philadelphia: Boericke & Tafal, 1927) 167.

[3] Harvey Wickes Felter, The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Ohio: Scudder, 1922) 29.

[4] Finley Ellingwood, American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy (Chicago: Evanston, III, 1919) 24-25.

[5] Harvey Wickes Felter, The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Ohio: Scudder, 1922) 29; Finley Ellingwood, American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy (Chicago: Evanston, III, 1919) 24-25.

[6] M. Grieve, A Modern Herbal Vol. I and II (New York: Dover, 1982) 342.

[7] Simon Mills and Kerry Bone, Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy (London: Churchill Livingstone, 2000) 140:214:218.

[8] William Boericke, Materia Medica with Repertory (Philadelphia: Boericke & Tafal, 1927) 29; David M. R. Culbreth, A Manual of Materia Medica and Pharmacology (New York: Lea Brothers & Co., 1906) 106; Harvey Wickes Felter, The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Ohio: Scudder, 1922) 10.

[9] M. Grieve, A Modern Herbal Vol. I and II (New York: Dover, 1982) 344.

[10] Simon Mills and Kerry Bone, Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy (London: Churchill Livingstone, 2000) 214.

[11] Finley Ellingwood, American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy (Chicago: Evanston, III, 1919) 108.

[12] Harvey Wickes Felter, The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Ohio: Scudder, 1922) 120.

[13] William Boericke, Materia Medica with Repertory (Philadelphia: Boericke & Tafal, 1927) 647.

[14] David M. R. Culbreth, A Manual of Materia Medica and Pharmacology (New York: Lea Brothers & Co., 1906) 133.

[15] M. Grieve, A Modern Herbal Vol. I and II (New York: Dover, 1982) 202.

[16] Harvey Wickes Felter, The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Ohio: Scudder, 1922) 35; David M. R. Culbreth, A Manual of Materia Medica and Pharmacology (New York: Lea Brothers & Co., 1906) 229.

[17] Simon Mills and Kerry Bone, Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy (London: Churchill Livingstone, 2000) 142.

[18] Simon Mills and Kerry Bone, Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy (London: Churchill Livingstone, 2000) 214.

[19] Simon Mills and Kerry Bone, Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy (London: Churchill Livingstone, 2000) 209.

[20] Simon Mills and Kerry Bone, Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy (London: Churchill Livingstone, 2000) 564-565.

[21] Simon Mills and Kerry Bone, Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy (London: Churchill Livingstone, 2000) 564-565.

[22] David M. R. Culbreth, A Manual of Materia Medica and Pharmacology (New York: Lea Brothers & Co., 1906) 523; William Boericke, Materia Medica with Repertory (Philadelphia: Boericke & Tafal, 1927) 647; M. Grieve, A Modern Herbal Vol. I and II (New York: Dover, 1982) 811-812.

[23] M. Grieve, A Modern Herbal Vol. I and II (New York: Dover, 1982) 811-812.

[24] M. Grieve, A Modern Herbal Vol. I and II (New York: Dover, 1982) 811-812.

About the author:

Mélanie Pulla is the editor and founder of the website herbgeek.com, a site dedicated to sharing information about herbal medicines and natural health. Mélanie studied herbal medicine at California School of Herbal Studies and South West School of Botanical Medicine, and then earned a BSc in Alternative Medicine from Johnson State College in Vermont.

After several years of working in the field of natural medicine, she opened her first business: a health food boutique, apothecary, and juice bar, which she later sold so that she could be a full-time mom. Her loves include hot pots of tea, writing lists, exploring new places, and wood stoves.

For more information visit herbgeek.com or herbgeek’s Facebook page.


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