Cold and Flu Season is Here; Herbs for the Immune System! the Big Four!

Photo by Rex Pickar on Unsplash





Photo by Rex Pickar on Unsplash

Fall is here and winter is quickly approaching.  Just because your friends or family members are  sick does not mean you have to be. It is all up to your immune function. The health of your immune system will keep you well even when others are sick around you.  It is so important to build up your immune system now before you are surrounded by sneezing, coughing friends and co-workers.  This article comes from over 30 years of experience using herbs for myself, my family, and clients in the early years. I studied herbal medicine as well and took courses to become a master herbalist.

I have used herbs for 37 years for every health problem.  This was not always the case.  In the beginning, I worked for doctors as a lab tech and pre-screened the drug reps selling drugs to the doctor for a health clinic that served the Indian reservations. I was in my 30’s. I believed in the system totally until the overuse of antibiotics with my youngest.

My youngest daughter became resistant to antibiotics some 35 years ago before they realized the damage that comes from the overuse of  antibiotic regimens.  I was working for doctors at the time. It was when antibiotics stopped working on her infections, that I got into alternative medicine. The overuse of antibiotics at the time nearly destroyed her gut.  In those days, resistance to antibiotics was not considered. The damage of antibiotic overuse was not considered.  I could see what was happening to her health and walked away from standard medicine at that point.  She was too young to take capsules so I used homeopathic medicine under the care of a homeopathic doctor. She was changed to fresh goats milk. Her homeopathic doctor was from India and very good. He spent two hours going over every aspect of her health and diet.  Under his care she improved within a month and continued to get better with time. This was after a year of continual antibiotic use and watching her health get worse with every new prescription.

I have only used antibiotics a handful of times during all those years since then. I kept my kids well using herbs.  I did take my kids in to the doctor for diagnosis. I then gave them herbs instead of antibiotics. They were taken in again to make sure the infection was gone. That gave me the ability to use antibiotics if the herbs did not work and to make sure the infection was taken care of.  It was rare the kids needed antibiotics once I got into herbal medicine. It helps to know what kind of infection you are dealing with. You cannot see inside your kids ears to know how bad the infection is and if the infection is gone. I have used doctors to monitor both the cause of a problem and to make sure what I was doing worked.  With babies that cannot tell you where and how they are hurting, it is important to get them seen.  It is better to be safe than sorry. 

You have options in doctors. There are homeopathic doctors, naturopathic, Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors.  Some traditional doctors are not so set on prescription drugs.  Some doctors have a more open mind to alternative medicine.  It is up to you to find that out. Ask them questions generally to see their response. We have a blue cross approved doctor who sells colloidal silver in her office and approves of us using Goldenseal powder on his cuts that become infected with MRSA,  because she has seen it work for him.  She is always interested in our conversations for her patients where the drugs are not working.  If you have doubts, get them seen.

I know if herbs are  taken properly using a brand that is quality, you will get results.  The main problem with people is buying cheap herbs or not taking enough herb to do the job.  Another problem is waiting until you are sick as a dog to start treating it. You must take high doses of herbs three to four times a day to stop a bad bug.  You need to take the herbs the first sign of illness. Herbs take longer to work and it takes a larger herb dose to achieve effect. So if you have a raging MRSA infection or any powerful infection that is taking over your blood stream, herbs may not be able to stop it. That is why I go over further this problem below.

Strep throat, teeth infections, wounds, and  jaw infections can get out of hand quickly. MRSA infections can escalate within a few hours such as in a dog wound or cat scratch. My husband ended up on IV’s within hours years ago. These nasty, potent bacterial infections can be very dangerous. So if your infection gets worse rapidly with severe symptoms, you need to go into urgent care.  The next morning after my husband broke up a cat fight, there was a red line climbing up his arm. This meant blood poisoning. I sent him to emergency. He felt it was no big deal.  He had IV’s for two weeks before the infection was under control. So you need to know there is a time to use herbs and a time to get seen by a doctor. That takes experience and my medical background helps a lot.  If in doubt, go to Urgent Care.

So how do we stay well with sick people all around us?   Today I am sharing my 4 favorites herbs to deal with colds and flu.

I have to bring up several pointers before we get into the herbs which are important.  The first steps are not herbs but steps in prevention which include washing your hands often especially when out shopping or at work.  Disinfecting your workplace including phone, keyboard, and your whole desk.   Next is staying as far away as possible from areas where people are sick such as waiting rooms. If someone is coughing, sit in an area away from the worst of it.  Wash your hands when you get out of there.  Try to get proper sleep and turn down the sugar treats you will be offered during the holidays.  Sugar feeds bacteria and does not help your immune system.

Vitamin C, Zinc, and a good Multivitamin with Vitamin D

Next in line is Vitamin C which helps support your healthy resistance to those bad bugs. Up your intake if you arevexposed to sick friends or feel like you are getting ill.  At the first sign of a cold we start 1000 milligrams of Vitamin C twice a day at least. It depends on bowel tolerance. If you get loose stools, back down the dose. This is an adult dose. They have Vitamin C in gummies and chewable  tablets in lower doses for children. Pay attention to that achy feeling, the sudden fatigue, upset stomach, and headache.  The first signs of illness are the time to take herbs and vitamins that boost immune function.

Superstar #1  Astragalus for Immune Health- Prevention

I studied and used  Western herbs for most of my life but have discovered herbs in Ayurvedic medicine that are superstars as adaptogens. These adaptogenic herbs overall help our whole system and its functions to work more effectively. Astragalus is one herb used in Ayurvedic medicine that is a superstar for building up the immune system. I began using it this year when my immune system went down after the death of my father-in-law after taking care of him for three years. All my tried and true western herbs did not seem to be working. It was because my WHOLE system was tired and depleted from the ordeal. So I turned to research and Ayurvedic medicine. In that research I really dove into the adaptogen herbs and their effect on bringing up the function of your body and all your systems that support health.

Astragalus has been used in both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of year combined with other herbs to feed and nurture the immune system and the whole body to help prevent illness. It is one of the important adaptogen herbs still used today. I make a golden milk each day using turmeric, gotu kola, and astragalus.  Adaptogens protect the body against physical, mental and emotional stress.  Stress compromises the integrity of our health in many ways.  Astragalus contains antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties as well.  It contains various antioxidants.

Astragalus is an adaptogen herb so it is one you take every day for overall health.  It is not the best one to use for acute illness. It is a tonic herb and is used like a multi-vitamin for overall health. It is preventive health in the real sense.  Is is cheapest to buy the powder and mix in milk.  There is a compliance problem with many people and powders so it comes in capsules as well.

Herbs to Stop those cold and flu bugs from settling into your system.

Superstar #2  Garlic


Garlic and onions in old fashioned chicken or beef soup is good. Really load it up with both.  If you don’t want your breath to smell, use Kyolic garlic that will not add to garlic breath. Kyolic Garlic is aged garlic that retains the antibiotic benefits without the bad breath. Hundreds of studies have been performed on that product. Garlic has been shown to be effective against both bacteria and viruses. It is again important to take it right when you feel that cold taking hold. In many cultures, garlic is used in meals everyday not only for taste but for the prevention of illness by boosting the immunity. Garlic has been used for centuries by people to avoid sickness. Remember that for all those years, there was no medicine other than herbs. Garlic was used in many different cultures in different parts of the world for the same types of health issues. In my view, the long term successful use of an herb for a problem is pretty concrete.  In Europe today,  this is especially true. Garlic is eaten like a apple in Europe by many there. Raw garlic can upset the stomach if you are sensitive to it. It is always wise to try a little to see how you do first.

What’s in Garlic that works against viruses and bacteria that are the cause of sickness? In the late 1970’s garlic was researched extensively. Garlic juice proved effective against 10 different kinds of yeasts and bacteria without developing resistence is important. In an Indian study it proved effective several strains dysentery bacteria that were resistant to antibiotics .  Please read this article in full here.

“Diallyl sulfide, a compound in garlic, was 100 times more effective than two popular antibiotics in fighting the Campylobacter bacterium, according to a study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.”

‘Garlic is a broad spectrum antibiotic, killing a wide variety of bacteria. Many pharmaceutical antibiotics kill only a narrow range of these germs. Dr. Tariq Abdullah, a prominent garlic researcher stated in the August 1987 issue of Prevention: “Garlic has the broadest spectrum of any antimicrobial substance that we know of — it is antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, antiprotozoan and antiviral.” Table 16.1 shows some of the organisms that researchers have found garlic to be effective against. This property belongs to the garlic constituent allicin, which is released when you cut a garlic clove. This is the chemical that gives fresh garlic its strong biting flavor, and you need to use fresh garlic to get a reliable antibiotic effect. Commercial powders and other products will not work for direct applications. Garlic appears to have antibiotic activity whether taken internally or applied topically — researchers found that the urine and blood serum of human subjects taking garlic had activity against fungi (Caporaso et al 1983).”   Please read the complete article

“Alliumsativum (garlic) has been recognized not only as a spice but also as a substance which exerts a control on microorganisms. Recent publications indicate that garlic extract has broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity against many genera of bacteria and fungi. The active component (allicin) has been isolated and characterized. Because many of the microorganisms susceptible to garlic extract are medically significant, garlic holds a promising position as a broad-spectrum therapeutic agent. Furthermore, garlic plants may also play an important role in the ecological control of pathogenic microorganisms in nature.”

There are hundreds of research studies in Japan and Asia that prove that garlic is potent against heart disease, high cholesterol, and triglycerides.  It is an effective tool against high blood pressure as well.

Garlic can be taken by using the raw garlic in dishes such as chicken soup, buying capsules or liquid Kyolic garlic.  Garlic oil can be rubbed into the feet of a child for benefit. 

Superstar #3 Oregano

Photo by Dayana Brooke on Unsplash





Photo by Dayana Brooke on Unsplash

Oregano is another spice that works against colds and flu.  I always keep a ready supply for the winter and anytime. 

  • Oregano is high in many vitamins including Vitamins A, B6, C, E, and K.  It contains calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium. It is a superstar containing abundant antioxidants. 
  • The two most potent factors contained in oregano against bad bugs is carvacrol and thymol oil.  Thymol oil is the most important ingredient in Listerine Mouthwash. Carvacrol oil has been researched to show it is antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antimicrobial.  Notice it works against virsus, which antibiotics do not .  Research has shown it can kill both Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterias.  A 2012 study showed it was effective against herpes simplex type virus 1. There is abundant research to warrant its use in the fight against bad bugs and bacteria that make us sick each year. Carvacrol boasts anti-inflammatory properties, as well, which is especially important in the prevention of heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune conditions (to name a few).

“The results of experiments showed that the tested oil was active against all of the clinical strains from both genus of bacteria, but strains of Escherichia coli were more sensitive to tested oil. Essential oil from Origanum heracleoticum L. inhibited the growth of Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa clinical strains with different patters of resistance.” NBCl research study

“Harry G. Preuss, MD, MACN, CNS, professor of physiology and biophysics, and his research team, tested oregano oil on staphylococcus bacteria—which is responsible for a variety of severe infections and is becoming increasingly resistant to many antibiotics. They combined oregano oil with the bacteria in a test tube, and compared oregano oil’s effects to those of standard antibiotics streptomycin, penicillin and vacnomycin. The oregano oil at relatively low doses was found to inhibit the growth of staphylococcus bacteria in the test tubes as effectively as the standard antibiotics did.”

Oregano is best taken in capsules. Oregano oil is very hot.

Superstar # 4  Goldenseal

Goldenseal for your medicine cabinet.


Note that often Goldenseal may not work because of brand quality. Goldenseal is expensive and there is adulteration in cheap brands. Goldenseal can be cut with a cheap herb the same color to make the supplement cheaper.  It is one of the herbs that often is compromised by companies eager to make a quick profit by selling product that is NOT true Goldenseal root.  Make sure you buy it from a company with whom you can trust to perform the testing for quality and effectiveness of the powder.

Goldenseal is also an important herb in my medicine bag of choice.  Make sure any herb you take is from a company using quality standard. There are many companies that sell less than optimal herbs. 

Goldenseal is often found in combination with Echinacea which ups its effectiveness. Echinacea has benefits of its own to add to the mix to fight against that cold or flu.  Oregano and Goldenseal are both herbs not taken for prevention but for the onset of symptoms. These herbs are taken for a limited amount of time until you are well.

“Additionally, research at the University of Texas-Houston Medical School has shown goldenseal’s medicinal effectiveness as an immune stimulant may be due to its ability to reduce the pro-inflammatory response, which indirectly leads to the limiting of clinical symptoms during infection. “

Goldenseal contains berberine, which has been been proven to be antimicrobial, anti-tumoranti-inflammatory and blood glucose–lowering. ”

Goldenseal can be taken by capsules or the dried powder used on a wound.   Goldenseal is very bitter so most people can’t handle the taste.  Goldenseal does have an effect on lowering blood sugar so keep that in mind if your blood sugar either runs on the low side or high side. 

The importance of taking herbs properly

Consult your doctor if you are taking prescription medications and if you are pregnant or nursing. 

Herbs do have an effect on medications. Goldenseal can have an impact on medicines you may be taking for blood sugar control.  It is not a good idea to take Goldenseal and diabetes medications together…this can be a real problem.  

Herbs have to be taken several times a day to work. The sicker you are, the heavier the dose.  The suggestions on the bottle are not for acute illness. Companies are not allowed to put any dosage information on the bottles other than a minimum dosage.  Start out with the suggested dosage and then increase it.  How much to take is not set in stone. It depends on the patient, their weight, their immune system health and the bug you are fighting. If you waited a few days until the cold is set in, it will take longer and a heavier dose to get the job done.

All for now, Kate Freer, The herbladyisin


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