Herbs For Winter

Herbs For Winter

Since winter is a few weeks away, I wanted to share some of my favorite remedies for the cold/flu season. Of course doing a consistent qigong practice is the best way to build your immunity so you won’t get sick, but these herbal medicines are ones that I use regularly with clients to either boost the immune system or to counter colds/flu.  Try to find organic herbs where possible as Chinese herbs can be sprayed. I avoid the Chinese patent medicines altogether since I don’t trust what they put in them and some have been found to contain high levels of heavy metals.

For The Onset Of Colds

Yin Qiao ( yin chiao) tablets are very effective at the onset.  These work best when you take them at the first symptoms of a cold, sore throat or swollen glands. I never travel without them as they work right away and you can wake up the next day feeling good again.

Castor oil: My students know that I love castor oil and have been using it since I was a massage therapist 35 years ago! It’s inexpensive and so effective. When you have swollen glands,  massage castor oil on the glands before bed and you’ll feel fine in the morning.  Use organic oil or castor oil from Heritage Store which carries Edgar Cayce products, the famous psychic who popularized this treatment. I’ve had patients heal from cancer with castor oil so it’s very potent. Please don’t use the regular drug store oil since you want a pure product as it goes into your lymph system to clear out the toxins.

Echinacea: Most people know about echinacea. It increases immunity, stimulates white blood cells and macrophages, the body’s natural scavengers. Don’t continue taking echinacea all winter to keep you healthy. Use for 2 weeks and then go off for a week and use again if needed.

Osha Root: This is one of my favorite plants and now I’m living near where it grows, up at 9,000 ft. in the mountains of New Mexico and Colorado. I usually mix osha and echinacea tincture if I get sick. Osha works on opening the bronchioles, increases the capacity of the lungs and quells sore throats. It also acclimates one to high altitude and I’ve used it in Peru, Tibet and here in Santa Fe when I first moved here. On a trip to Tibet, I began taking it ( 2 dropperfuls daily) for 10 days before I left sea level, and was the only one out of 40 people who didn’t get altitude sickness.  I find it more effective than drugs and helps with pollution if you go to places like Bejing.

Tonic herbs: These Chinese herbs are incorporated into daily life in foods, teas, and elixirs for long life. My two favorites are below and you can use them at the change of seasons to help your body adapt to the varying temperatures (which is usually when people get sick) or when feeling more tired and stressed.  Chinese tonic herbs are a good way to add extra protection and boost immunity and are incorporated into foods regularly in Asia. Supported by a balanced lifestyle of good nutrition, rest, and movement, these revered plants can renew your energy to help you lead a healthy and vibrant life.

Astragalus is one of the best defenses against colds and flus, and will build your immune system to keep you and the kids healthy all winter. It also builds endurance for sports and physical activities. I’ve used these two herbs for years with my cancer patients going through chemo to bolster their strength and improve digestion/appetite. Make a tea or add one root of both astragalus and codonopsis to soups, and remove them before serving. These two roots are extremely effective in revitalizing the whole system, giving energy without the buzz of caffeine. Their flavor is slightly earthy, but the taste is weak, unlike other Chinese herbs. Most children will even eat dishes cooked with these roots without noticing! Astragalus increases interferon, increases immunity within six hours, and stimulates macrophage activity.

Codonopsis: This root is referred to as the “poor man’s ginseng.” The properties are similar to ginseng but are milder, less stimulating, and more appropriate for daily use. Codonopsis tones digestion, alleviates fatigue, and benefits the cardiovascular system by lowering blood pressure and decreasing clotting factors (similar to aspirin).

Reishi and other mushrooms: You can find medicinal mushroom combinations in capsules now and there are many formulas available for increasing your immune system, as adjunct cancer therapy and to promote longevity. Thirty years ago, I went to a botanical conference and the speaker said reishi is particularly good for “hamster mind” where you go around and around with a thought and can’t let go. I guess it struck a chord since I still recall that lecture after decades.

I hope you all have a nourishing holiday season. Keep practicing qigong, create some alone time for yourself and include some supplements such as zinc, Vit C and a good B complex to keep your immunity strong. Happy Holidays!

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