Natural cold remedies and immune boosters
As winter closes in, we can find ourselves surrounded by cold and flu germs, but there are plenty of natural helpers to come to the rescue. Over the years I’ve researched and written about many immune-boosting and homemade cold remedies, but here are three of my favourites that I turn to time and time again.
Natural homemade cold remedies
Garlic’s health-giving properties have been shown to help improve many disorders, including lowering rates of heart disease, blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. In terms of warding off the seasonal lurgies, studies published in American Family Physician show a daily dose of garlic can decrease the frequency of colds in adults. The best way to get the benefits from garlic is to eat it raw, as heat (i.e. cooking) reduces its benefits. Purists maintain nothing beats munching a raw clove of garlic each morning, but this inevitably leads to serious dragon-breath (although mixing with milk in the mouth before swallowing has been shown to reduce this). My preferred option for optimum health benefits – without the halitosis – is to take a daily garlic supplement.
Reputed to help stave off flu (and reduce its duration if you do succumb), allergies and general respiratory ailments, I’ve personally found elderberry syrup to be helpful. Whether this is due to its high levels of vitamin C (more than oranges) or other plant chemicals, such as immune-boosting anthocyanins, is not entirely clear. When not making my own, I especially like Pukka’s organic elderberry syrup and I also use Sambucol which you can find as both syrup and handy capsules on Amazon. If you have any berries left over, they also make a wonderful elderberry jelly, a densely dark confection with a taste much like bramble or blackberry conserve.
One of the world’s healthiest wonder-foods, ginger comes from the root of the plant Zingiber officinale, a plant that shares its family tree with other medicinal botanicals including turmeric and cardamom. Possibly better known for helping helping to prevent nausea – especially travel and morning sickness, ginger has powerful natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. I use ginger for its immune-boosting abilities. Ginger is so concentrated that a little of the fresh root goes a long way. Being a root, it is relatively easy to store and keeps for several weeks in a cool dark pantry or bottom of the fridge. I keep slices of the root for up to six months in the freezer so there’s always a piece at the ready when required. I then make bug-beating tea by steeping a small slice in a mug of hot water, adding a squeeze of lemon juice (for vitamin C) and a spoonful of Manuka honey to taste (for sweetness plus additional antibacterial properties). If you really don’t like the taste but value the benefits, you can also find ginger root capsules in most health food shops.
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- With garlic supplements, look out for ‘allicin potential’ or ‘allicin yield’ on the pack as good formulations will contain this more stable form of the health-giving compound
- Keep a piece of ginger root in your cupboard for a reviving slice in hot water, sweetened with a little lemon and honey to taste