Tis’ the season of flu symptoms. To help prevent the likelihood of coughs and colds, Healthista asked the experts what natural steps we can take to avoid getting sick. Here are 4 proven herbs they suggest
Winter can be a difficult time for our body and mind on many levels.
As the weather turns colder, there’s one thing very few of us will be looking forward to – sniffles, sneezes, coughs, colds and the dreaded flu symptoms.
nature provides us with some of the tools we need to help fight against winter ailments
As soon as the temperature starts to drop, we become increasingly susceptible to infections, sickness, tiredness, and other winter issues including conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Fortunately, nature provides us with some of the tools we need to help fight against winter ailments.
These four incredible herbs may help provide your body with the necessary support to help strengthen your immunity and tackle colds, flu and respiratory tract infections (RTIs) as we head into winter.
READ MORE: Flu fighting soup recipe from medicinal chef Dale Pinnock
Herb #1 Echinacea
Like many medicinal herbs, echinacea fell out of favour with the advent of modern antibiotics. But the last few decades have seen it grow in popularity, and it has become an important part of all modern herbal dispensaries.
According to immunologist, Dr Ross Walton, there’s increasing scientific evidence supporting the use of this beautiful, purple flowering herb with antiviral properties during the winter cold and influenza season.
‘A growing body of research shows that the herb Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) helps reduce the risk of catching an RTI, reduces viral load as well as the severity and duration of symptoms,’ explains Dr Walton.
effective against COVID-19 by reducing the risk of infection by 63 per cent
‘Already licensed in the UK to relieve symptoms of the common cold and influenza, echinacea also significantly lowers the incidence of complications of RTIs such as sinusitis, bronchitis and pneumonia, making it an ever more useful over-the-counter treatment choice’.
‘Echinacea has not only been shown to prevent the symptoms of a common cold erupting but more recently, a new study shows that Echinacea purpurea is effective against COVID-19 by reducing the risk of infection by 63 per cent, reducing viral load from infection, and viral clearance from infection was significantly reduced by 4.8 days.
‘This may prove effective in lessening the severity of respiratory symptoms experienced and aid recovery’.
Try: PL licensed herbal medicine, Echinaforce Drops, £10.85 (50ml) Also available at Boots and Holland & Barrett.
READ MORE: Can echinacea really prevent a cold?
Herb #2 Pelargonium
The herb Pelargonium, is derived from the root of a South African geranium, Pelargonium sidoides and used as a natural antibiotic by the Zulus where it is locally known as ‘Umckaloabo’, which roughly translates as ‘for heavy cough and chest problems.’
Interestingly, the remedy made its way to England’s shores over one hundred years ago having been brought back by an Englishman Charles Stevens who was ‘cured’ of tuberculosis by a tribal healer.
The remedy became known as ‘Steven’s Consumption Cure’ but eventually with the advent of anti-tubercular drugs, it went out of fashion.
Rediscovered in the 21st Century, Pelargonium is now a licensed herbal medicine in the UK used to relieve flu symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections such as the common cold based on traditional use only.
78.8 per cent of those receiving treatment were clinically cured
Based on much research, Healthspan’s medical director, Dr Sarah Brewer, strongly recommends Pelargonium.
In a study involving 103 people with cold symptoms (present for between 24 and 48 hours), Pelargonium sidoides extracts produced significant improvements in symptoms. After ten days, 78.8 per cent of those receiving treatment were clinically cured, versus only 31.4 per cent taking placebo.
A review of eight trials confirms it can also reduce sore throat, cough, runny and blocked nose. What’s more, a meta-analysis of data from four trials suggests that Pelargonium sidoides extracts are significantly more effective than placebo in treating acute bronchitis.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 105 people with bacterial sinusitis present for at least one week, showed that taking Pelargonium sidoides extracts three times daily for up to 22 days produced significant improvements in symptoms, with faster recovery than those taking placebo, and no significant side effects.
Try: THR approved Healthspan’s Kaloba Pelargonium Cold & Flu Relief, 30 tablets, £9.95.
READ MORE: IBS? Constant coughs and colds? Why antibiotics could be to blame
Herb #3 Pine – ‘The Christmas Herb’
The essential oil obtained from the needles of Scot’s pine is widely used in aromatherapy including respiratory system ailments such as: asthma, bronchitis, catarrh, coughs, colds, sinusitis, sore throat.
‘Pine can also be found as an essential oil which can be used in a diffuser to aid breathing if you have a cold or cough, as it aids the expulsion of phlegm as well as relaxing the airways to allow easier breathing,’ explains Dr Chris Etheridge, medical herbalist and chair of the British Herbal Medicine Association.
‘It can also be diluted in a massage oil and rubbed onto the chest and throat to aid breathing and sore throats.
Scot’s pine is widely used in aromatherapy
‘Whereas to soothe a dry, tickly and irritating cough, try a cough syrup made from extracts of freshly harvested young pine leaves of Picea abies, sometimes also known as the Norway Spruce and used for Christmas trees’.
Try: THR approved A Vogel Bronchosan Pine Cough Syrup which also contains honey that not only gives the product a sweet, pleasant taste, it soothes the throat too. Also available health stores and pharmacies nationwide.
The addition of concentrated pear juice further adds to the syrup’s pleasing taste.
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Herb #4 Elder
Elderberries are commonly used at this time of year due to their wonderful immune-supporting and flu symptoms fighting benefits.
Traditionally used to make wine, some people believe that mulled wine was originally made in Britain and Ireland using elderberry wine, rather than the more exotic grape variety we’re used to today.
Elderberries are antiviral, anti-inflammatory and support the immune system in multiple different ways. They increase cytokine production and seem to strengthen the cell walls in a way that blocks viruses from leaving a cell and spreading to infect more cells. This is one of the reasons it is a great remedy to take when you have a cold or flu.
Research has also shown that when black elderberry and echinacea were combined in a hot drink formula, it was as effective as Oseltamivir but with less risk of secondary infections and treatment complications.
blocks viruses from leaving a cell and spreading to infect more cells
The randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial followed 473 people with influenza diagnosed by their GPs, over 10 days, comparing the outcomes of treatment with Echinaforce Hot Drink against Oseltamivir.
‘Neuraminidase inhibitors such as Oseltamivir are the current ‘gold standard’ for flu symptoms,’ explains Dr Walton.
‘However, limitations regarding necessity for early use, broad ranging side effects and emergence of drug resistant viral strains compels a need for alternative treatments.
‘In this study, Echinaforce Hot Drink was as effective as Oseltamivir, in terms of shortening the duration of flu symptoms and reducing respiratory complications. The hot drink was also associated with a trend for fewer side effects, particularly gastrointestinal’.
Try: THR approved Echinaforce® Hot Drink containing Echinacea with Black Elderberry, £11.35 (100ml) from Boots.
READ MORE: 17 herbs to help your health
What you need to know when buying herbal medicines…
People who wish to use herbal medicines to relieve symptoms of respiratory tract infections such as a cough, sore throat or runny nose should look for products that display on the pack:
- The Product License (PL) number which assures the product has been assessed for quality, safety and efficacy via clinical trials and studies on mechanism of action by the UKs governing body, the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
- The THR logo which assures they have been assessed for quality, safety and approved for sale by the MHRA with the appropriate medicinal claim.
To find out further information about herbs visit The British Herbal Medicine Association and if you are on any medications do check for contraindications at www.drugs.com