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Natural ways to help body keep that flu bug at bay

Dear Humorous Herbalist,

With the news of the flu epidemic hitting so hard, I find myself becoming more and more concerned about this problem. I have always believed in being proactive and this case is no exception. Besides the obvious “cover your mouth when you sneeze” and “wash your hands frequently,” what can you recommend to strengthen the body’s immune system against the flu?

” K.C. (via e-mail)



Dear K.C.,



First of all, I think your proactive attitude is the first line of defense.

There are MANY ways to naturally build your immune system against the flu. Some of my suggestions may sound like “no-brainer ideas.” However, you’d be surprised how many people forget the simple things that can fortify their bodies.

– Adequate sleep ” Yeah, yeah … no brainer, right? But with the holidays approaching and the added stress that accompanies this time of the year, getting deep, restful sleep can be difficult. Make a restful night’s sleep a priority. If you can say “no” to that 15th holiday invitation and not upset dear Aunt Jane in the process, please do it.

Realize that if you don’t make adjustments in your hectic schedule now, you will probably have no choice but to spend two or more days under the covers coughing and wheezing.

Prior to bedtime, spend half an hour doing simple stretches and deep breathing. If you know how to do yoga, all the better. Herbs such as kava kava allow muscles to relax and the mind to slow down. Taking 35 drops of kava kava extract in an ounce of warm water about an hour before bedtime puts you and your body in a very relaxed place. Ashwagandha, a classic Indian Ayurvedic herb, is excellent for reducing insomnia and calming the body. Take two 500-milligram capsules an hour before bed.

– Diet ” Sugar doesn’t just add weight to the body, sugar robs the bloodstream of nutrients and weakens the immune system. Contrary to popular holiday opinion, you do NOT have to ingest every single sugary treat that’s put in front of you. Limit your sugar intake and you can seriously strengthen your body’s reserves.

Excess dairy consumption is also not recommended. Dairy products produce mucus. Mucus causes congestion throughout the body. Congestion/mucus does not allow for the proper assimilation of vitamins and nutrients because excess mucus tends to be impenetrable.

Too much mucus in the system also creates more fatigue. When your body is not getting the vital nutrients it needs and the fatigue factor kicks in, you’ve got a gold-rimmed invitation for the flu bug to set up shop.

What to include in your diet: Adding three to six cloves of fresh garlic to your food each day is one of the cheapest, most effective ways of ensuring a strong natural antibiotic shield against invading bacteria and viruses. Don’t overcook the garlic or you will burn off the “allicin” within the plant that is thought responsible for building the body’s resistance to disease.

If your digestive tract can handle it, add cayenne pepper to food as well as jalapeno peppers and a dollop of hot sauce. Besides increasing one’s circulation, peppers (especially cayenne powder) have immune-enhancing properties.

– Bowel regularity ” Yes, I know. No one wants to talk about it but the bottom line (no pun intended) is that a congested colon encourages toxic overload into the bloodstream. Eat more fiber-rich foods and drink plenty of water to keep the bowels moving.

I’m not a promoter of laxatives (not even herbal laxatives) because they make your colon “lazy.” The Indian herbal compound called Triphala is a great remedy for the colon. Triphala tones, detoxifies and promotes resistance to disease. If you really need to detox your colon, I strongly recommend Ultimate Cleanse by Nature’s Secret. The stuff works and it works well.

– Preventative Herbs ” During the cold and flu season, it is okay to take echinacea in SMALL doses every day. A small dose is 10 to 15 drops diluted in warm water, taken in the morning and the evening. When used this way, echinacea acts as an immune tonic. If you are going to be around those who are sick, I would increase the dose during those times to 35 drops, two to three times a day.

While not an herb, I also recommend Ester C Powder with Bioflavonoids. Take one teaspoon diluted in water or juice both morning and evening.

– The Fear Factor ” There is a fine line between being aware of the current flu and how to keep your body strong and buying into the fear that you hear every day from the media. I am not minimizing the fact that there have been deaths attributed to the current flu. What I am saying is that when any of us becomes caught up in the “anticipated doom,” we choose paralysis over being proactive.

Fear has been proven to debilitate the immune system. Fear allows us to forget that we have the power to take charge of our lives. In this case, taking charge is working preventatively against the flu bug. A strong body, a resilient immune system and a positive mind-set are powerful antidotes to whatever is lurking in the shadows.

E-mail your questions to The Humorous Herbalist at writer8@sopris.net.

The information in this column is not meant to take the place of your physician, nor is it intended to treat, diagnose or prescribe. Pregnant or nursing women should consult their doctor before using herbal therapy.


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