Now it's officially fall, it's time to spy on the leaves, press cider and, of course, the first cold viruses of the season. I have a 4-year-old daughter and a 7-month-old son, and with my daughter's admission to preschool this year, the youngest have already had two colds since the beginning of school.
Here are some remedies and prevention methods that you may want to explore. As always, I am not a doctor, and you should consult a medical professional if you are concerned about your health.
For prevention, we always focus on diet and herbal remedies. As much as possible, eat a balanced diet full of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. Be sure to include probiotic foods such as yogurt and sauerkraut to improve the health of your intestine, also known as your microbiome. Now that Halloween is on the horizon and the candy has already begun to flow, consider your sugar intake. Eating sugar has the potential to reduce your body's defenses by 75% or more for up to six hours.
Beyond the diet, you can add adaptogenic herbs to your daily routine. Adaptogens help our bodies maintain balance in times of stress and fatigue. Adaptogens are considered tonic and can be taken daily for long periods of time without causing harm.
Two of my favorite herbs in this category are ashwagandha and astragalus. Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years in traditional Indian medicine, Ayurveda. Studies show that ashwagandha increases the amount and diversity of antibodies we produce and increases white blood cells, which identify and attack invaders. Astragalus has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than two thousand years. A study conducted in the 1980s revealed that astragalus improved the ability of the immune system to identify bacteria, viruses and even cancer cells.
If you feel a cold, the first feeling of itchy throat, runny nose or congested breasts, I recommend some things. The first is one of my favorite foods: chicken soup. Chicken soup with noodles, rice or even vegetables heats your body and nourishes your soul. Rich bone broths are full of minerals that support the immune system such as calcium and also support your microbiome.
Second, drink hot liquids like herbal tea. The Yogi Tea and Traditional Medicinals brands make tea blends with names like "Breathe Deep" and "Throat Coat", which simplifies the exploration of herbal tea if it is new to you. Other herbal teas to try are echinacea, a powerful herb that stimulates the immune system or elderberry, which has a wonderful fruity taste.
For more specific ailments, one of my favorites is the mullein, a soft-leaved plant that you can find growing locally. This herb is expectorant, which means it will help eliminate thick mucus in the lungs. It will also relieve irritated membranes. I used this herb during an episode of bronchitis and it was so effective that it is my choice when I feel a cold in my chest.
Another favorite is thyme, an herb commonly used in cooking. Thyme has been used for centuries for upper respiratory infections and has the incredible quality of suppressing cough. When your lungs are full of a thick phlegm, it is important to get that out, which will help an herb like mullein. But when you have a persistent cough that keeps you awake at night, put some thyme in hot water for tea and enjoy the restful sleep you'll have.
There are many other home remedies that I use when I am sick, including a Neti pot, essential oils, eucalyptus vapor, humidifier, herbal remedies such as fire cider and elderberry syrup, probiotics, hot baths with Epsom salt and bodywork. For my daughter, Herb Pharm's non-alcoholic herbal tinctures have been helpful for colds, and now she also enjoys herbal tea. Many of these remedies can be found in Rutland Area Food Co-op or online.