We’ve been seeing first hand that respiratory illnesses are going around right now. So you might be asking yourself “How can I prevent getting one of these respiratory infections”? Today we’re going to talk a little bit about what you can do to prevent and heal from unwanted allergies and respiratory infections using medicinal herbs and mushrooms.
Prevention is Key
When it comes to respiratory illnesses and allergies, prevention is the name of the game. First, make sure you are doing the basics like washing your hands regularly, not sharing drinks and covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough. Next, make sure you are making healthy decisions to keep your immune system up. Make sure to eat a varied and seasonally appropriate diet as good nutrition is also important for a healthy immune response. There is some evidence that various micronutrient deficiencies — for example, deficiencies of zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E — alter immune responses in animals. However, the effect of similar deficiencies on the human immune response has yet to be assessed in clinical studies. As always, aim to get plenty of sleep and exercise. Another preventative measure we can take is to consume probiotics - a healthy gut microbiome is needed to support a healthy GI immune response, where many pathogens first come in contact with our body. It is recommended to take a good quality probiotic supplement, containing clinically supported strains.
The next tip to help prevent unwanted illness is to take immune-modulating herbs. Immunomodulators are a class of herbs that can drastically reduce the number of respiratory infections you get in a year. They prime your immune system to respond effectively and immediately to any nasty pathogens that might get thrown your way. Immunomodulating agents that also have an affinity for the lungs are Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) , Astragalus (Astragalus propinquus), and Cordyceps. These herbs (and mushrooms) are most effective when taken daily over a long period of time to slowly build up the immune system and strengthen the lungs. They are often taken in tincture or capsule form, but can also be simmered for several hours in bone broth or vegetable broth to extract the medicine. Then it becomes as simple as having a bowl of broth or soup every day throughout winter!
Respiratory Tonics + Anti-inflammatories
Another critical factor in preventing unwanted allergies and illness, as well as speeding up the healing process, is to take respiratory tonics and anti-inflammatory herbs. Respiratory tonics help to nourish and strengthen the tissues of the respiratory system. These herbs are especially helpful for anyone with asthma, allergies, or hay fever, as well as those who tend to get coughs, bronchitis, or pneumonia during the winter months. A few excellent choices are Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum), Astragalus root (Astragalus propinquus), Mullein leaf (Verbascum thapsus), and Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra). If you struggle with any chronic respiratory conditions, then addressing inflammation is also an important step. Anti-inflammatory herbs such as Nettles (Urtica dioica) and Turmeric (Curcuma longa) are both great options to help the body flush out inflammatory compounds.
What To Do When You’re Sick
It is imperative that you take action once you start seeing symptoms of a respiratory infection. The first thing I recommend is to grab some handy immune-stimulating herbs that will give your body a big boost to start fighting off the pathogen. One of the most popular and effective immune stimulants is Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea).
In addition to immune stimulants, antimicrobial herbs are another first line of defense when you feel under the weather. There are antibacterial herbs such as Garlic (Allium sativum), and antiviral herbs such as Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) Oregano Oil (Origanum vulgare) and Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis). Keep in mind that all herbs in this category are anti-microbial, meaning they are effective for both viral and bacterial infections.
There are herbs that are wonderful and specific for respiratory infections such as Mullein, Yerba Santa, Yerba Mansa, etc. A blend of these and other helpful botanicals will work wonders in combination. Always remember when you are in an acute situation, take these remedies several times during the day to assist your body’s ability to fight and conquer.
Herbal Steams + Aromatherapy
Herbal steams can be ultra-soothing and rapidly speed the healing process when you’re dealing with a runny nose or cough. To make an herbal steam, first bring a pot of water to a boil on the stove. Add in your chosen herbs and essential oils, cover your head with a towel, and breathe the steam as long as you can. It’s important that you do this safely and remember that steam is really hot, so don’t get too close when you first start inhaling. A few decongesting and antimicrobial herbs and essential oils include Lemon, Rosemary, Thyme, Eucalyptus, Sage, Pine, Mint, and Tea Tree. You can do this as many as 3-5 times a day when you’re sick!
These are some of our top respiratory herbal and medicinal mushroom allies but do not include all of the options that exist or that we stock at Remedy! Please come stop by and talk to one of our knowledgable herbalist or pharmacists to make a personalized game plan to keep you healthy this winter (or what is left of it)!