By Sara Chana, IBCLC, RH (AHG)
In the winter people tend to suffer more from colds and flu. But does cold weather really make us more vulnerable to colds and flu? It is interesting to learn that if anything, long stretches of cold temperature mean you'll catch fewer colds, possibly it is because the germs die off in cold weather. People who "winter over" at Antarctic research stations seldom get colds except when they are visited by germ-laden visitors from warmer climes! It may just be that as the weather gets colder, people forget to drink the amount of water they require daily, and don’t think of creative ways to exercise in colder weather. Or it may be that colds and flu are more common in the winter months because people tend to congregate inside, with the doors and windows shut tight, allowing viruses to increase and spread in close quarters. Or, maybe our lives get more stressful in the winter months. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the more psychological stress people were under, the more likely they were to get colds. It is also interesting to note that the influenza pandemic of 1918-19, which killed at least 20 million people worldwide, peaked in the late spring and summer and died down in the United States in October!
Weather alone can't make a person ill, but the change of weather can challenge your body’s immune system. When your body is used to functioning in a certain temperature and then the seasons change, your body is forced to re-adapt. If your immune system is not as strong as it needs to be, you will be more vulnerable to cold and flu.
The good news is that there are items right in your kitchen that can help supercharge your immune system helping you be prepared for the stresses and challenges that come with the winter months.
Honey's healing properties have been touted for generations. People worldwide claim that honey helps with colds, sore throats, and coughs. Modern science shows that honey contains antioxidants, acids, proteins and minerals that help heal and strengthen our bodies. Honey can also fight bacterial infections thanks to its antimicrobial properties. Although most colds and flus are caused by viruses “Studies have shown that honey is a potent treatment for nighttime cough. In one study of 130 children aged 2-17 with runny nose and cough were randomized to receive nightly doses of buckwheat honey, artificial honey-flavored cough medicine (dextromethorphan), or no treatment. On a parent-rated symptom scale, honey was found to be the most helpful in reducing nighttime cough and improving sleep in children with upper respiratory infections, and other studies have shown that honey helps diminish the intensity and duration of winter coughs”.
Adding herbs to honey turns ordinary honey into “medicinal honey” and is a powerful tool for the winter months. Medicinal honey is easy to make and you can customize it to your personal physical challenges and taste. Honey comes in a variety of flavors and each flavor has different medicinal properties due to the flowers the honeysuckle from. Buckwheat honey seems to work best for coughs whereas sage honey works best for sore throats and wildflower honey helps with a stuffy nose and allergies. You can add onions or garlic (which are considered herbs), or medicinal spices like sage or thyme, or healing berries like elderberry, or healing plants like echinacea, yerba santa, or usena.
For Coughs try onion Honey. Onion honey is suggested if you tend to be challenged with winter coughs, garlic if you tend to get sinus infections, or mix both if you tend to get both in the winter. Take a glass bowl and make a layer of onions and cover with a layer of honey. Cover the bowl with a plate or plastic wrap and let it sit on the kitchen counter overnight. By morning the honey will begin to turn into syrup. You can leave this mixture right on the counter and take one tablespoon two times a day as prevention or up to four times a day if you are ill. If you will not use up the batch you made within the week you can strain out the onions and put the honey in a glass container and keep the mixture in the fridge.
For Sinus infections try garlic honey. You can do the same procedures as above just put in garlic instead of the onions. If you suffer from both sinus and coughs you can mix both onions and garlic in the same bowl.
For Sore throats try sage honey-Adding the herb sage to your honey will help with sore throats. With sage you can either use the herb in its dried form, fresh form or in a tincture (the herb that has been steeped in grain alcohol). The best way to use dried or fresh herbs is to lightly heat up the honey in a good quality sauce pan either made of glass or stainless steel and pour in your honey. The cooking flame you will use will always be small because your goal is to dissolve the herbs into the honey not cook the honey. Lightly heat the honey till either the dried or fresh herb has wilted, or the tinctures have dissolved into the honey, or the fresh or dried herbs have wilted. Let honey cool and then strain and put into a glass jar to be stored in the refrigerator.
For kids colds- (over one year old only) is a great way for children to take herbs. Making medicinal honey is a great activity for kids they love to watch the herbs melt into the honey. And kids usually will be happy to take their “herbal honey” if they help make it. For children’s honey I make the honey as above usually choosing gentle kid-friendly herbs like elderberry, lemon balm or linden flowers and I also add cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans. Elderberry is a great source of vitamin C and antiviral, lemon balm is calming and antiviral, and linden flowers helps with fevers and flu. Cinnamon tastes great and also helps with stomach flus and vanilla is just yummy.
About Sara Chana Silverstein
Sara Chana Silverstein is a Master Herbalist, Classical Homeopath and mother of 7 kids. She runs an herbal school called MOODTOPIA ACADEMY. For a free handout on more winter tips go to Sarachana.com under FREE Handouts. Also follow her on Instagram @sarachanas