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Entries in immune system (2)


Home Remedies for Coughs, Colds & Flu

Living Earth School of Herbalism has just released a one hour video lecture called Immune Support and the Natural Treatment of Colds and Flu. Here are some simple home remedies for coughs, colds and flu that you can do as well. These remedies are safe for pregnant women as well as children, though remember not to use honey with children under 1 year old.    

First of all, at the first sign of illness, simplify your daily activities and get lots of rests. Take a sick day from work if possible and give yourself some TLC. Also, be sure to keep warm and don’t let yourself get chilled. Next, use the following treatments and remedies to stimulate your immune system:

The Wet Sock Treatment:

The wet sock treatment is an easy way to boost your immune system quickly. I know it sounds bananas but you’ll have to trust me on this one. I’ve done it several times myself and can attest to its powerful healing abilities. Cold on your feet initiates the fever response which is the body’s natural way of fighting off cold and flu infections and increasing the circulating levels of white blood cells. It increases the circulation and decreases congestion in the upper respiratory passages, head, and throat. It is very effective for fever, sore throat, upper respiratory infections and congestion, coughs and bronchitis, ear infections, headaches and migraines. It also has a sedating action and improves sleep quality.


Ingredients: 1 pair 100% cotton socks; 1 pair thick wool socks

  1. Make sure your feet are warm first. If need be give them a soak in warm water or do this after a bath.
  2. Soak the cotton socks in very, very cold water and then wring them out thoroughly so that they aren’t dripping. Put them on your feet.
  3. Put the wool socks over the cotton socks and get into bed for the night immediately.
  4. Keep the socks on over night. In the morning they will be bone dry.
  5. Repeat this procedure for 3 nights in a row.

To enhance this whole process, sip a cup of ginger tea after getting into bed.

Ginger Tea & Friends:

Ginger tea and friends is an excellent remedy that can be used by everyone in the family. It will enhance your immunity, increase circulation, decrease congestion, and reduce a fever. You will feel very hot when you drink this tea because the blood is going to the surface of the skin to help dispel the fever.

[Caution: Ginger in large amounts (more than 1-2 grams of dried ginger per day) has been associated with miscarriage. Do not exceed the recommended dosage and avoid altogether in the first trimester if you have a history of miscarriage].

Ginger root is excellent for colds and flu because it stimulates the immune system, brings down a fever and helps clear toxins and congestion. It clears phlegm in the lungs and is good for infections of the lower and upper respiratory tract. At the onset of a cold finely chop fresh ginger root (a piece that measures from the last knuckle to the end of your thumb) and steep it in a cup of boiled water for 15 minutes covered. Strain and drink every couple of hours.

For greater kick and immune stimulating properties add a pinch of powdered cayenne to the ginger tea, one teaspoon of honey and the juice of half a small lemon (see my blog on lemons to learn more about their healing potential). To ratchet this tea up yet another notch, add one clove of crushed raw garlic. Garlic is one of our best natural antibiotics and is excellent for any infections in the body. Its essential oils are expressed through the lungs which is great for any lung infection.

Onion Soup: Cut 1 large yellow onion in small pieces; cover with 2L of water; simmer for ½ hour. Strain and add honey to taste. Drink 2 cups ever 2 hours until your flu is gone.

Reducing Fever:

Any of the above treatments will reduce fever. Also sipping a few cups of lemon balm, catnip, or chamomile tea throughout the day will bring your fever down.

Decongesting the Sinuses:

Mustard Foot Baths:

Hot mustard foot baths are used for congestion in the sinuses and lungs, a chest cough, headaches, and are an old recipe for throwing off colds. The blood flows away from the over-congested area and rushes to the feet. The body soon sends the blood back through normal channels, and proper circulation is restored. Mix 1 tbsp of dry mustard powder into 2L of hot water and soak your feet for 10 minutes, twice daily. Cover your head with a hat to increase body heat.

Salt Decongestant:

Use a saltwater in the nose to decongest the sinuses. Dissolve ¼ tsp of sea salt in one cup of warm water. Use a tablespoon to sniff the solution up your nostrils one at a time. Place a tbsp of solution under one nostril, block off the other nostril with your finger and sniff. Spit out the solution, do not swallow it. Repeat in the opposite nostril, and then repeat the procedure all over again. After, gently blow your nose. Do this 3-4 times a day.

Sore Throat:

Echinacea Tincture: Gargle with 30 – 60 drops echinacea tincture in 30mls warm water for a few minutes and then swallow in small amounts while tilting your head side to side and back and forward so that the Echinacea washes over your entire throat.

Salt Water and Sage: Ingredients: 1 cup boiled water; 2 tsp sage leaves (dried; or 3 tsp fresh); ¼ tsp salt

Pour boiling water over the sage, cover and steep for 20 minutes. Strain and add salt and stir. Gargle when cooled to a comfortable temperature. Gargle repeatedly (4 times or so). Spit out tea. Do this at least 2 times a day (preferably 3).


Onion or Garlic Cough Syrup: Fill a glass jar ½ full with peeled and chopped garlic or onion. Poor warmed honey over the garlic or onion and put the lid on. In the morning, strain out the garlic or onion (you may need to liquefy the honey again). To use: hold the honey in the mouth and let it slowly trickle down the throat. For a child take 1 tsp as needed; for adults use 2-3 tsp. This honey must be used up within a week.

Garlic and Honey Cough Syrup: Peel and mince 6-8 cloves of garlic. Add to 1 cup of raw honey and let stand for at least 2 hours. Take a tsp of the syrup and garlic bits when cough acts up. This honey must be used up within a week.

Lemon and Honey Fever and Cough Syrup: Roast one to many big, juicy lemons on a pan at 350F until they split open. Squeeze out the lemon juice and add ½ the amount of raw honey and blend well. Take 1-2 tsp every ½ hour until the cough is under control. Lemons have long been used to control minor and major fever attacks. Lemon is a refrigerant (cooling). It is useful in all inflammatory and feverish conditions. Use up the syrup within a week.

Garlic Cough Syrup: This syrup is expectorant and is very useful for relieving spasmodic coughs and lung congestion.

Mince 90g of fresh Garlic. Add to 250mls of raw apple cider vinegar. Macerate for 4 days, shaking often. Strain and press. Add 500g of liquefied raw honey. Shake vigorously until well blended. Bottle in small dark bottles and store in the fridge.

White Pine Bark Cough Syrup: The dried inner bark of white pine is expectorant and diuretic and is used for coughs and congestion. Put ½ cup of coarsely ground bark in a jar and cover with 2/3 cup boiling water. When cool, add ½ cup whisky, seal the jar, and let it soak overnight – shake the jar occasionally. The next day, strain it, and to the liquid add 1 cup honey. Shake until homogenous. Transfer to a sterilized amber round bottle. Dose: 1 tbsp for adults and 1 tsp for children as needed.

Tincture and Honey Cough Syrup:

To make a quick and easy cough syrup combine 1 part herbal tincture to 3 parts raw honey. Liquefy the honey by placing the jar in hot water, stir in the tincture. Bottle in dark sterilized bottles. The adult dose is 1 tsp as needed; for a child use ¼ to 1/3 tsp.

Herbal tinctures to Use for Coughs/Lung Congestion: Use one or a combination of any of the following herbs as a tincture to make up a simple cough syrup depending on your cold/flu symptoms:

Stimulating Expectorant: elecampane, white horehound, white pine needles

Relaxing Expectorant: comfrey leaf, coltsfoot, hyssop, licorice, milkweed root, mullein

Anti-spasmodics:  aniseed, garlic, hyssop, onion, mullein, thyme, wild cherry bark

Anti-catarrhal: coltsfoot, echinacea, garlic, hyssop, mullein, onion

Anti-microbials: aniseed, echinacea, elecampane, garlic, onion, thyme, white pine needles

Anti-inflammatories: aniseed, coltsfoot, hyssop, licorice,

Demulcents: comfrey leaf, coltsfoot, mullein, licorice

Immune Stimulant: Echinacea, elder flower, elecampane, garlic, ginger, plantain


Turkey Tail Mushroom (Trametes versicolor)

I harvested Trametes versicolor or Turkey Tail in early November. This is the first time I’ve made a tincture of Trametes and I’m really looking forward to getting familiar with its medicine.

Trametes has been calling to me for at least the last 3 years, and this year I made the commitment to harvest it. I’ve been hesitant to harvest Trametes for two reasons. Firstly, because I already harvest at least 150 different herbs and adding more to my apothecary is not something I do lightly! And secondly, because Trametes is so light and airy I thought it would be a gruelling process that would take ages of concentrated patience. I already have several herbs that fit that description and wasn’t eager to add another. When a plant (or in this case a fungus) calls out to me or catches my eye, I know I’m being given medicine for an important reason and I’m expanding as a healer. So, quite frankly, all my machinations are for naught and I always do as I’m instructed. So, off I went to harvest Trametes, prepared for hours of patient harvesting, and I was pleasantly surprised! I found several large logs that were totally covered with Trametes and it only took me a short while to get enough to make 1½ litres of tincture.

Trametes versicolor is called Turkey Tail because it looks like a wild turkey's tail...simple! Trametes is a polypore mushroom and a decomposer of wood. It recycles the nutrients and minerals in the wood of fallen trees, making them available to other forest inhabitants. It is one of the fungi that are being investigated for possible use in ‘biopulping’ which involves using a fungus to convert wood chips to paper pulp while reducing energy use and pollutants. Nice.

Medicinal Properties:  Adaptogen, antibacterial, antifungal, antimalarial, antimicrobial, antineoplastic, antioxidant, antiviral, antihepatotoxic, hypocholesterolemic, hypolipidemic, immune tonic.

Trametes is a very deep acting medicine that is great for anyone with a compromised immune system. It increases the adaptive response of the immune system to all types of stressors. It is used for several different kinds of cancers such as cervical, breast, lung, stomach, liver, colon, prostate, esophageal cancers, etc. It is also used for all manner of chronic diseases. It is used for hepatitis B and C; malaria; impetigo; infection and inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, the urinary tract and the digestive tract; lupus; viral infections of any kind including genital herpes and HIV; and chronic fatigue.

The ISRN Oncology Journal recently published a study entitled "Phase I Clinical Trial of Trametes versicolor in Women with Breast Cancer" demonstrated that Trametes is an effective adjunct to conventional chemotherapeutic medicines and radiation therapy for breast cancer.

Trametes isn’t the tastiest mushroom around. Its flavour is rather bland and ever so slightly mushroomy, but it can be added to soup stock to make a nutritious, immune boosting soup.

Right now my Trametes versicolor tincture is macerating in my apothecary and should be ready to use in a few months. I’m very excited to start working with it and deepening my understanding of this powerful, local medicine.

If you aren’t all stoked yet about the power and importance of fungus, please watch this excerpt from the feature documentary, "Fantastic Fungi: The Forbidden Fruit", by Louie Schwartzberg on mycologist Paul Stamets as he discusses the important role mushrooms play in the survival and health of the earth and the human species.