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2.07.2013

Herbal Remedies I Keep on Hand: Infection Fighters

The hardest part for me, so far, when it comes to my herbalist education, has been learning about the different herbal treatments for infections, which to use when, which to NOT use and when, and which are antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal, or a combination.
Whether bacterial or viral, ear relief oil can help lessen the pain and duration of an ear infection.

So I strongly urge you to go beyond what I share here and either do much more extensive research before using herbals to treat various infections, OR (even better...) talk to an expert.  With that said, herbal remedies can be extremely effective and are much safer than antibiotics.  That, in and of itself, deserves it's own post, but in a nutshell herbal treatments for infections do not interfere as much with the natural gut flora (although it's always a good idea to consume probiotics with them as you would with antibiotics), do not increase the risk of repeat infections, and do not create bacteria resistant strains- these are all the unwanted side affects of using conventional antibiotics.

Here are a few basic herbal formulas that can be used to treat common infections.

Herbal Treatments for Bacterial Infections (some ear infections, although most are viral; strep throat; stomach infections thought to be caused by bacteria, UTI's):
  • Goldenseal or Oregon Grape- goldenseal is one of the most well known and effective herbal antibiotics, but it is an endangered plant and is not currently being raised sustainably.  Oregon grape is nearly as effective, cheaper, more sustainable, and becoming easier to find.  Either of these herbs are often combined with the immune booster echinacea, but there are times when echinacea would be contraindicated (as in with strep throat).
  • Garlic-  Garlic is antibiotic, antiviral, AND antifungal.  It is also widely available, making it the best remedy to start with for just about any illness.  The only downfall- the taste.  I know, garlic is delicious, but in order to be most effective it must be first diced, allowed to sit for about 8 minutes, then consumed raw (allowing it to sit both reduces the potency a little and increases it's effectiveness).  If you're hardcore and/or willing to do just about anything to be well sooner, do this every 4 hours until symptoms subside (tip- don't eat it on an empty stomach, though).  But if you're not hardcore it's okay to simply increase your consumption of garlic cooked with your food.  For certain infections garlic can also be used topically, as in my Ear Relief Oil, which is a combination of garlic, mullein, and calendula.  Some claim success rubbing a clove of garlic on their feet at bedtime or on their throat during a sore throat.
  • Antibiotic Seasonings- Besides garlic, there are several other herbs and spices that you can add to your foods throughout the day to both prevent and treat infections.  The most notable include thyme, oregano, turmeric, and cinnamon (real cinnamon, not cassia, which is what most cinnamon consumed in the US is).  Add these liberally to all of your foods, especially during the winter when illness is more likely.
But most of the common illnesses we deal with are viral.  With the exception of the newer flu medication (and I don't trust anything new...) there are no conventional drugs for most of these illnesses anyway, but there are effective herbal remedies.

Herbal Treaments for Viral Infections:
  • Garlic (see above)
  • Elderberry and Elderflower- While it has gained in popularity over the past few years, the elder plant is still, I feel, one of the most underrated medicinal plants.  It strengthens the immune system and can be taken preventatively with no risk, it is safe for children, and it has been proven in clinical trials to be effective against viruses like the flu.  I give my kids a syrup made of elderberry and astragalus (below) throughout the flu season and while everyone else is bouncing from illness to illness we remain healthy.  I'm working on a syrup for my Etsy shop, it should be up in the next few days!
  • Astragalus- This herb is technically NOT an antiviral but an immune stimulator.  However, it has been proven effective at both preventing and treating the common cold.
  • ... and most of the seasonings I list above are either both antibiotic and antiviral OR they help stimulate the immune system, which helps the body fight off infections itself.

There is a lot more to this topic, though.  There are different treatments for more complicated illnesses like whooping cough, topical infections (be they viral, bacterial, or fungal), or for internal fungal infections.  There are further steps that must be taken in the cases of certain infections like UTI's, both for recovery and for comfort.  And there are certain non herbal support measures that should be taken.  My ultimate point is that, should an infection more serious than a cold or ear infection come up in your family, it is wise to find an herbalist, homeopath, or acupuncturist (many acupuncturists are trained in Chinese herbal medicine as well) to help you with your course of treatment.  Going all natural doesn't mean you have to go it alone!

This post has been shared at Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday, New Life on a Homestead's Monday Barn Hop, Day2Day Health's Health 2Day Wednesday, and GNOWFGLINS Simple Lives Thursday.

1 comment:

Rachel @ day2day joys said...

I love this informative post that explains about these herbs. We don't ususally have ear infections in our family but we use a similar mixture when we do.

Also, I'd love for you to share this post at Healthy 2day Wednesdays if you haven't already! (and healthy posts you have every week!) Blessings!

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