What we can do, however, is combat the factors that lead to our catching those nasty bugs in the first place. We can boost our immune systems and create a sort of "immunity fortress" around ourselves throughout the winter months. There are a ton of chemically-formulated cold and flu remedies and preventatives, but many of us, in our hurry to get into that pharmacy and leave with a cure, neglect to look at the potent immune boosters that nature has provided for us, no laboratory needed.
We have found a few natural immune boosters that, while not cures, have been shown to help the human body in its battle against everything from the common cold to diseases like cancer (of all types), AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's Disease), and arthritis, among many others.
Modern scientific advancements have done some absolutely amazing things when it comes to treating illnesses that we once considered incurable. Clearly, no natural cure will take the place of Western medicine when it comes to treating the most extreme cases. However, there is something to be said about natural remedies and Eastern cures when it comes to preventing or assisting everything from treatment of simple illnesses like colds and flus to hardcore cases like heart problems or kidney or liver disease.
Here’s the list. Happy flu season, and remember that nothing takes the place of eating right, keeping that stress level low, and getting a good night's sleep.
1. Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale)
You wouldn't know it by looking at them, but those little round puff balls that we find in fields are wildly useful. In use since recorded history, the old English used them as an herbal medicine to treat infections, bile and liver problems, and as a diuretic. The people of the time did not call them "piss a bed" flowers for nothing, and the French used an equally pleasant term, "pissenlit" (yep, that's the official French word for Dandelion), because of the flower's tendency to clean you out. Next time you think you need Metamucil, head out to the local park and pick some pissenlit instead.
Typically boiled as a tea, the taste is somewhat bitter, but you will never believe the health benefits that come along with the less-than-delicious taste. Dandelions, particularly their stems, have been known to fight cancer in lab mice, balance hormones, work as an antioxidant (they keep cells from deteriorating) and antispasmodic (they help people with spasm disorders to live a more normal life), and strengthen heart and blood vessels.
Dandelion stems also contain both Linoleic and Linolenic acids; the latter of which is an unsaturated n-6 fatty acid and the former an omega 3 fatty acid (we hear a lot about these, but the bottom line is that they are nutrients that our bodies do not produce naturally yet are essential to a healthy life, so they are pretty darn important). These fatty acids produce prostaglandins that regulate blood pressure, suppress inflammation, and regulate menstrual cycles in women (when woman have regular cycles, everyone wins).
In addition to all of these things, chemicals in dandelions improve memory, and combat liver diseases like Hepatitis C and Jaundice. Their massive amount of vitamin A fights mouth cancer, and their Potassium and Magnesium (also found profusely in dandelion shoots) lower blood pressure and decrease the likelihood of strokes. The fiber in dandelions lowers cholesterol, and because it digests differently than traditional sugars, it keeps insulin levels from rising and dropping too quickly, assisting diabetics in keeping their blood sugar regulated. It also lowers cholesterol and fights cancer and heart disease.
Dandelions contain a wide variety of vitamins, from Vitamin A (112 percent of recommended daily allowance), Vitamin K (535 percent of RDA), Vitamin C (32 percent of RDA), Calcium (103mg), Iron (1.7mg) and Potassium (218mg). These are all valuable in protecting ourselves not only from the regular everyday flu and cold, but also bigger illnesses as well. A strong body is a healthy body.
And the chemicals that cause the bitter taste in dandelions are also the ones that may be the most important: they promote good digestion, liver, spleen, and gall bladder function, and also have antifungal properties. That tea tasting a little better, now? If not, add some of our next health product and you will be golden.
2. Buckwheat Honey
This dark-colored honey, with a sweet taste reminiscent of molasses, is not only delicious, it is incredibly helpful for preventing the cold and flu. It contains high levels of antioxidants and is a very effective cough suppressant. In fact, many healthcare workers will recommend buckwheat honey as an alternative for young children because of the possible side effects of traditional cough syrup, even the children's version.
Dark honeys are much richer in antioxidants and contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals that lighter colored honeys do not because the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals are what give the honey its dark color.
Buckwheat honey is also a source of 18 amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), and also has anti-inflammatory properties that can hasten wound-healing and may reduce scarring.
There are a variety of ways to enjoy buckwheat honey, just as you would any other kind of honey. You can take a teaspoon straight from the spoon to get your daily value, mix it into a cup of tea, or use it for cooking. It also makes a delicious spread on whole-wheat toast.
3. Vitamin D
Yes, we know you have heard of Vitamin D. Don’t we get it from the sun anyway? Why do we need to take it as a supplement? Well, here's why: the sun does not give us Vitamin D, it merely allows us to absorb the Vitamin D that we consume.
Basically, you can spend your whole life in the sun, but unless you are also ingesting Vitamin D, you will only end up with some leathery skin and perhaps a scary mole (or five). The best method for making sure that you are getting the Vitamin D that you need is to mix sunshine (using an SPF of 15 of higher) with Vitamin D supplements or foods that are rich in Vitamin D.
When we eat foods that are high in Vitamin D (like dairy items, many types of fish, and orange juice) and we get adequate sun, our body is able to process that Vitamin D properly, avoiding sicknesses that come from a deficiency, like rickets.
Vitamin D also triggers the body's T-cells to start looking for and eradicating foreign bodies within our system. Properly working T-cells will kill flus and other viruses that enter our body, unless they are compromised by something like AIDS, or a Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is no joke.
Used for centuries as a spice in Indian, Asian, and South American cooking, and also as a dye for fabrics, turmeric has already found a variety of uses throughout history. In medieval Europe, turmeric became known as Indian saffron because it was widely used as a substitute for the much more expensive saffron. However, in recent years, scientists have begun to look at this spice more closely as something that may contain chemicals that fight a variety of ailments. Sure, it's delicious, but what if it's delicious and cures cancer? Take that, saffron!
The possible key to turmeric's success are things called phytochemicals. Found in turmeric, scientists are in the preliminary research phase of looking at whether these phytochemicals may have effects on diseases like cancer, arthritis, diabetes, and other clinical disorders, all of which contribute to a much more stressful flu and cold season for those who suffer from these ailments. Turmeric is also known to have compounds that have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.
5. Medicinal Mushrooms
No, not that kind.
Asian cultures have had the right idea for years, utilizing the health benefits of various types of mushrooms to cure or assist in curing ailments. While there are dozens of useful mushrooms available in our forests, we have chosen to focus on a couple that we really think are the most useful to humanity.
The Maitake Mushroom (Grifola frondosa) is one useful sucker. Not only does it have anti-anxiety properties, helping the human body to stabilize after stressful situations, lab studies have shown it to slow the growth of cancerous tumors, slow or cease the replication of HIV and improve the activity of T-cells, has been shown to decrease blood pressure, and improve the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and diabetes. Maitake can be brewed into a tea, taken in a capsule, or as an extract.
The Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) has long been a staple in Chinese medicine. Literally translated it means "mushroom of immortality." Several uses have been found for the Reishi Mushroom, from anti-inflammatory properties (for people with arthritis or other pain disorders), anti-histamine effects, and just general well-being.
A protein isolated from Reishi, Ling Zhi-8, may reduce the risk of transplant rejection after surgery. That's quite an achievement if it turns out to be the real deal. Reishi Mushrooms can be consumed via syrups, soups, teas, tinctures, and capsules. There are also do-it-yourself kits to growing your own Reishi Mushrooms at home.
For more information on the best medicinal mushrooms, check out Rosebud Magazine issue #24 (with Cameron Diaz on the cover).
© Copyright RosebudMag.com, 2012
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Tuesday, 22 January 2013