12 Historic Natural Helpers | alive
Ever wonder how our ancestors warded off dreaded seasonal viruses? Since we’re sure the answer is likely to be, “No, I’m too busy wondering how to fight off modern seasonal viruses,” let’s dive into the past to bring you 12 historical herbal helpers. Modern virus: meet wisdom of the ages.
Native to a shrub that grows in moist, shady areas of India, China, and all of Southeast Asia, Andrographis is commonly known as the Indian Echinacea. This popular Ayurvedic and Chinese preventive agent, believed to stimulate the immune system, has been used as a remedy for colds, upper respiratory tract infections, flu and other illnesses with fever
In your health food store: Single extracts, tinctures, capsules, tablets or as ingredients in powder formulations.
The dried root of this herb, which is used extensively in Chinese medicine as well as Western herbalism, has been shown to boost immune function and reduce inflammation. Its traditional uses include treating colds, seasonal allergies, and chronic fatigue.
In your health food store: Capsules, liquid extracts, powders and teas.
The roots of Codonopsis are used in Chinese medicine to lower blood pressure, increase the number of red and white blood cells, heal loss of appetite, strengthen the immune system and replenish Qi (life energy). It is also used as a gentler and more economical substitute for ginseng. Current research has identified important immunomodulatory components
In your health food store: Tinctures, capsules, and whole roots or powders
Echinacea extracts, a well-known herb for common colds, have shown beneficial effects on the immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells that fight infections. Echinacea, native to North America, was widely used by indigenous peoples in their traditional medicines. In a 2014 review of 24 studies involving more than 4,500 subjects, it was found that echinacea helps prevent colds.
In your health food store: Extracts, capsules, tablets and teas
The bark, leaves, flowers, berries, and roots of the elder tree have been used in traditional medicine. Elderberry is said to have anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Elderberry can relieve constipation by reducing the swelling of the mucous membranes and reducing the duration of the cold. Elderberry has also shown promise in laboratory studies for fighting type A and influenza
In your health food store: Teas, syrups, extracts, lozenges and capsules
Eleuthero, also known as Siberian ginseng, has been used as a medicinal herb for more than 2,000 years. Known as an adaptogen, this herb is also used as a performance and focus enhancer to increase mental alertness and focus. It also stimulates cellular immunity and provokes T cell production.
In your health food store: Tinctures, roots and root powder, capsules
As a member of the Allium family (along with onions and leeks), garlic has historically been used as an elixir to treat colds, chest infections, and even ward off evil spirits. This tasty food fights infection by multiplying natural killer cells, macrophages, and lymphocytes. Fresh garlic can work against bacteria and viruses. Preliminary research suggests that garlic supplements could also be an effective way to prevent colds.
In your health food store: Tablets, capsules
Recent studies suggest that ginger may help kill certain types of cancer cells. However, we know for sure that ginger, with its unique pungency, can warm us up when we are infected with seasonal viruses. It has been used for centuries to naturally treat upset stomach, migraines, pain, nausea,
In your health food store: Tablets, capsules, liquid extracts and teas
9. Marsh mallow
The demulsifying (calming) properties of marsh mallow root have been used for thousands of years by ancient Egyptian, Arabic, Greek, and Roman cultures to provide relief from dry cough, bronchial asthma and congestion, pleurisy, and an external poultice. It was also used to calm digestion and was the “root” of the original marshmallow dessert.
In your health food store: Tablets, capsules, lozenges, liquid extracts, dried roots and teas
Oregano oil has long been used as a remedy for colds, flu, bronchitis, and other respiratory diseases due to its anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. To clean the lungs and bronchial passages, oregano oil can be mixed with a carrier oil (olive oil) and rubbed on the chest and sore muscles, or added to a vaporizer to inhale the vapor.
In your health food store: essential oil, capsules
This woody vine with clusters of red berries is found in northern China and neighboring regions in Russia and Korea and has been used in traditional medicines in these areas since the 16th century. As an antioxidant and antiviral agent, Schisandra can boost the immune system and also promote longevity. Schisandra has also been used to relieve symptoms of asthma, seasonal allergies, and colds.
In your health food store: tinctures, extracts, capsules, tablets, teas, dried berries or powders
Derived from the root of Curcuma longa, a flowering plant in the ginger family, turmeric is a spice that has been used in cooking, cosmetics, and medicinal remedies across Asia for more than 4,000 years. Modern research has shown that turmeric and its main component curcumin is a powerful antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agent.
In your health food store: as turmeric or its main compound curcumin in capsules, liquid formulations, capsules and gums
Give yourself a boost
Supplements are only necessary when our diet does not provide all of the nutrients we need. This would be comforting if one in three of us weren’t nutritionally deficient in a certain area.
Step 1: Contact a professional to determine what your deficiency might be.
Step 2: Fill in the void. Most experts agree that taking a good quality multivitamin (they’re not all created equal!) Is good insurance for any diet. While supplements like protein powder and creatine are widely used in athletics, there is evidence that regular creatine intake, especially in non-elite athletes, also has significant beneficial effects on physical and cognitive fitness.
Some cultures, including those in China and India, developed sophisticated medical treatment systems centuries ago, based primarily on plants, which are widely used to this day. (Think traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda.)
Herbal medicines are still widely used in underdeveloped areas where commercial medicines are either not available or too expensive for the average person.
Did you know?
Many of our most potent medicines come from plants. A study from 2002 found that 11 percent of the 252 medicines considered essential by the World Health Organization come exclusively from flowering plants.
This article was originally published in the September 2020 issue of the Living Canadian Magazine under the title “12 Herbal Historical Helpers”.