By Nyssa Langlois, Writer & Copy Editor for Farm Table Foundation
Winter in the Midwest is renowned for its intense cold; many stay cooped up indoors simply to avoid the icy wind whipping across their faces. Unfortunately, perpetually staying inside, coupled with the many social gatherings taking place around the holidays, tends to lend itself to the spread of nasty colds and the flu. While many respond to these heinous illnesses by venturing to the nearest drugstore to cure their sickness, home remedies can be just as, if not more so, effective in combating colds and the flu. Nancy Graden, owner and operator of Red Clover Herbal Apothecary Farm in Amery, Wisconsin, has been practicing the art of sustainable, plant-based home remedies for several years, and has multiple recommendations for encouraging wellness this season.
First and foremost, hydration is crucial. With this in mind, you can add many natural ingredients to your beverages that will assist in preventing you from becoming sick. Graden’s best recommendation for preventing the flu would be to add elderberries, or elderberry syrup, into your diet. Elderberries have incredibly effective antiviral properties, and Graden uses elderberry concoctions as her natural alternative to a flu shot. Another preventative method, geared more toward colds, would be to drink a mix of hot water and echinacea (commonly known as coneflower) leaves; echinacea contains several elements that help more effectively stimulate the immune system, therefore enhancing your defenses against contracting a cold or flu.
While adding different plants to your drinks is an effective way to prevent the spread of sickness, it is also a good idea to add natural defenses to your food. Nancy highly recommends increasing your garlic consumption; garlic is incredibly helpful when fighting off a cold or a cough due its possession of allicin–a powerful antioxidant. This bulb can easily be added to a variety of dishes and can be used to infuse different oils for more versatility when cooking. Graden recommends adding fresh garlic to meals, as the bulb will lose some of its antioxidant properties once cooked.
Ginger root also combats the common cold and typically helps reduce nausea, which frequently accompanies the flu. Like garlic, ginger can be added to many different recipes and infuse oils, but it can also be used to infuse honey, and it easily spices up different tea blends. Graden recommends a simple blend of honey, lemon, and ginger in hot water during the chilly months to prevent and remedy colds.
Despite our best efforts, sometimes our defensive preparation cannot thwart illness entirely. When illness hits, specifically colds, Graden recommends using eucalyptus essential oils in hot water to stimulate the clearing of sinus infections and to open airways. An additional healing method, particularly for sore throats, Graden recommends gargling with a combination of cayenne and salt water every hour, as the cayenne helps stimulate blood flow to clear infection faster.
For additional preventative and healing techniques through the use of natural products, Nancy Graden can be reached on her website: www.redcloverapothecary.com.
Nyssa Langlois studied at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire and worked as a program advisor for World Endeavors. Her current positions are copy editor, writer & server extraordinaire for Farm Table Foundation in Amery, Wisconsin.