Originally published November 9 2007
Herbal Alternatives to the Flu Shot (Part 1)
by Julie James
(NaturalNews) I received my doctor’s annual reminder in the mail today: “Get Your Flu Shot!” I never have before, so why should I this year? You’d think he’d have given up on me by now. Furthermore, the medical community insists that to be a "good mother", I must give the flu vaccine to my 18-month-old son. Along with all of the other vaccines they think he needs.
But I don’t, and wont, get the flu shot. Nor will my son. There’s no need, since with a few really fine herbal recipes and common sense hygiene, I can make my family much healthier than they would ever be with an ineffective and potentially dangerous flu shot.
So this is the time of year that I get out my trusty herbal allies and start formulating my “winter” medicines. I make a lot, since inevitably a friend or client will insist that I share my wealth. And I’m happy to do so.
Every herbalist worth the name has a version of this fantastic formula. It’s now available for sale, but is quite expensive. I don’t pay high prices, though. I pay somewhere around $10 a quart to make it myself. Fire Cider, Cyclone Cider - call it what you will, I call it magic.
Grab a few handfuls of the following, all fresh: ginger, onion, horseradish, garlic, & lemon. Roughly chop them up and pack into a 1-quart canning jar, leaving a few inches at the top. Add anywhere from 1/2 to 2 teaspoons (or more if you like it really spicy!) of cayenne pepper. Cover with organic raw apple cider vinegar. Cover the top of the jar with a square of waxed paper before placing lid on, then seal. This is to stop the acid in the vinegar corroding the metal lid.
Shake well and leave on your kitchen counter, out of direct sunlight. Every time you walk by that jar, give it another shake. You may also want to talk to it, sing, recite poetry, smudge sacred herbs, dance, tell it a good joke or whatever you like to make your medicine more potent.
For two weeks, shake the jar and do your magic. At the end of two weeks, pour it through a kitchen strainer, wash your canning jar out well, and return the liquid to the jar. You may want to add, at this point, a few tablespoons glycerin (which will give it a pleasant sweetness, a nice foil for the hot, tart taste) or honey. If you add honey, you’ll need to refrigerate it, but glycerin requires no refrigeration. I strongly recommend buying some 2 ounce dropper bottles because you’ll want a bottle a your desk, in your kitchen, by your bedside, and in the car. Use liberally to boost immunity, fight infection, soothe the throat, open the sinuses, stimulate circulation and energy, and generally improve health. Add to soup or salad to spice them up and give a boost-though I usually just drop it directly into my mouth.
Elder-Ginger Syrup is another staple in my winter medicine cabinet. Israeli virologists have found that elderberry extract has been shown to be specifically active against the influenza virus, blocking replication very effectively. Elder has many other health attributes as well, and is exceptionally safe - even for my toddler. All of that, and it’s quite tasty, too.
Simmer 1 cup dried elder berries in 2 cups distilled water for 30 minutes. Strain well. Return to pot and add 4 tablespoons grated ginger. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain again, return to pot, and simmer over low heat to reduce liquid to 1 cup. Add 1 cup of honey, organic sugar or maple syrup, and 1/4-cup brandy as a preservative. Use 1 tablespoon 4 times a day at the first sign of flu, or take daily as a preventative. Very nice added to hot teas, or just in hot water with some lemon.
Everyone runs to the health food store for echinacea-goldenseal tincture when they have a cold, and for good reason—it’s one of the foundation items for fighting colds and flu and stimulating immune activity to assist in throwing off viral or bacterial infection. But please - $15 for 1 ounce? You can do better than that.
Take 1 ounce each of (all organically grown please!) echinacea root, goldenseal or Oregon grape root (similar benefits, but Oregon grape root has not been drastically over harvested like goldenseal, and is therefore considerably less expensive), and hyssop, and a half-ounce of licorice root and dried ginger. Coarsely grind the herbs (a coffee grinder works beautifully here) and place in a quart glass jar. Add 20 ounces of high quality vodka or brandy (100 proof vodka is preferred for stronger medicine, but many prefer the taste of brandy), cover, and shake well. As with the vinegar extract above, you’ll need to shake it every day (adding extra “magic” if you like) for at least two weeks. Then strain well through cheesecloth, and store in amber glass bottles. Take a few droppers every few hours at the first sign of a cold or flu. This will often knock out a “bug” very rapidly.
So there: You’ve got easy to make, tasty recipes to cover fighting the virus, stimulating your immune system, relieving cold and flu symptoms, and supporting systemic health. With those medicines in your refrigerator, you’ll be well equipped to face the oncoming cold and flu season. But don’t be surprised when your friends and family ask you to share - just be sure to make enough.
About the authorJulie James is a practicing herbalist and herbal educator in Long Beach, CA. She has studied nutrition and herbalism for over 20 years, and holds a diploma in herbal medicine and in holistic nutrition.
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