Building an Herbal Medicine Cabinet For the Cold and Swine Flu Season

The headlines are blaring “swine flu.” We hear the horror stories about the at-risk groups, many people don’t want to get a flu shot or give it to their children. What are our choices? No one has talked about natural medicine alternatives much in this heated debate. Yet, my son just got over swine flu and I can tell you that it was not an easy experience. Was he very sick? No. Was he afraid and asking me if he was “going to die?” Yes. He ran a low-grade fever that spiked one day and he had some mild congestion. Otherwise, he slept soundly every night and recovered within a week. While he was sick, he was prescribed TamiFlu (the whole family took it). I also treated him before his illness because I knew it was coming, and I continued to treat him with herbal remedies during his illness to help the healing process along.

Like many other Americans, I have a chronic health condition (migraines), but I’m hyper-sensitive to drugs, so I don’t like to take prescription drugs unless I really need them. Over the last 25 years, I have created quite a library on herbs and natural medicine out of necessity. What I now have is an herbal medicine cabinet that I use frequently to help boost my immune system. I am not a physician, but rather a layperson who has found herbal remedies that work for me and my family. Here’s what I have learned and the products I use for cold and flu season.

Europeans and German Commission E
The Europeans are way ahead of us on the topic of herbal treatments where it’s commonplace to use herbs and traditional medicine in a integrated approach to treat illness. Germany had an herbal equivalent of the FDA called the German Commission E which made it mandatory for all conventional drugs, medicinal plants and phytomedicines (medicines derived from plants) to be reviewed by scientific committees. Over the course of two decades, scientists, physicians and specialists from their pharmacology industry authored 1,000 scientific publications and as of 1997, the German Commission E had listed over 800 substances (mostly herbs) recommending the use and dosage for each one. You can find much of the Commission E findings in a book written by an American botanist named James A. Duke, Ph.D, called The Green Pharmacy. Duke worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for most of his career “mapping” herbs and is considered “the world’s leading authority on healing herbs.”

Brand Quality is Important
Here is what I have learned from The Green Pharmacy and the many other resources I have used over the years, including advice from both traditional and alternative medical professionals, extensive reading and research on the Internet. First and foremost, brand quality is important when buying herbs. One of the best herbal brands on the market is Enzymatic Therapy. Most of the products Enzymatic Therapy makes are combined-use herbal formulas (combining two or more herbs) for specific aliments. My favorite Enzymatic Therapy product is called Air Power, an expectorant that includes guaifenesin and fenugreek. Fenugreek is the key ingredient because it boosts the effect of the guaifenesin. This product thins and loosens mucus and clears the respiratory airways. It is hands-down the best product I have ever found for bronchitis and to clear up any type of chest congestion.

The other brand I use most often is Solaray because it is a great, high-quality brand that is inexpensive, yet works really well. I use the Solaray brand for most of my other herbs, including Golden Seal which is the next staple for any medicine cabinet.

Golden Seal root is an herb used for centuries before the discovery of antibiotics. Clinical research in Germany over many years showed that Golden Seal activates special white blood cells (macrophages) that are responsible for destroying bacteria, viruses, fungi and tumor cells. So you get a one-two punch with this herb because it fights bacterial infections while building up the immune system. If you combine Air Power and Golden Seal root with AirBorne, yes the same AirBorne created by a teacher to boost your immunities, you have an arsenal that can help to combat any respiratory illness.

I was always told that if you have a virus to let it runs its course because there is not much that you can do. Not true. I found that there are many anti-viral herbs that help your body fight viruses by boosting your immunities. The best non-prescription anti-viral I have found is called Blockade. It includes ViraBlock (Elderberry) that blocks viruses from entering human cells and keeps viruses from multiplying. It begins working as soon as it hits your tongue in lozenge form. I actually cured my elderly mother of an oncoming train wreck of an illness last winter after she refused to leave her cold apartment for three days after an ice storm!

Quieting a Cough
A study published a few years ago cited research proving that over-the-counter cough medicines did nothing for a child’s cough. Okay, tell us (mothers) something we did not already know. How many nights have you sat up with your sick child while they coughed until they were, well sicker? Here’s the solution – Frankincense & Myrrh Cold and Flu Prevention Rubbing Oil. Remember your mother rubbing Vick’s Vapor Rub on your chest and how miserable you were all night. This product is a rubbing oil that you massage into your child’s feet (you can use it too). It boosts immunity; it is antibacterial and antiviral and keeps those coughs at bay all night. Miracles do happen.

Flu Remedies
I haven’t had the flu since 1986. I order a homeopathic flu kit every year. You can buy these in several forms, but the one I get contains four vials and you take one single-use vial each week for four weeks and you are done. These kits are not available until mid-October because the companies are creating the formulas much the same way flu vaccines are made – with tiny traces of viruses so that your body will build up immunity to the virus and be able to fight it off. You can find these at I’m waiting on mine now as I sit and watch quietly while all the hysteria over the swine flu vaccine swirls around me.

Dosage is especially important with herbs and here is where you, the consumer have to do your homework. Remember, herbs are extremely mild when compared to over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription drugs. Through many years of research I found the dosage that works for me – which is three capsules three times a day instead of the directed one to three tablets per day on most labeling. If you don’t take enough the herb won’t work, so ask a healthcare provider and do some research. For every other mixed-formula remedy such as the Air Power, I follow the labeling instructions because mixed-used formulas are higher in potency than single herbs. The most toxic herbs are not on the market and never have been, even in Europe. If you are taking multiple prescription medications, you must ask your doctor about any possible herb-to-drug interactions.

Are Herbs Safe?
I am frequently asked if herbs are safe. I’ll let the expert, Dr. James Duke, Ph.D. speak to that with a direct quote from his book, “To benefit from using herbs, you need to have some basic background information…. This is no different from conventional medicine…First of all get the right stuff. Unless you are absolutely sure of an herb’s identity, don’t take it. This applies mainly to people picking herbs in the wild, of course.” He goes on to say, “Most Americans assume that the pharmaceuticals their doctors prescribe are unquestionably better than herbal medicines… I’ve been a botanist specializing in medicinal plants for most of my 30-year career, and I’ve personally seen medicinal herbs successfully treat conditions that high-tech pharmaceuticals could not touch.”

Why I Use Herbs
People frequently ask me “How do you know all this stuff?” I have two answers; the first is that I have always been a curious sort, and the second is because I have a chronic illness (as I mentioned earlier) I am like a dog with a bone. I searched for years for a solution and along the way I learned a lot about everything related to natural medicine. I still have the occasional migraine, but I have been able to live a much healthier life by using herbs.

And just in case you did not know, Americans spent a whopping $15 billion on herbs and supplements in 2007 (the latest statistics) but that only includes products tracked through health food stores, if you add non-traditional avenues such as grocery store and drug stores, etc., it’s estimated that the herbal market is growing by a whopping 79.5 percent per year! On that note, one more piece of advice is essential – never buy your herbals product from a grocery store or drug store – the brand quality is terrible and you will waste your money.