Swollen lymph nodes, stuffy nose, sore throat and constant sinus pain. It’s that time of year.

Just when you conquer one cold and a bout of flu another one is lurking around the corner. Decongestants work temporarily but seem to increase the symptoms once they wear off. And, we’ve built up such a resistance to antibiotics that even the strongest do little for your perpetual sinus infection.

Our immune systems are designed to repair and heal. But instead of supporting this system and giving it the fighting edge we need, we often suppress it with our symptom-relief drugs. This can be compared to playing tennis with yourself and jumping the net to return your own serve. By exhausting our reserves we become vulnerable to every sneeze that comes our way.There is a different way to get through the winter blues. Charoula Dontopoulos, our certified herbalist and polarity practitioner, explains the herbal approaches to winter health care. Grab a cup of hot echinacea tea and read on:

The best way to prevent colds, flu, sinus and bronchial infections throughout the winter is to enhance your immune system. Late fall is the best time to do this.

There are specific herbs whose function is prevention. They effectively build immunity and help us fight viruses and infections. Some are known as “adaptogens” because they favorably alter the blood over a long period of time, helping adapt to stress which suppresses our immune function.

The best known of these herbs is astragalus. In traditional Chinese medicine, astragalus invigorates vital energy (qi) and strengthens resistance. Western studies have confirmed that the herb stimulates the immune system, producing interferon, a substance which helps fight bacteria, viruses, and inflammation.

Other useful herbs are:

  • Pau d’Arco, another immunopotentiating herb, contains lymphocytes which engulf and kill harmful intruders.
  • Licorice clears bronchial infections, expels mucus from the lungs, has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties.
  • Ginseng and Siberian ginseng help us adapt to stress by feeding our adrenal glands which directly relate to our ability to handle stress.
  • Shiitake and reishi mushrooms contain important substances which help nourish and build the immune system. Shiitakes are excellent in a stir-fry, or steamed with other vegetables.

Remember, vegetables are plants too! Fresh or lightly steamed vegetables, broccoli, carrots, beets, cabbage, tomatoes–all green and brightly colored vegetables–build immunity by nourishing the immune system with chemicals known as anti-oxidants.

The best way to use the immune building herbs is as a tonic. Tinctures which contain two or more of these herbs can be taken safely over a prolonged period of time–30 drops, two or three times a day.

After prevention, what can we do about the onset of a cold or infection? Colds and respiratory infections directly affect the lymphatic system which is our bodies first line of defense.

The most famous herb for the lymphatic system is echinacea, known to enhance general immunity by stimulating white blood cells and increasing production of virus-fighting substances. Echinacea works best in acute conditions. According to Varro Tyler, professor emeritus of pharmacognosy at Purdue University, taking echinacea when symptoms first appear can shorten the length of colds and flu. Tyler advises to start taking echinacea anytime between exposure to someone with a cold or the flu, or at the onset of symptoms. Using 50 to 60 drops two times per day could stop the cold. If one is very sick, take an initial saturation dose of 150 drops, then 50 to 60 drops every half hour, decreasing to every two hours.

It is best to combine echinacea with other cold-fighting herbs. One of these is goldenseal, which has astringent, or drying properties. Goldenseal acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, a mucous membrane tonic and inhibits growth of bacterial parasites.

How about the flu? Elderberry is the subject of many studies showing it inhibits both

type A and B influenza viruses. Boneset, a Native American herb, has been traditionally used to reduce high fevers. Garlic has great antibiotic properties: six to 10 cloves equals a dose of penicillin. Eating raw garlic both fights and prevents colds. Ephedra, the whole herb, contains ephedrine which clears up respiratory congestion and relaxes the airways.

Charoula’s herbal method is cost effective, preventive and a simple approach to drying up the winter colds.

Energy-based bodywork, such as polarity, reduces stress and also improves immunity. Polarity lymphatic bodywork assists the lymphs in removing unwanted toxins. It is effective to get bodywork that is focused on supporting and draining the lymphatic system. What a pleasure it would be to get a bodywork session then journey to the sauna with a cup of Charoula’s brewed herbal cold tonic.

Your health and healing depends on many things, but mostly on you!