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It's no fun having sick kids or a sick spouse. As a mother, my hardest days have been spent caring for a sick child while trying to juggle career responsibilities. Fortunately, there are many steps we can take to prevent winter viruses.
Because we are human, though, our families will get sick in spite of our best efforts. So it's wise to stock up on some handy natural remedies for mending winter viruses. Here is a roundup of time-tested remedies to help keep your family well.
1. My favorite preventive measure is vitamin C. Many years ago, scientist and author Linus Pauling, Ph.D., documented that the human body could use up to 3,000 milligrams per day of Vitamin C simply to maintain good health and prevent illness. I have found the powdered Calcium Ascorbate to be the most easily tolerated in children. I give my daughter 2 grams per day of this powdered Vitamin C mixed in water.
2. By now, most of us have heard of the health-enhancing effects of the herb Echinacea, which was widely used by the Native Americans to stay well in winter. New scientific studies continue to debate its effectiveness. However, this number one cold-fighting herb has proved its worth many times over in my household. I give it at the first sign of sniffles. My daughter prefers it in the chewable tablet form, however many tasty echinacea tinctures are made just for kids. Remember that echinacea should only be taken for 5 consecutive days when a cold is coming on. Then your body needs a break from this powerful herb for several days or it will begin to deplete your energy.
3. According to herbalist and author Daniel Gagnon, astragalus is one of the best immune strengthening herbs available. It's believed to tonify the Qi ("chee"), which means essential energy. This makes astragalus useful for frequent colds and appropriate to take when you're feeling "run-down." This herb also comes in many tasty liquid tinctures for children.
4. Schizandra is a Chinese herb that is widely recognized for increasing the body's resistance to a broad spectrum of adverse biological, chemical or physical effects. It also is believed to help the body handle stress. This herb is often combined with astragalus in liquid tinctures.
5. Garlic contains several natural compounds that are both anti-viral and anti-bacterial. These include allicin, which is one of the plant kingdom's most potent, broad-spectrum antibiotics. Garlic comes in small odor-free tablets that are small enough for children to swallow.
6. Elderberry has received a lot of scientific attention in recent years for its ability to reduce flu symptoms and duration. This herb comes in a very tasty liquid form that I keep by my bedside in winter. Whenever I feel that achy flu-like feeling coming over me, I dose up on this elderberry syrup. It has helped me and my daughter sail quickly through several bouts of flu that left our friends bed-ridden for weeks.
7. Homeopathy shouldn't be overlooked for helping you stay well. The scientifically proven homeopathic remedy, Oscillococcinum (also known as Anas Barbariae or heart and liver of a duck) is the most popular flu remedy in France. This remedy works best during the first 48 hours of the flu. I've had good success with it many times.
8. Ginger is my all around favorite herb. This spicy root contains nearly a dozen antiviral compounds that have specific effects against the most common family of cold viruses, the rhinoviruses. Ginger can also help reduce pain and fever. My favorite use of it, however, is for settling an upset stomach. A few drops of the tincture over ice, or taken directly, will bring instant results. You should always have ginger tincture and capsules in your medicine cabinet.
9. Peppermint is another all-around winter wellness champion. Not only can peppermint ease indigestion, calm an upset stomach, and soothe headaches; it is also used to reduce fever. I give it to my daughter as a cool tea when she has fever, and I drop a few drops of the essential oil onto a wet washrag to cool her burning head. It can also be diluted and rubbed into the soles of the feet for fever reducing and stomach calming. There is also a wonderful tasting tincture that combines peppermint and ginger for an upset stomach.
10. Zinc is another necessary nutrient for staying well in the winter. A recent study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that zinc lozenges substantially reduced cold length and symptoms, including cough, headache and nasal congestion. Fortunately, zinc comes in tasty lozenges that children enjoy sucking on. Give it at the first sign of sore throat or sniffles.
Most importantly, teach your family to wash their hands frequently - especially before meals. Viruses are spread directly from person to person by hand-to-hand contact. Hand washing may be the easiest and most often neglected step we can take to keep our families well.
And, by the way, your mother was right. Hot chicken soup can help you recover from a cold or flu - especially if is has lots of fresh garlic, onions and ginger in it. A steaming cup of herbal tea can also help relieve congestion and open clogged sinuses. So don't despair when a family member gets sick, just bring out your arsenal of natural remedies, and they'll soon be on the road to recovery.