Strengthen Your Immune System With Herbal Tea

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“Dear Pharmacist,

What can do to protect myself from catching a cold this year? I have a job that requires me to work seven days a week. I can’t miss a day so I don’t want to get sick. Last year, I got the flu shot and will probably do so again, however, is there anything more that I can do right now to protect myself?”

–N.W. Decatur, Illinois

Answer: Job one is to strengthen your immune system which protects you from pathogens which, by the way, are everywhere! There are ‘bugs’ on your skin and all over your body but they don’t infect you unless your immune system runs down. The better you take care of yourself before flu season hits, the less likely you’ll need antibiotics, cold medications or steroid injections. Best of all, the less likely you are to miss work!

Keep a light, healthy diet that is tilted in the direction of healthy foods, and free of refined sugar. Drink herbal tea. Drinking tea is very easy because you can buy commercially prepared teas at any health food store or online. Be careful though, some are just black tea flavored with herbs.  You want the real deal, pure 100 percent herbal tea.

Instead of buying ready made tea, why not make your own? I actually feel like a mad scientist when I create my tea treats! I study the herbs that I like, and then go to the health food store to buy them in bulk. I choose herbs based on symptoms or health benefits. So for example, if you want vitamin C for it’s amazing antioxidant power, buy some rose hips. If you want to strengthen your immune system, get elderberry and astragalus and combine those together.  Just boil some water and steep about 1 or teaspoon each per cup. It’s okay to add a little bit of raw honey, or unrefined agave nectar. If you get a bad cough, why not use marshmallow extract? Marshmallow -as in the herb- not the ooey gooey confection! Marshmallow soothes mucous membranes and can put a stop to a dry, hacking cough. For sore throats, choose slippery elm. You should combine herbs in intelligent ways to customize your tea and relieve the misery quicker. Herbal teas nourish your body and warm your soul.

Now, as much as I believe in your own ability to take care of yourself when you get a cold, I also think there comes a time when you need to see your doctor.  See your doctor if you experience:

-Sharp pains in your chest
-Shortness of breath
-Coughing up blood or yellow/brown mucus
-Persistent chills or night sweats
-Persistent cough along with a fever

Use common sense and see your physician because you may need an antibiotic or a breathing inhaler.  I’m a big advocate for self treatment, but sometimes, enough is enough!

Did You Know?
The FDA just approved Krystexxa, a prescription drug to treat gout. It’s given by injection every two weeks.