Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Winterise your Body – A little herbal health insurance – Echinacea and Australian Flu update

health column final

In the last two posts I have looked at Influenza, how to avoid and how to recover from a viral infection.  This time I would like to look at an alternative way to boost your immune system ready for the winter virus opportunists.

But first an update on the Australian Flu which is causing concern for health services across the world as air travel spreads the virus.

Australia is having a worse flu season than usual this year, with 93,711 laboratory-confirmed cases reported to its National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System as of August 18, government data show.

That’s almost 2½ times more infections than in the same period last year. According to a surveillance system report, adults over the age of 80 and children between 5 and 9 years old have been most affected.

Does Australia’s bad flu season bode ill for Northern Hemisphere nations, including the US, Canada and across Europe?

“In general, we get in our season what the Southern Hemisphere got in the season immediately preceding us,” Fauci said. An “intelligent guess,” therefore, is that the north will probably have a bad flu season.

Read the whole article here:

At this time of year I have a few drops of the good stuff every day.. and no I am not referring to the medicinal brandy in the sideboard in the dining-room. I am talking about Echinacea in the form of a tincture. From October I have 15 drops in a little water daily and touch wood…..I had not had a cold for many years or the flu until this year. I stopped taking taking my Echinacea at the beginning of May and then went over to London for the Blogger’s Bash. I live a fairly isolated existence here on the coast in Wexford and apart from competing in a trolley dash twice a week we rarely have contact with others except close neighbours.

My immune system obviously was not up for two planes full of people coughing and sneezing, or packed London public transport.  Sure enough three days after arriving back I got a stinker…..

Just goes to show, that the care I take the rest of the year, to provide my immune system with a varied and fresh food diet, sunshine and moderate exercise, needs extra help at certain times, especially if I am going to be confined with many others in an enclosed space at 30,000 feet!

Unfortunately, if you have not been following a varied and healthy diet and providing your body with the nutrients it needs to maintain a healthy immune system, taking 15 drops of echinacea is not going to be much help.


Echinacea is an herb that is very widely used to boost the immune system and help to alleviate the symptoms of colds and flu, naturally.

The Latin name for this herb is Echinacea Purpurea (Purple coneflower). It is considered to be the primary herbal remedy for the immune system and was first used in a healing capacity by the Native American Indians. They used it primarily for boils, abscesses and snakebites. They also chewed the roots for toothaches, colds, sore throats and coughs. The herb itself actually has no direct effect on bacteria or viruses but instead it is its effect on our own immune system that aids treatment of an infection.

The herbal tincture that you will see in health food shops and pharmacies is made from the roots, flowers and seeds of the plant. You can now buy capsules but I still prefer to use the tincture as I feel it is easier for the body to absorb and faster acting.

When choosing an herbal tincture it is important to buy a high quality product that is holistically standardised. This means that the chemical constituents of the plant are not tampered with in any way and the end product includes the whole spectrum of healing benefits. It is believed that the active ingredients in a plant work together to provide the overall effect. Some processing practices remove or reduce some of the elements of the plant making them less effective. Do make a point to check your labels, or the details of the product, before you buy.

With all alternative medicines you need to regard them with respect. They do not necessarily mix with your own chemical make-up or the chemical elements in your prescription medication. If you are taking other medications, always ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are any contra-indications relating to taking the two together.

One of the other things that I have to mention is that we are not allowed to claim that any diet, remedy or therapeutic therapy can cure you of anything. Please consider that said.

Echinacea acts as an immune stimulant that mobilises our defence system by activating and stimulating the release of white blood cells (leukocytes) which fight infection. The function of our T-cells is enhanced and there is an increase in the number of macrophages, the cells that consume and destroy foreign bodies such as bacteria.

One of the plant’s components is Echinacin, which promotes the growth of new tissue, activating fibroblasts, which are the cells that are responsible for encouraging wound healing.

Echinacea can be taken when an infection begins and it can reduce the symptoms and speed recovery by enhancing the immune system’s own abilities. It can also be taken over a longer period to increase the body’s resistance to infection and I usually recommend that a person start taking 15 drops once a day in the middle of October through to the middle of March if they are prone to colds. Children can take 7 drops of the herb for the same time span if they are under 12 years old.

If you start a cold or the flu you can take 15 drops, two or three times a day in a little water and children can take 7 drops two or three times a day. It is recommended that you do not stay at this dosage for longer than a couple of months but the usual time is the duration of the infection plus a week, then reduce down to the long term daily dose.

You will find that there are a number of products available that contain Echinacea and two of the most effective, in my book, are the toothpaste which helps prevent bacterial build-up in the form of plaque and skin cream which works well on dry and infected skin.

You can buy Echinacea tea in health food shops and with the addition of a slice of fresh lemon and a teaspoon of honey this can be very soothing in the early stages of a cold and also may help you reduce the symptoms.

Echinacea can also be used for pets but there are specific guidelines that need to be followed.

N.B Herbal remedies do not always work well with prescribed medications as their actions can dilute the effectiveness of treatment such as for cancer, or can intensify which may result in side effects.  Always check with your doctor or a qualified herbalist before taking any herbal medicine with prescribed drugs or over the counter pain-killers or medication.

The previous posts on this subject.

Look forward to your feedback thanks for dropping by.  Sally


The Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest – Chamomile – Herbal remedy and lotion

medicine womanThe botanical name for Chamomile (Camomile) is Anthemis Nobilis and we are more familiar with it in tea form which is usually available on our supermarket shelves.

Chamomile has been used for centuries as a herbal remedy for a number of common ailments including fevers and joint pain and is also very calming for rashes and other skin inflammations.


The use of the herb goes back to ancient Egypt and its use filtered across the world over the next thousand years or so and by the time of the middle ages it was being used by herbalists in Europe. The flowers of the plant were soaked in white wine as a cure for water retention, then knows as dropsy and also for liver conditions such as jaundice. It was also found to have a calming effect on patients, relieved inflammation and could also relieve chest infections and asthma.

And if you were looking to avoid bleach in your hair dye… the women of the past would make a dye from the flowers to lighten their hair naturally.

Research is extensive into this herb and there are a number of varieties that have both a different physical appearance and growth pattern as well as varying health benefits.

Here is just a brief list of the health issues that the oil, tea and lotion can be applied to.

  • If you drink chamomile tea (infusions) regularly then you may find that it ease muscle and rheumatic conditions, skin rashes and help you sleep better at night. It has ananti-spasmodic action that helps digestion and is great to drink after a meal. It may also help alleviate morning sickness when drunk first thing.
  • For anyone who suffers gastrointestinal problems such as diverticulitis, IBS or ulcerative colitis drinking the tea daily may help relieve the symptoms and heal the gut to prevent leaky gut syndrome. There is some research that indicates that it may relieve the inflammation associated with Crohn’s Disease but I do advise that you talk to a herbalist before using.
  • It certainly appears to have a relaxing effect on both adults and young children and is one herb that can be used for babies. But, do always ask the advice of a qualified herbalists before you do so to make sure you are using correct dosages of infusions before using to help with teething problems and stomach upsets in babies. Essential oil should not be used on children under the age of five years.
  • As an anti-spasmodic you can use to ease cramping during a period and to help relieve the symptoms of the menupause.
  • It may relieve hayfever and other allergies particularly when used as a lotion on skin rashes or inflammation. It can also stimulate healing of wounds or burns but again follow directions when used for this purpose. If you use some drops in your bath water it is soothing for a number of skin conditions such as eczema and also act as an anti-bacterial agent to prevent the spread of any infections.
  • Use a drop of oil in some warm water for an effective mouthwash and to help heal soft tissue in the mouth including gum disease.

I tend to use A. Vogel for my herbal remedies and they do a very good lotion.

I use Celestial Seasonings or Numi herbal teas but check out your local health food shop as they usually carry good quality tea and lotions.

Do remember not to discontinue any prescribed medication without first discussing with your doctor.

Contraindications for the use of Chamomile oils and infusions.

  • Because of the anti-spasmodic effect of chamomile and because it could cause contractions, pregnant women should not use the essential oil.
  • Essential oils should not be used on children under the age of five.
  • Both the tea and essential oil can increase the effect of certain prescribed sedatives or anti-depressants.
  • Both the tea and essential oil must not be taken with anti-coagulants such as Warfarin.

I hope you have found this useful. I drink chamomile on a regular basis and find it particularly beneficial last thing at night to help me sleep through.

Thanks for dropping in and you will find a selection of herbal posts in this directory or search Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest.






The Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest – Herbal Remedies – Thyme


This versatile herb can be used to flavour many wonderful dishes . As with most of our herbs, thyme has a long and revered history medicinally and if you had been a prominent Egyptian the herb would have been used to embalm you. Since the herb has antibacterial and antifungal properties it would have helped preserve the bodies beautifully.

The Greeks and Romans used thyme as a purifier ,burning it as incense in rooms and in their baths. It was also added to food such as cheese and alcohol – again probably because of its antibacterial properties and it may well be one of the first natural preservatives used in food manufacture.

It became better known in Britain in the 17th century and healers used the herb to relieve the symptoms of whooping cough, breathing difficulties, gout and mild stomach complaints. The oils has been used externally to help heal abscesses and during the First World War it was used to treat infections and relieve pain, as there were no antibiotics at that time.

Today the herb is cultivated all around the world and apart from cooking and medicine it is used in the manufacture of cosmetics and perfume.

How does thyme help the lungs?

As humans we have a sophisticated defence system to try and get rid of harmful substances before they can damage us. The cough reflex is an automatic response to mucus and infection in the lungs. Thyme helps the body with that job and acts as an expectorant loosening the congestion and generally supporting the respiratory system. It also helps soothe coughs allowing a more effective use of the response, allowing the airways to get rid of more mucous. It is particularly beneficial for emphysema and chronic bronchitis sufferers. It can also be use in conjunction with other herbs such as cowslip to aid the absorption of thyme but also as an expectorant.

The list of thyme’s medicinal properties is quite lengthy but apart from its antibacterial uses it also is anti-fungal, antiseptic, antiparasitic, antispasmodic, astringent, diuretic, expectorant, immune boosting, sedating or stimulating according to dosage and is a tonic.

As well as upper respiratory infections and lung conditions it has also been used medicinally to treat colic, depression, arthritis, eating disorders, ear infections, gastritis, hay-fever, headaches, heartburn, parasites, shingles , tooth decay and tetanus. There is traditional use for bed-wetting in children but as it is also a mild diuretic I would want to see evidence of that. It does however, disinfect the urine which can be helpful for those who suffer frequent bouts of cystitis.

Taken an hour before meals, it may stimulate the appetite, useful for someone who is elderly or recovering from illness.

An oddball treatment is one for alopecia – so if you are going a little thin on top you might want to try a little of the oil in your shampoo and conditioner.

It certainly is very versatile but you do need to take care when using medicinally and consult a herbalist for the correct dosage.

The plant contains some helpful nutrients, the primary being Vitamin K which is why this herb does need to be used with caution. Because it is so important to be aware of the ingredients of any herb that you take, here is a brief description of Vitamin K and its actions on the body.


There are two forms of the vitamin that the body can utilise. One is K1 (phylloquinone), which is from plant sources and the other is K2 (menaquinone) which is produced by bacteria in our own intestines. This is where many of us get into trouble because we are not eating sufficient raw and unprocessed foods for health and additionally many of us suffer from bacterial imbalances in the gut so do not produce sufficient from that source either.

The vitamin is fat-soluble and is stored in the liver. Studies indicate that approximately 50% of the stores come from our diet and the balance from bacteria in the intestines. We need healthy bile production for efficient absorption of Vitamin K and our lymphatic system circulates it throughout the body.

Apart from helping reduce excessive bleeding during menstruation it is also used therapeutically for the prevention of internal bleeding and haemorrhages including emergency treatment for overdoses of blood thinners such as Warfarin.

Blood clotting is a critical function in the body that solidifies blood to prevent us from bleeding to death from external or internal injuries. Vitamin K is essential for the production of a protein called prothrombin and other factors involved in the blood-clotting function and is therefore necessary to prevent haemorrhages. Also interestingly Vitamin K also activates other enzymes that decrease the clotting ability so it assumes the role of regulator within the blood stream. An example of this might be if a clot forms within a blood vessel that could block the flow and needs to be dispersed.

The vitamin has also been the subject of a great deal of research in recent years as scientists discovered that it played a significant role in liver function, energy production in the nervous system and in preventing bone loss as we age by assisting the absorption of calcium.

Vitamin K is needed to activate osteocalcin, the protein that anchors calcium into the bone, building and repairing the structure. A deficiency in the vitamin can therefore lead to brittle bones and osteoporosis.

As the vitamin works within the body it changes from function to function according to the various interactions with enzymes and at one stage it acts as an antioxidant preventing oxidative damage to cells. There may also be a role for the vitamin in cancer prevention as it is believed it may stimulate rogue cells to self destruct.

WARNING – When you should not take Thyme.

Because of the high Vitamin K content that slows blood clotting you need to stop taking at least three weeks before having surgery. If you are also on medication that has this effect then you should not take the herb. For example, many people from middle age onwards are now being prescribed low dose aspirin to thin the blood so you should not take Thyme in a herbal form. Warfarin is a high dose anticoagulant and it would be dangerous to combine the two.

If in any doubt consult your doctor and always before taking any herbal remedy or check with a qualified advisor. If you feel that the person you have asked, in a health food shop for example does not appear to be informed, then there should be a herbal reference guide in all dispensaries that gives the action and precautions of every remedy they sell. If they do not have a guide for you to read then buy somewhere else.

I have worked with A. Vogel herbal remedies for over 20 years. is one you might try.

You can buy thyme in capsule form and it often comes with another herb called fenugreek which is another expectorant and herb used in the treatment of lung disorders. The oil is used externally and is very warming when rubbed on the chest during bronchitis or pneumonia.

Read the instructions for dosage on the bottle which is dependent on age and health.

Thyme as part of your diet.

The nutrients in Thyme that make it a useful component in your diet are; iron, manganese, calcium, and tryptophan.

Adding Thyme to your food in cooking is not dangerous unless you put tablespoons into the recipe.Thyme is a versatile herb and it is wonderful with meat dishes. It is quite pungent so take care when using fresh thyme and only use a little at time.

You can added to your baking and here is a great site with some recipes including one for cornbread.


If you have a cold I suggest making a tea with a small amount of leaves, seep for five minutes and then add fresh lemon juice and a teaspoon of honey. You will find it not only refreshing but it may also help prevent your infection reaching the next level.

You will find the posts on Dandelion and Peppermint here.

Thanks for stopping by and hope you have found interesting.   Sally