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erbal Medicine
 
Colds and Flu

© Daniel Gagnon
 (Excerpted from Herbs for Health Magazine)

The Chinese name for schisandra means ``five-flavor berry'': because it possesses the five basic flavors--salty, sweet, sour, pungent, and bitter, it is considered in traditional Chinese medicine to be balancing, strengthening, and nourishing; it is used to correct mild digestive disorders and stop diarrhea. Laboratory experiments have confirmed these traditional uses. Dosage:Take 6 to 9 g of the dried fruit in decoction form once a day, or 15 to 30 drops of the tincture two times a day for up to one month. Schisandra also is available in other product forms in health-food stores. No side effects or contraindications have been reported.

Early stages
If you wake up with a scratchy throat and a stuffy nose, you know you've missed the opportunity to stop a cold before it starts, but take heart: you still have time to shake it with a regimen that includes echinacea and garlic. In addition, recent research on elderberry shows that it, too, may help the body fight off the flu.

Echinacea Echinacea angustifolia, E. purpurea, or E. pallida
Taken frequently and in sufficient quantities, echinacea (purple coneflower) is the best herb to take during this early stage of a cold or the flu. Echinacea is not an antibiotic--it does not kill germs. Instead, it works by stimulating the production of white blood cells, accelerating their maturation within the lymphatic tissue, and speeding their travel to the area of infection, where they help fight the invaders.

Dosage: Begin taking echinacea at the first sign of a cold or flu but take it no longer than two weeks, or it could lose its effectiveness. Take 900 mg of the dried, powdered root per day, 6 to 9 ml of the pressed juice of fresh flowering plants a day, or 30 to 50 drops of the liquid extract every two hours. People who are allergic to flowers in the daisy family may have a reaction to echinacea.

Garlic
Allium sativum
Drawing upon hundreds of years of using garlic to treat illnesses, many contemporary herbalists prescribe it to help prevent colds and flu, stimulate circulation, lower high blood pressure, aid digestion, and heal superficial wounds. Modern research has substantiated many of these therapeutic uses.

Garlic is sometimes referred to as a truly natural antibiotic because it can destroy foreign bacteria and viruses while being one of the few herbs that can be taken in large quantities, usually without dangerous side effects. However, eating more than five cloves a day risks heartburn and flatulence and may also slow blood clotting, so people taking anticoagulants should consult with their health-care provider before consuming large quantities of garlic. In addition, there have been rare reports of allergic reactions to this popular herb.

Garlic's antibiotic properties stem from the substance allicin, a potent antibacterial agent, that is released when garlic cloves are cut or bruised. Because garlic's therapeutic effectiveness depends on the presence of allicin, dried garlic preparations, such as capsules or tablets, should have an enteric coating to protect the garlic from stomach acids, which can inactivate allicin. Scientific reports confirm the antibiotic effects of freshly pressed garlic juice, and steam-distilled garlic oil has been shown to be an effective fighter of mucous membrane infections. The effectiveness of other types of garlic extracts depends upon preparation methods, details of which often are unavailable to consumers.

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