Herbal remedies good for fall allergies and sickness

Bridgette Perrott

Opinion Staff Writer

bperrott@unca.edu

 

As the leaves start to change and the air starts to cool, the rain begins to drop, leading us into fall and flu season.

According to studies conducted by students at Arizona State University, cold viruses replicate at a faster rate in a cooler, drier environment, making it easier to spread and catch illnesses in the fall and winter months. With colds being more likely on top of seasonal allergies like ragweed, this time of year can bring a sense of dread to some along with heaps of expensive prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines.

Mary Hatley, a traditional herbalist from Charlotte, said she has been researching and experimenting with herbalism since she was 14. She said she does not like when pharmaceutical companies see themselves as the only option, as they denote herbal medicine.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, there has not been enough clinical research done on herbal medicine to determine the acute effectiveness of it. For centuries, humans have used herbal medicine to treat illnesses which is why I think it is weird there has been no modern research done on what has kept our ancestors alive for thousands of years. To me, it seems herbal medicine has been completely overlooked and underappreciated by physicians.

Some see this as an outrage. Herbs and herbal medicine cost less than most medicines and do not require health insurance to obtain. On top of that, it is frowned upon as a medicinal practice when there have not been enough research efforts to determine its effectiveness as a method of treatment done.

In current medicinal practices, antibiotics remain the blanket cure for common colds, the flu, sore throats, coughs and sinus infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports antibiotics often end up overprescribed, thus creating antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria has mutated to resist the effects of antibiotics. The bacteria survives the treatment and multiplies, prolonging the infection or illness.

We should not be using these harsh chemicals on our bodies unless it is absolutely necessary for our survival. Illnesses like the common cold, flu and sore throat should be firstly prevented by taking care of yourself, and treated with sleep, soup, cough drops, tea and Netflix binges.

“Your body uses herbs more like food whereas pharmaceuticals are read by the body as poison or an invader,” said Kathy Early,  certified traditional herbalist at the Herbiary in downtown Asheville.

I avoid taking any type of medicine until I get really sick. I try to keep up with my health as best I can to prevent sickness by eating healthily and using herbal supplements.

Early said herbalism is a preventative practice in which you can catch an illness before it gets to a point where you have to go to a doctor.

“It empowers you to take care of your own health,” Early said. “The way our model is set up, we go to someone and we want them to fix us, but herbal medicine — nutritionally speaking empowers you and gives you the tools you need to be strong and healthy.”

Elderberry is thought to improve cold and flu symptoms. Photo by Nick Haseloff

As preventative measures go, Hatley recommends adding several spices to food such as turmeric, cinnamon and ginger and eating nourishing foods; such as, broths and vegetables.

According to Harvard Health, spices contain anti-inflammatory properties and act as an antibacterial which is crucial in preventing illnesses. Vegetables contain vitamins, such as vitamins A and C,and nutrients that are instrumental in keeping you healthy.

For treatment, Hatley recommends elderberry, echinacea and fire cider.

Research done by the University of Maryland Medical Center reported elderberry may contain anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-influenza and anti-cancer properties.

Echinacea is a more well-known herb and one of my personal favorites for its flowery taste and immune system boosting properties. While some studies show that it helps with recovering from the flu, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health said not enough research has been done on echinacea to admit it works.

Jodi Massie, a certified traditional herbalist, believes herbs were put on our planet for a reason.

“Herbs strengthen our own body to heal itself,” Massie said. “Herbs were put on our planet to bring healing to ourselves. Folk medicine! For the People!”

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