Friday, 1 May 2009

Joy and fear in large doses

On April 18th, at Armathwaite Hall in the Lake District, my eldest son, Richard, married his longterm sweetheart, Laura. His sister, Kathryn, played the piano for the ceremony and brother, Stephen, was an enthusiastic usher.

It was a wonderful day for everyone involved, full of joy and laughter from the fabulous wedding breakfast, through croquet on the lawns overlooking Bassenthwaite Lake to the wonderful ceiledh hosted by Kerfuffle in the evening. As the first wedding of this generation, it could not have been better and we wish them every happiness together in their married life.

The joy of the occasion has stayed with us, despite the media's attempt to cause panic and dispair with the projected arrival of swine flu. My sister in law kindly gave me my last dose of flu over Christmas 1999. After hosting the whole extended family for several days, I took to my bed as they went out of the front door. As a result I missed all the millennium celebrations including the firework display Chris put on for one of the Tablers' parties. Too weak to join anyone, I saw the new century in on my own accompanied by friends online and a cup of tea!

Don't think I don't acknowledge how severe a flu pandemic can be. Chris' grandmother told me how she lost a sister in the post-First World War epidemic. The teenager showed no symptoms until the day of her death. She asked her sisters if one of them would do her household duties for her that morning and by the afternoon she was dead. I hope no-one has to go through such trauma during the swine flu outbreak.

It struck me that writing a herbal nursing protocol for influenza was a practical way of challenging the media panic and doing something helpful, so I am posting it below. By the side, you'll see photos of the wedding and the beautiful spring blooms in my garden. There is nothing like noticing blossom for making you feel better!

What to do with flu

Everyone hopes they won’t catch flu. Hope is a good thing but prevention can help support your immune system and lessen the effects should you come into contact with the virus.

There are three main strands to optimising your health
• Plenty of sleep
• Regular nourishing meals
• Fresh air during the daytime to optimise production of vitamin D from sunlight and regular exercise to keep your body as fit as it can be

There are herbs you can take to improve your immune system. These should not be taken if you have an auto-immune condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus etc. as the herbs might precipitate a flare-up in the condition.

The common immune stimulating herbs are Echinacea, reishi or shitake mushrooms and astralagus. Echinacea can be taken as a tea, tincture or tablets. Both the mushrooms and astralagus root can be used in stews or soups. (Remove the sliced astralagus root before serving.)

If you, or any member of your family, feel anxious about getting flu, make some soothing cups of lemon balm tea. Lemon balm is both anti-viral and very good at keeping people calm.

At the first sign of the virus, you should begin taking elderberry. The syrup can be taken as a cordial in hot water (about 1tblsp in a mug full of hot water) several times a day. The elixir and tincture should be taken every half hour in doses of one dropperful (1/2 a teaspoon = 30 drops) for the first day and 5-6 doses during subsequent day. Elderberry cordial and syrup can be given to small children, but the doses of elixir and tincture should be reduced to 3-5 drops in warm water or fruit juice because of the alcohol involved. Glycerite extractions may be more useful for children because there is no alcohol if a cordial is not available.

For high fevers, give hot elderflower tea to encourage the patient to sweat and the fever to break. The tea is made by steeping 2 tsp of dried elderflower or 2 tablespoons of fresh elderflowers in a pint of boiling water for ten minutes, strain and drink as often as wished. The tea should be drunk as hot as possible. Elderflower is suitable for small children.

If the patient has aching bones from the fever, give boneset tincture or tea. (Boneset is very bitter, so a tincture may be more palatable.)

If the fever is very stubborn and won’t break, try vervain.

For coughs, give teas of thyme, sage and plantain. These are anti-viral and the plantain with sooth the mucous membranes in the bronchioles. A pleasant tea can be made from 1 tsp of dried sage, 1tsp dried thyme steeped in boiling water for 5-10 minutes then poured over the juice of half a lemon with honey to taste. Plantain can be added to the tea mix or as a tincture.(1/2-1tsp)

A cough syrup can be made from sage, thyme, white horehound, ginger root and angelica leaves. This can be given as a spoonful or as a hot drink.

While the patient has a high temperature, only drinks should be offered, no food. It may be helpful to have a supply of straws available if the patient feels too weak to lift their head from the pillow. The body should be left to concentrate on fighting the infection rather than by being distracted by food. Lots of sleep should be encouraged in a quiet and comfortable bedroom in shaded light.

Children’s temperatures can spike very quickly and medical advice should be sought if their temperate rises and they do not respond to simple nursing care.

If the patient suffers with sickness and/or diarrhoea, starve for 24 hours to let the digestive system completely rest and treat with digestive teas such as peppermint or chamomile. Diarrhoea can be treated with bramble leaf tea or two tsp of bramble root vinegar in water. Raspberry leaf and chamomile tea is another astringent remedy.

Remember that both young children and older adults can become severely dehydrated very quickly if large amounts of fluid are lost. Offer regular small amounts of fluid (sips, not gulps) following an attack of vomiting or diarrhoea. Seek medical advice if you are concerned.

Once the temperature has dropped, nourishing soups can be offered. These can be prepared beforehand and frozen.

Normal flu lasts one week in the acute phase but expect to be off work for at least two weeks. If you try to go back to work early, you may well put back your recovery and put yourself at risk of secondary infections, particularly chest infections. If this happens seek professional advice.


To make a Herb Tea
Place 2 tsb dried herb or 2 tblsp of fresh herb into a china or glass teapot or a glass cafatiere (French coffee press). Pour over just boiled water and leave to steep with the lid firmly on for ten minutes. Strain and drink. Sweeten with honey if necessary.

Elderberry Rob 1
This recipe for elderberry rob is from ‘The Countryside Cook Book’ by Gail Duff.

“Elderberry Rob should really only be kept for medicinal purposes, but it makes a delicious warm drink on a cold night. Dilute it with three parts of hot water.

1.8kg (4lbs) elderberries, weighed on stem
two 5cm (2inch) pieces cinnamon stick
1 piece ginger root bruised
2 chips nutmeg
5ml (1 teaspoon) allspice berries
5ml (1teaspoon) cloves
275ml (1 ½ pint water)
350g (12 oz) honey to each 375-ml (1 pint) liquid
150ml (1/4 pint) brandy

Take the elderberries from the stalks. Put them into a saucepan with the spices and water. Bring them gently to the boil and simmer them until the pan is full of juice, about 20 minutes.
Put a piece of muslin or an old linen tea towel over a large bowl. Pour the elderberries through it. Gather the sides together and squeeze out as much juice as you can. Measure it and return to the cleaned saucepan.
Bring the juice to the boil and add the honey. Stir for it to dissolve and then boil the syrup for 10 minutes. Take the pan from the heat and wait until the syrup stops bubbling. Pour in the brandy.
Pour the hot cordial into hot sterilised bottles and cork it tightly. Fills about 1 ½ wine bottles.

Elderberry Rob 2
This elderberry rob recipe is from Non Shaw's book, "Herbalism: An Illustrated Guide". Her method is "Take a quantity of elderberries and strip them off their stalks with a fork. Press out the juice using a wine press or jelly bag" I usually put them into a large piece of clean used cotton sheet and twist one end around until you can't squeeze out any more. This is a very tactile experience and you shouldn't use or wear anything you don't mind getting stained purple from the juice! "Add 1tsp allspice and 1/2 tsp ginger (optional) per 2 pints of liquid in a heavy bottomed pan" (preferably stainless steel or glass)"Reduce over a low heat until the juice is the consistency of molasses. Bottle and store in a cool place. Dose: Take 1tsp in a cup of hot water daily." I like this recipe because it doesn't use any sugar or honey and therefore is suitable for people with diabetes either type 1 or 2.

Elderberry Cordial
Barbara Grigson, in her book "The Greenwitch: A Modern Woman's Herbal" gives a very simple recipe for spiced elderberry cordial.

"Wash and destalk the berries. Put 2lbs of them in a pan with a cupful of water and simmer until they have given up most of their juice. Crush and strain the berries through a sieve. Put the juice back in a saucepan with five cloves, an inch or so of fresh root ginger, grated and 1/2 lb of sugar. Simmer for another hour and then store in tightly sealed jars."

Elderberry Tincture
Elderberry tincture is easy. Fill a large glass jar with elderberries stripped from their stalks, then top the whole thing up with vodka. Leave for three weeks or more in a cold, dark place then strain it, bottle the liquid. At the first sign of a cough, cold or 'flu' take a teaspoonful diluted in water (or orange juice) and do so four or five times a day over the next three days or so. Tincture can also be made with dried or frozen elderberries.

Elderberry Elixir (based on Kiva Rose’s recipe)
2 Pint Jar
1/2 ounce of dried Elderberries (2oz fresh approx to fill half the jar)
1 cinnamon stick,
1oz root ginger peeled, sliced and chopped
Large handful or fresh or dried rosehips
Chopped peel of half a large orange
appr. 1 pint Brandy
½-1lb Honey
Place the herbs in the jar, cover with honey and mix well. Add brandy until the jar is full and mix well again. Leave to macerate for 4-6 weeks. Take 1/4 - 1/2 dropperfull of Elixir every two to three hours at the first sign of illness. You MUST take the Elixir frequently rather than having a bigger dose further apart, it just won't work that way. Use the same dosage if you are actively ill. For a general preventative dose, I suggest 1/3 dropperful every four hours or so.

Cough Syrup
Use general syrup recipe from Non Shaw and Christopher Hedley's Herbal Remedies
1 l (2 pints) water
40 g (1 1/2 oz) dried herb or 100 g (4oz) fresh chopped herb
450 g (1 lb) sugar or honey
Put herb in water, bring to a boil, let simmer 20-30 minutes, strain.
Clean out pan, pour liquid back into it, let sit on minimum heat until
you only have 2 dl (7 fl.oz) left Add sugar or honey, simmer until sugar has dissolved, pour into jars, label. (This takes time. 1 fluid ounce evaporates about every hour.)

A children’s cough syrup can be made from onions or elderberry and Echinacea in equal parts. For straightforward syrup use 2 parts peppermint, 1 part hyssop, 1/2 part thyme, 1/2 part horehound. For cough syrup which can also be used as a drink, use hyssop, thyme, elecampagne, white horehound, angelica and root ginger. You can use lemon balm to flavour, instead of peppermint.

Chicken Soup
Simmer a whole, organic chicken for 5 hours with an onion, half a head of garlic, celery, thyme, sage, a bay leaf, 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar (preferably infused with a mineral rich herb such as nettle, motherwort or mugwort) and black pepper all covered with cold water. Then take all the chicken flesh off the bones, remove the herb stalks and bay leaf and add 3 carrots and potatoes to the soup (or any vegetables of your choice). Simmer for a further 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Liquidise and serve with chunks of bread or freeze in suitable portion sizes until needed.

Bone broth
Several large bones (Lamb, beef, goat, chicken carcass)
4 stalks of celery
1 large onion
1-2 leeks
1 handful thyme
1 sprig sage
6 stalks from fresh burdock leaves
1-2 dried bay leaves
½ a head of garlic, peeled and chopped or crushed and left for ½ hour before cooking
6 peppercorns
2 tblsps cider vinegar (preferably infused with mineral rich herbs)
Wash and chop vegetables. Place everything in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Cover with water and simmer for five - seven hours. Remove bones, herbs and spices. Liquidise broth with onions, celery, burdock and leeks. Strain through a fine sieve to remove any bits. Serve in a mug or freeze in suitable portion sizes or use as the basis of a nourishing soup by adding fresh or dried nettles and vegetables and/or mushrooms of choice.

Herbal suppliers
Baldwins of London
Phyto Products Tel 01623 644334
ProLine Tel 01780 753366
Artemis Herbs
Natures Laboratory/ Herbal Apothecary. Tel 01947 602346


Rowan said...

Timely advice and information but hopefully I shan't need to make use of it. Congratulations to your son and his new wife, I hope they will have a long and happy marriage.

Sarah Head said...

Thanks Rowan! They're busy practising for the Sky Diving World Cup in September when they represent Great Britain.

ICQB said...

Congratulations on the marriage! And thank you for the picture of the garlic mustard in your sidebar. It's growing in my yard and now I finally know what it is.

Anonymous said...

Another way to cure a cough is with a black radish and honey. The black radish may be hard to find but they are out there! What you do is peel the radish, scrape a somewhat deep hole in it and pour honey into the hole, and cover it for a few hours or over night in the refrigerator. What will happen is the radish will extract its juices mixed with the honey and that is the cough syrup. I usually take it about 3 times a day.