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Stay Healthy with 5 Essential Herbs
October 30, 2015
J.R. and I hope you're well and adding natures super foods to your family's diet!


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Stay Healthy with 5 Essential Herbs

These botanical remedies can fortify your immune system to help you fend off illness when winter hits.

Ready for cold and flu season?

Wherever you live, however warm or cold, protect yourself against winter ailments by stocking up on herbal cold and flu remedies.

Scientific studies have found the following five to be particularly effective at fighting winter ailments.

They can be brewed as herbal teas or taken in supplement form.

Thyme

Thyme is used as an expectorant for coughs

Keep a supply of thyme essential oil or dried thyme on hand in the event that you fall ill with either the flu or with a common cold.

Thyme has long been known as an expectorant, which makes coughs more productive (that is, it helps clear out your lungs faster so you feel better sooner).

You can brew a thyme herbal tea by steeping 2 teaspoons fresh thyme in a cup of boiling-hot water for 10 minutes.

Or make a thyme steam bath: Toss either a handful of dried thyme or a few drops of thyme essential oil into a bowl of hot water and lean over the bowl, covering both your head and the bowl with a towel.

Inhaling the steam will help loosen mucus in your chest.

Licorice Root

Licorice root contains a compound called glycyrrhizin that has been found to have potent antiviral effects against serious diseases, such as HIV and SARS, and a number of studies have found that licorice-root extracts can fight off the flu, including strains of the avian flu virus.

In Ayurvedic medicine, licorice root is also used as an expectorant.

A number of companies make licorice-root supplements and teas, but if using those, be sure they contain actual licorice, many products (licorice candy, for instance) don't contain any of the herb but instead contain anise seed, which tastes like licorice.

Also talk to a doctor or pharmacist if you’re taking any prescriptions, as licorice has been found to interfere with some medications.

Garlic

Garlic boosts the health of your immune system, and a number of studies have found that animals given regular doses of garlic supplements are better able to ward off viruses like the flu and various strains of rhinovirus, the kind responsible for the common cold.

In one study from 2001, volunteers who took a daily garlic supplement were less likely to get colds than volunteers taking a placebo, and even when the garlic takers did get sick, they recovered more quickly.

For the sake of people who have to talk to you, garlic supplements are probably the kindest way to go.

But you can also get the same benefits by chewing on a clove of garlic once a day for prevention or twice a day to get over a cold or flu.

Mince a clove of garlic into some honey if the flavor is too overpowering.

It’s not clear whether adding more garlic to your cooking affords the same protection, but if you love the flavor, you can add more to your recipes while possibly getting an immune boost.

Echinacea

There isn’t much evidence that echinacea will do anything for you once you get a cold, other than possibly shorten the duration of your symptoms.

But there is some evidence that it could prevent colds and flu's if taken in conjunction with garlic supplements, according to an article in the Journal of the National Medical Association.

The problem with most echinacea products on the market is that they don’t tell you how much of the herb is in the product.

Forgo teas and instead take a supplement containing 1000 milligrams three times a day.

One note: People who are allergic to ragweed or to pollen may be allergic to echinacea, as well.

Elderberry Extract

Another botanical that helps you cope with cold and flu symptoms is elder, also known as black elder.

The extract of elderberries has been tested repeatedly and found to shorten the duration of symptoms by as much as 4 days, and the extract has been found effective at fighting up to 10 strains of flu virus'.

Nearly all of the scientific studies conducted on elderberry have used a commercial product called Sambucol, which is available as a liquid supplement from a number of different companies.

4 Ways to Preserve Those Herbs

Drying herbs couldn’t be simpler and is a great way to preserve parsley, rosemary, mint, thyme, and many others.

But some herbs will be mere shadows of their former selves when dried, hardly worth the time and effort it takes to do it.

Fortunately, there are lots of simple alternatives, such as freezing and making herbal butters and vinegars, and pretty much all herbs are suited to these methods.

Freezing Herbs

Freezing herbs is easy, even if you have a small freezer.

The simplest way to freeze herbs is to spread dry, clean whole or chopped leaves onto a baking sheet, freeze overnight, and put the frozen herbs into sealed containers in the freezer for later use.

Frozen herbs prepared this way last for months before they start to get tired-looking.

I like to freeze chives for sprinkling on baked potatoes in the dead of winter, when my herb patch is locked under frost and snow.

For longer storage, freeze herbs by snipping leaves into small bits, packing the bits into an empty ice-cube tray, filling about 3/4 full with water, and freezing; one measured tablespoon of herbs per cube is a good amount.

The next day, top off with water and freeze again (this covers the floating bits with ice to prevent freezer burn).

Pop the finished cubes into a sealed container in the freezer.

Drop frozen cubes into soups, stews, and such, for fresh-cut flavor.

Pesto also freezes well, freeze it in an ice-cube tray and store the cubes in airtight containers in the freezer.

Herbal Butters

Another great method for preserving herbs is to make them into flavored butter and freeze that.

Mince 1 part herbs (one type, or a blend) and mash into 2 parts softened organic butter, shape into a log, and freeze.

Cut off slices of herb-flavored butter as needed to melt over vegetables, meat, or fish, or to sauté in recipes for the taste of summer all winter long.

Our favorite flavored butter is made with minced garlic and parsley, which makes awesome garlic bread!

Herb-Flavored Vinegar

Herb-flavored vinegar is a delicious, pretty way to savor herbs long after the growing season is past.

You don’t need any special equipment to make them; just reuse attractive glass bottles.

To make flavored vinegar, you'll need bottles and cork stoppers to fit them (vinegar eats metal lids, even coated ones), enough good commercial vinegar to fill them, and fresh or dried herbs and spices.

We like to use white-wine vinegar for delicate flavors like lemon balm, and organic apple-cider vinegar for more robust flavors like rosemary.

Wash and pat dry any fresh herbs, tarragon is a classic vinegar flavoring, and slide the whole leaves into the bottles, using a chopstick or wooden skewer as needed.

Peeled garlic cloves and any kind of small peppers (slit down the side) are also nice choices for making flavored vinegar.

Use about 1/2 cup of herbs per 2 cups of vinegar, or more if you want a very concentrated flavor.

Fill the bottles with room-temperature vinegar and cork.

Store in a cool, dark place.

The flavor will continue to strengthen for 4 to 6 weeks.

Use herb-flavored vinegars in salad dressings and marinades, splashed over veggies, or anywhere a recipe calls for vinegar or lemon juice.

To store vinegar longer, melt some beeswax (in a small steel can set in a pan of simmering water), and dip the corked end of the bottle into the wax to coat the top 1/4 inch of the glass and the exposed cork.

Let the wax harden, and repeat several times to build up a good coating.

For extra-special gifting, drape a short length of ¼" to ½" wide ribbon over the top of the just-dipped bottle after the first dip.

Hold the loose ends against the bottle neck and dip the top again, ribbon and all.

The ribbon looks really classy, and makes it easy to remove the wax seal later.

Herb-Flavored Oils

You can also use your glass jars and corks for flavored oils.

But placing herbs, garlic, peppers, fruit, and such, that contain even a trace of moisture into any oil is asking for trouble: The oil seals out the air and makes the perfect environment for botulism bacteria to thrive in the plant material.

To be safe, you must store herb-flavored oils in the refrigerator and use them within a few weeks.

As an alternative, you can dry the herbs and other flavorings in a food dehydrator, or in the sun, until they are completely dry before adding them to a light-flavored organic olive oil or other cold-pressed oil.

Add about 2 tablespoons of crushed dried herbs to 2 cups of oil.

Unfortunately, that's all the time we have today.

We wish you and your family the very best in health and happiness!

J.R. and I truly hope this information helps, and you found some value in this edition!

Until next time, we want you to,

live longer, live younger!

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