5 herbs to help fight off colds and flu
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Winter – with its inclement weather and uptick of flu and colds – can wreak as much havoc on your health.
Instead of consigning yourself to the sniffles and sneezes this season, get proactive about your wellness and help your body keep colds at bay.
Here are five types of herbs recommended by registered dietitian and Association for Dietetics in South Africa spokesperson Nathalie Mat, to support your health this winter.
This popular herb is surprisingly high in vitamin C. It is also a source of vitamin A and vitamin K (which helps regulate the clotting of blood). During illness, our body produces radicals while battling foreign bacteria. Parsley contains antioxidants that help to reduce the damage caused by free radicals.
The active ingredient in Tumeric is called curcumin. This compound is available in many supplements because it is recognised as a powerful antioxidant. It is also a very big molecule, that is not easily absorbed.
One of the best ways to improve absorption is to make sure the curcumin is taken with fat. It is even better absorbed in the presence of compounds found in black pepper, which increase blood flow to the digestive tract.
As a dietitian, Mat strongly advocates for eating a balanced diet and would encourage the intake of herbs as part of a meal, rather than as a supplement. So add an extra teaspoon of turmeric while making your curry to keep your immune system in check.
Rosemary is another herb with strong anti-inflammatory properties, it might also have antidepressant properties. A 2018 study looked at mice under stressful conditions and found that mice that had received rosemary displayed less depressive symptoms than those without the rosemary.
While we do not yet know if eating rosemary will alleviate depression caused in humans, we do know that eating a variety of delicious food will, at the very least, make our day more enjoyable. Include rosemary as part of your meal preparation, to up flavour and boost antioxidant levels.
Garlic is not, strictly speaking, a herb – as the bulb is used, as opposed to the leaf of the plant. This wonderfully versatile aromatic food has been very well studied for it's antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Some studies have even demonstrated that antibiotic-resistant organisms can be killed by high doses of garlic. If you are trying to ward off illness, garlic is a great friend to add to your evening meals. Please note that very high doses of garlic in food can cause stomach upset (and possibly an upset partner too). So, like most things, moderation is recommended.
In winter, Mat finds that many people drink tea, coffee and hot chocolate instead of water. But there is a calming alternative in the form of peppermint or tea. You can chop a few leaves of mint into a cup and allow the flavour to infuse, no need for teabags. Not only is this a caffeine-free refreshing drink, but peppermint has also long been used to ease digestion.
Research shows benefits of peppermint in people with irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion and abdominal pain in children. Please note that peppermint oil in the essential oil form is not advised for consumption, please consult a health professional before consuming any such oils.