Cold weather brings with it all the joys of Fall and Winter: The apple picking! The leaf piles! The holidays! That first beautiful snowfall before it all goes terribly wrong! But, cold weather also brings the misery that's otherwise known as the cold and flu.
Now, the fact that the cold weather makes you sick has been debunked. In fact, cold weather has a few benefits—it kills off insects and microorganisms that spread disease and helps burn brown fat—so if it's not the cold, what is it? In short... it's the cold.
Cold weather contributes to making us sick by perpetuating a number of factors:
Some viruses like the cold.—Human rhinoviruses—the main causes of the common cold—thrive in low temperatures, specifically in Fall and Spring. Influenza viruses coat gets stronger in cold temperatures and dry, cold air is thought to encourage it's spread.
Close Quarters.— When it's cold out, we tend to spend most of our time indoors... along with everyone else. A 2011 study showed a connection between poor ventilation and the occurrence of respiratory illnesses. Which makes sense. Cold and flu are passed through the air and close contact with infected persons.
Little to no sunlight.—Shorter days that limit our sun exposure don't just affect our mood and our hard earned tans. Sunlight is our main source of Vitamin D which protects our bones and functions as a key aspect of immune support!
Immune Suppression—With viruses thriving and exposure levels high, our immune systems, especially in our respiratory system, are the best line of defense. But lack of Vitamin D is only one factor that plays into the ultimate culprit behind winter sickness: weakened immune response. Studies have shown that cold temperatures suppress the immune system—when the temperature in our noses and lungs specifically drop, it appears that our innate immune response is compromised, letting in invading viruses.
All of this comes together to create the perfect storm: virus + weakness = illness. Rinse and repeat as we all pass it around until the summer returns.
Now, you can't change the fact that it's cold and you probably can't do much about the close quarters and poorly ventilated areas we're all forced to inhabit. So, it all comes down to one thing: strengthening your immune system is the best defense against getting sick. Luckily, we knew a few easy, natural ways to do it!
Bundle Up!—Bundling up when you go outside—just like your parents always insisted—is a great way to help protect your immune response. Just don't forget your nose!
Sleep!—It feels like this piece of advice is given all the time... but that's because it's true! Studies have shown that the sleep deprived are more likely to get sick and take longer to recover.
Take care of your tummy.—70-80% of the immune system lives in your gut. Incorporating prebiotics into your diet feeds your good gut flora, maintaining gut health and, by extension, healthy immune function.
Don't stress!—Okay, easier said than done but... stress damages your immune system. Taking adaptogens—herbs that regulate cortisol levels and help us adapt to stress—in preparations like Immune Tonic, can help! (Bonus, this Tonic's adaptogens double as immunomodulators, to help people with stress-depleted systems and autoimmune diseases!)
Take your vitamins.—Specifically Zinc and Vitamin C. Zinc and Vitamin C are powerful antioxidants that support T-Cells (Zinc) and stimulate the production and function of T-Cells and other white blood cells that fight viruses (Vitamin C).
And last but absolutely never, ever least...
LOOK TO THE HERBS!
The herbal world is filled with natural powerhouses that will stimulate and protect immune function. You just have to know where to look! Because most herbs have wide and varied uses, it can be difficult to pinpoint which is the best for any given situation, but there are two particular herbs that we favor for safe, gentle, and effective immune support at Found Herbal:
Astragalus Root has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries to strengthen wei chi, the protective energy that guards our body against outside illness.
An adaptogenic, tonic herb—that is, an herb that has benefits that compound andincrease when taken over time—Astragalus is great for:
Cardiovascular, Liver, and Kidney health
It's also traditionally used to slow the growth of tumors which is due, in part, to its powerful immune strengthening abilities.
Astragalus Root is an immune stimulant, boosting immune function and building up resistance over time. Its stimulating effect has the ability to restore the immune function in those whose immune systems who have been compromised or weakened by chemotherapy or chronic illness. While this makes it an ideal preventative, Astragalus Root is also helpful in treating illnesses like the common cold and respiratory infections.
Elder is an ancient plant that's considered sacred in many cultures because of the healing properties found in each part of the plant—from the flowers to the leaves to the berries. Elderberries are extremely high in Vitamin C as well as other antioxidants and compounds called flavonoids, which makes them a powerful immune stimulant and supporter.
This sweet but tangy berry is also an antiviral that inhibits the spread of viral infection. Combined with its diaphoretic ability—or its ability to induce perspiration—Elderberries can be used to treat cold and flu.
Elderberries, so long as they're properly prepared, i.e. dried correctly, are an extremely safe way for everyone from children to the elderly to receive natural, dynamic, effective immune support before or during illness.
Astragalus Root and Elderberry are strong herbs on their own but, together, they are extremely effective. We've taken these herbs—plus a few more of our signature plant-based ingredients—and created several different 100% natural, organic ways for you to take advantage of their powerful immune supporting abilities:
Immune Oxymel's vinegar & honey blend combines Elderberries and Astragalus root with Rosehips—for an added kick of Vitamin C—to create a delicious preventative treatment. This Oxmel makes day-to-day maintenance and protection easy. Take it as an invigorating shot or add a kick of flavor to your favorite vegetables or salad!
Immune Syrup is a tincture with a sweet-tangy taste that the whole family will enjoy taking. This gentle, effective preparation of Astragalus and Elderberry is traditionally used to support the immune system as a daily preventative but it can also improve recovery from colds, flu, and other viruses.
Elderberry Honey is the perfect start for people who don't enjoy taking medicines. Infused with Vitamin C rich Elderberries and Rosehips, this honey is a sweet supporter that's an easy addition to your daily routine. Use it in place of your regular honey or think of it as a daily sweet treat!
If you do happen to get sick, as is sometimes the case, you can harness the power of herbs to treat symptoms and even shorten the length of your illness. Any of our Elderberry and Astragalus preparations are great to take when you're sick, but we've also created several targeted treatments!
For symptom relief:
Kids Cold & Flu is a gentle, tasty brew with Peppermint and Lemon balm that eases symptoms of cold and flu, encourages healing, and pleases the palate of children and picky adults alike! This blend is also multi-use! For children who won't or are too young to drink tea, Kids Cold & Flu makes an effective hot bath treatment.
Coughs can be the most difficult and disruptive symptoms of the cold and flu (they're also a great way to spread them!). These cough treatments—Soothing Cough Syrup, with respiratory healer Mullein Leaf and expectorant Pleurisy Root to move dry, unproductive, irritating coughs, and Drying Cough Tincture, with expectorant Wild Cherry and strengthening Thyme for wet coughs with a lot of mucus—
Hot Tonic is a vinegar extract of hot herbs and spices to energize and stimulate the system—and it's here to help you kick cold and flu out! Warming Ginger and Peppercorns, analgesic Chili Pepper, decongestant Horseradish, and immune boosting Garlic make a delicious everyday salad dressing and a powerful stimulant. Take in large doses at the first sign of illness to reduce the severity and length of the cold or flu!
This powerful tincture is packed with immune boosters like Astragalus Root, antimicrobial Echinacea, and powerful lymphagogue Calendula, to make a fast-acting stimulant to support and increase immune function. Immune Boost was created to act as the first line of defense at the first sign of illness like the cold or flu.
The cold and flu can make life during the cold weather months miserable. But that's why we're so excited about our extensive immune support line! When you take care of yourself and your immune system—with the power of herbs on your side—you can enjoy all the fun opportunities this beautiful season provides, without having to watch from the sidelines (or under a blanket pile)!