It’s been a miserable few days chéz Fiona. I’ve been struck down with the flu. The black death ain’t got nothin on me this week. I’ve spent the past few days veering wildly between being hot and cold, my nose is blocked, I’ve a sore throat, cough, headache, fever, muscle aches and I have the complexion of a cast member of the walking dead. Fatigue has run rings around my eyes resulting in this season’s highly coveted bar brawl eye make-up look. I’m doped up on ibuprofen, cradling a packet of tissues like a comfort blanket, swaddled up in my duvet and have been generally feeling very sorry for myself.
So in honour of the great snottening of September 2016 (I’ve such an eloquent way with words), I’ve decided to turn this into something positive and share some garden remedies for flu and colds.
Herbal remedies for flu and colds have been around far longer than over the counter drugs and while I’m not saying not to take these (Nurofen is currently my bestie), there are loads of plants in the garden that can help to ease the symptoms of colds and flu. I’ve been known to get into healthy (unhealthy?) debates with people about the medicinal effects of plants and they seem to think this makes me some sort of hippie earth mother type, eschewing modern medicine, wearing flowers in my hair while dancing around in clothes made only from hemp while playing a mandolin (though this actually sounds like gas craic). I’ve found so many of my peers scoffing when I encourage them to make sage tea or eat raw garlic for their ailments but these remedies really do help to alleviate the symptoms of a cold and if like me, you are lucky enough to have a garden, you can essentially grow your own drugs. The legal kind of course. Ahem.
Garlic has natural antibacterial antiviral and antioxidant properties which makes it a bit of a wonder plant for boosting your immune system and alleviating symptoms of cold and flu. To get the best benefits however, you’ll need to eat it raw. Cooking garlic removes many of its medicinal qualities. Obviously raw garlic isn’t the most gorgeous breath freshener on the market so I wouldn’t be going out to the pub and lobbing the gob on handsome strangers after eating it raw. That being said, if you are going out kissing people with the flu that’s highly irresponsible, devil may care behaviour and you need to be my new drinking buddy/wingperson immediately.
Garlic is possibly the easiest crop ever to grow. It requires little to no care, it likes the cold and only takes a couple of minutes to plant. Garlic should be planted in October-November as it grows over winter and benefits from the frost. Simply push the clove of garlic into your soil, leaving the top just above the surface. I would not recommend you just plant any old garlic that you buy in your supermarket as you have no idea of the variety or origin, buy proper garlic bulbs from your garden centre and you can replant your own cloves the following year if you wish.
Sage is one of those wonder herbs that is criminally underused in most kitchens. Sage is also one of my favourite plants, with stunning silver green foliage and the most beautiful smell imaginable. Sage has natural antiseptic properties so it makes an excellent gargle for a sore throat. I often make sage tea for sore throats and it is hands down the best natural relief for throat pain I’ve come across. Sage tea also helps to relieve stomach pain and anxiety and tastes surprisingly yummy.
To make sage tea, simply use 3/4 fresh sage leaves and pour over hot water and allow to brew. You can add honey or lemon to sweeten if you want but I prefer it as is.
Thyme is another hardy perennial that is mostly used for its flavour, however, thyme is a natural antiseptic and is proven to relieve coughs and chest pain so if you have a pesky cough, have thyme in tea or even chew some fresh thyme leaves.
Mint & Lemon Balm
Mint tea is another herbal remedy for cold and flu symptoms and is known to ease stomach discomfort. The menthol helps to clear out your airways and makes it easier to breathe. Plus, it’s delicious!
Mint is a prolific plant that has a tendency to run mad in your garden when planted in the ground. Keep mint in a container or pot if you don’t want it to grow everywhere, though I happen to like mint in my borders and just let it do it’s thing, much to the horror of some of my fellow plot holders. I’ve never been one for adhering to the rules, where’s the fun in that?
Another firm favourite in my herb garden, lemon balm (also known as bee balm) makes an excellent tea for clearing your sinuses, eases stomach cramps, headaches and earaches and helps you to relax if you’re finding it difficult to sleep.
Echinacea (coneflower) is one of my favourite additions to my herb garden. With its large almost cartoon like flowers, it’s loved by bees and can be used for boosting your immune system after a cold or flu. Echinacea supplements are available in most health shops but why buy it when you can grow it? Dried echinacea flowers can be used in teas to give your body a boost during flu season.
These herbs are all perennials so once planted, will grow every year and require little care apart from some pruning in early spring and you’ll have your very own home grown apothecary.
I’d also urge you to buy some local honey to keep in your kitchen as its one of the best natural remedies for illnesses
My flu is beginning to lift today, I can breathe through my nose again and my natural smokey eye look is less punched-in-the-face and more I-haven’t-slept-in-two-days. I’ll be ditching my slippers for wellies and be out of my bed and back in my raised beds in no time.
For anyone who would like to apply for the role of new flu ridden drinking buddy, I’ve a great song we can go dancing to:
My black death brings all the herbs to the yard,
And they’re like, we’re better than pharms
Damn right, we’re better than pharms
We can heal you, we don’t even charge….