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Spice up Your Food and Build Your Immune System

Well, I was planning a post about chrysanthemum's and their medicinal use when I decided it was more timely to discuss building up and sustaining the immune system as the Covid-19 cases are building around us. Hopefully you have already cleaned up your diet (remove sugars, processed foods), are exercising (even just walking around your neighborhood, just move) and getting plenty of rest.

A few years ago, I attended a class on Culinary Herbalism by K.P. Khalsa (great Ayruvedic teacher and herbalist) and really resonated that herbalism is not just about creating tinctures, teas and capsules but about using these healthy herbs and spices in our foods. So in today's post, I would like to share with you some herbs/spices you can increase using in your diet to help sustain and build your immune system.

Let's start with Chilies. Native to America and great for creating a sweat and urination to release waste from your body. This sweating is a powerful strategy to treat respiratory illnesses like the cold and flu. They move energy upward in the body and the further up the body they go, the hotter they tend to get and the they work. Be aware that chilies are not a building herb and can be drying to the body. To get the benefits from whatever chili you decide to consume, you need more than just putting them into your diet; You will also want to put them in capsules to add up the positive effects.

Most of us are not used to consuming that much chili and often suffer with stomach discomfort from it. Solution? build up slowly. Try adding it to food and increase over time to what you can enjoy. Try taking dried cayenne in capsules - 1/4 full and over the month increase the amount in capsules and number of capsules you can handle till you can get up to six full capsules a day of cayenne, split up among meals. If you notice discomfort in stomach or burning sensation, stop taking capsules for day or two, then resume and will be able to tolerate it. At this dosage, cayenne will also have a noticeable effect on the mood (very popular anti-depressant) and reduction in pain signals from the brain. Try making chutney or pickles with cayenne chili - more comfortable way to eat them. These are easy to grow in our area and any type chili can work. So grow a few this summer and start collecting recipes and building up your stamina.

Next, is celery. Celery has a cooling, anti-inflammatory, antihistamine type action. Celery (usually as juice so can get volume), has a cool down inflammatory action and controls allergies, is a powerful anti-depressant, nerve-nutrient, and treats insomnia. Did you know celery had that much nutrition in it? So eat it raw, juice it, steam it, cook it into stir-fires and soups. The juice can be bitter so try adding some drops of maple syrup to the celery juice and it takes the edge off.

Basil, a favorite herb to cook with in our house, is an immune enhancing food that is a mild diaphoretic (makes you sweat). So try out pesto and pizza with lots of fresh basil leaves on it and it can be a pretty potent remedy for cold and flu. Even better, drink basil tea. Many people find that sitting down with several cups of hot basil tea a day and wrapping up in a bunch of quilts and sweating profusely really helps their cold and flu. As a side note, in Asian medicine, basil is said to enhance devotion - increase your spiritual connection.

The beautiful flower, Calendula is immune enhancing as well. Calendula is a tried and true formula for cold and flu, especially for children as it is tasty and gentle. Cook them in your soup or make a high dose tea (place 1 ounce of dried flowers in tea), its a tasty way to prevent the cold and flu.

Calendula isn't the only flower to help with cold and flu season, also Chrysanthemum and honeysuckle play a similar role. Chrysanthemum tea is very popular in Asia. It has a beautiful taste, but you need to get serious doses in. These flowers are cooling, yet have an upward moving energy. Chrysanthemum has a particular affinity for the upper respiratory tract and the head, especially effective for the sinuses. So how do you get serious doses? Brew the tea strong and drink as many cups as necessary to get 1 ounce of tea a day (1 ounce of dry herb). You can brew this tea and then use the liquid to cook grains in or for a soup base as well as drinking as a tea. It's tasty. Here's one thing to remember though.... you need to infuse the flowers for 1 hour! Most tea drinkers (of grocery store tea packets) think 3 minutes is plenty. Not so if you want the medicinal value. Infuse at least one hour for this tea, whether honeysuckle,calendula or chrysanthemum.

Want to make this tea even more powerful? Try taking some licorice and boil in water for 1 hour, then add chrysanthemum, Calendula and/or Honeysuckle and let infuse in that boiling hot water for another hour (cover) and be prepared to drink a powerful and tasty tea.

Another important remedy for cold and flu season is Elderflower and Elderberries. Elderflower has a cooling effect on the upper respiratory tract with upward moving energy helping with relieving cold, flu and fever. You can make a syrup out of both the flowers and the berries and use as a cold medicine, as pancake syrup or jam or pour into your tea. The Elderberry, being such a dark purple, has pigments that are anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and immune enhancing. This syrup is fairly common in stores to find and pretty easy to make yourself. Taking several Tablespoons a day of Elderberry syrup will hammer a cold. It works fast (within 24 hours). Tochi Products has a great organic Elderberry syrup.

Astragalus root is the last one we will mention today. Astragalus is a stamina tonic energizer. It works slowly and can be taken year round. It balances all the functions of your body, including your immune system. You have to take large amounts to really do much. A typical daily dose would be an ounce a day. This is also a great remedy for children as it is gentle and tasty. Cook up the root for a tea or a soup base. Simmer the herb for an hour or so (20 or 30 sticks of astragalus root or 3-4 ounces). If not in a immune crises building time, you could use a more moderate dose and drink a cup of tea with 1/4 ounce astragalus (and whatever else you want to add) daily.

Teas prepared by Kanji Naturals that include these herbs are: Sunny Soul (flowers), Immune Booster (astragalus, echinacea, elderberries), Winter Blues (elderflower), Hope and Joy (basil, monarda). You can also purchase some of these herbs dried and make your own teas and soup bases. Make a plan to start growing these herbs in your garden this summer to have on hand for the next cold and flu season. Basil, Calendula, and Chrysanthemum (not hybrids) are easy to start with. Look around your region for elderberry bushes or honeysuckle bushes you could wildcraft as well.

Stay safe and Be well. Let me know what you try and how it works for you and your family.

If you need our teas and can't get to Unglued (or they close), email me and we can work out shipping or a meet up.

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