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Gardening for Health: Brew Away Colds and Flu

Herbal teas to keep you well

Elderberries and ginger both have immunity-boosting properties.
      Prevention is the best medicine. Winter colds can make you miserable and spread quickly, causing sleepless nights. Some simple things you can do are to wash your hands frequently and try not to rub your eyes or face. Coughing or sneezing into the crook of your arm is better than in your hand. 
      Building up your immune system is also important so as not to succumb so easily to a virus looking for a new home.
      Research in Israel showed elderberry syrup prevented adhesion of viruses in the throat. A teaspoon taken frequently during the winter can help prevent colds. Elderberry syrup is commercially available in drug stores or natural food stores. 
     The elderberry grows wild in Maryland, usually near stream banks. Its lacy cream-colored flowers bloom in early June. The plant is a small shrub-like tree with compound leaves. The berries ripen in August; do not eat raw seeds as they contain cyanide. Never pick elderberry, or any plant in the wild, until you’ve identified it using at least three field guides. Once safely identified, you can make your own elderberry syrup and store it in the fridge for winter use.
      Simmer one cup of fresh or frozen (three-quarter cup dried) black elderberries, two cinnamon sticks, one tablespoon sliced fresh ginger, one tablespoon whole cloves in three and one-half cups of water. Reduce by half. Add one cup of local honey and strain into a pint-sized mason jar. Store in the refrigerator. Use one tablespoon for adults and one teaspoon for kids.
      Another easy herbal remedy is ginger-sage tea. Ginger is most effective when used fresh. Purchase organic ginger from the grocery store. Grate or chop a piece about the size of your thumb and steep it covered in eight to 12 ounces of hot water for about an hour. To another three cups water, add one-quarter cup culinary sage and reduce to about half the volume. Combine the two teas with the juice of a lemon and a pinch of cayenne as well as honey to taste. Drink three to four cups daily until symptoms subside. Ginger and sage are both antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory. Ginger will also help abate a cough and helps with nausea.
      When you have a cold, munch on Brazil nuts. They contain selenium, which helps keep your immune system working well.
     Maria Price founded Willow Oak Herb and Flower Farm and is now proprietor of Beaver Creek Cottage Gardens, a small native and medicinal plant farm.