Food & drink should be celebrated. Not just for their flavour, or ability to unite friends and families - but for their underappreciated, powerful medicinal properties. Many of us use food or fluids to heal our emotions, but we rarely give them a second thought to heal us when we’re sick.
No longer are tales of successful natural remedies handed down from generation to generation. Instead, the media and TV have become our resources. But these outlets can be confusing and misleading. Just the other day I read an article in an evening newspaper – “Common myths about colds & flu”. It stated that there were absolutely no benefits to be gained from ‘plenty of sleep’ or ‘garlic’ when the coughs and sneezes strike. The solutions apparently, were Lemsip, Night Nurse or Ibuprofen to relieve pain, congestion and fever. They certainly make nasal congestion subside, but at the expense of congesting the liver.
So it’s no wonder so many people rely on supplies from the pharmacy instead of the kitchen to heal themselves. Yet our bodies are designed to recognise and respond to the profound healing compounds in fruit, vegetables, herbs, and fluids. Perhaps the newspaper reporter was just one of the unfortunate ones not to have had a wise relation pass on their knowledge of natural cold & flu remedies.
When a bug decides to infect anyone in my household, I implement strategies my mum taught me. I cook up a vegetable soup loaded with antibacterial and antiviral garlic, onions, leeks, oregano, thyme, parsley, heirloom tomatoes, chopped cavolo nero or kale, carrots, butternut squash, sweet potato, white potato and celeriac. Studying nutrition has taught me to leave out the chicken in ‘Grandma’s healing chicken soup’ (to lower the fat intake and reduce the burden on the lymphatic system and immune system). Alongside, I use therapeutic doses of zinc sulphate and Ester-C – two absolutely vital nutrients for building immune cells. An early night, and a day of sipping this delicious, comforting elixir also speeds recovery.
Winter Pick-me-up (Serves: 1 sick patient for a day)
Juice of 2 fresh lemons (you can also add grated rind if you want a real lemon ‘kick’)
5 x 5cm of fresh ginger root, skinned and grated
5 tbsp raw, wild or manuka honey
3 x 5 cm pieces of fresh turmeric root, skinned and grated
½ tsp of ground turmeric
1 tsp of ground black peppercorns *
600ml filtered water
* Ground pepper has been added for its ‘piperine’ content which enhances the absorption of curcumin. If pepper causes reflux or irritation, you can add 1 tsp of coconut oil as an alternative to aid bioavailability.
Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Add your ingredients and gently simmer on a very low heat for 5 minutes. Stir. Strain. Drink. NB: If you are using raw or wild honey, do not add it to the boiling water as it will kill the active nutrients, so wait for it to cool a bit. Manuka honey, on the other hand, can be used in hot water without losing its medicinal properties.
This drink is highly medicinal because:
Lemon provides ‘Limonoids’ and a highly bioavailable source of vitamin C to build white blood cells and enhance the immune system1. The electrolyte content of lemons makes them highly hydrating, so they soothe dry, irritated sore throats and respiratory infections.
When you’re dealing with a cold, flu, bronchitis or pneumonia, both lemon and ginger are excellent ‘expectorants’. Ginger contains ‘sesquiterpenes’ with the power to expel mucus & phlegm2. A study in The Journal of Pain also showed that ginger, with its ‘phenols’ and ‘gingerol’, can be used as an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, sedative, muscle relaxant & pain reliever3 (very helpful when your muscles are tense and aching from coughing!)
Honey is rich in hydrogen peroxide, defensin-1 and methyl glyoxal, giving it its antimicrobial, immune-stimulating effect4. If fact, honey is such a potent antibiotic/antibacterial agent5, TV’s favourite ‘Supervet’, Noel Fitzpatrick, smears Manuka honey on the wounds of his injured animals!
The final ingredient - Turmeric, or ‘Liquid gold’. Well, what doesn’t turmeric do? Turmeric with its ‘curcumin’ compounds has been hailed as a potent anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-everything…..oh, and an immune system regulator6
For those who like a little spice in their life…you could also add ¼ tsp cayenne pepper. Cayenne with its medicinal ‘capsaicin’, is a ‘mucolyptic’ thins and clears mucus. It can also increase your internal body temperature, speeding the destruction of bacteria or virus (so it has the effect of reduce your fever more rapidly). Capsaicin’s antimicrobial properties may also indirectly affect healing by altering the gut microbiota (which play a role in immunity)7
Please note: Honey SHOULD NOT be given to children under the age of 12 months, as it may contain spores of a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum (which their immune system may not be mature enough to fight off)
Hannah Brown Nutritional Therapist
1. Raal A et al (2013) Complementary Treatment of the Common Cold and Flu with Medicinal Plants – Results from Two Samples of Pharmacy Customers in Estonia PLoS One 8 3 e58642
2. Rayati F et al (2017) Comparison of anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of Ginger powder and Ibuprofen in postsurgical pain model: A randomized, double-blind, case–control clinical trial Dent Res J (Isfahan) 14 1 1–7
3. Mambetta K et al (2013) Significance of gingers (Zingiberaceae) in Indian System of Medicine - Ayurveda: An overview Anc Sci Life 32 4 253–261
4. Mandal MD & Mandal S (2011) Honey: its medicinal property and antibacterial activity Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2011 Apr; 1(2): 154–160 and Eteraf-Oskouei T & Najafi M (2013) Traditional and Modern Uses of Natural Honey in Human Diseases: A Review Iran J Basic Med Sci 16 6 731-742
5. Carter DA et al (2016) Therapeutic Manuka Honey: No Longer So Alternative Front Microbiol 7 569
6. Jagetia GC & Aggarwal BB (2007) Spicing up" of the immune system by curcumin J Clin Immunol. 27 1 19-35 Epub 2007 Jan 9
7. Sherman PW & Billing J (1999) Darwinian Gastronomy: Why We Use Spices: Spices taste good because they are good for us. BioScience 49 6 453–63.