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I have been inundated with people ringing me for herbs to help against Covid or other flu-like viruses. This is the advice I give people to start immediately until their herbal medicines arrive the next day. All these home remedies have documented anti-microbial activity and are available from your kitchen cupboard.

Raw Garlic – anti viral:(1)

Rub generously on both sides of a piece of rye toast

Slice some organic tomatoes and drizzle olive oil over the top

Season with salt and pepper and enjoy.

Horseradish – anti bacterial and anti-inflammatory:

This is the season for horseradish and it is such a treat. Horseradish contains a mustard like chemical called isothiocyanate, which has anti-bacterial (2) and anti-inflammatory (3) actions. But you don’t need the science to know that, we all feel how it blasts all those bugs out of your airways, leaving you feeling cleaner and fresher. Crucially, it not only kills bacteria, but reduces the inflammation so that you can breathe more easily.

I love to make a home-made horseradish sauce by cutting off the rough outer peel and then finely grating the root. I mix it with soured cream or half double cream and half yoghurt, then pile it generously onto a steak, roasted beetroots, or avocado toast.

Sloe Gin:

Our grandparents knew how to use seasonal plants to stay healthy, and Sloe gin is one of those delightful remedies. The berries (sloes) and flowers of Blackthorn have been found to control local and systemic inflammation, especially in the digestive tract (inflammatory bowel disease), the urinary tract and cardiovascular system (4). This is important as the inflammation can be very dangerous in viral infections. The Anthroposophical doctors recommend Blackthorn as a post-viral tonic for those who are fatigued, and especially for those with weak hearts. Berries with dark skins are especially good for the cardiovascular system. So, do take a wee dram every night to keep yourself fortified.

Cinnamon, mint and honey tea:

All three ingredients are anti-viral foods, and make a comforting herbal tea.

1 teaspoon of raw honey

A sprig of fresh mint

½ tsp of cinnamon powder

Drop into a small teapot and cover so that the volatile oils do not escape. When cool enough, drink generously. If you are on blood sugar medication, then leave out the cinnamon.

For loads more self-help herbal recipes, see my book Secrets from a Herbalist’s Garden, which I wrote for my patients to use as a back-up if I am away. It is packed with recipes using herbs and spices from your own garden or kitchen cupboards.

(1)^ Rouf R, Uddin SJ, Sarker DK, Islam MT, Ali ES, Shilpi JA, Nahar L, Tiralongo E, Sarker SD. Antiviral potential of garlic (Allium sativum) and its organosulfur compounds: A systematic update of pre-clinical and clinical data. Trends Food Sci Technol. 2020 Oct;104:219-234. doi: 10.1016/j.tifs.2020.08.006. Epub 2020 Aug 19. PMID: 32836826; PMCID: PMC7434784.

(2)^ Park HW, Choi KD, Shin IS. Antimicrobial activity of isothiocyanates (ITCs) extracted from horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) root against oral microorganisms. Biocontrol Sci. 2013;18(3):163-8. doi: 10.4265/bio.18.163. PMID: 24077540.

(3)^ Herz C, Tran HT, Márton MR, Maul R, Baldermann S, Schreiner M, Lamy E. Evaluation of an Aqueous Extract from Horseradish Root (Armoracia rusticana Radix) against Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Cellular Inflammation Reaction. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:1950692. doi: 10.1155/2017/1950692. Epub 2017 Jan 15. PMID: 28182113; PMCID: PMC5274677.

(4)^ Magiera A, Czerwińska ME, Owczarek A, Marchelak A, Granica S, Olszewska MA. Polyphenol-Enriched Extracts of Prunus spinosa Fruits: Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Effects in Human Immune Cells Ex Vivo in Relation to Phytochemical Profile. Molecules. 2022 Mar 4;27(5):1691. doi: 10.3390/molecules27051691. PMID: 35268792; PMCID: PMC8912089.