3 Great Herbs to Fight Viruses

This week, I want to discuss some common herbs that you might add to your family meals that have anti-viral and immune-stimulating benefits.

by Dawn Combs

Last week, I covered the importance of being prepared in the event that a family member comes down with the mumps. These childhood diseases used to be more common, and therefore, it was very easy to find out how to treat their symptoms. These days we tend to assume that no one is going to have to deal with them. However, the diseases vaccinate for haven’t disappeared—they are only less prevalent. This has given rise to a false sense of security among both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated in our society.

In the case of sickness—whether it’s measles, mumps, chicken pox or something else like them—it’s wise to be prepared. All viruses are highly contagious, so once the doctor sends you home, you’ll be stuck with a household of potential patients. Last week, I discussed ideas for making your loved one more comfortable while you wait for the virus to run its course. This week, I want to discuss some common herbs that you might add to your family meals that have anti-viral and immune-stimulating benefits.

1. Mushrooms

3 Great Herbs to Fight Viruses: Mushrooms - Photo courtesy Keith Weller/USDA (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Keith Weller/USDA

I particularly like shiitake mushrooms, but you can also use maitake, hen of the woods or any number of other local delicacies. Mushrooms are easy to use as food while also being powerful anti-virals and immune stimulants. You can get them in tincture form, but why not just sauté them into your morning eggs or evening stir-fry?

2. Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)

3 Great Herbs to Fight Viruses: Boneset - Photo courtesy Ohio State Weed Lab Archive (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Ohio State Weed Lab Archive

Boneset is a fairly common plant that’s not widely used in today’s herbal practices, and I don’t know why. It is a very potent anti-viral, and when used as a hot tea, it’s also a diaphoretic (an herb that helps to bring down a fever by encouraging sweating). As one of the biggest concerns with mumps is a high fever, boneset would be a good choice to have on hand. It’s a perennial that’s easy to grow and can provide a sustainable supply for years to come.

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3. Elder (Sambucus Canadensis)

3 Great Herbs to Fight Viruses: Elder - Photo courtesy Chris Evans/Illinois Wildlife Action Plan (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Christ Evans/Illinois Wildlife Action Plan

All parts of the elder plant contain compounds that are specific against paramyxoviruses, a group which includes the mumps virus. The elder berry is the most studied and best known in medicinal preparations, but the bark was traditionally most effective against the mumps. If you would like to use the bark, start with a dried preparation, as it’s less likely to cause stomach upset in most people.

Any time we are faced with a family illness, the home treatment is generally a two-pronged attack. While it is important to address the symptoms and make your loved one feel comfortable and rest easy, it’s also important to support the body’s fight against a virus. In this case, if you have visited your doctor and identified that a family member is fighting a virus, such as the mumps, then rest is usually the best recommendation. There is no need to panic or watch a loved one needlessly suffer if you are growing your own symptom relief and anti-virals.

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