Herbal Health Information on the Immune System and Colds

The Immune system is the body’s internal defence armoury, which protects us from the millions of germs out there. There are so many factors in modern day living which can affect our immune system, resulting in people picking up any virus going and suffering recurrent colds and coughs.

Stress, poor diet, Insomnia and any long term illness can all prevent the proper functioning of the immune system.

We really must look after ourselves. Put a bit of time and effort into YOU and the payback will be a healthier, fitter, happier, more energetic li



You must eat it!

Porridge/ muesli/ any wholegrain cereal/ fruit/juice. Not all at once!


Salads or baked potato or sandwich some fruit if you didn’t have any at breakfast


Cooked meal with some protein foods such as meat eggs or fish /pulses beans for the vegetarians or just if you like them. Fresh veg although fresh frozen will do if you are busy. Some carbohydrate such as rice potato or pasta.

Always vary it though and make sure you do not eat too much of any one thing. For example don’t eat toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner. That’s three lots of wheat a day and the gut will not like digesting all that!

Loads of Vitamin C containing foods, which is all fruit and veg but especially citrus fruits and zinc containing foods which is oats, peas, pumpkin seeds, lentils and Oysters if you are feeling rich.

Zinc and Vit C help the body fight of viruses.

Drink water and not too much tea and coffee


Have a look at the article on stress to learn more, but briefly, make relaxation and switching off time for yourself. Dance, sing, read, watch a film, join a meditation or yoga class, anything that helps you to relax.

Exercise I can almost hear you groaning but this is really not an option. It gets the body in good shape to be able to cope with external and internal changes.

Alcohol and cigarettes also affect the immune system, so if you can reduce, it will help.


Echinacea is the Media’s herb of choice to boost the immune system which it does by raising the white blood cell count and increases the body’s own powers of resistance. It also has the ability to stimulate Killer cells called Phagocytes, that chomp up any foreign material in the body especially bacteria.

There is a problem with Echinacea though, in that many people are taking it constantly and bacteria are cunning little devils they have the ability to adapt and become immune to anything trying to kill them off. So Echinacea should only be taken,  EITHER when you feel a cold/cough coming on to boost the immune system and help the body fight the virus or bacteria OR for short periods of time to boost the immune system generally. About three weeks taking Echinacea is enough time to boost the immune system and then let the body take over. There are many over the counter preparations of Echinacea but make sure it is a good quality preparation with a licence, meaning it has been through a rigorous testing programme.

St John’s wort and Elder Flower have directly anti viral properties and elder is my herb of choice if someone presents with recurrent colds.

Never forget Garlic. I know some people won’t touch it because of the smell but eat as much garlic as you can in your food. It is the most astounding food for all kinds of conditions in the body one of them being to boost the immune system as well as having antiviral properties. As it is breathed out through the lungs, the volatile oils sterilise everything on the way up so it is a good cough and cold remedy.

If all else fails come and visit me in clinic!

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist, herbal Health Information

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Pulsatilla, the nerve tonic.

Pulsatilla is a nerve tonic and relaxant. It has anti inflammatory and antispasmodic properties and is a mild analgesic (pain killer)

I use it for imbalances in the female reproductive system such as PMT and find it especially useful for period pains, especially when mixed with Cramp Bark, which is  a muscle relaxant.

Cramp Bark, is discussed seperately in the West Rise Marsh walk and on the web site.

Pulsatilla is also an herb I very often put into a mix to help people relax and get to sleep. When I first started to practice, with a case of facial acne which was proving difficult to clear up, so I phoned my mentor at the time who advised me to use Pulsatilla as it has skin cleansing properties. Well it certainly made the difference and I now rarely leave it out of any skin mixture.

I use it in tincture formwhich you will be able to buy from any good herb supplier. I will not advise any dosage here as strengths of tincture varies, so follow the instructions on the bottle.

You will also find it in tablet form and again please follow the instructions.

Do not confuse it with the Homeopathic Pulsatilla preparation which has completely different actions.

As usual, if you have any other medical conditions or are pregnant, please see a qualified Medical herbalist or your Doctor.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/herbal Health Information.

Herbal Health Information for Insomnia

There is no easy answer to this one as there are so many reasons people suffer from insomnia. Too much Caffeine is top of my list. Stress is next. Inability to relax, worry, overactive brain, noise sensitivity, not enough exercise, poor nutrition, hunger and so it goes on.
When I have a patient visit me suffering from Insomnia I look at lifestyle with a fine tooth comb.
Although this applies to general good health it is essential that a person is well fed. By well fed I do not mean over fed I mean has the right nutritional ingredients going into them.

LOOK AT YOUR DIET: – it needs to be a well balanced intake of protein, fats and carbohydrates with foods containing a fair share of vitamins and minerals such as fruit and veg. Never go to bed on an empty tummy but also do not eat just before you go to bed as this activates the digestive system at a time when the body should be calming down for the night. There is some research that shows calcium helps natural sleep which is why many people like a milky drink before bedtime.

CAFFEINE containing foods must be cut out of the diet
Tea, coffee, chocolate, coca cola, and all stimulant drinks such as red bull.
Many people think that drinking green tea is better for them, but green tea is higher in caffeine than ordinary tea so is not good to drink if you suffer insomnia. I don’t really drink very much alcohol, but one mad evening had one of those vodka alcopop drinks and was awake most of the night.
When I looked at the ingredients I saw the drink contained caffeine! So it is worth checking ingredients on packaging.
Giving up caffeine is HARD. Caffeine is addictive and the withdrawal symptoms include pounding headache and caffeine cravings, which can last for up to a week.
What I normally advise people to do is to reduce it slowly until they are on low caffeine intakes and can come off it without the withdrawal symptoms.
Tea and coffee substitutes are:-
The best substitute I have found is Rooibos tea (any supermarket) drunk weak and black.
Honeybush tea (internet) which is similar to Rooibos
Peppermint tea, which is a good morning cuppa.
Any herbal tea.
And of course loads of water……….no don’t bother to say YUK it is our natural drink.
A safe fizzy drink to have is Seven up as it has no additives, but, remember, fizzy drinks are a treat and should not be your normal daily drink.

EXERCISE is very important as we are natural “wanderers”.
So many people are doing sedentary jobs that it is important to make time to exercise. Exercise does several things for us, stimulates good blood circulation, uses up excess carbohydrates to prevent weight gain and uses up adrenaline shooting around the system from our bosses or co-workers or the lady in the supermarket having wound us up during the day.

I have a favourite sleep mix which I make up in clinic which contains:-

The other herbs I use are Californian poppy and Wild lettuce but not all in the same mix. You will be asking why I haven’t mentioned Chamomile. I love Chamomile but there are a few people who react completely back to front if they take Chamomile as a sleep aid and become hyperactive, so I use Chamomile mostly for the digestion and also to calm hyperactive children.
To go back to my sleep mix

Passiflora I have talked about in its own little article. It has mild sedative properties and is a relaxant.

Skullcap is a relaxing nervine as well as being anti spasmodic and relaxing. I use it because it is the only herb I know, which, due to its relaxing nervine properties, stops the brain going in to overdrive and thinking all those horrible “loop” thoughts when you are trying to get to sleep, such as, the shopping list or what activities the children have the next day or what shall I wear to my daughters wedding, or the amount of work piling up in the in tray, etc etc etc.

Valerian. You either love it or hate it. Smells like smelly feet but WHO CARES, when it is just about the best relaxing herb in the Herbal Pharmacopoeia.
Cats love it, my red headed daughter loves it and my once red headed now bald husband loves it, but the rest of the world hates it. I will list its actions:-
Hypotensive (lowers blood pressure)
All of this without giving you a woolly head the next day what more can you ask for?

There are many over the counter sleep mixes on the market, containing some or all of these herbs, but make sure they are licensed, or you could go visit your local herbalist.

Linda Bostock
Medical Herbalist Dip Phyt.

Herbal Health Information

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