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I never know how to feel about traditional medicine. On the one hand, it makes sense that if you knew a lot about the properties of different plants and herbs, you would be able to identify which ones would help to cure various ailments. On the other hand, I was once given a prescription by an African witch doctor to cure an ‘evil spirit’ in me by giving away a red chicken and some salt. Even the most tenuous scientific principles would struggle to explain that one.
But there are some traditional remedies that are really quite common in the UK. One is the idea that a big mug of lemon and ginger (ideally with a generous helping of whisky) will help to fight off colds and ‘flu.
I don’t know whether it’s all in the mind (or the alcohol content), but that always made me feel better. And frankly, I’d try anything to fight off the winter ‘flu. So what other remedies out there that are suggested for those of us who find ourselves bunged up with cold?
We reached out to Joe Pawson, a qualified medical herbalist at Earth Medicines in Tooting and he gave us some recommendations. For example, Elderberry and Echinacea are the top two herbal remedies against cold and flu.
“Echinacea is good for providing a quick boost to the immune system, increasing white blood cells, and should be taken as a tea or tincture at the first signs of illness.
Elderberry is a fantastic immune system tonic to get through winter cold- and flu-free. It is a great remedy for children’s colds and coughs and can be taken as a syrup or tea. ”
Joe also suggest to try out limeflower which is great for a dispelling a fever and makes a good cup of tea. The blossoms are collected in summer and preserved by drying, but they are only out for a week or so, so you have to be quick to harvest them.
It’s worth noting that even though around 25% of Europeans use some form of complementary medicine, scientific research into the medical effectiveness of herbs is not conclusive. How inconclusive. There can also be risks – Echinacea, for example, can cause allergic reactions and has potential side effects like fever, diarrhoea, sleep problems and joint pain.
So we’ll maintain a healthy level of scepticism around herbal medicine… but just in case it’s true, we’ll be drinking some commercially available echinacea tea…
(I wonder how it tastes with whisky?)