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Stocking up for the Flu


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There has been lots of good info on here for preparing for a flu pandemic and I fully believe that we all should take whatever of that advice would apply to our particular situation and use it wisely. When Teaberry asked me to post a list of my prep for the flu I figured, no sweat. I can whip that up in an instant! But as I started taking inventory of what I have specifically for the flu and cold, I realized that I have a LOT. I had to do some pretty heavy thinking of just what specifics I would want to be sure to have on hand. I hadn’t given much thought to a pandemic, believing, I suppose, that I would just do like I always did in cases of illness, make do with what I had on hand, which is considerable considering that I trained as an herbalist, have a large herb garden of both domestic and native medicinal herbs, and also wild-craft many herbs. It didn’t take me long to realize that if a pandemic hit and I couldn’t get out for extended periods of time, I would have to have a different outlook on my Medicine cabinet from now on. Perhaps some of this information will help you with your decisions of what to have on hand just in case that flu pandemic does hit.


I stock a few OTC items and have them on hand most of the time. Guifenesin is a safe and effective expectorant and it stores well. (Lois has some great info about that, in Nature’s Prescription) Because the flu often presents itself first as nausea and diarrhea I try to have Immodium, Pepto Bismal and Kaopectate on hand also but am very judicious in their use. Stopping diarrhea is not always desirable as it’s the body’s way of clearing out the system. I also store aspirin, Tylenol and Aleve in small amounts, as we don’t use it before it’s expiration date. Those are about my only concession to “modern” meds.


I want to state here that I DO believe in modern medicine. There are circumstances where it is not only necessary but life saving as well but I also have high respect for the natural healers given to us by Mother Earth and that inherent in our own bodies. A proper balance between modern and traditional often brings about a healing where one alone does not.


As this post is meant to help with setting up a plan to fight the flu I won’t go into the scientific particulars of each herb here. Thankfully, Lois does an excellent job of posting herbal information here. (Thanks Lois, your posts are super) and if she hasn’t already posted something on a specific herb, maybe she will cover it in the future.


Because the flu does often present as stomach ailments first I always have blackberry leaf and blackberry cordial or syrup on hand. They are both good at slowing down the diarrhea and settling the stomach. Raspberry leaf and syrup could substitute for the blackberry. The plain dried leaf is used as a tea. The syrup or cordial is given by the spoonful.


Plain regular black tea is also good for diarrhea and I keep it and green tea on my shelves.


Ginger is great for nausea and peppermint is helpful to settle a stomach. The only problem with peppermint is if you have acid reflux. Peppermint can sometimes make the reflux worse as it relaxes the sphincter muscle between the stomach and the esophagus allowing more access for the acid.


Slippery Elm Bark (Ulmus Fulva) is one of the useful herbs that I store in quantity. This is an herb I can’t harvest here and have to buy. I buy mine in large quantities as it stores well in the freezer or refrigerator and not bad just on a cool shelf in an airtight container. I buy both cut and sifted for teas and powder to use in making extremely nourishing and healing gruels and soothing throat lozenges or to use in blank capsules, which I also store.


You can easily make Slipper Elm lozenges by mixing the powder with enough honey to make into a stiff dough. (Start with just a tablespoon of powder and a teaspoon of honey to get the feel for it) Then roll the dough into small, cough drop sized balls or into a rope that is cut into small pieces. Then dust them with some of the dry slipper elm powder. These store well in an airtight container or can be refrigerated. They can be used as needed but melt rather fast in the mouth. Made small enough, you could use these as tablets that are swallowed for intestinal problems.


To make hard cough drop like lozenges, use most any simple hard candy recipe. A plain sugar syrup or even honey or molasses can be simmered to the “hard-crack” stage and then slippery elm powder can be added. The amounts are not written in stone but I usually use about one fourth cup of powder to two cup of syrup. Let it simmer gently for ten minutes or just remove from the heat and let steep for fifteen and then pour it into molds, or drop by tiny spoonfuls or pour onto a buttered cookie sheet. If poured, take a knife and score the “candy” while it is starting to set up, then when it sets hard you can crack it on these lines to make small pieces.


You can also make this with a very strong decoction of slippery elm for the base in a sugar-based recipe. I make the strong tea base by simmering one fourth cup of cut and sifted slippery elm in four cups of water until it has been reduced almost by half and then let set until cool before straining. Slippery Elm is mucilaginous so expect this to be slippery feeling and thick. Mix this base liquid with sugar and boil to the hard crack stage. You don’t need to add the powder to this. The hard cough drop types last longer to suck on but I believe the powder and honey are more effective.


I use the Cut and Sifted Slippery Elm Bark as tea (one teaspoon per cup and simmer ten minutes) for stomach, throat or bronchial complaints and find it very effective.


I would say that Elder (Sambucus Nigra) is one of the most valuable of herbs to have on hand for colds and flu. I use both the flower and the berry, which I gather wild. The flower induces sweat among other attributes. The berries can be used fresh, dried, in tinctures or as a syrup. They store fairly well dried and are easy to use in tea form. There’s quite a thread for its use on the boards here so I won’t go into all the particulars. I will mention that you can buy Sambucol extract and syrup and if nothing else, that should be added to your Natural medicine chest.


I also store Wild Cherry Bark (Prunus virginiana or serotina), which is a great expectorant, antispasmodic and slightly sedative also. You can use small amounts of the powdered bark in the slipper elm lozenges to help a cough.


Marshmallow Root (Althaea officinalis) is another herb that has soothing properties and I use it both internally as a tea and externally as a wash. This herb has the advantage of being grown in home gardens so can be an inexpensive renewable medicinal source.


Eucalyptus Leaf (Eucalyptus globules) is a given in any situation that involves congestion. It is considered antibacterial, and antiseptic too.


Coltsfoot leaf (Tussilago farfara) is another demulcent like Slippery elm and Marshmallow root. It too can be grown in most gardens. It grows wild in many places and likes damp, heavy soils. It has been considered the oldest cough remedy. In the past the leaves were dried and smoked for all sorts of lung problems.


Juniper Berries (Juniperus communis) is another herb I store in small quantities. They are diuretic but also antiseptic and, according to Dr. Terry Willard of Wild Rose College of Natural Healing, if you suck on one while being exposed to illness it will keep you from contracting the illness. These should not be used by pregnant or nursing women though nor by people with kidney disease.


Echinacea (Echinacea augustifolia, purpurea and sp.) is of course a well-known immune enhancer. This is also one of the herbs you can grow and harvest yourself. A word about echinacea. If you buy it, be sure to give it the taste test. If it does not "bite" when tasted, it's probably not worth buying.


I would also add chamomile to this list as being soothing and calming and safe for even babies if they are not allergic to it. Given in tea form with a little sweetener, this herb has soothed many of my children and grand children through the years.


There are some common herbs and spices that you can use with success also. They can be used in the form of a tea using one teaspoon of dried product per one or two cups of hot water and steeped for five to ten minutes. The exact amount depends on the strength of the herb.


Thyme is extremely antiseptic and helps to relieve sore throats. Thymol, the oil from thyme, was used in the past as an antiseptic in operating rooms and on the battlefields. You can use fresh or dried thyme in tea form as a disinfectant wash for wounds or surfaces alike.


Sage is another effective herb for colds and flu. (Caution if your are nursing though as it has a drying affect on the milk production.)


Anise seed stimulates mucous secretion,


Ginger soothes the throat, eases nausea and helps loosen congestion.


Peppermint and various species of other mints (even catnip) are all useful in stomach complaints and for congestion also, menthol being the prime ingredient in most commercial cough preparations.


Cloves are good to use in inhalation therapy. Being both antiseptic and clears the mucous.


Fennel seed is similar to anise.


The list could go on and on but only gets redundant after a while as many herbs have the same attributes. It’s more a matter of preference and availability. Check your cupboards to see what you might have and then check out the other posts to find more information on various herbs or go to www.botanical.com or one of the other sites listed in these posts.


Here’s my own recipe for a multi-purpose cold and flu tea. Our family has used it for years. I even sent some to Thailand this year because my son requested it.


1 part cut and sifted Slippery Elm Bark,

½ part each: cut and sifted Wild Cherry bark, cut and sifted marshmallow root, eucalyptus leaf (chopped or broken into small pieces), coltsfoot leaf and dried elderberries.

¼ part Elderflowers, peppermint leaf

1/8 part anise or fennel seed, chamomile flowers


Stir all herbs together well and store in an airtight container away from light. To use, steep one teaspoon of the mixture in a cup of hot water for about five to ten minutes. Sweeten if desired with honey. Drink, preferably hot but will work cold also, ½ cup several times a day or as needed. The steam from this tea makes a great inhalation therapy.

NOTE: the ingredients in this tea change from year to year depending on the herbs available to me but I always use the slippery elm, wild cherry, eucalyptus, coltsfoot and elderberries.


Now here are some old fashioned remedies that are worth using:


Mustard powder is a much-overlooked remedy. Mustard plasters used to be the old stand by for chest congestions. To make a plaster, mix one part mustard with four parts flour. Add the white of an egg or a small amount of olive oil and then add water to form a paste. Oil the chest well. (Goose grease was often the fat of choice for our grandmothers) Spread the paste between cloths and apply to the “oiled” chest. Cover all with a heavy towel or warm blanket. CAUTION: This gets pretty hot and will have to be watched closely as it can burn. This really does break up congestion in the lungs or bronchial.


Another remedy is onion/honey syrup for coughs. There were many recipes to make this. Generally you slice a large onion thinly, place it in a bowl and cover it with honey. Cover it tightly and allow it to set for 8 hours then mash and strain. This can also be made by baking the onions in honey for several hours and then straining but I prefer to use the uncooked version. I store mine in the refrigerator. The dosage is one teaspoon per hour. You might find you need some flavoring to cover up the onion taste with this one. Lemon works fairly well. This sounds worse than it is and it is very effective.


Garlic can be used in much the same way but a much smaller dosage is used. ¼ to ½ teaspoon, 2 to 4 times a day is sufficient.


Here are some more remedies I like to have on hand for cold and flu season.


The homeopathic remedy, Oscillococcinum by Boiron (you know, the one you can’t pronounce) taken at the first sign of flu is an excellent remedy.


I also keep Bach Rescue Remedy on hand for all those really stressful situations.


I try to have zinc tablets, calcium lactate and vitamins C and A on hand also; all helpful for colds and flu.


I also stock food grade charcoal capsules to absorb toxins in the digestive tract but burnt toast in milk or water is effective as a substitute.


In addition to those remedies, I like to keep a few things on hand that might be necessary.


Various tea balls, tea spoons and, strainers. I also use tea bags that can be ironed shut.

Antibacterial hand soap or lye soap for obvious reasons.

Disposable medical masks

Disposable gloves

Cheese cloth; both the thin stuff bought as cheese cloth and the heavier muslin for straining and

for plasters

A thin flannel blanket for use as a wet body wrap in cases of fevers or to induce sweats

Vinegar, both white and cider; for cleaning and as a wash to soothe a fever among other things.

Saline solutions either home made or bought for use as a nasal spray.

Sweet almond or olive oil to act as carriers for some of the herbs


I also have spice mills, both electric and hand mills, and various sizes of mortar and pestles.


There is so much more I could have put on the list but the most important thing to add would be knowledge. If you don’t know how to use the remedies, they will do you very little good. A couple of books on using herbs for medicine or on natural healing will prove invaluable. One old standby is the Herb Book by Rodale Press. Another is the two-volume set by M.Grieves, A Modern Herbal, even though it’s far from modern. I gave a link for the online version of her book above. One of my newer books on natural healing is Better Health through Natural Healing by Dr. Ross Trattler. It’s pretty comprehensive in all aspects of healing. I could give more suggestions but herbal and natural healing books are another whole thread in itself.


Hopefully this will give you some ideas for your own Natural Medicine Chest but we all learn from each other on this site. What’s in YOUR medicine chest?












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In reply to "What's In Your Medicine Chest?"


Slippery Elm Bark: Stock this. It's well tolerated by delicate stomachs and can be used as a food if you run out.


Chamomile Tea: Always have this on hand. Used it for years


Echinachea: Grow this. I've read that the white is more potent but can't verify this.


Elderberry:Plenty of this in stock; syrup and tincture


Wild Cherry: None in stock. Grows here and have trees but

reluctant to harvest it because of the cyanide issue


Marshmallow Root: Have read about this but have never used


Coltsfoot: Have some. (One of Europes most popular cough remedies, according to my herbal book.)


Juniper Berries: Have the capsules. DH smokes it for asthmatic bronchitis. It works.


Mustard Plaster: Used on DH once. Told him if a barrier wasn't used it would burn his skin. He didn't believe me.

Needless to say, he believes it now.


Garlic: Always have it in stock. Ever try a garlic sandwich?


Blackberries: Grow wild here. Have used the leaf tea.


Milk Thistle: Used it when I was trying to stop smoking. It

helps clean the liver and strengthens the lungs and cleanses body of toxins. Was considering using it now to help build up system.


Myrrh: Have on hand. Good for a lot of things. Good for all chest infections, infected throat with mucus, coughs,etc.


Plantain: Have on hand. Haven't used it for coughs but supposed to be good for it.


Zinc Lozenges: Need to get some. 23m flavored


Other things on hand:

Lysol spray, antibacterial soap, disposable gloves, vinegar,

bleach, plenty of paper towels, Vit. C, antiseptic wipes, Robitussin, Ibuprofin, Lots of disposable thermometer sleeves, lite salt, aspirin , flexible straws--need to buy,

masks--need to buy








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Wow, Waiting, that's a good stock. I have never harvested Wild Cherry bark myself. We have a lot of black cherry here but I'm never sure exactly which one is the true wild cherry though I understand that it realy makes no difference. As for the cyanide. You can not use it fresh, only dry. I buy mine through Frontier Herbs in Norway, Iowa, an herbal coop, and I have complete trust in them. I have used Wild Cherry Bark for probably thirty years or more with no problems. It's found in a ton of cough formulas and is very effective. Still, there are many other herbs that have the same attributes. That's the one thing that I love about herbs. Nature gave us a lot of different ways to heal ourselves. Bless her.


Plantain is very useful and I stock it also. Used as a poltice, it will draw infection from wounds. I like to store comfrey for healing but you don't want to use it on an infected sore as it will heal the infection inside. I use Plantain first and then comfrey.


I've heard that about the white echinacea also but can't confirm it either. Might be something to look into.


I haven't had a garlic sandwich but I bet I'd like it.

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The Wild Cherry Bark I'm reluctant to harvest until I learn more. I know when done right it's safe. It's the inner bark you harvest, isn't it? Was also wondering if the trees here are the right kind. Read that the fruit was considered the poor man's cherry and was eaten.


Always wanting to learn more about herbs and their uses. I like to read what the Indians used and how they used them. When it comes to some of the ones they used, I'm sure it would take someone that is very knowledgeable in their use.

I think the Indians use of some of the herbs were probably on the level of a doctor in todays society. Those I tend to stay away from. They sure knew what they were doing, though.


We had a Russian comfrey plant when we lived in NC but didn't take it with us when we moved. I wished we had now.


Edgar Cayce medical advice I find interesting and helpful although I know some of the other subjects he addresses is very controversial. He was advocating eating more fiber and fruit, etc. many years before it became advice today on what one should eat. He also has a lot about herbs and their uses. Also has a clinic in Az. that treats people according to the Cayce info.

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You do use the inner bark only of the Wild Cherry and also the slipper elm. I too wouldn't mind looking into doing it myself but I've always been reluctant as wild plants are difficult to identify exactly even by trained botonists. I took a few of my iffy plants to the Arboretum last year and I've taken a few to the extension office for the master gardeners to identify for me and that helps but is not even the ultimate answer as they can mis-identify them too without some labratory testing on some of them. When I tell them I want to use them for medicinal purposes they back pedal and I'm still left with the decision. So when it comes to things like cyanide,,,,,I am super cautious even though, or maybe because, I've had some training in herbalogy.


I too am facinated with the Native American usage of herbs and have enjoyed learning about it. They did use some pretty potent stuff and I'm sure a lot of natives died because of misuse of herbs but in general, they learned through past usage. They didn't have books to pass on but had to learn through apprenticeships. What facinates me is that a lot of the herbs or rituals they used came to them through dreams or visions. And they WORKED.


My comfrey is Russian too. I've had this plant or it's ancestor for over forty years. It's very effective but of course, comes with a warning now that it could cause liver disease. It doesn't stop me from using it though as I do not use it in the quantities that might cause problems nor do I use it or any of my herbs continuously.


I've read a lot of the Edgar Cayce info and find it informative and fairly good even if some of it is controversial. Still, I'm not much for buying products that I'm not sure what's in them or where they were produced. I prefer to stick to my own if possible and only buying from reputable sources when I have to buy. Maybe that just comes from being a natural sceptic though

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Whoa! This is a dynamite thread!!!! (((((Thanks Mother!))))) and also to Waiting who has contributed such good information! I giggled when I saw Evergreen's "printing out!" comment as that's exactly what I'm doing too!! LOL!!


Mother, this is fantastic stuff and I truly do appreciate your taking the time to pull the knowledge into a concise format. And Waiting's contribution adds more punch to the mix! Ever heard "bah-bah-humbug" before?? LOL!! Bah-bah-FluBug!"


Okay, enough corn. Here's the two cents I can add to this:


My doctor told me that a good way to boost my family's immune systems against cold and flu is to take high doses of vitamin A for a month long period. My doctor does this every year when the cold/flu season is starting. He warned it can be toxic so following his directions exactly is a must! Here's what he says to do:


Important: Don't do this if you're pregnant or could possibly become pregnant as it can cause birth defects during the month long period you're doing it.


Vitamin A comes in 10,000 and 25,000 unit capsules. For convenience use the 25,000 unit capsules. (Do NOT substitute Beta Carotene!) My doctor says he has noticed no real side effects if you follow the EXACT INSTRUCTIONS and drink 8 to 10 glasses of WATER per day the month you take this supplement.




First Two Weeks:

Take 4 capsules (100,000 units total) in morning (on an empty stomach) with one glass water. Then, eat breakfast 30 minutes later.


Second Two Weeks:

Take 2 capsules (50,000 units total) following the same instruction as above.


After completion of the 4 week period - Take normal supplementation of 1-2 capsules every 3 to 7 days.



Take 2-3 capsules, following same instructions depending on weight and age.


IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO DRINK 8-10 GLASSES OF WATER WHILE TAKING VITAMIN A. Substituting juice does not work. It must be water.





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You are welcome Teaberry, I've heard of he Vitamin A regimine too along with the vitamin C one which is basically to take increasing doses of vitamin C until you start to have digestive problems and then back off a bit and keep it at that level. Haven't tried this myself so if others have, let us know how it works.



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I have been taking larger than normal doses (4000 mil per day) of C lately as a prevention.


I found this product at the health foos store I work at that looks pretty good -It is called Prevention ACF and is made by Burried Treasure -the purpose of it is to build your immune system -they reccomend an 8 week regiment. It contains: 1200 mg of C, Zinc, Elderberry extract, Olive Leaf Extract, astragalus Root extract, Echinacea Purple extract, Cats claw, Reishi mushroom, Shitake mushroom, Maitake mushroom, Ginger root, & Colloidal Silver. It is a liquid- but does not taste to bad- taste kind of like tart berry juice. I brought home some yesterday and the boys and I will try a run with it.

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Sounds like a very potent but good blend of inmune enhancers and tonics. Do you know what it's shelf life would be? It might be something worth stocking. Let me know in a few weeks how it seems to be working. It will probably take that long for you to notice a difference.


I envy you working at a health food store, you get to see all the new stuff first

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It has a date stamped on the side of 11/07, maybe it would last longer unopened? I am not sure.


For long term I think it is better to know your herbs -either to store dry or know where to find/grow. I bought some dried elderberries to make the vodka stuff but thought something like this might fill in the mean time....


Working at an Herb store if awesome. I am learning so much all the time. It is like Christmas when UPS comes and I get to open new stuff.


I (usually) only work 1 day for 3 hours a week (and for $5.25 an hour so that makes it worth it for me (you know I never bring any money home -it's like a kid working in a candy store), -and helping a friend who owns the store get a day off when she really cannot afford more help.

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  • 6 months later...
  • 2 years later...

Because the recent FLU that we are dealing with is not the same entity as the regular seasonal flu I feel I need to mention that you should NOT use elderberry or sambucol There is a lot of controversy over this and you can read the discussions on it here in Mrs. S but it is believed that it is effective for the regular flu because it encourages the cytokine storm that is just what kills with this flu or at least with the Avian Flu which is part of the genetic make of of this recent one.


I also will mention that I store quite a few homeopathic remedies but my ones of choice for this flu would be ones they used in 1918 for the Spanish Flu. Gelsemium and Bryonia. You can see a discussion of them in one of the stickied lists above.


We also need to take into consideration that they still haven't given us any information on how this flu works so we might have to change some of these remedies as it is warranted.





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