23 December 2008

kicking a cold in time for the holidays

This past weekend I was waylaid by some kind of illness. Sore throat, achy body, post-nasal drip. Gross. It hit me Friday night. I was reluctant to do it, but I popped a couple of NyQuil and tucked myself in for some restless slumber. In the morning my bf made a run for some Tylenol, herbal teas, and the makings of a grilled cheese sandwich.

He brought back two magical teas that I hadn't tried before. I requested Traditional Medicinal's Throat Coat, but he picked up Yogi Tea's Throat Comfort and it worked like a charm. The slightly cherry flavored herbal concoction gets its power from wild cherry bark, slippery elm bark, and mullein, plus lots of delicious herbs and spices. The other soothing tea was Yogi's Breathe Deep. It smells more like a Christmas tree and tastes like I'd imagine one to taste, in a good way. I think it's the eucalyptus. This tea also had mullein in it. I had to know more about this medicinal herb, so I did a little search.

Turns out that mullein is a very useful plant. According to Wildman Steve Brill:

Mullein tea provides vitamins B-2, B-5, B-12, and D, choline, hesperidin, PABA, sulfur, magnesium, mucilage, saponins, and other active substances.

People use the tea as a beverage, but it’s best known as one of the safest, most effective herbal cough remedies. Mullein is an expectorant, and a tonic for the lungs, mucus membranes, and glands. An infusion is good for colds, emphysema, asthma, hay fever, and whooping cough. Strain the infusion through a cloth, or the hairs may get stuck in your throat and make you cough even more. Laboratory tests have shown that it’s anti-inflammatory, with antibiotic activity, and that it inhibits the tuberculosis bacillus. The Indians smoked dried mullein and coltsfoot cigarettes for asthma and bronchitis, and indications are that it’s effective: I’ve observed it working for bronchitis.

The tea is also an astringent and demulcent. It’s good for diarrhea, and it’s been used in compresses for hemorrhoids since it was recommended by Dioscorides centuries ago. It’s also supposed to help other herbs get absorbed through the skin. Pliny of ancient Rome, Gerard in sixteenth century England, the Delaware Indians, and country folk in the South used the heated leaves in poultices for arthritis.

A tincture of the flowers is used for migraine headaches. An oil extract of the flowers, which contains a bactericide, is used for ear infections, although you should consult with a competent practitioner first, to avoid the possibility of permanent hearing loss if the herb doesn’t work.

[Image: Magnus Manske via Wikipedia]

Mullein came over to this continent with settling Europeans. It's considered an invasive alien by the Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group (National Parks Service). They suggest eradicating it through various means, but I wonder why they can't harvest it and sell it to herbalists?

Here are a few other tools in my cold-fighting arsenal:

Naturade Herbal Expectorant (with Guaifenesin)

Emergen-C (Super Orange flavor)

Himalayan Institute Original Neti Pot (Ceramic)

Ricola (Honey Lemon with Echinacea)

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