A virus is a different creature to a bacteria. Some people find viruses “scarier” because antibiotics have no effect on them. The interesting thing is that certain herbs do have an antiviral action, and many of these are widely available. Here are just a few.
1. Lemon Balm
In Germany, the antiviral effects of lemon balm are well-documented, and creams made from the herb are prescribed for herpes outbreaks and cold sores. Lemon balm is very easy to grow in your garden – a little too easy, in fact, as it tends to take over if not contained.
Lemon balm makes a very good tea, and can be drunk to combat all sorts of viral infections, such as colds and flu. The tea or a cream can be applied to cold sores or other viral lesions, such as shingles or chickenpox.
This lesser-known immune enhancing herb is known as huang qi in Chinese medicine. The root is sweet, not unlike licorice, to which it is related. It has been shown to be a very effective antiviral herb, particularly in the prevention of colds and flu, and may even be effective against the Coxsackie B virus (this virus can cause an inflammation of the heart).
You can simmer slices of the root in water to make a healing decoction, or you can use the commercially-available tincture. It is generally agreed that astragalus should be taken as a preventative rather than once the illness is in full swing, so if you think you’ve been exposed, or you experience the very first twinges of illness, you can start taking astragalus.
No discussion of antiviral herbs would be complete without mentioning garlic, an herb that is antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal. It’s not expensive, and you can use the whole herb or take capsules. However, many experts agree that “deodorized” garlic may not be as effective as the unaltered herb.
You can simmer minced garlic in chicken broth and sip it to stave off colds and flu. Raw, minced garlic can be sprinkled over salads and tossed with pasta. Be careful with consuming too much of it raw, though, as it can cause severe nausea when taken in this form.
Long ago, ginger was considered a “warming” herb that would prevent nausea from a “chilled stomach,” which was said to occur when large amounts of cold water were consumed in hot weather. We now know that ginger has powerful anti-nausea action, and it is also anti-viral.
Teas made from fresh ginger are palatable and spicy. You can sweeten them with raw honey for added germ-fighting benefits and flavor. When you feel the very first stages of a cold or flu, try drinking some of this tea several times a day. You can even drink it as a preventative if you think you may have been exposed to any viruses. Ginger is considered quite safe, although it is not recommended for pregnant women.