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Back to School Herbs

Sneezes and wheezes take a back seat to learning with the help of Mother Nature

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When it comes to avoiding seasonal sniffles and keeping kids in the classroom, time-tested herbs can help in two ways: by bolstering resistance to bugs, and-if bugs do invade-speeding their demise.

Resistance Boosters
Enhancing the body’s immunity to viruses and bacteria is a traditional way of using herbs, many of which are found in comprehensive immune-boosting formulas. Here are some key botanicals that can be taken by both children and adults:

Astragalus: An adaptogen-meaning a tonic that restores balance-astragalus can be taken on an ongoing basis and is often recommended by holistic physicians for children. It can be found in many immune-enhancing products.

Olive Leaf: The leaves of the olive tree contain oleuropein, a substance our bodies use to kill viruses, fungi, and harmful bacteria without damaging beneficial bacteria. It can be taken for the prevention or treatment of colds, sore throats, and flu . Most extracts are formulated for adults, but Barlean’s Olive Leaf Complex can be taken by children age 2 and older.

Chamomile: A gentle, calming herb that eases stress and anxiety, settles tummy upsets, and promotes restful sleep, chamomile is also a traditional remedy for colds and sore throats. Traditionally brewed as a tea, it’s safe for all ages, and can relieve infant colic.

Cold and Flu Remedies
Of course, sometimes we can’t avoid getting sick despite our best efforts. If your kids do come down with a seasonal malady, these herbs can help.

Echinacea: This popular botanical fights colds and flu by boosting the body’s white blood cell count and activating other components of the immune system. Studies show that echinacea can reduce discomfort and shorten the duration of a cold or flu if taken at the very first sign of symptoms. It may even help prevent colds from developing.

Andrographis: Studies following a total of more than 1,000 people have found that this herb seems to be an antiviral that can speed up recovery from colds, flu, and fever. Andrographis may also help prevent colds and flu.

Elderberry: Research shows that black elderberry extracts stop flu viruses from replicating in our bodies and activate antibodies that fight the virus in infected cells. A European elderberry product, Sambucol, is the most widely studied for flu relief.

Oregano Oil: Since ancient Greece, oregano oil has been used to treat coughs and other symptoms of respiratory infection. Today, it’s also considered a remedy for viruses, fungi, bacteria, yeast infections, and parasites. In a nasal spray, such as SinuOrega from North American Herb and Spice, it helps relieve sinus congestion.

Sore Throat Soothers: Marshmallow root and slippery elm, from the inner bark of the tree, have traditionally been used to ease the discomfort of sore throats. Both contain mucilage, a substance that becomes gel-like when mixed with water, which soothes by coating the throat. Look for one or both of these ingredients in teas, throat sprays, and lozenges.

Barlean’sOlive Leaf Extract Complex bottles the natural antimicrobial power of freshly pressed olive leaves to protect against cold, flu, and infection.

Nature’s Way Organic Sambucus for Kids Bio Certified Elderberry syrup in Natural Berry Flavor is sugar-free and boasts a guaranteed-potency black elderberry extract.

North American Herb & SpiceSinuOrega blends pure essential oils, including oregano and sage, in a saline base to instantly clear nasal passages and sinuses. The spray is safe for the whole family to use.

Send green tea to college
High-caffeine energy drinks are popular among college students, but green tea can deliver more stable energy and enhance focus without causing jitters, sleeplessness, or a dependence on stimulants. Green tea has only 10-20 percent of the caffeine found in energy drinks, according to product tests by Plus, it contains L-theanine, which has a calming effect.

Research has shown that the combination of L-theanine and caffeine enhances energy and focus. For example, a study published in Nutrition Reviews noted: “L-theanine may interact with caffeine to enhance performance in terms of attention switching and the ability to ignore distraction.”

Vera Tweed has been writing about nutrition, fitness, and healthy living since 1997. She specializes in covering research and expert knowledge that empowers people to lead better lives.