Using the garden to tackle coughs and colds

Famous for its frosted landscapes, crisp mornings and the excitement of snow, Winter can offer some of the most spectacular garden scenes of the year. Unfortunately, Winter can also mean coughs and colds aplenty.

Pieter and Victoria own Kearns & Meiring Physic Garden (89 Mildred Avenue), a National Garden Scheme garden with a difference. Trained as a Western medical herbalists, they use their garden to treat a wide range of illnesses. With November now here, we sat down with Pieter to find out how we might prevent the common cold from ruining our enjoyment of Winter.

Kearns & Meiring Physic Garden

What is the history of herbal medicine?

The garden as a place to heal and medicate is a practice that has been around for an extremely long time. From Japan to Europe, China and India, herbal medicine was developed all around the world in different ways, and eventually came together to form what we know now.

It’s fascinating that much of what we grow and use in our garden comes from the practices of trained professionals, while others are from recipe books written by families around the dining room table.

Kearns & Meiring Physic Garden

During winter it can be easy to catch a cold – what makes us more likely to get poorly?

There are many factors that can contribute to us feeling run down during this time of the year. Stress and diet definitely come to mind.

When you are stressed you go into flight or fight mode, causing your body to be too alert and not function properly. And while it’s tempting to indulge in Winter treats, if you aren’t getting the right nutrients it’s more likely that you’ll catch a cold.

Sambucus nigra; ‘Elderberry’

How can we build up our defences in the lead up to Winter?

In our garden, we grow Echinacea, which has been used to prevent common Winter illnesses for centuries. Echinacea is a vibrant perennial that can grow up to a metre in height. Not only is this flower a beautiful addition to our garden, when taken in tea or tablets it can help to boost the immune system and fight off germs.

We also grow the shrub, Elderberry, which produces small white flowers followed by black and red berries. Elderberry, formally known as Sambucus nigra, is high in Vitamin C and so similarly to Echinacea, it can help to defend your body against a cold.

You can often find both of these in teas, and drinking four to five cups a day can really help to build up your defences this winter – especially if you are run down due to stress or tiredness.  

When it comes to diet, it’s all about consistency. A lot of fruit and veg will have a positive impact on your immune system, helping to defend you against Winter bugs. We’re commonly told that we should eat five fruit and veg a day, but I’d aim for up to ten. With so much delicious Winter vegetables coming into season, like sweet potato, fennel and kale, it’s easy to include these into your meals.  

Kearns & Meiring Physic Garden

What can we do if we catch a cold?

If you do catch a cold this winter I would recommend trying lemon and honey tea, which can help to soothe your throat and ease congestion. 

Make your tea with thyme or sage and crushed garlic or sliced ginger. Let it infuse and cool a little for 15 minutes, then add the juice of half a squeezed lemon. You can add honey at this stage too, but try to use good quality honey and just enough to taste. Keep drinking throughout the day, at least every 2 hours.

For other flu-proof remedies, visit our website: http://kmherbalists.co.uk/flu-proof-your-family-winter/

Kearns & Meiring Physic Garden

How do you source plants for your work as medical herbalists?

As medical herbalists, me and my partner, Victoria, are passionate about keeping the craft of herbal medicine alive both as practitioners and medicine makers. To produce top quality herbal medicine you have to have access to the best plants possible, and as such, we chose to grow and make as many of our medicines as possible from plants grown in their back garden. 

Kearns & Meiring Physic Garden will open for the National Garden Scheme in June 2019.

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