Keeping spring ills in check does not have to mean loading up on vaccinations and antibiotics. Herbalists say natural remedies are effective for boosting the body's immune system.
If you feel an illness coming on, give your body a good dose of vitamin C - as much as 1000mg up to four times a day. Herbalist Ginny Clayton says parsley is a good, easy-to-grow source and is full of vitamin C, trace elements and minerals. Cut down on sugar, which competes for the receptor sites on white blood cells, making it harder for the vitamin C to be effective.
Eat lots of fresh, colourful fruit and vegetables to get a good range of antioxidants, vitamins (especially vitamin D), and minerals to help your body resist infection.
Clayton and Linda McDonald, of Herbs NZ, regard sage as an important weapon in the anti-flu arsenal. They gargle with sage or drink sage tea. Adding herb robert to tea is effective for a lot of people, she says. Clayton recommends adding some thyme to your sage tea. Thyme is an antiseptic that also helps with chest infections.
"Use them together and add a bit of lemon." Other teas worth trying are ginger and black pepper and tulsi with honey.
Linda swears by olive leaf at the first sign of sickness. You can pull a leaf straight from the plant but she warns that they taste awful - tablets are far more palatable.
"It's antibacterial and antiviral but you have to hit it hard to knock the illness out right at the beginning." She says olive leaf has been shown to be effective in about 80 per cent of people. Garlic is useful when you feel a cold coming on - take one or two whole cloves a day to shorten the illness. Raw garlic cloves cut in half can be taken like tablets so they do not taste too bad. Alternatively, take a big dose of garlic supplements at the first sign of sniffles. If you are already sick, natural remedies can tackle the symptoms and help your body fight an illness.
Eucalyptus and camomile are very soothing. Pick a few leaves of either plant, pour boiling water over them, and breathe the vapour to clear a blocked nose and soothe a chest infection.
Clayton says echinacea is a centuries-old treatment for immune systems. It is easy to grow, but is dormant in winter. It should be dried in summer and kept for cooler months. The whole plant can be used in tinctures and teas. McDonald says echinacea should not be taken over a long period of time because it is most effective when used in short bursts.
In your garden:
* Sage is a perennial herb that can grow big and bushy in the right place. It prefers a dry spot - it is probably best to grow it in container or raised beds.
* Thyme is not as affected by the rain and can be grown in any vegetable bed, although it prefers a lot of sun. It can last up to four years. Both the leaves and the flowers can be eaten.
* Echinacea is common in many gardens because of its pretty flowers. Use for a sunny, well-drained spot.
Celery herb prefers well-drained soil and full sun. The stems taste like celery and the leaves like parsley.