With winter looming, it’s often on our mind that colds and flus are just around the corner. We spoke with Artemis founder Sandra Clair about tips for keeping our immune system strong and how plant medicines are great alternatives.
Good: Can you explain the importance of keeping our immune system strong during the winter months?
Sandra Clair: A common misconception is that colds and flu are brought on by cold temperatures. This is only partly true as the viruses which affect us are living in our environment all year round. It is likely our lifestyle changes in the colder months is what causes the increase in catching bugs.
During the winter, people tend to spend more time indoors with the windows closed, so they are more likely to breathe the same air as someone who has a virus. Also, the days are shorter during the winter, and a lack of sunlight leads to low levels of vitamin D and melatonin, both of which require sunlight for their generation. This compromises our immune systems, which in turn decreases ability to fight the virus.
Viruses may survive better in colder, drier climates, meaning they’re thriving while our immune system is compromised. Therefore, autumn is the perfect time to begin fortifying your immune system, but if you are prone to illness then this should be something that you work on year-round.
What are some great tips for busy people to strengthen their immune system?
Our immune system is a complex network within our bodies that plays a vital role in determining how well we can defend ourselves against invading cold and flu viruses. Our skin and saliva in the mouth and throat area are key barriers to infection and form part of the immune system, along with cells in every tissue of our body. A whole-body approach works best so prioritising self-care over the cooler months is essential.
- Apart from your daily fortification with immune-enhancing medicinal plants, make sure that you get enough rest and sleep, because this is imperative for strengthening your defences.
- Drink large amounts of fluids such as organic medicinal teas, hearty soups and flu-fighting vegetable juices, which help to inactivate and flush out infective microbes. When our mucous membranes in the throat are moist they act as a physical barrier against infections.
- Make steam inhalations or diffuse essential oils of thyme, lavender, pine, peppermint or yarrow – this also fortifies and disinfects your respiratory system.
- Take a hot footbath with salt and chopped garlic or thyme if you feel you’re at the verge of a cold. It is amazing how quickly this works and raises your core body temperature.
Could you please explain how plant medicine works differently compared to synthetic supplementation to strengthen immunity?
Traditional plant medicines naturally contain vitamins and minerals — which your body can recognise and absorb – and also have the huge added benefit of secondary compounds called ‘phytochemicals’. These unique compounds work specifically on different pathways and organs in the body. Thus medicinal plants transcend nutrients derived from foods or the lab.
Synthetic supplements have been manufactured to mimic plant compounds and contain isolated vitamins and minerals. Therefore, in most cases we’re getting significantly less nutrition from synthetic supplements than we do from natural sources as our bodies are simply not designed to process these synthetic ingredients.
Let’s look at echinacea for example. Unlike synthetic cold and flu medications, echinacea can be successfully taken as a preventative medicine over longer periods, with clinical trials showing it reduces the likelihood of cold and flu by 58 per cent. Preparations made with freshly harvested echinacea root are particularly potent. A recent study confirmed that such a fresh preparation is as effective as Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) in the early treatment of clinically diagnosed and virologically confirmed influenza virus infections with a reduced risk of complications and adverse events.
It is important to ensure plant medicine preparations are formulated by a registered medical herbalist.
Artemis utilises plant medicines. Can you explain how you discovered the wonders of plant medicine and why you wanted to share this in your products?
I grew up in Switzerland where natural healthcare is a living tradition and a normal part of modern medicine. It’s not unusual for your family doctor to prescribe plant medicine, and pharmacies are stocked with both natural and pharmaceutical treatments. Natural medicine has always been, and continues to be, popular among the Swiss and is funded via health insurance.
My own path to becoming a medical herbalist is unique in that it combined a traditional apprenticeship with scientific study. For three years I studied under a renowned Swiss herbalist, midwife and nun who passed down to me the ancient art of collecting, harvesting and preparing plant medicines. I learned clinical skills in the community practice where we administered the medicines prepared from locally harvested plants we gathered in the foothills of the Swiss Alps.
Further to that I undertook formal training in health sciences and herbal medicine from universities in both Australia and New Zealand. To gain a qualification in herbal medicine, practitioners undergo extensive training in the philosophies, principles and practice of herbal medicine, as well as the fundamentals of medical science, including anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology (the cause of disease), differential diagnosis, pharmacodynamics (what the plants do to our bodies) and pharmacokinetics (what our bodies do with the plants). Plant medicine is the foundation of Western pharmaceutical medicine.
Most herbalists will agree that the study of plant medicine is contagious and becomes a life-long passion. I am no exception. The period of my life learning from Sister Pauline was the inspiration behind Artemis, which I founded in 1998 to ensure traditional plant medicine is kept alive and available for all to benefit from, but my passion for plant medicine is what led me to undertake a PhD in the subject, which I am in the final stages of completing.
Can you share with us some of your wisdom about the ViroGone™ range?
The ViroGone™ recipe is rich in history and its plant medicine roots date back centuries. It was originally developed during the Black Plague and the recipe was highly sought-after. Fast forward to the present day, and this formula adapted to the 21st century continues to support its users with the ability to build strength of the immune system and defend against the early onset of a virus. We have expanded this ViroGone™ range to include a children’s specific oral liquid (suitable for ages 0-6) and a concentrated formula, which is our highest potency immunity product in a handy spray bottle when you are on the go. ViroGone™ contains powerful medicinal fresh-plant extracts of thyme, echinacea, angelica, sage and licorice. It also contains St Mary’s thistle – a unique inclusion to this remedy, which has a detoxifying element not found in most immunity products. We added this for extra benefit to eliminate infected mucus through the digestive system as well as effectively detoxify our body.
When’s the best time to use it?
ViroGone™ can be used daily as long-term support for immune strength and any time of year that your immunity is at risk of infection (travel, winter, times of stress). Its powerful therapeutic qualities also make it a go-to when you feel the early onset of a cold or flu or when an invader has bypassed your defense systems.
Finally, what’s your single top wellbeing tip that you can share with our readers?
Never underestimate the importance of self-care.