This is the time of year for calling on a dear herbal ally "Old Man's Beard," or Usnea (usnea wirthii, u.californica).
It's the time of year when we keep cozy inside: a lack of fresh air when we shut tight our windows and turn on the heaters, and keeping kids inside to play in such environments only helps viruses to prosper in abundance.
When I was pregnant, I found all too often there were so many wonderful herbs that help colds and flus, but are not recommended while pregnant or nursing. I started using Usnea--safe for short term use while pregnant-- and now use it regularly. More even than Echinacea. Don't let the idea of being gentle enough for mama's fool you -- Old Man's Beard packs a punch! It has even been shown to fight gram-positive bacteria's, it is so potent. It is also called one of "nature's antibiotics" (see Buhner, 1999, _Herbal Antibiotics_ for a great reference). It is wonderful internally or topically as well for staph infections (I must note here, that one should never mess around with staph infections these days, they can advance to serious systemic proportions quickly. Please make sure you are being careful to have such an infection monitored by a health practitioner or your choice).
Some of this magical herb's qualities include assisting the fight against internal candida issues (because of its anti-fungal properties) -- I've even used this on my babies when they came down with a yeasty-diaper rash (after sweating off the alcohol, to be sure! It will irritate their skin otherwise. I'll post that recipe in the next post). I have also paired this with a tea blend to fight off tenacious UTI's with great success.
Wrap-up: Usnea is a powerful white blood cell stimulant (which in turn helps the body to attack viruses) and antimicrobial: anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial. So it really covers your bases. If you are going to be in an environment that exposes you to illnesses, or feel like you are catching something, you can take 3-4 dropperfuls a day of this tincture and within days you will be feeling on top of it. Sometimes I even blend 50/50 tincture of Echinacea and Usnea, if I am feeling rundown already and want to stimulate my immune while fighting the nasties.
Contra-indications: none known, don't overdue while pregnant