Herbal Remedies: Fenugreek and Thyme for Winter Ailments

Reader Contribution by Lori Osterloh-Hagaman
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The weather here in Ohio has been up, down and all around. We’ve had the coldest temperatures seen in the last thirty years and it has changed in a matter of days to slightly above freezing to create a sloppy, slushy mess. There is a saying, “If you don’t like the weather in Ohio, just wait five minutes.”

All these ups and downs, coupled with the regular stresses of the holidays and the impending tax season, can make for a lot of stress. Stress has been shown to impair immune function, and leaves you wide open for one of Ohio’s huge pain-causers: sinus infection.

Symptoms of Sinus Infection

You know the symptoms, don’t you? WebMD.com points to these red-light symptoms:

  • pain in the cheeks, forehead, or bridge of the nose
  • dizziness, especially upon sudden movement
  • pain the gets worse upon movement or sneezing
  • nasal discharge, including post-nasal drip
  • fullness and/or pain in the ears
  • swollen face
  • at times, fever

Medical treatment for sinus infections includes over-the-counter pain killers, antibiotics (sometimes), nasal sprays, decongestants, and/or antihistamines. All of these things, when used over the long haul, can create problems. OTC pain killers have been found to damage the liver and kidney tissues when used to excess. Antibiotic use can lead to over-use, and that can lead to antibiotic resistant infections down the road. Nasal sprays can lead to severe irritation of the lining of the nose and sinus membranes when used long-term. Heavy or long-term use of decongestants, like those containing pseudoephedrine and the like, have left some concerned about possible effects on the heart or heart rate. Even antihistamines, which are super difficult to abuse, can make you sleepy and groggy upon waking.

Not going to use those medicines long, you say? You may be surprised. Many people develop these

buggers over and over. According to Sinuwave (a manufacturer of an in-office disinfectant system which medical doctors can use) gives the stat of 20 percent of sinusitis patients being unresponsive to medical treatments. They, and WebMD.com, say the cost of this search for medical treatments for these non-responsive sinus infections as up to a max of $35,000 per patient! I don’t know about you, but since the economy tanked, there have been some years where $35,000 was all the money I made!

Natural Remedy: Fenugreek for Sinus Infections

What if I told you there was an herb that would help to combat these painful infections? Well, actually there are many herbs that will do that. However, one of my favorite is fenugreek. Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) has a distinct smell. The smell does transmit through your perspiration, so be aware of what you may end up smelling like. I don’t think it is too bad, though. It is a regular component of teas to enhance the breast milk supply for new mothers. One new mom once told me the tea made her smell like “…Indian food mixed with maple syrup.” In my opinion, there are worse things to have your body odor resemble.

Sinus congestion is just one thing this great herb addresses. It has been used for centuries to reduce the swelling of the lining of the sinuses. This is of benefit for sinus infection and allergy sufferers alike. Just imagine a flower being able to reduce the swelling of your sinus membranes. That would mean less of a battle to blow out the mucus forming. Mucus only forms in hyper quantities when irritants or infection is present. It is, after all, one of many of the body’s own mechanisms to flush out foreign invaders. Imagine being able to blow it all out without the pain that can linger for a while afterwards. Fenugreek can do just that.

Fenugreek has been indicated in some historical texts as being used for inflammation of the stomach and digestive tract, too. It is said to be the oldest recorded herb found so far. When you couple this flower with another common flower, Thyme, there isn’t a swollen sinus passage that stands a chance!

Herbal Remedy: Thyme’s Healing Properties

Thyme (of the genus Thymus, usually Thymus vulgaris) is highly antiseptic. Its essential oil is used in a very popular oral disinfectant, Listerine. In this product, thymol (essential oil of thyme) is combined with menthol and eucalyptol to produce a bacteria killing machine.

Thyme as a plant can do the same thing for you. Of course you can use it in your food and some people like the tea as an oral rinse or sinus irrigation. Be that as it may, I am a wuss. I really don’t like things that taste bad. I can bet you don’t either.  I find the easiest way to get a blend of these two plants down is as encapsulated supplements. The taste is then no longer a factor

Side Effects of Thyme and Fenugreek Treatments

Some side effects should be mentioned. Besides the body odor implications of fenugreek, you should know that if you take too much fenugreek, you could develop gas, bloating and diarrhea. Thyme, in excess, can be a gastric irritant. I’m not going to say that no one can over-dose in an herbal supplement, but I AM going to tell you that you would have to completely ignore a lot of “burping-up” of product and trips to the bathroom in order to over-dose on either of these two plants or a combination product. Be aware and be mindful of your body’s reaction to the supplements you use. It is suggested, in some sources, to avoid large quantities of fenugreek if you are pregnant or allergic to peanuts. I would not recommend using it for neither small children nor infants.

Both fenugreek and thyme can be found at health food stores separately and as combination products. Online store-fronts carry it as well. Make sure you look for a well-known brand. I do have it available in combination form through my online store-front, as well. It is not an expensive supplement by any means and can make such a huge difference!

Fenugreek plant and seeds photo by Fotolia/govindji

Thyme photo by Eggert Baumschulen

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