So it’s that time of year again. The sniffles, the sneezing, the desire to wear a surgical mask every time you leave the house… Yep, it’s cold and flu season. With all the brouhaha over H1N1, flu shots, health insurance and the cost of a doctor’s care, I thought I’d share a few natural remedies and tips to help keep you healthy this winter.
It goes without saying that a healthy diet, along with plenty of sleep and moderate exercise are the first steps in maintaining a healthy constitution. The human body if left to it’s own devices is pretty darn good at fighting off many germs and diseases. There are some things you can add to your diet to help it along, though, and here’s my #1 favorite:
creative commons photo by flickr use funadium.
Truly a miracle food – not only does it ward off the undead, but eating a little bit every day in the summer can make you very unattractive to other biting pests like mosquitos and fleas.
Garlic is also a natural antibiotic. If you feel like you’re catching a cold or have an infection, crushing a clove into a spoonful of honey a couple times daily will really aid your body in fighting it. It gets bonus points for clearing up the chest congestion commonly associated with bronchitis.
The next item on my miracle list is Tea Tree oil. First… a word of warning. Keep this stuff away from kids and pets, especially if you have undiluted oil. Ingesting it can be toxic.
That said, Tea Tree kills just about everything that can ail you. It’s an antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal… it even kills mold! It’s great for nail fungus, yeast infections, acne and dandruff – just make sure you dilute it to avoid irritation. I’ve even found diluted tea tree oil on a cotton swab can help ward off some viruses if applied to the sinuses. Just don’t swallow it…
You can make a countertop spray to use in place of clorox or lysol by adding about 40 drops of tea tree oil and a more pleasant smelling oil such as lavender to a small spray bottle of white vinegar. Spray onto surfaces and wipe with a clean cloth. In the office, this can be invaluable for preventing the spread of common colds and flu – focus on commonly shared items like doorknobs and telephones. I also use it after cooking to clean my countertops, especially if I’m cooking with any sort of meat.
More preventative steps include frequent hand washing. Studies recommend at least 20 seconds under warm water, and any kind of soap will do. In fact, anti bacterial soaps should be avoided to prevent damage to our waterways, as well as to reduce the risk of creating antibiotic resistant super-bugs. You can read more on regular soap vs antibacterial soap over on YoungHouseLove, who wrote a very thorough post on the matter.
For times when you can’t wash, you can find natural hand sanitizing spray, like this one from Etsy seller littleyellowyarrow:
Or, make your own by mixing some tea tree oil and lavender into a little aloe vera gel. I keep a bottle of this in my car for those situations when there’s no water nearby and I’ve had to handle something questionable.
So say you’ve done all those things and you get sick anyway. Well, I’m sorry and I wish I could bring you some chicken soup and a blanket. Here are some tips to make your illness a little more tolerable:
First and foremost, stay home and rest! One of the worst things we can do is go to work and pass the illness on. Take a break, sleep a lot, and try some of these remedies. You deserve it!
I’ve already talked about eating a little garlic. Do it. It will help fight the bacteria as well as help clear up congestion.
Next up, hot tea with lemon and honey. Get yourself a good old fashioned teapot and cozy and drink up!
(tea cozy from etsy seller handylittleme)
Have a cough? There have been so many studies showing that in many cases, storebought cough medecines just don’t do squat. Try one of these recipes from Cooks.com instead. I’ve had particular success with a mix of warm whiskey and honey.
Stuffed up? Grab a towel, a big pot of boiling water and make yourself a steam vaporizer. Adding Rosemary, eucalyptus, and thyme will really help clear your head. More information on choosing essential oils for your symptoms over here. hint: this is also a good place for tea tree oil.
Putting some of these same oils into a hot bath is great if you’ve got body aches, or hang a sprig of fresh eucalyptus from your shower head while you shower.
There’s simply no cure for the common cold, or the flu, but hopefully with these hints and a little rest you can avoid the worst of it, and save yourself a trip to the doctor.
Oh, and about that chicken soup? Here ya go, from one of my favorite recipe blogs, Chocolate and Zucchini
Soupe de Mâche au Poulet
– 2 onion
– 2 garlic cloves
– 300g lamb’s lettuce (substitute another type of young, mild-flavored lettuce, like butter lettuce or baby spinach)
– 4 pieces of chicken meat, preferably bone-in and skin-on, cooked (for example two half-breasts and two thighs, or two thighs and two wings)
– 1 bay leaf
– salt, pepper
– olive oil
Peel and chop the onions and garlic. Heat up a little olive oil in a large saucepan, and add the onions and garlic. Cook over medium heat for about ten minutes, covered, until slightly translucent.
In the meantime, rinse the lettuce under cold water : the little bouquets have a tendency have a surprising amount of dirt trapped in, so being thorough is worth the effort. Trim the ends if you see little root filaments sprouting, otherwise leave them whole.
Add the lettuce, the chicken meat and the bay leaf into the saucepan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add four cups of boiling water. Bring to a simmer and let cook, covered, over medium heat for about twsnty minutes, until the lettuce is thoroughly wilted and the meat starts to fall off the bones.
Discard the bay leaf. Remove the pieces of chicken from the saucepan and transfer to a cutting board : using a fork and a knife, separate the edible (the meat) from the non-edible (bones, skin and cartilage). Shred the meat roughly and put it back into the soup.
At this point, you can choose to purée none, some or all of the solids, depending on how you like your soup. Ladle into bowls, and serve with thick slices of crusty bread, toasted.