[Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. These are just my observations and experiences. Your experience may be different. You should always consult with a reliable health care professional when treating any illness.]
It’s the cold and flu season and already too many of my friends have been stricken. I hope you get out of it unscathed. I know I may be tempting fate to admit this, but it’s been over 25 years since I had the flu. Now colds are another thing–I get way too many of them and too often they turn to bronchitis. So at our house we are pretty conscientious about cold prevention.
I’d like to think that one reason we have so little illness in our house is we practice good health habits. My boys will tell you I am a fanatic about eating fruits and vegetables–at least three servings at every meal. This time of year the homegrown fresh vegetables are dwindling. Just yesterday we finished the last of our beets that were in cold storage. We have one more serving of fresh
radishes and still have several squash.
When fresh vegetables are hard to come by, try sprouting. Sprouting is a quick and easy way to make a fresh vegetable out of a dry seed.
I also make sure everyone washes hands. Not even hand sanitizers are a substitute for good ol’ soap and water. We avoid antibacterial soaps–they just aren’t that effective. Most winter illness is caused by viruses anyway and the over-use of antbiotics has bred too many antbiotic-resistant germs.
Fresh air and getting your lungs working is important. I sometimes think that one reason we get so many sicknesses this time of year is because the house is all closed up and germs get all snuggled in and too comfortable in our homes. So every now and then we put on a sweater and open windows and doors to get rid of stale winter air.
Boost your immune system
We take immune-boosting Vitamin C and Vitamin D. Some studies show these do nothing to stop a cold or flu once you get it, but they are good for prevention. Zinc has been shown to both shorten colds and lessen the severity of symptoms.
The studies on echinacea are conflicting. Some consider it the best cure-all for colds and flu. Whether or not it cures the colds or flu, most studies show that it will help boost the immune system, so we use it more as a preventive than a cure.
So what do you do if, despite your best efforts someone in the family does get sick? There are lots of over-the-counter remedies you can try, but they mostly mask the symptoms and do not speed recovery. The best remedy is time. Eventually you will get better. But there are several remedies that will help alleviate some of the suffering. Here are some of my favorites:
Home Remedy: Salt Water
One of my favorite home remedies is salt water. It’s a very effective throat gargle, often eliminating a sore throat in just 2-3 gargles. Experts agree: a salt-water gargle is very effective against a sore throat. And try using salt water in a Neti pot to hydrate the nose and reduce congestion. I won’t lie. Using the Neti pot is kind of uncomfortable and messy, but the results are amazing.
Home Remedy: Essential Oils
Most studies of essential oils are not conclusive, but I like the aroma of therapeutic essential oils such as Lavendar, Lemon, Tea Tree and White Pine. I have found that using them in a diffuser or humidifier helps alleviate congestion. and use them in a diffuser during the cold and flu season.
Home Remedy: Homeopathics
The two natural remedies that I’ve used the most (and gotten consistently good results from) are Oscillococcinum and Aconitum napellus. Studies show that my first favorite remedy, Oscillo, is very effective in reducing the intensity and duration of the flu. It’s best when taken within 12-18 hours of the onset of symptoms, so you’ll want to have some on hand.
If you have a child who gets croup, you will want to have my second favorite remedy, Aconite. It always gave us amazing results when our youngest got croup. With just 2-3 doses we typically saw all his symptoms abate within 3-4 hours. Like all homeopathic remedies, it works best the sooner it is administered, so have some on hand because croup always strikes in the middle of the night.
Two other homeopathic remedies that I could not live with are Arnica and Calendula. These two are not for illnesses, but used for minor injuries. Arnica has been used for centuries in liniments for muscle aches. It is good for just about any injury or trauma. It speeds healing and quickly reduces pain and swelling.
Calendula (cream or gel) speeds healing of minor burns, scratches or abrasions.
Home Remedy: Herbs
Chamomile, ginger and mint are all good teas for upset stomach. Each works a little differently: Mint encourages the production of bile which aids in digestion and also has anti-microbial properties.
Remember how your grandmother had you drink ginger ale when you were sick? That’s because Ginger is mildly stimulant, increasing blood circulation and relaxing the intestinal tract.
Chamomile calms the stomach and soothes inflammation It also calms and soothes the body. For this reason I give chamomile tea at night for a good night’s sleep, ginger tea to wake the
body up in the morning and mint in the morning or afternoon.
And speaking of capsules, here is a recipe for homemade capsules that has a bunch of good things for colds: Rose Hip (vitamin C), Echinacea (immune booster), cayenne (helps break up mucus) and thyme (for coughs.)
Home Remedy: Potions and elixers
My favorite remedy to soothe sore throat and congestion is Ginger Lemon Honey Tea. As I’ve already mentioned, ginger stimulates the body to heal. Both lemon and honey have anti-biotic and anti-microbial properties. But the best thing is this tea is YUMMY. Unlike many of my home remedies, my kids actually like taking it.
This homemade potion has many of the ingredients that I’ve already mentioned as being beneficial.
Try making your own homemade version of Vick’s VapoRub. It smells better and has none of the bad chemicals found in petroleum jelly.
I haven’t tried these, but they look very good: Sore Throat Lollipops.
Here’s hoping you have an illness-free winter. And if the colds and flu do find your house, I hope you and your sickies recover quickly.