We’re smack in the middle of cold and flu season right now.
Our workplaces resound with the honks of blowing noses. Try to go to a movie and all you’ll be able to hear is coughing—and if you have kids, they’ve brought home at least four colds and probably a stomach virus by now.
Unfortunately, none of us are totally immune and even the healthiest among us will sometimes get sick.
When we get sick, we’re all told a bunch of ridiculous remedies that are sworn to make us better immediately. They won’t.
My doctor says that with medication it takes seven days to cure the common cold and without it, it’ll take a week to get better. The only cure is time. Sorry. There are, however, a lot of remedies that will provide some comfort, and I’d like to share my favorites in case you are under the weather.
Remember, I’m not a medical professional, so always check with your doctor if you’re not sure if something is safe or right for you.
1. Lemon Honey Tea: People believe this cures everything from strep to tuberculosis. It doesn’t cure anything, but it tastes good and soothes a sore throat better than pretty much anything else. I usually add a slice of ginger, especially if my stomach is acting up and I’ll sip this all day long when I have a cold or a flu.
2. Elderberry Syrup: I make sure I always have a bottle of this on hand because elderberry has been proven to shorten the duration of colds and flus and it’s an excellent immune booster. An added bonus is that it tastes fantastic (kids love it) and it’s great for coating a dry, sore throat. Take elderberry syrup straight or stir a couple teaspoons into boiling water for a pleasant tea.
3. Zinc Lozenges: Also proven to shorten the duration of the common cold. Try them and see if they work for you. Just be careful to suck the lozenges slowly and on a full stomach because zinc can make some people a little nauseated.
4. Slippery Elm: This herb has several uses and can be found in many forms from liquid, capsules to lozenges. Often it is a main ingredient in natural cough remedies because of its demulcent properties. That means it helps coat and protect the mucous membranes inside your body and that makes slippery elm perfect for a dry, hacking cough. During cold season I never go anywhere without my packet of slippery elm lozenges.
5. Epsom Salts Baths: Epsom salts always seem to make me feel better. Add at least a full cup to hot bathwater, and go for a long soak. I like my baths to be very hot and I prefer to add a few drops of essential oils so it smells good and I can pretend I’m in a spa. Lavender is my favorite. Epsom salts reduce inflammation and draw toxins out of your body, so if you only do one thing when you’re sick, try this.
6. Stick a Heating Pad in Your Bed: Under you, on your stomach, whatever. I like to rest my head on the heating pad when I get bad headaches and it really helps. Just don’t fall asleep and burn your face and then blame me. If you don’t have a heating pad, a hot water bottle is just as good.
7. Tiger Balm: This wonderful, clove-scented product is wonderful to massage into achy joints and I rub a dab on my temples or forehead if I have a headache, but watch out because sometimes the vapors can make your eyes water or cause temporary redness on your skin.
8. Smoothies make everything better: Throw some frozen fruit, a little juice, almond milk or coconut milk into a blender and slurp away. In our house, we like smoothies when we can’t stomach much else. Another big treat is to stir together a slushy out of fruit sorbet and lime flavored seltzer water.
9. Hot Yoga: Hot yoga does wonders for me when I have a head cold. I like to set up my mat next to the humidifiers and sprinkle of few drops of eucalyptus on my towel. Then, I take it very slowly and gently, modifying the asanas and taking plenty of breaks in child’s pose. Be careful to stay extra-hydrated and don’t practice if you have a fever, stomach bug or the flu. You want to avoid over-exertion and you don’t want to get your fellow yogis sick.
10. Asian Soups: Most people swear by chicken soup, but when I’m sick I like tom yum, pho and miso the best. The garlic, ginger, lemongrass and hot peppers really help to ease congestion and warm you up, plus they’re delicious.
11. Sunshine and Fresh Air: Never underestimate the healing powers of the outdoors. Take some time to sit outside in the sun or if you’re feeling up to it, go for a short, slow walk. If it’s cold outside, make sure you bundle up appropriately.
12. Moisturize: When you have a bad cold or the flu, your nose is going to get raw and red. You’ll have miserably chapped lips, so don’t neglect these parts of your body. Lanolin is a miracle moisturizer and you can find it in tubes in the breastfeeding supply section of most large stores. Dab it on your nose for instant pain relief. Vegan alternatives that are equally excellent for chapped skin are rosehip seed oil, coconut oil and argan oil, and beware of most commercial lip balms because they contain ingredients that can actually dry your skin more. Avoid any product containing castor oil when your lips are chapped.
13. TV—You’re sick: This is the perfect excuse to sit around and do nothing but watch movies. Alas, I have a three year old so I don’t get to do this much, but I can dream. One day she’ll be old enough to appreciate Wes Anderson with Mommy.
14. Turmeric: This root, and the spice made from it, contains strong anti-inflammatory properties. Work fresh or dried turmeric into your diet however and whenever you can, every day. Try this yummy warm beverage when you aren’t well.
15. Burning Essential Oil: When someone in my house is sick I like to put eucalyptus, peppermint or lavender oil in my oil burner and light it up. It freshens the house, promotes a healing atmosphere and soothes the sinuses.
16. Eucalyptus Spray: I use this kind, but there are many, or you can make your own by placing eucalyptus oil and water in a spray bottle. I’m addicted to it. I spray it on myself, in the air, in the shower, over my bath when I’m soaking, in the car. I love it.
17. Fresh Eucalyptus: You can usually find fresh bunches of eucalyptus wherever flowers are sold. Lightly crush the leaves and stems to release their oils and then hang the branches upside down in your shower.
18. Give yourself permission to be sick: We live in a hectic society and most of us don’t take enough time to settle down and rejuvenate our bodies and our spirits. When we get sick, we feel guilty if we need to stop running around, or if we have to say no or cancel obligations, but taking a break to heal is essential and you deserve this down time.
19. Don’t blame yourself: You didn’t do anything wrong to cause yourself to get sick and guilt will make you feel worse. It’s not because you didn’t exercise or meditate enough or take the right combination of supplements. Sometimes we just get sick. End of story. This is your time to be ill and understand that it is temporary and soon you will be well again and back to your regularly scheduled activities.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise