A few posts back I wrote about some great immune boosters that had recently been sent my way in the new hope blogger box. Now that we are in the thick of cold and flu season, I thought I’d also post some other natural products that help us fight the good fight against those nasty viruses and bacteria that like to get social this time of year.
Essential oils are great germ fighters and immune helpers with some more potent than others in their anti-bacterial and/or anti-viral properties. If you just want to have one go-to blend for fighting all the winter sicknesses that get around, then Thieves oil is what you want. Thieves oil has a great story to it, though whether it is more history or mythology is anyone’s guess. I like to think the story had to start somewhere, so why not in an actual event? The story has several variations, but basically they all say something along the lines of this: During the Middle Ages there were four thieves in France who used to rob the graves (or the houses) of those who had died of the Plague and managed to not get ill themselves. When they were eventually caught, they were given a lighter punishment in return for telling how they did it. The four thieves admitted they used herbs (most likely soaked in vinegar at that time) to keep themselves from getting the disease. They knew how to do this because among them were perfumers and spice traders who at the time understood the anti-biotic and anti-viral properties of their goods. Their blend has passed down to us through all these centuries, though the actual recipes vary depending on who’s making it. Usually the blends include: clove, lemon, eucalyptus, cinnamon and rosemary, and then different makers add in their own special favorites. You can find it as Thieves Oil, Medieval Mix Oil, Bandits Oil, and I’m sure other names as well.
Thyme oil is another great anti-germ essential oil. You can make a room spray for wiping down surfaces or use it in an diffuser for infusing the air with its strong anti-viral properties. Thyme also repels insects and combines particularly well with Lavender and Eucalyptus essential oils to kill any bacteria or viruses around, which makes it a great blend to have along for classrooms, workplaces, and travel.
If you have congestion in your nose or chest, nothing beats Eucalyptus Oil for loosening it up and helping you breathe. Putting it in a diffuser or flicking some on the back of a shower before starting the water are great ways to get the Eucalyptus into the air. If needed, I’ll put a drop right on the front of a shirt or on a pillow if it’s bedtime.
There are plenty of immune boosting herbs to help you avoid getting sick that also help you get well faster if you do get sick since sometimes it is just unavoidable, but there are two that almost always get center stage in any immune blend~ Echinacea and Astragalus. Tinctures and teas are a great way to take immune boosting herbs if you are already sick, and you can also add Astragalus to soup and you might be lucky enough to find it fresh in your local produce section. (It’s a root.) Herb Pharm makes quite a few immune support blends in tincture form, from a daily builder to use before getting sick, to a rapid defense once you are sick, one specifically for viruses, and one for kids. Yogi Teas has an assortment of immune boosting teas such as this one and this one. I put the powdered root of Astragalus into my adaptogen blend during the winter for daily immune system support and because it also has adaptogenic properties.
Elderberry is another cold season herb that is a must have in your personal natural medicine cabinet. It is in a lot of cold formulas and syrups so it is an easy herb to add. Besides this kind of formula there are lozenges that one of my son sucks on all school year long, though it’s more about the yummy taste in his mind.
A few other herbs to aid the immune system are medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, Oregon Grape Root, Lomatium, and Garlic. Any time you can add any of these to your teas, daily supplement regime, and/or diet help keep your immune system in top form.
There are a couple of homeopathic medicines that can really help shorten a cold or flu and lessen the symptoms. As soon as you start to feel flu-type aches and pains, fever, and such, your best bet is to take Oscillococcinum as soon as possible. This means having it on hand at all times, just in case, because it really only works if you get it in you before the flu really takes hold. Follow the directions on the box for how much/often to take it.
Another homeopathic medicine that really should be taken at the first sign of a cold or flu is Umcka, but with this one even if you don’t get it going immediately, it’ll still lessen the duration and intensity of the cold or flu when you do start taking it. I keep a cold formula and a cold/flu formula on hand all winter long because it always seems to be nighttime when one of us starts to feel bad. There are many versions of this medicine from a hot drink to an over-the-counter-style liquid, and it’s tasty enough for kids. (Mine love it.)
Vitamins, Minerals, and Others:
Vitamin C is of course the go-to vitamin for helping the immune system fight little invaders. Be mindful that our bodies get used to the amount of vitamin C we normally take so a large, sudden increase can result in diarrhea. Vitamin D has become more well-known lately for its role in immune system support so it can be found in some wellness formulas such as this Emergen-C fizzy drink, and if you are lucky, in the sunshine. Zinc is also recognized as an important component in immune boosting and can be found in the Zand Elderberry lozenges above as well as other wellness formulas.
Probiotics are an integral part of the immune system. Taking them regularly helps keep you well, and if you go through a round of antibiotics, hit the probiotics hard afterwards, and even during the antibiotic treatment. Just make sure to take them at least two hours after taking the antibiotics.
One more thing I feel compelled to mention is drinking anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar in a glass of water. The bottle must say “with the mother” in order for it to be actively healing. If you feel something coming on, then drinking this three times a day will help your immune system fight it. It is strong tasting at first so starting with as small of an amount that you can get down is fine. I promise it grows on you and you can increase the amount you put in water for greater health boosting. Apple cider vinegar does a host of good and I drink it every morning all year long (1 tablespoon in a glass of water) to prepare my digestive system for the day.
Keep well everyone and please share this with anyone who needs some immune support this winter.