Cold and dark, this time of year, the earth lies dormant, awaiting the return of the sun, and with it, life. Far beneath the frozen surface, a heartbeat waits, until the moment is right, to spring. If we keep in-tune with our seasonal instincts we would be sleeping these longer nights and doing less but for many us the modern world is very out of tune with these patterns which takes its toll on our health. There seems to be an increase of people with severe colds and flu, even early on in the season this year. We need to be much more proactive in our approach to keeping these viruses at bay and so have put together some things that I personally use over winter.
As many of you know antibiotics are of no use with flu and colds but there are many ways we can boost our health and immune systems to prevent or aid quicker recovery. Many old traditional remedies are beginning to be revived, becoming more widely used again and found to be incredibly successful along with scientific research. If you are unwell please do stay at home as much as possible, you will recover faster and stop these viruses spreading.
First of all, the obvious get lots of sleep, keep warm, eat well and keep stress levels low. I know for many, this season can be added stress, but take time to pause about what is it necessary to do and what is caught up in commercial madness?
So what to do if you have Flu?
Firstly you do need to keep eating, to help keep up your glucose levels eat carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables. If you are a meat eater the old favourite chicken and veg soup is reputedly still a winner. Chicken contains a natural amino acid called cysteine, which can thin the mucus in your lungs and make it less sticky so you can expel it more easily. This is for freshly made soup not the canned variety. (If you have a bacterial infection a fast is sometimes recommended, however flu is caused by a virus.) Keep well hydrated. 'Real' Coconut water has a reason for its recent trendy popularity. I discovered it 20 years ago travelling in India when I became really ill. An American doctor whose job was attending global disasters advised me to use it. He explained that in some areas when they were out of saline for intravenous drips they use coconut water direct as a saline replacement its that closely matched! So it does rehydrate you fast! However most varieties here have been pasturized or added sweeteners, I've recently found M & S are selling real thing. Coconut water is different from coconut milk, the water comes from a unripe coconut.
Avoid paracetamol and aspirin and products containing these, e.g. Lemsip, Day nurse etc. These bring down the body temperature. It is the rise in temperature that kills the virus. You only need to bring the temp down if it 39* plus. If it’s 39.4 you need to go to hospital for urgent medical attention. The need to keep the body warm may be the reason for the old tale of eating a curry for flu along with all the herbs and spices, could this actually work?! So speaking of Curry, what spices, herbs and vitamins are useful in fighting or preventing flu?
Vitamin D and Garlic
Garlic contains three essential compounds that give the herb its incredible abilities: Alliin, alliinase and allicin. Together, alliin and alliinase form the compound allicin. In nature, this compound is produced as part of a defence mechanism – a reaction to potential pathogens and fungi. This anti-viral and anti-fungal quality of the chemical makes it very popular in a number of treatments, however once activated, allicin has a very short life span, often fading after a few hours. The allicin in your food is often diminished by the time it reaches your plate. This is why supplements like 'Allicin max' are so sought-after – they contain concentrated amounts of allicin whereas many other brands of garlic supplements reduce or don't have allicin in as this is what gives garlic its potent smell!
Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin! I can not give enough emphasis to the miracles of Vitamin D and the problems caused by deficiency. I would encourage you to research and use this links as a starting point. Research is proving that in the UK nearly everyone is now Vitamin D deficient and its important to recognize that RDA levels have not been changed since 1989, to reflect this research. Please remember that RDA is a bit like minimum wage, its only there as the absolute minimum needed to live on! It is an amazingly effective antimicrobial agent, producing 200 to 300 different antimicrobial peptides in your body that kill bacteria, viruses and fungi. Its incredibly effective in cancer prevention. Optimizing your levels will not only help send a cold or flu virus packing, it can prevent them from invading your body in the first place. (it's important to remember that if you're taking high dose vitamin D supplements, you ALSO need to take vitamin K2.) Further reading
Thyme, Rosemary, Sage and Oregano.
In France it was common place once upon a time, to burn rosemary and thyme in hospitals as a way of keeping the air clean and preventing contamination. Thyme protects against airborne pathogens and encourages the increase of the white blood cell count in the body. Rosemary is good for the respiratory system. Often used together, they also promote courage and confidence and lift heavy moods, bringing an increase in energy and vitality.
Oregano oil could win an award as one of the most effective natural preventives and treatments for the common cold and flu. One reason oil of oregano is considered an essential oil hero is the presence of carvacrol, one of the most bio-active components of this herb. For those who want to see what the scientists say, there’s a study in the Journal of Applied Microbiology in which researchers exposed a mouse norovirus (a human norovirus surrogate) to oregano oil and carvacrol. Both treatments were effective against the virus, inactivating the virus within one hour of exposure.
Old English, herbalists burnt mugwort or sage calling it saining and traditional native Americans call it 'smudging' before treatments or ceremonies. This literally is a cleansing of the air. Research has now proven that burning sage and other medicinal herbs cleared airborne bacterial populations by 94%, and the space was still found to be disinfected a day later. What’s more, a month after smudging, much of the pathogens originally found were still undetectable! You may occasionally smell white sage or desert sage at the ENERGYBODi studio as it is a very distinctive aroma. There is threat to white sage due to its increased popularity, so please choose a supplier that can say that it is ethically sourced. Further reading on research for the benefits. The Science of Smudging: How Sage Actually Cleans Bacteria In The Air | Spirit Science (thespiritscience.net)
Seasonal Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh
Known as “liquid gold”, for its incredible medicinal value, the properties of Frankincense were well known to the ancient physicians in rituals and for healing. The ancient Babylonians and Assyrians are believed to have burned Frankincense during their religious ceremonies. They knew it had antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, and as such prescribed it for various ailments including; indigestion, wound dressing and healing, coughs and other respiratory disorders. There have been many clinical studies revealing the efficacy of Frankincense in fighting dangerous bacteria and viruses. Controlled studies have shown that the essential oil provides immuno-stimulant activity throughout the body. One study found that Frankincense increases white blood cell production whilst keeping inflammation at a minimum. When applied topically, the oil will work to create a layer of protection against bacterial and viral infections. When inhaled, the same benefits manifest internally, working to heal the body from the inside out. With a strong reputation for treating many respiratory conditions, Frankincense has been found to be especially helpful to asthma sufferers. The inflammatory compounds, leukotrienes, play a major role in causing the bronchial muscles to contract which can cause asthma attacks. The ability of Frankincense to block the production of leukotrienes may be responsible for its success at treating asthma. Good quality Frankincense it expensive, I use it as in a glass roller ball and apply it to my face, my temples and around my eyes and under my nose to inhale it, sometime I add a few drops to my finger and line the inside of my nose with it too.
In ancient times, Myrrh was worth more than its weight in gold, so precious and powerful were the healing properties imparted by this resin. A recent study found that burning Myrrh in incense form can kill airborne bacteria by up to 68 percent. Myrrh has powerful decongestant properties. Diffusing Myrrh essential oil in an aromatherapy oil burner can clear excessive mucus and provide relief from coughs, colds, bronchitis and asthma. Useful link.
Cinnamon, Clove and Orange
Other seasonal oils I use a lot of during these months are cinnamon, clove and orange. I adore the aroma of these oils combined on top of my log burner in the winter months. Cinnamon oil is potent enough to eliminate more than 20 different types of bacteria. It is also used to prevent nervous tension, lift depression and hopelessness. It is hugely uplifting and energizing and can transform low vitality into zest for life. It is also mentally stimulating and can relieve mental exhaustion and nurture fresh thinking and creativity. Cloves can be used as an antimicrobial, useful for colds and respiratory problems. Orange also boosts antimicrobial activity and is an uplifting and cheerful oil. Most of these oils aid the digestive system, another valuable benefit in winter when there is much more 'stodge' foods and maybe over eating!
When using oils of NEVER USE OILS NEAT, UNDILUTED directly. They must be diluted with carrier oils. Thyme and Oregano in particular can 'burn' the skin. e.g. blend oregano with a base carrier and massaging it onto your soles of your feet can be great against flu. Make yourself a full body 'defense' cream adding a few drops of frankincense and thyme to a base cream. I use many of these oils in diffusers around the house or put drops of them on my wood-burner. I also add them to a water pump spray bottle and regularly spray the house, kitchen worktops, my hands and door handles etc. Try this blend.
Heather's Home blend-
10 drops lemon oil
20 drops of Orange oil
10 drops eucalyptus oil
5 drops thyme
5 drops cinnamon oil
5 drops oregano
2 drops rosemary oil
per 8 ounces pure water and add a pea sized drop of liquid soap in a spray pump bottle and spray your house, clothing, scarfs etc.
Or use any of the oils in combination in a steam inhalation. Keep eyes closed!
My go to oils to clear a chest cough, sinus and throat are oregano, thyme and eucalyptus.
The first line of defense is the nose and throat. (remember to breathe more often through your nose!) It is an Indian Ayurvedic tradition to oil the inside lining of your nose with sesame oil ( not the toasted cooking variety!) I have been doing this and adding frankincense.
Herbs for Teas
Herbs that have warming, calming and digestive properties can be brewed up into delicious teas to help support healthy digestion and circulation thereby promoting overall wellness during the wintertime. Look to yummy blends that feature herbs such as cinnamon, ginger, cardamon, turmeric, mints, thyme, anise and black pepper. Rich in aromatic oils, many of these herbs also assist the body in fighting infections and easing inflammation. Many now use artificial flavourings, Make sure you check the label and avoid these. Better still make your own! A slice of lemon, slice of garlic and teaspoon of honey is simple and refreshing.
It is more than ever so important to keep ourselves healthy in the concern over the decrease in effectiveness of antibiotics and they are no use for colds and flu anyway! Your gut wall houses 70 percent of the cells that make up your immune system, so boost your intestinal health by taking probiotics, ESPECIALLY if you have taken antibioitics in the last 6 months.
And finally, get enough sleep and rest. Learn how to de-stress, meditate, shake off your worries with a good therapeutic BODi dance, calm your nerves with Somatic Yoga, focus your mind and deep breathe in a Pilates session, to keep the blood flowing, the cheeks glowing and remember feeling good boosts your immune system too!
Enjoy the winter, I love the snow and I do hope we get some. Keep yourself well, happy and healthy. Laughter is the best medicine!
Blessings Heather x