What do you do when when you or a family member are starting to feel sick? I know there are foods that can boost immunity and ways to help our bodies heal themselves. Please share your best tips and concoctions!
As you may well imagine, I am a huge advocate of equipping the body to fight its own battles. The symptoms that most over-the-counter cold and flu medications “fight” are the very tools your body is using to rid yourself of the disease! Fevers, sinus drainage, and even feeling icky all have an important role to play in your recovery. The less you try to suppress them, (for the most part) the better.
Here’s what we are doing right now at my house to make sure the rest of us don’t catch whatever bug got brought home from the children’s library last week.
Increase water intake, rest, and sleep, and handwashing!
Your mama was right - these are still some of the most helpful things you can do for your body in order to beat out a bad bug.
Decrease or eliminate dairy, wheat, oranges, and refined sugar
These are big mucus-makers, and the last thing you want is to add more mucus to your system - it will hold onto the bad bugs! Let your body create the mucus where it needs to, and let your excess water drinking flush it out! Reducing your intake of these foods is actually a great lifestyle choice whether or not you’re facing down a cold; the standard American diet contains way too much of these ingredients and our health is often reflective of our poor eating choices.
Let me once again sing the praises of garlic! Garlic is an amazing and powerful herb! It is a natural anti-fungal, anti-microbial, and anti-bacterial agent - pretty much everything you need to fight off any illness.
In order to release the healing properties of garlic (found in the phytochemical allicin), you need to crush a fresh, raw clove of garlic and let it oxidize for a few minutes before you ingest it. Ingest it how, you ask? Well, if you’re like me, you’ll revel in the garlic breath and make a fabulous slice of garlic bread! Just toast a piece of bread, slather with coconut oil or olive oil (the fat will keep the garlic from burning your stomach), and crush the garlic right on! Today I used half an avocado and a huge handful of spinach to complement it. Man, was that good. I am already craving more!
Since heat dissipates the healing properties of garlic, yes, you do have to consume it raw for all its amazing immunity boosting properties. If you can’t stomach my sandwich idea, how about a nice garlicky salad dressing? If it really bothers you, stuff it into capsules and swallow it. Some people even swallow the slightly crushed clove whole like a capsule, but I’ve tried that and it was not comfortable!
Of course, you’ll still get some benefit even if the garlic gets a little warm. When I’m feeling run down, I crave hot drinks and one of my favorites is a big mug of steaming miso broth with a couple garlic cloves squeezed in. I also make a big batch of Hell’s Angel Hair at the first sign of a cold.
We also use garlic topically to combat illness. Its healing properties are absorbed through the skin and are quite effective. Since garlic has some pretty potent chemicals in it, you need to be careful to protect the skin from chemical burn. Lotion, Petroleum jelly, or even lanolin will work. I can’t find an active link for this recipe that I found a few years back, but here it is:
(Garlic Olive Oil Treatment)
3 TB coconut oil
3 TB olive oil
3 TB FRESH (do not use that abomination in a jar) chopped garlic
Melt coconut oil over low heat. Mix in the other two ingredients. Now, some people blend in a blender and then strain the bits of garlic out before storing it in a glass jar in the fridge. I personally just mix it all together with a spoon and then store it. I couldn’t be bothered to strain it; so what if we get tiny chunks of garlic all over our chests?
Garlic is your friend; don’t hate the garlic chunks!
Put the Goot on the soles of your feet (which are great at absorbing), with some dedicated Goot-socks to keep it from spreading everywhere. If you’re fighting a cough or sore throat, slather it on your chest and neck (using a dedicated Goot-shirt and Goot-neck-socks for aforementioned reasons - as well as to simply be able to use the term “Goot-shirt”). Sure, you’ll smell like a Thai whorehouse, but it’ll be worth it when you feel better in the morning!
I have converted many nay-sayers with my Terrible Tea. I don’t know if it’s the mixture of wonderful immune boosters or that your body gets threatened into getting well so it doesn’t have to drink any more of it, but whatever the case, Terrible Tea works.
Laura’s Terrible Tea
Juice of one lemon
1/4 c unpasteurized raw apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg’s)
2 TB honey
1-2 cloves of freshly pressed garlic
dash or two of cayenne pepper
1/4 c hot water
half a banana
Mix everything but the banana together in a glass. Gulp down your Terrible Tea, following it with a banana chaser to kill the shivers. Actually, it’s not that bad. Well, it’s pretty bad, but as much as your palate revolts, your body will be thanking you for the flood of healing you are sending it. Soon, you’ll be craving it!
A powerful natural anti-viral, elderberries are a total superfood and great for that extra boost when you feel like you’re fighting something off. There are a couple popular brands of elderberry syrup in drugstores, but they contain glucose syrup or sorbitol - ugh. The kind we prefer is called Berry Well from Beeyoutiful.com. Their elderberry syrup is sweetened with raw honey, and also contains propolis, apple cider vinegar, and echinacea (all of which have their own anti-viral/anti-bacterial properties!). I appreciate the thoughtfulness with which Beeyoutiful’s products are made; each ingredient has a purpose to the whole. Why use table sugar (which suppresses the immune system) when you could add extra immune-boosting power with raw honey?!
This is apparently a rather controversial substance, because if you overdose on it you will turn irrevocably blue. My advice would be to not overdose on it. Silver is a known anti-bacterial and anti-viral - it’s used in water filters, medical grade air purifiers, etc. While there are no scientific studies proving its efficacy, there’s enough anecdotal evidence to be convincing of its therapeutic usage.
I use Colloidal Silver as eye drops for conjunctivitis (that is, if I’m not lactating, because a squirt of breastmilk really works wonders!). I put it on cuts, scrapes, and burns for super fast healing. I’ve recently read that it works well against ear infections, so I will go that route in the rare event that someone in my household crops up with a sore ear.
I also use Colloidal Silver as a super-immune booster right when we’re really fighting something off. When our bodies are telling us it’s time for Terrible Tea, it’s also time for a cup of Emergen-C with some immunity herbs, vitamin D drops, and a dropper full of Colloidal Silver.
Don’t wait for the snot to expel the bacteria - wash it out yourself with a Neti Pot! I am a huge fan of Nasal Irrigation. You can try a traditional-style neti pot, or get a squeeze bottle similar to the type I use.
“Special Socks” and Castor Oil Packs
These are two awesome tricks my Naturopath taught me. Here’s a link to both treatments on some other ND’s website. Definitely check them out! He explains what they do and why they are useful. Our bodies are made for self-healing, and these simple remedies can really aid its fight against the bad bugs.
I have had excellent results with homeopathy. Not everyone does, but they’re worth trying if you haven’t before. I love using them for my kids, since there are no risks of interaction and their sweet lactose base makes them go down easy.
The unspellable homeopathic remedy Oscillococcinum is really effective. So universally regarded as effective that it’s gone mainstream; it’s not just reserved for hippies and their herb shops - you can get it at WalMart!
We just started using Coldcalm at my house, after the Boiron giveaway I hosted on this blog. I’ve found it to be fast-working and effective.
Gypsy Cold Care Tea
I adore this tea. Nothing makes me feel more soothed and taken care of when I’m sick than a hot cup of Gypsy Cold Care Tea with a generous dollop of honey. It’s slightly sweet, slightly minty, and very restorative.
The ginger bath is for when you are starting to get achy and feverish and just need to go to bed. My chiropractor in Nebraska taught me this and we love it. Here is a link for a standard recipe. I deviate slightly from this because I put my freshly grated ginger (I would not recommend powdered! It’s not likely to be as effective) into an old sock so it doesn’t mess up the tub. I also “brew” the ginger in simmering water for 10 minutes and then add the sock and the water to the tub - making it even hotter. Putting the ginger in the sock means you can use it as a poultice to press against key areas - lymph glands, sore throat, etc. Just don’t get the ginger water in your eyes! It will buuuurn! And make sure you’ve got everything together to hop straight into warm jammies (I recommend a hat) and into bed. You must maintain a nice little fever in order for this to work!
There are many other great uses for ginger. This lady is doing a magnificent job writing up some common herbs and their uses. Here’s her article on ginger that includes some other good immune boosting recipes.
Well, Ashley, those are my natural remedy mainstays. I did read with interest this article listing “kitchen remedies” for babies and toddlers that had some other great ideas. Although its written for parents with children in mind, all of the remedies are useful for adults as well. Some I had never heard of! Did you know that potatoes can reduce a fever, or a carrot poultice can soothe a sore throat?! Good stuff!
My biggest advice is this: Find a Naturopath. This has been life-changing for me. The philosophy of alternative medicine is to work with the body’s natural defenses to improve immunity and overall health. Unlike allopathic (or Western-minded) medicine, which tends to just focus on and treat symptoms, alternative medicine considers the entire body, mind, and spirit as it seeks to aid in healing. This holistic approach really speaks wisdom to me, and my body has responded very well to its practice!
***If you are fighting pink-eye/conjunctivitis, please see my post about treating it naturally here.***