With the colder weather and shorter days also comes more colds and flu. Over the years I’ve tried various remedies to help keep colds at bay as well as shorten its duration once my body succumbs. I’m sure you’ve experimented with various things as well. Today, I wanted to share with you my favorite remedies and what I use them for. This is by no means a complete list, there are honestly a lot of winter remedy options out there but they are my favorites.
First, let’s stack the odds in your favor. There are some basic tenets you should be aiming for to keep your immune system strong and fight off any infections you may be exposed to. With more time indoors around others who are sniffling or sneezing, your immune system definitely gets more of a work-out this time of year. Before we add any remedies to the mix, let’s start with the following actions to keep your immunity strong.
If you’re not getting enough sleep, it’s a cold waiting to happen. I can’t tell you how many times I started to feel like I was coming down with something, went to bed, and woke up good as new. Sleep is you’re most powerful ally in fighting off infection.
As the holidays approach our diets usually shift towards more sweets and treats, more alcohol, and less fresh fruits and veggies. There are two main problems with this set-up. First, sugar and alcohol directly interfere with immunity and suppress your body’s ability to fight off infection. Second, not getting enough vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients puts your body at a nutritional deficit, which also weakens your immune system.
I know it’s harder to get outside when the days get shorter and colder but exercise is one of the quickest ways to increase your immunity. Maintaining an exercise regimen throughout the winter will go a long way to keeping your immune system supported.
Another problem with this time of year is the lack of sunshine. Sunshine not only boosts our mood and gets us outside it also increases our production of vitamin D3, which is another important nutrient for immunity. Take advantage of every sunny day by getting outside for at least 20 minutes or more. And if you’re not already taking one, consider adding in a daily vitamin D3 supplement (1000-2000 IU/day) throughout the winter months.
You may not realize this but the millions of microbes that live in your gut actually play a huge role in the health of your immune system. Unfortunately all those sweets and alcoholic drinks alter the ratio of good to bad microbes. Keeping your diet rich in fibrous plant foods and probiotic-rich foods, like plain yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, etc, will go a long way to keeping your microbes happy and healthy. You can also consider adding in a multi-strain probiotic (at least 10 billion CFUs/day) to bolster the troops and make up for any losses secondary to your holiday gatherings and celebrations.
Once the above pieces are in place then we can add in some targeted remedies to help us sail through the winter season with less sick-days.
At the first sign of congestion, nasal rinsing, can help to clear the mucous and prevent the bacteria from taking hold. Nasal rinses have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic Medicine as part of a healthy lifestyle to keep your sinuses and nasal passages clean. There are several products out there to help with nasal rinsing; bulb syringe, squeeze bottles, or neti pot.
Lemon with Ginger and Honey (“Medicinal Honey”)
This is one of my all-time favorite DIY remedies. And it’s so delicious the whole family will have no problem gobbling it up. All you need are lemons, fresh ginger, raw honey, and a glass jar with lid.
- Slice the lemons into thin rounds
- Peel and slice the ginger into thin strips
- Alternately layer the lemons and ginger in a glass jar, all the way to the top.
- Pour in raw honey to cover the lemon and ginger. If you’re honey is more solid then liquid, simply warm in a pot of hot water until liquid.
- Cover the jar and keep in fridge for up to a month; ours never lasts that long.
After at least 12 hours of soaking, you can use it. Place 2-3 spoonfuls of the medicinal honey (with the lemon and ginger slices) in a cup of hot water, steep for 3-4 minutes, and enjoy like a tea. I like to have at least 1 cup per day as a cold and flu preventative but if you’re already feeling under the weather then go ahead and have 3+ cups per day. Why is this concoction so special? These three simple ingredients actually contain a lot of anti-microbial, anti-viral, immune boosting properties. Let’s take a look at each one. Lemons: Besides being a great source of vitamin C lemons are also rich in flavonoids and limonins. Lemons support the immune system, is anti-bacterial, and can increase perspiration to help break a fever. Ginger Root: Ginger is a well-known anti-inflammatory and warming spice. It too can increase perspiration, which can help to kill infection and break a fever. It can also help to settle an upset stomach and support good digestion. The phytonutrients in ginger have also been shown to help fight off infection; bacterial and viral. Raw Honey: It’s important to use Raw honey because it still has active enzymes and other compounds that would otherwise be killed off in the heating process, including propolis. Honey has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, is as effective in treating a cough as cough syrup, and can relieve the irritation of a sore throat. As a side benefit, it make the remedy taste delicious!
Although the medicinal honey goes a long way in keeping us healthy through the winter I also like to add in a weekly dose of this Cold & Flu Homeopathic Remedy. Although it’s gaining popularity in the United States, it’s been used by millions of people world-wide for many years. In France for example, it’s been used for over 65 years and has been the overall best-selling over-the-counter flu medicine for over a decade. Sometimes despite all our best intentions those persistent little viruses still take hold and when they do I go to my next level of remedies.
Echinacea has been used for hundreds of years in traditional western herbal medicine. Before the advent of antibiotics, it was more commonly used within the medical community. It is definitely considered a heavy hitter in boosting the immune system, fighting infection, and lowering inflammation. To get the most benefit from Echinacea take it at the very first sign of compromise and continue 2 to 3 times a day for 7-10 days, or until you feel better. I prefer to take Echinacea in a tincture form.
Throat Coat Tea
The tea companies, Traditional Medicinals and Yogi Teas, both make great Throat Coat Teas. I always have a box at the ready. They’ve combined herbs that are known for their mucilaginous and soothing properties, which help to soothe and heal a sore and irritated throat. Consuming the herbs in a warm tea also helps to increase your hydration and clear the throat passages from any bacteria or viruses. Traditional Medicinals makes a version just for kids too.
Propolis Throat and Nose Spray
Bee propolis is a very popular immune booster in Europe. Propolis is used as an anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and immune boosting agent. You can generally find propolis as a tincture or in spray form. We like to use it via the nose when there’s congestion and as a throat spray when we have a sore throat.
Take Home Message
Staying healthy during the cold and flu season takes a concentrated effort. But it is possible to keep your body strong and healthy and stay ahead of the viruses. Follow the steps described above and I wouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself with less sick days this year. In summary, here are your winter action items, in order of importance!
- Get enough sleep and at the first sign of a “bug” go to bed.
- Limit the sweets, treats, and cocktail drinks and keep your intake of colorful plants high.
- Stick to your exercise regimen.
- Get in the sun when you can and consider adding in a Vitamin D3 supplement.
- Keep your gut microbes healthy and happy with your food choices and a probiotic supplement.
- Add a daily dose of medicinal honey.
- Add a weekly dose of oscillococcinum.
- Add in nasal rinses at the first sign of congestion.
- When you feel the virus taking hold, increase your dose of medicinal honey and oscillococcinum, add in some Echinacea and other remedies as needed, then GO TO BED!!
Wishing you all a healthy and happy winter!! (this article was first published on 12/15/16)