It’s that time of year again. Time that teachers start going down quickly, regretfully taking off sick days, relinquishing our classrooms and painfully tearing ourselves away from our students and our curriculum, in order to lay around at home, worrying about lesson plans that aren’t getting done, and papers that aren’t getting graded.
The students, well, they’ve been getting sick on and off since November. The teachers though, we seem to propel ourselves along by the sheer power of our own will (and the determination to avoid creating an unnecessary sub plan), until mid-February comes along, our bodies realize there is no respite until early April, and our white blood cells go on strike until we catch up on sleep and lower our cortisol levels for a day or three.
As someone who has gotten bronchitis both this February and last February, I’m all for cures to help attack my chest cough, break up the mucous that seems lodged under my rib cage, and anything that makes my brain feel more competent than the seemingly pea-sized collection of nerve cells that has been pinging around in my throbbing skull as of late.
Since bronchitis is more frequently viral than bacterial, I know I need to boost my body’s own immune system, as antibiotics don’t work against viral infections. It also helps to have tricks up my sleeve to relieve my symptoms. So here they are, my favorite ways for combatting the common cold.
- Immune defense tinctures. The first step to combatting the common cold, is trying to avoid getting one in the first place. Keep an immunity boosting tincture in your medicine cabinet, and enlist the help of the tonic when you begin to feel weak or worn down. My staple tincture has extracts of echinacea purpurea root, astralagus root, reishi mushroom, schisandra berry, and prickly ash bark. This tincture should not be taken for a period longer than two weeks, but rather should be used only when needed.
- Vitamin D supplements. Again, the best way to fight a common cold, is not to get one. Most people in the Pacific Northwest have low levels of Vitamin D, particularly in the wintertime when we lack sun for months on end. Vitamin D is crucial to helping the body fight infections (Vitamin D has also been lined with the body’s production of serotonin, which affects emotional well-being). Taking a vitamin D supplement in the wintertime is a great way to help boost your body’s immunity, and to stave of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D).
- Black coffee. I know, I know. Coffee actually negatively impacts the immune system when consumed in large quantities, as it increases the body’s production of cortisol. However, black coffee breaks up mucous, so drinking one-two cups a day can help alleviate chest congestion. *Note: Dairy actually contributes to mucous production, so take that coffee straight, or add a bit of honey.
- Golden honey. Honey is already kick-ass for the immune system, as it has antiseptic properties which help remove mucous from the lungs and respiratory tract. Turmeric is wonderful for the respiratory system, as it has anti-inflammatory properties. Mixing a tablespoon of turmeric with 1/3 cup of honey makes a wonderful elixir that can be added to tea, warm water, or eaten straight a few times a day.
- Fresh thyme and bay leaf tea. I love anything that I can grow and then add to hot water for the simplest of solutions to life’s ailments. Thyme is good for clearing the lungs, and bay leaves also treat chest congestion. Simply pour hot water (just under boiling) over thyme and bay leaves, steep for ten minutes, strain, and enjoy.
- Eucalyptus oil. Eucalyptus is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, a decongestant, and an expectorant. Seriously, this essential oil is a health godsend, and should be in everyone’s medical cabinet for its plethora of uses. For colds, eucalyptus oil can be added to a bath for a health soak. Another option is to add a few drops of oil to a pot of very hot water (though not boiling – take care not to scald yourself or loved ones in the steam), drape a towel over the sick person’s head, and have the person inhale deeply for 5-10 minutes. Breathing will immediately improve, as eucalyptus helps to dilate the blood vessels, and allow more oxygen into the lungs. 5-10 drops can also be added to an 8 oz. glass of water to drink to help clear the sinuses, or a more concentrated version may be gargled. *Note: eucalyptus oil is also helpful to keep around the house to heal cuts and wounds because of its antimicrobial and antiseptic properties.
- Apple cider vinegar, lemon, honey and cayenne pepper in water. No, this isn’t some crazy diet fad. Apple cider vinegar is an energy and immunity booster , while cayenne has anti-inflammatory properties. Lemons are naturally antibacterial and high in Vitamin C, and honey is both antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory. This combination can be taken warm or cold, depending on your mood (and likely the season in which you are sick), but is surprisingly delicious, and will keep you hydrated and on the road to recovery.
- Onions and garlic. Onions contain quercitin, which boosts immunity, and sulfur, which makes up amino acid used for antibodies. Both help break down mucous. Ideally, onions and garlic should be eaten raw, but I love to gently stir fry both with a bit of coconut oil, turmeric, and fennel if I have it (fennel also helps relieve chest congestion). I’ll typically blend it, making my own special health chutney, and eat it straight (see below) or over rice.
- Fire tonic. The next step up from the apple cider vinegar, lemon, honey, and cayenne powder combo is to include all the aforementioned ingredients, in addition to thyme, bay leaves, rosehips, burdock root, calendula, etc. to apple cider vinegar as a base, steep for four weeks, and then drink when you are feeling ill. See my recipe for instructions on how to make your own.
- Essential oil chest salve. When I’m feeling ill, I love a little heat on my chest, but I steer clear of slathering myself with petroleum. Instead, I made my own chest salve with beeswax from our bees, coconut oil, and eucalyptus and peppermint oils, for both their healing and clearing properties. My do it yourself recipe will get you and your family your own salve in just a few moments. *If you don’t have beeswax on hand, don’t worry. You can simply use essential oils and coconut oil for a slightly softer home version.