The power of love to change bodies is legendary, built into folklore, common sense, and everyday experience.
Love moves the flesh, it pushes matter around…. Throughout history, “tender loving care” has uniformly been recognized
as a valuable element in healing. ~ Larry Dossey
The spring brings with it many blessings: warmer days, more hours of light and the burgeoning of life. But it often brings with it something else — sickness.
Most of us will spend at least part of this season battling colds and viruses. Our bodies are at a low ebb after months of winter and forced inside time. It takes a lot of energy to survive the cold (and sometimes dreary) winter months and by the time the world is beginning to awaken we are often feeling tired and low, rather than full of the joys of spring!
We can support our immune systems during the winter in a number of ways. Taking vitamin D supplements from October through to March/April is very important and will help your body fight off sickness, as well as reducing the length of infection when you do get ill. We can take Echinacea and Astragalus tinctures or supplements to support our immune systems; these are also available in non-alcoholic form for children. (I use Herbs for Kids, known as Eclectic Kids outside of the U.S.)
But what to do when we do get sick? I turn time and time again to a few simple remedies that work to provide comfort and reduce symptoms of colds and even flu.
This first remedy I created years ago in response to sinus infections that seemed to only get worse after antibiotics. This simple herbal remedy, however, succeeded where the antibiotics couldn’t. I’ve also found it works very well for any adult with a heavy cold. I wouldn’t recommend this remedy for children, however, and have a separate recommendation for little ones.
Anti Congestion Herbal Steam
You will need a small handful (about 2-3 tablespoons) of each of the following:
Sage (not suitable for pregnant mamas; leave out entirely or replace with chamomile)
Place all herbs in a large bowl, something that will allow for plenty of hot water to be added. Crush the herbs with your hands to release the natural oils. Put a towel over the bowl then lift one part and add boiling water from a just-boiled kettle. By only moving the towel a little you’ll preserve all that lovely steam and the crucial oils now suspended within. Put your head under the towel and breathe deeply.
I suggest keeping tissues or a handkerchief nearby as this steam will lubricate your passages and move that yucky stuff along! Stay under for as long as you can but take a break if you cannot breathe or if you feel dizzy. Blow your nose frequently then return to the steam. If possible do this before bed as you will probably feel a bit tired and drowsy and it will hopefully aid sleep.
Small Person Chamomile Steam
Chamomile is a perfect herb for childhood; it helps with stress and anxiety, calms pains and soothes aches and fevers. Most of us know it is an herb for relaxing but it is also an excellent decongestant. I would say that if a child is able to follow the instructions for a steam they are probably physically ready (this will likely be around age 3-4.) I would ask the child to put a handful of the herb in the bowl as this measure should be about right for them. Unlike with an adult I would allow the herb to steep for about 5-10 minutes to allow some of the intense heat to diminish, though I would keep it covered with the towel. The process of the steam is the same as for an adult but of course allowing for more breaks and only a few breaths of steam before the child is done.
Adding chamomile oil (1-2 drops) to a bath will also help with congestion and sleep. For nursing mums drinking chamomile tea will pass along the benefits to your baby or toddler. Of course the best medicine is the milk itself and the love that goes along with it.
I remember my Welsh grandma making a soothing syrup for me when I had a terrible cold and cough. She said that it was excellent for catarrh but I misheard and thought she said ‘guitar’ so was quite confused about what this remedy was going to do for me! Though I was disappointed that it failed to enhance my musical abilities, I’ll never forget the taste of that remedy. So soothing and gentle but immediately helping me to feel better. My Mum also made it throughout my life and I now make it for my two sons.
Tasty Cough Soother
You will need the following ingredients:
Equal measures of honey and butter – you don’t need to be too exact, about a tablespoon of each works well
2-3 splashes of lemon (1-2 teaspoons)
A splash of vinegar (Less than a teaspoon is sufficient. Cider vinegar is ideal but any will do.)
Melt all of the ingredients together then spoon into the mouth while it is still warm but not hot enough to burn. Encourage the child (or adult) to take as much as they like and then a spoonful more.
The butter helps to soothe but is also an expectorant, the honey is healing and removes tickles and discomfort. Both the lemon and the vinegar help to cut through phlegm and support good breathing function.
Just the taste of this syrup, one I have known since childhood, makes me feel soothed and comforted, bringing back memories of my Grandma’s kitchen and the feel of my Mum’s hand on my brow.
The last remedy I will share is an essential oil blend that I have created to support both adults and children in my family. This is a healing blend that is also uplifting to the mind and spirit, pushing aside some of the depression that can come along with illness and reminding us that the spring will most certainly return to our step very soon. I believe that not only addressing sickness but addressing the feelings that come with sickness is crucial to treatment and recovery.
Cold and Flu Oil
You will need to gather the following essential oils:
Lime, 3 drops (not a conventional cold oil but important in the blend and luckily an inexpensive addition to an essential oil collection)
Eucalyptus, 4 drops
Ravensara, 3 drops
Sage, 3 drops (avoid if pregnant)
Lavender, 4 drops
Clove, 1 drop (avoid if pregnant)
Mix all oils together in a mixer bottle (I use 5 ml amber bottles that are inexpensive to buy) and use a couple of drops in a bath or on a pillowcase, or 3-5 drops for a tissue that you can carry around. This should help reduce congestion, sore throat and help to soothe and calm. For children (over two years) a drop on a tissue tucked beneath a pillow will help reduce congestion and support peaceful sleep.
I wouldn’t use anything stronger than Lavender or Chamomile for really young children or infants (or those who have compromised immunity for other reasons.)
I have found that Lavender works very well on colds. It is also great for killing off germs, so use it to wipe down counters, door handles or for diffusing into the air. Again just add a drop of the oil to a tissue and place out of the little one’s reach.
If you would like to use the cold and flu blend in a bath I would place in at the beginning to allow the oils to diffuse into the air. If you are using it for children under two, a drop in a sink of hot water is preferable, allowing for diffusion into the air but avoiding a steam that may be too strong. Again, if in doubt just use Lavender.
When illness comes it can make us feel frustrated, helpless and depressed; this is natural and linked to our body as it struggles to fight. In our modern world we are encouraged to take drugs that mask symptoms so that we can carry on with our lives and ignore the sickness. I believe this is the opposite of what we really need to do.
Modern drugs are a wonder and a true blessing when illnesses become overpowering, but by listening to the messages of our bodies and using the healing tools that nature has given us, we can often heal ourselves before they are necessary. When we are ill we are being told to rest and recover. This is sometimes hard but the more we can work to support our bodies and minds in times of illness, rather than suppressing or ignoring our symptoms, the more we can build up true health…the kind that lasts a lifetime.
The best six doctors anywhere
And no one can deny it
Are sunshine, water, rest, and air
Exercise and diet.
These six will gladly you attend
If only you are willing
Your mind they’ll ease
Your will they’ll mend
And charge you not a shilling.
~Nursery rhyme quoted by Wayne Fields, What the River Knows, 1990
Emma is a homeschooling Mum of two busy boys. She has been learning about herbalism and aromatherapy for over a decade and dreams of a future with a massive herb garden filled with plants. She blogs about her everyday life and adventures building a house on 95 acres of land.