In addition I spent much of last spring and summer learning even more about herbals- I bought a book and am slowly learning to make my own tinctures and syrups so I can have even more tools on hand to treat these. I discovered that my beloved grocery co-op carries many of the more popular medicinal herbs. And they hired a supplement specialist who is super helpful.
So at least I was slightly prepared when we all began to get sick.
One other thing that has influenced how I treat and prevent illness right now- this post from Kelly the Kitchen Kop. It wasn't anything in the actual post... most of that I already know and do. It was the comments, particularly about D3. This winter (hm, could this be the reason?) we haven't been taking our Cod Liver Oil (CLO) or any other D supplement. And we don't drink fortified milk (not that that helps much...).
Here they are, MORE things I have done recently to prevent or treat illness:
- High IU vitamin D3 supplements for everyone. What's the difference between D2 and D3? D2 is the synthetic version and is less bioavailable, meaning that your body doesn't absorb or use as much of it. Vitamin D3 is natural (although processed) and usually is derived from either sheep lanolin (and oil secreted by sheep to protect their wool and skin) or fish oil. The absolute best D is the kind you make yourself by sun exposure, but here in USDA zone 4 it's really hard to get much of that for almost half of the year. It's also important to note that cholesterol is VITAL for capturing and producing vitamin D from the sun... so if you're on a low cholesterol diet (and you shouldn't be, but still) you should definately get your vitamin D levels checked. The grown-ups in our house are taking NatureMade D3 2000IU (I'm taking 3, no idea what my husband is taking or if he's taking them at all... he's a big boy:). I got them at Target on sale, 3 100 count bottles for $15, plus I got a $5 gift card for buying 3, so my actual price was $5. For the kids I bought the adult gummies (800IU each gummy) because there were no kids D vitamins and I don't jive with multivitamins.
- Restart the Cod Liver Oil. No one in my family is a fan of this, including me. Back story- my son was 9 days overdue. By law in California you can't be in the care of a midwife if you go past 14 days overdue, so I was desperate to kick start labor so I could have my birth center birth. I tried Castor Oil TWICE in one week. My awesome midwife gives a recipe to do this that involves ice cream and orange juice concentrate that essentially hides the disgustingness in an orange julius type conconction, and the first time wasn't so bad. But for some reason the second time (I used a different brand of Castor oil) the stuff was so disgusting I barely got it down, and to this day I gag at the thought of it. It's not exactly the taste, it's the oily consistency (which is weird, because I have no problem eating a spoonful of coconut oil). So every time I take my CLO I think of the castor oil and nearly gag. It doesn't taste bad- it's got a pleasant orange smell and taste. It's just the consistency. But it's worth it, and thankfully my kids take it easier than I do. CLO is not only a great source of vitamins A and D and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, but more importantly it contains a balanced ratio of these nutrients.
- Elderberry syrup. When I was researching herbal medicine this summer I was amazed at how many uses there are for the various parts of the elder plant. The flowers can be made into lotion that is good for chapped an inflamed skin or used to reduce fever and reduce cold and flu symptoms. The roots and bark can be used as a laxative, and the leaves can be used in an ointment to heal bruises. The berries, which are also a mild laxative, can be used to treat a variety of maladies but most commonly to treat and prevent respiratory infections and boost the immune system. I bought my first bottle of Elderberry syrup this year, but it goes fast when used as a preventative (especially with two children) and it's a little expensive. In the long term I plan to plant my own bushes- they grow well in this part of the country- but for now I have purchased some dried berries from the co-op to make my own syrup using this recipe from Wellness Mama.
- Keep Infection Fighter on hand for when illness does strike. Yes, it's expensive, but we've used the bottle through at least three full illnesses, as well as to prevent the onset a few times.
- Other helpful herbals: kava kava, for easing the pain and anxiety caused by ear infections or sore throats (it doesn't actually relieve pain, but it relaxes, which aids rest). Valerian can also help, but I am more nervous to use that with kids. Mullein is helpful to strengthen the respiratory system and can be used in tincture or tea. Meadowsweet (I haven't used this yet because I can't find it... it will go in my next order from Mountain Rose Herbs) it helpful in reducing fever and treating diahrea and is safe for children. Goldenseal and echinacea, when used in concjuntion, can boost immunity and treat colds and infections. Chamomile is a very versitile herb to have for anxiety, stress, sore throats, and any upper respiratory inflammation (I'm a fan of tea- I like chamomile lavender from Traditional Medicinals, available in most grocery stores). In your pantry- thyme and oregano are powerful antibiotics, sage is good for coughs (but don't overdo it), and cinnamon boosts immune function.
- Garlic! I reread my last post twice because I couldn't believe I didn't mention Garlic. Garlic is a powerful antibiotic. When anyone is showing signs of being sick I always make a soup with chicken or beef stock, thyme, and lots of garlic.
- Essential Oils: Most of these are used topically, although a drop of peppermint oil on the tongue can help with an upset tummy. The most useful: Peppermint- put a drop or two (never more!) on the back of the neck to relieve fever. Dilute with a carrier oil and rub on hands and feet to relieve headaches, on the chest to relieve respiratory distress (I'll give my recipe for better than Vapo Rub in a moment), or to relieve sore muscles. Lavendar- put a few drops in your bath to relax (or see herbal bath, below). Generally lavender is most useful to bring on relaxation and relieve headaches, which can be helpful with most illnesses. Eucalyptus: good for respiratory distress (see rub, below) and is antibiotic. Oregano and thyme oils: very strong antibiotic, but can be a little, um, burny. Tip from me to you- don't put it in your netti pot.
- Better Than Vapo Rub: 10 drops each of peppermint, lavender, and eucalyptus essential oils in 4 oz of coconut oil, mix until combined. You can add more of any of the oils to your own desired effect- try it before you add too much mint or eucalyptus, as they can over-cool the skin to the point where it burns. But I always add more lavender. This is good for more than a chest rub- it's also good for chapped skin and sore muscles.
- Take an Herbal Bath: Soak in a tub with 1 cup of Epsom Salts, 1/2 cup of baking soda, and 1/2 cup of sea salt plus whatever essential oils fit your malady. Eucalyptus and lavender are a good all purpose combo. The salts help purge the body of toxins from the outside, and a nice hot bath always feels good.
- Use a Netti Pot: Only I do this. I can't imagine doing this with my kids, but I would try if they were sick enough to call for it. I personally enjoy the relief it brings. If you've never heard of a netti pot before, it looks like a tiny teapot. You fill it with warmed water (I usually use distilled) and a tiny bit of sea salt. I sometimes also add one drop (no more!) of eucalyptus oil. But go easy on EO's- they can burn the sensitive skin on the inside of the nose. Then you hold your head in a certain way and tip the contents into one nostril and they flow out the other. It sounds gross, but it feels amazing, speeds recovery from colds, and it weirdly fascinating to do.
- Two things I mentioned in my last post but that I have to reiterate: Raw apple cider vinegar and STOCK! They are vital. With the cold (it could have been a flu, I was pretty miserable) I had, which was a whopper, I was able to kick in two days because I did a lot of the above, but I still mostly credit eating lots of soup and taking spoonfuls of ACV every four hours.
I know what you're thinking- "that's a long list- how can you do all those things?" Remember, I'm wordy. It's a pretty sure bet that reading my explanation will take you ten times longer than actually doing what I am explaining.