Cold (and Flu) Comfort

You were so careful about taking your immune-boosting supplements when your coworker came to work sneezing, but you still caught that relentless cold. Yes, cold and flu season is upon us again. Even though you’re feeling miserable, there are a few things you can do to make yourself more comfortable and perhaps speed your recovery.

by Doreen Kunert and Jackie Nikolaus

You were so careful about taking your immune-boosting supplements when your coworker came to work sneezing, but you still caught that relentless cold. Yes, cold and flu season is upon us again. Even though you’re feeling miserable, there are a few things you can do to make yourself more comfortable and perhaps speed your recovery.

Our first recommendation for sick and achy folks is to take a pampering bath like the very old fashioned yet highly effective Dr. Singha’s Mustard Bath. This formula will sweat out any fever and truly warm you to your bones. (It works especially well if you get under the covers as soon as you get out of the tub.) Or try the highly aromatic peppermint and eucalyptus bath gel from Olbas, which is great for clearing out congestion. Four Elements, a local company, makes a lovely bath called Tonic which features a blend of eucalyptus, sage and thyme: expectorant, antimicrobial and antiviral herbs. Many people swear by German company Herbaflor’s Eucalyptus or Peppermint bubble baths and even buy them as gifts for loved ones.

If you have the energy, you can make your own healing bath blend. One of our favorite recipes was created by Greta Breedlove, author of The Herbal Home Spa.

Healing Salt Crystals

1 cup borax

2 cups epsom salt

1/2 cup coarse sea salt

1/4 cup baking soda

1/4 cup white clay

1/2 cup dried powdered herb (we recommend ginger)

10 drops essential oil (we recommend eucalyptus)

Whisk ingredients together in a large bowl. Use 1/4 to 1/2 cup per tubful of hot-as-you-can-stand-it water. Soak for at least 20 minutes. Towel dry, put on your jammies and crawl into bed.

Even if you’re not in the mood for a bath, you can still reap the benefits of essential oils by doing a steam. Use two to three drops of your favorite essential oil per quart of boiling water. Pour water into a bowl, add essential oil and place your face above the bowl with a towel draped over your head. (It’s a good idea to keep your eyes closed because essential oils can be irritating.) Inhale deeply for as long as you comfortably can. Rosemary and thyme essential oils are good choices for helping to break up congestion and loosen coughs.

Another way to use essential oils is with a diffuser. Community Pharmacy carries a variety of diffusers, including nebulizers that convert oils and water into a fine cool mist. A nebulizer processes essential oils into a near gas-like state, releasing atomized microscopic oil particles into the air, thus making the oil more readily absorbed by the body and senses.

To spread healing warmth throughout the body, try a good cup of hot tea. Of the companies that offer tea blends in bags, Yogi Tea is one of our favorites. Try their Cold Season or Echinacea Immune Support blends. These teas taste great and help your body do battle with winter virus beasties. Or try the Berry Immune tea by Living Earth Herbs. It contains hawthorne, elderberry, and astragalus, so it’s a great antiviral in addition to being delicious!

If you’d like to make your own tea blend, Community Pharmacy sells over 200 herbs in bulk. Mullein, elecampane and yerba santa are excellent plants for healing and clearing the lungs. Adding wild cherry bark to your recipe will help to calm a cough. Peppermint will aid in clearing the lungs and sinuses as well as lend a refreshing taste to your tea.

Andrographis is Jackie’s favorite plant to kick out colds and flus. Used for centuries in China and India, this herb has a a great reputation for treating infectious diseases. It is a star ingredient in many traditional Chinese patent formulas because of its strong antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties. As the “King of Bitters,” Andrographis has also been used to support healthy digestion and liver function.

While enjoying a hot cup of tea, we suggest you snuggle up with a DreamTime pillow. These plush body and neck wraps contain clove, cinnamon and eucalyptus and can be heated to help ease aching muscles. DreamTime also makes a Breathe Easy Sinus Pillow! Filled with an herbal blend of the natural decongestant herbs eucalyptus and peppermint, the sinus pillow gently coaxes the sinus passages to open and eases the discomfort associated with headaches, colds, flus, or sinus congestion.

Few things are more comforting to a sick body than a bowl of steaming hot soup, and adding medicinal plants to your diet is a great way to boost immunity. Try this recipe from Smart Medicine for Healthier Living by Janet Zand.

Astragalus & Vegetable Immune-Boosting Soup

1-2 astragalus root strips

1 piece burdock root

1/4 to 1 inch piece fresh ginger root

10 cups water

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/2 teaspoon sage

1 cup cooked barley

6 cups vegetables cut into bite-sized pieces (good choices are broccoli, cauliflower, celery, green pepper, potatoes, squash, string beans and zucchini)

In a stainless steel pot, simmer the astragalus, ginger and burdock in the water with the thyme and sage for thirty minutes. Strain the herbs and use the resulting tea as a broth for the soup. Add the vegetables and barley to the broth and simmer slowly for one hour. Serve warm. You can strain the soup and eat it as a broth or eat it unstrained. If you wish, you can add all the ingredients at one time and take the astragalus and burdock out just before serving. This results in a more strongly flavored and medicinal soup. Makes approximately six servings.

We hope you stay healthy all winter long, but if you do find yourself with the sniffles, come visit us at Community Pharmacy. We have many more ideas on how to make your sick time more comfortable and your healthy time more fun.

Over the past two and a half decades at Community Pharmacy, Doreen Kunert has studied with many herbalists, including Matt Wood, Susun Weed, and David Winston. She has also raised two children who love using herbal remedies. Jackie Nikolaus is dedicated to bringing the healing knowledge and magic of plants to the people. Her long history at Community Pharmacy (over 25 years) has given her incredible experiences with the healing herbs. She apprenticed with local herbalist Kathleen Wildwood and studied with Matt Wood, Rosemary Gladstar and various other national herbalists. She is forever grateful for her Papa, who lovingly explored the plant world with her as a little girl.