Now we’re well into autumn, many of us are being struck down by colds…and not just any old, run-of-the-mill, pre-Covid cold. A couple of weeks ago, my husband was hit by a “super cold” which put him out of action for well over a week.
With him coughing, sneezing and generally spray-bombing germs around the house, I focused on protecting myself and the rest of the family from his lurgy. (Ok, Ok, I admit it…I won’t win any prizes for Most Sympathetic Wife Of The Year.)
I nearly succumbed a couple of times. Twice in the past ten days, I woke up in the middle of the night with a horrible, scratchy, sore throat: the ominous first sign! Twice, I sent it packing. My first line of defence was to grab the first essential oil I could find, put a couple of drops in water and gargle with it. Magic! Both times, I woke up in the morning with no sore throat and no cold.
I used to take an awful lot of drugs
It may surprise you to hear this, but I used to routinely suffer with five or six colds every single year…topped off by full-blown flu every January, which rendered me unable to lift my head off the pillow. My cupboards used to heave with every over-the-counter cold remedy I could lay my hands on and, boy, did I take a lot of them. I’m ashamed to say that, for much of my 20s and 30s, I’d take a swig of Night Nurse straight from the bottle.
These days, I’m rather more focused on supporting my precious immune system, rather than trying to quash each and every symptom.
Here are my top five ways to defend myself and my family through cold season:
My go-to supplements
At the very first sign of a sore throat or snuffle, I head straight for my tincture of echinacea and elderberry. I actually make my own (it’s easier than you think) and include lots of antiviral spices, such as cinnamon and cloves. Echinacea and elderberry tinctures, syrups, teas or lozenges are easy to find in any natural health store or online. I also take Vitamin C, zinc and Vitamin D.
Food as medicine
I look to food as my medicine and will choose warming, nurturing foods such as dahls made with loads of warming spices like cinnamon, clove, star anise, turmeric, fresh ginger and garlic. I munch on red peppers (high in Vitamin C) and, of course, drink lots of water (often laced with a squeeze of fresh lemon). I love a comforting bowl of chicken soup (aka Jewish penicillin) at any time of year, but particularly when fighting off a cold. You can watch me making bone broth here: it’s super simple and has loads of health benefits.
I’ll also make space on my plate for fermented foods such as sauerkraut. Most of our immune system is based in our gut, so caring for our all-important gut microbiome is key. Oh, and I stay well clear of sugar because it badly affects our immune system.
Multitasking essential oils
As already mentioned, as soon as my throat starts to hurt, I immediately blast germs with an essential oil gargle. It blitzes them before they manage to get any further! I tend to use a couple of drops of thyme essential oil in water: it doesn’t taste nice, but it’s brilliantly effective. If I’m going to be on public transport during cold season, I’ll also apply an essential oil blend to my pulse points and under my nose.
When someone in my family has a cold, I wipe down the door handles, taps etc with a dilution of essential oils and I’ll diffuse essential oils in a diffuser to cleanse the air (I often use lemon myrtle for its antibacterial/antimicrobial qualities and fresh scent). You can learn more about how to protect your family using essential oils in my podcast episode on this fascinating topic.
Love your lymph
Our lymphatic system is such an underappreciated hero of our immunity. I make sure to give mine a helping hand, particularly when I feel that I’m coming down with something. Since interviewing the wonderful Lisa Levitt Gainsley for my Wellness Unwrapped podcast, now renamed Midlife Illuminated, I’ve been doing a nightly, two-minute lymphatic massage on my face. It’s now an integral part of my self-care. You can watch our conversation here and see Lisa giving a demo of a simple facial lymphatic massage (see note in the video description to skip to the demo).
And lastly, don’t forget the zzzzzzzz’s!
Sleep really is the cornerstone of us staying healthy. It’s far too easy to place all our energy into buying an arsenal of remedies and then neglect our sleep. Bad move! if there’s one thing that will decimate our ability to fend off viruses, it’s not getting enough sleep. When I’m fighting off a cold, I’ll head to bed early and make sure I benefit from the most powerful healer of all: sleep.
I hope you find these tips helpful. Here’s to staying healthy through autumn and winter!