Well, friends, how are we all doing? I must be honest, there have been some really beautiful things that have come from this social distancing like more time outside and around immediate family and the recognition that this change has the power to put us onto a better path. However, today I felt a large wave of grief come over me and I allowed myself time to cry. I have been feeling some grief for a changed way of life, for those who have suffered the loss of loved ones, for those who may be in quarantine alone, for the collective fear around this virus, and some personal grief and fear as well. Since this Coronavirus started to escalate, I’ve been pretty quiet in the online realm. I have been thinking quite a lot, but haven’t come to the point of synthesizing my thoughts onto paper or felt the desire to share publicly. However, I have had a large desire to help my community, which includes you if you are reading this. Writing and sharing what I know is one way I can do that right now.
How about you? Have you been feeling a range of emotions like me, and have you allowed yourself to feel those emotions when they arise? Have you cried lately? For much of my life, I looked at crying as weakness and the interesting thing about that is the tears would often come out full-force in the least opportune times (like in the middle of class) because they were so pent up. It also caused a lot of anxiety in my body. We don’t have to stockpile emotions (or toilet paper for that matter). One excellent way to build resilience in your being is to allow yourself to feel the range of emotions without judgment. Let them surface and find non-harmful ways to release them. Crying is one way to do that. Your tears are literally cleansing your body of stuck emotions, like grief. In these times we are also learning how interconnected we really are. As you recognize and release your own grief, sadness, anger, or whatever you are feeling, you are also doing your part to release that for the collective. We can be a part of a collective healing right now.
I’m writing today mainly to share some herbal tips for building resilience in your body, but as we know wellness is more than just throwing herbs at a situation. This is why I wanted to bring up the power of release in addition to herbal suggestions for supporting your immune system and whole body during these “viral” times. I believe that one of our best defenses right now is to help our bodies be more resilient through mind and body to be more prepared if we encounter a virus. I also want to make these solutions as accessible as possible. I’m going to share a few things that I’m doing at home and hope they are helpful to you!
Sinus steams are accessible to nearly everyone and you can usually find plants for this right outside your back door or at a local park. Sinus steams are extremely helpful at getting the volatile oils, or essential oils, of plants into your sinuses and respiratory tract. Volatile oils are some of the healing components of plants and are called “volatile” because they are easily released with heat. Since many viruses live in our nasal cavities and throat, the antimicrobial properties of essential oils can be quite an effective preventative. Herbal steams can help keep nasal passageways moisturized, loosen up mucus, and relieve stuffiness.
I suggest using plant material that is most abundant in your area or most easily accessible at your local grocery stores. Typically I will forage in my high-desert backyard for plants like rosemary, thyme, various sages, and creosote bush. If you live in temperate climates, you may likely have access to evergreen trees even in the winter. Cypress, fir, and pines are all wonderful natural antiseptics and expectorants, meaning they kill microbes and help to loosen and thin mucus. Maybe you are also lucky to have Eucalyptus trees growing in your area. You can use the leaves from these too. As with any time you forage, please make sure you are 100% certain you have correctly identified the plant and that it has not been sprayed with chemicals.
You can also typically find aromatic herbs like thyme, rosemary, and basil fresh in the produce department at the grocery store. Orange, lemon, and grapefruit peels are also highly antimicrobial and will help to ease congestion. If those don’t suit your fancy or aren’t available, check the spice aisle. Cinnamon, cloves, sweet marjoram, peppermint, and dried rosemary and thyme are typically available there.
To make a decongesting sinus steam, place your fresh or dried herbs in a heatproof bowl, on your lap or on a table. Have a bath towel handy to put over your head. Carefully pour boiling water over the herbs and then (with caution to prevent burns) slowly place your face over the steam and put the towel over your head like a tent. Breathe in the steam until it is no longer hot or you feel you have had enough.
Another favorite immune system supporting remedy in our home is herbal broth. You can use beef or chicken bones, mushrooms, or just use vegetables and herbs to make a stock. Either way, this is a great way to load up on herbs and warm your body too. When experiencing any sort of respiratory infection, it’s best to avoid cold foods and stick with warm, cooked foods and warm drinks.
You can add dried herbs or fresh foraged herbs to your stock or a big pot of water and simmer on low for 6 – 48 hours, depending on what’s in it. For just herbs and veggies, 6 hours is fine. If it includes chicken bones you want to simmer 24 hours and if it includes beef bones you want to simmer 48 hours.
Some wonderful herbs (fungi) to add to about a gallon of water/broth are:
- Astragulus root (a handful or so)
- Nettles (a handful or so)
- Thyme (4 fresh spring or 1 Tablespoon dried)
- Garden Sage (2 fresh sprigs or 2 tablespoons dried)
- Rosemary (2 fresh sprigs or 1 tablespoon dried)
- Parsley (4-6 fresh sprigs or 1 tablespoon dried)
- Lovage (1-2 fresh sprigs or 1 tsp dried)
- Bee Balm (Monarda) (1-2 fresh sprigs or 1-2 tsp dried)
- Shitake, Maitake, and Reishi Mushrooms
- 1 Bay Laurel leaf
- Crushed garlic
- Green onions
- Chopped onions
- Black pepper
In our house, we are pretty much drinking tea all day long right now. I wanted to share a couple of my favorite blends.
As a preventative to illness, my favorite tea has been my Winter Wellness Tea and I’d love to share the recipe with you. This tea is wonderful for drinking daily, prior to showing any signs of illness. If you develop a cough or fever, there are a couple of other blends that can be supportive in those times: a fever blend and a lung support blend.
You can make as much or as little as you like, but I’ll provide you with the ratios. Blend the herbs in a jar so that you can make tea when you like. Once you have your tea blended, use 1-2 tablespoons loose tea for every 2 cups of boiling water. Allow to steep for 20 minutes, then strain.
Measurements are by volume of dried herbs.
WINTER WELLNESS TEA
- 4 parts Elderberries
- 2 parts Rose Hips
- 2 parts Orange Peels
- 2 parts Chamomile
- 1 part Rosemary
- 1 part Ginger
I also have my Winter Wellness Tea available in the shop if you don’t want to make it on your own.
If you develop a fever, the vitalist perspective supports the body’s natural process rather than suppressing the fever. So if chills are present, we want to help the body be productive, open the pores of the skin, and enhance sweating. Herbs that help this process are called Diaphoretic herbs. Here is my recipe for Fever Tea.
For the following teas, use the same brewing instructions as the Winter Wellness Tea above.
- 4 parts yarrow
- 2 part catnip
- 2 part peppermint
- 1 part ginger
If you feel congestion or mucus developing, the following tea will help to support your lungs and respiratory tract.
LUNG SUPPORT TEA
- 4 parts Thyme
- 2 parts Mullein
- 1/4 Part Licorice Root* (optional)
- 1/4 Part Lovage Root (optional)
*Licorice root has the potential to raise blood pressure, so you may want to leave it out if you have high blood pressure.
If you don’t have all the herbs I’ve mentioned in the blends, use what you have. I have been enjoying plain old thyme as a single herb tea and I’m finding it very supportive of my lungs. If you can find organic oranges and ginger at your store, the orange peels and ginger make a wonderful tea as well.
Herb-infused vinegars can be very useful as remedies and can also be used in marinades, dressings, and even in cocktails. Apple cider vinegar is a useful remedy in its own right. One well-known remedy that goes well with vinegar is the Four Thieves combination of herbs, written about by British physician John Ayrton Paris in the 1825 edition of Pharmacologia. The legend says that there were four thieves that were robbing the dead bodies during the Plague of Marseilles and when asked how they did not become ill, they described the aromatic vinegar that had spared them.
Many different herbs have been suggested to have been used in the four thieves recipes, but some of the most commonly reported are sage, lavender, rosemary, and thyme. I would also recommend adding in crushed black peppercorns to enhance the bioavailability of the herbs into our bodies.
To make, place 1 tablespoon of each of the dried sage, lavender, rosemary, and thyme and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper in a pint jar. Cover the herbs with room temperature or slightly warmed apple cider vinegar and fill the jar to the top. Cap with a tight-fitting plastic lid. Label and date. Store in a cool, dark place for 4 weeks, shaking occasionally. Strain the vinegar through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth and store the liquid in a glass jar with a plastic lid. Remember to label and date this too!
This is just a sampling of what you can do to support your health, but I hope it brings you some new ideas and more resilience your way. I’m wishing everyone health and empowerment and a positive outlook during these strange times. Sending you all my love!