Herbal Self Pampering to Soothe the Savage Flu!
Relax, Restore & Recover
It’s that time of year! I saw a funny meme yesterday that said, "Welcome to Fall..the time of the year when you need a sweater in the morning and are sweltering by the afternoon!"
It's so true! Autumn with all of its changing weather has begun in earnest and all of the merriment and accompanying stresses of the holiday season are about to begin. As a way of winding down from all of the highs and lows of the season, so many of us seem to get sick on the 2nd of January! I’ve said for years that I truly believe that sometimes, catching a bug is our bodies way of trying to get us to relax for a bit!
Periods of hibernation, or seasonal contemplation as I’ve taken to calling them are a must for keeping our bodies resilient in this world with all of its external interruptions and stressors. I'm hoping that this article will help all of you think about ways that you can take care of yourself right now, so that by January, you're relaxed and feeling better than ever!'
Over the years I’ve learned to use my trusted herbal allies for supporting my immunity when I feel as if I could be perilously close to getting sick and when the flu or a cold actually hits me, I use many different herbs to help minimize my symptoms and overall discomfort.
Let's begin with the easiest and the best! My favorite tried and true recipe for Autumn pampering, once the heat has turned on? Earl Grey tea with honey, lemon, orange slices, several cloves, a slice of fresh ginger, a pinch of cayenne, a cinnamon stick and a small tot of Bushmills Irish whiskey, more commonly known as a hot toddy! Just one steaming mug of this brew and I'm relaxed and ready to face whatever stresses the day might bring! If you don't drink alcohol, simply leave it out. The cayenne isn't a traditional part of the remedy, but it's so helpful for warming and calming a dry cough that I like to include it.
My mother taught me many years ago that the single most important thing that you can do when you are ill or trying to stave off an illness, is to pamper yourself completely. She would always bring our breakfast on a bed tray, served on a pretty cup, bowl and plate and always with a bud vase with flowers. I got strep throat frequently as a child so breakfast was usually something soft, like a bowl of her wonderful chicken, rice and mushroom soup with thyme, cream and an egg beaten into it. She also used to make me an old-fashioned milk pudding that she called Junket which I loved, that she flavored with sherry, cinnamon and nutmeg. It always helped.
I still have a bed tray for myself and one in my Airbnb. I have many guests who come to stay that are recovering from surgery or other illnesses. They have told me that being able to just relax and have their meals in bed without concern really helps to support their healing process. If you can’t find a bed tray, you can use an old carving board or tray and it will work just as well!
The other thing my mother was absolutely insistent about was that if I was sick, it was especially the time for just a bit of lip gloss, some facial moisturizer, a touch of perfume and particularly lovely pajamas. She’d brush my hair out until it was shiny, touch up my lips and face (a big help because then your skin will resist chapping!) and put just a drop or two of one of her lovely perfumes on my wrists and neck. She’d take me into the library, seat me right by the window and wrap me up in a blanket with a hot cup of lavender, sage and lemon balm tea and hand me a book. When I looked in the mirror I hardly ever looked as bad as I was feeling and you know what? I always started to feel better. Simply taking the time for a bit of self-care is absolutely a necessity for supporting the healing process.
Although my mother used her lovely Shalimar bath oil for our convalescence, over the years I’ve learned to take my baths with a tablespoon of sweet almond oil mixed with 3 drops each of essential oils of lavender (supportive and relaxing), rose oil (supports the reduction of inflammation) and sweet birch (to promote sweating). This really seems to always help with congestion, aches and fevers. Please remember to never use essential oils in your baths without a carrier oil. Even in the smallest dosages, essential oils are strong and they need the emollient qualities of an oil like almond or olive to serve as a soothing delivery system for your skin.
Two winters back I caught Covid and I've never been quite as sick as I was for that month. They didn’t know what was about to break lose in the world at that point and I’m almost glad I didn’t know..I would have been terrified. It’s important to remember though that besides C19, the newest strains of influenza are really dangerous, turning into pneumonia or ending with a cough that can last for over a month. Even with a flu shot, people are experiencing severe and longer periods of illness, that occur as unprecedented.
Once I realized that I didn’t have a simple head cold, I took myself to the urgent care center so I knew what I was dealing with. They called it the flu, although now I know better. The doctor could prescribe nothing for it, and simply sent me home with the instructions to just stay in bed and drink lots of hot liquids and to call him if it got worse. I spent several days in bed and took care of myself using all of the herbal remedies that I knew would help support the healing process.
What did I do? I immediately went into my freezer for homemade bone broth and into my herb and spice cupboard for my favorite wellness support!
Herb and spice filled chicken broths are well known to promote the movement of nasal congestion and thought to have anti- inflammatory and anti-viral properties. I always begin to feel better with every bowl I eat, proving once again the old adage..."Let your food be your medicine!”
For an immune-boosting soup I take cues from the Legend of the Four Thieves. In this story, aromatherapy, herbal and alchemical worlds collide and take on mythical proportions. The legend takes place when the bubonic plague hit Europe and killed large percentages of the population.
Supposedly four thieves from Marseilles were robbing plague-ridden corpses without getting sick. They are thought to have been perfumers with access to and knowledge of essential oils, herbs and spices.
At their trial the King offered the thieves leniency in return for the formula that protected them from the plague. Their immunity boosting list included lavender, sage, cinnamon, turmeric, garlic, eucalyptus, rosemary, thyme, onion, mustard seed, cloves, oregano and lemon.
While the legend has never been confirmed, all of the herbs and spices (except eucalyptus) read like a delicious and immune-boosting chicken soup recipe to me; so into the stock pot they go. If I’m lucky enough to have fresh stinging nettles that’s a mineral rich bonus. I've learned to be prepared and this year during nettle season, I harvested plenty to go into the freezer.
To serve this soup, I will often top each bowl with whole basil leaves, jammy eggs, a slice or two of chicken, a dash of Himalayan salt and a squeeze of fresh lime. I can’t help but feel better with every bowl I eat. The same bone broth laced with nettles, onions, leeks, garlic, egg noodles and coconut milk is a very soothing sip for a sore throat!
Legions of Jewish and Asian grandmothers absolutely knew what they were doing!
Another application of the Four Thieves legend is to make a simple spray. I make it with white wine vinegar and essential oils -- lemon, lavender, cinnamon, clove, rosemary, sage, oregano, white thyme and eucalyptus. My formula is three cups of vinegar and 20 drops of each oil. To use it I shake well and spray countertops, cellphones and other surfaces.
These same oils can also be diffused in an essential oil diffuser. Likewise, mixed into a body cream or lotion, eucalyptus oil, lemon, sage and lavender oils (no more than three drops of each oil!) make a soothing, aroma-therapeutic chest rub.
I hope we’ll never need these recipes to protect from anything worse than COVID or as serious as the bubonic plague and I hope that none of you catch any of the awful bugs that are beginning to go around. However, if you do, please treat yourself to some soothing herbal self-care and pampering. I promise that you’ll feel better and if you can sooth yourself into feeling just little bit better, it always seems like the body will reach deeply into its own healing reservoirs and do the rest of the work for you.
Somewhere as I’m typing, I hear my mother’s sweet laughter and the smell of her oniony, velvety chicken soup is suddenly wafting through my senses. It’s amazing how potent the memory is. She would be pleased to know that I still own a bed tray and that I always use her lovely sick bed dishes with the raised purple violets.
Yes mama…you always did know best.
Thank you for everything.
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