My silver lining when I get the flu is being able to experiment with new holistic remedies to help fight off infection and give my immune system a boost. Here are 5 integrative therapies I incorporated during my recent illness.
Ginger alleviates sore throat, loosens sinus congestion and calms an upset stomach. Lemon offers a healthy dose of vitamin C to boost immunity, while Manuka honey is naturally antiviral and anti-inflammatory.
- 1 cup chopped, fresh organic ginger (washed but not peeled)
- 10-12 cups filtered water (depending on desired potency)
- 1 organic lemon, washed and cut into quarters
- 1 tablespoon Manuka honey
Add the ginger, water, and cut lemon to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium-low heat and let the infusion simmer for 20 minutes.
Cool to a drinkable temperature, then stir in the Manuka honey. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container until ready to reheat and drink in smaller batches. The infusion can also be added to sparkling water and served cold.
Boosting Immunity with Herbalism:
My go-to western tonics are Urban Moonshine’s Immune Zoom, designed to maintain a healthy immune response and Clear Chest Herbal Syrup, targeting a healthy respiratory system. I’ve had so many colds halted in their tracks thanks to a combination of these two potent concoctions. The one caveat is that both formulas do contain alcohol and are high in sugar to compensate for the less-than-savory taste; therefore, these tonics may not be suitable for diabetics or for those with sugar handling issues (SIBO, chronic candida infections, fructose intolerance etc). If that is the case, the brand Gaia offers an alcohol-sugar-free “Quick Defense” formula featuring elderberry and echinacea.
When Urban Moonshine isn’t enough, I turn to my acupuncturist and herbalist to blend me a formula designed around my symptomatology.
Promoting Lung Health with Halotherapy:
When my asthma and eczema flare during illness (physiologically they’re connected due to a phenomenon called ‘atopic march’), I introduce halotherapy – the practice of breathing salt vapors – to decrease bronchial inflammation with naturally antibacterial air. Halotherapy centers are a respiratory haven designed to mimic the microclimate of a Himalayan salt cave, set to a temperature around 68 degrees to instigate a negative ionic charge that releases salt particles into the air.
After a recent hour of halotherapy, I noticed that my cough had disappeared and I found that my enhanced lung capacity allowed for deeper, slowing breathing, ideal for restorative practice.
Himalayan salt in particular contains 84 trace minerals, making it my go-to for both breathing and seasoning. You’ll find it listed in all of my recipes and used as my preferred soak for bath time.
Navigating a Fever without Medication:
When I recently spiked a 102 ºF fever, I did a deep dive into my favorite research database to find out whether I should suppress it mechanically or let it ride its course. I discovered two schools of thought: 1) a fever is an unnatural physiological state with risks that should be quickly mitigated through intervention with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs (Aspirin, Ibuprofen, etc); 2) a fever is your immune system in action, an adaptive response to a pathogen that can be killed at a higher temperature. By taking NSAIDs to decrease your body temperature, you’re diminishing your immune response and likely increasing the duration of your illness (the caveat being, if your fever rises above 103 ºF, seek medical assistance).
So which approach is best?
In a hospital setting, doctors follow a traditional approach and always treat a fever out of an abundance of caution. But if you assess recent clinical trials, the data shows that suppressing a fever could actually compromise your immune system in the long term (Ray et al.; Young et al.). And given that fever is estimated to be more than 4 million years old, I am inclined to agree with the second theory: that weakening an adaptive febrile response could be maladaptive. On a personal note, I felt significantly better by letting my fever break naturally – as if my body really did know what it was doing.
Essential Oil Steam:
- 6 cups filtered water
- 2-3 drops organic 100% pure tea tree essential oil
Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat or with a teapot. Transfer the water to a heat-proof bowl. Add 2-3 drops of pure essential oil to the water. Lean over the bowl and drape a large towel over your head to trap the heat. Breathe deeply, careful not to burn your face, and emerge from under the towel as necessary. Tea tree oil has strong anti-microbial properties that can kill pathogens.