Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Beating Colds & Flu...Nature's Way (Part 2)

Elderberry is my first go-to for when I hear a sniffle or cough, but what if it's just not getting the job done and the cold or flu is worsening? What if I'm out of elderberries? What if we are traveling? What do I do then?

If you ask me what I do when my family (or I) get sick on 3 different days, you'll probably get 3 different answers, depending on what I've been reading lately or what happens to be in my cupboard at the time. There are probably hundreds of options, what I'm going to list aren't "the right" options, it's just a few options out of many, and are ones that I've used many times and have worked for us.

My Basic Strategy

1. Vitamin D3.  When the temperature drops or school starts and the boys are spending less time out in the sunshine, I start them on vitamin D3 at 2,000IU/day, just for prevention and other good health reasons.

2. Elderberry Syrup. At the first sniffle or cough, I start simmering a pot of elderberries. For the recipe see Beating Colds & Flu Nature's Way (Part 1).

3. Sugar. I eliminate the white stuff completely. It's rarely in our diet anyway, but when I hear a sniffle, cough, or more there are no exceptions made. Sugar depresses the immune system by half for several hours after consumption! Definitely unwanted when fighting a bug.

When 1, 2, &3 Just Aren't Enough

This is the part where if you ask me different days, you'll get different answers. I don't do all of these at the same time, I usually just pick one or two. These are in no particular order.

4. Garlic Oil. I like this, because it's easy to use, even on a baby. And if sickness hits while traveling, garlic and olive oil are available at just about every grocery store. Just rub some on my little guy's feet, cover with a sock sometimes (definitely during the day when he's running around. I can't say I love oily footprints across my floors - can you hear the voice of experience here), and he keeps right on sleeping. My boys can handle having it rubbed right on their chest too.
Or, if you are like my husband, just chew up a garlic clove and swallow.

5. Essential Oils. There are many essential oils that would be helpful, here are a few I've used.

Thyme oil has resided in my purse for the past year since I was flying to a week-long conference with a scratchy throat, no kitchen, fridge or health food store and had to make it through airline security. I leave it there now, as it's come in handy a few times. When needed, I just put a drop or two on my wrists every few hours (or on my boys' feet). While it's strong, it doesn't seem irritating to many people, making it ideal for using in public. It's also great as a disinfectant. I've been known to use it for cleaning from time to time and several commercially available natural cleaners & disinfectants are based on thyme oil.

Lemon or Lemongrass oil are both great at killing things and purifying the air. After a stay in the hospital where both my husband and I came home with MRSA,  on a second stay we diffused lemongrass in the hospital room on a return trip to avoid another bout with the nastiness. Lemongrass is great for killing MRSA and all the nurses commented how pleasant our room smelled. If there's sickness in the air (aka a couple family members are sick), I'll often diffuse this in our home to purify the air and decrease chances of it spreading, not to mention the therapeutic effects of just breathing it in for those already sick.

Eucalyptus oil is great at helping clear the sinuses. If stuffiness and congestion is the issue,  a drop on a shirt, a few drops in a vaporizer at night, or in a diffuser is often helpful.

Thieves oil by Young Living or a similar combination oil. Thieves is another oil great at disinfecting and killing all manner of bacteria and viruses. I've used this on feet during sickness, as a cleaning/disinfectant agent. I sent it with my husband to S. Sudan as his emergency sickness aid.

Benefits of using garlic oil or essential oils is that they can be rubbed on the body and do not have to be ingested, so if a child is too young to swollow capsules, is sleeping, or if vomiting is part of the sickness, it's a good option. On the flip side, if nausea is a major problem, the strong fragrances aren't always a good thing.

6. Herbs. I always keep a few on hand, sometimes in both capsule and liquid forms, just in case the elderberry just isn't enough and reinforcements are needed. A few of my favorites:

Echinacea/Golden Seal  - I love this combination. While elderberry is best at the very beginning of an illness, this is more helpful at later stages. It is antibiotic, antiviral and an immune stimulant. (The goldenseal part is not recommended for those who struggle with low blood sugar.)

Oregon Grape - is often a good choice for kids. It is not a direct antiviral or antibacterial but helps support the bronchials, immune and lymphatic systems. (Not recommended for those with high blood sugar issues.)

Olive Leaf - is an antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal.

Yarrow -  is antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal.

Mullein - is a great supporter of the lungs. When congestion of the bronchials, croup, or asthma is the issue, Mullein is my first pick!

7. Onions - as a final note, onions once saved me from an ER trip in the middle of the night while I was fighting bronchitis and close to not being able to breathe anymore. I had tried everything I knew to try, as a last ditch effort, my husband sliced up some onions,  heated them in a skillet just a bit, wrapped them in in old T-shirt, put them on my chest with a hot water bottle on top. My breathing started easing, two hours later I started coughing gunk up and continued recovering from there. The house smelled like a bad restaurant for 3 days, but it worked!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Beating Colds & Flu...Nature's Way

Sniff, sniff, cough, cough. It's that season...at the first sniffle, 2nd cough, or hint of a tickle in the throat, I reach for the elderberries and make up some elderberry syrup. It's a great antiviral, antioxidant, and boosts and supports the immune system. Sometimes I don't wait for the sniffle, if we are headed somewhere public and a lot of sickness has been going around, I'll give my kids a spoonful or a sip before heading out.

I used to buy the syrup already made up, until I figured out I could order dried elderberries and make it myself, for pennies on the dollar. This year I ordered from Mountain Rose Herbs for $10./pound (on special). With one pound, I can make about 4 quarts of syrup. Retail, it's about $15. for a 4 fl. oz. bottle. That would be $120. for 1 quart of syrup or $480. for the 4 quarts I can make out of my $10/pound berries (plus the cost of a little cinnamon and honey). I don't have the time to make a lot of my own stuff but the cost savings makes this one worth it to me!

Elderberry Syrup:
1/2 C. Dried Elderberries
2 C. Water
1 Cinnamon Stick
Add a bit of ginger and gloves to increase the effectiveness, if desired

Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer until the liquid is reduced by 1/2 (about 30 minutes).
Strain with a fine mesh strainer.

Add honey (to desired sweetness) while warm and stir until dissolved.
Makes about 1 pint.

If we aren't currently fighting a bug and I have some made up, I'll let the boys have a tablespoon or sip everyday. If they are fighting something, I'll try to remember to give them some every hour or so.