I was honored to be invited to lead a donation based workshop geared toward providing simple steps each of us can take to boost our own immunity. Inspired by the overwhelming incentivizing of the influence vaccine, along with substantial evidence to suggest it may not be worth such incentivizing, I have been asked to offer some other solutions before jumping on the vaccination wagon.
I do not wish to participate in fear-mongering, judgement or shaming on either side of the debate; I encourage everyone to do their own research. Here is an example of the pro-vaccination platform. (The earlier link I referenced is on the other side of the debate). Seek out many sources, compare notes, and make your own decision; after all, I am firmly rooted in my belief that we as individuals are responsible for our own health, and the more we know, the more empowered we become.
Whether or not you opt in for a vaccination this year, time tested earth medicine is undeniably effective, when used properly, and there are a lot of steps we can take and botanical allies we can enlist to improve the quality of our health and overall wellbeing flu shot or not.
I prepared a short handout, complete with some recipes revolving around 7 staple botanical allies and the delivery methods we can use to receive their benefits. Here is what I put together:
Wellness Protocol for Flu Season: 5 Elements of Health
Our bodies are designed to heal. Unless we are very young, very old, or already suffering from a state of dis ease, the chances are high that we are well equipped to fight off any potential threat. The flu is very rarely fatal, with the exception of in individuals like the aforementioned. That said, if we do find ourselves infected, given some very basic measures, we will recover with a renewed strength and acquired immunity.
1) Rest An unwell body needs time to focus on healing. The more we exert ourselves during sickness, the worse off we may become. Rest does not equal laying on the couch, watching novellas and drinking 7up. Create a space which invokes wellness: clean, fresh air- indoor or outdoor (ideally a place with an abundance of plant life purifying the air); quiet/calming atmosphere (comforting, uplifting music); etc. Nourish yourself by focusing on healing.
2) Food as Medicine After our general lifestyle habits, our diet is the number one indicator of our state of well being. Eat Real Food. Period. Plain and simple. We should do this all the time, but especially when our immune systems are compromised, or when we are exposed. If the body is under great stress, not getting adequate rest, or coping with environmental stressors like temperature and pressure shifts, cold/wet weather, or in communion with other individuals who may be ill, our risk of becoming infected grow. A diet consisting of highly refined grains, sugars and processed animal foods (dairy, eggs and meat)- the Standard American Diet- gives us our current condition of an overfed and undernourished general population. Though the initial investment in a healthy diet may be overwhelming, I wholeheartedly believe the benefits far outweigh the costs. Given high quality whole foods- greens, vegetables, healthy fats and fruits- our bodies will be better able to achieve homeostasis at all times; instances of illness will decrease; recovery will become more swift. Try it for three weeks; I guarantee you will feel better. One last word here; a well balanced, nourishing diet includes consumption of at least 32 fluid ounces of water per day. I recommend drinking much more, especially if you exercise, and especially if you are concerned about your immune system.
3) Herbal Allies We coexist with the most powerful medicine in the world every single day. Herbal medicine is our heritage, our birthright, and our responsibility. Though barriers exist that separate us from this inherent knowledge, we can easily overcome outdated harmful fears, misconceptions and prejudices that keep us from our optimal state of wellness. The world of herbal medicine is as vast as the species of plants on our planet, and I typically recommend connecting with the botanical allies that exist where you are. The following plants are fairly common- their relationship to people, and their ability to adapt to a variety of environments have enabled them to become widespread in habitat, and readily accessible to most of us, whether or not we can afford to shop at Whole Foods.
All of the following herbs have an abundance of beneficial actions and constituents beyond what I will mention here. I also have purposely omitted some of the commonly recommended herbs for plant and habitat sensitivity and preservation purposes (Goldenseal, for instance).
1. Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia) Parts Used: Roots and Leaves
Among this beautiful plant’s extensive medicinal repertoire, it has proven useful in stopping cold and flu symptoms at their onset. It is most often recommended in tincture form, but can also be decocted for use as a tea.
2. Elder (Sambucus sp.) Parts Used: Berries, Flowers
This well known, lovely shrub of wet places has a long list of medicinal uses. It is an important ally to the immune system, having demonstrated antiviral properties. “Elderberry syrup” is an effective form of medicine, reducing flu symptoms and duration of the illness substantially.
3. Lemonbalm (Melissa officinalis) Parts used: Leaves
Not only is Lemonbalm attributed with having antiviral properties, this plant is also an ally to the central nervous and digestive systems, aiding in calming the body and mind, increasing its beneficial role in preventing and easing the flu.
4. Garlic (Allium sativum) Parts used: Bulb (root)
One of the most well known antibiotic, antiviral, anti fungal allies, this common kitchen herb is an important addition to the immune support regimen. Fresh is best, and it is recommended as a staple in the diet for prevention.
5. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Parts used: Root
Stimulating, warming, and soothing, ginger not only acts as a powerful antiviral agent, but also offers relief from many of the symptoms commonly associated with the flu virus, and is easy to integrate regularly into the diet to aid in prevention and reduction of severity and duration of infection.
6. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) Parts used: Leaves
A staple to every kitchen cabinet for extremely good reason, thyme offers powerful support to the respiratory system, in addition to its antiviral properties.
7. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) Parts used: Leaves and Flowers
This highly treasured plant has a long list of attributes which make it effective in treating colds and flus, especially indicated when fevers are present.
5) Therapeutics The following methods of administration will offer different benefits to individuals with compromised immune systems, or coping with illness. As our approach to healing must be holistic in nature to have lasting benefits and impact, the following protocol takes into account all aspects of an unwell individual and the many paths to healing.
Tisane: Herbal teas, as we have come to call them, are the most universal and traditional delivery methods for herbal medicine. The time it takes to decoct or infuse botanicals add to the therapeutic benefit, as time and attention are integral to true healing. One of my favorite herbal teas for flu symptoms:
2 Tbsp powdered Echinacea root
2 Tbsp powdered Elderberry
2 tsp freshly grated/powdered Ginger Root
2 tsp Yarrow leaf/flower
Bring 12 ounces of water to just boiling; pour over tea mixture. Allow to steep, covered 12-15 minutes. Strain, add local, raw honey to taste, and sip
Steam Inhalation: One of the most beneficial methods for calming, soothing, nourishing and uplifting the body, especially comforting the respiratory and central nervous systems. Use a teaspoon each of Thyme, Lemonbalm, and Yarrow, placing all into a large bowl (ceramic, glass or metal, preferably), and pour steaming hot water over top. Using a towel, enfold your entire head so the steam surrounds and infiltrates you. Breathe deeply for 5-10 minutes, as you feel comfortable. (Essential oils can also be used in this delivery method; please be sure they are sourced from a company guided by ethical stewardship practices).
Herbal Bath: Similar to the steam inhalation in its incredible calming, soothing, nourishing and uplifting benefits, with special offering to the skeletomuscular and nervous systems. Herbal baths can also be used in fever management. Please consult with a professional for guidance.
Herbal Massage: A simple Oil Infusion combination of Lemonbalm, Thyme and Ginger makes a tremendous addition to the antiviral medicine chest. It can be used as a full body massage, and also can be used as a simple “vapor rub” on the chest.
Tincture: Alcohol extracts of herbs offer the benefits of the constituents more soluble in alcohol than water, the long shelf life of herbal tinctures is of benefit, and the quick delivery fits well in modern lifestyles. Tinctures can be made at home simply, though I am a firm believer in the superior medicinal value of fresh over dried plant material. When purchasing herbal tinctures, it is important to ensure they are made with stewardship as top priority.
I wish you the power of your own innate healing abilities this season, as well as a deeper communion with our incredible botanical allies. I am available for questions, consultations and personalized formulas.
May you be nourished,
Molly Jo Stanley
Educating for Mindfulness and Sustainability