I have been sick the past few days, and despite all my normal naturopathic tricks I haven’t been able to shake it. While I completely recognize the need to treat the underlying cause of recurrent illness (like stress, lack of exercise, and hormone imbalances), sometimes we just need relief from symptoms.
There are a lot of foods and nutrients that have been shown in research to shorten the duration of colds and flus, but the following are some of my favorite naturopathic home remedies to just help you feel better during your sickness. Though I am still in the thick of the sick, I can’t deny that these time-honored medicines we can find in our homes have helped me reduce congestion, increase my energy, and get better sleep while being under the weather.
1) Roasted Garlic
Garlic is naturally antimicrobial and can easily be found at your local grocery store (or hopefully already in your pantry). This recipe is even easy enough to do between naps when you’re sick. Just:
- peel the skin on the outer layers of the head of garlic
- chop off the tops of each clove so the bare clove underneath the skin is exposed
- drizzle with olive oil in an oven safe dish
- cover in foil
- bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes
When ready, your kitchen will smell like garlic and the cloves will be slightly amber in color. Just eat a couple of cloves every few hours to get the best of the antimicrobial activity. Some people can’t take garlic on an empty stomach, so try it with food or some broth first.
You’ll have garlic breath, but your sinuses will clear and you’ll feel much better. Oh, how I adore inexpensive kitchen pantry medicine.
2) Warming Sock Treatment
Ok… So this one sounds weird but, I promise you, it’s a lifesaver.
Normally during an illness or injury, there are areas of increased circulation and/or inflammation. Think of what happens when you have a cold. Your nose and mucous membranes get red, meaning there is more circulation and therefore more congestion. Production of mucous is the body’s natural defense to invading pathogens, and increasing circulation to that area is an important part of the immune response. But when this natural response gets in the way of much needed sleep (especially when ill), we may take longer to heal. The warming sock treatment shifts the body’s circulation to the feet to decrease mucous production and circulation in the head and chest, while having a sedating effect on the nervous system that helps with sleep and stress. For that reason it’s great for sore throats, neck pain, ear infections, headaches, migraines, nasal congestion, allergies, coughs, bronchitis and sinus infections.
So on to warming sock treatment. The steps go like this:
- get a pair of cotton socks (must be cotton or other natural fiber, no synthetic)
- wet them with cold water and wring them out until they are only a little damp
- put them in the freezer for 3-5 minutes
- now comes the hard part: take them out of the freezer, go to your bed, and PUT THEM ON (yes I said that)
- immediately cover them with a pair of wool socks
- snuggle up and go to sleep
By morning, your body will have warmed and dried the socks and you’ll wake congestion-free. For people with poor circulation, you may want to do an optional pre-warming treatment by taking a hot shower, bath, or foot soak right before bed. I also find that this can be a great one for kids, as it helps with sleep and can be turned into a game pretty easily.
Try it the next time you’re under the weather. I know it sounds crazy, but you’ll thank me in the morning.
3) Steam Inhalations with Essential Oils
Sometimes you just have to be able to breathe. It’s true.
If you’re feeling really congested, heat and essential oils are your friends. Some of my favorite oils for upper respiratory infections are eucalyptus and thyme, but many of them have medicinal properties and are naturally antimicrobial.
There are many ways to do a steam inhalation, some of which are easier than others. One of my favorite methods is placing 10-15 drops of essential oil around the perimeter of your shower or bath just before bed, making sure to stay in the bathroom long enough build steam and clear up the nasal passages. Other options include inhaling steam over a mug or a pot of water with 3-5 drops of essential oil (making sure to let it cool for a minute to avoid steam burns), using a towel over your head and the pot to trap the healing steam and vapors inside. Often a steam inhalation will cause your sinuses to drain (which is a great reason to do this treatment in the bathtub or shower), which can help with sleep, headaches, and earaches as well.
Occasional Sickness is a Sign of a Healthy Body
I know it can be difficult to remember (especially when you feel horrible), but sickness can be one sign of a healthy body. Bacteria, fungi and viruses do, at times, invade our natural defenses, but a healthy immune system will work to fight off these invaders through increased mucous production and inflammation. Without these processes, any cold or flu would be free to invade our valuable organs (like the heart, liver, and brain), rather than just our noses and throats.
It’s important to get sick every so often; our immune systems, like our physical bodies, occasionally need a workout.