I've been meaning to post something about staying healthy through seasonal changes and the fact that a stomach bug just recently—and quickly—had its way with 3/4 of us in our house is a keen reminder that these changes of season are tough on the body. And a hasty text from my sister in law—does Zicam really work?—before her annual spring break trip with friends and family was another reminder that we're all feeling it. We have to help each other.
Coming out of the cold, dark winter into the spring is a jarring shift, one that feels much more difficult than transitioning from the heat of the summer to the gradual chill of the fall. It's like turning on the lights on someone who's half-asleep and not quite ready to open their eyes. Or the rest of their body, either.
What I've listed here below isn't backed by anyone other than my own experience. Here they are, in no particular order.
Elderberry syrup. I've bought lots of different kinds and they vary in price. They're all basically good, but I like this one because the dosage is just a teaspoon and you add water to dilute it. There isn't any sugar added to the adult's version; the child's version has echinacea and astragalus and is less concentrated, with organic agave nectar in it. Black elderberries are loaded with antioxidants and it's very common practice in parts of Europe to take this as a tonic, every day, especially in the winter. I like to take it once or twice a day, and up the dosage as directed when I'm starting to come down with something. Next winter, I am making my own.
Turmeric. Oh, I've extolled the virtues of turmeric to anyone who will listen and even wrote a whole story about it for Paste magazine's food section. It's been used for thousands of years in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine and has anti-inflammatory benefits. And antioxidant ones, too. A good 2-inch chunk of it goes in my smoothie every morning. I primarily take it for the arthritis in my shoulder but anything that works on the cellular level is going to be a good investment for immunity.
Buckwheat honey. I bought some of this rich, dark varietal from a beekeeper who was selling at a farmers' market in upstate New York when we visited there in the fall. He described as "the Guinness of honey," an odd juxtaposition if ever there was one. He likened it to molasses because it's typically (although not always) darker and it's not as sweet as clover or wildflower or other honeys we commonly encounter. When I ran out, I bought some from Tassot Apiaries at the Easton Farmers' Market, who confirmed what the other beekeeper had told me: it's believed to be the best for fighting colds, sore throats and upper respiratory ailments. It's got a higher concentration of antioxidants and macronutrients than its other honey counterparts. I like to make a tea of this with turmeric powder, the zest and juice of an entire organic lemon and about 2 tablespoons of buckwheat honey, along with some grated ginger, too, when something's threatening to wreck the immune system. Note: If you want to get REALLY serious about honey-as-medicine, Manuka honey, which can sell for upwards of $20-$30 a jar, is what you might try. I haven't yet felt the need to dive into that. Not yet.
Epsom salts. I may sound like an old lady, but when I feel tired, stressed, overwhelmed, or the muscles hurt from yoga, or there's a bug going around, I make sure to take a bath with Epsom salts. They are incredibly restorative; I even gave lavender versions of these in glass Ball jars for Christmas as gifts this past year, thanks to the surfeit of lavender blossoms I was sent from a family member in Washington state who has it all over their property. In our crazy western world, in which bathing ourselves is another item to just cross off the list, the art of the bath is often forgotten. Take 1/2 hour. You deserve it. Taking a bath in the colder months is tricky because it does not generate steam the way a shower does and therefore the bathroom stays cold. I mitigate this problem by putting a space heater in our third floor bathroom with the claw foot tub about 1/2 hour before I'm going in, closing the door, and then going back up when I'm ready. (Which is generally AFTER the kids are in bed.)
Vitamins and Essential Oils. Disclaimer! I hesitated to put these in here because I distribute items from two different manufacturers (mostly so I can get the wholesale discount). So they're sharing the number five space. This winter and spring have been more manageable with Shaklee's Vitalized Immunity, an effervescent table that dissolves in water and bears the strength of 16 oranges' worth of Vitamin C, along with minerals and a proprietary blend of herbs including Japanese honeysuckle, echinacea and forsythia. I also love Young Living's Thieves, which saw me through a bad bout of food poisoning and is something I put on my kids (feet and spines, people), diluted, most nights of the winter and into the spring. And this is just the tip of the iceberg as to how vitamins and essential oils work together in our house to keep us going and restore our health quickly if something does settle in.
How about you? Fire cider? Fermented foods? Echinacea? What do you take to ward off bugs and get through seasonal transitions, unharmed and healthy?