By Hyacynth Worth
As Chicago welcomes autumn’s crisp air, a season plump with pumpkins, ripe with fresh apples, shorter days and the return of school, we also begrudgingly play host to cold and flu season from frost until spring thaw.
Fall would be my favorite season if it weren’t for the runny noses, coughs and slight fevers that often accompany this time of year. During the past year, my family has been focusing on preventative measures when it comes to contracting commons illnesses, and we’ve been remarkably less prone to illness. Because we do home a preschooler and toddler, our house did see a few ailments; I, in all of my dietary strictness paired with divine grace, have only been sick once since January. Combined with a no-refined sugar and whole foods diet, our natural medicine cabinet has been far more effective in helping us feel well than cough drops and decongestants have.
Oil of Oregano
A highly effective antimicrobial, Oil of Oregano should be one of the first things in your natural medicine cabinet as it’s effective against bacteria, fungi and parasites, all of which can tax the immune system, leaving your body more susceptible to viruses and other illnesses. Though Oil of Oregano hasn’t been shown to be as effective in hampering viruses, it is useful for those suffering from a cold because it helps to thin mucus, thus allowing for easier breathing and quick removal of the infecting virus via mucus. While Oregano oil is natural and derived from the Oregano plant, it is still a powerful herb and should be treated as a medication, so be sure to follow recommended dosage guidelines on your bottle. (Tip: Oil of Oregano is strong tasting; put a few drops in your kids’ water or soup bowl so as to dilute the taste.)
Homemade Bone Broth Soups
When grandma pulled out the old stock pot and threw a chicken in to simmer into a delicious soup when you were hacking up a lung, likely no one gave her concoction much validation as an effective cold and flu treatment. But science shows there’s traditional wisdom found in this seemingly old-school cold and flu remedy. These bone-broth based soups provide essential nutrients and minerals, each of which act as building blocks for our bodies’ cell regeneration. Remembering the adage of “you are what you eat” and principles of the food chain, we tend to make our soups from animals that have been allowed to freely roam in open pastures, consuming the foods they were intended to consume. Here’s our favorite bone-broth-based soup, cleverly titled Best Chicken Soup Ever. (My husband wants to assure you that I’m a better cook than humor writer, so really, the recipe is the best ever.)
Mullein Leaf Tea
Mullein flower petals actually act as a soothing anti-inflammatory for the respiratory tract, calming coughs and bringing relief to congested nasal passages when these herbs have been carefully harvested and dried for teas or tinctures. Be sure to find a high quality tincture or loose-leaf tea when using Mullein for medicinal purposes; the loose-leaf teas left steeping for 10 minutes or more in a covered cup actually are more effective in providing relief than their already bagged counterparts.
Probiotic Foods and Drinks
With the number of bacteria in our bodies outnumbering our cells, it shouldn’t be surprising that we need large amounts of good bacteria populating our guts in order to remain healthy, especially when we know that up to 80 percent of our immune function begins in our guts. When we have a healthy gut flora balance, the beneficial bacteria and yeast outnumber the detrimental ones, so it’s important that we populate our guts with healthy bacteria and yeast. In part, we do this by eating fresh foods; one way our ancestors and even many of our grandparents maintained good gut flora was by consuming cultured food and drinks like sauerkraut, pickled vegetables and milk kefir and yogurts. While you might find many of these foods at the grocery store, most do not contain any beneficial bacteria, as it has been destroyed in pasteurization or at the very best things like yogurt and kefir contain a few strains of hardy bacteria. Homemade cultured vegetables and kefirs actually contain about 100 different strains of probiotics and beneficial yeasts. When consumed, they go to town in our bodies doing their jobs – keeping the bad bacteria, viruses and fungi in check, thus helping us stay well. For instructions on how to make a variety of cultured drinks and foods, visit Cultures for Health.
Cold and Flu Tincture
Many herbs and plants are highly beneficial to our healing when we’ve been stricken with a cold or flu; making a tincture to consume during illness is a way to help accelerate healing and relieve symptoms. Frugally Sustainable has a wonderfully easy tincture recipe perfect for cold and flu season.
Here’s a smattering of our favorite places to pick up fresh herbs, teas, tinctures , fresh produce, raw dairy and pastured meats in the Chicagoland Area: