It seems most humans are completely exhausted (and often sick) these days. Whether it be from work, volunteering, kids, social media, commuting, or over-committing, people are simply pooped.
And while I wish everyone would give less f***s about what others think and just say “NO” to doing it all, I know you’re not going to. So in this multi-part series, we (myself and one of my favourite humans on the planet, Jessica Toth) will write about a wide array of tried and tested tools to ward of sickness and increase feelings of energy.
In Part 1 of this series, we (and by we, I mean Jessica; I provide intermittent and sassy commentary in italics) will explore the benefits of non-traditional supplements to help support energy and improve overall health.
I (Jessica) find myself ill pretty often. If there is “something going around”, I’ll likely catch it. While I was pregnant with my second baby, I had a cough basically the whole 9 months. I started to joke that it was just a part of my DNA! Your options for medication while pregnant are extremely limited, for good reason. I could take Tylenol, but that was about it. So I started looking, hunting, for a solution. I have been so excited by the remedies I found during and since my last pregnancy that I’ve been spewing the information like a geyser to anyone who will listen (I am Jessica’s number one listener). Most of my solutions are rooted in Eastern, or “traditional”, medicines. Remedies that have been used for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. My deep dive into this world led me on regular pilgrimages to Goodness Me… so many that I told my husband it is my new post-retirement job plan!
What I learned, and what I’ve been feeling for a few years, is that it’s an interesting time for traditional versus westernized medicine. People are looking for alternatives to pharmacological solutions, but with the research to back up the folklore. Because of this push from the consumer, more and more research studies are being performed to prove the benefits of these long-held, traditional medicines.
I hate colds. Abhor. Despise them. They knock me out for a few days and linger for a week. Unacceptable for a mother of 2! So at the outset of any cold, I now attack it relentlessly and mercilessly with my maelstrom of remedies, much like Kylo Ren’s attack on Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi. Anyone? No? Okay, moving on…
Preventing the Baddies
Dr. Bronner’s Organic Hand Sanitizer spray: I keep bottles of these everywhere and feel comfortable using it on my kids hands when out and about. I don’t overuse it, as I think the best thing for germs is simple soap and water.
Xylitol nose spray: This may be the weirdest recommendation on the list. Viruses typically enter your body through your mouth, eyes, or nose, which is why all health professionals scream at us to wash our hands regularly, especially during cold and flu season. Less bugs on the hands means less of a chance they’ll come into contact with one of the entry points. Regular nasal irrigation also helps flush out the cilia, little hair-like membranes in your nose that help keep bugs out, so they can do their job better. You can take preventative nasal spray up a notch with xylitol, a plant-based sweetener. Why the heck am I spraying plant sweetener up my nose, you say? Well, because xylitol “has anti-adhesive effects on micro-organisms like Streptococcus pneumoniae and Streptococcus mutans, inhibiting their growth” (Sakallioğlu Ö, et al. J Laryngol Otol. 2014). Ya. Plant sweetener makes your nose slippery so bugs can’t stick and reproduce. Gross, but amazing. I make this myself: warm water, organic Xylitol from Bulk Barn, and an empty nasal irrigation bottle. You could also buy the brand Xlear at many health food stores (I wish I could see this in action).
Black seed oil (Nigella sativa): Oh, guys. This is a BIG one, one that I’m very excited about and stand behind. Black cumin seed oil, or just black seed oil, has long been used in the Eastern hemisphere for healing of basically everything. And I mean long. Black seed is mentioned in both the Quran, the Book of Islam, and the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament (Christian Bible), as a cure-all. In the former, rather beautifully: “Hold on to the use of the black seed for indeed it has a remedy for every disease except death”. Over on the U.S. National Library of Medicine, you can view over 1000 studies of Nigella sativa, and its powerhouse active ingredient thymoquinone. In folklore and traditional medicine, black seed is known as a fighter against bacteria, viruses, and all manner of fungi. Recent studies have concluced that black seed has “anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, anticancer, hypoglycemic, antihypertensive, and antiasthmatic effects” (Farkhondeh T, et al. Dose Response. 2018 Apr-Jun.). I use black seed oil everyday.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) syrup: I stumbled upon the magnificent elderberry when I Googled “fight colds naturally” and “boost immune system”. This wee thing also has a fun backstory: there is evidence of it being cultivated by prehistoric humans, and Hippocrates once called it his “medicine chest” because of how many symptoms it could cure. Studies have found that elderberry performs well against the flu, viruses, even cancer and HIV, because of its immune-boosting, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties. My 3-year-old prefers the taste of the Suro brand over Sambucol, but because I couldn’t give either to my baby due to honey the content, I started to make my own (of course you did, you magnificent human, you). I found a recipe online, bought dried elderberries locally at a health food store, and added maple syrup in place of honey. My toddler and I both take elderberry syrup every morning, and I give it to my infant when I notice any drippy nose. Note that my husband is not mentioned. He seems to have a superhuman immune system and is in no need of my “potions”.
Thieves oil: Another remedy with strong folklore behind it, “thieves oil” is the common name for a blend of essential oils with purifying, antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antiseptic properties. The story goes that back in the 1400s, a band of thieves survived the devastating bubonic plague by applying an essential oil concoction to their bodies. The thieves had been perfume makers and spice merchants until their industry fell apart due to the plague, so they knew the properties of the oils. Clove, lemon, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus, and rosemary. I diffuse these oils in my children’s rooms every night (I’m not going to lie, it’s kind of stanky, but I did listen to my wise sage and diffused during the worst of cold seasons in my house. Not sure if it worked, but it might have helped. You may have sensed I’m a skeptic, but willing to try anything).
When All Hell Breaks Loose
Echinaseal by St. Francis Farms: Scientific studies on the use of Echinacea to prevent or treat colds have been controversial. One done in 2005 did not show any effect on the severity or duration of cold symptoms when it was used preventatively. And yet, when you talk to people who use it, they swear that it helps (le placebo?). I recently had a good friend recommend this particular product to me, and advised me to take it as soon as I felt the telltale sign of an oncoming cold: the throat tickle. I swear to you, the first time I took it, the next day I felt nothing. No closing of the throat, no drippy nose… NOTHING. It blew my mind. It contains more than just Echinacea, which is likely why it’s such a powerful remedy. I have used this for the last 6 months and I can count on it to remove my cold symptoms within a few days max, 90% of the time (if I catch it early enough). Alas, I did have that one cold which was impervious to any of my remedies. I want the whole world to know about this product, especially parents!
Garlic: During the unbelievable Cough Which Would Not Die (see pregnancy #2 above), I read about the antiviral effects of garlic. So I did what any sane person would do and ate whole garlic cloves, much to the polite chagrin of my poor boss (who countered with his own remedy, see below). In the early days the cloves did help, but seemed to lose their efficacy over a few months (turns out I had a bronchial infection, oops). So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered Cold Storm, by Strauss. It is almost pure concentrated garlic extract, plus ethanol for preservation and a natural sweetener for taste (which doesn’t really help at all), so its safe for pregnant/nursing women and toddlers. The product promises a decrease of symptoms in 48 hours, and has lived up to that promise in my experience.
Ginger and lemon: My boss swears by this classic remedy of ginger and lemon in hot water. Get the real stuff, or a powdered ginger concentrate from a health food store, and drink at least twice a day. The ingredients work symbiotically to boost your immune system. Add a little cayenne to really kill the bugs and boost your immune response.
Since January, when I started laser-bombing any and all viruses with some or all of these methods above, my kids’ colds are manageable and I haven’t had any symptoms last longer than 2 days (and mild ones at that). To me, the effort of preventing colds and bugs is worth it.
I told you, this gal knows her stuff. Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your tried, tested and truly helpful remedies. In our next post, I will discuss some of the more traditional supplements and remedies you can employ to fight off the baddies and boost your energy. And they aren’t going to be the ones you expect (well, at least I don’t think they are).