A few weeks ago, my five-year-old son and I got hit with the flu. No, we did not confirm this with testing, but the two things that stood out and make it likely was a horrendous headache and the pure persistence of the symptoms. In fact, we both still have coughs.
It has been relentless.
The importance of learning to manage the pain of acute infections without drugs cannot be underestimated. I devoted an entire chapter to this topic in my book Eat in Peace to Live in Peace: Your Handbook for Vitality. Drugs rob the body of seeking its own resolution and instead of the infection making you stronger, it makes you weaker.
Well-managed acute infections are important to both our physical AND spiritual development, particularly in children. After all, these parts of ourselves really can’t be separated, can they?
Getting sick is not a failure. It’s an opportunity for healing. The reality that we don’t live in a world that understands this should anger and motivate you to do something different next time you are sick.
Given that so many people are suffering right now, I thought it would be a good time to tell you how I moved (and continue to move) through it.
The single thing that brought us the most relief was daily garlic foot baths!
Here's how to do it:
-Boil a quart or two of water.
-Take an entire bulb of garlic, use your palm to crush each clove with the flat side of a knife to remove the skins, and add to the boiled water.
-Let it sit for 5 minutes or so and then add to the foot bath, along with some cooler water. You want it as hot as you can stand it.
-A 30 minute foot bath is a good time frame to submerge your feet in the garlic water.
I am happy to report that Drake loved doing these with me.
So why does this work so well?
The sulfur compounds from the garlic are absorbed through the skin, bypass the digestive tract, enter the bloodstream and essentially fumigate the lungs. Drake and I would have a race to see whose breath would start to smell like garlic faster. It takes about 5-10 minutes.
Many people have asked me over the years: how do herbs work? Well, this is one way – how the body decides to remove the compounds. In this case, garlic likes to leave through your breath doing your lungs a favor.
Within 5-10 minutes, I could often sense the inflammation in my body drop. I would just feel more comfortable and relaxed, often sleeping better if I did this at night. I would notice that the pain in my chest would decrease. Sometimes taking a deep breath was difficult, as it hurt and could cause a coughing spree. But after the garlic foot bath, my breathing would improve greatly. And most mornings after doing a garlic foot bath the night before, I would notice more expectoration, or mucus moving upon waking – a good sign!
Other things I included in my healing regimen:
Lots of hot tea. My favorites were holy basil from Organic India and just simple organic peppermint tea.
Ultima raspberry flavored electrolyte replacement with a teaspoon to a tablespoon of Calcium Lactate powder from Standard Process is a great beverage when you don't feel well. If you need an alternative to Gatorade (please, sweet baby Jesus, do not ingest that crap), then Ultima is a lifesaver. All the flavors are good. As far as Calcium Lactate goes, this is a highly absorbable form of calcium used by the immune system to arm white blood cells to be able to do their job. Sweetened with stevia, Ultima + Calcium Lactate is also pretty darn easy to get down a kid…and adults.
Two more products that I can’t live without:
Broncafect Phytosynergist from MediHerb
ResCo Phytosynergist from MediHerb
These are pre-blended liquid herbs that offer respiratory support. Broncafect contains Echinacea root, licorice root, pleurisy root, thyme leaf, ginger rhizome and white horehound herb. ResCo contains mullein leaf, licorice root, elecampane root, euphorbia herb, grindelia herb, ginger rhizome and fennel essential oil. Both formulas help keep the mucus flowing in an acute infection. In the case of Broncafect, it is specifically indicated when the mucus is abundant, while ResCo is more for dry mucus membranes.
Bottom line: making the cough go away with an anti-tussive is undesirable. The point isn’t to make the mucus or cough go away. The mucus flows to get the infection out of the body, and we are fortunate to have herbs that can help us do just that.
In acute scenarios, I have taken as much as 9 metric teaspoons of one of these herbal formulas per day, and often find that a blend of both do the best job.
Andrographis Complex from MediHerb. This is andrographis herb, echinacea root and holy basil herb and essential oil. It is a warming, bitter formula that drains the heat associated with an acute infection, in addition to supporting overall immune function. 6-9 per day.
Congaplex from Standard Process. This is true whole food nutrition for your immune system. 3 every waking hour. I know what you’re thinking: that’s too much, Char!
I say: If you want to get well, get over it. You are in a different paradigm now using whole food and whole herbs as therapeutic agents. Set your timer, stop your bitching and get the job done. During an acute infection, you need frequent and high dosing. Simple as that.
Taking one herbal pill or one nutritional supplement once a day like you would take a pharmaceutical or over-the-counter drug isn’t going to cut it! So be brave and play!
We also took lots of hot baths, frequently using Dr Singha’s Mustard Bath, which contains: Powdered mustard seed, essential oils of wintergreen, eucalyptus, rosemary, thyme, and gum benzoin in a base of sodium carbonate. It is a penetrating heat that warms you from the inside out.
Hot showers and steam inhalations can be helpful, too. Just put 2-3 drops of your favorite essential oil in hot water, throw a towel over your head, and take deep breaths for 5-10 minutes. Eucalyptus, tea tree, peppermint, and lavender can all be helpful. Just use what feels good to you. Simpler Botanicals and Snow Lotus are two of my favorite brands. Mothership Self Care makes a great respiratory inhaler to use for you sinus cavities.
The only thing more important than sleeping is, of course, what you eat. Many times the appetite will decrease during acute infections, particularly if there is a fever. It's ok to respect that. Your immune system has better things to do than digest your food during this time, so fasting may be desirable. And let's face it, cooking when you have no energy is no fun, so I do my best to have soups in my freezer.
Amanda Love's Nourishing Cleanse is a wonderful resource for soup-making. I use her recipes consistently in my kitchen (when sick or not). The bottom line is this: emphasize warm, easy-to-digest foods, including drinking broth and white fish and avoid dairy, sugar, alcohol and refined, processed foods.
Fortunately, I made a batch of Fire Cider a few months ago. This is a warming, traditional herbal preparation designed to drive a cold or flu out of the body. To make it super easy, I created a how-to video for you here.
Last but not least, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep and sleep some more. I used both Kava Forte and Nervagesic from MediHerb to help me relax and sleep, particularly with the discomforts of the headache from hell.
In addition to being a nervous system relaxant, kava relieves pain, and the California poppy, Jamaican dogwood, and corydalis in Nervagesic take that anti-inflammatory activity one step further doing exactly what needs to be done: making you more comfortable WITHOUT interfering with immune system function.
So there you have it, over a dozen ways to help you get through the flu. And remember, if you can’t get through it on your own, find a qualified health professional who can help you. The medical system is always there if and when you need it, but why not give your body a chance to do what it was designed to do? There’s no weakness in asking for help, but taking drugs is a last resort.
Be sick in peace, my friends! You got this.