After over 3 years of keeping my immune system strong and not getting sick, the flu snuck up and got its claws into me to kick off 2018. Happy New Year! Ha.
To be honest, I know exactly how it happened – I was traveling and having a tricky time getting a decent night’s sleep in my hotel room, and then on the last night of my trip, I found out something happened at home and I was up all night worrying about it.
Sleep deprivation paired with stress is a pretty sure-fire way to send out the welcome wagon for any germs and bugs in your environment to set up shop in your body for a while.
After that last night of zero sleep, piled on top of a few nights before that with around 4 hours of sleep each (when I typically get a minimum of 8) I got on a plane, got home at night, and woke up early the next morning to go to jury duty. Basically, I just hung out with my rundown body and mind in the most germ-laden places I could find (in the middle of an intense flu season).
The next day I woke up (after sleeping a full 10 hours straight) and was still intensely tired. I thought I was just exhausted and decided to take the day for some much-needed R+R. After that super-relaxing day, I went to bed and woke up in the middle of the night with hot flashes and chills, still thinking it was just a product of exhaustion, but when I woke up the next morning, my body was in intense pain.
It felt like someone was stabbing me with a knife in my lower back, shoulders, and jaw (the places I typically hold the most tension) and trying to pry my bones apart. Gross explanation, but that’s what it felt like. On top of that, it was an intense effort to even get up and move around. And then as time went on, the constantly runny nose, post-nasal drip, sneezing, and occasional cough joined the party, too. To top it off, as most of my symptoms started to subside, I had a day of a different type of pain in my hands/wrists/arms due to Reactive Arthritis. Joy!
As someone who rarely asks for help, and whose husband thinks that “I’m independent” is my personal tagline, feeling this helpless was almost more uncomfortable than the flu itself.
But, I digress. What I’m here to share with you today is the exact steps I took to recover from the flu (in under a week) with zero conventional medicine – just good old fashioned plants and home remedies.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and I cannot, nor do I intend to claim that I can treat, heal, or prescribe anything – I’m purely sharing my personal experiences.
Lots of people think it’s insane that I don’t run to the doctor (I would if I needed to, but rarely is that the case) or drugstore when I’m sick to pick up boxes and boxes of over-the-counter meds to temporarily mask my symptoms. And that’s because, as a culture, we’ve been taught to not trust ourselves and our bodies innate intelligence, and instead only trust the opinions of outside sources – like doctors and pharmaceutical companies (who, to point out the obvious, both earn bazillions for prescribing as many meds to as many people as possible).
Instead of writing a bunch of paragraphs summarizing my feelings on popular approaches to healthcare, let me just make a sweet little bulleted list for ya. Waaaay easier to digest this way.
- I’m not against conventional/western medicine whatsoever, I know it serves an important purpose, but I reserve it for times that it’s truly necessary
- I prefer to look at health holistically, which means taking the whole person (mind/body/spirit) into consideration, and drilling down to resolve the root of the problem, as naturally as possible, from that viewpoint
- I believe that (for people who aren’t chronically ill, or in need of emergency care) it’s a much wiser choice to focus on restoring balance to the body/mind instead of temporarily masking symptoms – we have symptoms for a reason, they’re part of our body’s natural healing response, and artificially stopping them with meds only allows us to avoid short-term discomfort, but does nothing for actually resolving what we’re suffering from (for comparison purposes, I know a handful of over-the-counter-med-loving people who had the flu around the same time I did, and theirs lasted upwards of three weeks)
- I practice a lot of self-care in my daily life, which I think also helped speed my recovery time – as I focus on overall health all the time instead of just when I’m not feeling my best – consistency is key
- Humans are part of nature, so it makes sense that leveraging the healing powers of nature would be a logical way to deal with what’s plaguing us – truly pure, potent natural remedies helps the body and mind come back into their natural state of balance (plus, they can help relieve symptoms while simultaneously working on the root of the problem – such a killer combo!)
Anywho, I’ve had this toolbox of super-simple, immune-boosting, body-nourishing tools for years – and I realized recently that many people don’t know about the majority of them – which, in my opinion, is a crime. So, here’s a roundup of what I did (and didn’t do) – in hopes that it’ll help empower you to give your body the tools it needs to restore balance and heal itself!
- The best thing you can do is to give your mind and body the rest they’re craving, and do everything you can to reduce stress – think about what an animal in nature does when they’re not feeling well, they don’t continue hunting and scampering around, they go curl up in a safe place until they feel ready to resume their normal life – animals know what’s up
- No computer (literally didn’t open it for days and days) and very limited phone use – let your nervous system unwind
- No physical exertion, except maybe a little stretching and ball-rolling on the floor to help with body discomfort (I personally used Yoga Tune Up balls)
- Don’t try to do everything for yourself if you don’t have to, and don’t be afraid or too proud to ask for help (spoken from personal experience)
- Allow people to help and care for you in their own ways – this not only will be supportive and nurturing for you – but it makes other people feel happy and valued when you let them help
- If people are helping you out, express lots and lots of gratitude (it’s good for you and them)
- As soon as I got out of bed each morning, I’d give myself a full dry brush to activate the lymph system (super helpful for immune health and proper detoxification) and exfoliate to allow for better nutrient/essential oil absorption through the skin
- Normally I stand to do this, but because I was so weak, I sat down for the most part (it works either way!)
SALT AND ESSENTIAL OIL BATHS
After dry brushing, I’d fill up my tub with the hot water and add:
- 1 cup Epsom salt + 1/4 cup Himalayan Salt
- To draw out toxins through the skin, nourish the body via their impressively high mineral content (especially magnesium), reduce inflammation, soothe pain and soreness, and stimulate circulation
- 2 drops Frankincense essential oil
- To boost the immune system, support cellular health, reduce pain and inflammation, soothe pain and tension, support brain health, soothe stress, balance emotions, support respiratory health (congestion, coughs), improve nutrient absorption, and it also enhances the effectiveness of other essential oils by driving them deeper into your cells
- 2 drops Copaiba essential oil
- To support immune health, support detoxification, regulate the inflammatory response, soothe anxious feelings, balance emotions, soothe tension and fatigue, promote cellular regeneration, fight free radicals, protects the liver, soothe sore, achy muscles and joints, soothe spasms and headaches, stimulate healthy blood flow, support respiratory health (congestion, sore throat)
- 2 drops Bergamot essential oil
- To support respiratory health, boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, soothes muscle and joint pain, balance emotions, reduce stress
- In addition to the kick-ass therapeutic benefits listed above, the hot, steamy environment is amazing first thing in the morning as it loosens congestion and helps clear your airways right off the bat.
BODY MASSAGE WITH ESSENTIAL OILS
- After getting out of the bath and drying off, I’d sit back down (so weak!) and give myself a full body massage with my essential oil infused aromatic dressing
- This would make me feel nourished and cared for while also reaping the therapeutic benefits of the essential oils
Many people don’t realize how crucial it is to be super mindful of what you eat while you’re sick. What you put in your body plays a huge role in how you feel moment to moment and how quickly you heal. You actually don’t really want to be eating a ton of food while you’re sick anyway, as you want to reserve the energy your body has for fighting off whatever’s invaded you, rather than trying to digest a whole bunch of stuff. Keeping it simple, light, hydrating, and nutrient dense is key.
Here’s an outline of the foods I personally avoid and the foods I focus on when I’m feeling under the weather (they make SUCH a difference):
Foods to avoid:
- Sugar will feed your sickness and weaken your immune system, essentially guaranteeing that you’ll be sicker for longer
- It also contributes to inflammation and congestion – so avoid it at all costs
- I’m a little hardcore about this, but I eliminate all fruits except lemons, and even honey (I know it has many therapeutic benefits, but it’s not worth it to introduce sugar to my system)
- Sugar lurks in all sorts of places like cough drops, cough syrup, fruit juice, sports drinks, alcohol, etc – so I always stay away from those guys
- Eating dairy while you’re sick is pretty much the same as sending out an invitation for phlegm to set up shop in your bod – it contributes to congestion and inflammation, and generally isn’t friendly to your digestive system either
- Meat (mostly)
- I say “mostly” because I do make an exception for a teeny bit of organic chicken in soup, but other than that, meat is a no-go
- My dad taught me a while back (I believe it has roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine) – that meat (especially red meat) is very constricting for the body, and it encourages it to hold onto sickness for longer – it also contributes to dampness and phlegm
- Bread, fried foods, and pretty much anything else that’s not in it’s natural, whole food state should be avoided
- Things like bread, crackers, etc. turn to sugar pretty rapidly in your system, which as we covered, is no bueno – they’ll also contribute to phlegm and congestion
- Processed foods are inflammatory and not beneficial for the immune system in general
- Raw + cold
- These foods take a lot of digestive energy to break down, plus they contribute to dampness in your body, a.k.a. phlegm and congestion – cooked foods are best
- And, for the love of god, avoid ice cream, popsicles, and anything else in that category at all costs – those are a shit storm of almost every food to avoid wrapped into one
Foods to focus on:
- I ensure the water is filtered and no colder than room temp, and I drink a ton of it
- Herbal tea is great for soothing the throat and helping to clear up congestion (just stay away from caffeine) – I had a few mugs of lemon ginger tea that I jazzed up with some fresh lemon and ginger – just make sure not to add sweetener, milk, or any other funny business – and keep in mind that tea can be a diuretic which can dehydrate you, so plain, filtered water should be your primary form of hydration
- Magic garlic broth
- This is another trick my dad taught me while I was in college – you’ll need bone broth (made with organic chicken bones and veggies), a head of garlic, a lemon, Himalayan salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (and optional collagen peptide powder)
- Pour the amount of bone broth that you want to drink into a pot on the stove, and add a handful of whole, peeled garlic cloves – I usually add a minimum of 6 (you don’t need to chop them, I just smash them, remove the skin, and plop them in the pot)
- Heat the broth and garlic until it just reaches a simmer, make sure you don’t allow it to boil as it will destroy some of the therapeutic properties of the garlic
- Pour the broth into a mug, squeeze in the juice of a full lemon, and add some Himalayan salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste (you can leave the garlic cloves in, which I normally do, or strain them out – either way you don’t have to eat them – but bonus points if you do!)
- I also added 1 scoop of collagen peptides each time I drank this because I felt so weak and had pretty much zero appetite, the extra hit of protein really helped keep the light-headedness away
- My mom made me some incredible chicken and veggie soups that were so nourishing and comforting when I felt like I had enough of an appetite to handle solid food (plus, food cooked by loved ones literally infuses you with the energy of love, which is healing on its own)
- I also had some butternut squash soup in the freezer, which was great in a pinch
- Cooked veggies
- Towards the end, I’d have the occasional bowl of roasted broccoli and shallots, or whatever else was hanging around that I could cook up like spinach, onions, garlic, etc.
I honestly have no idea how I ever survived a sickness before I started using essential oils. I can’t even explain how supportive they are at assisting the body in getting back into a state of balance. Plus, no matter what I’m dealing with, there is ALWAYS an oil I can pick up to address that thing specifically – they’re the most empowering tool I have in my arsenal, plain and simple. Thank you, mama nature, for inventing them.
Here are the specific oils that I had on heavy rotation over the course of the week, these are just some of the potential options you could leverage – but I tried to keep my routine somewhat streamlined so I could be consistent with it. P.S. If you have Q’s about essential oils, hit me up.
- On Guard
- Benefits: Protective blend – immune support, eliminates pathogens, sore throat
- Usage: I followed my immune system trio protocol (I’d reapply every 2 hours or so), for a sore throat this is great in a mug of warm water (with 1 drop of lemon essential oil added – note: must be safe for internal use)
- Benefits: King of all oils – immune support, anti-inflammatory, respiratory support, cellular health, mood balance
- Usage: I followed my immune system trio protocol (I’d reapply every 2 hours or so)
- Benefits: Threat eliminator – immune support, natural antibiotic, digestive support, respiratory support
- Usage: I followed my immune system trio protocol (I’d reapply every 2 hours or so)
- Benefits: Respiratory blend – opens airways, increases oxygen absorption, eliminates pathogens
- Usage: I diffused 8-10 drops of this pretty much 24/7, and I also would inhale 1-2 drops from the palms of my hands and/or paint the bottoms of my nostrils with 1 drop for added airway-clearing, pathogen-killing power
- Past Tense
- Benefits: Tension blend – soothes tension, pain, aches
- Usage: This comes in a roller bottle for easy application – I rolled this all over my areas of pain and tension as needed
- Benefits: Grounding blend – balances emotions, promotes healthy red blood cell function, oxygenates cells
- Usage: I applied this about 5x per day, 1-2 drops rubbed into the bottoms of my feet or the lymph nodes under my chin (I was feeling really drawn to this, so I knew I needed it)
- Benefits: Citrus powerhouse – Respiratory support, immune support, anti-inflammatory, soothes pain, balances emotions
- Usage: I applied this about 5x per day, 1-2 drops rubbed into the bottoms of my feet or the lymph nodes under my chin (I was feeling really drawn to this one as well, so I knew I needed it)
- Benefits: Jack of all trades – immune support, detoxification, anti-inflammatory, balances emotions, soothes tension + fatigue, respiratory support
- Usage: 1 drop under my tongue 3x per day
- Benefits: Digestive blend – digestive support, respiratory support (cough, congestion)
- Usage: Rather than for digestive support, I used this to stop my occasional cough, no idea why I tried it, but I felt drawn to it and it did the trick! I’d just put 1 drop on my tongue, take some deep breaths and then swallow (and wash down with a little water), I also occasionally rubbed this on my sinuses (away from my eyes) when they were aching
INFRARED HEAT PAD
- I actually started off using a standard plug-in heat pad, but then I realized that they emit a ton of EMF radiation, and it was likely doing me more harm than good
- My parents lent me their infrared heat pad and it was SO incredible that I bought one of my own (the medium size) – it was honestly the most comforting thing I could have possibly had while I was in so much pain
- The infrared emits heat pad emits no EMF radiation and uses a combo of negative ions (via jade stones and carbon fiber heating elements) and far-infrared heat to penetrate deeply into your body – thus increasing circulation, decreasing inflammation, boosting the immune system, decreasing stress, improving lymph flow, and soothing pain and tension – it’s also super flexible, so it can be molded around any area of your body
- I used this during pretty much all of my waking hours, I can’t even explain how much relief it gave me, and it also helped me sweat out lots of toxins, which was an added bonus
BLACK SEED OIL
- My dad gave me some black seed oil capsules, and I took one 3x per day
- Black seed oil has been said to be the “cure for everything except death” – so clearly it would take a long time to summarize its benefits – but, in short, its ability to inhibit the growth of infections, soothe pain, decrease inflammation, and promote respiratory health definitely worked to my advantage
So, that’s it! My holistic flu survival kit. I hope this is a helpful partner-in-crime the next time you find yourself feelin’ under the weather. Here’s to simple, natural tools for personal empowerment and long-term health!
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