It's that time of year when cold & flu season makes its unwelcome return. Prepare your body by boosting your immune system to fight off those pesky bugs! Below is a list of 10 of our favourite holistic immunity helpers.
(1) Astragalus: Astragalus root is a powerful immune-boosting herb. It's known to be an immuno-modulator, antioxidant, antimicrobial, adaptogenic, and a circulatory stimulant. All excellent in maintaining good health and fighting illness. Get a stalk and add it to your stews and soups, or find a tincture and add 1 tsp. to your morning beverage of choice.
(2) Medicinal Mushrooms: Mushrooms are AMAZING for detoxing the body. My favourites include turkey tail and Reishi. Harmonic Arts Botanical Dispensary on Vancouver Island sells mushroom tinctures and powders which you can add to just about any food.
(3) Turmeric: Turmeric root's active constituent is curcumin, a natural anti-inflammatory compound. Turmeric drastically increases the antioxidant capacity of your body. Find fresh turmeric at Whole Foods, City Mart, or Choices. It's wonderful freshly grated into soups or curries. Be warned, it will temporarily dye your skin! If orange hands aren't appealing to you, opt for dried turmeric powder but note that it's more bitter than the fresh root. Another favourite for turmeric is a warm mug of golden mylk. Harmonic Arts sells a delicious Golden Mylk powder.
(4) Vitamin D: It's common fact that more people catch a cold or flu in the winter; it's also common fact that we have much less sunlight in the winter (at least for us up in the Northern Hemisphere)... and it's no coincidence! Vitamin D is important for maintaining a well functioning immune system as it decreases inflammation and increases antimicrobial defences.
(5) Vitamin C: This is a wonderful antioxidant which helps boost your immune function. Find vitamin C in citrus fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, and bell peppers. If you eat a rainbow of whole foods you'll get more than enough Vitamin C in your diet.
(6) Elderberry: Elderberries are full of antioxidants and are known for boosting the immune system and fighting against coughs, colds, flus, bacterial, and viral infections. This is my favourite herbal cough syrup to have on hand if I get sick.
(7) Fire Cider: This is a potent anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-viral concoction! Typically fire cider includes apple cider vinegar, fresh turmeric, fresh horseradish, ginger, garlic, cayenne, lemon juice, and honey. I'll post my personal recipe soon and in the meantime, check out this one from The Mountain Rose Blog.
(8) Sleep: Sleep is vital! This is your body's chance to rest and repair any cell damage. Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
(9) Castor Oil Packs: Meet your liver's new best friend. Anytime I'm feeling under the weather, or notice that my skin is breaking out, I turn to castor oil packs. The liver is your body's main detox organ and it often gets overburdened. The lipid structure of castor oil is easily transmitted through your skin and helps your liver (and lymph system) to detox. I apply castor oil directly to the skin over my liver, cover it with a washcloth, and put a hot water bottle on top. Bonus, who doesn't love a hot water bottle on a cold winter night.
(10) Contrast Hydrotherapy: A fancy term for intermittent hot and cold water; when in the shower spend a few minutes contrasting between hot and cold water. Aim for a 2:1 ratio (1 minute hot: 30 seconds cold). The contraction and expansion of the blood vessels and lymph system will help move toxins through the body.