Monday, December 30, 2013
Brrrr it's Cold Outside
It's winter in New England. It is cold outside (as it should be). I love the change of seasons and what each has to offer. The cold for me brings warm comfy sweaters, reading more, needle point, comfort food, slowing down and connection. Summer is a blur of activity and often times speeds by before I get a chance to sit and say hello to my friends. Not so in winter. The energy of winter is slower for me, time stands still and frees up so I can connect more with myself, with family and with friends. It is a time I need to nourish all that will burst forth as Spring arrives. It is a time for me to play in the kitchen for hours without being overwhelmed by heat a time to make nourishing food for the body and soul. It is my favorite time of the year to make soap as I can use the cool air (and hopefully some snow) as nature's ice bath.
But, winter has its own health challenges colds, flu, sinus and an assortment of bugs. We are inside a lot more, the air is dry and often stagnant. Schools and work places are breeding grounds for all sorts of things. So what is one to do? Wash your hands and keep them away from your face - simple yet often over looked. And I know I need to make a conscious effort not to rub my eyes or set my head on my hands. I cook with lots of garlic and onions. I simmer pots of soups and stews with astragalus root, reishi mushrooms and bay leaves.. I keep a bottle of elderberry tincture on the table as a reminder to add to my daily routine. I simmer elderberry syrup as a special treat or to assuage that first sign of anything. I get plenty of sleep. The ginger tea comes out more as well as the lovely chi tea. Essential oils are at the ready for a steam to clear the sinuses and the netti pot is used more frequently. What I strive for is all the little things I can incorporate into my families daily life to stay healthy. What is the saying; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
So. how do I incorporate the items I listed above into my every day life and how can you? I love to cook but, even if you don't just adding some onion, garlic or ginger to your recipes will help. Onions boast a long list of medical benefits including being antibiotic and anti-inflammatory. They are beneficial to the circulatory system and are an expectorant, taken the world over for colds and flu. Garlic among its long list of benefits is anti-viral. And ginger is an anti-inflammatory. Anything in my house that simmers for any length of time receives an astragalus root, reishi mushroom and bay leaf. During dinner I put a bowl on the table and inform the family how many of each they need to look for and add to the bowl. Reishi mushrooms are anti-inflammatory and antiviral among many other health benefits. Bay leaf adds flavor but is also used as to aid in digestion and the absorption of food. It assists in the breakdown of heavy foods especially meat. I have heard two theories on elderberry. Some use it at the first sign of a cold or bug. Others use it daily during the winter as a preventative. I work in an office that is comprised of cubicles (think whack-a-mole). Most can not afford to take the day off with the sniffles or cough. So, I take a teaspoon a day of elderberry tincture. I also encourage my daughter to take it as well since schools seem to be a breeding ground for all sorts of bugs. If you are not in such an environment you may want to just have elderberry on hand.
I have my cup of coffee in the morning. I just love coffee - the taste, the smell.... But the rest of the day I drink tea warm or iced. My go to drink is hibiscus tea. I make it by the gallon and keep it in the refrigerator. It has a lovely fruit flavor, is a pretty red and is high in vitamin C. I must admit I drink this for the flavor and the health benefits are a bonus. Ginger tea is warming. It is like a cozy blanket wrapped around you. It is also good for upset tummies. And chi tea with all of its warming spices is just divine.
For sinus issues I love my netti pot. I find the dry air dries out my sinuses. I feel blocked up like I have rubber cement in my nose. Left like this it can cause me headaches or an infection. Using the netti pot at the first sign of this flushes the sinuses and feels great. It is a weird feeling to get used to at first but well worth it. Your netti pot should come with instructions. Basically you are pouring a warm saline solution in one nostril and letting it flow out the other. The key is to breath through your mouth during the entire process. On really dry days I add a little slippery elm bark to some water and let it sit for a few minutes. I then strain the solution really well and add it to the saline solution. Slippery elm is very mucilaginous and will moisturize the passages.