Last year in the Jan/Feb '11 issue of The Essential Herbal, Betsy May wrote an article about some simple remedies that can help during the season of colds and flu. At this time of year, you can never have too many choices. Hopefully among those offered, there will be choices that you can make and/or have on hand. The most important thing is to have what you need before you get too sick to go out and get them. You also want to have what you need easily available before you feel that scratch at the back of your throat or that muscular ache in your arms and shoulders.
Warming Winter Recipes and Cold & Flu Care
This recipe can be followed very loosely and you can feel free to adjust the amount of ingredients depending on what you have on hand. As you will see, while I did attempt to record my recipe as I formulated it, I didn’t weigh out the exact amount of herbs I used; instead I used the un-scientific method of measuring by volume. This bath works wonders for dry, itchy skin.
Infuse 2 quarts of water with about ¼ - 1/2 cup of Yarrow (leaves & flowers), ¼ cup of Comfrey leaves, 1 T St John’s Wort and a few dried Calendula flowers. Also add ¼ cup of powdered milk and ½ cup of oatmeal. Infuse for 15 minutes. Strain and put herbs into a stocking or muslin bag. Draw a warm bath and add the infusion, bag of herbs, and essential oils (I used 6 drops of Lavender essential oil and 6 drops of Patchouli). Be sure to rinse bathtub well afterwards as this can sometimes leave a yellow film in the tub).
Moisture Rich Winter Body Butter
Use after the winter bath recipe for lusciously hydrated skin. People I have given this cream to have also reported on its ability to aid in the healing of small cuts and scratches.
½ cup Almond Oil
1/3 cup Shea Butter
3-5 drops Vitamin E oil
1 tsp Beeswax
½ cup Yarrow infused water (strained and at room temperature)
1/3 cup Aloe Vera gel
6 drops Lavender essential oil
6 drops Patchouli essential oil
6 drops Rosewood essential oil
Heat oils & beeswax and cool to almost room temperature (oils will look thick and creamy like yogurt). Put the oils and beeswax in a blender and slowly add the Yarrow infused water, Aloe Vera gel, and essential oils. It may take a few tries to get this cream to the right consistency but the key is to have the temperature of the oils and the water at as close to the same temperature as possible. Note: You may want to have a special blender just for making herbal preparations because the blender may take on the smell of the herbs or essential oils you are using. If you are using your good kitchen blender, then do not add essential oils until you put the lotion into a container.
And now for the cold & flu care formulas…
For sore bodies and stuffy sinuses…
Achy Body Bath Salts
Feel free to adjust the amount or type of essential oils to your preference. I chose these particular essential oils because of their usefulness for achy muscles and congested sinuses.
2 cups Borax
2 cups Sea Salt
40 drops Rosemary essential oil
20 drops Wintergreen essential oil
20 drops Peppermint essential oil
Mix all ingredients and store in airtight container. Use approximately ½- 1 cup per bath.
For sore throats…
Sore Throat Gargle
This recipe originally comes from Rosemary Gladstar. I altered the amount of ingredients by adding more apple cider vinegar. The additional vinegar seemed to provide greater relief for my scratchy, sore throat.
1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 cup extra strong Sage tea (strained)
2-3 tsp Salt
Dash of Cayenne Pepper
Mix all ingredients and use to gargle every half hour.
Sore Throat Spray
Simmer the following in 2 cups of water for half hour:
2 tsp. Echinacea
2 tsp Licorice
Turn heat off and add 2 tsp Sage and let sit 20-30 minutes.
Strain and add:
10 drops Owyhee essential oil
10 drops Tea tree essential oil
Put into a spray bottle and spray throat every 20-30 minutes or as often as needed. The essential oils were recommended by Jeanne Rose and definitely improve this formula immensely, however, if you don’t have them on hand feel free to make the spray without them.
Slice one ginger root into thin strips and cover with honey. Let sit for several months or to speed up the process, heat gently over low heat for 20-30 minutes. Use in teas or take by the spoonful for colds and sore throats.
For chest congestion…
This is an old fashioned technique that my grandmother would use on me when I was a small child and had pneumonia (much to the chagrin of my very traditional pediatrician). It is used to break up chest congestion and relieve the pain of coughing. I must stress though, to use with caution and keep a close eye on this treatment to avoid irritated skin or possible burns.
1 part Ground Mustard powder
2-3 parts Flour
two pieces of flannel cloth and/or a plastic grocery bag
Mix flour and mustard together (for very small children use less mustard). Add enough hot water to make a paste. Spread mixture on a piece of flannel, leaving enough room around the edges so that the paste does not leak out. Cover with the other piece of cloth. (My grandmother actually used a plastic grocery bag and put the mixture in that, I’m assuming because it made for easier clean up later. If you use a plastic bag I would also put a piece of flannel between the plastic bag and the chest to protect the skin from burns.) Place the flannel “packet” on the chest and leave on for approximately 20 minutes or until the skin becomes red. The plaster can be refrigerated and re-used several times, re-heating in the microwave.
Additional comfort care…By the time is issue reaches you, we will be well into the middle of the flu season. Already we are hearing reports of record numbers of cases of the flu. Chances are you or someone you love will be hit this year. Keep these additional supplies on hand so you are ready when the time comes. Not all of these little “grandmotherly” remedies will cure the cold or flu, but they will provide a welcome sense of comfort.
Hot water bottle for cold feet
Softest tissues available (I like the ones scented with Vicks)
A supply of freshly laundered sheets; nothing feels better when you’re sick than a nice clean bed.
Cough drops (preferably handmade herbal ones)
Diffuser and essential oils such as Pine, Rosemary, and Eucalyptus
“Nursery” food (Cream of Wheat, rice pudding, chicken noodle soup, or whatever childhood food means comfort to you).
Betsy May is a Certified Holistic Health Practitioner and Registered Yoga Teacher. She is also a graduate of Rosemary Gladstar’s Art & Science of Herbalism Home Study course and Sage Mountain Apprentice Program & Jeannie Rose’s Herbal Studies and Aromatherapy Studies Courses. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org