Friday, November 12, 2010

Idea and Remedies for When You're Home Sick

State of Vermont postage stamp, Yarrow pollination, Echinacea blossom, Morning dew on ripening Elderberries, Lavender and Chamomile harvest. All taken in and near my garden, except for the stamp photo.

This blog was born because I am not so good as staying home and doing nothing. I love to be home, and staying home sick makes me just want to cook, clear my space, get crafty, make fun packages to send to people, catch up on work, etc. So this time, in my attempts to sit still, I've created a blog, watched 1/2 a movie, and read up on lionesses. I get a bit whiny when I'm feeling under the weather and I often forget even the most simplest remedies. I called a dear friend and she recommended the same herb that my housemate (who's also under the weather) loves. Red Clover. The state flower of Vermont, the sweet edible flower, the blossom that bees love and that grows abundantly in fields in these parts. It helps to dry up mucus and promotes movement in the lymph system.  I created this blog post to help remind me of how to support my body/myself next time I'm sick and I'm sharing it here with y'all in case any of these ideas resonate for when you're feeling under the weather as well...


*Take Echinacea and/or Spilanthes tinctures to boost the immune system - about 3-5 dropperfulls whenever I think of it, maybe every couple of hours throughout the day.
*Cancel plans so that I can rest.
*Take a hot bath with a few drops Lavender essential oil and/or sea salt.
*Make chicken or vegetable soup and add lots of spices.
*Make loads of tea with fresh Ginger root and a pinch of Cayenne (both are warming and stimulate the immune system), local honey (soothes a sore throat), and fresh squeezed Lemon or Lime juice (vit C). If I need to be out and about for awhile and won't be able to make my own tea (because I live in culture where there aren't tea kettles everywhere) I grate fresh Ginger into local honey and carry it with me to swig like a syrup or add to water. This time I added Lime juice as well.


*Massage a decongestant salve on my chest, being sure to gently rub below my clavicles to stimulate the lymph system. This time I'm using: White Pine Salve made with the sap, needles, and bark infused in olive oil and thickened with beeswax that my friend made, as well as Bud Salve that I made with Balm of Gilead (Balsam Poplar buds harvested from a fallen tree) and fresh St. Johnswort buds infused in sunflower and sesame oils, fair-trade shea butter from Burkina Faso, West Africa, and local beeswax.  If I can lay down, I like to place a hot water bottle (or glass Mason jar filled with hot water) on my chest to help break up congestion and get things moving.

*I also rub in a soothing salve or oil around and inside my nostrils and on my lips to prevent them from drying out, especially when I'm blowing my nose a lot. This time: Calendula salve with Lavender essential oil. (I wouldn't use a muscle rub/decongestant salve on my sensitive mucus membranes, as the essential oils may be irritating)  You can keep it simple and use straight olive, sesame, or other oil, or you can use herb-infused oils or salves. For salve-making instructions, see my (Im)migrantion and Lip Balms for Social Justice?! post.

*Make a big fat pot of turkey vegetable soup. This time I warmed olive oil, added 2-3 chopped onions, 1 head of homegrown garlic crushed and chopped, browned 2 turkey legs on the bone, and then added 2 chopped carrots, 2 sweet potatoes, and enough water to cover. I add more garlic at the end, so that I'm receiving the benefits of nearly-raw garlic, and I add other herbs and spices both at the beginning and end of cooking as well. This time I added Marjoram and Lavender Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa, which tastes like oregano and cayenne to me) that I dried from my garden. Other times I've added Thyme, Cinnamon, Basil, and/or Coriander (if using whole seeds I add at them at the beginning so that they can warm in the oil like my friends from Southern India showed me).

These culinary herbs have been used for generations all over the world because the volatile oils that give them their incredible taste and aroma are also medicinal. They help to relax the digestive track for better digestion and absorption, and also boost the immune system. I let this soup simmer at least an hour, and then remove the meat from the bone. I saved my garlic skins and simmered them with the bones to make another broth. If you're making soup or bone broth, it's really quite nice to freeze some so that if you or a friend/family member gets sick it's already made. Sometimes I eat the soup as is, sometimes I add a spoonful of miso to my bowl (but not to the big pot or the heat will kill all that good beneficial bacteria that nourishes our system), or some rice or rice noodles.  If the thought of cooking all this makes you want to cry (you're vegetarian/vegan, you're exhausted, you don't cook much, etc.) fear not! You can just stir miso into warm water and call it good. If you have energy for it, you could crush and then chop Garlic, grate Ginger root, and take a pinch of Cayenne and add all this to your miso paste. This keeps in the fridge for a long while and you can add tahini (with or without local honey) to it to make a spread or sauce. Something else you can make to have on hand are herbal ice cubes. The next time you get a bunch of cilantro, parsley, dill, basil, etc from your garden, farmer's market, or grocery store, chop it finely, pack it into ice cube trays, and cover with water. Freezing captures the green vitality of the plant and you can store the cubes in freezer bags to later add to soups, stir fries, and any other recipe that calls for a bit of fresh herbs. Be sure not to eat refined sugars now as they suppress your immune system. If you're craving sweets, you can add honey to your tea or eat straight by the spoonfull. You can roast sweet potato fries, winter squash, beets, carrots. These autumn roots and squashes contain a lot of natural sweetness, and I always crave these foods this time of year, particularly when I'm sick. Also, it's recommended to avoid dairy products as they contribute to gack-yness - as it creates more mucus/phlegm that you have to deal with.

*Do a respiratory steam by pouring steaming hot water into a metal, glass, or ceramic bowl, adding herbs, and leaning over the bowl with a towel draped over your head. Breathe in the steam, which carries the plants' volatile oils, for 10 minutes or so.  The herbal steam helps to break up mucus and moisten dry airways.  This should feel good.  If the steam is too hot and/or herbs too intense, come out from under the towel and wait til the water cools down a bit or some of the oils steam off. You can add aromatic culinary herbs such as Thyme, Oregano, Lavender, Herbs de Provence blend, etc, a couple Peppermint tea bags, or a drop or two of essential oils of these plants. (Remember that essential oils are highly concentrated and may irritate skin and the respiratory tract if you use too much!) Voila, a respiratory steam and facial steam all in one!  I especially like to do this before I go to bed and when I wake up, but it's good to do anytime.

*Use a Neti Pot to thin mucus and clear the nasal passages, especially if you're prone to sinus infections.  Hooray for nasal irrigation!  If you don't have a NetiPot, you can just cup the water in your hand or check out do-it-yourself neti pots online.  Just be sure to clean everything well and keep the water pressure to a gentle flow.

*Tea! By the pot or quart! Yesterday I made tea with Anise Hyssop and Lemon Balm from my garden and Licorice root. Today I made a pot of Tulsi (aka Holy or Sacred Basil) and a blend of Mint family plants (Peppermint, Anise Hyssop, Catnip, Damiana, etc.) Getting plenty of fluids helps to stay hydrated and helps flush the cooties out.

*Take tinctures specific to your constitution and symptoms to support your immune response.  Which herbs are you drawn to? Elecampane, Elderberry, Yarrow, Thyme, and Elderflower all support the respiratory system. Calendula, Red Clover, Echinacea, Spilanthes, and other lymphatic herbs all support good movement in the lymph system, especially when you're clearing an infection and probably not moving/ exercising so much. If you're not so keen on the taste of tinctures, you can add them to your warm tea or mix them with honey.

*Take syrups! I made "All Power To The People! Eldercampane Syrup" on the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton, as I listened to interviews with former members of the Black Panther Party and reflected on the connections between our immune systems and community self-defense.  I made this syrup in honor of all those who’ve organized for community health.  It contains Elecampane root from my family's farm, fresh Elderberries I harvest by hand, local Ginger root, Cinnamon, local Honey, Lime juice, local Apple cider vinegar, and tinctures of Elecampane, Thyme, and Monarda (Lavender Bee Balm). I haven't made a batch yet this season, however I have made Licorice root and Coltsfoot leaf syrup to soothe friends' persistent cough. Licorice is also calming and anti-viral, so even though I don't have a hacking cough, I'm taking this remedy to support my respiratory system. (There are many ways to make syrups. You can simply simmer a handful each of the herbs in a medium pot of water until the liquid is reduced to half, and then stir in 1/2 of the amount of remaining liquid's worth of local honey. Adding a nip of brandy or tincture to this will help prolong it's life. Store in the fridge.) Syrups can be added to warm water for an instant tea. For syrup recipes, see my Elderberry (and other) Syrup Recipe(s) post.

*A note on cough suppression: it isn't good. Coughing is a natural process to get gunk out of our lungs. However, if coughing is keeping you from sleeping and getting much-needed rest, you may choose to temporarily suppress your cough when you want to sleep. When a non-productive cough was keeping me up all hours I tried soothing, mucilaginous herbs such as Coltsfoot, Plantain, Wild Lettuce, Chamomile, Wild Cherry bark. The sleepless-nights situation was starting to get desperate and I was ready to go to the pharmacy for some very non-herbal cough-suppressing concoctions when my friend from Ireland suggested Carrageen, aka Irish Moss - a seaweed. I soaked a small handful of Carrageen (pronounced care-ah-GHEEn) in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes, simmered it for 20, and then added the juice of half a Lime, a spoonful of my friends' local Honey, and a nip of Whiskey (not necessary, but I added it for extra respiratory relaxation). Finally, a full nights sleep. Hooray for slimy seaweed! After the first night of full sleep I continued taking this bedtime tea, adding a few drops of respiratory-supporting tinctures as well.

*REST: Watch movies, read, draw, nap, etc. Note to self (and maybe you, too) : Staying home and doing tons of work doesn't count as resting!

*Keep warm! In various traditions it's really important to keep yourself - especially your core - warm and to protect your body from sources of cold - be it drinking cold drinks, going barefoot, being outside without a scarf, etc. The nape of the neck and kidney areas are especially susceptible to "pernicious winds," a concept in Traditional Chinese Medicine where external wind can enter the body and cause dis-ease.

*Let your friends know! Many of them will be happy to come by and drop off some food, herbs, movies, etc, or just to call and check in on you!

*Remember that, like a new moon, season, and year, getting sick can be an opportunity to re-set and integrate some changes you've been wanting in your life. Is there something that's been sapping your energy? Conversations that need to be had? Something important to you that you're not tending to? Self-care practices that you're wanting to make some time for? Use this change-in-routine opportunity to make good things happen!  Don't feel you have to do it all now, but sometime getting sick is a good time to dream and brainstorm.

*When you start feeling well, keep on with the remedies! After being sick, it's easy to launch back into life full-speed once we get our energy back. This could be bad news if we stop supporting our immune system while it's still recovering. Keep making teas, avoiding sugar, taking time to rest, etc. so that you can keep feeling better and hopefully prevent getting sick again soon.  Remedies such as Elderberry elixirs and syrup and Fire Cider are tonics that can be taken regularly to support you as you're feeling better.  You can make these remedies yourself or support your local herbalists.

Many of the remedies listed above are available on my DandelionessHerbals Etsy Shop and I would be happy to send along a particular remedy or put together a Get Well Soon kit for you or a loved one. For my more detailed instructions on making your own teas, infused oils, salves (chest rubs), and tinctures, click on the Numen Medicine-Making Resource Guide link to the right or see: 

*Elderberry (and other) Syrup Recipe(s)
*(Im)migrantion and Lip Balms for Social Justice?
*Winter Immune Health: Tonic Not Toxic
*Ginger Lovers Unite!: Medicinal and Culinary Uses of Ginger

*Free Fire Cider 

(Blog post updated on 2/16 and 1/17)


  1. Yay, I found your blog! Thank you Dandelioness Inspiration!

  2. Fan---tastic!! love all the info.. .can i buy some eldercampane syrup!!! seems like a magical elixir! Thanks!

  3. Yes, Vivian! You can click on Dandelioness Herbals Product List at the top of the page to see what I offer. Thanks and hope you're feeling better!

  4. Hey! I have carrageenan in my shop! Nice list.

    I recently took a syrup called ROOT IT AWAY that had: honey and the following certified organic and respectfully wild harvested herbs: Elecampane Root, Osha Root, Marshmallow Root, Horehound Leaf, Mullein Leaf and Fennel Seed. I took this at night for a couple nights when this damned cold was making it agony to sleep well. It was great!

    I also recommend using the neti pot. Sometimes I add goldenseal to the neti pot for things like sinus infections...

  5. Great! I just heard last week that you have it in your shop. I'll let folks know and send 'em your way. Do you have the seaweed in bits, or the powder?

    That syrup sounds good! I love Elecampane syrup, and I've made a Horehound syrup that calls for Slippery Elm, which goops it all up. I've never had these all together as a syrup. I bet the Fennel tastes nice. I love the taste of Osha too - so strong! - but as it's an at-risk plant I don't really use it. But I hope to meet it in person sometime! Glad the syrup helped and hope you're resting better now.

    I just thought about Neti pot today and was wondering if I'd added it to this post. Thanks for the suggestion! I'll add it to the post.

    If you'd like to check out my syrup post, with recipes, it's here:
    Elderberry (and other) Syrup Recipes