Have you been having lots of illness lately? I really hope not (we have, including one of the most ghastly, lingering sinus infections I’ve ever suffered with. It was absolutely disgusting! But that’s all I’ll say about that!). Sickness at one time and another is pretty much inevitable, I think – no matter how much we try to avoid it, at some point our bodies’ defenses are just going to say ‘too hard!’ and we’ll come down with something. Poor diet, too little sleep, and above all stress of any kind (or every kind, I suppose) all wear us down eventually.
And that’s ok, you know? Because illness is a wake-up call as well as a pain in the arse. Illness makes us ask ourselves What do I need to change, how can I better support myself to maintain my health? But while we’re working on the answers to those questions, what do we do to relieve the discomfort?
Enter my very most favourite first line remedy for colds and flu, which we have called our Healing Garden Tea (I’m actually sipping some right now). It works really well to ease the pains of the early stages of a cold or flu, and it contains yarrow, peppermint, elderflower, catnip and echinacea.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a circulatory stimulant, diaphoretic and mucous membrane tonic. It tones the tissues (eg of your sinuses), making it harder for the bugs to get in; heats the body, making it harder for the bugs to survive; and gets the blood flowing, which means that more defensive goodies can get to the infected site more quickly.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is, like yarrow, used as a diaphoretic to promote sweating and get things moving. The volatile oil components also help to break up mucus, and of course add a pleasant flavour.
Elderflower (Sambucus nigra) is also a mucous membrane tonic, specific to the upper respiratory system (yarrow is more general), and helps to get mucus moving.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) has many similar actions to peppermint but is also very soothing for the nervous system, promoting relaxation and rest – which is after all really the BEST thing for recovery.
Echinacea (Echincea purpurea) stimulates the immune system and, equally if not more important, stimulates the lymphatic circulation, which is responsible for clearing all the nasties out of the bloodstream.
So you can see that this is actually a really potent, synergistic blend of herbs, deeply supporting the actions of the body as it tries to heal itself, which I think is just amazing. Healing Garden tea also tastes very pleasant (although depending on your symptoms you might not be able to taste it much) and is extremely soothing, especially when you’re feeling kind of shivery and miserable. It will help your throat feel better and you’ll be running to blow your nose as it gets all that infected mucus out of your body! I recommend at least three cups a day if you’re feeling poorly, or preferably six – but you can infuse the same leaves a second time after you’ve had the first cup.
Another tip I have is to drink it as hot as possible – this will improve the diaphoretic action – and even add a sprinkle of cayenne pepper or a pinch of chilli flakes to the pot while you’re brewing it to fire things up a little. Add some raw honey too if you like, and then wrap up as warm as possible and rest if you can.