It’s that time of year! The merriment of the holiday season is over and winter has begun in earnest. As a way of winding down from all of the highs and lows of the season, so many of us seem to get sick on the 2nd of January! I’ve said for years that I truly believe that sometimes, catching a bug is our bodies way of trying to get us to relax for a bit! Periods of hibernation, or seasonal contemplation as I’ve taken to calling them are a must for keeping our bodies resilient in this world with all of its external interruptions and stressors.
Over the years I’ve learned to use my trusted herbal allies for building up my immunity when I feel as if I could be perilously close to getting sick and when the flu or a cold actually hits me, I use many different herbs to help minimize my symptoms and overall discomfort.
My mother taught me many years ago that the single most important thing that you can do when you are ill or trying to stave off an illness, is to pamper yourself completely. She would always bring our breakfast on a bed tray, served on a pretty cup, bowl and plate and always with a bud vase with flowers. I got strep throat frequently as a child so breakfast was usually something soft, like a bowl of her wonderful chicken, rice and mushroom soup with thyme, cream and an egg beaten into it. She also used to make me an old-fashioned milk pudding that she called Junket which I loved, that she flavored with sherry, cinnamon and nutmeg. It always helped.
I still have a bed tray for myself and one in my Airbnb. I have many guests who come to stay that are recovering from surgery or other illnesses. They have told me that being able to just relax and have their meals in bed without concern really helps to support their healing process. If you can’t find a bed tray, you can use an old carving board or tray and it will work just as well!
The other thing my mother was absolutely insistent about was that if I was sick, it was especially the time for just a bit of lip gloss, some facial moisturizer, a touch of perfume and particularly lovely pajamas. She’d brush my hair out until it was shiny, touch up my lips and face (a big help because then your skin will resist chapping!) and put just a drop or two of one of her lovely perfumes on my wrists and neck. She’d take me into the library, seat me right by the window and wrap me up in a blanket with a hot cup of lavender, sage and lemon balm tea and hand me a book. When I looked in the mirror I hardly ever looked as bad as I was feeling and you know what? I always started to feel better. Simply taking the time for a bit of self-care is absolutely a necessity for supporting the healing process.
Although my mother used her lovely Shalimar bath oil for our convalescence, over the years I’ve learned to take my baths with a tablespoon of sweet almond oil mixed with 3 drops each of essential oils of lavender (relaxing), rose oil (anti-inflammatory) and sweet birch (to promote sweating). This really seems to always help with congestion, aches and fevers. Please remember to never use essential oils in your baths without a carrier oil. Even in the smallest dosages, essential oils are strong and they need the emollient qualities of an oil like almond or olive to serve as a soothing delivery system on your skin.
I’m truly hoping that we won’t ever need to use these recipes to protect ourselves from anything as serious as the bubonic plague and I hope that none of you catch any of these awful bugs that are going around this winter. However, if you do, please remember to care for yourself and treat yourself to some soothing herbal self-care and pampering. I promise that you’ll feel better and if you can sooth yourself into feeling just little bit better, it always seems like the body will reach deep into its healing reservoirs and do the rest of the work for you.
Somewhere as I’m typing, I hear my mother’s sweet laughter and the smell of her oniony, velvety chicken soup is suddenly wafting through my senses. It’s amazing how potent the memory is. She would be pleased to know that I still own a bed tray and that I always use her lovely sick bed dishes with the raised purple violets.
Yes mama…you always did know best.