Don and I are pretty lucky when it comes to colds and flu. We are rarely sick, and when we are, the miserable feelings don’t seem to hang around for long. Of course, Don will tell you that I am a constant nag about the benefits of healthy, organic food, plenty of rest and moderation in all things “fun.” He exaggerates, but, perhaps, he also speaks the truth. While it is important to trust and heed the direction and advice from our chosen healthcare practitioners, there’s a lot we can do to keep ourselves healthy, none of which is very expensive or complicated. So here are some of my Green Gal favorite home remedies to get us through the rest of winter.
It is a misconception that cold temperatures make us sick. In fact, if we are adequately protected from the cold with appropriate clothing, the exact opposite is true: clean, cold air can actually keep us well. It’s the germs trapped inside our airtight dwellings that give us those runny noses and coughing fits.
My friend Blaine, the owner of Papa’s Pasture, credits her long hours out in the cold tending her Berkshire hogs with keeping her healthy. Blaine feels the body responds to the cold by kicking its immune system into high gear and giving her extra protection against viruses and infections. She hasn’t been seriously ill in years.
But you don’t have to be a farmer or spend hours in the cold to benefit; a consistent quick shot of fresh air on chilly days is probably all you need. A short walk, maybe.
You know how I get my dose of the cold that fights the cold? I hang out my laundry all year—yes, even in the winter on freezing cold days. Sure my sheets freeze, but if the wind and sun are with me, they eventually dry and smell as fresh as new snow. And think of the environmental benefit! No dryer. As my friend Don Diekmann (an energy efficiency expert by trade) will tell you, the greenest energy is the energy you don’t use. If you hang your laundry outside, both you and the planet will get a wellness boost. Just in case you were skeptical, you’ll notice I included a photo above.
Build Up Your Bacteria!
Ok, this needs explanation, I guess. I’m speaking of the good bugs here, the microbes in our lower guts that battle the bad bacteria. These healthy microbes show up naturally and in high levels in fermented foods, like sauerkraut, yogurt and kimchee. Let me be honest here, I’m a big fan of yogurt, but I simply detest sauerkraut. So I was not a happy camper a few years ago when my trusted natural practitioner prescribed four tablespoons of sauerkraut a day to heal a very bad sinus infection I had developed. But as I said above, it is important to trust and heed the direction from our chosen healthcare practitioners. And I did. And I got better really fast. And every winter since—October through March—I have ingested (with great struggle on my part) two tablespoons of organic, raw sauerkraut every day. Do I like it? No. But I do it, and it works for me.
Ok, I realize that fermented foods are not everyone’s cup of “green” tea. My daughter, for instance, is not a fan of most fermented foods and is not likely to struggle, as I do, to stay well. Which brings me to the first item I’m promoting from the Blogger Box this month: Jarrow Formulas Dophilus Probiotics for Women. Long before this product arrived in the Blogger Box, Jarrow was a “household” name in my house. I’ve used their products for years because of their reputation to produce superior supplements that can be trusted. So when Heather turned up her cute little nose to my sauerkraut suggestion, I handed her the sample of their Dophilus Probiotics. She started taking them and has continued all season.
Jarrow Formulas Dophilus Probiotics for Women are especially helpful for women like Heather who find urinary tract infections are a real problem if they have had to take conventional antibiotics. In her opinion, they just helped her overall health. She’s has had a couple of colds, allergy attacks and one small bout of flu this season, probably because she works in landscaping, where her contact with lots of people is a daily risk. She’s convinced, though, that her illness was milder this year and she bounced back quicker, missing only a couple of days of work so far this winter, which is an improvement from previous years.
Now many factors can influence wellbeing and resistance to illness. My child eats pretty well, gets her rest and, whether she likes it or not, is out in the cold air a lot of the time. But I trust her opinion on this product and offer it as a possibility—one that is low impact and natural. I will say that Jarrow’s exclusive strains of bacteria command a fairly high price, but in my experience, these types of probiotics do tend to be pricey. Way more expensive than my simple sauerkraut, but I guess this depends on your willingness to struggle.
My picks from the Blogger Box this month were more in line with the philosophy of my healthcare practitioner, who always says that “food is the best medicine”. I gave two food-based supplements a try: Vermont Village Vinegar Shots and Shire City Herbals Fire Cider.
It’s fairly well known in the world of holistic medicine that apple cider vinegar rules. You may have seen the phrase “with the mother” on products from the famous Bragg label to a host of other tonics and supplements. Essentially this means that these products contain naturally occurring bacteria, just as in Heather’s probiotics. Both the Vermont Village Vinegar Shots and Shire City’s Fire Cider were hits for several reasons: taste, convenience and quality.
Vermont Village offers their Vinegar Shots in several flavors, and I tried them all. My hands-down favorite was the Turmeric and Honey flavor, which was not what I expected. I really thought the blueberry or cranberry would win out. But I could have sipped the Turmeric and Honey shot all afternoon long; this version has great balance of sweet, sour and spice. These shots are premeasured and come in single-serving packets that you can toss in your purse or gym bag or pocket–completely convenient and transportable. Certainly a plus for many busy people. You can get a 12-pack for about $15.50 at their website, and they make lots of other good-for-you foods, so they are worth a look!
After watching his wife, Amy Huebner, struggle with her health throughout the cold Berkshire winters, Dana St. Pierre offered her his Fire Cider tonic, based on a home remedy his grandmother, Elisabet, a feisty German farm girl and unabashed inventor of kitchen concoctions, used to make to help keep her family hale and hearty.
He took one of her recipes—a mash-up of onions, garlic, and honey that she steeped in mason jars on a sunny windowsill—and gave it a modern makeover with spicy-sweet flavors. A country doctor suggested Dana add apple cider vinegar for its wealth of health-enhancing properties, and, over the course of a decade, he refined his recipe into our original Fire Cider tonic.
Ok, I was smitten. And, once I did a little research, I realized anyone could make a fire cider, and many people do have their own handed-down recipes sprinkled throughout the Internet. But I had mine right there, all prepared in its beautiful, fully-recyclable amber glass bottle. Love at first shot.
A daily dose of Fire Cider is one tablespoon, so a 16-ounce bottle at a little under $30 on their website is a pretty good deal. But before you take my experience to heart, you should know that Fire Cider comes by its name honestly… very honestly. Along with the expected apple cider vinegar, they throw in “whole, raw, organic ginger, horseradish, onions, black pepper, and garlic. Then we toss in organic habañero peppers for heat, turmeric for a bit of zing, and lemons and oranges for a citrus-y tang.” Nuff said. And if that’s more than a “nuff” for you, you may want to back up to Vermont Village, which is by far the milder of the two.
So what are your favorite home remedies and green solutions for wellness? Whether you are cooking up a special tonic or attending a spiritual practice, like the Prayer Bowl Blessings and Healing class that I’m registered for this month, we’d love to have you share your thoughts and suggestions here!