At this time of year, many of us are attending more social gatherings and running more errands for the holidays–which means we’re being exposed to more flu and cold viruses than at any other time of year. At the same time, most of us are more busy than usual, so it’s easy to get over-tired. The weather is cold, and the air indoors is dry and dusty thanks to the furnace running. It’s no wonder we’re much more likely to get sick this time of year … and nothing is less festive than a holiday cold (unless having a red nose makes you feel greater kinship for a certain misunderstood reindeer).
There’s a lot of talk about self-care floating around the internet right now, and it usually looks like a commercial for fancy bath products. But the truth is self care is far less glamorous–and far more essential–than a bath with candles and essential oils. Now more than any other time of the year we all need to practice sensible, daily self care, and that means:
Sleep. It’s dark and cold out there. Your body wants to sleep. Your immune system NEEDS you to sleep. Sleep should be at the top of your list of priorities: as close to 8 hours per night as possible. It can be hard to get enough sleep when we’re busy. To make matters worse, when we get overwhelmed we tend to reach for caffeine and other stimulants, but they don’t just keep us going: they also keep us amped up when we need to calm down, disturbing our sleep patterns and making us more irritable. Try taking some steps to ensure you get more sleep, such as:
- Limit or eliminate caffeine after lunch.
- Enjoy a cup of chamomile tea before bed.
- Cuddle up to a pillow stuffed with lavender blossoms when you go to bed.
Eat your vegetables. We all know how important it is to eat a healthy diet. Don’t wait until New Year’s to do it! Resolve to nourish yourself now.
Hydrate. The air is dry, and dryness is the enemy of a healthy immune system. Water helps your body flush out bacteria and other nasty things that cause illness, plus it helps your lymph and blood circulate properly–which is vital for getting those white blood cells where they need to go to keep you healthy. You can read more about the importance of hydration for health herehttps://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/5-immune-system-benefits-of-drinking-water.html. Then drink a glass of water or some (caffeine-free) herbal tea.
De-stress. Stress is another enemy of the immune system, and we all know extra errands plus extra time around our relatives equals extra stress. To decrease the effects of stress on your body, try the following:
- If you’re stressed out by family interactions, feel like you can’t deal with everything you need to do, or are easily upset when things don’t go according to plan, consider daily use of motherwort tincture until the holidays are over. (Though do a little research: motherwort does have a few potential contraindications, which you can read about here: https://www.herbal-supplement-resource.com/motherwort-benefits.html. Or you can consult an herbalist if you have concerns.)
- Drink nourishing infusions of oat straw, which helps to calm the nerves while simultaneously delivering steady, grounded energy and vitality. You can learn more about oatstraw, and how to make a full strength infusion, here: http://nourishingherbalinfusions.com/Oatstraw.html
Strengthen Your Immune System
Finally, you can support and strengthen your immune system through the use of elderberry extract or syrup.
According to herbalist Kiva Rose, “Elderberry does not simply stimulate the immune system, which would make it somewhat dangerous to those with autoimmune disorders or certain other chronic diseases. Rather it modulates the immune system to more appropriately respond to environs and circumstance. It also disarms the virus and helps it flush through the body quicker, while strengthening the mucous membranes, supporting the body’s natural fever mechanism without overheating, improves energy and stress handling AND last but certainly not least, it tastes great too.”
Commercially produced elderberry extracts and syrups are available at natural grocery stores and health food stores, but even a small bottle tends to be very expensive. Fortunately, both syrups and extracts are easy to make at home for a fraction of the price.
You can make a delicious elderberry syrup at home in a few hours–and it’s easy enough to make several batches and give some away as gifts.
But why stop with simply making a medicinal preparation when you can boost the energy of your brew with a little magic? The following recipe combines the immune-boosting power of elderberries with the magic of hawthorn, orange and rose to help you thrive during the holidays and into the new year.
Health, Wealth and Happiness Brew
- 3/4 cup dried elderberries (for health)
- 1 tablespoon chopped dried organic orange peel (for wealth)
- 1 tablespoon dried hawthorn berries (for happiness)
- 1 tablespoon dried rosehips (for all three)
- 4 cups water
- 1 1/2 cup raw honey (local if possible)
- Gather your ingredients on a clean work surface. If you like to cast a circle or light candles for magical workings, do it now.
- Measure out your dry ingredients and put them together in a bowl. As you measure out each ingredient, speak your intention: Elderberries for health. Orange for wealth. Hawthorn for happiness. Rosehips for all three.
- Hold your hands over the herbs and once again speak your intention for the brew. Feel your intentions in your heart: imagine health, happiness and abundance flooding your life. As the feeling in your heart grows, let it flow from your heart, through your arms, through your hands. Let your hands direct this heart energy into the herbs.
- Place the herbs in the saucepan, repeating your intentions three times: “Health, wealth, and happiness, for me and my family.” (If you’re making it as a gift, of course you will use the recipient’s name in the spoken intentions.)
- Measure your water and pour it over the herbs. Then light the stove. As the water heats over high flame, once again hold your hands over the herbs and water and say “By the fruit of the earth, by water and fire, let health, wealth and happiness come to me (or “us” or recipients name).
- Bring water to a boil
- Reduce heat to low and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half (about 45 minutes to an hour).
- Remove from heat and let sit until cool enough to handle
- Line a mesh strainer with unbleached muslin or several layers of cheesecloth. Pour mixture through cloth and strainer into a large glass bowl or measuring cup. Then twist the fabric closed and squeeze more liquid from the herbs into the bowl.
- Stir in honey. You want to be sure the mixture is just warm enough to dissolve the honey, because honey has its own health benefits which are destroyed by high heat. I generally aim for “nice warm bath” temperatures, which isn’t very scientific but does seem to work.
- Transfer to bottles or jars and cap tightly.
For cold and flu prevention, adults can take a tablespoon per day, and children over a year old can take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per day. Remember children under one year of age shouldn’t be given honey.
If you DO catch a cold, take a spoonful of your brew two or three times a day to shorten the duration of the cold and reduce the severity of your symptoms.
Here’s to a healthy, happy holiday season and health, wealth and happiness in the coming year!
Information in this article is intended for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
About the Northwest Witch
Michelle Simkins is a greenwitch with nearly twenty years experience in herbal magic and spiritual healing. She writes about the craft and offers readings, consultations, healing sessions and one of a kind, handmade magical objects at her website – www.awitchspath.com.