Natural Solutions for Winter Symptoms
The seasons are shifting and we can all feel the change taking place. Jack Frost winds are nipping at more than just noses as dry, dropping temperatures take a toll on our skin and hair. The sun is retreating for longer lengths at a time, playing with our energy levels. Our immune systems are open to attack, and stress levels can run high with the holiday hustle. This list could go on, and so could the list of corresponding solutions that grow out of the ground.
We’ve compiled the most common winter ailments and included their top 3 most effective, natural remedies along with a list of others if you wish to do some deeper digging, and some overall preventative care suggestions. When trying these out at home please be conscious of any personal health factors and ensure the quality of the products you’re using.
There are 3 ways to apply the following remedies:
Aromatically: It is surprising how much herbs and oils can benefit the mind and body when taken in through the respiratory system. The smell receptors that take in the aroma link directly to the limbic system to support different functions like emotions, memory and behavior. This is commonly achieved by diluting essential oils in water to diffuse in a room, adding herbs and/or oils to simmering water and inhaling the steam, applying scents to objects such as pillows and lava rock jewelry, and by simply containing it in your hand and inhaling deeply a few times.
Topically: Essential oils are lipid soluble, meaning they can be absorbed easily by cells, fats and oils due to their low molecular weight. This makes direct application a highly effective method of taking in natural substances and feeling their benefits. It is suggested (and for some oils in particular, crucial) that they be diluted in a carrier oil like fractionated coconut oil or added to a moisturizer, shampoo, etc. Not only does this protect sensitive skin from highly concentrated oils, but it actually prolongs their use by spreading it over a larger surface area.
Internally: If done safely, this is the most direct way of targeting certain areas for more potent health benefits as the natural properties enter the bloodstream and reach each organ and system on their way out. It is important that you ensure anything you ingest has been certified safe for consumption. There are essential oil brands that uphold their own standards that allow for safe ingestion but be sure to always read the label. The same goes for herbs, some are grown with sprays that are intended for aromatic or aesthetic appeal so ensure you’re buying food-grade products. There are also some plants that should never be taken internally (wintergreen, cypress to name a couple) so make sure to do your research.
Now without further ado, some hand-me-down remedies from Mother Nature herself to get you through the winter season:
Sore Throat & Cough
- Unpasteurized Honey is high in antioxidants and a great anti-inflammatory with a thick texture. It does wonders coating your throat on the way down. Be sure to seek out raw honey though as these benefits are lost during processing.
- Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that in studies, relaxed membranes in airways to reduce coughing. It can be found in teas, used fresh or dried in a tea of your own making with lemon and honey, or ground and added to an array of dishes.
- Apple Cider Vinegar is highly acidic, thus killing bacteria and soothing your throat. It pairs greatly with honey to dull the intense flavour profile and emphasize the antibacterial and soothing properties.
- Some others to consider: Eucalyptus, Marshmallow Root, Thyme, Slippery Elm, Licorice, Sage, Melaleuca, Oregano
Virus & Cold
- Oregano, often taken orally as oil of oregano and highly spoken of, boosts antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, making it a household go-to. It has been used throughout history to defend against respiratory infections and symptoms like a sore throat, cough and bronchitis as well.
- Melaleuca supports and strengthens the immune system with its antimicrobial and antiviral properties. Of its many uses, most are centered around cleansing – whether internally or externally.
- Thyme has roots that extend far back into ancient Greece and Egypt. It is one of the strongest antimicrobials the Earth has to offer, acting as an antiseptic, antibiotic and antiviral remedy to colds and sore throats.
- Some others to consider: Garlic, Elderberry, Rosemary, Cinnamon, Lemongrass, Eucalyptus, Echinacea, Apple Cider Vinegar
Fever & Flu
- Ginger is known to relieve nausea and aid with other effects of the flu. It can be found in teas, used fresh or dried in a tea of your own making, or ground and added to an array of dishes.
- Elderberry is a strong antioxidant commonly taken as a syrup with honey and other beneficial antiviral herbs to increasing the production of messenger proteins (cytokines) within the immune system to enhance its response to infection.
- Peppermint has a unique cooling effect that can reduce fevers and antiviral and antibacterial properties that help kill airborne germs. When ingested, peppermint also promotes respiratory function and digestive health, clearing airways and soothing nausea.
- Some others to consider: Eucalyptus, Lemon, Oregano, Melaleuca, Elderflower, Lavender
Dry Skin & Eczema
- Coconut Oil packs a punch as an antibacterial, anti-fungal, antioxidant and antimicrobial agent to relieve itchy skin and reduce inflammation. By reducing the amount of staph bacteria on the skin, coconut oil reduces the chance of further infection and soothes existing areas. It also acts as a great carrier oil to promote the benefits of additional oils.
- Lavender praise dates back to ancient Roman times when its skin-soothing properties were already apparent. It is used topically to heal a myriad of skin irritations and retain moisture, nourishing our largest organ. When added to a bath, lavender has the added benefit of soothing the mind as well.
- Calendula offers its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties to soothe, cleanse and help the skin heal. This extends beyond dry, cracked skin and is beneficial when treating burns, cuts and bug bites as well.
- Some others to consider: Aloe Vera, Rose, Witch Hazel, Frankincense, Helichrysum, Patchouli, Honey, Geranium, Myrrh, Topical Vitamin B12
Congestion & Runny Nose
- Peppermint is often one of the first ingredients in chest rubs due to its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiseptic properties that enables it to clear sinus and lung congestion when inhaled, ingested, or applied topically. Peppermint, like the others, is a remedy to both seemingly different symptoms as they require excess mucus to be expelled.
- Eucalyptus trees grow up to 50 feet tall in the wild, and they bring that outdoor breath-of-fresh-air feeling from their home to yours when taken aromatically. A natural cleanser, eucalyptus purifies airways and surfaces to promote clear breathing and fight infection.
- Lemon and other citrus fruits naturally cleanse surfaces and airways with their antibacterial properties, making it a natural defendant against mucus. When taken internally, lemon can also be a great source of vitamin C, helping to boost immunity.
- Some others to consider: Mullein, Ginger, Thyme, Melaleuca, Rosemary, Sage, Chamomile, Nettle
- Rosemary promotes blood circulation, thus strengthening hair and stimulating growth. It is also known to aid dry, itchy scalps and prevent dandruff due to its anti-inflammatory properties and high nutritional value.
- Apple Cider Vinegar can be used as a natural substitute for conditioner when diluted with water and applied to hair and scalp. Use regularly and let it soak for a few minutes before rinsing it out at the end of your shower. Its high acidity is close to that of our hair and can help balance out dry/oily hair. Apple cider vinegar also promotes hair growth by stripping the scalp of dead follicles that prevent growth.
- Jojoba Oil is a particularly oily oil, making it a perfect aid for dry, brittle hair. By moisturizing hair follicles, this oil is thought to prevent air loss and breakage while promoting thickness.
- Some other ones to consider: Honey, Olive Oil, Ylang Ylang, Clary Sage, Lavender, Chamomile, Wild Orange
- Lavender makes it way into the amygdala gland (the emotion bank) to calm the mind when inhaled or ingested, relieving any feelings of tension and anxiety. It is well known for its soothing effects which can also be felt physically when applied topically.
- Clary Sage has antidepressant properties that alleviate feelings of anxiety and stress to soothe the mind. Once calmed, its sedative qualities can step in to aid sleep.
- Lemon and other citrus agents are renowned for their uplifting, energizing effects making it a natural choice when stress rises. There are even studies that claim it to be a more effective option than the popular medication, Xanax.
- Some others to consider: Ylang Ylang, Vetiver, any Citrus, Bergamot, Frankincense, Geranium, Chamomile
- Lemon is becoming recognized as an antidepressant as studies on citrus oils continues to gather evidence suggesting increased production of serotonin and dopamine
- Bergamot is the most researched essential oil in relation to its effect on moods. It can have a positive impact by decreasing cortisol (stress hormone) levels, fatigue and anxiety, leaving users relaxed, uplifted and alert.
- Vitamin D, specifically Vitamin D3, is typically of shorter supply during the winter months and has a direct relationship with our serotonin levels. These two factors are at play in Seasonal Affective Disorder and, whether taken in through natural sources like fish and egg yolks or supplemented, it boosts energy and mood.
- Some others to consider: Peppermint, Orange, Ylang Ylang, Clary Sage, Cedarwood, Eucalyptus, Jasmine, Frankincense, Rose, Sandalwood
Tiredness & Concentration
- Peppermint has created such a name for itself as an energy booster and stress aid that many schools now offer peppermint candies to students during testing periods. Ingest or take orally, avoiding high sugar contents, for best results.
- Grapefruit and other citrus plants have an invigorating effect on the body as a whole due to their ability to regulate dopamine and serotonin levels – amongst other things – in the brain, fostering an alert, positive mindset.
- Ginkgo Biloba is being used today in some countries to treat Alzheimer’s disease. It is often used in tandem with ginseng to sharpen the memory while improving concentration. This is achieved as a result of boosting blood flow and circulation throughout the body.
- Vitamin C, Lemon, Rosemary, Magnesium, Iron, Black Pepper, Licorice, Eucalyptus, Basil, Ginger, Bergamot, Bacopa Monnieri, Ginseng
Preventative & Immune Boosting
In an ideal world we would all get our daily recommended dose of each nutrient and function at optimal levels year-round with little-to-no interruption by colds and flus. Our best bet at actually living that life is through preventative care. Natural remedies stand the best chance when they are given the best chance – as part of your everyday routine. In the same way that people workout consistently to maintain optimal physical health and performance, we should be more intentional about what we choose to fuel those bodies with.
Here are a few natural ingredients and other healthy habits that promote a healthy immune system regardless of season:
- Licorice, Oil of Oregano, Yin Chiao, Colloidal Silver, Garlic, Onions, Vitamin C, D and E, Selenium, Zinc, Lemon, Cinnamon, Clive and Ginger all work for your health in advance, decreasing the likelihood of infection in the first place.
- Drink water. Lots of it. Your skin is the last part of your body to receive and benefit from the water you drink; that being said, if you aren’t drinking enough, the first telltale will be dry skin. And no, coffee doesn’t count and neither does tea. You should actually be drinking an extra glass of water for every non-water beverage you consume to replace the water by your body when processing it.
- This one is a sucker punch in the cold winter season… Avoid long hot baths. We can honestly say that we won’t be following through on this one, despite the threat of dry skin. That being said, follow your bath up with a nice moisturizer – the thicker the better if you’re battling eczema – while you’re still damp to lock in the moisture.
- Physically engage yourself everyday. It is all too easy to call it a day (or week… or season) and avoid working out when the weather’s not great, but we’ve just got to keep moving. Take intervals to stretch throughout the day or set aside a half hour in the morning to get your body warmed up for the day ahead. Find whatever works for you. You’ll be in a better place to tackle to the New Year and your future self will thank you for it.
So, Now What?
That’s a lot to take in. For most of us a fully stocked holistic pantry isn’t a reality, so we’ve chosen 5 of our favourites to cover you throughout winter and into the New Year:
- Coconut oil
We’re challenging you to integrate at least one natural ingredient into your regular life this season; chances are you’re utilizing a few in your home already.
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