Why do we dread winter? Truthfully, if we’re going to hate the dull, damp, dreary weather then our entire lives are going to be pretty miserable, because frequently there is no discernable difference between the summer and winter months… So maybe we hate it because we are often ailment-ridden during the winter months or because the long dark nights cut us off from the light and make us gloomy?
Now, there’s nothing we can do about the weather but we can take measures to strengthen our systems against ill health and ill temper.
Colds and Flu
The dreaded ‘lurgies’ stalk us down the chill, dank months of winter and often fail to release us from their clutches even in the softer springtime.
Germs are always around but they do not inevitably spell disaster. A strong immune system will take them in its stride, tossing them aside with a contemptuous sneer. Our white blood cells have the ability to detect and destroy bacteria and viruses before they start anything, so it is in our best interests to see that they have everything they need to function well.
- Rest – get plenty of sleep
- Fluids – water, herb teas, hot juices with cinnamon and ginger
- Laughter – your immune system works best when you are happy!
- Vitamin C – salads and fresh fruit might seem unappealing when it is cold but do not abandon fruit and vegetables. Make vegetable soups, stew fruit with warming spices and take extra vitamin C to help your body make white blood cells.
- Echinacea – helps the white blood cells in their task of spotting bugs and of engulfing and destroying them once spotted. Take a daily maintenance course to keep bugs at bay.
The cough reflex is not necessarily something to dampen down – we cough when our lungs contain matter that our body would prefer to remove. A productive cough will propel phlegm upwards, towards the outer world, where it will do you less harm than if it is lying on your chest. Less productive and more irritating are the coughs that derive from irritated tissues in the throat, or that rack your chest without producing much.
- Soothe the throat – suck herbal lozenges, use a throat spray with Echinacea and Sage, and drink warming teas spiced with ginger and cinnamon and laced with lemon.
- Relax the bronchial tissues – use herbs such as ivy and thyme, which help to reduce spasms of coughing, whilst making the mucus thinner and easier to shift from the chest.
You might be surprised to hear that mucus has a beneficial role to play. It traps microbes and lubricates the lining of the respiratory tract. That’s all very well until it starts to get out of control: constant dripping down the back of the throat, or a head full of concrete are not so much fun.
- Avoid dairy products – they are mucus-forming
- Drink plenty of water to keep everything lubricated
- Zinc will help strengthen the lining of the ear/nose/throat tract
- Plantago will relieve congestion from this area. It is especially good in youngsters with repeated ear infections and glue ear.
- Berberis is another great herb for the mucous membranes, so if yours are out of shape, get onto Berberis – it helps the immune system too and is good for digestion, so you can’t lose.
Are you chilly all winter? Chilblains on your shivering extremities? Even Raynaud’s Disease in some cases? You need to get the blood supply zinging round the body, or the supply of nutrients and oxygen will fall off and outlying areas such as the feet will become devitalised and sensitive, easily wounded and prone to skin problems.
- Gentle but regular exercise – even just five minutes round the block before breakfast, another five at lunch time and a brisk walk to the post box in the evening. Or run up and down stairs a few times. Do some home yoga. Anything to get your blood moving.
- Herb teas made from things like Ginger, to pep up the blood.
- Shoes that fit! If they pinch your feet they make poor circulation worse.
- Ginkgo biloba – the best herb for boosting circulation to the extremities: head, fingers, feet, and other parts often not reached successfully…Don’t take Ginkgo if you are on anticoagulants such as aspirin or Warfarin.
Do these come up the minute winter hits? Could be because the effectiveness of your immune system falls. The virus that causes them loves a weakened immune system. It also thrives on physical or emotional stress, alcohol, nicotine, etc.
- Relax and try to avoid undue pressure.
- Nuts and chocolate feed the virus so keep away from them.
- Lysine is an amino acid that the virus doesn’t like, so take that.
- Hypericum is an antiviral herb with particular effect on nerve pain, and it works very well against this virus. It also cheers you up!
- Bio-Propolis Core Sore Treatment. Apply it five times daily for the duration of the cold sore. It helps to soothe the discomfort and acts as a barrier against secondary infection.
It is important to have light to stimulate the pituitary gland, even in the winter months. Get outside, even under cloudy skies, because some light is still filtering through and it will help. If you know you get low in winter, plan to keep moving – even mild exercise is good for the circulation to the brain, and exercise has been shown to reduce a susceptibility to depression.
- Run about outside! It will help.
- Caffeine just gives your body more toxins to deal with and makes you tired – drink juices and herbal teas to help relaxation.
- Comedy – watch things that make you laugh, read cheerful books, and avoid gloomy friends!
- Hypericum is well known for its positive effect on winter woe. Take it over your ‘danger’ months. It cannot be taken with other medication, so an alternative is Passiflora, which reduces stress and relieves mild depression.