With the passing of the new year, winter has finally arrived in New England. Skiing, snow, and cozy nights by the fire are all things I look forward to during the coldest time of year. Unfortunately, wintertime also brings the arrival of sniffling noses, loud coughs and general weariness. All of these factors contribute to my least favorite part of the season - the dreaded winter cold! Winter time is Kapha season and an excess of Kapha leads to an abundance of mucous, which often results in stuffy noses, sinus pressure and a tendency towards stagnation in the body.
In my experience, the best prevention for the winter cold or flu is early detection. The minute I feel my body is slightly off, I turn to one (or all) of these home remedies - depending on the ailment.* The use of these home remedies, combined with plenty of water and lots of rest, is usually enough to get me back on track.
Turmeric Ginger Lemon Tea
My new favorite concoction! I found this recipe on an Ayurveda blog when I felt a cold coming on and after drinking it for two days, my symptoms disappeared. This spice blend packs a serious 1-2 punch for your immune system: ginger is anti-inflammatory and an immune booster, turmeric is antibacterial, antiviral and an anti-inflammatory powerhouse, cinnamon is an expectorant and decongestant and clove enhances your body’s circulation and metabolism. Lemon is excellent for detoxing and the honey soothes the upper respiratory tract, while also making it a sweet and enjoyable treat.
- 1 inch fresh and peeled ginger, or 1 T powdered ginger, or 1 ginger tea bag
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- ½ tsp clove powder
- 1 whole lemon, juiced
- 1-2 T honey
To make the tea, bring two cups of water to boil in a small saucepan. Combine spices in a tea infuser. (If you do not have the equipment for steeping tea, you can simply add the spices to the water. It will taste the same, but there will just be a layer of sludge on the bottom of your mug). Add all ingredients and steep for 10 minutes. Sip slowly and enjoy!
One of my favorite yoga teachers recommended Oregano Oil to me a couple of years ago and I have been hooked ever since. This is my very first go-to when I feel the inklings of a cold coming on - a couple of drops under the tongue and I’m good-to-go!
If you have never tried it, consider yourself warned: oregano oil is pretty expensive (about $30 for a teeny bottle - I use Oreganol P73, which can be found at Whole Foods or online) and it also tastes terrible. Regardless of taste, this stuff is called “nature’s antibiotic” for a reason. Studies have shown it to be antibacterial and anti-inflammatory…and it works!
There are a variety of ways to ingest oregano oil, but I have found 3-4 drops under the tongue, once or twice a day, works best. Oregano oil is powerful stuff and is meant for short-term use only; use for 7-10 days or until you feel better.
It should be noted that oregano oil should be avoided by people with high blood pressure or heart conditions, pregnant or nursing women, and children and infants.
Ahh, the eucalyptus steam - the worst enemy of sinus congestion! If my cold gets far enough that I’m stuffed up or have sinus pressure, a eucalyptus steam is in order. Eucalyptus oil is antiviral, antibacterial and a decongestant. Ten minutes of steam inhalation with eucalyptus and my sinuses and nasal passages are blissfully unblocked.
For a eucalyptus steam, heat water in a saucepan on the stovetop and transfer to a large bowl. Add 3-5 drops of eucalyptus oil, cover your head and bowl with a large bath towel, and inhale the hot steam for 5-10 minutes. Breathe slowly and deeply, perhaps breathing through one nostril at a time to help clear the nasal passages. The first couple of minutes might be a bit intense as the steam will be very hot and the fumes of the eucalyptus oil very strong. Avoid placing your face too close to the water to prevent burning.
Steams are not recommended for those who suffer from asthma and eucalyptus oil has contraindications for those who suffer from congestive heart failure or high blood pressure. To learn more about using essential oils at home, consider checking out Julie Lawless’ The Illustrated Guide of Essential Oils.
Hasn’t every kid with a sore throat had to endure the saltwater gargle? This was the first thing my mom made me do whenever I was sick and I hated it! Turns out, she was right - the saltwater gargle is tried and true. Not only does the combination of salt and warm water provide symptomatic relief, but the salt actually works to rid the virus by pulling potentially infected tissues out of the throat. If I gargle consistently at the first sign of a sore throat, my symptoms usually disappear within a day.
Give it a try: mix 1 tablespoon of salt with 8 ounces of warm water…and gargle! I usually gargle 5 times for 10 seconds each - or however long I can stomach it. Repeat as often as once an hour or until symptoms subside.
Epsom Salt Bath
Taking a bath with epsom salts is an old-school remedy that should not be overlooked. The salts draw out the toxins through your skin (your body’s largest organ) while the magnesium and sulfur in the salt aid in the healing process. Add 1 cup of Epsom salts (my favorite is Dr Teal’s Eucalyptus Spearmint) to your bath and soak for at least 20 minutes. Taking a bath is the perfect way to slow down, relax and unwind - which are all things you should be doing if you’re sick anyway! Don’t forget to drink plenty of water while you bathe, so that you may rehydrate your body during the detox.
Of course, the most important thing when you’re feeling sick is to drink water, get rest, and listen to your body! What’s your favorite home remedy?
*Please note that I am not a doctor and do not medically endorse any of these home remedies. For any questions regarding your health, or if you have any interest in starting a new wellness routine, it’s always best to see a medical professional.
Jersey first came to yoga as a place to quiet her busy mind and relieve stress. Throughout the years, she has consistently gravitated towards the slower practices of Hatha and Yin, but she has also come to appreciate the sweat and flow of a Vinyasa class. She has found that a daily practice of asana and meditation, combined with a conscious whole foods diet, is the perfect recipe for feeling healthy and happy. Jersey received her 200 RYT through Satyam Yoga School in 2015 and she loves teaching new and seasoned students alike. A lover of all things outdoors, Jersey especially loves skiing in mountains and swimming in lakes. She is currently teaching yoga in Portland, Maine and lives with her husband and pup.