Becoming unwell with a cold, flu or another virus can take a significant toll on our body and our ability to show up in the world. It can sometimes take a long time to recover and what we are now becoming more familiar with, is that even after recovery some persistent symptoms can remain. It is important to be patient with your symptoms and listen to what your body is sharing. It is now encouraged to stay at home from work or social events if you aren’t feeling well. This is a huge shift from the ‘soldier-on’ mindset that was once applauded. Take advantage of this and ensure that you are prioritising your health so that you may continue on the road to recovery.
Warming herbs and spices
A simple way to support our health is to enjoy nourishing foods. Soups, stews and curries can be enrichened with culinary spices that may help your body to recover. Some of my favourite herbs and their possible actions include:
Ginger - antimicrobial, helps to increase circulation and reduce inflammation
Cloves - antimicrobial, helps to reduce pain and inflammation
Turmeric - antimicrobial, helps to reduce inflammation, supports detoxification and reduces oxidative stress
Cinnamon - antimicrobial, helps to increase circulation and stimulates the immune system
Herbal adaptogens can offer support when we are recovering from illness. Adaptogens help the body to ‘adapt’ to the environment so that the stress response/ reaction is reduced. They are beneficial once recovery is underway, but they are not to be used in the acute stages of an illness without the supervision of a medical herbalist. Many adaptogens may help to support the immune system by helping it modulate its function, supporting an increased activation or a suppression, depending on what the body needs. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a wonderful adaptogenic and immune-modulating herb that may also help the body reduce inflammation, and assist with more restful sleep. Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) is another adaptogen that is immune-modulating. It may also help with fatigue, especially in chronic conditions such as chronic fatigue or glandular fever. Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) is a stimulating adaptogen that may be beneficial if you are particularly fatigued or feeling low.
A recent study that used a blend of herbal adaptogens found that they reduce symptoms of fatigue and chronic pain and assist a return to physical activities. Each herbal medicine has a unique array of actions. They can be blended together to target an array of symptoms however just as our body functions in unique ways, it is important to have the right blend for you. Our practitioners can tailor a herbal formula that contains a blend of herbal medicine specific to your needs.
Reishi, cordyceps and lions mane are all varieties of mushrooms known for their tonic properties. Tonics have been used historically in many cultures as a food or beverage and offer restorative properties to the body to enable healing and support wellbeing. Reishi has a calming effect on the mind, may reduce inflammation in the body and help to restore immune function after an illness. It is especially helpful if the virus is still lingering. Cordyceps has traditionally been used to support the lungs, it may also help to improve energy levels and mental stamina, particularly beneficial if you are feeling fatigued. Lion's mane may help to lift a low mood or an anxious mind. It has an affinity for supporting cognition and memory, which may be beneficial if you are suffering from brain fog.
The Cacao Club
A new addition to Tonic Room, I want to highlight the benefit that adding cacao may have to your routine. Cacao is high in magnesium, which is beneficial for people suffering from aches and pains. Magnesium is also very relaxing, which may support an overactive mind that is finding it hard to rest, something that is very important when we are in recovery. Coffee is very stimulating and when we are unwell I find that it is particularly beneficial to remove it from our diet so that we may allow our body to find its balance. If you routinely have a coffee in the morning, try replacing it with cacao. Cacao still has some caffeine and can be stimulating, however, it is nutrient-rich and has a slower release of stimulating properties than coffee does.
Notice sunrise & sunset
When we are unwell, it can feel like each day merges into one, the week suddenly getting away from us. Taking the time to notice the morning and evening light can help allow the body to ground itself as we acknowledge each passing day. When we allow our eyes to make contact with the changes in light, we also support the release of serotonin (our wakeful daytime hormone) and melatonin (our night-time sleep hormone). Sunlight exposure can help to regulate our sleep-wake cycles (as well as boost our vitamin D!) A morning or evening walk near sunrise or sunset may also offer some exercise that is not too strenuous on your recovering body but may help to lift fatigue.
Our environment, the health of our many body systems, the level of stress we hold, our genes, and many other factors can play a role in whether or not we will experience long-term effects after being unwell. As with supporting our immune system before and during the acute phase of illness, there are many ways we can support our health when we are still recovering. The most important being the acknowledgement of what your health picture looks like, and the level of support you wish to offer yourself.
This information is generalised and the above recommendations may not be suitable for you, especially if you are taking medication or have health conditions. If you would like to know more or need support, please reach out to one of our naturopaths. We can support you via phone or email. If you require more focused 1:1 support, you can book in with one of our practitioners here.
Written by Natasha Lubas, Naturopath & Medical Herbalist