Being sick, feeling unwell, or coming down with something looks different for everyone. Even when a group of people come in contact with the same thing (a bacteria, virus, etc) how the sickness is expressed can look very different. Some people may not demonstrate any symptoms at all, some may come into close contact and still avoid ‘catching it’ and others may have an array of ailments. You may find that when you do get sick, it is often expressed in one particular area. This may be a weak point in your health picture and an area that you have struggled with from a young age. If you ask yourself when I get sick, what does that look like? You may know that if you get a sore throat, it is the beginning of a cold. You may know that when you become unwell, it may always go to your chest, or end in a sinus infection. This may be an insight into how an illness may develop for you, but that is not always the case. Although seasonal preparation (such as having general immune-supporting herbs on hand) can be helpful, it is important to pay attention to specific symptoms if and when they do appear so you can treat them accordingly. There are many different ways that we can support ourselves when we are feeling unwell, below are some of the ways that I would recommend starting with.
For a sore throat
The Kiwiherb Throat Spray is my go-to when I have a sore throat. A combination of kawakawa, thyme, echinacea and manuka, this formula helps to reduce inflammation, reduce pain and fight off microbes. It is in a handy-sized spray that you can take with you on the go. I also love to sip on a lemon, honey and ginger drink. Best prepared with hot but not boiling water, lemon is naturally high in vitamin C, native manuka honey is a well-known anti-bacterial and ginger works as an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. I find that it is a soothing, hydrating and very comforting remedy.
To reduce a fever
A fever is a temperature that is higher than 37.5ºC, it is considered mild when your temperature is above 38ºC, and high when it is more than 39ºC. A fever is the body's way of fighting an infection and is an indication that your immune system is working. If you have a fever, you must stay hydrated and have plenty of rest. You may wish to use a cool flannel or have a cooling (not cold) shower/ bath to help reduce your temperature. Vitamin C can also be used to reduce a fever, as can herbs that help to increase perspiration such as manuka, elecampane and yarrow.
For sinus congestion
Elderflower, eyebright and mullein can help to reduce sinus congestion and can be useful for sinusitis. Horseradish and ginger may be taken as a vinegar to gently help clear sinus and chest congestion and reduce inflammation. If you have had a runny nose, you may recall that the skin below your nose often becomes very dry. I find using a balm on this area (and on the lips too) or using a rich moisturiser can help reduce this. I love using 8 Faces as it is not only hydrating and soothing it can be used on the face, lips, hands, body and more.
For a dry or chesty cough
Elecampane is useful for cough and chest conditions as it helps to soothe a dry cough and bring up the mucus of a chesty cough. An anti-bacterial, it is particularly useful for chest infections and can be beneficial to those with lung conditions that can complicate your symptoms such as asthma. Marshmallow is wonderful for an irritable, dry cough as it can help to form a soothing layer on inflamed mucous membranes that is both hydrating and healing. This can help to soothe irritation involved in an irritable throat or dry cough. Mullein and liquorice also have this soothing effect on inflamed mucous membranes. Liquorice can help both a dry or chesty cough through the anti-tussive and expectorant actions. Mullein, as an expectorant assists with a chesty cough. Kumerahou is a native herbal medicine with a long tradition of use for chest conditions. It may be helpful for stubborn coughs, congested chest, and conditions such as asthma. High in quercetin, it is a potent antiviral and anti-inflammatory.
There are so many herbs that can support us when we are unwell. The wonderful thing about herbs is that they can work on a variety of symptoms at once. A herbal formula that uses high quality, efficacious herbs and is tailored to you and your health picture can be formulated by one of our naturopaths through our herbal dispensary.
Stay hydrated, always
It is easy to become dehydrated when you are feeling unwell. We often need to focus on resting more, and so are out of flow from our daily activities. When we are hydrated, our mucous membranes are supple and this reduces the ability of pathogens to attach themselves to them. Drinking herbal tea is a wonderful way to rehydrate and receive herbal medicine. Soups and smoothies are other wonderful remedies that support hydration and they can offer many nutrients that your immune system will need to support itself. If your appetite has decreased, or you need an extra boost (which you likely will) adding a protein or superfood greens powder may be beneficial.
To support a good night's sleep
I recently read something along the lines of... Ensure you allow your body to rest before it forces you to do so. This is another way of saying - if you are unwell, take it as an opportunity to slow down. With rest comes recovery, and we must let our body rest so that it can recover thoroughly and avoid a relapse. Sleep is often what is needed, but can be surprisingly hard to do when we are unwell. If you are finding yourself becoming restless creating a relaxing environment is key. I suggest some gentle lighting with candles, diffusing lavender essential oil and the use of an eye mask.
This information is generalised and the herbal medicine recommended 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 help finding herbal medicine that is right for you, 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