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It’s not too often that I get sick with a cold or flu, but when I do, I take it as a great learning experience to practice what I preach! I do my best take good care of myself, so that I can be my very best in taking care of those I serve in my life and in my profession.

A few days ago I came down with a very painful sore throat, fever, and general symptoms of a head cold – stuffy head, foggy brain, and general low energy. So what did I do about it?

First, I asked myself what made me susceptible to being sick in the first place. Was I underslept? Over taxed? The answer to this question provides a clue as to what medicine may be appropriate for the illness. The answer in this case was I went for a hike down by the ocean and was absolutely freezing with the unexpected cold winds. I was exposed to the cold for too long; plus I was seriously underdressed for the weather. Cold weather itself doesn’t cause illness – but it does stress your body leaving your resistance weaker so that if you are exposed to viruses, you can become sick. After the hike, I met up with friends who had lots of little children with runny noses. Once again, just because someone you are around is sick, doesn’t mean you will be. It’s the combination of lowered resistance plus exposure to infectious agents that makes one sick.

To those of you who have taken my homeopathy classes; what homeopathic remedy is fitting for acute illnesses that come on due to exposure to a sudden change in weather, especially wind? That’s right, Aconite.

The first thing I did was take two doses of Aconite. I instantly felt an improvement. Aconite alone usually nips my acute illnesses in the bud. However this time, I went to bed and had a very restless sleep (my cats decided to party all night long) so I didn’t have a good sleep which weakened my resistance even more. Nothing Aconite could fix.

So what did I do next?

I had some beautiful fresh organic Turmeric and Ginger that I bought at the health food store which I was preparing to tincture for medicine. Instead, I chopped them up and simmered them together for about 20 minutes (this is called a decoction) and drank about 2 litres throughout the day. It felt amazing. The colour was a stunning deep red/orange that was medicine for the eyes. I knew I needed the nourishment, warmth, and comfort of herbs. These just happened to be the fresh herbs I had in the house that day, so I used them. This is my favourite way to use herbs, use those that are in your backyard, or fresh in the home. It’s kitchen magic. Using what you have on hand. Turmeric is known to be a powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-infective agent that is soothing and very healing. Ginger is warming, also a powerful anti-infective. Both are great for sore throats. Herb students; what family do these herbs belong to? The Zingiberaceae Family of course!

I also took a few days off while sick. It’s important for the immune system to truly rest so you can heal. This actually speeds recovery time and allows your system to regain its strength to prevent contracting secondary infections (think of those folks who push themselves through a cold or fever only to eventually get a bad case of bronchitis afterwards that goes on for weeks). Unfortunately in our culture, there’s this strange heroic mindset that encourages people to work through, push through illness, which actually creates a lot of problems later. It’s like borrowing from our future health reserves leading to a weakened system. This is exacerbated in work environments where employees do not have sick time.

I didn’t have the energy to think or move very much so I laid by my sunny window and soaked up the beautiful vitamin D through the sunshine. I did this for hours, as sunshine / vitamin D is also excellent for the immune system and uplifts the spirits. The warmth was wonderful for the deep chills I was experiencing.

In the evening, I simmered the same chopped Turmeric and Ginger from earlier in the day and this time added the decoction to a hot bath. It was exquisite! I haven’t done this in years. Ginger baths are an old hydrotherapy technique to stimulate circulation and pull chills out of the body restoring inner heat. That’s exactly what I experienced. I felt deeply warmed, the heat penetrating deeply and having a lasting effect. I jumped into bed with my hot water bottle, and then sipped on a cup of water heavily dosed with fresh Cleavers tincture that I made last spring. Cleavers are powerful lymphagogues, that is, they stimulate and clean up the lymphatic system (thus immune system) and ease swollen glands.

Finally, I could feel the throat mostly getting better, but some pain radiating up to my left ear. So homeopathy students, what do you think I did next? I took the homeopathic remedy Lachesis – a great remedy for sore throats or swollen glands, radiating to the left ear!

I slept really well that night. By the next day I was mostly better. However, I continued the cleavers for 3 more days, and also did three more evenings of Ginger baths for prevention, to make sure my system was in good shape. I generally recommend that for however many days you experienced sickness, spend that many days after recovery taking good care to nurse yourself back to health. Even if you think you’re all better. So, I didn’t feel well for two days, and by the third day felt normal. But I spent an extra 2 days taking cleavers, Ginger baths, and getting lots of sleep to fully recover.

Sometimes people jump right back into their life and stop taking nourishing herbs and foods after they are symptom free – only to get symptoms of ANOTHER illness a few days later.

With proper care, and the help of herbs and homeopathy you can shorten the duration of illness, prevent complications, and ensure illness doesn’t drain your vital force.

Even before herbs, homeopathy and food I strongly believe our mental attitude makes a huge difference in recovery. When I’m sick, I’ve learned to see it not as a nuisance, but as an opportunity to pause in the bustle of life, reflect on how I’m doing in all realms of my life, and give myself a break.

Many traditional systems of medicine view fevers as an event to burn off unwanted life patterns or even karma. Acute illnesses have been viewed as opportunites to reset the immune system. I like this perspective, it’s empowering. I personally experience a renewed sense of vigor after an acute illness – that is if I take good care during the illness and post illness as outlined above.

How do you experience acute illnesses? Do you stop and take care of yourself, or do you push youself through it? What self-care techniques work for you, and where did you learn them? Join me in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

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