Ways to Boost Your Immunity
Cut back on sugar, especially refined sugars: studies show that immune functioning is compromised for up to 5 hours after consuming even a small amount of sugar – in part because it interferes with the absorption of Vitamin C.
Take Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for immune functioning, and helps you fight off colds and flu. Foods high in vitamin C include parsley, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, and red peppers. You can also take a multivitamin or Vitamin C supplement.
Get enough sleep. It goes without saying that our resistance is higher when we are well rested. It’s easy to compromise on sleep when we have a lot to do, but it’s really worth it to prioritize your rest so you can stay healthy. Plus, life is a lot easier and more fun when you’re not sleep-deprived!
Eat root vegetables. In Chinese dietary therapy, root vegetables are said to strengthen the lung — which in Chinese medicine includes the lung, nose, throat, sinuses, and skin, as well as the first line of defense against illness. Try incorporating root veggies into your diet at this time of year, whether by making a hearty vegetable stew, adding a sweet potato to your meal as a side dish, or simply including carrots and beets in a salad.
Wash your hands, well and often. This means using soap, getting a good lather, and washing the front and back of your hands, wrists, and between your fingers. You should wash for 20 seconds - about as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”! And, skip the antibacterial soap – it’s useless against viruses, and bad for the environment.
Call in sick when you’re sick and encourage colleagues to do the same. (If the swine flu scare does nothing else, perhaps it will counteract the ridiculous idea that it’s responsible to come to work when you’re not feeling well).
Keep your neck covered. Illnesses such as colds are said to enter the body via wind, usually through the back of the neck. While this differs from our usual thinking about germs, I’ve found there’s something to it. Try wearing a scarf as it gets colder, and avoid drafts, especially if you’ve been sweating or your hair is wet.
Sleep with a humidifier. The air, both outside and inside, gets drier this time of year, which can dry out the mucus membranes in your nose and throat. This causes tiny cracks to form, giving germs easy access to your bloodstream.
Take immune-boosting herbs. If you have a compromised immune system, or a history of catching colds easily, consider taking a Chinese herbal immune formula during flu season. The most famous of these is “Jade Windscreen Powder”, a classical formula with three very gentle ingredients (it’s often given to children). It helps boost the “wei qi”, which is the energy that circulates on the surface of the body and prevents illness from invading. Ask me if you’re interested.
Keep a bottle of yin qiao or other herbal cold formula on hand. There are several Chinese herbal formulas that, when taken at the first hint of symptoms, can help ward off a cold before it really gets started. Ask me for the one most suited to your usual patterns of getting sick.
Try a homemade herbal remedy as soon as you start feeling like you might be catching something. See the recipes below.
Treating the Common Cold
Two Herbal Teas You Can Make At Home
Drink these teas as soon as you start to feel like you might be coming down with something. These food-grade herbs are good for helping your body push the “evil qi” back out, preventing you from getting sick. And, they are both really tasty!
Tea for “Wind-Cold”
This type of cold usually begins with sneezing and runny nose, and possibly watery eyes. There may also be body aches, a stiff neck, and a feeling of being chilled, especially at the surface of the skin. This is a warming tea, so if you feel feverish or have a sore throat, use the “Wind-Heat” tea instead!
2 slices of fresh ginger root, about 1/2 inch thick
a 2-inch piece of dried or fresh tangerine peel (orange, clementine, etc. will do as a substitute)
1-2 scallions, sliced (both white and green parts)
1 teabag of green tea
honey to taste
Boil ginger root in 2-3 cups of water for 10 minutes; add tangerine peel and boil 3-5 minutes longer; add scallions and cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the teabag, steeping for 2-3 minutes. Strain, and add honey to taste.You can make a batch and use it throughout the day. Also, don’t worry if you’re missing one or two ingredients – it will still be yummy and helpful.
Tea for “Wind-Heat”
An attack of wind heat usually begins with a sore or dry scratchy throat. You might also notice swollen glands, congestion, or feeling feverish (you may also feel a little chilled, but if you mostly feel hot, it’s still wind-heat).
The basic recipe:
a small handful of fresh or dried mint
1 bag green tea
honey to taste
Boil mint in 2-3 cups water for 3-5 minutes; turn off heat and add the teabag, steeping for 2-3 minutes. Add honey to taste. You can also use a teabag of peppermint or other mint tea in place of the fresh mint.
For a more ambitious variation, add:
3-4 pieces of dried licorice root
3-5 dried chrysanthemum flowers
Both ingredients are available in Chinese food stores or pharmacies. Boil the licorice root for 10 minutes, then add the chrysanthemum with the mint and proceed as above.