Getting Over Winter Illness, Low White Blood Cell Count and How to Combat It Naturally
This week’s blog is of a more personal nature - we’ll be back next week with more great DIY recipes. Everyone falls sick occasionally and here I want to share a couple of natural remedies that helped me get better, and might help you too.
Every year without fail, I seem to go down with a major illness that knocks me flat for a few weeks. This year’s one has hopefully just come and gone, which was why I didn’t write a blog last week - I was dying in bed with a 40 degree fever, half delirious. This particular illness was truly horrible, think fever, excruciating pain all over, shaking with chills followed by sweating, not being able to control my body temperature, bad cough, etc. The doctor didn’t really know what was causing it and put it down to a bad flu. But I decided (well, my boyfriend decided for me, I wasn’t in any state to do anything) to have blood tests done, including a malaria test just to be sure. Thankfully, it was negative for malaria, although at the time I was rather disappointed, having convinced myself I had it, and now feeling hard done by because my body was putting me through hell for merely a common flu! The blood tests did reveal that I had a low white blood cell count, however, which was why my body was struggling to fight off the virus. I was put on medication that made me feel nauseous and messed up my stomach. To make matters worse, we had just adopted two high maintenance baby kittens, and I am currently in the middle of writing my honours thesis - not a good time to get sick!
Anyway, sick I was. I always try to go for natural remedies if I can, and this time was no different. I’m quite a strong believer in the power of olive leaf, having used it for a couple of different maladies and always seeing results. I have tried the tincture and the tea and both are effective. Olive leaf is particularly good for beating coughs, colds, flu and generally improving immunity and fighting viruses.
Astragalus, cat’s claw and echinacea are other herbs that help boost immunity and in my case, my white blood cell count. I know they are also given to cancer patients to help recover after chemotherapy, and help white blood cells to regain healthy levels. Astragalus or Qi, is an adaptogen herb and helps the body identify and fight viruses. It increases lymphocyte levels, interleukin and antibody production. Cat’s claw, also an adaptogen, is an immune modulating herb and also helps increase white blood cells. And of course, good old echinacea, the medicine-shelf staple for those winter colds and flus; it boosts immunity, fights infections and increases interleukin and lymphocyte levels.
Turmeric also deserves a mention. Personally, I dislike the taste of the spice but its health properties can’t be denied. It is a powerful antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, is rich in antioxidants and boosts the immune system. It is often referred to as nature’s antibiotic.
Elderberries are a wonderful source of minerals and vitamins and are well known for fighting colds and flu and all the symptoms that come with. The berries are high in vitamin C and have many immune boosting properties, including the ability to increase the number of white blood cells.
Oregano oil, as mentioned in our previous blog, is highly effective at treating respiratory conditions associated with colds and flu as well as protecting against viral and bacterial infection. Simply inhale the steam. Check out the oregano blog for all the reasons why it's a wonder essential oil.
To help me breathe easier and sleep better at night, I used a few drops of Breath Easy and eucalyptus oilin the humidifier. I can’t emphasise enough how much it helped. I had a terrible cough and phlegm but I was able to find relief and my chest really opened up.
Those of you who struggle to sleep when ill will find valerian really helpful. It put me right to sleep at night and helped my body get some much needed rest. Make a tea out of the dried root or take it in capsule form.
I started taking a colostrum supplement powder too, and I think it contributed to me being back on my feet in a week. Colostrum is the special milk produced by mammals (including humans) just after they give birth, that is packed full of rich nutrients for newborns. It is high in immune supporting antibodies and helps fight off viruses and bacteria and supports healthy gut functioning. Colostrum supplements are harvested from cows (which sounds terrible, I know, but only small amounts are harvested, leaving plenty for the calves) so if you’re lactose intolerant or vegan it's a no go, but definitely give it a try if you aren’t and have a compromised immune system. Unfortunately there isn’t a vegan alternative, but many people take elderberries, oregano oil and other herbs mentioned here to increase immunity against illness, and they are all suitable for vegans.
I think it’s just the stage of life I’m in at the moment, but this illness really took the wind out of my sails and left me feeling ‘behind’ in life, in work and in my studies. I’d just lost a week of my life and had no idea what was going on at work and was feeling guilty about not contributing to my thesis. If any of you experience similar feelings after being ill, you will know you need to dig deep into those mental strength reserves. To recharge, you may need to get out into nature, take out the yoga mat and refocus those energies, visit family, read a motivational book or play with your pets. Whatever you do to regain your strength and motivation, try aromatherapy. A few drops of rosemary, basil or lavender in a burner can really reset your mental state and help you to feel calm and in control of your life again. Or just choose your favorite blend of essential oils and add to your bath to restore those feelings of wellbeing. My favorites are rosemary and the Stress Relief blend, and after two days of using those, I’ve got my mojo back.
Nature truly has some wonderful, effective remedies to help you fight illness and get back on your feet.