It’s the first official day of autumn, and there is no denying it. You can feel a tinge of fall in the breeze on the cool mornings, and as much as I’m looking forward to pumpkins, apple picking, boots, and scarves, fall also brings back the start of cold and flu season. I’ve always hated getting sick, but now that I’m a mom I am a total vigilante about preventing illnesses from entering our home. Sleepless nights on top of runny noses and a grumpy child put me in a bad mood for the entire 7-10 day duration of the infection.
Of course, some of the best methods of prevention are getting enough sleep, constantly washing your hands, and eating a healthy, varied diet, but I also like to deploy a few other immune boosters for our family. Now is the time to gather your ingredients and assemble these natural remedies so you won’t be blindsided the first time a toddler in your playgroup starts wiping his runny nose on the toys or you find yourself with a tickle in your throat.
1. Elderberry syrup
I love, love, love elderberry syrup. It tastes delicious (so my toddler doesn’t mind swallowing the recommended 1/2 teaspoon daily dose). Preparing a batch infuses your house with an amazing fall scent, and it’s a great immune booster. Elderberries can be purchased online or from local stores like Cambridge Naturals. I use this recipe from Mommypotamus, and one batch lasts our family all winter. Elderberry syrup’s super power is its ability to support the immune system, reduce cold and flu symptoms, and provide some nasal/sinus congestion relief.
2. Anti-germ essential oil blend
I really love diffusing essential oils to help purify our air and keep our immune defenses at the ready. Diffusing is the safest use of essential oils around children (note that you should not use EOs on any child under six months), but many commercial blends contain peppermint, eucalyptus, or rosemary, which are not recommended for use on children under the age of 10 because they could cause potential breathing problems. Instead, mix a quick blend yourself using all kid-safe oils, which will achieve the same goal (plus, diffusing will make your house smell amazing!). I like these blend recipes, and we diffuse at home before bedtime and in the car. Essential oils and diffusers can be purchased online and at many stores, including Whole Foods and Cambridge Naturals.
3. Honey, ginger, and lemon tea
If we do get sick, I try to ease our symptoms as naturally as possible and hope for a speedy resolution to the illness. At the end of each summer I mix of a batch of honey, ginger, and lemon concentrate to keep in the fridge.
You’ll need one large lemon, one or two inches of fresh ginger, and one pint of fresh honey. Slice the lemon and ginger thinly and layer in a pint size mason jar. Pour the honey over the layers and make sure it fills in all the nooks and crannies. Store in the fridge and let it gel together. As needed, spoon out a teaspoon of the mix and top with hot water and stir to dissolve into a fragrant, comforting tea.
My toddler loves this tea, and so do I. The ginger and honey both have antibacterial properties while the lemon gives a nice boost of vitamin C.
Now, this last remedy is not for the faint of heart. You will reek of garlic, and I’d recommend you only use it on kids old enough to know to keep their socks on — otherwise your house will be covered in a nearly permanent smear of garlicky oil. However, it is a very old and respected natural remedy to slather your feet in garlic oil when sick. Garlic has known antibiotic properties, and you can use this on the ears to prevent ear infections, on the chest to clear up coughs, and on the feet for general immune boosts. I like this recipe from Mama and Baby Love. Bonus: Anyone who is not sick will not be near you long enough to catch anything as long as you smell like a vampire hunter.