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Staying Healthy in Cold Season

Every year, if anyone around me gets a cold I seem catch it. It's inevitable that I'll have not just one, but two or three colds throughout the winter. I am a pretty healthy person in general, and only one or twice in my life (knock on wood) have I had anything worse than a simple head cold, but that doesn't make suffering those sniffling setbacks any more pleasurable.

This year, and again I knock on wood, I've managed to avoid feeling under the weather. Even if I get sick right after this blog post, this will still have to count as the healthiest winter I've ever had. I don't think there's any secret or trick to staying healthy this year, it's just a series of preventative steps in daily life that lead to a generally more healthy body. Here's a few of the preventative measures I've taken this fall.

We live pretty close to the land, spending ample time outside caring for our animals and land. We also heat our home very simply with a small woodstove and occasional supplemental heat from a kerosene heater. Our home is comfortably warm, it is not the kind of place where you have to constantly wear a coat or blanket to stay toasty. But it is closer to the outside temperature than most modern American houses are at this time of year, and I think that helps our bodies stay attuned to the natural rhythm of the season and experience less shock when we step out into the winter weather.

Of course we make a point to eat healthy, and as much as possible local and organic food. But there are certain foods which are especially helpful in keeping your immune system at its best. Garlic and ginger are some of my favorites to add to dishes, they give a regular meal extra depth of flavor and they are remarkably good for you too.

I also have been drinking kombucha pretty much daily since fall. Because our home is far from temperature controlled, I don't make my own at this time, but I do buy ginger varieties most commonly for all that immune-boosting ginger power.

If you are starting to feel a little bit under the weather or you are around people who are sick, you're probably going to want to take a few extra preventative steps, more than just a generally healthy lifestyle.

When I am trying to ward of sniffly feelings I drink my fair share of fire cider. I am a huge fan of the knock-you-off-your-feet beverage and even made my own this past fall (recipe here). At the moment I don't have any of my own brew, but I get the delicious fire tonic from local herbalist Herbal Revolution. An aside here: the term "fire cider" has been trademarked by a company called Shire City, which has proceeded to bring lawsuits against herbalist marketing their concoctions as "fire cider". Drinks like fire cider have been used for centuries, and the term and signature recipe was created by herbalist Rosemary Gladstar in the 1980s. You can learn more about their litigations here, and also donate to help herbalists being sued by Shire City.

If you don't have the time to brew your own fire cider but you want to make a cold cure, you can also look into sipping vinegars and oxymels. These brews are new to me, I was introduced to them by our neighboring herbalist and farmers at Ridge Pond Farm & Herbals. They can be made with a variety of different herbs, and for different effects, but an oxymel with ginger and garlic contains a magic foursome of immune-boosting powers (ginger, garlic, Apple Cider Vinegar and honey).

Finally, I sip on tea with elderberry flowers and berries dried in the mix. Tea in general is a great beverage to enjoy to stay healthy, and you can also try teas with licorice root, echinacea, ginseng, or astralagus for particular cold and flu protection.

These are my personal experiences with trying to stay healthy through the long, cold Maine winter and of course they may not work for everyone. But a few of these tips may come in hand in keeping your household cold-free, and you may also enjoy the tastes and flavors of all these immune-boosting herbs and vegetables.


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