Natalie Rousseau

In Support of Wellness: Some Resources for these Strange Times

Friends and community members, I know this is a scary time for many as we all attempt to understand how best to respond to the rapidly changing news about Covid-19. It is entirely normal to feel anxious about your health and the health of those you love. While we all do our best to flatten the curve there are also fears about our economic situation, both personal and global, and this adds another layer of stress, which does not help.

I’m with you on all of this. We really are all in this together. So what can we do?

Social distancing and common sense care are your first line of protection, but I also wanted to pull together some resources for you, resources that may help you to feel a little calmer and more resilient during a very difficult and trying time. This is a longer post as there is alot in it, but you will see as you scroll down that I have broken it into sections which include Kitchen Medicine, Meditation, Yoga Practice & Self Care, and finally Recipes.

Kitchen Medicine

In sharing info on health and immunity here I would first like to make it clear that none of these recipes can promise you absolute immunity to viral infection or cure you of Covid-19 if you contract it. I am not a clinical herbalist so I am not providing any kind of medical advice with these recipes, rather I am sharing some of what I am using in my own home to nourish my overall wellness.

While herbal medicine can help to strengthen our health and vitality I believe it works best as part of a holistic approach. For me, this means doing everything I can to ensure I get good quality sleep during times of stress, managing my anxiety levels by engaging practices such as yoga/meditation, and creating boundaries about when I take in information. Like most of you, I am watching and reading the news daily as I want to stay informed, but I am being extra strict about ensuring that the first 30-60 minutes of my day are media free, as well as the last 30-60 minutes of my day. Bookending my day in this way allows me to stay present to my immediate reality and strengthen personal awareness. It is all too easy to get caught up in my mind at a time like this and so any practices that help me to feel resourced in my body and grounded in the present moment are extra valuable right now.

If you want to learn more about herbal immune support I also suggest the following articles on the topic –

Herbs for Immune System by Juliet Blankespoor as well as her article on Tonic Immune Herbs.   

This PDF handout by 7-Song is very helpful as is  Rosalee’s article on Herbs for Immunity.

And local BC herbalist Yarrow Willard has put out two new videos on the topic. 

Scroll down to find my own recipes below.

Metta Meditation

Metta or Lovingkindness Practice comes to us from the Buddhist tradition. It is a very simple and accessible form of meditation practice that can help us to access a greater quality of inner strength and compassion, for ourselves and for others. This is a practice I have been using for years and it has never failed to calm and settle me, even in the midst of great fear or grief.

I have recorded a free guided meditation for you to practice along with an intro recording that goes into more detail about the practice itself.

Yoga Practice & Self Care

I have also bundled together some affordable online classes that you can access using the links below. If you are stuck at home these might be helpful as I know it is hard not to be able to access studio classes right now.

Kitchen Medicine: Wellness Recipes

Immune Boosting Elderberry Tea (or Syrup)

This sweet and spicy tea tastes delicious and can also be made into a syrup. Syrups use a lot more sugar and so the tea blend is often a better choice for supporting immune health, but syrups allow you to preserve your tea blend for longer so that you can keep it on hand. It also makes it more palatable to children. The star of this blend is black elderberry which acts as an immunostimulant to ward off spring colds and flus, while reishi offers deeper nourishment. I will sometimes add echinacea root to this blend if I want to maximize the immune-boosting effect, but it does taste better without it so I leave it as an optional ingredient.

  • 3-5 slices dried reishi mushroom
  • 1/2 cup dried black elderberries
  • 1/4 cup dried rose hips
  • 3-4 Tbsp fresh grated ginger root
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3-5 allspice berries
  • 3-5 cardamom pods
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 Tbsp echinacea root (optional)
  • 3/4 cup dried elderflowers

Put everything except the elderflowers in a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add 5 cups of water and turn heat to medium. Simmer on medium heat for 30-40 minutes, keeping the liquid at just under boiling temperature. After 30-40 minutes or when the tea is reduced by 1/3, turn off the heat, add elderflowers, cover your pot and let steep for another 15-20 minutes.

Strain tea, add honey to taste and drink 1 cup every 2-3 hours.

Syrup Recipe: to make this a syrup you will want to reduce your tea blend by about half to make it more concentrated so simmer as long as needed to do so. Add your elderflowers as above and steep for 15-20 minutes before straining off. Measure your tea and add an equal amount of raw honey, stir well, cool to room temperature and refrigerate. Take 1-2 Tbsp every few hours. Your syrup will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge, but you will probably use it up before then!

Respiratory Balm

This balm can be rubbed into your chest to help clear your sinuses and ease respiratory congestion. It includes a large number of essential oils some of which are contraindicated for small children so I do not recommend using this on kids under the age of 5. *If you have an infused oil made with evergreen needles this makes a great base for this balm.

  • 1/2 cup carrier oil of choice (almond, olive, sunflower etc)
  • 2 Tbsp grated beeswax
  • camphor essential oil 24 drops
  • rosemary essential oil 24 drops
  • clove bud essential oil 20 drops
  • cinnamon essential oil 25 drops
  • eucalyptus essential oil 36 drops
  • ravensara essential oil 30 drops
  • peppermint essential oil 30 drops

Put your carrier oil and grated beeswax in a glass measuring cup with a pouring spout and place in a hot water bath on the stove. Turn the heat to a medium-low setting and stir regularly until the beeswax is melted. Remove from heat and wipe all the water off the outside of your glass measuring cup. Add essential oils and stir well before pouring into small jars or sterilized tins. Your balm will harden as it cools. Label well and apply as needed.

Elderberry Oxymel

This is a simple alcohol-free herbal extraction that is a lot of fun to make, tastes delicious and supports immune health. From the ancient Greek word oxymeli (acid honey), an oxymel is made with equal parts vinegar and honey poured over a blend of fruit, herbs or spices. Seasonal oxymel’s are one of my favourite kitchen remedies to make and they are a great way to get kids to take their medicine too. This particular oxymel features black elderberry which is a powerful immune stimulant, rosehips for extra vitamin C, warming spices, turmeric, and citrus. I used a fresh blood orange in my own blend, but you can substitute a navel orange or tangerine if you prefer.

  • 1 litre canning jar
  • 2/3 cup of dried elderberries
  • 1/3 cup dried rosehips
  • 2 cinnamon sticks broken up
  • 2 TBS dried ginger root (not powdered)
  • 1 TBS dried orange peel
  • 2-3 inches of fresh turmeric root grated
  • juice and peel of one blood orange (cut in strips)
  • equal parts raw apple cider vinegar & honey

Place all ingredients in a 1-liter canning jar and cover with equal parts honey & vinegar. Cover the lid of the jar with a piece of wax paper before sealing (vinegar & metal are a bad combo) and label well. Let steep in a cool place for 2-4 weeks before straining off and pouring the liquid into a clean bottle. I keep my oxymel blends in the fridge once they have been poured off and they keep easily for six months (though I usually use them up way before that). I like to add my oxymel preparations to still or fizzy water as a refreshing herbal beverage, but you can also take it directly if you prefer. 1-2 TBS is a good dose and if you are coming down with a cold I would take this every 2-3 hours.

Nerve Nourishing Tea Blend

This is a difficult time with much uncertainty and fear, which means your nervous system is likely feeling hijacked. This tea blend features gentle nervine herbs which can help to bolster your sense of inner resiliency and the taste is mild so it is pleasant to drink. Aim to drink 2-3 cups per day during times of stress.

  • 1 part dried passionflower
  • 1 part skullcap leaf
  • 1 part oatstraw
  • 1/2 part chamomile flowers
  • 1/2 part rose petals
  • 1/2 part spearmint

Blend dried herbs together and store in a glass jar out of direct sunlight. To make your tea you can use a ratio of 1 Tbsp per cup of water. Place your tea blend in a teapot or tempered glass jar and cover with just-boiled water. Place a lid on your pot/jar and let steep for 15 minutes before straining and drinking. Add honey to taste.