Monday, 12 October 2009

Convalescence - A Forgotten Art

These days a dose of flu or a bad cold means a couple of days on the sofa feeling terrible, consuming as much lem-sip max strength, boiled sugar cough sweets and as many other compatible painkillers as possible without sustaining permanent liver damage. After which time one is expected to get up and resume normal business whilst coughing alarmingly at anyone who comes near and looking a little bit sweaty and gothic. I was served yesterday in the supermarket by a very pale and clammy person, who coughed violently into her hand before grabbing my unbagged vegetables and swishing them through the checkout. I wished she had been allowed a little more time to convalesce!

In days past a dose of flu was potentially fatal and as such was regarded with proper respect by anyone unfortunate to contract it. Mothers knew how to nurse their children and folk had a few home remedies up their sleeve for such occasions. Fevers were treated by sponging, caution was taken not to chill the patient with drafts, whilst providing enough fresh air and sunlight to the sick room to speed recovery. No food was taken whilst a fever raged and nourishing broths were drunk during the long period of recovery.

The long period of recovery….

We modern souls have forgotten that a potent virus completely saps a person's strength, joy and ability to cope with the ordinary demands of everyday life. We need a period of cosseting following an assault on the system and often don't allow ourselves the time needed for recovery as we restock our reserves in order to fight off the next virus smeared on our shopping at the supermarket checkout.

If you have been suffering from a virus such as flu or gastroenteritis and find yourself feeling just a little flat and unable to return to your former bouncing self, you may need more than a little cosseting to recover your spark.

This cosseting can be self administered, so don't think I'm asking you to check in to a sanatorium, far from it. A few home remedies and well chosen herbs can set you right again. See below for some simple tips to help bring your energy back and raise immunity.

Food and Drink:

Think clean, wholefood and leafy. Broths and soups are easily digested and comforting. That whole chicken soup thing - that ain't a myth you know! Add some ginger, a little chili and garlic to beef up their anti-microbal and mucous beating qualities. Add a handful of grains such as barley, brown rice or quinoa to broths to make them more sustaining.

Stuff a handful of leaves into your mouth even if you can't face a meal; watercress is full of vitamin C and any dark leaf is packed with chlorophyll and folic acid. Greens are naturally alkaline and alkaline blood is more resistant to viruses and bacteria.

Whilst citrus juices are a bad idea due to their mucous producing tendency, vegetable juices are a great tool for recovery - carrot, watercress, celery, and beetroot are fantastic tonics - sweetened with the addition of some apple. Don't drink juices if you have had gastroenteritis though - you need broths which are much easier to digest.

Avoid dairy, refined sugar and alcohol as much as possible until your energy is back and your chest recovered. These will only produce extra mucous and sap your precious energy.

Eat little and often to maintain your blood sugar. Snack on oatcakes, dried fruit and nuts and ripe bananas (unripe produce mucous). If you know that you don't have the energy to cook, buy in some good soups from the chiller cabinet and eat these. Try not to rely on toast and cereal as easy options as they will unbalance your blood sugar and don't contain the nutrients you need to aid recovery.

I'm not a herbalist and most of them taste foul and should be treated with care, by a qualified professional. However, herb teas and essential oils can be great for lifting your mood and shifting you in the right direction.


Lemon balm is anti-depressant, thyme strengthens the lungs, lemon verbena is uplifting, ginger, mint and cinnamon are warming, adding a splash of rosewater is comforting, uplifting and warming too. Liquorice tea is great if you find yourself craving sugar and experiencing energy slumps, it also supports the lungs. Chamomile, orange blossom, rose petals and verbena make a delicious and comforting night time tea that will help you drift off and make the most of your beauty sleep. You can buy teas with these combinations - often labelled as sleepy tea. A word of caution though, if they contain valerian then save them for a pre-bed nightcap, or you will feel even drowsier than you do already in the daytime.

Essential oils:
A steam inhalation is a great way to open up your chest and encourage healing. Use one or two drops of any of the following: eucalyptus is expectorant and anti-microbal, sandalwood or fennel are expectorants (help coughs become productive), thyme is good where there are signs of bacterial infection. A drop of clary sage essential oil in a teaspoon of vegetable oil can be massaged into the neck and shoulders to encourage a good night's sleep. Asthmatics and pregnant women should take advice on the use of inhaled essential oils. If in doubt, don't use it.

Homeopathic remedies:
Tissue salts are a great way to nourish the body after a virus. New Era make a combination (Combination B, for nervous exhaustion) that works really well in my experience, comprising; calc-phos 6x, ferrum-phos 6x and kali-phos 6x. This is a great catch all remedy for convalescence where you have got ill because you burnt out or were rushing around, as many of us do before we succumb. It supports the lungs, helps iron levels return to normal, soothes and supports the nerves.

Another great remedy is Phos-ac. People needing this will feel burnt out completely and just can't be bothered to do anything. They might be craving juice, juicy fruits and refreshing things like sorbet or ice-cream; or they may just be too darned wiped out to crave a thing. These people are generally bubbly and lively when well, so the difference can be a bit of a shock. Try a 30c and take it 3 times daily for about a week or until improvement. Stop taking the remedy when you can see a definite improvement and only resume taking it if there is a relapse. Don't take for more than 10 days without consulting a professional.

Remember, if you are worried about your condition, if it seems to be worsening or simply not improving or if you experience new symptoms - go see your doctor, homeopath or similar and get some qualified help.

Hope you feel better soon! Remember to take it easy, you're not a robot you know, you're just someone who needs a little TLC.


  1. Oh now, this I totally agree with! We just don't allow ourselves time, do we?
    My mother was a homeopath, so you're preaching to the converted here btw!

    Huge thanks for commenting on my blog... I do try that tactic - with limited success! Janex

  2. Thanks Jane. Even those of us who have been schooled right don't take enough time to convalesce - just modern society.

    Regarding that other thing - parenting is one long hurtle into uncertainty. Whatever you do will be the right thing for your child as long as you do it with compassion.

    x x x

  3. Good advice. It's a nice relief from all the adverts we're bombarded with over the winter months for Beechams super-duper maxi-strength flu and fever killer! A hot toddy and some good sleep works wonders. Bring back the old school.

    Have you had a look at Cocoon Health yet Naomi? It's a social network developed to help complementary therapists attract new clients. Here's a link to out tour page in case you're curious:

    Best wishes,