My kitchen-helper, Mini P, helping me do the dishes after decanting the herbal honey

Many folks who know me, know that I worked as an assistant to an amazing holistic doctor for 5 years. It was the best job I ever had working for someone else. I got to spend the day watching a genius at work, helping people with all sorts of health related issues, who often times, after decades of trying conventional, Western medicine and having no luck were seeking out alternative therapies and getting results for the first time. I saw the dangers and effects of artificial sweeteners, drastic diet plans and prescription drug complications first hand. And I saw that simple remedies, food choices and plants could be life changing healing agents for many.

I learned so much invaluable information that I have continued to apply to my life, health and well-being.

My interest in alternative remedies has a long history. Even in high school I was reading books about traditional herbal remedies, aromatherapy and homeopathics. I am not a health care provider, trained herbalist, nor homeopath. I am just a person who has been looking into these integrated therapies for close to 20 years and using them on me and my family with amazing results.

Friends and family often ask me for advice about eating, supplements and herbs. I tend to have a good instinct about what might be causing problems for people, and I always recommend getting to the root of a health issue, rather than just treating the symptoms. I point people in directions, and give them some tools to help them come to a health plan that really works for them, encouraging them to do their own research and work with their doctor.

This winter I wanted to share with family and friends a delicious and simple herbal honey. Something that they could spoon into hot tea on a day when they weren’t feeling so great to soothe them from the inside out. I chose Rosemary as the herb (see recipe below). Rosemary contains volatile oils like camphor, cineole, and borneol which have known antibacterial properties. Preliminary studies on rats have also been done to show that rosemary might have anti-carcinogenic properties (Teuscher E (2005). Medicinal Spices (1 ed.). Stuttgart: Medpharm). In any case, I often put a few drops of rosemary essential oil in a spray bottle with water to spray in the house when someone is sick. Which in this house is not very often.

Roberto and I both got sick this winter. We were on a train for several hours sitting across the aisle from a guy who was sneezing and hacking his brains out the whole time. I really, for the life of me, can’t understand why people travel in these conditions. It was the first time either of us had been sick in at least 3 years. I can’t recall the last time either of us took antibiotics or even had to go to the doctor for anything other than a yearly check –up.

So here are some of the foods we eat, and supplements we take during the winter that keep our immune systems up and ready to fight off a cold!

To Make Herbal Honey
1. Use 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs, or half a teaspoon of dried herbs for every 2 cups of raw honey.
2. If the herbs are fresh, grind them well to aid in the infusion.
3. Tie the herbs in cheesecloth.
4. In a pot, warm the raw honey and herbs. It is important not to heat the honey too much or the enzymes will be destroyed. Simply warm the honey to a temperature well below 115 degrees.
5. Put the honey and the herbs into a large canning jar with a tight fitting lid.
6. Let the honey sit in at room temperature in a dark place for at least one week.
7. Heat the honey just to warm and press the liquid out of the herbs.
Read more at Suite101: Herbal Honey Recipes: How to Make Herb Infused Honey

Kefir is our daily elixir, it is a delicious probiotic, a cultured milk drink that has over 2,000 years of history. We have been making and drinking kefir every day for about a year. During that time we have noticed some remarkable changes since using it regularly – everything from clearing up chronic skin problems, to easier digestion and better immunity. What sets kefir apart from other cultured dairy, is the number of various organisms, both bacteria and yeast, present as opposed to just one microorganism like most other cultured dairy products. Kefir is an immune booster, and contains a high amount of calcium, amino acids, B-vitamins, Vitamin K and folic acid. Due to all of the chemical reactions that occur when it is cultured, it is easy to digest allowing the body to adsorb all of the nutrients. Kefir is an amazing probiotic, as it helps to regulate and balance intestinal flora, controlling the overgrowth of yeast. All of these friendly cultures also make kefir an excellent remedy for digestive issues of all kinds, and a great elixir for people overcoming serious illness, especially if they have been treated with antibiotics.

I make bone broths about twice a month. Whenever I cook any meat of any kind, I always keep the bones and store them in the freezer, until I am ready to make the broth. I place the bones, some spices and filtered water in my crock pot and let it simmer away anywhere from 24-48 hours. The result is a deeply colored broth, which I use to cook with. Chicken soup, prepared in this way, really is good for colds!

Anyone that is a facebook friend of mine knows that I am big on oregano oil. Oregano oil is anti-viral and anti-bacterial. It comes in small gelcaps or as a liquid. Any time at all that I am feeling rundown, my throat starts feeling weird, or if I have to travel or spend a lot of time in enclosed spaces with lots of other people, you can bet that I am popping oregano oil pills! When I use the oregano oil, I am able to stave off colds and viruses from flourishing.

The combination of rosemary, oregano and garlic is not just for the kitchen anymore. It is also a trio of cold-fighting herbs! Allicin is organosulfur compound obtained from garlic. It has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Wild Cherry bark syrup is great to have on hand for any throat and lung issues. This can be helpful with whooping cough, soothing after pneumonia and great for any kind of coughing. It sooths the throat and lungs. I always have a bottle of Honey Gardens Wild Cherry Bark Syrup on hand.  It is made here in Vermont and combines wild cherry bark, raw honey and several other immune boosting herbs.

Oxylent is the new Emergen-C. It comes in convenient one use packets, that you dump in a glass of water and drink up! Roberto doesn’t like to swallow pills, so he loves these packets, and we always take them with us if we have to travel.

Vitamin D is so important for overall health, and especially in the winter when we have less daylight and are spending more time indoors. It is an easy and very affordable supplement that we should all be taking everyday.

Remedies like herbs, homeopathics and supplements have become topics of extremely heated debate, in recent years. But I stand by them. I have used them on myself, my family, friends, seen them work in a professional environment on thousands of patients. I have used homeopathics on my own pets, and recommended them to others with pets – and again, amazing results.

Oh, and just for the record, animals can’t experience the placebo effect. Just ask Mini P.