How to Not Get Sick

Resident hypochondriac Kate Barnett, who is not a doctor, steps in today. She strongly suggests seeing as many as possible if you’re sick. 

There’s a crucial moment at the onset of a cold — a few hours, a day, maybe — when decisive action can shorten the duration or sidestep a cold altogether. If you catch that first throat tickle, you’re golden. Here’s the game plan:

1.  Elderberry syrup, one spoonful 3x’s a day. My herbalist recommends Gaia, so that’s what I stick to. Elderberry syrup is antiviral, anti-inflammatory, probably magic, and tastes exactly how I imagine raspberry cordial does in Anne of Green Gables. Also it’s effective against bird flu.

2.  Oil of Oregano, one capsule morning and night. I also buy Gaia brand capsules, because the hard pills taste awful and hurt my stomach. As a result of oil of oregano and elderberry, I haven’t needed antibiotics in eight years. It reduces infection and supports the immune system, but can cause nausea if taken on an empty stomach.

3.  Raw garlic, a clove or two daily. Raw garlic has a laundry list of health benefits, but for our purposes, it’s an antibiotic and antibacterial. I slice up cloves thinly and make a little sandwich with two slices of green apple so it’s more palatable. You can also make salad dressing from three parts oil, one part vinegar, crushed garlic, a bit of mustard and honey. (Use Bragg’s apple cider vinegar and raw local honey if you want to up the anti on health benefits.)

4.  Sleep, as much as possible. Sleep deprivation compromises the immune system, and over time, it may also contribute to Alzheimer’s and Cancer. As far as colds go, I’m not saying you should give up a front row seat to watch live-streams in between naps at the first sign of a sneeze, but opting out of an after-party or two could save you from being the pariah with a hacking cough later in the week.

5.  Fluids and steam. Drinking enough water to stay hydrated can help thin mucous, making it easier to expectorate (aka hock a loogie). Also, the steam from herbal teas or a warm shower can help ease congestion and lift sinus headaches. If congestion’s the culprit, add thyme, rosemary and mint to a pot of hot water and cover with a towel. Slip your head under the towel and breath in the steam to loosen everything up.

So there you have it: my powerhouse pre-cold regimen. I’m probably also drinking water with chlorophyll or Emergen-C and making nettle-based tea for vitamins and minerals, adding thyme and osha to the brew as an expectorant, or elecampane, licorice root and mullein as a demulcent (which is like a cough drop). For scratchy throat relief, try mixing slippery elm root powder and raw local honey for a DIY throat lozenge. A spoonful of raw local honey is also a great cough syrup, too.

Stay healthy, my friends.

Image via Vogue Paris

  • This is great! There is also this great detox bath you can do, if you do get sick, that makes you feel l a lot better! Read about it here

  • lw

    excellent tips! I also chop some garlic and let it steep in herbal tea for a while, garlic tea.

    • Kate Barnett

      whoa. that sounds SO intense. what tea do you use as a base? do you like the taste?

      • dana_what

        I do this too! I just smash the clove so it splits open, steep it (just in water), then drink. Adding lemon and honey can help the flavor as well as bringing their own benefits, but I sip it plain (which my boyfriend thinks is borderline insane). And when I REALLY need that extra boost (as I have lately), I’ll eat the clove after. (And then pop a million breath mints.)

        • I tried the garlic, honey, lemon thing plus cayenne pepper and it immediately loosens congestion up and softens the, em, garlic punches.

          • Kate Barnett

            Yes! I made that with apple cider vinegar last time I had a chest cold. the only way i could get it down was to imagine it was a marinade.

          • Ohhh good call! I keep apple cider vinegar around for twice-a-month clarifying hair rinse after a good wash with baking soda… and in case of food poisoning. One time I had a reaaally bad salad – one big shot of ACV IMMEDIATELY cured my poor stomach.

          • dana_what

            “I am marinating myself. Soon, I shall be delicious…”

      • lw

        I usually use maybe chamomile or lemongrass, the garlic meshes with the flavor and becomes sort of ‘spicy’….with a little honey it is an interesting flavor, not too gross or intense–but I also just really love garlic!

  • Charlotte Fassler

    Dr. Kate always looking out for us. The power of raw garlic is pretty magical I must say

  • I’ve been drinking elderberry white tea but never knew the benefits of it.

    The Artistically Challenged: Beauty, Fashion, Music, Lifestyle Blog

  • Great tips; enjoy NYFW!!

  • andrealeighj

    I woke up sick this morning for the first time in 3 years!! (kill me). This is awesome and thank god for elderberry!

  • Great tips! Better be safe than sorry as the saying goes!

  • Love this post! I also drink hot water with manuka honey and lemon when I feel ill!

    • Kate Barnett

      oooh me too! usually with some chopped up ginger, too.

      • Ginger sooo good! I’ve started added it to morning smoothies and feel better all day long

  • this is amazing. thanks!

  • Janie B.

    Well, Kate, amazing job spreading the gospel. Don’t forget Marshamallow in the mix with the oregano oil, and if one is willing to eat animal products, don’t forget that the chicken broth is finally accepted as a real medicinal by those western docs. The zinc in the bones is the thing. Make it or find it fresh! Speaking of which, for you hard cores looking for the real Whole Foods, check out Oliver Weston company, which makes bone broths and yummy yummy soups and baked goods, in the “heritage way” and really really really keeps one on the healthy vibrant side. Delish! Sorry for the long post!

    • Kate Barnett

      jano! hadn’t heard of the oliver weston company, great to know there’s a good broth out there. i’ve been making broth by putting a whole chicken in a pressure cooker with some aromatics. only takes an hour and the flavor is SO rich. also great call with marshmallow root. good for the immune system and an amazing demulcent for sore throats/dry cough.