Navigating Lyme once again has given me a wonderful opportunity to practice some good, old-fashioned self-care. (You can’t keep this Pollyanna down. Silver linings abound, I say.)
And whether you’re on a month-long course of antibiotics or just feeling a bit under-the-weather, the suggestions below will surely boost your health, energy, and general wellbeing.
But these tips don’t just serve us during a time of physical struggle. Many are helpful when your crisis is emotional or spiritual as well.
All herbal recipes mentioned below can be found at the bottom of the post. Won’t you join me by making some to nourish yourself or your dear ones?
(A few afflinks follow.)
1. Slow down
During times of physical, emotional, or spiritual stress the first step in self-care is to slow down.
This pause allows us time to turn inward and restore ourselves in whatever way feels best.
Since beginning my Lyme treatment, I’m putting slowing down first. I’m doing only what I need to do and giving myself a pass on the big projects that were on my plate for this week and next. That wallpaper stripping project and planting out a few more garden starts, and drying another two gallons of nettle and horsetail and catnip? They can wait. And saying “no” to things that pop up on my calendar while I really need to heal? I give myself permission to take a pass.
Instead, I am making space for smaller, more nourishing projects that are a balm for body or heart. Harvesting some catnip here, making a motherwort tincture there, and spending a little extra time with my knitting. It’s soul medicine.
More than just doing less, I’m also prioritizing sleep. A daily nap when my body begs for rest; going to bed earlier in the evening when my body asks for sleep once more. And while I am fortunate enough to never have to wake with an alarm, it feels that much more nourishing these days to sleep until I am rested. Make space however you can for better sleep.
2. Magnesium epsom soak
Soaking in a hot bath with 2 cups of epsom salts is a wonder for body and spirit. Some claim detoxifying properties of this simple soak. At the very least it dissolves muscle tension and deeply relaxes us to our very essence.
This is the kind that I buy, but honestly – epsom salts are epsom salts. Pro tip: If you pick yours up locally, be sure you’re getting unscented, as some are treated with synthetic fragrance oils, and that’s not going to help with anything.
3. Stay hydrated
Whether with good, fresh water, herbal teas, or other deeply nourishing drinks, stay hydrated. Your body and mind will function and feel better. Keep a water bottle on your nightstand, and sip soothing herbs like tulsi, lemon balm, and elderflower throughout the day.
If you are experiencing grief, rose flower infusions with lemon balm can be very soothing. For agitation or anxiety, see how your body responds to catnip and chamomile. Limit caffeine and other stimulants which can exacerbate stress during illness or periods of unrest.
4. Nourish with nettle
When I feel well and when I feel down, I make a habit of drinking a quart of nettle infusion per day. (My how-to/recipe is at the bottom of the post). Honestly, I can’t say enough about this deeply nourishing habit. Be sure to steep your nettle infusion overnight to extract the most goodness possible from your herbs.
I harvest and dry my own nettle, but if you don’t have a local source to forage, by all means purchase some.
Though often maligned, nettle is, perhaps, my very favorite herb. To know her is to love her, in my opinion.
5. Support your immune system
During times of physical or emotional stress, be sure to give your immune system some love. Elderberry is our family’s favorite immune supporting herb, and can be taken to prevent (ie: before) an illness, as well as during and after. Gummies (like those pictured above) are an easy way to enjoy them at any age, but a homemade tincture is even easier. (My tincture recipe is here.)
Another preventative we adore is astragalus, while echinacea is ideal during an acute sickness. Medicinal mushrooms like rishi and chaga, and the lichen usnea (old man’s beard) are also on our immune allies list.
Research these herbs to see if they are a match for you and your own family.
6. Herbal tonics
We make a habit of herbal tonics (or oxymels) over here. Oxymels are tasty medicine, made without alcohol by macerating herbs in vinegar and mixing with honey. Deeply nourishing, I find they are just what I need when my body feels taxed.
Customize your tonic to suit your family’s needs, your own herbal allies, or the plant medicine you can grow yourself or source locally. My recipe is below.
7. Liver support
Because I am taking antibiotics, I want to support my liver that it detoxing my body from all the Lyme die-off debris. My liver needs love! Yours probably does too, even if you’re not taking meds. Truly, our livers work hard and do such important work for our bodies. A little herbal support can go a long way toward overall health.
If you’ve never made a tincture before, this is a fine place to start. Made with just four herbs plus alcohol for extraction, it’s a cinch to put together. But plan ahead–tinctures need to steep for a minimum of 6 weeks, with 6 months being even better.
Make it now, so you’ll have it when you need it.
8. Probiotics supplements
My daughter asked me what “antibiotics” meant. I had her break the word down. “Anti-life?!” she asked, incredulous. Never fear! We’re adding plenty of probiotics to the mix as well.
Our integrated medical doctor strongly encourages us to take these probiotics while on doxy or other antibiotics. And so we do. They are insanely expensive, but the really seem to help. Ask for a probiotic recommendation at your local coop or natural foods store or from your holistic health care provider.
9. Feed your flora and soothe your gut
Find nourishment in satisfying, nutrient-dense, gut-soothing bone broth. Stir in a spoonful of miso for added nutrition and healthy bacteria. Homemade bone broth supports overall health, is easy to digest, and loaded with the nutrients your taxed system needs. For more gut-soothing, sip gentle herbal teas like licorice root, tulsi, and peppermint.
Gut flora take a beating when we take antibiotics and other prescriptions. And it takes a long time to recover what was lost. To feed your gut flora, homemade probiotic lacto-fermented vegetables are key. We eat them at every meal regardless of there being an acute healing opportunity at hand. And unlike the probiotics linked to above, they cost almost nothing to make. All you need is a cabbage and some salt to be on your way! (Here’s a recipe sharing how.) Currently I’m making a batch of gingered carrots and a cabbage-and-nettle kraut. I can’t wait to dig in on both batches!
Finally, find trust. Trust your body, your inner wisdom, your capacity for healing, and your path. Because therein lies the real magic of finding your center once more.
Nourishing Nettle Infusion
As I mentioned above, I drink this nearly every day. Putting together a batch each evening is my nightly ritual, and I’m always disappointed when I forget. My body craves this, and my daughter loves to drink it too.
Yield: 1 quart
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup dried nettle leaf
- 1/2 inch piece of ginger root, thinly sliced (optional)
- 3 tbsp dried peppermint (optional)
- 1 quart of water
- Place nettle, ginger, and peppermint in a clean quart-sized mason jar.
- Bring water to a boil, then add a small amount to the jar to gently warm the glass and prevent breakage. Loosely cover and allow the steam to warm the jar to the top.
- When the jar is warmed, fill with freshly boiled water and loosely cover again.
- Allow to steep for 6 to 12 hours. I normally infuse mine overnight.
- After steeping, pour infusion through a fine mesh strainer. Compost solids and enjoy your infusion cold or at room temperature.
Drink one quart (or more) of nettle infusion daily for adults and up to a pint for children.
Nettle infusion will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Discard if it becomes sour, or better yet use to water your garden or houseplants. (It’s their ideal food, too!)
Plants are eager to give up their minerals to vinegar, creating rich, nutrient-dense tonics for us to enjoy. We’ll make this tonic as an oxymel, or vinegar-and-honey extraction. Delicious and nourishing. The herbs used here are infinitely flexible. Anything mineral-rich will do!
Take daily as a mineral-rich tonic.
Yield: approximately 1 quart
- 3/4 cup grated fresh beets
- 2 cup wilted fresh nettle leaf, or 1 1/2 cups dried
- 1 cup dried raspberry leaf
- 1/2 cup dried oatstraw
- 2 tbsp dried horsetail (optional)
- Raw apple cider vinegar to cover
- Raw honey
- Place beets and herbs in a 1/2 gallon glass jar, or mix then divide between two quarts. Jars should be approximately 2/3 to 3/4 full.
- Fill jar with vinegar to the shoulders and gently stir.
- Cover with plastic lid or line metal lid with a piece of a plastic bag or waxed paper (as metal may corrode). Label jar with plant name and date.
- Place on a saucer in a dark cupboard for 3 to 4 weeks, shaking daily. (Add additional vinegar if needed to keep your plant material well submerged.)
- After 4 weeks strain your mixture by pouring through a fine mesh strainer. Squeeze or press with your hands to extract all the liquid that you can. Compost solids.
- Measure the volume of liquid extracted, and add 1/2 the amount of honey that you have vinegar extraction (1/2 cup of honey per cup of vinegar extraction). Stir gently to combine.
- Transfer your oxymel to a clean glass jar or bottle, lid and label. Store in the refrigerator for up to one year.
To use: Adults take 1 to 2 tbsp daily or as desired; children take 1 to 2 tsp. Stir into water, or–better yet–use as a salad dressing, drizzle on cooked greens, or try it as a simple sweet-and-sour soda syrup.
Liver Support Tincture
This tincture has become a standard in my home apothecary. You will notice it is made with 100 proof alcohol, not my usual 80 proof. (The irony of making a liver support formula with such potent booze is not lost on me.) This is because milk thistle is particularly difficult to extract and requires a stronger solvent.
Yield: ½ pint
Take daily to support healthy liver function.
- 1 tbsp (.3 oz.) milk thistle seed
- 2 tbsp (.07 oz.) nettle leaf
- 1 tbsp (.28 oz.) Dandelion root
- 1 tbsp (.20 oz.) yellow dock root
- Approximately ¾ cup 100 proof vodka to cover (do not substitute 80 proof alcohol unless omitting the milk thistle)
- Combine herbs in a half-pint jar.
- Pour alcohol over herbs, being sure to fully submerge all plants. (Don’t fret if some float to the surface.)
- Cover with plastic lid or line metal lid with a piece of a plastic bag or waxed paper (as metal may corrode). Label jar with plant tincture name and date.
- Shake daily for at least one week, then shake weekly (or as often as you think of it) for 6 weeks to 6 months.
- Strain tincture through a fine mesh sieve or through a piece of cheesecloth, carefully squeezing as much liquid as you can from the herbs.
- Transfer tincture to a clean glass jar or amber dropper bottles. Label and store in a cool dry place.
- Keeps indefinitely.
Dosage: Adults may take 1 dropperful, one to two times per day.
Contraindications: Milk thistle and yellow dock may affect the function of several prescriptions medications types, including some allergy medications, some antipsychotic and seizure medications, and Coumadin, as well as general anesthetics. If you take prescription medications, check with your doctor before taking milk thistle to ensure safety. Check with your midwife or doctor before using if you are pregnant or nursing.