We have made it through I don’t know how many years without major illness. The last time we got influenza, Littlest had a two week PICU stay. The last time he caught a major cold, he had a weeklong sick-ward stay (there are specific respiratory wings in the hospital where we only go if he’s sick because he’s SO at risk we are usually in the “clean” acute care wing).
Anyway. I chalk most of our wellness up to a few big things: Annual flu shots, isolation for Littlest (and me) from Nov/Dec (whenever the local CDC starts reporting ED cases of influenza like infections, or ILIs) to Feb/March (whenever the trend lowers and/or the sun comes out more consistently), and me avoiding all synthetic fragrances along with a vast majority of synthetically derived solvents in our home. (I still use bleach and Lysol wipes, because you can’t have an open airway without actually having to sterilize things at times.) I use essential oils in hydrogen peroxide or vinegar to clean, microfiber cloths to help me know I’m getting stuff clean (and since I don’t spend MLM prices on ANYthing, I don’t worry about throwing a microfiber cloth that costs 49¢ in boiling water, or throwing it away if it’s absolutely disgusting, which when you’re dealing with bowels, they often are), and I diffuse EOs in the living and kitchen areas at night when we’re all in our bedrooms with the doors closed.
Why not use EOs when we’re awake, you ask? Because we have respiratory issues that preclude things like lavender, and the most antiviral/antibacterial EOs are not safe for diffusion around children under age 12. (NAHA General Safety, Plant Therapy on EOs and Kids). I also have two dogs who are inside, and the vast majority of EOs are not safe for dogs (exception seems to be citrus).
What about other ways to apply EOs? Ingestion is a huge no because it causes burns in the mouth and esophagus, and neat (undiluted) application isn’t safe because of sensitization risk, as well as burns (click here for EO injury reports). I avoid applying EOs to my skin unless I have to (and with severe spine issues, I often have to!) because the risk of sensitization is always there, no matter how dilute. If I do apply topically, I dilute to 1-3% in a carrier oil, and that is max EO to carrier dilution, not hot-oil-in-other-essential-oil blending). But we’re also talking about the immune boosting specific oils, right? Those like cinnamon, clove, oregano, rosemary, eucalyptus, lemon…. or the blend that is named after the legendary thieves who were supposed to have anointed themselves with an herbal concoction that prevented them from contracting the Bubonic Plague when they were grave-robbing.
So what do I do when I want to help me or my kids boost our immune systems? I make a decoction (concentrate of an infusion) that I then mix with water and honey and drink like tea.
Infusions are essentially long-steep tea, usually using harder herbal substances like roots, peels, bark or nuts/berries, where teas are usually made with softer herbal substances like blossoms or leaves. Decoctions take an infusion and cook it down to a power and flavor-packed concentrate.
I take fresh lemons off my tree, some dried cinnamon bark, whole cloves, other herbals that I want to use (astragalus, ashwagandha, licorice root, etc.) and cook them over very low heat for a full day. Bonus is that my house smells AMAZING afterward. I’ll start off with a fairly small saucepan, and kind of pack the ingredients in, then just add water as the evaporation occurs. 1-2parts decoction to 2-3 parts water (depending on how strong you want it), and then honey to taste, and you’ve got a homey immune-boosting and soothing treat.
I made this little video to help explain my process, using astragalus Astragalus membranaceus specifically since it’s the best for immune issues, and some other forms are toxic, so it’s safe for anyone who isn’t pregnant. The only warning I have about astragalus apart from pregnancy contraindications is that it can cause someone with an auto-immune condition to have a flare, due to stimulating the immune system.
If you want to share the video, go here.
If you want to read the full interview of Robert Tisserand on Essential Oils and Safety, which I quoted in the video, go here.