By Peter Schaller
I’m not sure exactly when flu shots came into fashion, but I certainly did not have them growing up in the 70’s and 80’s.
I won’t get too far into the debate about flu shots, though I have done enough reading on both sides of the issue to be distrustful of the insistence of the government and the pharmaceutical industry that people willingly inject themselves with viral material in order to stay well. Let’s not forget that the sale of flu shots generate hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. Flu shots may be appropriate for some vulnerable groups, but there is substantial research indicating that they may be ineffective for most people and can even cause more severe symptoms.
There are much healthier and inexpensive ways to avoid common colds and flus, even when we are surrounded by coughing, wheezing and sneezing. Everyone is familiar with Hippocrates’ famous words “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” but that can be more and more difficult to practice in our world of processed foods and relentless pharmaceutical marketing.
I have developed a few habits over the years that have been amazingly effective for keeping me free from illness.
Staying healthy throughout the year is really a matter of putting the right foods in our bodies to strengthen the immune system, rather than trying to shock it into action or bypassing it all together with drugs.
For several years now, the first thing I do every morning is to drink at least two glasses of warm water with the juice from at least two lemons. It’s important to drink it on an empty stomach, to get the full benefits. It’s a great way to flush your organs to start the day and also provides a strong dose of vitamin C, which directly strengthens the immune system.
With both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, lemon juice is efficient for fighting respiratory infections. Lemons are also rich in calcium, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium, which are essential micronutrients. As if that weren’t enough, it also helps to increase metabolism and improve digestive health.
If I happen to feel that illness is lurking in the shadows, I usually step up the pace and prepare my cure-all concoction, by adding ginger, turmeric and honey to the lemon juice brew. It’s preferable to use fresh ginger and turmeric roots, if they are available, but powdered will do. I usually prepare enough to last the day, so my basic recipe is two liters of water, the juice of four lemons, and roughly two inch pieces (or two tablespoons) of ginger and turmeric.
I boil one liter or water and then add the ginger and turmeric roots, cut into thin slices, or the powder, which is then steeped for 15 to 20 minutes. Two tablespoons of honey can be added to the hot water, so it will dissolve easily. The lemon juice can be added when it starts to cool down, so as not to decrease the potency of the vitamin C.
Ginger and turmeric are in the same family (zingiberaceae) and have astounding properties for boosting the immune system and fending off illness.
To name a few, ginger is an anti-inflammatory, it can curb nausea by stimulating digestion and also has antifungal and antimicrobial properties for staving off infections. In addition to adding a tasty zing to the tea, ginger provides a tremendous boost to the body, particularly the immune system.
Turmeric has been used a spice and medicinal herb for thousands of years in the India. Its properties are similar to ginger. It is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, protecting the body from the free radicals that can cause illness. The main active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, provides double protection against free radicals. It blocks them directly and also stimulates the body’s own antioxidant defenses.
Turmeric also has a slow, earthy taste that makes this brew extraordinarily pleasing to the palate.
Adding a bit of honey helps to round out the flavor, but good quality honey is also rich in antioxidants, always useful for providing a little extra protection against those malicious free radicals. In addition to keeping common illnesses at bay, those same antioxidants in honey can also help to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and triglycerides.
Although everyone’s body has different needs, the medicinal properties of lemons, ginger, turmeric and honey are indisputable.
These remedies may or may not work for everyone, but I can vouch for the fact that they have kept me free from colds and flu for many years. However, they should also be accompanied by other critical habits that will promote good health, such as drinking plenty of water, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, getting plenty of exercise and the appropriate amount of sleep and rest.
Taking care of the body is a critical aspect of any religious or spiritual discipline.
The better we feel physically, the easier it will be to focus on the things that really matter. Who can focus on compassion with a headache and a hacking cough? Unfortunately, we have created a culture that is addicted to processed foods, pills, shots and stress. None of those do the body any good when illness tries to invade.
Good health is about making responsible decisions every day and not waiting until our bodies are under siege.
Editor: Dana Gornall