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A Caregivers Guide for Short Term Illness

Who am I? I am Helen Ward, a local herbalist from Three Springs Farm of Vermont, Waitsfield, VT and the Educational Director of Rosemary Gladstar’s The Science & Art of Herbalism Online and Herbal Home Study Course for over 10 years.

A Caregivers Guide for Short Term Illness

Having recently survived a few weeks caring for my loved ones when the flu hit our home, I realize that there is so much information about how we, as caregivers, care for others. What do we do for ourselves in these times of acute intense illness to support our own immune systems, nourish our emotional, physical and spiritual selves?

I think of the airlines and the concept of the oxygen mask theory. If you do not care for yourself, you will not be able to care for others. As healers, herbalists, naturopaths, doctors and more ~ we care for others and often will be less than great at self-care! This is an important time to step in for YOU!

Here are a few things that I found to be incredibly helpful.

Boost Your Immune System ~

Tips to care for your Physical Self!

  • Stay well hydrated and rested ~ your patient(s) will be exhausted and sleeping a great amount. If possible, rest when they do and got to bed early! (Consider measuring out your water each morning for everyone – on average approximately eight 8 ounce glasses per day – dehydration is a huge concern for those with the flu and as a caregiver, you will boost your energy with good hydration)

  • Elderberry – gentle immune booster! And YUMMY!

  • Echinacea - antiviral, antimicrobial, and antibacterial properties and can help fight infection and boost immunity! Echinacea is best when taken for 3-4 days and then give your system a break for a few days, then repeat cycle as needed.

  • Fire Cider - Apple Cider Vinegar infused with Garlic, Onion, Horseradish, Ginger and Cayenne peppers. There are many different versions; I love adding Elderberry to mine. The ACV alkalizes our system to help not only boost our immune, but will help ward off infections of all kinds.

  • Increase Vitamin C, incorporate Elderberry daily to boost immune system and other great herbs like Medicinal Mushrooms and Astragalus. How do I take these daily? Every three days I use an 8-ounce mason jar with a lid. I fill it half to ¾ way with Elderberry Syrup, then measure out my medicinal herbal powders – a mushroom blend (see below in resources), Spirulina and Nettle powder with a really great shake! Each day I take 1/3 of the jar (sometimes needing to add a bit more syrup or water). This boosts my energy and immune! This is not for everyone, however, for me it is quick, simple and easy during busy times. (Dosages depend on the specific blend.)

  • Decrease Stress – Stress uses extra energy and depletes our immune system! Make a calming tea blend, use Rescue Remedy and GET OUTSIDE! Even if it is stepping out to have a few breaths of fresh air.

  • Wash your hands often.

  • Keep hands away from the face (eyes, nose, mouth) as much as you are able.

  • Diet – much like those you are caring for, a simple diet is best. Avoid all processed foods and sugars. Increase simple bone broths (I love making large batches of bone broth infused with Deb Soule’s Immune Broth). I also LOVE Green Goddess Dressing with added Spirulina to boost my greens intake. (see recipe below)

  • If possible, have your own bedroom and bathroom. A space where you will feel “germ free”. I know this is tricky and not for everyone. I also would like to honor that human touch is in itself MEDICINE! I know for myself, getting a good night sleep is a must to keep me healthy.

Caring for our emotional,

physical and spiritual health!

I find this AS IMPORTANT as nourishing your immune system.

  • Getting outside – this will have a profound effect on your mental health! Hug a tree, go for a walk/snowshoe, do a few outside chores. Whatever it is ~ get some fresh air!

  • Burning incense or plant bundles using your backyard weeds. The simple act of clearing unwanted energy! Making your own with plants like Mullein, Plantain, and Yarrow – all easy to grow and have incredible healing energy to clear out illness, negative energy and support everyone in the home. Salt is also used for clearing and cleansing unwanted energy. Some people sprinkle small amounts of salt over their shoulder or around the house.

  • Energy Healing ~ I find it is so important to learn simple tools of grounding and clearing ourselves and loved ones. There are many ways (Reiki, Healing Touch and more). Do you have a practice that you have learned to clear and ground yourself?

  • Meditation/Mindfulness/Practicing Presence/Counting our Blessings – sitting quietly with yourself.

  • Personal support team! Phone calls and other forms of communicating with your support team~ It is so important to build your circle! During my few weeks of caring for my loved ones, I spoke to my “people” many times ~ they helped guide me through arising health concerns and the plants which were speaking to us; we brainstormed new protocols and plans; they listened to me, heard me and supported me through a difficult time. I feel blessed for those in my life!

  • Have the grumpies? This will happen. For me it was around day 8! I had had it! My hands hurt from washing them so much, my stomach was screaming “NO MORE FIRE CIDER!” and I was grumpy! This is a great time to go quiet, take a walk and a bath. Maybe call a friend or family member for support? Lots of calming, heart herbs! Take the time you need! This is when I find little glasses handy! I measure out the herbs and leave them with a sweet reminder of when to take. I love putting tinctures in a yummy Elderberry Syrup – makes them go down easier! Then off you go for a little self-love!

  • Missing that human contact? It is wise to refrain from physical contact (hugging, kissing and more) if you are caring for someone with a short-term infectious illness. This may be challenging if caring for wee ones! If it is a partner whom is ill and you are caring for them, a simple foot rub will give you each that physical connection you may be longing for. As stated earlier, touch and human contact is powerful medicine and a simple foot rub may do wonders. Add some Rescue Remedy and some essential oils to the oil (Lavender, Chamomile, or Thieves)! Our hands and feet are great ways to take in the plants and this gentle rub will be beneficial for both the caregiver and the one being cared for!

These are a few of many ideas to help care for all of those caregivers. with love, light and many blessings,

Helen Ward

Content Resources:

(Please note, there are many fabulous herbs out there, these are just the ones I am currently using.)

➢ Helen Ward for Elderberry Tinctures and other herbal medicine!

➢ Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Home study Course:

➢ Healing Spirits Herb Farm Mushroom Blend:

Green Goddess / Sunflower Seed Dressing

I have fallen in love with this recipe! The fun thing is you can make as is or adapt. There are many different versions online, I am sorry to say I do not know who made this recipe to honor them.

4 cups roasted sunflower seeds

3 bunches of parsley, de-stemmed

1 ¾ Cup Lemon juice

1 Cup water

¾ Cup Tamari

2 tsp. salt

1 tablespoon Mustard powder

2 tablespoons Dill weed

4 cups oil (recently I started using all Flax oil)

Blend all ingredients, adding oil last in a slow stream. Add more water if necessary!

You could make this with different greens - Parsley, cilantro, and dandelion

Add a little flax oil for those Omega 3's.

Add a little ground herb (mushrooms or Hawthorne)

Add Nutritional Yeast or Spirulina!

Be creative! Then put this Green Goddess on everything you can!

In good health, Helen

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