Mental Health / Soul Stories

Winter Health Tips from Melinda McDougall

by Melinda McDougall

Feel good this winter – protect your health with some simple strategies

It’s been heartening over these last few months to see so many people, in light of the pandemic, taking care of themselves in ways they never have before. Making a deep dive into the root causes of why they may be out of balance and instigating a change for the better. Our health is the most important cornerstone of our lives – without it we can do little to fulfil our ambitious life plans. While the last few months have been stressful for many, for others it has been the chance to finally pay attention to their diet, get some exercise, rebuild their sleep patterns and start to feel good again.

Who knows what this coming winter will be bring, but my advice is to start preparing now. If there’s a health condition that you’ve been ignoring, bring it out of the shadows and get some support to address it. It may not be as scary as you think…

My approach to health is always a holistic one, seeing the body as one organism of intertwined systems that all impact on each-other and should ideally operate in harmony. Stress and disrupted sleep have a huge impact on our immune system – this a great place to start when addressing any health concern. Exercise, meditation and laughter with friends are all great medicine that help release the pressure and restore calm. Below are a few simple tips that might help you prepare for the darker months ahead.

Sleep: My go-to herbs are Valerian, Passionflower and a wonderful calming herb called Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora). Valerian is easiest taken as a liquid extract or capsule while Passionflower and Skullcap make a lovely tea. Consume an hour before bed and stay away from the blue lights of your screens – read a book instead.

Stress: Adaptogens are a class of herbs that help protect our bodies from the effects of stress. Ashwaganda is an Ayurvedic herb famed for its ability to soothe the nervous system, improve strength and stamina and support the immune system. Take under supervision if you have a thyroid condition. Rhodiola is another effective herb in this category – it improves physical and mental performance and acts as a general tonic. Both can be taken in capsule form. Most importantly, address the causes of stress in your life, get counselling support if you’d like a fresh perspective.

Immune support: Echinacea tincture can be taken long-term as a preventative measure to support a healthy immune system. It is often the first thing I reach for if I feel the first tickle of infection. Elderberry syrup is a useful anti-viral remedy for the whole family. Lab research has shown that the tiny dark berries of the Elder tree inhibit the flu virus’s entry and replication in human cells. Another option is to keep yourself warm and support your immune system by making your own batch of Fire Cider.

Symptomatic treatment: Teas of Yarrow and Elderflower have traditionally been used to manage the symptoms of flu. Fever is the body’s healthy response to infection and ideally should be encouraged along with plenty of fluids and bed rest. Consult a doctor if your temperature rises higher than 39.5 degrees C. Gargling Sage tea with honey is wonderful for a sore throat while Thyme is a potent anti-microbial that can be of use in chest infections.

Diet, exercise and sunshine: It’s recommended that we all take Vitamin D throughout the winter but don’t forget the value of spending time outdoors. Make the most of your green spaces and boost your mental health by spending time in nature. Eat plenty of vegetables, warming home-made soups and take Vitamin C and Zinc to support your immune system.

Always consult a Medical Herbalist if you have a pre-existing health condition or are taking any prescribed medication. For herbal supplies, visit Baldwins. If you suspect your symptoms are related to coronavirus, visit the NHS website.

Melinda McDougall is part of the Soulhub Team, and a Medical Herbalist. To find out more about Melinda and how to get in touch with her, head here

Tips all shared in person by Mel and Sue Camp at the Soulhub Autumn Festival on IGTV.

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If you have concerns with food, then our Soulhub Team are on hand to support, or Overeaters Anonymous, are a recovery programme for eating issues/disorders.

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