While generally our blog posts delve into all the ways you can hop out of relying on specific products to support a more low waste, conscious lifestyle, this blog post explains some of the wellness goods we selected for the shop and how you can use them this coming season.
Please note, this blog is intended for educational and entertainment purposes only. This information does not replace advice from your medical professional.
How we Select our Products
It can be so tough to find products to bring into our homes and lives that manage to do all of the things. Unless we have a very specific shopping space dedicated to providing goods sourced locally, package/plastic free, and with organic (or otherwise clean and natural) ingredients, it seems we have to pick the best two out of three until we can find something better. You can be sure that if we find a better option - whether it is closer to home, or has better packaging - we will upgrade our offerings. To select closer to home is to ensure a lower carbon footprint and the social support of investing in makers and experts within our own communities. To select better packaging (or no package options) is to ensure a lower waste impact. Finding something with a compostable package, is compostable itself, or with a refillable option that is reasonable for cost and longevity can be a trek. And finally, to consider ingredients takes this mission further than just being plastic free - it is to ensure that the ingredients are biodegradable, science-based, and with human health in mind. It can be mind-blowing to consider just how many things are allowed by industry and regulatory bodies to be placed in our goods that we use on our bodies and within our home environments. This whole space - Harlowe Green, this blog, this community - began with trying to figure it all out, eliminate all of the things, and find a better way.
So, when it comes to the fall and winter season, there are some things we offer in the shop to support the immune system and connect back to more natural health remedies in order to support our families and selves. We will jump in here on explaining some of these routines and why we choose what we have this season!
1. Elderberry Syrups
Even WebMD can provide some background information on this fall and winter essential! Elderberry syrup is a great option for taking throughout the cold and flu season as it is so high in nutrient value when it comes to our immune systems, and this is shown through a variety of studies. It is also antiviral, can reduce inflammation, and some studies have shown a variety of positive health impacts which include some antidepressant action - always a bonus in the darker winter months!
You're able to take elderberry throughout the season to provide a boost of antioxidants and vitamins to support your immunity, and/or during a cold or period of illness for increased support. Within our family, we take one dose a day (we stack that habit on with breakfast, but the boys are sure to remind me because the syrup is sweet and tasty) and increase it during an illness as you're able to take up to 3 and 4 doses a day.
Elderberry should not be consumed with certain medications, so be sure to follow up with your doctor.
2. Bee Propolis
Bee propolis has become a staple in our home during the cold and flu season over the last couple of years, especially for treating sore throats. Propolis is a resin that bees create from a variety of the flower that they visit, and functions within the hive to seal holes and cracks, smoothing construction and creation of the hive.
According to the National Institute of Health (American) within their review of the literature on bee propolis use for the body, "propolis and its extracts have numerous applications in treating various diseases due to its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antimycotic, antifungal, antiulcer, anticancer, and immunomodulatory properties." While there are further studies being done (and are needed) to understand the full action of propolis within the immune system, our family uses this option as a way to soothe sore throats and cold symptoms.
With any bee product, some caution needs to be used when allergies are considered, but within our family, we use this option to spray onto sore throats to provide relief, especially at night time for our boys. This year is the first go round with the new propolis cough syrups by Beekeepers Naturals, but having already tested them through our first family illness, these helped in the same manner with my sore throat and in providing a boost for my immune system. The sprays can be used on children as there is a lower propolis concentrated option, but the cough syrups are currently offered for adults in a nighttime option with melatonin and a daytime option with added nutrients from Chaga.
3. Fire Cider
Fire cider is an intense tasting, fermented option for warding off illness during the colder months and providing a boost for the immune system. I had the pleasure of meeting Danielle from the Natural Tannery this past spring, and she attributed a winter free from illness to her daily use of fire cider. While it is something that can be made at home and allowed to ferment for a few weeks, we have ready to go fire cider in the shop from Honey Pie Hives and Herbals in Prince Edward County.
While there is no specific research on the tonic within prevention or suppression of illness, there is literature on the ingredients that make up fire cider in boosting health during the cold and flu season. Fire cider is a daily wellness ritual that involves taking a small amount and increasing it during periods of illness, similar to elderberry's use.
4. Raw Honey + Tea Blends
This year, we had the pleasure of planting some more purple cone flower, or echinacea, which is a native plant in Ontario. There is a lot of scientific literature based on the use of echinacea, especially for use for respiratory illness. While the full plant is actually beneficial for this purpose, including the root (but not the seed head), we dried leaves and flowers in order to make tea this season. This was a very simple, free, way to create a low waste remedy, and we could dry the plants by hanging them. If you're looking for a low waste option for enjoying this kind of tea, opt for loose leaf and avoid the bleaches and plastics you may also be ingesting with pre-bagged options or within certain types of capsules.
While there are lots of options in the shop for antioxidant heavy and vitamin dense teas, they can be very herbal to enjoy. Adding a slice of lemon or a dollop of honey to your tea pot can also benefit recovery from a common cold. We have raw honey sourced from a permaculture farm in Ontario for adding to our teas. According to Harvard Health, honey can not only soothe a sore throat, it can also address some symptoms of respiratory illnesses.
5. Air Quality is worse in the winter: Humidify + Purify
Within the winder, our air quality decreases as the flow of fresh air dwindles with closed windows and recycled air flowing around. This can be detrimental if that air is cycling illnesses around, and while things have improved with filters and air quality systems for many places during the pandemic, it can be something to look at in our own homes. Opening the windows on a balmier day can help decrease the toxic load in the air we are breathing continually. Cleaning up the items we use in our homes can be helpful as well, so that there is less to release - buying fewer new, cheap products (as all new products have an "off gassing period" - you know, the smells of big box stores or that intense wave you get when opening a new plastic shower curtain that is in a bag), decreasing aerosols, eliminating artificial fragrances, heavily scented candles, chemical based cleaners and bleach, and paying attention to what we are using on our stove (such as making a switch away from non-stick pans and certain types of oils) - all of these things lead to better air quality over time.
Something our family ended up investing in during this year's "wildfire season" (yes, I'm going to start adopting this term that I feel normalizes this whole terrible situation we are in, unfortunately), was an air purifier. We will end up using it throughout the winter season as well to help freshen our air for better health. We choose one that has a humidifier attachment for our bedroom as we generally humidify in the winter months as well, and especially during periods of illness. Air pollution is actually worsened during the winter, especially in cities, so humidifying can help improve things in our home.
If you're looking for a very low waste option for an air purifier, check out the Briiv!
6. Goldenrod + Comfy Salve
This salve is one of the longest standing key stones in our shop for the winter season for skincare. This utility salve, made by the WIllow's Bark, is an essential for dry skin on the hands, cracking knuckles, ruddy cheeks after a windy winter day, and lips that are chapped beyond what a regular lip balm can catch up with. We use this salve so much in our home that we have one in our vehicle, one in every bathroom, and one in our kitchen area catch-all. We use in on our children and have since they were toddlers in managing their sensitive skin with the cold winter air.
Read the literature complied here for comfry's powerful tissue regenerative qualities.
7. Eucalyptus Shower Steamers
While these shower steamers are a spa-like treat anytime of the year, they are especially beneficial during the cold season. The steamers that we offer are a proprietary blend that is not the same as a bath bomb, meaning the intensity builds and lasts throughout your shower, and they can be used for more than one shower. To do this (as you don't want to handle it once it's going with your hands, the peppermint oil doesn't feel good to get near your eyes accidentally!), place a steamer on a spaghetti sauce lid (or other small tray), and get it wet (we recommend taking it in when you get into the shower, as you don't want it in there doing its thing without you while you heat up the water if you need to let it run before hopping in). You can then move the tray out of the stream of water if you want to use the steamer more than one time, and we often do this in our home for the boys if they aren't feeling well. We use a full steamer in the shower during periods of colds, as eucalyptus oil has been shown to be an expectorant, meaning it can loosen phlegm during a respiratory illness. Both peppermint and eucalyptus oil are found in a number of cough and cold remedies and both are present in these steamers.
See this article for a collection of supported literature on eucalyptus oil by Mount Sinai.
8. Salt Inhalation
Now, this is a new one for me this year, and I have to thank Sarah, one of our past employees, for putting this on my radar. The ceramic salt inhalers we have in the shop are from Living Libations, and the purpose of these guys is to inhale essential oils that have been steeped on Himalayan rock salt within the ceramic body of the inhaler.
While this option is meant to be a general wellness support (think about breathing is salt air by the sea for longevity and overall wellness), it can be especially beneficial during the winter months. Breathing in salted air can thin mucus, allowing a cough to be more productive, and the added benefit of a peppermint or eucalyptus essential oil to the device can add those benefits as well. The actual term of this practice is called Halotherapy, and has been shown to have mucoactive (muscus loosening), antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, immunity-boosting and anti-allergenic action (see this article for more information).
Adaptogens are a cornerstone in a number of our mushroom-based options in the wellness aspect of our shop as well. While there is a lot to be said about the magic of mushrooms and their role in natural health, the key piece to mention here is their strength in assisting the body to recover from a viral or bacterial illness. Adaptogens improve cellular energy production, which can assist the immune system in rebuilding for recovery. We have a number of adaptogen based teas, powders for smoothies (a key food option for our family during cold season, especially when an illness knocks out the appetite for ourselves or our boys), and within the Beekeeper's Naturals cough syrups.
Read more here about the role of adaptogens during this season.
10. Dry Brushing
Dry brushing is another item in this list that is beneficial at any time of year, but becomes extra special during the winter months. The practice is an ancient Ayurvedic routine that has a number of benefits, such as stimulating the lymphatic system, exfoliating the skin, increasing circulation, removing toxins from the body (via lymph action) and more. There isn't a lot of research on this topic, but the action has no risks and great benefits.
While it does feel pretty nice, the key action that is beneficial in the winter is the lymph movement to remove the toxins within the body during bouts of illness or in recovery. A dry brush is a simple habit that can be performed a few times a week, and habit stacked on before a shower or if you're in the need of a good connection to your body and moment of self care in the darker evenings.
To read more about why dry brushing is beneficial, and how to do it, read this article here.
Simpler Ways to Take Care during the Darker Season
As always, ensure you're heading to obtain medical advice during severe bouts of illness! There are so many ways to adopt a healthier lifestyle and many things we can always be doing to ensure we are living our best lives. But, hopefully some of these simpler, natural methods of addressing cold weather illnesses and issues can make for a fall and winter season better able to adapt to these aspects of our wellness. As most families know, illness is a big deal. Once the first family member sniffles, it is time to get out the big bowl on the counter of all the options for alleviating symptoms and building our immunity. Before, I only had a bottle of Tylenol or a packet of cold medicine to start with, but now we have a lot of natural, helpful ways to address this time of year. Our family has also purchased some bones from a local organic farmer to try making our own bone broth, so we will be sure to update this post when we know how that goes!
Let us know if we missed anything, share this post with a friend, or let us know in the comments what you think!
We love to chat about our offerings, so please don't hesitate to ask or pop in to learn more!
Eucalyptus and Supporting Research. Mount Sinai, 2023. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/eucalyptus
Got a cold? Try some Honey. Harvard Health, 2020. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/got-a-cold-try-some-honey
Gray, A. What you need to know about Off-Gassing. Architectural Digest, 2020. https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/what-is-off-gassing
Health Benefits of Elderberry Syrup. WebMD, medically reviewed 2022. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-elderberry-syrup
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Echinacea, 2023. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/echinacea
Staiger, C. Comfrey: A Clinical Overview. Phytother Res. 2012 Oct; 26(10): 1441–1448. National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3491633/
Visweswara Rao Pasupuleti et al. Honey, Propolis, and Royal Jelly: A Comprehensive Review of Their Biological Actions and Health Benefits. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017; 2017: 1259510. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5549483/#:~:text=Propolis%20and%20its%20extracts%20have,%2C%20anticancer%2C%20and%20immunomodulatory%20properties.
What is Halotherapy? WebMD, medically reviewed November 2021. https://www.webmd.com/balance/what-is-halotherapy