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herbal tea

We all know that sitting back with a nice, hot cup of tea can be good for the soul. But made with the right ingredients, your ‘cuppa’ can also look after your health, providing an incredible array of benefits that will help protect your immune system and your general health.

Here are two easy-to-make drinks (they’re decoctions, but we’ll cheat a little and call them teas), made with herbs and other ingredients that we can all get our hands on, and which will provide a real boost to your immune system.

1. Healing Herbs:

Ingredients:
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, ¼ cup fresh sage leaves, ½ onion, 3 cloves of garlic, salt.

Benefits:
Thyme:  Packed with vit C and vit A, thyme is a wonderful immunity booster, as well as helping lower blood pressure, ease coughs, and boost our mood.

Sage:  Loaded with antioxidants, sage can help reduce blood sugar levels, lower bad LDL cholesterol levels, support oral health and brain health, and – thanks to its high levels of vit K – maintain bone health.

Onion: High in vit C and vit B, onions also contain potassium to help regulate cellular function, kidney function, and fluid levels.  They’re also loaded with antioxidants, contain cancer-fighting compounds, help control blood sugar, boost bone density and digestive health, and have strong anti-bacterial properties.

Garlic: Garlic is a acknowledged natural remedy to help combat colds and flu.  It’s also a great detoxifier, and can play a role in heart health, helping reduce blood pressure and lowering bad LDL cholesterol levels, as well as helping prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia thanks to its high level of antioxidants.

Recipe Instructions:
Add thyme, sage, onion, garlic cloves and salt to 2 cups of boiling water.

Leave to simmer for 20-25 minutes.

Cool prior to drinking.  (Note – this is not only a wonderfully healthy ‘tea’ to drink, it can also be gargled whilst still warm, to support throat health).

2. Cinnamon Spring

Ingredients:
Small piece of cinnamon stick (or 1/8th teaspoon ground cinnamon), 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger root, ½ lemon including zest, 1 teaspoon manuka honey (or other honey if you don’t have manuka to hand).

Benefits:
Cinnamon:  Rich in antioxidants and a potent anti-inflammatory, cinnamon can help reduce blood sugar and bad LDL cholesterol levels, has cancer fighting compounds, and protects against fungal infections.

Ginger: Ginger contains gingerol, which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  It also contains compounds which promote hearth health and it provides excellent support for the digestive tract.

Lemon:  A great immunity booster thanks to high levels of vit C, lemons also help prevent kidney stones, assist digestion and – because they improve the absorption of iron – can even help protect against anemia.

Manuka Honey:  Manuka Honey has incredible antibacterial and antioxidant properties (so much so, the US FDA has approved it as an option for treating wounds!).  It is also great for oral health, soothing sore throats, and helping fight inflammation, especially in the digestive tract.

Recipe Instructions:
Add the cinnamon and ginger to a pot containing 2 cups of water.  Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes, until approximately 1 cup is remaining.

Remove from heat, squeeze in the juice of ½ lemon (or more, if you like!) plus lemon zest, and strain through a sieve into a cup or mug.

Stir in teaspoon of honey and enjoy while hot.

herbal tea

Introduction:  We’re Living in a Toxic Soup and It’s Compromising Our Immune Systems

Let’s deal with the bad news first.  Unless we fancy moving our home to a cave on the top of a high and distant mountain, we can’t avoid exposure to toxic substances that threaten our immune systems.  Quite simply, they’re part of the fabric of our lives, not only in our food and drink, but in the very air that we breathe.

As citizens of the 21st century, synthetic toxins are inescapable.  Shockingly, it’s estimated that we’re exposed to up to 100,000 chemicals every day, of which only a small percentage have ever been tested for safety.  Everything we touch is ultra-processed; designed in a laboratory and manufactured on an industrial scale. A lot of our food is processed and full of synthetic ingredients, as are our clothes, our cosmetics and personal care products, our household cleaners, our garden sprays, our furnishings, our cooking implements, and even the water we drink.

Thank goodness then, that the human body is a remarkably resilient vessel, able to adapt, adjust and eliminate many of the chemical nasties it ingests.

But there are limits.  There’s only so much we can take on before our immune systems are compromised and we become sick.

Imagine, if you will, our body as a bucket, slowly filling with toxins.  So long as we can contain them, and stop the bucket from tipping over, then we have a chance of staying healthy.  It’s when the bucket fills up and the toxins begin to spill over the side, that we’ve got a problem.  Once a critical point is reached, beyond the ability of our bodies to deal with, sickness is never far away.

We need then, to stop the bucket tipping over.  We can’t avoid toxicity entirely, but we can limit our exposure, keeping the bucket upright, our immune systems healthy, and our wellbeing intact.  To do so, we need to think carefully about every aspect of our lives, adopting a holistic approach to our health and taking a series of small steps which, when put together, can help prevent toxic overload.

And right now, with many of us in lockdown for the foreseeable future, there’s no better place to start than in our homes…

Immunity Hub Blog

10 Ways to Help Make Your Home an Immunity Hub

Our home should be our haven.  It should be a place where we can get away from it all, relax, and look after ourselves.  It should be a healthy place, a secure place, a toxic-free zone.

It should be… but it isn’t.  Instead, without us even knowing it, we’ve turned our homes into toxic warehouses, chock full of the type of processed goods and synthetic chemicals we really should avoid.

Here are 10 simple steps we can all take now, or in the very near future, to detoxify our homes and protect our immune systems.

  1. Ensure your home is always well ventilated. This is particularly important right now, with so many of us inside for large portions of our day. Good ventilation helps to dissipate the build–up of harmful toxins like VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that are often found in objects like carpets and furnishings, beddings, interior paints, new plastics and electronics, varnishes, shampoos, insect repellants, etc.1
  2. Replace artificial air fresheners and scented candles with essential oils and fresh flowers. Air fresheners (and other chemical sprays) contain a host of chemicals like formaldehyde and p-dichlorobenzene, which are linked with weakened immune systems, diseases like cancer, and conditions like lung damage, and asthma.2
    High quality essential oils on the other hand, can help protect our immune system. Lemon essential oil, for example, is not only a wonderful mood enhancer, it’s also a great immunity booster, with anti-microbial benefits that make it an effective hand sanitizer. Others, like peppermint, rosemary and eucalyptus, help relieve congestive disorders, whilst also calming emotions and raising energy levels.
  3. Toss out any chemical cleaning and laundry products and replace them with natural alternatives like baking soda, lemon, vinegar and/or products made with organic or wholly natural ingredients.
  4. Use toxin-reducing houseplants to absorb potentially harmful gases and help clean the air inside your home.
  5. Use cast iron or stainless-steel pans for your cooking and throw away your non-stick pans, which are coated in fluoropolymers manufactured from PFOA, a chemical associated with compromised immune systems, tumors and developmental problems in animals and – potentially – in humans 3
  6. Reduce exposure to pesticides by: a) establishing a no-shoes policy in your home (pesticides are often picked up outside when we walk); b) buying fresh, organic produce when you can, and: c) avoiding the use of chemical-based pest-control products in your home.
  7. Install an effective water filtration system in your home, such as a reverse osmosis filter or an under counter multi-stage filter. Water we get straight from the tap can contain VOCs like pesticides, heavy metals, and endocrine disruptors (EDCs).
  8. Reduce exposure to PBDEs (chemical compounds used as a flame retardant and associated with brain and reproductive damage) by choosing wool or cotton fill over polyester and foam products when it comes to purchasing mattresses or furnishings.4
  9. Spring-Clean your kitchen cupboard. This is a whole article in itself (and one is coming!), but the foods we eat at home can have a real impact on our immune system, for better or worse. If you possibly can, try to avoid high quantities of sugar, processed foods, soft drinks, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, and tobacco. Instead, look to stock your kitchen with plenty of nuts, seeds, fruit, green vegetables, lean meats and herbal teas.
  10. Re-set your mind, when it comes to household chores. Our immune systems are compromised when we’re stressed and not sleeping well. It’s important therefore, that we approach lockdown, and all those chores that need doing around the home, with a positive mindset. Did you know, for example, that washing the dishes can be good for us? In a 2014 study, researchers at Florida State University separated 51 students into 2 groups and asked them to wash dishes. Fascinatingly, the group asked to read a mindfulness passage prior to the task – which required them to relax and simply be with the various sensations that accompany washing dishes – felt 25% more inspired and 27% less nervous than the group who approached the task as a chore.

 

And what applies to washing the dishes, can – of course – apply to any work we do around the house, from gardening, to vacuuming, to hanging out the washing. In the end, our experience of home-life is what we make of it. With some small, mindful adjustments to the way we approach activities that are part and parcel of our daily lives (yes, even washing the dishes!), we can turn our homes into truly restorative, healthy places. Our little hubs of immunity, if you will.

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1  ‘Volatile Organic Compounds: The Health Dangers of VOCs, Where They Are Hiding & How to Avoid Them; SixWise.com; http://www.sixwise.com/newsletters/05/12/14/volatile-organic-compounds-the-health-dangers-of-vocs-where-they-are-hiding–amp-how-to-avoid-the.htm

2  Sarah C. Corriher; ‘How Air Fresheners are Killing You; The Health Wyze Report; http://healthwyze.org/reports/184-how-air-fresheners-are-killing-you

3  ‘How Chemical Defense Attorney Blew the Lid Off PFOA and Teflon Dangers’; Mercloa.com; http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/01/27/pfoa-teflon-cookware-dangers.aspx

4  ‘The Danger of PBDEs’; Environmental News Network; http://www.enn.com/top_stories/article/28141

The art of doing

We all want to be happy and successful, right?  Well, yeah… obviously. Trouble is, ‘stuff’ gets in the way. All too often, it’s the little things that take up our time and attention.  They pile up, distract us, and before you know it we’re up to our necks in ‘overwhelm’, with no clue how to dig ourselves out.

Question is, when this kind of *#%! happens, how do we get back on track? There’s no easy answer (it does us no good to pretend there is), BUT… it can be done!

If you ever find yourself in ‘overwhelm’ and need to get on top of things, then we’ve got 10 proven tips to help you. Here’s tips 1-9:
1. Embrace the Hard Stuff:  Okay, you’re going to hate this, but ALWAYS tackle that thing (and there’s always that thing) you really don’t want to do first! Simply by getting your teeth into it, even if it’s something you can’t complete in one go, you’ll not only conquer your fears, but everything else on your plate will suddenly seem a whole lot more manageable!

2. Remove Distractions: Distractions are… aww, you’re such a cute doggie! Hold on! Wait! What???… Distractions are everywhere, and the quality of our work always suffers when we’re side-tracked. And that happens a lot, right? Because, distractions. Facebook, Instagram, texts, emails, YouTube, Twitter, the dog pulling itself like a slug across the carpet… honestly, you’re just the cutest… Hey! Focus! Put those pesky distractions aside. Get on with what you need to do.

3. Don’t Overlook the Small Stuff: Putting out the rubbish, clearing the dishwasher, cutting your toenails… those little tasks, huh? We think we can put them off forever until – ‘Wham!’ – they’re on top of us and we don’t know where to start. Don’t let this happen. Take a deep breath, look around, use the next 5 minutes to sweat the small stuff – Go!

4. Set Aside Time for Work: So obvious, but oh-so-hard, right? It’s amazing how the day can get away on us and our work gets put to one side. To overcome this, we should set aside a period of time – maybe 10 minutes, maybe 30 minutes, maybe even (gulp!) a whole hour – where we do nothing but work . Seriously. Nothing. But. Work.

5. You Don’t Need to Be a Perfetionist Perfectionist: This stops a lot of us. We’re so worried about doing something absolutely just-so that we end up doing nothing at all. Be prepared to forgive yourself (yep, we know it’s hard) if something doesn’t go exactly to plan. Better still, be proud of yourself for having given it a go.

6. Take Time Out: No matter what you’re working on, you can’t stick at it forever. It’s counter-productive. So, every once in a while, treat yourself to a break, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Meditate. Listen to some tunes. Read a book. Grab a cup of coffee. Breathe… Do whatever it takes to relax, if only for a moment. And then go back to your task. You’ll feel much better and you’ll be more focused.

7. Keep Yourself Motivated: Set yourself goals and make a timeframe in which to achieve them (like finishing this article before getting some lunch because, dude, sooo hungry right now). And reward yourself when you get something done. Alternatively – and serial procrastinators, listen up – you might look to punish yourself in some small way for not getting something done (No lunch??!! It’s too horrible to even contemplate…).

8. Make Yourself Accountable to Others: Be loud. Be proud. Let people know what you’re going to accomplish and the tasks for which you’re responsible. This not only puts your skin in the game, it shares accountability and motivates everyone.

9. Focus On the End Goal: It’s vital you have a big picture goal for yourself or your family (two weeks at a 5-star tropical resort, anyone?). Keep it in mind at all times and keep going for it, even when that niggly little distraction we call ‘life’ gets in the way.

And there you have it, tips 1-9 to help manage the subtle but oh-so-difficult art of actually getting things done. We’ll deal with Tip 10 in Part 2 of our article. Needless to say, it’s important.

The art of doing

In Part 1 of this article, we looked at 9 tips to help us stop procrastinating and get on top of what needs to be done.  Most of those tips dealt with our mind-set and how to approach tasks with greater purpose and energy.  In Part 2, we look at the final piece of the puzzle; an easily overlooked, but oh-so-important component in helping us organize our lives and get things done – the humble ‘To-Do’ list.

The ‘Efficiency Guru’ and author of the book, ‘Master Your Workday Now’1, Michael Linenberger, is pretty much the king of the ‘To Do’ list.  He thinks we can better manage our lives by creating a simple ‘Workday Mastery To Do List’ (yes, it’s a mouthful, and yes, it really does work!). Linenberger breaks his list into three ‘urgency zones’ – ‘Critical Now’, ‘Opportunity Now’, and ‘Over the Horizon’ tasks.

‘Critical Now’ tasks should be reserved for anything which needs doing, like, right freakin’ now! You should never have more than 5 ‘Critical Now’ tasks at any one time (after all, apart from stay-at-home or working mums, who the hell can handle more than 5 tasks at once?).  But you do need to list them and you do need to keep them in front of you, as getting on top of them will help you dial back your stress levels.  Not sure if a task should be on this list? Ask yourself this question – Will I be able to relax tonight knowing this task hasn’t been done?  If the answer is ‘No’, then add that task to your ‘Critical Now’ list.

‘Opportunity Now’ tasks aren’t due immediately, they’re more the kind of tasks you’d like to get to today if you could. But keep on top of them and keep reviewing them, because these kind of tasks have the habit of sneaking up on you and suddenly becoming urgent. If they do, they’re not ‘Opportunity Now’ tasks any longer, they need to be moved to your ‘Critical Now’ list. Oh, and another thing?  This list will quickly grow waaayy too large if you let it. To avoid this, make it a rule to never let ‘Opportunity Now’ tasks get above 20 in number.

‘Over the Horizon’ tasks are the kind of tasks we all love, the ones you can postpone until next week or even much longer. Mind you, that doesn’t mean you can forget about them!  You’ll still need to review this list from time-to-time, just to see if you can fit one of them into your schedule or whether they need moving into your ‘Opportunity Now’ list.

And… that’s it!  If you find yourself overwhelmed by the things you need to get done, it’s unlikely that any one thing will help you dig yourself out of the mire.  Instead, it’s a whole heap of little things, things to do with preparation and mind-set and the way we live our lives, which will help you slowly reclaim your center.

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1 Linenberger, Michael; ‘Master Your Workday Now’; New Academy Publishers 2010.