Winter Wellness Guide
Spruce up your shower.
After I'm done washing, I turn off the water and put seven to 10 drops of black spruce oil on my hands. Black spruce oil is anti-bacterial and anti-infectious, and it supports the adrenal glands, which suffer when we get tired from the winter weather and lack of light. I spread the oil all over my skin from head to toe--except the mucous membranes. I always make sure to rub the oil on my abdomen, since there's a lot of lymphatic tissue in that area. Then I do 30 seconds of deep breathing and rinse off with cool water. When people follow this regimen every morning in the winter, it's extremely rare that they get sick in any way. [Find black spruce oil at aroma-pure.com.]
--Suzanne Catty, phytotherapist and author of Hydrosols
Say, "Good day, sunshine!"
One of my favorite winter practices is my "start the day with sunshine" ritual. I have a set of flatware with yellow handles, and some bright sunshine-yellow bowls, plates, cups and a matching teapot. I make a pot of warming ginger tea and have a steaming cup with my yellow bowl of cereal and bananas. Since I rise when it's still dark, I eat by candlelight. And I play music with a sunshine theme, like "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles. The feel is similar to that at the time of the winter solstice: bringing light from the darkness, and warmth and positive energy as well.
--Sydney Metrick, expressive therapist and co-author of The Art of Ritual
If you live in a climate that gets very gray in winter, without a lot of sunlight, create a feeling of sunlight in what you wear. The first piece of clothing you reach for in the morning--whether it's a cozy fleece robe or your running gear--should be in a vibrant color like orange. It will embrace you in warmth and raise your energy level.
--Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute and author of The Color Answer Book
Keep your sinuses clear.
This is an especially challenging time of the year for the mucous membranes because of cold outdoor temperatures, indoor air pollution (heaters are on and windows closed, trapping pollutants), and dryness caused by forced hot-air heating systems. Mucous membranes thrive and maintain a strong defense against viruses when the air is clean, moist, warm (65 to 85 degrees), oxygen-rich, and filled with negative ions. We breathe on average 23,000 times a day, and if the air we're breathing is particulate-laden and dry, the act of breathing itself creates chronic irritation to the mucous membranes and makes us more susceptible to viruses.
Use a botanical saline nasal spray, such as Sinus Survival Spray, which contains saline, aloe vera, goldenseal extract, and grapefruit seed extract. It keeps mucous membranes moist, washes out inhaled particles, and has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Use the spray every two to three hours throughout the day, especially in heavily polluted and dry conditions. [Find it at sinussurvival.com.]
I also recommend medicinal eucalyptus oil, which you can inhale from a tissue held over your nose or through a steam inhaler.
--Robert Ivker, D.O., Natural Health advisor and past president of the American Board of Holistic Medicine