That’s what my friends keep telling me when I report that I spent half of my two-week vacation in Hawaii battling the flu.
I beg to differ.
Sure, I was glad that I wasn’t forced to attend meetings or spend hours working at the computer while my ears throbbed with pain and I hacked up green chunks.
But being away from home while sick is never pleasant – even when you’re in paradise.
Mistake Number One – Ignoring The Symptoms
Looking back I can see how I ignored those first tiny symptoms. I was in relaxation mode, more concerned with finding a decent internet connection so I could check my email and post on my blog than with my respiratory health.
So when I woke one morning with a bit of a stuffy nose I didn’t immediately reach for my echinacea or an extra glass of water. I felt pretty normal despite the torrential rains. I packed a little bag and hopped in the back seat of my friend’s car for an excursion to the famed waterfalls near Hilo.
Soon we were standing before the majestic immensity of Rainbow Falls as it thundered through the downpour, attempting to snap photos without destroying our cameras in the moisture. Walking back down the trail I gave a little cough, and then a sneeze. My friend Debi turned to me with a worried frown.
“Do you have a cold?”
“Oh no.” I assured her. “I feel fine.”
But a finger of doubt crept into my psyche. Debi had been sick when we arrived several days ago. Was it possible I was catching cold? Crap! Why hadn’t I brought my echinacea with me on this excursion? My travel first aid kit rested safely on the bathroom counter back at the house – no use to me until later tonight when we would return.
I brushed the thought away and we continued with our soggy sightseeing.
By late afternoon we’d had it with attempting to open umbrellas before even exiting the car. The timing seemed perfect for a session at the bar – or in this case an early dinner and some of those famous Hawaii Mai Tais.
Turns out Mai Tais may not be the best therapy for an incipient flu.
Next morning I awoke to tight and achey shoulders, scratchy throat, runny nose – classic cold symptoms. But since this was an exotic Hawaii bug, it was a slightly different symptom pattern than I experience at home.
I begged off the trip around to the sunny side of the island and spent the day doing basically nothing.
I’ve always maintained that rest is the great healer, and I felt sure that along with regular doses of my tincture and lots of Vitamin C I’d have this thing licked by the next day.
And I did – for a few hours. By late afternoon my chest felt squeezed in a vise, throat raw and sore, and my ears throbbed on and off. My relapse can perhaps be blamed on an ill-fated decision to brave the rough ocean waves – but it may just be that the illness was progressing on its own time.
Sick in paradise – no fun! I doubled my dose of Immune Boost echinacea tincture and attempted to find some solitude for napping.
But it was hard. I was on vacation. I didn’t want to miss out on any of the fun.
Mistake Number Two – Prioritizing Fun Over Healing
And so it went for the next few days. Feel a little better. Run around and do too much. Feel worse. Go to bed.
Except the do too much part was far more dominant. I mean, we didn’t have that much time there, I wanted to experience Hawaii.
We traveled back to Hilo on a sunny afternoon and grilled fresh ahi on the outdoor barbecues at a beach park, visited some locals, and toasted a traditional blessing at a Kava Bar.
Then I allowed my daughter to talk me into driving 2 ½ hours to the other side of the island to a sunny beach with easy swimming.
I woke the following morning – just two days before our planned departure – with my symptoms pounding me worse than ever. I felt like I’d been flattened by a mac truck.
My chest prickled like it was being poked with needles. My ears ached, and when I coughed it hurt – but nothing was coming up. The thing was stuck down deep. I wondered if a secondary lung infection was trying to settle in.
I’ve got to get my hands on some stronger herbs, I thought. Oh how I longed to be home with my personal supply.
Luckily I was just 15 minutes from the nearest health food store – and not in some developing country. Stronger herbal remedies WERE accessible. I’d just have to bust out my wallet.
Choosing The Remedies
A few hours later, feeling sleepy and fuzzy-headed I faced a shelf of various remedies. How could I possibly decide what to get?
I knew I needed some essential oils for a steam. Whether it’s sinus or lungs, I’ve found that nothing moves a stuck respiratory ailment more effectively than a good antimicrobial steam. At home I have an assortment of oils I use for this, including eucalyptus, thyme, ravensara, pine, and rosemary.
I definitely couldn’t afford to buy that many oils. I scanned the rows of oils. And one caught my eye.
Aura Cacia “Medieval Mix” featuring rosemary and thyme. Well, the rosemary and thyme sounded promising. But why is it Medieval Mix? I squinted at the list of ingredients and wished for my glasses. I took a whiff and the medicinal scent reminded me of my home steams. This should work.
It didn’t dawn on me until I had my brain back that “Medieval Mix” referred to the middle ages, when people would strew herbs on their floors and carry them in amulets to prevent diseases. (This is back in the days when baths and showers were considered to be a health hazard.)
Medieval Mix is a blend of essential oils of sweet orange, lavender, lemon, tea tree, eucalyptus, red thyme white thyme, and rosemary. It turned out to be an excellent choice for my steaming needs.
Okay – so now I needed a tincture or supplement to attack this lingering (or secondary) infection. I didn’t know if I was dealing with something viral or bacterial, but I had a feeling it was both. It was time for the big guns.
The yellow labels of my favorite tincture company, Herb Pharm, caught my attention – although they were scattered about throughout the shelves, and not lined up in one spot. Here with the urinary tract herbs was Usnea – and over there in another section I spotted Lomatium.
I remembered one of my favorite herbalists, Christa Sinadinos, recommending a combination of usnea and lomatium for entrenched secondary infections – combined with echinacea of course, of which I hardly had any left, but oh well.
I reached for the two tinctures (avoiding a look at the price tag – my system was already shocked enough), threw a bag of Burt’s Bee’s Honey Lemon Eucalyptus lozenges in the basket and headed to the cash register.
Beating The Bug
1) Steams – 3 times per day.
I added about 6 drops of Medieval Mix essential oil blend and 4 drops eucalyptus oil to a pot of boiling water. (Read full instructions for steaming with essential oils here.)
2) Tincture Dose – every 3 hours.
Both lomatium and usnea are strong herbs and small, frequent doses are recommended. I added about half a dropperful of each to a shot glass of water, along with a dropperful of my echinacea tincture.
3) Vitamin C powder – ¼ teaspoon in a glass of water about every two hours.
I’m the type of person that always has a water bottle or glass that I’m sipping on. I just added the VC powder to each glass. Emergen-C packets also work well for this – maybe half a packet per glass of water for that continual dose.
4) Tea and lozenges.
These probably didn’t go too far in knocking out the infection but they were wonderful for soothing the symptoms. In addition to the Burt’s Bees lozenges, I mentholated my lungs with Olbas Lozenges, and drank cup after cup of Traditional Medicinals Lemon Echinacea Throat Coat Tea.
I stopped getting on my own case about getting up early and making the most of the day, and allowed myself a nap when my body was calling for it.
It’s never fun to catch a bug while on holiday – and I usually find that a few doses of Immune Boost or a similar echinacea blend is sufficient to knock out anything that tries to get me.
This experience showed me that it’s worth it to add a few stronger remedies to my travel health kit.
Next time I’ll be tossing in that Medieval Mix oil blend, and a small bottle with the usnea and lomatium combined. It never hurts to be prepared!
How about you? Have you ever gotten a nasty flu while traveling? Did you discover some good natural remedies to get you back to good health quickly?