Soothing tips for viruses


Covid is back again and it is a worse strain that some of its predecessors. The symptoms of Covid include a dry cough, sore throat, feeling achey and tired, and lacking energy. You can’t cure it, but as with flu and colds, you can soothe symptoms.

Coughing at night

Dilute a teaspoonful of honey (preferably Manuka honey) in a glass of  warm water and have it by the bedside in case you start hacking in the night. If  it starts as soon as you lie down it’s a good idea to prop yourself up on pillows, which means you might get at least some sleep.  I always like to massage Vicks Rub into the chest area before going to sleep. It contains eucalyptus oil, but for a completely natural remedy a few drops of Eucalyptus or Olbas oil in a carrier oil (almond, calendula, etc.) has the same effect.

Steaming for blocked nose

You can’t beat steaming either – morning and night and even in between, but especially before you go to sleep.  If you put a few drops of essential oil, such as Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, or Olbas oil (a combination of essential oils) into a bowl of steaming hot water so much the better.  Cover your head with a towel and breathe in the pungent vapours. But be careful – if they are too strong it can be quite overpowering so start with a couple of drops and add more if necessary

Gargling for sore throats

When I was a child we gargled with TCP which was horrible!  Now I prefer something more natural – if you’ve got Himalayan salt crystals put a pinch in a glass of warm water. Or if you’re prepared for another strong taste a couple of drops of Tea Tree Oil in warm water works well on a sore throat/cough.

Echinacea Throat Spray is fantastic for soothing the throat and can be kept by the bed for topping up at night.

Dr Jen Tan of A. Vogel, recommends plenty of hydration with hot drinks and water, but avoiding mucus-forming milk.  He also endorses lemon and honey which can be mixed together and sipped, and plenty of Vitamin C.

Sleep – where are you?

sleep problemsStress is the enemy of a good night’s sleep and there is plenty of it around at present. It’s such a vicious circle – you feel stressed, you can’t sleep, so you feel more stressed until you feel unwell.

According to Dr Irshaad Ebrahim, co-founder of The London Sleep Centre and neuropsychiatrist, ‘When our internal neuro-chemical systems are working normally, they regulate biological processes like sleep, appetite, mood and energy levels. If we are stressed, the Adreno-Cortical System is dysregulated and our energy sources are diverted, resulting in sleep disruption and mood changes.

‘Before we sleep it’s important to de-stress, reducing levels of cortisol, and replacing them with increased levels of melatonin, the hormone released in the brain that signals to the body it’s time to sleep.’

Tips for improving sleep

• Make sure your days as active as they can be – exercise every day, and try to get outside for some fresh air.
• Relax before going to bed – yoga and meditation really help and have become much more popular during lockdown. Alternatively, lie down for at least 10 minutes, listen to relaxing music and breathe deeply.
• Avoid watching stimulating or frightening films or television programmes just before bedtime, particularly in the bedroom.
• According to Performance and Purpose Coach Mark Whittle, ‘Turn off all ‘blue light’ (from laptops, tablets and phones) 90 minutes before bed. Blue light supresses the release of melatonin in our body, impacting our natural circadian rhythm and impacting quality of sleep.
• Coffee, tea or colas can disrupt your sleep due to the caffeine which stimulates the mind. Alcohol can lead to disturbed nights too.
• Herbal remedies might help  – any of these ingredients are helpful: Valerian, hops, Passiflora, lavender and Ashwaganda. Look for Rescue Peaceful Night Capsules (with Ashwagandha, Lemon Balm, Chamomile, Magnesium, Vitamin B6 and Rescue(R) Night Flower Essences, Rescue Dream Balm , A. Vogel’s Dormeasan, Kalms or Pukka’s Night Time. If you are on medication, check with a doctor, pharmacist or the manufacturer (of herbal medicines) before taking herbal remedies.
• Magnesium tablets taken in the evening help to relax the body and encourage us to sleep.
• Try using ear plugs if your partner snores.
• If light outside is a problem, you could change to darker curtains or blinds that block out the dawn or street lights.

Sleep well!


Keyboard hands

Attention all keyboard users. One day you might get stiff fingers because of osteoarthritis, and it’s pretty likely that it’s not helped by  overuse of keyboards. I am an example – I have been using typewriter/computer keyboards since I was 17 and still am, and that  was way before we had phones we took everywhere.

So have a look at these videos on YouTube:  Effective exercise for osteoarthritis in the hands; Arthritis hands; Boosting flexibility for hands; Keyboard hands

Osteoarthritis (usually called arthritis) creeps up on you as you get older and often finds its way into joints we have overused. So if you have run a home, cooked meals, done any gardening, in fact almost anything you are likely to overuse your hands. And think about the number of times you have to push buttons with your thumb to open them so the thumb often suffers more than others. 

How do you know you’re getting OA in the hands (the most common place to get it)? 

  1. Finger and thumb joints become bigger and you can’t get your rings on or off easily. 
  2. They can become knobbly and painful.
  3. It’s not so easy to use them, as they may hurt when you try to. 

You might benefit with some hand exercises to keep your fingers fit – at the least this could help delay the problems. As with many things when you’re young you feel invincible and don’t believe it will happen to you. But the excessive amount of use thumbs and fingers get nowadays sending messages and watching everything on phones, this problem is likely to get bigger and bigger. 

And there isn’t a simple fix pill. In fact, the first line of advice from GPs now is to exercise, so I rest my case.  Post by the author of One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis, available from book stores, online and at Amazon. 

Holistic approach to osteoarthritis

The reason I wrote the book One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis was because I had OA myself and had taken an overall approach to managing it, which has worked well for me.  While supplements are incredibly valid, it’s about more than taking turmeric or glucosamine and encompasses a range of measures that we can all do.

These include:

  • Exercise in general and exercises specifically to help the knees, the hips, the hands.
  • Making dietary changes.
  • Managing weight and at least getting down to your BMI (body mass index).

Those are the three pillars of managing osteoarthritis, but there is so much more you can do too.

A website devoted to osteoarthritis in the knee ran a blog written by me: entitled How I stay active with osteoarthritis.

Eat to sleep – beat insomnia

Why can’t I sleep?

To feel healthy and normal we need about 7 to 9 hours sleep a night. Sleep is vital for good health. So what goes on when we can’t sleep?  And I don’t mean the odd night where you were too hot, too cold, or there was a lot of noise or too much light. When you cannot sleep for night after night and you feel as if you’re not really tired in the small hours.

It might be that you are: not getting to sleep; waking up a few hours later and just lying there tossing and turning; or waking early (say 5 a.m.) and being unable to get back to sleep.

When it persists it can make you exhausted, tearful, unable to cope and stressed. Eventually it is just like torture and you may feel irrational and depressed. After all, sleep deprivation is a form of torture.

Why does it happen? Again, there is no clear answer. If you are worried about something, it can go round and round in your head and there’s no way you can drop off.. And even if you aren’t worried about something, sure as anything the insomnia will make you anxious about everything, especially the insomnia –  it becomes a vicious circle.

What can you try?

Everyone will give you plenty of advice – listen to music, watch TV, read a book, get up for a while, but sometimes none of it works. Here’s a selection of other things you can try.

  • Melatonin – available on prescription. Side-effects are minimal and usually used for jet lag to enable you to get a good night’s sleep.
  • Herbs – Valerian, Passiflora in all kinds of forms – as a tincture,  tablets, or a night-time drink.
  • Lavender – a ,  essential oil of  lavender on a tissue under the pillow or close to our nose, or a pillow spray of lavender..  
  • Hot bath – maybe with a few drops of essential oils – lavender or geranium – to help you feel drowsy before bed.
  • Reading – for many people who like a good book it’s a way to calm down and become sleepy. Watching TV or reading your phone at night is less likely to help.
  • Environment – noise and light can keep you awake. Make sure you have good curtains or blinds, have no lights on around you, and if you have a noisy snoring partner, try ear plugs.
  • Rescue Remedy – to calms down a busy brain.
  • Yoga/meditation – before bedtime can be very helpful. Just practising  yoga and/or meditation helps to keep you calm.
  • Watch caffeine. Tea, coffee, fizzy drinks and even green tea and chocolate contain caffeine, so if any of these are your favourites before bedtime, try consuming them earlier.

Food to ease tiredness

Bed Kingdom’s experts have put together a list of foods to help when you are really missing out on sleep.  

  • Avocados are packed with healthy fats, fibre, vitamins, and minerals, including potassium which is responsible for preventing fatigue by giving your body energy. With approximately 14 grams of fibre, this also helps promote the growth of healthy bacteria, which is vital for your gut. Plus,
  • Dark chocolate contains high amounts of cacao, which is responsible for boosting your energy as well as increasing your focus – so you can count on this to keep you going throughout the day. Not to mention, it is filled with antioxidants such as magnesium which helps to relax you. (Editor’s note: try not to eat chocolate late in the evening as it contains caffeine).
  • Chia seeds are high in magnesium which also fights extreme fatigue and high stress levels. They also retain high levels of water and you need to be hydrated when you’re lacking sleep.
  • Sweet potatoes are also high in magnesium and they contain lots of vitamin C. This helps transport fat into energy – as a result, this combats the feeling of sleepiness and keeps you switched on.
  • Oranges contain a lot of Vitamin C which enhances your energy – but they also contain a moderate amount of natural sugar, which is converted into glucose, the brain’s best source of fuel. Even consuming orange juice instead of eating the fruit can boost your memory and mental ability for the day. 

Other posts on Healthy Soul about sleep: Sleeping tips; Sleep where are you?; Are you sleeping in the right position?

The Sleep Charity