(Please hit the jump to recipe button above if you’re only here for the All-Natural Hand Sanitizer!)
At this point, I doubt it will surprise anyone reading that I wasn’t queuing up for hand sanitizer and face masks. While I respect–and am truly sorry–that there are people gravely ill and dying from this coronavirus, I still can’t allow it (or anything else) to force me back into fear. I learned the hard way that panic gets you nowhere but into huge trouble incredibly fast. In fact, is there anything more efficient at obstructing clear thinking and smart action than panic? It’s definitely not going to bring about a cure for a global pandemic, nor will it be effective in preventing anyone from catching it. Succumbing to fear isn’t a viable solution. To any overwhelming problem.
That’s all real easy for me to say, right? And it makes perfect sense. But I also know that simply turning off the fear isn’t always a viable solution, either. For a lot of years if someone had flippantly admonished me to simply “not be scared,” then I probably would have responded with instant fury. If I could have turned it off, don’t you think I would have done just that? Like, a million times over? “Not being afraid” was just about as effortless as willing my heart to stop. Or my breath to cease. Because when panic becomes a body’s default setting, there’s no easy off switch. It has a really nasty way of overriding all reasonable physical, emotional, and mental reactions.
And I imagine that this whole pandemic mess is doing exactly that–overriding all reason–to a lot of scared souls right now. Scared souls who are afraid to walk outside. Fearful to read the newspaper. Terrified to open their eyes each morning, not knowing what the new day will bring. Afraid of everything and nothing, all at the same time.
Bearing that in mind, I found this post extremely hard to write! I only intended to visit briefly and share my all-natural hand sanitizer recipe, but instead caught myself deleting entire paragraphs after unexpectedly preaching from a makeshift soapbox. I discovered layers of frustration at each and every media source (and human) propagating fear instead of reasonable recommendations and practical precautions. Calm preparations. In an emergency situation, that’s the kind of helpful information that will lead us to rational remedies and solutions.
Fear, on the other hand, breeds completely irrational behavior like hoarding toilet paper. Or, even worse, inciting racist and ignorant attacks against our Chinese brothers and sisters. In the face of such growing concern, all it takes is a quiet step back to assess the facts, and realize it’s not nearly as doomsday as some would have us believe. Is there uncertainty? Yes. Is there instability? Yes. Is there an end in sight? Not quite yet. But there are things we can do–and hopefully are doing–to stay safe. To protect our families, our neighbors, our country. To keep our world safe.
But unfortunately, that mounting frustration was relentless and only grew as I typed. It kept forcing me back on my soapbox–chastising the media, the president, the greedy, the selfish. And as much as I resisted being up there, the view helped me to quickly realize something: Just as fear-mongering isn’t going to help the situation, neither is casting blame. So instead of wasting precious energy doing that, I let the levelheaded part of my personality take over. And that part decided to use this moment to share some of those practical solutions that I love so much. Practical solutions that we use here at home to boost our immune systems–not just now, but every day. Because strong immune systems mean far less worry, even in the face of such a relentless virus.
And maybe even more importantly, this is also where we realize we’re not powerless. How well our bodies work–or don’t work–is due in large part to how we treat them. Making informed decisions, doing what lies within my power (stay home, already), and then releasing all of the rest is precisely how I keep calm and carry on. With living. Because before we know it, this crisis will pass. And hopefully, we’ll have learned something valuable from it. Maybe even many, many valuable somethings. And hopefully, a deeper appreciation of Mother Nature.
So as I strive to keep things intentionally positive today, I offer you my commonsense approach to healthy living. The list isn’t a “new” one, and there may be absolutely nothing on it that you haven’t already heard before. But it’s good stuff, I promise. Tried and true. And if we’re all going to end up in lock-down, at least we can take care of ourselves while we wait this thing out. Together.
- get enough sleep – The Mayo Clinic says that “people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.” Besides, sleep is awesome; I highly recommend it.
- eat lots of fruits and veggies – Not only do they taste great, but they boost your immune system. Of course, I take things a huge step further and eat a completely organic vegan diet. While I think it’s better for the planet–and obviously the animals–I also think it’s healthier for the human body. There are loads of documentaries and studies available now that are just packed with helpful information on the subject. Come to think of it, it’s not at all a bad way to spend a quarantine! Here are just a few available on Netflix: What the Health; Forks Over Knives; Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead.
- drink plenty of water – Water helps to eliminate toxins from your body and keeps things running smoothly. What I find especially helpful if I feel a sickness coming on (especially a sore throat) is to drink a tall glass of lemon water. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve felt something brewing only to immediately crush it with some simple lemon water. It’s one of our favorite health tricks around here!
- breathe in some fresh air – I wrote a little bit about indoor air pollution and it’s negative health effects here, and I stand by fresh air as one of the things that keeps us all healthy in my home. I even sleep with my window cracked during most of our frosty New England winter nights! I’ve also made it a habit during each day of this pandemic to have the windows open for at least a short while. Just cracked (because it’s snowing as I type), but it’s enough to keep things fresh and moving.
- exercise – I’ll admit that I’m not into hardcore exercising, but a daily 30 minute walk suits me just fine. Not only do I get the fresh air and sunshine, but it promotes a healthy and balanced life. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “Just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. It may contribute even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.” So even on the days when I don’t really feel up to it, I do it anyway. It beats being taken down by the flu.
- soak up some sun – As a society, we’ve become terrified of the sun, and I think this fear comes with huge and detrimental risks. While I use common sense (no baking on a beach underneath the hot noonday sun), I do try to get a brief, daily sunbath as often as I can (weather permitting). No sunscreen; I simply utilize and benefit from the healing rays of the sun. The sun, used properly, can prevent and even heal many types of cancer. I didn’t expect to find much support for this online since sunscreens and cancer are such a huge industry, but the facts are finally coming out (thank goodness). Here’s what Richard B. Setlow, PhD has to say, “If you get too much sun exposure for too long, you might get malignant melanoma. But if you have an internal cancer, you might be cured.” Just more of that commonsense approach I appreciate so much. Moderation in all things.
- supplement with vitamin d (if necessary) – A crazy amount of Americans are deficient in this vitamin (which actually acts as a hormone). Living in New England, my whole family was found to be deficient, so we took measures to remedy that. As Healthline states, “One of vitamin D’s most important roles is keeping your immune system strong so you’re able to fight off viruses and bacteria that cause illness. It directly interacts with the cells that are responsible for fighting infection.” If you’re concerned about your levels, your doctor can perform a simple blood test, or you can even do it at home with an EverlyWell kit. (We use these regularly–they’re a quick and easy way to check levels…as long as you can handle a finger-prick!)
- diffuse essential oils – Many essential oils have incredible anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. My favorite is to diffuse a mixture of lavender and eucalyptus oils. Not only does it make my home smell great, but it cleanses the air at the same time. I’ve had two diffusers going for weeks now, and we all sleep with one in our bedrooms. A simple and pleasant way to combat the germs.
- wash your hands – There’s a very good reason why we teach our kids to wash properly as soon as they can reach the sink! Soap is fabulous at destroying and washing away all kinds of bacteria and viruses. With it’s cool soapy properties (that I won’t get into here, but you can visit Why Soap Works if you’re interested), soap breaks apart the layer of fat that surrounds many viruses (including COVID-19), rendering it incapable of infecting you. Of course, you need to do it properly (20 seconds, says the CDC), but as a first line of defense that’s extremely simple. Not only simple, but it’s inexpensive and readily available; I think most everyone has soap handy!
- laugh, a lot – Honestly, it works like magic at keeping us in balance. Once we’ve assessed a situation and taken our precautionary measures, what’s left to do but laugh? At each other is our preferred mode, but in a pinch a comedy will do (an episode of New Girl is my favorite go-to!). According to WebMD, “Some studies have shown that the ability to use humor may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells, as well.” It doesn’t diminish the severity of a situation, but it does help to put things in perspective, because life does go on. And taking time to laugh while navigating the ups and downs makes for a much more enjoyable ride.
- meditate – This is part of my daily routine, once each morning and again before bed. More and more the studies are showing how the benefits of meditation can improve your life and well-being. According to The Chopra Center, “Since your immune system responds to both negative and positive thoughts, meditation creates a positive mental environment for the immune system to flourish.” I remember going into meditation once with the awareness that I was getting sick: fuzzy head, sore throat, and fatigue. After coming out of that same meditation I felt better–like, all better. But of course, spending some one-on-one time with God is probably the most potent medicine there is!
In Lieu Of
So in keeping with that whole prevention theme, today I’m going to add one more recipe to my Eco page. It’s a recipe that’s relevant to this flu & cold season–to any season, actually. Please note: I make no claims that this all-natural hand sanitizer is effective against COVID-19. And it should also be noted that the CDC states that a product must contain at least 60% alcohol to be considered a hand sanitizer, and this one (intentionally) does not. This recipe does contain a small amount of alcohol (14%) though, because I love using witch hazel as a base (it’s also in my Eco Insect Repellent). Witch hazel has a host of healing properties, things like relieving inflammation, reducing skin irritation, and warding off infection. Humphreys makes an organic version that I like a lot.
As for the essential oils I’ve chosen, their antiviral and antibacterial effects are well-known. I actually started making a hand sanitizer recipe years ago, when the girls were still small. Park days, field trips, beach days, play dates–none of them typically afforded easy access to hand washing stations. So in lieu of watching grubby little hands pause just long enough to shove snacks into hungry mouths, I turned to essential oils. And, as usual, they didn’t let me down.
Tea Tree to the Rescue
So bearing in mind that washing with soap and water is still the most effective route, it isn’t always available, either. Consequently, a couple sprays of this is my all-natural alternative. Here’s a list of the oils included, and some of the reasons why I love them:
- Lavender essential oil – anti-bacterial; anti-viral; anti-fungal; disinfectant; improves skin
- Tea Tree essential oil – anti-bacterial; anti-viral; anti-fungal; disinfectant; anti-septic; anti-inflammatory
- Lemon essential oil – anti-bacterial; disinfectant
My Typical Disclaimer
If you read along regularly, you’ve heard it before (and you’ll definitely hear it again). But while the health benefits are often unparalleled, essential oils are super potent little bottles of oil and should be used intelligently. Dilute them accordingly; test first if you’re unsure because they can cause skin reactions in sensitive individuals; keep them away from your eyes; do not ingest (there is some controversy here, but several are definitely toxic); and if pregnant or nursing always check with your doctor first. Also use care with children. These oil choices were selected with children in mind and are “kid-safe” when properly diluted. Also, be sure you’re buying 100% pure essential oils because those bottles of fragrance oils carry none of the same health benefits.
- ¼ cup witch hazel
- 8 drops lavender essential oil
- 6 drops tea tree essential oil
- 6 drops lemon essential oil
Add all of the ingredients to a clean, glass, 2 ounce bottle. Shake well before each use. Spritz into one palm and rub thoroughly over entire hands. Rub until dry.
Please read carefully: While the health benefits are often unparalleled, essential oils are super potent little bottles of oil and should be used intelligently. Dilute them accordingly; test first because some can cause skin reactions in sensitive individuals; keep them away from your eyes and ears; do not ingest (there is some controversy here, but several are definitely toxic); and if pregnant or nursing always check with your doctor first. Also use care with children and check the dilution ratios. The oil choices in this hand sanitizer were selected with children in mind and are "kid-safe" when properly diluted. Also, be sure you’re using 100% pure essential oils because those bottles of fragrance oils carry none of the same health benefits.
Voice of Reason
There. That felt so much more productive than any finger-wagging would have. And with this post I throw myself out there as yet another voice of reason. We’ll get through this, I’m sure of it. And being proactive about your life and your health gives you power, even in the face of such massive uncertainty. Our bodies are well-equipped to function and heal…if we only keep the way open for them to do it.
Wishing you all continued health and optimism as we navigate these strange days together. Peace & many blessings ~ Melinda