The Pacific Northwest has been covered in smoke for a few weeks now. In our area, we have reports of over a dozen fires burning nearby and we’re also dealing with smoke from fires in other states as well. There’s a mountain very near our home that we can’t even see this morning [at the time of writing this] because of the thickness of the smoke and our area has repeatedly been placed in the “unhealthy” and “hazardous” air quality categories over the past few weeks. One of the closest fires is currently being sized at over 182,000 acres, has over 1600 personnel working to contain it, and isn’t expected to be contained until mid-October (it’s currently 5% contained). I saw a news article yesterday that said over 320,000 acres of Oregon are currently on fire [at the time of publishing, this number is closer to the 500,000 range]. When faced with circumstances like this, what can we do to support our health while dealing with the smoke (and stress) produced by such conditions?
Stay indoors in an air conditioned building as much as possible. Keep your doors and windows shut and reduce your exposure to environmental toxins (cigarette smoke, propane, etc.) as much as you can. Allow yourself to swap vigorous fitness routines for more gentle, relaxing ones on the most smoky days. Limit vigorous outdoor activity or avoid it all together if you are in the sensitive groups category. Listen to your body – if you’re experiencing headaches, fatigue, or respiratory symptoms, take it easy and support your body with home remedies. Seek medical care if you have any cause for concern and, of course, follow your physician’s instructions, especially if you are a heart or lung patient. Allow yourself some extra space for relaxation while you’re dealing with all of the smoke in the air.
Run air purifiers throughout your home. We were able to purchase a few HEPA allergen filters (we use this one, this one, and this one in our home) at the beginning of our fire season here and they have made such a noticeable difference. Running them at night has been especially helpful. I was waking up in the middle of the night with lots of congestion and discomfort before we started running them, but ever since we’ve had them going, that has virtually gone away. Himalayan salt lamps can also be helpful, but I would not rely on them solely.
Try to limit your exposure to allergens by running the vacuum a little less often (it can stir up dust and allergens), setting aside your smudging ritual for the duration (use Sweetgrass and/or White Sage hydrosols instead), and reducing your exposure to cigarette smoke or the smoke from incense.
My main allies throughout this fire season have been Hawthorn and Plantain (Plantago sp.) tincture. A dropperful of Plantain every couple of hours on the worst days has been helping to clear my symptoms quickly and on more mild days, a dropperful in the morning and one in the evening has been sufficient. After we come in from doing our garden chores in the mornings, I take a dropperful in orange juice and it has been tremendously effective for me. You could also consider using Nettle tincture, Mullein, or Marshmallow. The Plantain helps to soothe the mucous membranes and break down the excess mucous that accumulates because of the irritation caused by the smoke and inhaling other particles in the air. There are other herbs that can be used, but I have found that keeping it simple has yielded the best results for me, personally.
Daily herbal steams (or baths) can also be helpful. I usually include herbs like Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Thyme, Calendula, and Lavender in mine (one at a time or combined in a blend). Once the water from the steam application has cooled completely, you can use it to water the plants in your garden and add the spent herbs to your compost pile.
When you need an extra dose of respiratory support, a homemade herbal chest rub can be of great help. The recipe for my favorite formula was featured in March’s issue of AromaCulture Magazine. You can find that here.
Essential oils that help to open up the sinuses will be beneficial in steam applications, smelling salts, or topical applications like chest rubs. Sometimes using an oil that helps you to feel calm and relaxed will be just as helpful for you as any other remedy. Essential oils for respiratory support throughout fire season can include: Cedarwood, Lemon, Ginger, Eucalyptus globulus or Eucalyptus dives, Siberian Fir, Black Spruce, Norway Pine, Rosemary ct. verbenone, and Peppermint. Use 1 drop in a bowl of freshly boiled water for an aromatherapy steam application, include a blend of your choice in a jar/bottle of smelling salts, or dilute them in a topical application that you can massage into your chest and neck as needed.
Pray for our firefighters and for lightning-free rain!
I hope you see smoke-free days very soon. What helps you to feel better when you’re dealing with fires in your area? Let me know in the comments section below.