A lesson in convalescing

Lately I have been pondering how we can integrate the lost art of convalescence into a modern day setting.

Convalescence conjures up wholesome images of Swiss mountains, vivid green grass, healthy food and sunshine. Jane Austen inspired visuals also spring to mind. When ill one would rest in bed in crisp white sheets, sipping broth from a fine bone china cup with pretty flowers by the bed, whilst being attended to by a maid and the local doctor.

Why then, I hear you ask, is this modern day naturopath pondering the topic of convalescence?

Here lies the answer: my husband has just recovered from a debilitating virus.  The doctor advised him to take at least a fortnight off work and to get as much rest as possible.  The virus descended upon his body rapidly and brought with it fever and severe aches and pains.  As I’m sure many of you know a true fever is both a debilitating and rejuvenating process. I had my own experience just after finishing my naturopathic studies. I was burnt out and my body was calling out for rest. I came down with influenza in the middle of a blazing hot Melbourne summer, and I have recollections of lying in bed in a state of delirium, shivering one minute and then being so hot I felt like I was going to combust. And then all of a sudden just like in the novels, the fever breaks and vanishes, leaving you with a tired yet restored body and mind.

It seems that my romantic image of convalescence is difficult to apply these days.  In years gone by people took the time to get better properly. Convalescence and recovery was an accepted part of being ill.  The advent of modern medicine and the magic bullet paradigm (think antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs) means that we return to work or are straight back into our normal duties before we have fully recovered from illness. Our germs are then spread around the office like wildfire, and in many cases we find that illness strikes us down again in the near future.  Modern medicine clearly plays a vital and life saving role in our health system, however I feel that natural medicine plays an integral role too, especially in the recovery phase of illness.



1. How to create a convalescent rest nest

During convalescence plenty of rest and sleep is essential.

If you are not up to creating your own nest then you may like to ask for assistance in nest preparation from a family member or friend.


* A comfortable place such as the couch or your bed – ideally with natural light and fresh air
* Blankets and pillow
* Wheat bag or hot water bottle
* Candle and fresh flowers
* A good book or movie. Pride and Prejudice perhaps?!
* Herbal tea
* Nutritious nest food
* Relaxing music (I love listening to ABC Classic FM 105.9)
* Switch your phone and computer off


Take all of the above ingredients and arrange your nest according to personal taste!

2. Convalescent nest tea


A traditional herbal infusion of Yarrow, Elderflower and Peppermint (known to Herbalists as YEP tea) is my favourite nest tea. I also add a decent amount of ginger too (dried or freshly grated)
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a primary fever management herb
Elderflower (Sambuccus nigra) is excellent to help combat excess mucous
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is helpful for managing fever
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) is a warming, comforting and effective remedy for colds and chill


Add at least one teaspoon of each herb to your favourite teapot. Add boiling water. Steep for 15 minutes. Strain and enjoy in your nest.
Note: if you are running a high fever it is wise to see your GP

3.  Convalescent nest foods

Nourishment is a vital aspect of convalescence. These specially selected nest foods are both nourishing and grounding. Foods which are easy to digest such as root vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, fish and eggs are ideal.  Caffeine, sugar, alcohol and other stimulants need to be avoided.  Dairy foods should avoided, with the exception of a small amount of good quality organic yoghurt.

Nest porridge recipe

Soak overnight:

½ cup organic rolled oats; 1 tablespoon chia seeds; 1 cup water; Grated ginger (cover and place on bench or in fridge)

In the morning:

  • Add soaked oats to a saucepan and simmer in some almond & coconut or almond milk
  • Grate one apple into bowl and add oats; 1 heaped tablespoon LSA mix (linseed, sunflower seed and almond) ; 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil; cinnamon and 1 tablespoon organic plain yoghurt.
  • Best consumed in your nest.

4.  Convalescent herbal medicines

Unless advised otherwise by your naturopath or doctor, keep taking your usual medicines during convalescence (this includes herbal and pharmaceutical medicines). In addition to these there are a special range of herbs which have a tonic effect and are effective in helping to restore energy and vitality within the body. These include warming remedies such as cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and angelica root (Angelica archangelica); immune supporting herbs like echinacea (Echinacea spp) and baptisia (Baptisia tinctoria); and gently acting nervous system herbs including vervain (Verbena officinalis) and oats (Avena sativa). A visit to your local naturopath would be wise during your convalescence so that appropriate remedies can be dispensed based on your individual needs.

5. Exercise

Gentle exercise such as walking and yoga is an important part of convalescence as it lifts energy and prevents stagnation and congestion. Match the pace of your exercise to your energy levels.  When you feel up to it, a walk in nature, followed by sitting in the sun at the beach or in a garden works wonders for lifting the spirits too.

I will finish my piece on convalescence now with some inspiring words from two of the world’s great modern herbalists, Kerry Bone and Simon Mills:

“A good convalescence is a marvellous thing.  It rounds off an illness and gives it meaning; it makes the sufferer stronger for having had the illness.  It is probably the only strategy that will allow real recovery from debilitating disease,  fatigue syndromes, recurrent infections and states of compromised immunity.  Convalescence needs time, one of the hardest commodities now to find”.

Have a restorative month,




Mills, Simon “The complete guide to modern herbalism”

Bone, Kerry and Mills, Simon “Principles and practice of phytotherapy”








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  1. Thank you Gabriella. Wise words indeed! I recently took some time off when unwell, whereas in the past I have pushed on through. The difference was significant. The day I went back to work I had a spring in my step and I didn’t get ill again! My nest was my bed and during the day I sat reading with the blinds open, listening to the soothing rain.
    Thanks for sharing this important advice!

  2. Great article Gab! Something we all need to take care of including myself! Social pressures and an illusionary duty to put everything ahead of ourselves to soldier on makes recovery a slow road, loved the recipes too! Getting some YEP tea on now :)

  3. Beautifully written Gab, makes me feel rested just reading it! Excellent advice in this rush and hurry world. As the old adage advises us, “Take time to smell the roses”

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