For most of California, the air quality is dramatically being affected by the fires.  Even if you’re miles from a burn area, you may be suffering from the effects of smoke. My deepest sympathies go to those displaced or to those who have had loss of loved ones or property.  This is a very stressful time.  The love and prayers of everyone are very significant right now.

There’s also a huge need for self-care in times like this. As a Dr. of Naturopathic Ministry and a wellness coach, I can’t stress the importance of caring for yourself as you care for those closest to you. I’ve been asked by some what I might recommend to those who wish to do that.  Here are my suggestions from a mind/body/spirit perspective.

Some supportive favorites  to try while the smoke clears…

I’ll start with the physical since that is likely the noisiest right now. Your lungs, liver, skin, mucous membranes and immune system are all susceptible to the effects of the smoke and the toxins it contains. Scientific American reported a study will be done in the near future with controlled burns to determine what is in natural smoke from fires. That will be a fascinating read to us health geeks. What concerns me more is, with so many structures burned, there are a lot of plastics, fabrics, building materials and household chemicals that have released their bits of chemistry into the air and possibly have been transformed into something even worse by the tremendous heat that gets generated. Our bodies already bear great burdens of toxic exposure from our foods, fabrics, and fabrications. Add to this all the irritating smoke right now and we’ve got symptoms going wild. Sore throats, irritated eyes, ears, throat and skin are the obvious. Less obvious are the liver and immune system challenges that result from exposure and the bodies need to clean up. My credentials allow me to make suggestions based on my research, personal experience and knowledge.  I don’t diagnose, treat or prescribe. So, with that disclaimer in place, let’s get started!

Keep it out!—What doesn’t get in, doesn’t have to make its way out. 

  1. Use a high quality NIOSH and either N95 or P100 mask not a cloth or scarf or paper mask. The particulates from a wildfire are apparently quite small. If you get a vented one, you’ll likely be more comfortable.
  2. Cover your skin. Our skin has its own respiration of sorts.  It takes in what gets on it.  If you’ve been out in the smoke, change your clothes and get a lovely skin detoxifying shower or bathe in an Epsom Salt bath.
  3. Be sure any supplements you take or foods you eat are nonGMO or organic

For all of the ailments and ills, body/mind/spirit-Hydrate! Drink water, eat organic fresh fruits and veggies for their living water!  Great hydration, mineralization, and even spiritual support from quality organic fruits and veggies.

For sore, irritated throats:
Sole Pink Himalayan Salt Gargle—

To make: Mix Himalayan Pink Salt and pure water in a glass container with a tight fitting non-metallic lid and let it stand. Make the salt to water ratio such that after a day or two, you can still see undissolved salt. There should always be salt visible. You can add additional water or salt as needed.  Think of it like a sourdough starter, you just use and maintain it.  The nature of salt keeps bacteria at bay.  It won’t spoil.

To use:

(1) As a gargle, put a tablespoon of the salt water into a glass of warm water and gargle. Spit out the liquid.

(2) As a mineral support, place 1 t of the salt mixture into a glass of water and drink daily.  This has been known to soothe the throat, ease mucous membranes and contribute to overall wellness.  Here’s a link to some interesting info on Sole:

Barleans Olive Leaf Complex Throat Spray—This peppermint flavored spray is super soothing to the throat.  It contains olive leaf, peppermint, sage and lemon.  Great for immune support and comfort!  I sold lots of this in my job as Lead Practitioner at Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy when I worked there. Love the product and the company that makes it.

Boiron’s Roxalia Sore Throat formula uses a homeopathic blend to address hoarseness and voice strain.  (Ask me more about homeopathy—I love it!) It’s non-drowsy and doesn’t have drug interactions. The tablets dissolve in the mouth so they are great for those who don’t like to swallow pills or capsules. You can take them often and for as long as needed without worry.

Throat Coat Tea from Traditional Medicinals—(contains licorice root so theoretically not best for high blood pressure folks.) Licorice, slippery elm bark, marshmallow root and some misc. other barks make a great tasting, soothing tea.

Respiratory & Smoke Allergy Challenges—
Orthomolecular Natural D-Hist—This formula has quercetin, stinging nettle, bromelain, and N-acetyl-cysteine (N-A-C). The manufacturer recommends taking a loading dose of 10 caps in 24 hours and then following label directions.  This formula flies off the shelves in allergy season and the ingredients support sinus, respiratory and immune systems.

Genexa Allergy-D (kids or adult formulas available) homeopathic blend to address allergy symptoms of many kinds.

Similisan Allergy Eye Relief homeopathic eye drops are a gentle, natural and soothing eye soothing formula for itching, burning, watering and redness.  Use as often as needed, no harsh vasoconstrictors.

General Detox and Liver Support—
Vitamin C—My favorite is an Acerola Cherry powder from Health Force called Truly Natural Vitamin C.  Very easy to assimilate and naturally buffered.  I personally take this to tolerance which is more than a typical daily dose. In the natural health-world we often take vitamin C to “bowel tolerance” which means you take 1000mg an hour until you need to get to a bathroom quickly.  I don’t recommend this unless you use a high quality buffered form and know you don’t tend toward ulcers.  Personally this really helps me get or stay well when I’m struggling but use your own judgment.

Liver Support—Our livers are our toxin collectors that process harmful incoming pollutants and junk we accumulate. They are often already burdened and this smoke is one more toxic load.

Lemon water is super supportive to the liver and drinking the juice of a lemon in a glass of water first thing in the morning is a good every day practice.

Milk thistle and dandelion are classic liver herbal support. A less known support that doesn’t use milk thistle is found in Himalaya USA Liver Care liver support ayurvedic blend.

Orthomolecular D-Hist is good for the liver too!  See above.

Triple Leaf Detox Tea has a blend of Chinese herbs that support detoxification and also the skin.  This can have a dramatic intestinal effect so you can start with a short steep and steep longer if you tolerate it well.  When you are trying to remove toxins be sure to stay regular and hydrated so the chemistry doesn’t just reabsorb into the body again.

Epsom Salt Baths can take some of the toxins out through the skin, easing the load on the kidneys.  In smoke, our skin is taking a bit of a beating already so cleansing and moisturizing it well is also important.

Quality Essential Oils can help with the respiratory, detox and immune system as well.  My favorite company for the majority of my oils is GoDesana or HB Naturals.  They are formulated by a master formulator who has worked with essential oils for decades and selects her blends for optimal results. They are sourced clean and tested extensively. Essential oils are powerful and most of the oils must be diluted in a carrier for safety. I recommend using a drop on a cotton ball and breathing the vapors. Inhalation is the German school preference. The English school suggests inhalation and on the skin in carrier. The French school allows for some very carefully planned ingestion but I don’t recommend it.  Here are some of my favorites from GoDesana:

For respiratory: Breathe Relief, Breathe, Respi Relief, Eucalyptus Globulus, Eucalyptus Radiata, Ravintsara

For headache: Lavender Ice (Lavender and either peppermint or if for kids/elderly, spearmint instead of peppermint)

For liver: Hepadetox

For immune: Wellness for Adults or Wellness for Kids and Elderly


To keep a check on current air quality:

Terri Shannon Renfro is not a medical doctor or licensed medical professional. She is not presenting information to substitute the advice and care of your physician or other medical or psychiatric professional. Please see the about us section of this site for more information about Dr. Shannon-Renfro's qualifications. These blogs are for educational purposes only. The opinions expressed here belong to Terri Shannon-Renfro or the author quoted and do not constitute treatment in anyway. Dr. Terri Shannon-Renfro does not diagnose, prescribe or treat any medical or psychiatric condition.