Festival Wisdom—Immune System Boosting Tips That You Can Use At Home
by Ryan Hook | September 4, 2020, updated 16 days ago
Covid-19 put a hold on festivals for 2020, which is a good choice, but just one of many disappointments this year. It’s a bummer.
It made me realize, though, that a lot of the things I do to stay healthy at festivals apply to life in the age of covid. At festivals you worry about ‘festival flu, hangovers, and what you’re going to do (or take) to stay up until dawn to see your favourite DJ. Many attendees have their own tips and tricks for how they do this. In the age of covid we're worried about immune system support, and safety... for obvious reasons.
Most people turn to common stimulants like caffeine or sugar, which are fast and effective in the short term, but cause crashes in the long term. Festivals are also a place where it’s common to see people experimenting with substances. If you ask people why, their answers will vary, but I’ve found one of the most frequent answers to be—energy.
I’m not here to lecture. It should be noted however, that there are natural, legal ways to go about staying awake all night long. While substance use can give you a temporary boost, it frequently comes at great physical cost. The methods I’ve chosen are far safer.
These healthier alternatives stimulate your body, last longer, and come with far fewer nasty side effects.
Immune System Safety Essentials
Festival-flu is real, and it’s zero fun. Much like covid, it helps to have better hygiene and more space between people, but that’s not really an option at a festival, you know?
Festivals are basically a contained space where thousands of unwashed people dance really close to each other. It’s a recipe for sickness. So, it’s critical that you bring the following four most potent ingredients for warding off illness—
- Hand sanitizer
- Toilet paper
- Baby wipes
Excellent hygiene is the best way to ward off illness. Soap, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, baby wipes—if you bring nothing else, at the very least bring these.
But that’s not why you’re here! You want to know what else you can do.
I swear by the couple of ingredients I’ve listed below. Hopefully they help you too as you try, desperately, to avoid festival-flu/covid-19, emotional burnout from the sensory overload that is a festival/a pandemic, and keep your energy up so that you can dance away all night long/on a zoom call.
I participated in a cacao ceremony at the Envision Festival in 2018. My attendance was thanks to being in the right place at the right time. I was walking past the yoga area of the festival, on my way to my tent, hoping to get a little shuteye before a night of dancing. A line was winding out of the yoga temple and edging close to my tent. I asked someone what was going on, and she said she was about to “embark on a cacao journey” and suggested I join her.
I only knew cacao as a distant relation to a Kit-Kat, and I figured “I like Kit-Kats,” so I was in.
My accidental cacao experience was enlightening. It started with drinking a liquid form of cacao, and then meditating and moving through a yoga practice with attention and intention—it was transformative.
Why and How Does Cacao Work?
That day I learned that cacao is a heart opener. It’s delicious, and it promotes healthy blood flow to the heart, brain, skin, eyes, and liver.
Cacao contains serotonin, making it an energy, immune system and mood booster—which means it’s great for festivals where there’s something going on everywhere you look. When you’re overwhelmed, cacao can keep your mind and body open.
Cacao is also high in magnesium—which is good for managing stress and sleep. It works synergistically with calcium to optimize muscular function and keep you in dancing shape—so maybe chase your cacao with milk? It also supports the immune and digestive system.
Cacao comes in a variety of forms, the most easily found is in a powder or as chewable nibs. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, be it in the future (when we can have festivals again), or while you’re in a store where no one is wearing a mask, cacao helps.
I’ve known my friend Larissa for over ten years. We frequent all the same festivals. Before the 2017 Envision Festival in Costa Rica, I checked in to see if she would be going. She was studying in Costa Rica, where the festival is held, so she definitely was.
I asked her if she wanted me to bring her anything from home, in service of her festival attendance. She asked me to bring her some schisandra berries.
I’d never heard of them, and they were hard to find, but I found them and brought them to Larissa, who was psyched. Larissa’s reaction was worth the effort but, I couldn’t figure out why she was so excited about these berries—until I tried them.
Struggling to keep my eyes open at four in the morning in anticipation of my favourite D.J., Larissa handed me some berries. They were salty, sweet, and tangy, and energizing.
They also helped me realize I was hungry, needed water, and needed personal space. An energy drink, or a rum and coke would have quickly perked me up, but that would have been a short term solution, and a bigger mess for my body later.
Why and How Do Schisandra Berries Help?
Schisandra berries support the liver and encourage energy. In Chinese medicine, schisandra berries have a positive effect on the seven meridians. Schisandra berries help boost the immune system, stave off depression and stress, and they’re anti-inflammatory.
Fatigue caused by poor diet, lack of sleep, and physical stress are common problems for festival attendees. Powering through fatigue can make you more open to infection, make you feel sedentary, and make you agitated. In those moments we often try to re-up on caffeine, sugar, alcohol, or drugs and ultimately end up overdoing it. This is dangerous for all of our body’s systems, and why berries are probably a better option than caffeine.
The stress of a pandemic is likely much higher than that of a festival, and that can make us feel lethargic. It might be worth it to give schisandra berries a shot.
I don’t have a personal story about Ginseng, but I will sing its praises all the same.
When I think of ginseng, I think of the Guillermo del Toro-prop-looking vegetable that you frequently see at expensive health food stores. It’s brown, it’s gangly, it’s really weird looking, and it’s good for you. If you’re from anywhere besides the Great White North, ginseng is as common as carrots.
Ginseng assists with low blood pressure, fatigue, and can provide sharper cognitive function. It too is anti-inflammatory, it’s an antioxidant, and it can assist in lowering blood sugar. However! This one comes with a warning—what giveth also taketh away.
You may recognize ginseng as an ingredient in some energy drinks, and it is. This should give you an idea of its potency. Now, ginseng isn’t the reason you shouldn’t drink energy drinks, but ginseng in the wrong amount can lead to headaches, sleep problems, digestive problems and delirium.
Ginseng is best in small doses—after a nap, in the morning, or for a quick boost to get yourself to a sunrise set.
Elixirs are what happens when you mix ingredients like the one’s I’ve listed above. Elixirs are easy to make, and generally involve steeping herbs in water, or alcohol, and letting them sit for a while. You can look up recipes, or you can let an herbalist or a naturopath do the legwork for you.
My favourite combo is a cacao elixir, or “healthy hot chocolate”. It involves almond milk, cacao powder or nibs, cinnamon, Himalayan salt, and water. It’s sweet, revitalizes all of my senses, and gets me fired up.
Water, lemon, salt and chlorella also make a good elixir. This elixir provides energy and helps keep your electrolytes up. Chlorella is a nutritional heavy hitter, and never underestimate the power of water at a festival, or in general. With the salt you’re getting much needed electrolytes, and you can add some sugar for a few more, but be extremely mindful of how much, and maybe consider honey instead.
Pandemics are just the worst. What more is there to say about it?
If you’re like me and fantasizing about the before times when festivals, and even board game nights at your buddy’s place were safe, try to remember the lessons you’ve learned from festival going—
- Never say no to hand sanitizer
- Take every chance you can get to make space for yourself
- Be open to new experiences
- Don’t let the experience overwhelm you.
Most importantly of all though? Keep your immune system healthy, because if you want to have fun, you need to take care of your body.
Before you try new wellness techniques, it’s a great idea to check in with a naturopath, an herbalist, or a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner. Which Doctor has many trained professionals who’d love to help you out.
Ryan Hook is a writer, photographer, musician, and spoken word poet. Born in St.Albert and living in Edmonton, Alberta, his mission is to bring Sound and Story. He has worked as a music journalist for Vue Weekly, BeatRoute, and Exclaim! as well as been a published short story writer. When he's not writing he is an accomplished songwriter and recording artist for his band, Baby Boy and the Earthly Delights. Whether it's writing, music, or travelling, he bides by the philosophy that life is a playground and nothing is off limits.