Coping with Smoke

Photo by Robert Neufeld

by Sadie Yancey, feature photo by Robert Neufeld

It’s that time of year again that we find ourselves surrounded by smoke. Many of us are already feeling the symptoms – itchy eyes, stuffy nose, sore throat, headaches, confusion and fatigue. It feels as if everyone is getting the same cold!

We’ve heard about the dangers of wildfire smoke and the ways we can avoid it. Even when we stay sealed inside, separated from our friends and favourite activities, clinging to our air purifier, we still may find ourselves affected by this ever-present particulate in the air.

Wellness Manager Michelle Beneteau

What can we do to help our bodies cope? We asked our Wellness Manager, Michelle Beneteau for her best tips for taking care of ourselves during the smoky season.


Keeping our bodies hydrated will help flush out toxins and will make our eyes, nose, and throat less irritated and itchy.   Drinking more water helps, maybe with a splash of lemon juice or a pinch of spirulina to bump up the flavour! Using a neti pot with a saline solution will help clear, clean, and moisturize nasal passages.  Running a humidifier or diffuser helps pull the particulate matter out of the air, and you can add lung-loving essential oils like eucalyptus, rosemary or a blend specifically made to ease breathing and sooth the respiratory system – Emery Herbals’ Breathe Easy blend is one option.

Ease Symptoms

Lung Love tea in our Bulk department

Many of the teas we for reach for in the winter we can also use now for smoke season.  Look for names like Throat Coat (by Traditional Medicinals in tea bags) or Lung Love (by Harmonic Arts from the bulk tea section), or for soothing ingredients like licorice and marshmallow or expectorants like fenugreek and peppermint.  Supplements normally recommended to clear the lungs, like N-Acetyl-Cysteine, or to protect against inflammation, like RespirActin or Siro Breathe, can be used to ease breathing.

Boost Antioxidants

The most delicious way to prevent long-term damage from the smoke is to enjoy all the colourful fruits and berries that are ripe and ready now! Blueberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches, plums and nectarines are all packed with antioxidants that reduce inflammation and protect our cells against the negative affects of environmental toxins.  Increasing our greens, whether fresh from the soil or as a concentrated superfood supplement, will also help our bodies repair and rebuild.  Turmeric is another bright and delicious option to increase our antioxidants and reduce inflammation. You can find this golden root fresh in our Produce department to add to your morning smoothie, as a paste in our Grocery department to add to your evening meal, or in a capsule from our Wellness department.

Learn more

True Local herbalist Colleen Emery wrote a blog post last year on respiratory wellness through wildfire season:

Smoke forecast may help you plan your weekend trips:

The Centers for Disease Control has recommendations on how to reduce your smoke exposure:

Learn more about the fierce and unpredictable physics of wildfires in this New York Times article: