It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like…Cold Season

“Listen, I’m sniffling, and I’m not really awake, and I’m taking echinacea and Vitamin C and sleeping practically 24 hours a day. I have a temperature! And uh, um, I think I’m contagious. So I would, I would really appreciate it if you would just go away.”—Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail

 

How is the cold weather treating all of you out there? We just had our first snowfall here in Virginia. I’m from New England, so my reaction to snow is a little less, “The sky is falling!” and a little more “Bring it on, snow gods! Give me a Nor Easter to plow my car through!” I’m a fair driver in the snow, but when push comes to shove, I’d rather be at home, wearing cozy sweats and curled up with a good book. Ice is another thing entirely. No one likes ice. Black ice, wintery mixes, sleet, melted snow that refroze into sheets of opaque slides of death—not a fan of that.

Another accompaniment to cold weather is germs. Everyone stays indoors longer during the colder seasons, and germs tend to like to gather and procreate and spread their delightful selves all around in such an environment. I just got over a cold myself, and I was interested to find that the homeopathic remedies I tried worked significantly better than the over-the-counter drugs I bought.

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I’ve almost completely stopped taking any kind of pain reliever or symptom alleviator. I’ve always been super-sensitive to most of them—give me one Benadryl and I’m out like a light! I took one Vicodin after having a tooth pulled several years ago, and I thought I was going to turn inside out. I also read recently that ibuprofen can have harmful effects on the cardiovascular system. I don’t know about you, but I love my heart, and I intend to take good care of it and the rest of my body for a very long time. It’s all natural for me from this day forward. I prefer to grow my pharmaceuticals. There are some things that humankind simply cannot duplicate in a lab. Science has a long way to go in that regard.

I will say this first and foremost: sleep—getting an ample amount of rem sleep—is paramount to a healthy immune system, and good health overall. Think about it. I know I usually get sick after a combination of high stress over a length of time and not getting enough sleep. Going to bed at a decent time and getting at least 8 hours helps improve one’s health overall, from strengthening memory to giving you a longer lifespan.

Whenever I get a cold, it always starts in my nose and throat and travels to my upper respiratory system through post nasal drip—ugh, disgusting. Phlegm is obnoxious. I like being able to breathe, as do most of us, so being clogged up is just a complete and utter nuisance. And I loathe having to take that putrid, nasty, gag-worthy cough syrup that makes me dizzy and groggy and only lasts for four hours. What use is that? I already feel miserable, so why make myself feel worse?

This time, I tried something different. Every night before I went to bed, I drank one to two mugs of tea with lemon and honey and brandy—my version of a hot toddy. I used a decaf chai since it contains all the powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories like cinnamon and cloves and cardamom—anything to bring down the swelling in my sinuses. Honey is a natural antibiotic, and lemon is a natural antiseptic. All of that combined with hot water and a little alcohol alleviated most of the symptoms, including bringing my slightly elevated temperature back down to normal. And best of all—I slept like a baby.

I also found a recipe for cough syrup in an edition of Mother Earth News. It combines honey, hot water, and fresh thyme. It works, it doesn’t make me groggy, and it tastes a hell of a lot better than the store-bought junk.

I’m also trying their recipe for skin cleanser. This is my first day trying it, so stay tuned if you want to know if it really does work. I can already see a difference, but I live with my face every day, so what I see not everyone else will. It was a little astringent, and I’m thinking of adding aloe vera to it as a moisturizer. Other than that, I am happy with the result so far.

I do like being able to pronounce the ingredients that go into making these products: thyme, water, honey, soap. Yes, the skin cleanser contains honey, which sounds weird. But think on this: archeologists discovered pots of honey in some of the tombs in the pyramids—it was still edible, even after 3,000 years! 3,000 years! I don’t know who was chosen to test its edibility, but apparently, it was still good. Honey is an amazing natural preservative, and it was used for many things in ancient Egypt including embalming. And if it was good enough to be offered as a gift to the Egyptian gods, then it’s good enough to go on my face.

Another great alleviator of chest congestion for me is coffee. Did you know that if someone is having an asthma attack, and their inhaler is missing, having them chew on coffee grounds can help open their airways? The caffeine in black coffee helps stimulate the bronchial tubes to expand. This should be used in emergency situations only. I’m not a doctor or a medical professional. I know for me it certainly helped keep my airways clear and working productively while I was sick. And again, coffee tastes much better than cough syrup. Drinking two to three cups of coffee a day can also lower one’s risk of type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and liver disease.

I know so many people who will go straight to the doctor’s office for a prescription the moment they know they’re ill. I know people who take so many pills and supplements it makes my own head spin! I couldn’t justify it for myself. Given the research I have done independently on herbs, fruits, vegetables, proteins and holistic healing, I feel very strongly in choosing a more natural approach to sustain my life. I will keep my money in my pocket, listen to my body and what it needs, and use my knowledge of herbs and other foods to counteract the illnesses that seek to wreak havoc on my head and chest.

 

Sites I used:

http://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/history/honey-in-the-pyramids.aspx

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0010864/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/fda-strengthens-warning-that-nsaids-increase-heart-attack-and-stroke-risk-201507138138

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270202.php

 

 

 

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Sinterklaas and Pfeffernusse

“Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, Lean your ear this way

Don’t you tell a single soul what I’m going to say

Christmas Eve will soon be here, Now you dear old man,

Whisper what you’ll bring to me, Tell me if you can”—Emily Huntington Miller

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My favorite holiday, besides my birthday and Halloween, is Christmas! No matter what your belief system is, I think we can all agree that it is a marvelous, brightly lit, and the warmest and fuzziest time of the year. No Scrooges or Grinches allowed unless you are prepared to change your tune. Step away from the Christmas lists and the tree hunting and the commercial madness for half a minute. Have a drink (it doesn’t have to be alcohol), eat some pfeffernüsse, and sit back and enjoy the twinkle lights!

Today is December 6th. It’s Saint Nicholas Day! Who is Saint Nicholas? Well, you might know him better as the round, bearded, twinkly-eyed man in a red suit who drives a flying sled pulled by reindeer–known nowadays as Santa Claus!

In many Germanic countries, children will leave their shoes out on the eve before December 6th, and awake the next morning to find them filled with candies, cookies, pieces of fruit like tangerines and oranges, and small toys! This is not to be confused with the tradition of filling stockings. That is La Befana, the Good Witch of Italy, and she comes by on the Epiphany, January 6th. But more on that at a later time.

The tradition of Santa Claus was brought to the New World by settlers from the Netherlands. Sinterklaas, as he is still known by to this day, gets his origins from Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children, gift-giving, and sailors. St. Nicholas was a real person back during the “Great Persecution”–Rome’s crack-down on Christians during a time when pagans and newly formed Christians were having at each other. Nicholas was imprisoned for many years for refusing to renounce his beliefs, but was released and then later made the Bishop of Myra in modern-day Turkey. The saint is widely known for his generosity, particularly towards the poor and downtrodden.

We owe quite a number of our American Christmas traditions to these Germanic ones: Christmas trees, gingerbread, Advent calendars. Ever try the pickle game? In Germany on Christmas Eve, the adults decorate the tree and hide an ornament in the shape of a pickle in the tree somewhere. Then the kids come in and search for the ornament. The first one to find it wins a prize! My family went as far as to buy a pickle ornament, but alas we always ended up forgetting about it. I never liked pickles anyway. Too salty!

One Christmas food tradition that was introduced by German and Dutch settlers in Pennsylvania is pfeffernüsse. Say it with me: feffernoose. Think of it as a sibling of gingerbread. This spicy, nut-shape cookie is baked prior to December 6th to be enjoyed the day of and throughout the Christmas season.

Also known as pepernoten, little is known about the origins of the pfeffernüsse cookies. It was particularly popular amongst the Mennonite communities of Pennsylvania Dutch country where many refugees of the Reformation established themselves. Because the English Puritanical settlers didn’t celebrate Christmas (they considered it too pagan, given that it fell close to the Winter Solstice celebrations of old, and there were too much drinking and frivolity happening for their somber attitudes), the German and Dutch communities kept to their own customs of the season. Pfeffernüsse cookies are still baked during the Christmas season in these communities as one of the treats served throughout the holiday, but particularly of December 6th.

I had never made pfeffernüsse before, and I got the idea from something I was reading at work. Someone had sent an email requesting pfeffernüsse cookies, and I had no idea what it was. So of course, I had to try it out!

There are several variations of this cookie. They are very similar to Russian Tea Cookies and gingerbread. The recipe I found that seemed more traditional in flavor called for margarine and shortening–neither of which I used. I simply doubled the amount of butter instead. I would have used lard as well (my new best baking friend!), but I will be sharing these with my co-workers, and I have friends who do not partake of porcine products.

Not only are these cookies tasty, but they’re full of antioxidants! Cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg are jam-packed with them, and cloves and ginger have their own vitamin arsenal. If you want to boost your immune system this season, eat these cookies! How can you pass that up? They go lovely together with hot cocoa!

 

Sites I used:

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/155182/pfeffernusse-cookies/

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131219-santa-claus-origin-history-christmas-facts-st-nicholas/

https://www.farmersalmanac.com/food/2015/11/30/what-is-pfeffernusse/