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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Marshmallow

I am in New York visiting my mom for a few days. Today, I was helping her with some yard work while she mowed the lawn, and I came across a plant I recognized: marshmallow!

No, the plant does not even remotely resemble the sugary confection that no campfire should be without. Marshmallow is a plant that has been used for ages medicinally in either poultices for cuts and burns, or as a throat soother when someone has a couch or a core throat due to cold or seasonal allergies. Marshmallow leaves look like fans. I have never seen the flowers, but they are either purple or white. You can use the whole plant. You can eat the leaves like salad greens or dry them (which is what I opted for), and you can either extract the sap from the tuberous root or dry it in order to preserve it longer (also what I opted to do).

The sweet marshmallows of modern times were originally invented as throat lozenges for sore throats. The sap from the root can be blended into a thick paste-like substance and honey and other flavors added to it to make a hard candy to suck on. People still make them–although, I don’t know how I feel about adding slippery elm bark to anything. Just the name sounds unappealing.

I chose to dry both the leaves and the roots, for preservation sake. I will be returning to Virginia in a few days, and I want to take it all with me without risk of it spoiling. I will probably leave some for my mom to use as well.

Common mallow looks very similar to marshmallow and can be used in the same fashion. It’s a bit smaller, but it can be found anywhere along rivers, near ponds and lakes–anywhere the ground is constantly damp. Look for a leaf that looks similar to an open fan. The roots are long, slender and pale. They smell to me almost like celery.

I hung the leaves to dry in a place with plenty of circulation, and the roots, which I cut into pieces about one inch long, were dried in the oven for about an hour on very low heat.

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The thicker pieces are still a little spongy to the touch, but I will just let them dry completely in the open air on the counter. Once the leaves are completely dried, I will crumble them and use them in tea. I will have to look up a good recipe for marshmallow root salve. If anyone has any suggestions, please feel free to share!

I am so proud of myself for recognizing such a useful plant! I can’t wait to do more foraging! Goldenrod is past its peak here, but I hope there is still some blooming when I return to Virginia. That is another very useful plant to have for cold and flu season.

Until next time!