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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Home Remedies for Colds

I've decided to add a new tag to my blog, 'home remedies'.  It will probably only encompass a few posts, because although I'm a big believer in home remedies that work, I don't have a lot.  I do tend to keep my ears and eyes open, so when I ran across a new remedy (new to me, of course) for battling the common cold, I paid attention to it.  I've been following Root Simple, (formerly Homegrown Evolution) which is written by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, the same couple who wrote the last book I reviewed, The Urban Homesteader.  Kelly has been battling a cold for the past week, and it's threatening to become a sinus infection.  She turned to the old-fashioned, hang-your-head-over-a-steaming-pot-of-herbs-with-a-towel trick, which she says has made her feel a whole lot better.

No stranger to the sinus infection, I am currently battling a cold as well.  I wasn't going to say anything about it because you know, with the cut thumb and I all, I didn't want to sound like a whiner.  But I couldn't resist the opportunity to try this and report on it, and also pass along a cough remedy I've been using for years that works.

Before I start though, I should remind you that herbal and home remedies are no substitute for proper medical attention where warranted.  I had my thumb looked at by a health professional, remember.  Never mind that it was probably at the doctor's office that I picked up this darn cold, and that I'll be tempted to just close the next cut shut with some glass tape.  But you didn't read that here.

Anyway- the point of the herbs is to use those that have antibacterial properties, like eucalyptus (not an herb- I know it), sage, and juniper berries.  You can also use essential oils.  She didn't mention it, but bergamot is supposed to be antibacterial.

In a separate post, she suggested nasal irrigation, which you can accomplish with a neti pot.  She also has a method for doing that without a neti pot, but fortunately I have one.  Neti pot, that is.  I set some crushed juniper berries on to boil in some filtered water (which probably isn't necessary, since you're just going to be inhaling steam) and then ran off to go irrigate my sinuses.  After a good blow (I already felt better), I then removed the saucepan of herbally goodness to a trivet on the table, and then sat down with my head over it, covered by a bath towel. And inhaled as long as I could stand it, which was pretty much until the steam was gone.  I think it was a good thing to do, because, let's see, how can I put this delicately?  The stuff coming out of my nose was now clear.  Still snot, but clear.  Which was a good sign.

Kelly recommends just saving your potful and adding herbs or water to it, whatever seems needed and then heating the whole thing up again.  So I did that this evening, but I remembered something.  I once ran across a clinical abstract online where the experiment was to determine if oregano oil could be used to kill bacteria.  Turns out oil of oregano is a kickass antibacterial. (And antifungal, or so I've read since.)  Ever since then, we've kept oil of oregano in the house.  So I popped a couple of drops from a capsule into the water for good measure.  At first inhaling it stung a little, but it subsided after that.  My nose is still running, but I'm hoping to keep the sinus infection monster at bay.

Then I turned to my old, reliable home remedy cough medicine, which I'm going to tell you how to make.  But first the caveat, and I'm not going to sugarcoat it: it sounds a lot worse than it is, but it's still hard to get down because it's so darn sweet.  But it works.  I don't know when or where I picked up this remedy (it's been years), and I don't know why it works but it does.  So, are you ready?

Boil one chopped onion in a cup of water until the liquid is reduced by half.  Strain the liquid into a glass and add an equal volume of honey.  Stir together and sip while hot.  Tonight's version was much easier to take than it has been in the past, but that might be because I used a homegrown onion (oh! another meeting the starving challenge qualifier!), and I don't know about yours, but my homegrown onions are a lot stronger than commercial onions.  Remember too, that onions get sweet when they cook.  I was tempted to add a shot of rye into the concoction, just working off memory of what it tastes like, but I didn't need to.

Oh- and on top of all this, I'm not taking any chances; I'm also taking my Umcka religiously. Not exactly a home remedy, but kind of an herbal remedy, and I just want to feel better soon.

Maybe by the same time my thumb heals up?


fran said...

hey Paula- ah yes, the joys of blocked sinuses. My shortcut is to put a bowl with some eucalyptus oil and some tea tree oil in the base of the shower, and steam that way. For colds, I like a good hot chicken laksa - I like to think of it as a Jewish/Asian cold cure fusion (chicken soup- Jewish, loads of garlic/chili- Asian) It clears out my sinuses (at least temporarily) every time!

Marianne said...

Paula, are you taking any medication for your heart? beware interactions between herbs and orthodox medicines. never assume that natural = safe! (this from a professional herbalist). and i do worry about people using essential oils medically. they're *extremely* powerful and very often adulterated. only use organic oils.
all that said, garlic is the best antibiotic/antiviral I know. take raw if possible, otherwise cooked as second best. elderflower tea cuts mucus and brings out a fever (shifts blood to the the peripheral blood vessels, thus cooling the body). and for your cough syrup - try soaking raw onion in honey or unrefined sugar overnight. the onion will sweat - drink the juice. it's more effective and less sweet than your cooked version. remember that garlic also thins the blood and elderflower reduces blood pressure - safe for your heart?
but the best advice is to rest, stay warm and sit it out. you'll get better.

sew susie said...

Paula, you have had a rough time lately, hope you are feeling better soon.
Thank you for the information on Oregano oil, I didn't know that, it is also one of my favorite herbs.
In Australia we also use Eucalyptus oil as an inhalant(bowl of very hot water & towel over head trick) by adding several drops to the water.
Also a wonderful spot cleaner on clothes before laundering and marvelous when added to the water for washing floors. It is common in most homes here. Also grows in a lot of

Rae said...

I love love love my neti pot. My mom used the honey and onion drink remedy.

I regularly battled sinus infections as a child and teenager (looking back, I don't think Dad smoking in the house helped much). We had huge eucalyptus trees along our driveway, and I remember using fresh leaves for steam inhale therapy. Worked wonders. Do you know of any eucalyptus varieties that would grow here? I miss them.

Hope you feel better soon!

Miriam said...

Great ideas - thanks for passing them along! Personally, I think part of my brain would refuse to believe in a remedy that didn't taste bad or was unpleasant in some way. So your onion and honey treatment sounds right up my alley!

Paula said...

Fran- I had to look up chicken laksa because I don't know what that is. Boy does it look good! You remind me that I can get pho anywhere in these parts, so I think I'll have Steve take me out for Vietnamese. Thanks for the suggestion!

Marianne- you are right to caution me. I'm not taking meds for my heart, but I am taking a diuretic for my high blood pressure, which hasn't seemed to be affected by my own ministrations. Elderflower tea sounds like something I should look into- I didn't know that it reduces blood pressure! How much honey or sugar in how much onion? And can I swallow the garlic like a pill or do I have to chew it?

I don't know of any varieties that grow here, but you set me on a quest. I happen to know that euc makes terrific firewood- it's super hard so I checked out if it can be coppiced, because I need to find a different short rotation species (I've given up on black locust), and some species can be. And guess what? There's a place called Eucalyptus of Oregon and it's in Beavercreek. I can't find a web presence, but I found a phone number. Let me know if you want to go check them out and I'll give them a call.

I know what you mean, Miriam, and the brain has a huge part in recovery. With your sinuses, it sounds like eucalyptus oil is the way to go!

Rae said...

No joke? Eucalyptus of Oregon? How sweet is that! I've never heard of such a place in Beavercreek. Would be interesting to know if they sell to the public. There are a lot of wholesale nurseries and tree farms out there. I would love to get my hands on some eucalyptus hardy enough for N Oregon. Sounds like it would be a better option than locust for you, what with the spreading and whatnot. :)

Marianne said...

Lime (linden) blossom tea is great, gentle, safe for high blood pressure and won't conflict with the diuretic - neither will the elderflower.
raw garlic's better not chewed. swallow with water like a pill.
you don't have to measure the sugar/honey. I layer the raw onion and sugar in a bowl. the sweet stuff makes it sweat enough.
easiest way to clear sinuses? chop onions! lots of them. I'd also use marshmallow tea or tincture which thins down the snot so it can flow out of the sinuses instead of blocking them. hot chamomile tea in quantity is anti-inflammatory to mucous membranes - it should help the sinuses.
it's fine to mix elderflower, chamomile, lime blossom all together and drink frequently. for an acute cold I'd use it as a substitute for water, i.e. your main drink. that much.
hope you're better soon.

Paula said...

I kid you not, Rae. I'll give them a call tomorrow (if I remember) and get the low down and email you the perticklers.

Thank you very much Marianne! I think I might have the chamomile in the back of the cupboard. Do you know if chamomile tea is made of German or Roman chamomile. I guessed German and ordered it for my tea garden.

sew susie said...

Just me again, I know you are not taking Eucalyptus oil by mouth but I had thought of all of the things I have seen it used for during my life. It is an Australian native and we see it growing over a wide range of conditions. I thought I would check Wikipedia for any info and found a lot of interesting things. It has been used since 1788, a apparently as a remedy given to the Convicts.
It has toxicity levels mentioned for human consumption. The brand Bosistos is mentioned which I have in my pantry.
It is also a staple of the Koalas diet.
Hope you are feeling better.

Paula said...

Hi you again. Interesting that they tried it out on convicts first. I knew that koalas ate it. I love koalas- I had a stuffed teddy koala as a child, that I loved dearly.

gowshika said...

Excellent sharing Thanks for share i am sure its must help me. thanks for doing this.
Natural Remedies