Maaaan, I don’t feel good today. Probably I just need the chiropractor and a neti pot, but hey, there’s a silver lining anyway: I remembered that I know a slew of tips for managing / killing / preventing colds & flus, and that this would be a good time to post them!
FYI: Yes, there are plenty of other herbal cures out there, many of which work — but remember, I specialize in CHEAP, EASY and RAW — Kitchenwitchery, if you like, but without any Gardnerian associations please. (Eeew.) I just like people to be more comfortable and knowledgeable about using the resources at hand, and less sick and broke. ;)
Something to keep in mind with this type of “medicine” (or “healing without medicine” if you like) is that the substances involved are completely harmless (unless otherwise noted), and for the most part do not interfere with each other — in other words, mixing is perfectly viable and encouraged, and in some cases helps a lot. (It also helps to know something about the compounds you’re working with…garlic, for instance, penetrates tissues very well, so mixing it with something you want to run through your system is helpful…also ginger settles an upset stomach, so mixing it with something like cayenne that would otherwise upset your stomach works well…stuff like that.)
Anyway. Here they are, in no particular order:
Echinacea you’ve probably heard about; it’s something of a virus-and-bacteria-fighter, but its main effect is to strengthen your immune system. Can really help colds, etc. go away faster, if you start drinking the tea 2-3 times a day the second you know you’ve got something. You have to stop after a maximum of two weeks though, and take a 2-week break, or echinacea becomes ineffective.
Onion juice may be the world’s most amazing expectorant. It can even cure pneumonia (if it hasn’t gotten too bad — the patient must be able to cough for it to work). Juice or blend-and-strain a raw onion, and take 1-3 teaspoons 2-3 times per day for as long as needed. Will make you cough your butt off, but it’ll be productive coughing and you’ll feel better (assuming, of course, that your lungs are congested to begin with).
Garlic, I maintain, is a miracle cure. ;) It certainly works wonders to clear the sinuses, fight infections, get sluggish fluids moving and break fevers. When sick, eat 1-3 raw cloves per day (a feat I find most tolerable if you crush the garlic & spread it on buttered bread — or, if you hate the taste, on just a corner of the bread, and use the rest as a chaser. Buttered bread is the *best* chaser for raw garlic). This will make you more comfortable immediately, and cut the duration of your illness about in half. For sinus pluggage / pain / general ick, take as needed. If you have ear pain, warm some garlic oil (post on how to make garlic oil coming soon; or you can buy it) and wet a cotton ball with it and shove it in your ear for 10 minutes or so, 1-2 times a day.
Cayenne pepper is another amazingly cool substance, though for cold/flu stuff, it’s mostly good for two things: One, obviously it can clear your sinuses: Sprinkle liberally on or in food, or in tea. (Cayenne/cinnamon tea actually isn’t too bad.) Secondly, it can keep you warm and toasty on chilly days, or when you have chills from being sick. Besides eating some, sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon or less in each of your shoes (wear black socks, or risk staining). Do be careful, because it is possible to use too much, and your feet will be on fire! Having a little extra foot-warmth making having to go to school/work when you have a cold a bit more tolerable. ;)
Lots of watery fluids, especially hot ones. NO soda-type drinks. Limit sugar and dairy. I think those are obvious, eh? But they matter a lot to your comfort and how long you’re sick.
Honey cuts mucous, so if you need/want milk, stir in some honey; or if you eat dairy, follow it with a spoonful. Lemon juice has the same effect, plus it’s a strong astringent (good for mucoused-over tissues) and a mild antiseptic. Add both liberally to tea, or just hot water, and sip throughout the day. If you don’t have a problem with alcohol (a strong antiseptic and, as you know, mild tranquilizer), make yourself a hot toddy at night with a shot of warm whisky or rum, two spoonfuls of lemon juice and one spoonful of honey. There’s no harm whatsoever in drinking this before bed every night that you’re sick, and it can really help you sleep (and is far less damaging to your system than NyQuil–!).
Salt is another excellent antiseptic, tissue toner and painkiller, especially for throats. I like to brush my teeth with a mixture of half finely-ground sea salt and half baking soda when I’m sick, and gargle a strong solution of it when finished. Prevents or treats tonsillitis and sore throats, and it’ll kill that awful I’m-sick-bad-breath, too.
Ginger should be another cheap, grocery-store-obtainable weapon in any winter arsenal…It’s warming, will break fevers even better than garlic, and is great for clearing sinuses and settling stomachs upset from swallowing too much snot. ;) Make tea from it, or just drop a chunk of raw ginger in any tea you happen to be drinking (it makes it nice and spicy), or drop it in a pot of near-boiling water and throw a towel over your head to inhale the steam. (Another nice option for steam-inhalation is to toss a bunch of ginger in a hot bath, which is also *awesome* if you have a fever — unless you’re a child, in which case a hot ginger footbath is better. You don’t want to break a fever too hard in the little ones!) If you have an upset stomach, headache, etc. and just feel like way too much crap to even contemplate eating, the best thing in the world is hot water with a slice of ginger, spoonful of honey and splash of lemon juice. Seriously.
For prevention, any of the following things are good: Drinking tea with ginger, cayenne, garlic (yes, some people put garlic in tea — not me personally, but I’m sure it works), echinacea (see the two-week rule above), lemon juice and/or honey, whenever you feel cold or “low” or just periodically, to keep mucous from building up and germs from taking root. Eat raw garlic as regularly as you can stomach (I’ve known several people who eat it every day, and they NEVER get colds!); put cayenne in your food; chew raw ginger root (also good for your gums & teeth, but I personally can’t do it — if it’s not too strong for you though, have at it). Periodically gargle with salt-water, especially if you feel “gunked up” or have a sore throat. Take a hot bath with ginger at the end of a day that’s left you ragged and weak-feeling, and drink some tea with echinacea before bed so you don’t get sick in the night. Get your vitamins, especially zinc.
Hmm, I may be missing something, but that’s definitely the basics. Now hurry up and go stock up on those things before the snow hits the fan, eh? Hmm…I think I’m out of ginger myself. Darnit. ;)