[Herbal_Witches_Cauldron] 13 OLD-FASHIONED COLDREMEDIES THAT REALLY WORK
There's goodscience behind Grandma's elixirs for sniffles, sneezes, and other winter woes
Thanks to modern science, you can get a replacement heart, two new knees, andread a road sign without glasses for the first time in years. But when it comesto the common cold, it turns out that Grandma really does know best.
"Many of Grandma's home remedies for colds are safe, gentle, andeffective," says Mary L. Hardy, MD, medical director of the IntegrativeMedicine Medical Group at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles."They're great for uncomplicated, run-of-the-mill colds." Better yet,many of these remedies are available right in your pantry.
Where-And Why-Natural Works
A cold is a viral illness of the upper respiratory tract. It may lead to sinusinfection, bronchitis, or other secondary infections that take hold whenviruses lower your immunity. Treating a cold aggressively at the first sign ofsymptoms can help limit its severity or even stop it in its tracks, says Dr.Hardy.
And that's where Grandma's wisdom can help-if only we'd listen. "We'vegotten into the habit of believing that anything that fights cold and flu hasto come in a pill," says Ben Kligler, MD, medical director of theBeth-Israel Center for Health and Healing in New York City. "We need toreconsider natural alternatives that work as well as-and, in many cases, betterthan-over-the-counter remedies."
We've included a diverse sampling of remedies from Grandma's medicine chest.Consult your doctor if symptoms don't improve after 5 to 7 days, or if you havea chronic underlying medical condition, especially heart disease or a chronicrespiratory illness such as asthma.
1Breathe Deeply, and Feel Better
One of Grandma's oldest remedies for congestion is also one of the easiest todo. Inhaling steam helps decongest you because it gets mucus moving. That'simportant because bacteria flourish when mucus gets stuck in your nose,sinuses, or chest, says Dr. Hardy.
Here's how to do it: Fill a cooking pot one-quarter full with water. Bring italmost to a boil, then turn off the heat, and add a couple of drops ofessential oil of eucalyptus. Carefully remove the pot from the stove, and placeit on a protected counter or table.
Drape a towel over your head, lean over the pot, and inhale. Caution: Keep yourface at a very safe distance from the scalding hot water, so you don't getburned.
An even easier approach is to add 2 or 3 drops of essential oil of eucalyptusto a wet washcloth placed on your shower's floor. Close the door, turn on thewater, steam up the bathroom, and inhale while you scrub yourself clean.
Why eucalyptus? It's a decongestant and expectorant, says David Winston, aprofessional member of the American Herbalists Guild and founder of Herbalistand Alchemist, Inc., an herbal medicine company in Washington, NJ. It may alsoease sore throats and coughs and help fight infection.
No eucalyptus oil on hand? Smear some medicated eucalyptus chest rub on awashcloth, and toss it on your shower's floor. Take a hot, steamy shower, andbreathe deeply.
2 ComeBubbeleh, Drink Your Soup
Long before Chicken Soup for the Soul became a bestseller, mothers were ladlinggenerous portions of golden broth into their children's bowls as atried-and-true cold remedy.
Chicken soup has a number of things going for it. There's that broth, ofcourse, which helps keep you hydrated by replacing fluids lost from a runnynose or from sweating when you have a fever. The steam that rises from a hotbowl of soup helps to clear a stuffy nose and sinuses, as do optional hot andspicy ingredients such as cayenne or chili peppers, says Dr. Hardy.
Garlic, a mainstay of many chicken souprecipes, has antibiotic and antiviral activities. It's also an expectorant, soit helps you cough up stubborn bacteria that are languishing in your lungs.Onion, another common ingredient in chicken soup and a close relative ofgarlic, also has antiviral properties.
If homemade soup is not an option (and who feels like cooking when you'resick?), buy the best soup you can afford, says Dr. Hardy. Chop up some garliccloves, and toss them into the pot with the soup. Add some onion and a pinch ofcayenne pepper. Serve hot, and enjoy breathing again.
3 The H20Cold Cure
You can drink it, steam it, gargle with it, and even sit or stand in it. Whenit comes to colds, you won't find a more time-tested or versatile remedy thanwater.
Still, most people don't drink enough water when they're sick, and they don'tget its healing benefits in forms such as steam treatments and baths, says Dr.Hardy. To get your share of H2O, start by drinking plenty of water, which helpsreplace the fluids you've lost. Aim for ten 8-oz glasses a day. (You can flavorsome of them with a little fruit juice; herbal tea counts as water too.)
If your throat is achy, try numbing it by gargling with warm water andechinacea tincture (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon echinacea to 8 oz of water). Swallowthe solution after gargling.
Use a thoroughly cleaned humidifier to add moisture to your bedroom. And soakin a tub of cool (not cold) water to keep a fever in check.
4Boneset-Yarrow Tea for Fevers
From its name, you'd probably guess that the herb boneset (Eupatoriumperfoliatum) was used to treat broken bones. But you'd be wrong. Used by theCherokee people for more than 3,000 years, this bitter herb got its unusualname from treating "breakbone fever," or typhus, a condition in whichthe bones feel hot and achy.
Today, boneset is still admired for its ability to break a fever, says Winston.It works by raising body temperature, which causes profuse sweating. Thecombination of boneset and yarrow (Achillea millefolium), anotherfever-breaking herb, helps during cold and flu season by stimulating the body'simmune response to viral and bacterial infections.
To make boneset-yarrow tea, add 1/2 teaspoon dried boneset and 1/2 teaspoondried yarrow to 8 oz of boiling water. Steep, covered, for 30 minutes, thendrink it "as hot as you can tolerate it," Winston says. Beforewarned: Boneset and yarrow are bitter-tasting herbs. And adding honey orsugar to boneset-yarrow tea only makes the taste worse. "But it's one ofthe best things I know of for influenza," says Winston.
Don't drink boneset-yarrow tea if you are pregnant. Also, people who areallergic or sensitive to chamomile, ragweed, and other members of the daisyfamily may have an allergic reaction to the yarrow.
5 Honeyand Lemon for Sore Throats
If you're a tea drinker, you might add honey and lemon to your daily cup. But ateaspoon of honey and lemon without tea can do wonders for a dry, scratchythroat.
The thickness of honey helps coat and soothe an irritated throat. But there maybe more to the story, says Dr. Hardy. Because it's so thick, honey mayinterfere with the ability of bacteria to go about their business. In otherwords, bacteria may get stuck in a "honey trap" where they can do noharm.
Don't forget to squeeze some lemon onto your teaspoon of honey. Lemonstimulates the salivary glands, pulling fluid into the mouth and making iteasier to swallow.
6 Garlic:A Cold's Worst Enemy
If it can ward off vampires, thenwhy not the common cold?
One of our oldest cultivated plants, garlic has been used for centuries totreat everything from the plague and leprosy to toothache. In the 1800s,American doctors prescribed garlic for colds and coughs. Today, scientists arebusy uncovering the many ways that garlic keeps us healthy, and the list justkeeps getting longer. Garlic cloves contain hundreds of active ingredients,including sulfur-containing compounds such as allicin, that give it itsdistinct and pungent aroma. Garlic is antibacterial and antiviral. It's also anexpectorant that helps you cough up phlegm.
To get its full cold- and flu-fighting benefits, stick with fresh garliccloves, says Winston. "Deodorized garlic supplements are fine forhypertension or to reduce blood lipid levels, but when it comes toantibacterial activity, nothing is better than raw garlic."
For colds and flu, Winston recommends 4 to 8 garlic cloves a day-preferablyraw. If you just can't stomach raw garlic (and many people can't), try mixingit with plain yogurt or cottage cheese. If you must cook it, do so verylightly, Winston suggests. Tip: Before cooking the garlic, chop it, and let itsit for 10 minutes to give the disease-fighting compounds a chance to develop.
7 CinnamonTea: Tastes Great, Kills Germs
Once as valuable as gold, cinnamon has been used medicinally for thousands ofyears. In modern times, this fragrant spice flavors everything from sticky bunsand curries to cappuccino. But its reputation as a healing herb remains intact.
Cinnamon bark contains an oily chemical called cinnamaldehyde that kills avariety of illness-causing bacteria. It's also a fever reducer andanti-inflammatory, says herbalist James A. Duke, PhD, author of The Green Pharmacy (RodaleInc., 1999). And while it probably won't replace aspirin or acetaminophen inyour medicine cabinet, cinnamon does have some analgesic activity.
Dr. Duke recalls that his grandmother made cinnamon tea with honey to cure thecommon cold. He offers the following recipe: Add 1 tablespoon powdered cinnamon(or several sticks of cinnamon bark) and 2 cloves to 8 oz of boiling water.Steep, covered, for 20 minutes, then uncover and cool slightly. Add honey andlemon to taste. Drink 1 to 3 cups a day.
8 APowerful West Indies Cold Cocktail
If your grandmother hailed from the West Indies, she might have recommended anexotic and ferocious cold remedy consisting of lemon juice, garlic, ginger,cayenne, and vinegar. Are you cringing yet?
It may sound mouth puckering, but it works because it's loaded with healthfulanticold ingredients, says Dr. Kligler. Ginger and garlic, for example, bothhave natural antibiotic properties. Lemon juice and cayenne are astringents,meaning that they tend to be drying, and they're good for clearing up mucus andwet coughs. And ginger and cayenne are "warming" herbs. In manyherbal traditions, you use a warming herb to balance out conditions in whichthe body is colder than it should be, explains Dr. Kligler.
"I've heard this recipe in various forms at least four or five times frompeople of different ethnic backgrounds, mostly West Indian," says Dr.Kligler. "They say it's what Grandma used to give them when they weresick. I started recommending it to patients myself and have been very pleasedwith the results."
Here's his recipe: Combine 1/2 cup lemon juice, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 1 clovegarlic (crushed), 1 teaspoon grated ginger, and a dash of cayenne. Mixthoroughly, and "slug it down," says Dr. Kligler.
Lemon BalmTea: Gentle Virus Killer
If Grandma lived in a temperateclimate, she probably grew some lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) in her herbgarden. This aromatic and pleasant-tasting herb has been used to calm janglednerves and soothe upset tummies. It also has strong antiviral activity andhelps break fevers associated with colds and flu, says Dr. Hardy.
Use the leaves, picked before flowering, to make soothing lemon balm tea. Add 2tablespoons lemon balm to 8 oz of boiling water. Steep, covered, for 10minutes. For best results, chop the leaves just before you prepare the tea. Ifusing dried leaves, use 1 tablespoon lemon balm.
10 Reachfor a Spicy Symptom Solver
Grandma probably recommended ginger ale to settle your upset stomach. In fact,science has confirmed that ginger prevents motion sickness and nausea. But thisspicy herb also helps with cold and flu symptoms, including fever, dry cough,chills, and congestion, says Dr. Hardy.
Ginger is available as a tincture, capsules, or tea. But for best results, usefreshly grated ginger, which you'll find in the produce section of yoursupermarket. To make ginger tea, mix 1 tablespoon grated ginger in 8 oz of boilingwater. Steep, covered, for 10 minutes, then strain the tea into another cup.
11Slippery Elm Soothes Sore Throats
When the early settlers came to America, they knew just what to do withslippery elm, a close relative of elm trees in their native England. Thecolonists used the gummy bark of the tree to treat coughs and sore throats, aremedy still used today.
in the slick substance mucilage, slippery elmsoothes a sore throat by coating the irritated mucous membranes in the mouthand throat, says Dr. Kligler. It's available as a loose powder or lozenge inmost health food stores.
To make a chewy slippery elm paste from loose powder, add 1 tablespoon slipperyelm powder to 2 to 3 oz of warm water. Stir, and mix with some honey or maplesyrup to taste. Chew, and swallow. If you'd rather drink it down, mix 1tablespoon slippery elm powder with 6 to 8 oz of water.
12 TryDiluted Fruit Juices
During runny nose/achy body/stuffy head season, you probably keep a gallon oforange juice in your refrigerator, just as your mom-and her mom-did. Orange andother fruit juices provide healthy doses of vitamin C, which has been shown toshorten the duration of common colds and flu and may even prevent them. VitaminC strengthens your immune system, so your body can fight back against virusesand bacteria. But fruit juices also contain sugar, which some people believemay suppress your body's immune system.
To get the healing benefits of fruit juice without all the sugar (andcalories), cut your glass of fruit juice in half with tap water or sparklingwater. And read labels carefully to make sure that you're buying whole juicessuch as orange, pineapple, and tomato, not "fake" juices that containless than 100% fruit juice, says Dr. Hardy.
13 A BerryGood-Tasting Cold Remedy
At last: a cold and flu remedy that actually tastes good. Elderberry has a longhistory as a tasty healer. Europeans would chase away cold and flu symptoms bydrinking hot elderberry wine with lemon.
Today, elderberry is used by herbalists to treat viral infections, includingcolds, flu, and bronchitis. It may shorten the length of a cold by as much as30 to 40%, according to Winston. "If you take it early enough, you may notget sick at all."
Elderberry is available as a tincture or syrup, but the syrup may be moreeffective, Winston says. It's also easier to find, and it tastes better than atincture. If you still prefer a tincture, use 1 teaspoon elderberry three timesdaily.