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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

i have a cold. i feel rotten. now what?

I have a cold. I feel rotten. Now what?

I hear ya. Miserable thing, that cold virus. It makes it's round twice a year, in one form or another, through various families, and yet it seems that this question is always being asked. Don't crawl under a rock and die just yet! Here are a few tips for feeling better, for preventing the spread of those germs, and for preventing infection next time using natural and affordable remedies good for the entire family.

Aches and pains:

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen may be helpful, especially if sleep is not coming readily. I personally prefer to avoid them, however, and where possible will let my body stay awake or fall asleep not on the normal schedule while I am recovering.

Heating pads or microwaved warm rice bags, in cases without fever. Chilled rice bags may be best, at the nape of the neck or applied to the scalp or forehead, for headache treatment.

Sleep, alternated with movement. If all that your body allows is a short walk halfway up the street, do that. And then come home and rest.

Chamomile tincture.

Raw garlic and honey.

Coughs and sore throats:

Tea: red clover tops (nervine sedative, antispasmodic, nutritive, expectorant) + licorice root (adrenal stimulant) + ginger root (anti-spasmodic, anti-catarrhal, nervine stimulant). Decoction (low simmer, covered, 15-30 mins). Use equal parts of herbs and blend. Be aware that red clover tops and licorice root are both mild estrogenics, so this is not recommended for pregnant mamas at all. However, this formula should be fine for the rest of the family, even children, for up to a week. And if you haven't got the cough under control after a week, then you probably need to pursue other avenues anyway.

Raw honey directly in the mouth.

Warm lemonade simmered from fresh lemons, fresh ginger root, pure water, honey to taste, and a small amount of peppermint or mullein if desired. Sip frequently.

Saline or infusion gargles. Raw garlic water may be a little difficult to gargle, but it really helps! If you can't handle that, try ginger, oregano, lemon, or thyme infusions instead.

Runny nose:

Nasal irrigation with saline.

Raw nostrils from frequent wiping can be helped with a herbal salve made with herbs safe for wounds (as you do not want to introduce anything to a mucus membrane that is not safe for such application), or coconut oil. Vaseline or petroleum jelly can be used in a pinch, but given it's high level of processing I do not prefer to use it. You can make your own plain salve simply by melting 1 oz beeswax into approximately 8 oz oil. Apply at the base of the nostrils, or even inside with a finger, to soothe and protect.

Cough tea and sickie lemonade as prescribed above.

Eliminate dairy.


Cough tea.

Strong ginger tea, or ginger tincture. Mullein is also fabulous for any kind of respiratory problem.

Breathing treatments. Essential oils of eucalyptus, peppermint, lemon, and oregano 2 drops each dropped into a mug of steaming hot water and held to the nose and mouth for inhalation will aid sinus clearing as well as fight germs in the respiratory tract. Small children who won't tolerate the mug can be placed on the bathroom floor, door closed, and a hot shower running with those essential oils dropped on the tub floor. Eucalyptus cut herb will work as a breathing tea or herbal bath in place of essential oil.

Massage the face, sinuses, and lymph glands in the neck by stroking down and out to promote drainage.

It may be worth giving a little apple or prune juice, or some other mild dietary remedy for constipation, to small children who swallow their phlegm. The body is trying to expel waste and germs via their respiratory tract, so help things along by gently increasing their need to eliminate and pass the phlegm out the other end, since it didn't make it out the short way onto a tissue.

Nasal irrigation with saline. Breast milk works quite well and doesn't sting, so don't feel as though you have to run to the drug store for a special saline mix for your plugged up nursling.

Garlic poultice on the chest. Crush or mince several cloves raw garlic, place in folded paper towel, add hot water and let sit for a minute or two. Then apply poultice to chest.

Eliminate dairy.


Teas made from lemon balm, lemons and oranges, licorice root, elder flowers will be cooling to the system. Lemon balm (nervine, anti-spasmodic, anti-viral and -microbial), citrus and peppermint is a pleasant combination.

Sleep. Lots of it. When awake, fluids. Lots of them.

Enemas (no salt) for those who cannot keep down tea due to vomiting. Catnip tea is very good as a fever-treating enema. Rehydrates without irritating stomach.

Wrap up the body and allow to sweat, as this will often cause the fever to "break" sooner than the use of medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, where fevers are more likely to go up and down for longer as doses wear off or are taken again. If fevers run high and sweats are not working, we do go ahead with ibuprofen. Use your discretion.

Baths. Don't chill the body quickly as this can weaken or shock the system. Place a fevering child in a bath warm enough to feel comfortable, and at first allow evaporation to cool them down, perhaps adding a small amount of cool water as the body adjusts and cools. You might find baths a helpful distraction for little patients, too, so bring out toys not usually in the bathroom and make a game of it. Add a posset of lavender herbs or some lavender oil to the bath to help draw out the fever.

Peppermint essential oil on soles of feet.

I don't hold to the adage, "feed a cold, starve a fever". Listen to the patient. Sure, they may ask for something that would clearly not be beneficial, so don't break out the Oreos just to make your sicko husband smile! But of healthy, sensible food choices that will nourish their body and rebuild good health, I believe in letting the patient eat or refuse food more than sticking to the rule. Let their intuition aid in their recovery. If your fevering patient is hungry, you might offer a small mug of warm bone broth and some whole wheat toast fingers, or a bowl of sugar-free apple sauce. Also, let nurslings continue to take as much of mama's milk as they desire. Mama's body is reacting to their needs on a biological level and they will be much better able to fight off the bad guys with plenty of her milk. If it is vomited up, don't worry. Nutrition and fluids were still absorbed even in only brief moments in the stomach.

Only one down, X more not to go!

Keep yourself well by avoiding the spread of germs via hand and mouth contact.

Essential oils of peppermint and eucalyptus can be added to the household humidifier to aid in controlling the spread of airborne germs.

Wash hands frequently, and keep a nail scrubber with the soap. You don't have to go all anti-bacterial with soaps and gels. Spray white vinegar on the hands, countertops, toilets, door handles. You may add herbs and/or essential oils to increase anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-microbial power, or simply add a pleasant scent, but don't destroy the good bacteria along with the bad on your skin and in your nose by using chemical-laden commercial products.

Increase vitamin C. Suck on fresh oranges. Eat raw peppers.

"C tea": orange peel, lemon peel, and rosehips. Lemongrass (nervine sedative) if desired.

Brand packets of electrolytes and vitamin C "Emergen-C".

"C Tincture": fresh thyme (anti-septic, anti-viral, anti-spasmodic, expectorant, anti-tussive, astringent, preservative, among other qualities), orange peel, lemon peel, rosehips, lemongrass, as a glycerite tincture, 15-60 drops three to four times a day.

Raw garlic. Everyone in the house should be consuming raw garlic and raw honey if anything is going around whatsoever! Garlic is anti-microbial, anti-fungal, immuno-stimulant, anti-oxidant, anti-spasmodic, expectorant, among other qualities, which encompasses everything desired for avoiding the cold and flu or for recovering from it. It really is best raw, not to mention cheapest. If you must take capsules, find a high quality brand. Really, though, your biggest bang is always going to come from raw garlic. My not-two-year-old son takes raw garlic really easily. Any guesses how? Yes, I hide it in honey! Peel and finely mince a clove of garlic with a knife. Don't use a garlic press as you will lose a lot of precious juice on the utensil as it squeezes out the fibers. Fold a little raw garlic into a small spoonful of honey, and there you go. Easily consumed, gentler on the stomach than swallowing raw cloves whole, and you really can get your kids (or spouse) to swallow -- more than once!

Echinacea purpurea tincture works best at early onset or threat of illness.

Flu Shot in a Bottle rollerball. Swipe rollerball onto soles of feet nightly, or daily if you prefer, to aid against catching the Dreaded Lurgi. If the Lurgi has already been caught by you or someone you can't avoid, use rollerball 3x daily. You can also add oils to a spray bottle of pure water or white vinegar and mist the air, sofas and curtains to cut down on germ spread.

Elderberry consumed at early onset or threats of illness works very well to prevent illness getting it's teeth in, as it helps inhibit the entry of virus into the cells of the body. Glycerite can be given 15-60 drops three to five times a day. (One teaspoon usually contains about 30 drops.)

Rather than doing all at once, choose the raw garlic, handwashing, and only a few further remedies to really focus on, depending on your particular symptoms.

You're welcome. Now, the next time you hear of the dreaded "cold and flu" going around your regular haunts, do this:

  1. Isolate. Where or from whom is the yuck coming? If Bug X is making the rounds with your local friends and playmates, gently avoid them and those favorite haunts until you know the threat has passed. Your friendship will suffer less from a shorter period of abstinence than if you all keep passing things back and forth, exposing your increasingly weakened immune systems to repeated contraction over the course of several months. If the Dreaded Lurgi has already struck your household, try to minimize the damage. Sick individuals do not share pillows, towels, sheets, clothes, cups, utensils, toys, or anything else they don't have to. When changing the linens of a vomiting individual, use a laundry basket so your clothes are not in direct contact with everything they've been breathing all over, and wash your hands after loading the machine. Ban sickos from the kitchen altogether. If possible, give the sickos their own bathroom. You can make up a cosy bed in the bathtub if a child needs frequent toilet use or usually shares a bedroom with a still-well sibling. Spouses don't have to share a bed at all times, either: Mama, if you're well, stay well! The onus generally falls to you to care for ailing children and husband, so protect yourself wherever reasonably possible! It is not uncommon for moms to care for everyone while each family member gets sick in turn, and then are themselves the last ones to go down. Much better if they didn't have to go down at all, right?
  2. Identify. What is actually the bother? You don't need to know the official strand of virus, but identifying early on if the problem is what your child got from friends recently or if it is actually a food allergy or some badly cooked meat is pretty important. Then, with "the cold and flu", group symptoms and apply the remedy that pertains to the most of them. Is the sore throat from post nasal drip, or is it from a possible case of strep? 
  3. Clarify. Examine your diet. Sugars and excess carbs, especially the processed types, decrease the body's resistance to virus and give more food to germs, which means more reason for them to come and inhabit for a while. You don't want that. Sugar isn't all bad, but when sickness strikes and it's just bad enough to keep everyone feeling miserable, achey, sniffly and hungry rather than vomiting and lacking in appetite, the worst thing you can do to make everyone happy is bake a batch of feel-good cookies. Try to limit the sugar intake, especially while ill or under threat, to raw honey, or at least raw sugar (my husband doesn't tolerate honey well, so I usually have raw sugar in the house for his sake), or better yet cut stevia herb for enzyme-rich, calorie-free sweetness in teas. If tummies are tender, go with the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, toast. But in general, your body will function best and be most ready to fight off the attacks before they even hit you hard if your diet is already fairly clean of processed foods and contains a good portion of raw produce as well as cooked. If you find yourselves getting sick often, review diet, habits and activities, and then clean them up.

Suggested reading:

Practical Herbalism by Philip Fritchey
Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Balch and Balch
The ABC Herbal by Stephen H. Horne

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