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Kick a Cold — Homeopathics

I’m back! After a computer meltdown and then a 3-day event across the country, it has been a while since I’ve been able to post. Thanks for sticking with me!

Back to talking about strategies to beat viruses, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention homeopathic remedies. Homeopathy is a healing tradition based on using minute amounts of a like substance to help the body regain a healthy equilibrium. You can usually find homeopathic remedies at any health food grocer. Where I live, Vitamin Cottage has the best homeopathic selection. You don’t need a prescription and the remedies are usually very inexpensive.

A well-trained homeopath will diagnose and treat maladies based on everything from physical symptoms (runny nose, dry cough, etc.) to personality characteristics (bossy, avoids confrontation, etc.) to habits (sensitive to drafts, early riser, etc.). The initial consultation often takes 3 hours or more and gives the homeopath a window into you as a whole person.

A homopathic hack like myself can successfully use homeopathic remedies to treat specific symptoms. It can be effective even though this is a less holistic approach.

When taking homeopathic remedies, don’t eat or drink for 15 minutes before or afterward, and dissolve the tablets underneath your tongue for sub-lingual absorption. Homeopathic remedies will not interact with other medications and are safe to use when pregnant, nursing, or with infants and children. Take a dose and then wait to see if the symptoms subside. If not, then repeat the dose after 4 hours or so.

Let me tell you about a few of the homeopathic remedies in my arsenal.

AconiteAconite 3-4 tablets at the first sign of a cold can do wonders. Good for colds with sudden onset.

ColdCalmColdcalm A combination of 9 remedies in each tablet, this is great for immediate symptom relief of sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, or sore throat. Last night my daughter awoke with a croupy cough and a Coldcalm tablet plus a warm humidifier calmed the coughing and helped her return to sleep.

EuphorbiumHeel Euphorbium Sinus Relief (now called Sinusin) A nasal spray that gives immediate relief to stuffy or runny noses. Great for babies as it clears the nose and allows them to suck a bottle or nurse comfortably. I keep one for each family member (it’s best not to share nasal spray bottles!) and generally use it after a sinus rinse. During a bad cold I carry it around with me and spray as needed. Sometimes an immediate second application is called for if the first one didn’t give any nasal relief.

Although you can’t overdose on homeopathic remedies, it is best to only repeat a dose if symptoms persist.

Kick a Cold — Kids sinus rinse

My 4-year old woke up snuffy and with a dry cough this morning. “Mommy,” he asked, “can I have some nose medicine?”

First, I’m so proud of him for asking for a remedy that he doesn’t enjoy at all but obviously knows that a small amount of discomfort will ease his suffering tremendously. Now that’s a smart, brave boy.

And second, it told me how lousy he felt that he would actually ask for this without me even offering it. Poor kid.

Good timing, too, as many pediatric cold medicines were removed from stores across the country today for fear that parents will inadvertantly overdose their children, and it was recommended that children under 2 not be medicated for cold relief. I couldn’t agree more.

Little NosesFor my son, however, once we applied the “nose medicine”, he felt better within minutes. A good sinus rinse is invaluable, as I talked about in my Sinus Rinse post. As much as I love NeilMed’s Sinus Rinse Saline Nasal Rinse, it is too much for infants and children. For them I use Little Noses Saline Spray/Drops, Non-Medicated Relief for Dry or staffy Noses. Just squirt some in each nostril, wipe detrius with a kleenex, and you’re good to go. It’s my first line of defense for little ones. Be sure to get the unmedicated formula; once I used the anti-histimine version and my 15-month old was wired for hours. On a plane. Huge mistake.

Run a humidifier in the bedroom to lubricate nasal passages and ease congestion during sleep.

Next I’ll discuss various homeopathic remedies helpful to use when kicking a cold.

Kick a Cold — Garlic Tea

For booting unwanted invaders out of your body, there’s almost nothing better than Garlic Tea. Particularly when combined with a good sleep that gives the body a chance to heal.

Garlic has long been known to have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties besides its qualities as an aromatic flavoring. It also lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and it is the only aphrodisiac food that actually works for encouraging and maintaining an erection — a natural Viagra. No wonder the Italians are so passionate!

The superstition of wearing leis of garlic around ones neck to ward of vampires likely came from the practice of using garlic to ward off the plague in the middle ages. It could have been fairly effective, too, as garlic can be used as an insect repellent in an organic garden and the plague was spread by fleas.

My favorite spice book, A Busy Cook’s Guide to Spices: How to Introduce New Flavors to Everyday Meals, even claims that you can rub garlic externally on corns, bunions, warts and bites. I must admit, I’ve never tried this, but I plan to on my very next mosquito bite. I’ll let you know how it works.

But back to the Garlic Tea… I learned about this during the summer I spent waiting tables on the Greek island of Rhodes. I was hanging out with an Australian woman who was steadily feeling worse one day; by nightfall she had a headache, stuffy nose, cough, fatigue and just generally didn’t feel well. She clearly looked sick. At dinner that evening, she ordered an empty glass, 3 garlic cloves, and a lemon. She sliced and ate the raw garlic. She halved and squeezed the lemon into the glass, and then drank the juice and went to bed. The next day she was completely well. It was amazing.

garlic cloveI’ve taken this concept and made it a little more palatable by steeping crushed garlic in boiling water and adding the fresh juice from 1/2 lemon and honey. The garlic/lemon combo is surprisingly sweet and sippable, though add some local honey if you have a cough or need to alter the flavor.

Garlic Tea Instructions

1. Peel and crush/chop/mince 3-5 cloves of fresh garlic.
2. Place garlic into a mug and then fill with boiling water.
3. Let steep for 5 minutes or more, and then add the juice from 1/2-1 lemon.
4. Stir in enough honey to make it palatable.
5. Sip. Eat the garlic if desired, but not necessary.
6. Repeat after 12-24 hours, if needed.

The tea seems to be as effective as eating the garlic raw, however if you need a more powerful remedy you might try some raw, too. I’ve been known to drink Garlic Tea two or three nights in succession when necessary.

The first question I always get when I tell people about this remedy is: Won’t you just reek of garlic? Who will want to be around you?

My response: You’re sick! You don’t want anyone around you anyway! Who cares if your breath stinks! Let’s just focus on getting well.

If you’re that concerned with stinky breath, eat some parsley afterwards. But know that the scent of garlic will emanate from your pores as your body flushes toxins from your system. I consider this a good thing, personally.

I recommended this remedy to my stepfather last week when he was fighting off the current mega-cold. He didn’t have any fresh garlic in the house so he substituted garlic powder. After he said, That was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever tasted, he did say he thought it had helped his recovery. It sounds pretty gross to me, and I’m not sure how much of the nutritional properties are retained once garlic is dried and ground. I wouldn’t suggest using garlic powder: stick with the fresh cloves and you can’t go wrong!


Kick a Cold – Sinus Rinse

There is a nasty virus working its way around my fair city. Somehow it just feels too early — it hit 83 degrees (F) yesterday! Autumn is just barely here and already this killer cold is taking people down for 3-5 days. I’m talking about a fierce, take-to-your-bed-and-wish-you-were-dead cold.

Most unfortunately, my kids and I have definitely been exposed to it by several people who later became sick or were already ill. As someone with multiple sclerosis, I work very hard to minimize my contact with sick people as viral infections can trigger MS attacks, something I desperately want to avoid. To keep myself as healthy as possible, I’ve devised a multi-pronged strategy to zap colds at first appearance, and even to avoid getting them in the first place. I thought I’d share this with you over the next few postings.

Sinus RinseThe foundation of my “Kick-a-Cold” regimen is NeilMed’s Sinus Rinse Saline Nasal Rinse Kit.

I seriously depend on this product to maintain my health, and have even found myself running all over London looking for a saline, non-medicated nasal spray when I forgot my SinusRinse bottle and packets.

Before I discovered NeilMed’s Sinus Rinse Saline Nasal Rinse, I would simply dissolve some table salt in a cup of body temp water and snort it to flush out my sinuses and reduce the swelling of my nasal passages during a cold. Let me assure you, this is as unpleasant and not-fun as it sounds. The salt alone burns inside the nasal cavity, and snorting quanties of liquid gives you a wicked headache. And anyone nearby who happens to hear you will dissolve into laughter the next time they look at you. Quite embarrassing.

My girlfriend told me about NeilMed’s Sinus Rinse after it was prescribed to her by a doctor at National Jewish Hospital, a specialized respiratory hospital with a national reputation, to treat her allergies. The single-serving packets are mixed with body temp water in a special applicator bottle. The packets contained a pre-measured ratio of salt, to reduce the swelling of the nasal passages, and baking soda to counteract the harshness of the salt. These elements combine to make flushing your sinuses a pleasant and soothing experience rather than a traumatic one.

Here’s my theory as to why I believe in rinsing out your sinuses: if you flush away viruses before they have time to take up permanent residence, and make your nose a generally inhospitable environment for them, viral infections won’t take hold, or even if they do, won’t stick around as long or be as virulent. Basically, you stay healthier and recover more quickly.

Besides doing a nasal rinse when I’m already stuffed up to clear out my nose and offer some temporary relief, I do it after I’ve been in cramped and crowded conditions where I have likely been exposed to things I don’t want, such as at a concert or on an airplane or in a subway car. I’ll even do it after a trip to the grocery store during the winter months.

I do a flush before I am to publicly speak, as it clears out any frogs from my voice and gives me a cleaner tone. It gives relief to constantly runny noses, too.

And I rinse madly when I already feel my body exhibiting the first signs of a virul infection: sneezing or excessive nose-blowing, exhaustion, elevated body temp, sinus discomfort or headache, general malaise… Any one of these sends me running to rinse out my nose.

Does it sound like I do this all the time? Kinda, I guess. It takes less than 90 seconds to do, feels good and offers relief, and can be done in any bathroom or sink. I regularly rinse at night along with brushing my teeth and washing my face. In the winter, I often rinse in the morning as well. I always rinse twice a day when traveling. And I can use up to 6 rinses in one day when I’m already fighting a cold or allergies and am either stuffy or runny. Hayfever season sees a lot of rinsing at my house.

This is the basis of my natural strategy to Kick a Cold. Next I’ll talk about an easy tea with strong antibacterial and antiviral properties that never fails to make me feel better by the next day.

Fun with Falafel

In much of Israel, falafel stands are as common as hot dog stands in New York City, except that instead of a pushcart the vendors stand next to a vat of boiling oil. It’s one of my favorite street foods from all my travels. Luckily, they are extremely easy to make and tasty to eat.

I purchase premade falafel mix: just add water and voila! You’re ready to drop balls in the deep fryer. I like to scoop the powder mix from the bulk food bins at Wild Oats, but have purchased this boxed mix as well and can say it’s good: Casbah Falafel Mix.

It’s great to have an electric deep fryer for heating oil. Deep frying works best when the oil is at a specific temperature — hard to maintain when you’re heating it on the stovetop. If the oil is at the right heat, then the food will instantly develop a crust to keep the insides oil-free while they cook. Oil that is too cold will seep into the food and make it greasy. We generally use canola oil, sometimes mixed with peanut oil, to avoid the heavy dose of saturated fats associated with deep-fried food fried in lard. We just have a basic deep fryer like this one: Presto 05420 FryDaddy Electric Deep Fryer

falafelI wanted to make this really kid-friendly, so I put all the fixin’s in little bowls and let them build their own pita sandwich. I used a melon-baller to make fun-sized balls.

Traditionally, falafel pita sandwiches are dressed with lettuce or cabbage and chopped tomatoes with a yogurt-dill-chopped cucumber mixture and tahini (sesame paste). Often a Tabasco-like hot sauce is sprinkled on top.

This night I chopped up broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers and carrots, because that is what I had. Instead of tahini, we used Annie’s Naturals Goddess Dressing, which has a sesame base and is unbelievably tasty. For a kick, the adults sprinkled on Golden Toad Chipotle Pepper Sauce, my absolute favorite hot sauce. Yum! The kids loved customizing their own pita — it’s always popular when they can help make the food! Everyone scarfed it down, even the 2-year old, and I sent leftovers in the lunch boxes the next day.