I think I write on this topic every fall and winter. The common cold – the rhinovirus type that mutates frequently and then proceeds to make us all miserable for several days – is always a hot topic. I need to prevent such colds from getting deepseated in my lungs, since I am susceptible to bronchitis and pneumonia, and don’t need some opportunistic infection latching on when my immune system is overwhelmed.
The best cure is prevention, as with any illness. We don’t live healthy lives, in general. We eat the wrong foods, ignore the good ones, stay up late, expose ourselves to infection by going around in crowds of sick people, stress our bodies with ill-chosen activities and neglect some basic sanitation. (In fact, I just rubbed my nose after using this common keyboard. It’s one to the frequent ways we pass germs to others.)
So eating well before cold and flu season can go a long way to preventing illness; and at the end of a good summer, why aren’t we stoked up with veggies and late fruit? Why are we eating Mars bars and drinking cola? (All right, speaking for myself…)
We live under artificial light because so many of our activities are indoors, and because we have too many activities available after dark that involve having the lights on. When we had to make our own candles or burn tallow (less than a pleasant fragrance, that) we were more judicious about staying up late. I am trying to get to bed earlier, as well, which means I need to work harder during the day in order to be properly tired at sunset. This doesn’t sound like much fun, but I am married. (Which reminds me of a motion I wanted to introduce at our diocesan synod a few years ago, encouraging Anglicans to get married, stay married and be more active married, because it would mean happier Anglicans and in nine months, more Anglicans.)
All right, back to subject. Let’s say we’ve all done what we can to keep up a good immune system, but that pesky cold comes to roost anyway. This is what I do:
Garlic wine is dead easy. Get a bottle of not very expensive red wine and a head of garlic. Pour some wine in a cup, peel and bruise (slightly mash) a garlic clove or two, drop garlic into wine. Cover, let sit at least twenty minutes. Sip a little every hour or so for a day, then make a fresh batch the next day. Take for a couple of days at the first symptom – scratchy throat, hoarseness, sniffles. It will knock out the cold or lessen the severity a great deal. I use this almost every cold and it works for me.
Elderberry syrup is something to prepeare in advance. Get as many elderberries as you can carry home. They need to be well-ripened, a dark, dark wine colour. Strip the berries from the stalks and put in a steel or enamelled kettle with a little water to get them steaming. (Check water level occasionally as they simmer.) Heat to boiling and turn down to simmer until the juice is given off from the berries. I think I let it simmer about an hour or so. Press and strain the berries, reserving the juice. Now add about a thumb joint’s length of peeled fresh ginger and a half dozen whole cloves (or more). Boil up again, add some honey to thicken a bit if desired, and bottle (put into canning jars, process in boiling water bath for ten minutes.) Use as follows:
Put about a quarter cup of syrup in mug, add a little honey, pour in hot water. Sip as tea. It is flavourful, and will alleviate cold symptoms including a cough. Warning: It is diaphoretic – it will make you perspire. This is a good thing. I like to have a mug of it, then get into bed.
This recipe was adapted from Mrs. M. Grieve of A Modern Herbal fame. She also has some amazing elderberry wine recipes. I like elder flowers for coughs – they are quite delicate in taste and very effective. But they are hard to get.
I got over a rather virulent cold in three days using these. Nicholas has not quite defeated his cold, so I am about to get some elderberry into him and run up another dose of garlic wine. (Argentinian wines are quite cheap right now, and are rather good.)
Lemon balm, melissa officinialis, is also anti-viral, and shouldn’t be neglected. Tetley has a blend (Cleanse) that includes elderflowers, and comes in teabags, so it is practical to use. I keep jars and jars of loose lemon balm dried, as well. It will turn back an attack of shingles, and is very effective for chicken pox.
Don’t forget to take raw, natural honey. Get it from a beekeeper rather than the grocery store. Local honey is more effective than imported honey. Start taking it (don’t heat it or add hot water) as soon as other people start to get colds and you might avoid one altogether.