Got a cold? Try a homemade remedy.

Albany Times UnionOctober 17, 2013 

MCT

As the calendar turns toward winter, we start to hear it: The sniffles from the person in the next cubicle. The dreaded middle-of-the-night coughs from a child. It’s the cacophony of cold season, and we are headed into the throes of it.

Step away from the Sudafed.

While colds, flus, allergies and other seasonal ailments are bad news for us, the sounds that accompany them are as sweet to pharmaceutical companies and drugstores as coins clinking into a piggy bank.

Last winter was one of the worst cold seasons in a decade, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , which Advertising Age Magazine reported led to a 38 percent sales increase for Johnson & Johnson and a 9 percent increase for Procter & Gamble, according to Advertising Age magazine.

But many studies show conventional treatments are not as effective or have the same effectiveness rate as classic home remedies, and the overuse of them can actually lower effectiveness moving forward.

Some home remedies have withstood the test of time, like chicken soup and the power of good local honey.

Reports from the Mayo Clinic have shown chicken soup relieves congestion, limits inflammation (due to inhibiting the movement of neutrophils, an immune system cell), and speeds up the movement of mucus in the body. Protective cilia, tiny hair-like structures in the nose that block germs and other contagions from entering the body, get a boost in function from chicken soup as well, according to the November 1998 issue of Coping with Allergies and Asthma. There is no scientific data on the effectiveness of matzo ball versus noodles in chicken soup, though surely your grandmother has ideas and opinions.

A more adult cold cure-all is the hot toddy. Much like chicken soup’s vapors help with congestion, the same is true with a hot toddy. The alcohol in a toddy can dilate blood vessels, helping mucus and white blood cells fight infection, and can also provide a mild sedative, making for a good night’s sleep when slumber is elusive due to cold symptoms.

Writer William Faulkner, a known hot toddy enthusiast, would prescribe toddies to cure everything from “a bad spill from a horse to a bad cold, from a broken leg to a broken heart.”

A good base recipe for a toddy is 1/4 cup whiskey, a squeeze of lemon, 1 tablespoon of honey and 1/2 cup boiling water or hot tea. Combine all ingredients in a mug and drink while still hot.

“On the Score of Hospitality: Selected Recipes of a Van Rensselaer Family, Albany, New York, 1785-1835,” a book filled with recipes and cures produced from the “Historic Cherry Hill Recipe Collection,” also advocates for the use of toddy-type elixirs. Combining rum or wine with an assortment of herbs, botanical oils and water or milk was recommended for curing sore throats, colds, coughs and “the dropsy” (commonly known today as edema).

So a toddy a day keeps the doctor away.

A key ingredient in the toddy is honey. Honey, particularly raw honey, is full of antibacterial and antimicrobial properties and sulfur, which help to soothe sore throats and speeds the get-well process of illness. Honey can be boiled down with essential oils to create homemade cough drops or lozenges for at-home healing on the go.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises caregivers to avoid giving children younger than 2 years, and in some cases age 6, over-the-counter cold medicine (as reported in an August 2007 statement). Pediatricians and parents alike turn to natural remedies to combat sniffles and stuffy heads.

While there is some relief found in pharmaceutical treatments, the side-effects that often come with relief (high blood pressure, dehydration, and more) are more harmful that the actual illness, deterring their use by adults and children alike.

While previous generations turned away from homeopathic options in favor of commercially produced “convenience” medications, knowledge of the natural healing properties of honey, herbs, essential oils and extracts, spices, saline and more is re-emerging. Increased research and practice is leading people back into their pantries for all-natural solutions, and the popularity of the kitchen cabinet pharmacy rises with each cold and flu season.

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