Tuesday, May 19, 2009

cold and flu remedies in the cupboard

Tor and I have been struck down by something fluey this week. It featured lots of coughing.

Now, coughs in themselves have a raison d'etre - they expel mucus and get rid of muck in the lungs. So I don't like medicating them. In case you need further discouragement, commercial cough medicines have been found to possibly cause more harm than good.

The production and disposal of drugs is also deleterious on the environment.

On the other hand, it can really make life easier to have a few remedies, just to soothe throats and calm the spasms. Fortunately the pantry can supply quite a few.

Note: with discretion, these can be used for babies - however, medical advice cautions against giving honey to under-ones. You can use rice malt syrup or sweeten with stevia drops instead. However, real honey is really the best thing for coughs, and even out-performs commercial preparations.

#1 Ruth's Israeli Grandma's Pungent Simmer for dry coughs
This is really soothing and works to moisten up a dry cough. Slice up a raw onion and a few cloves of good-quality pungent garlic. The stronger the smell, generally the stronger the antibacterial quality. Simmer these on low heat in a cup of milk until onion is soft. Strain, add raw honey, and give a few spoonfuls between meals.

#2 Simple Thyme tea for productive coughs
When you have a lot of phlegm coming up, thyme can be a great expectorant. (Thymol, an extract, is one of the active ingredients in the popular Vicks brand chest rub). Brew a generous sprig of thyme (or a half teaspoon dried herb) in a covered cup of boiling water, for ten minutes. Serve with half a teaspoon honey. You can add any leftover tea to baby's bath.

#3 Mrs Sakaki's radish syrup for phlegmy coughs
My Japanese 'mother' gave me this time-tested remedy which is well-known in Japan. It's antibacterial and helps break up phlegm. Peel and dice a Japanese 'daikon' radish (the long white kind). Put the pieces in a jar and cover with honey. Keep it in the fridge, shaking daily, at least overnight, and if possible for three days. The juice of the daikon will come out into the honey, making a thin syrup. Strain and give a teaspoon to children when a cough is keeping them up at night. You can use the cubes of daikon as a condiment to curry - sweet and crunchy, delicious!

#4 Ayurvedic turmeric remedy for dry cough
Turmeric is feted in India for many qualities, and one of them is as an aid for dry and frequent coughing. Toast a pinch of tumeric in a dry skillet, mix with a teaspoon of honey and feed from the spoon, or add a pinch of the spice to warmed milk.

I'll follow this up soon with a recipe for flu soup!

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