Garden & Kitchen Cures For Colds & More
Last year, colds were rare and there was almost zero flu going around, as isolating, social distancing, and masking helped reduce our exposure to one another’s germs. This winter, as protocols are easing up, it looks like we might need to start taking precautions again. After a wild few weeks and a very busy weekend, I’m feeling a little nervous. A quick symptom review shows cause: Headache, check. Sore throat, check. Stuffy head, check. Drizzly nose, check. Itchy eyes, check. Earache, check. Gotta be a duck, right? Or at least one of the virulent illnesses that make the rounds so quickly. Dang.
When you or the entire household gets nailed by the nasties, head for the kitchen first and you may be able to avoid a visit to the pharmacy. Garden herbs, fresh or dried, can help provide relief in the form of teas, soups, and gargles. The kitchen pantry also supplies natural remedy ingredients for gentle yet effective treatments. For instant relief, put a dab of organic coconut oil on that raw, sore nose. Cover itchy eyes with warm, wet black tea bags (used ones work fine) while you take a five minute break. Drink plenty of hot herbal teas (ginger, chamomile, and peppermint are all helpful) and rest when you can. The especially good news is that these old time techniques reduce the most unpleasant symptoms not by masking them but by promoting a cure.
It Starts With The Sea
Long, long ago, we came from the sea, and our bodies are largely salt water to this day. Thus, sea salt is a very natural balancer for our systems. Sadly, sea salt all is increasingly contaminated with micro-particles of plastics, a form of pollution now ubiquitous throughout the world’s waterways and even found in rain. Kosher salt is mined worldwide (not always in ecologically benign ways), but it is free from plastic bits and other sources of contamination. No matter which kind of salt you elect to use, salty water’s not for drinking, but this simple rinsing and gargling solution eases a sore throat very quickly, cleaning out post-nasal-drip gunk that can turn into a bacterial swamp. Swishing with warm salty water also helps keep harmful mouth bacteria at bay and can ease discomfort when tooth troubles kick up. Swish and gargle several times a day, or at least when you get up in the morning and before you go to sleep.
Salt Water Gargle
1 cup warm water
1/4 teaspoon salt
Stir well and gargle with a small amount in the privacy of the bathroom. And shut the door, unless you live alone, in which case your pets will probably be fascinated and want to play too.
Apple Cider Vinegar Gargle Or Sinus Swig
1 tablespoon organic apple cider vinegar
1 cup (or more) water, hot or cold
Use warm water and gargle as above if your throat stays sore for more than a day. If your sinuses get involved, drink this stuff hot or cold every hour or two while awake to help battle both bacteria and viruses. Taken before or after meals, it’s a fine aid to good digestion. This combo also stops acid reflux almost immediately for many folks, who take it at bedtime to prevent uncomfortable nights.
The Allium Clan
When your body is fighting off colds or flu, turn to garlic and onions for speedy aid. The entire onion family contains compounds that boost the immune system and help fight infection naturally. Since they also add savor and warmth to almost anything, why not harness those powerful antioxidants at every meal? The classic chicken soup remedy still works, but the good news for vegetarians is that chicken is not the magic ingredient; research proves that onions and steam are what do your body good.
Adding a few other vegetables can only help, so add whatever sounds good to you (think kale and sweet potatoes) to any of these soups. Pureed soups are easier on sore throats, and naturally antibiotic herbs like thyme and rosemary are less irritating than pepper, though a little smoked paprika offers body and depth as well as a little bite. Flaked nutritional yeast is a protein-rich, salt-free optional ingredient that adds a nutty, cheesy flavor and gives vegetable soups a richer, savory, umami quality.
An Italian Classic Cold Cure
In Italy, winter is the traditional time to serve this hearty, garlic-based soup, famous for chasing away colds and flu. This sumptuously silky soup is lively with garlic and onions, and the addition of raw garlic makes this soup especially lively (but that step may be omitted if desired).
Traditional Italian Garlic Soup
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
1 dried hot pepper (pepperoncino)
2 whole heads garlic, cloves peeled and lightly crushed
2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 bunch kale (about 8 ounces), shredded in fine ribbons
1 cup flat Italian parsley, stemmed
1 cup Asiago or Romano cheese, coarsely grated OR 2 tablespoons flaked nutritional yeast
2 slices crusty rosemary- or herb-bread, toasted and cubed
In a soup pot, heat 1 Tbsp oil and dried pepper over medium heat to the fragrance point (about 1 minute), turning to lightly brown pepper on both sides. Add onions, all but 2 cloves of garlic, and salt and cook until onions are soft. Remove pepper, add broth, bring to a simmer, cover pan and simmer for 20 minutes. Add kale and simmer for 10 minutes. With an immersion blender, puree hot soup with remaining olive oil and remaining raw garlic (optional). Stir in parsley and 1/2 cup grated cheese and serve hot, garnished with toast cubes and remaining cheese. Serves 4.