Squashing a Spring Bug: Kvetching, Cold Remedies, and Recipes
Squashing a Spring Bug
Last night I rolled over, held my breath, and tilted my head toward the window. Was there a cat out on our balcony? No way—we're on the sixteenth floor. I exhaled, and floated back in the general direction of dreamland.
My gut tightened when I heard the high-pitched drone of a World War II air raid. Like the whine, this wail was coming from my husband's nose.
Less than a week before winter's end, when I was this close to declaring a victory on cold and flu season, I was under attack.
Flip Flop Four Seasons
Buds are swelling on the honeysuckles. I need my coat in every morning, but I forget it in odd places some afternoons. A few days ago, I had to dig out my Patagonia parka. A week before that, I was on the deck in a halter top and short-shorts.
My closet contains every type of outerwear you can imagine, because all over the USA, the thermometer is bouncing off both ends.
I refuse to catch a cold. Instead of running for covers, I've decided to stiffen my resolve...and go for reinforcements.
I open my medicine cabinet, nice and slow. I don't want any of those salves, tinctures, pills, and capsules to get the wrong idea...I'm not in there for the hard stuff. Not yet.
My secret defense? A three-dollar dose of lipospheric Vitamin C.
This goo bomb tastes so bad that I stomp my foot as I guzzle the slick, gelled (vegan, gluten-free) contents. I do this by inserting the whole pouch in my pie-hole and pulling it out out between my front teeth.
This method of delivery is...well, "off label."
Look at this gunk. You think it would taste better after I mix it in some inert liquid? I tried that. Once. It was like trying to swallow a lava lamp.
Dodging the Disease du Jour
I’ve been eluding the creeping crud since Halloween, dodging contaminated airborne particles like automatic weapons fire. I empty trash cans with tongs and cut away from crowded aisles at the grocery store. Snotty children make me shiver. I gather my books and move my seat at the library at the the second sign of a cough (hey, everyone's allowed to clear their throat).
In case of incidental exposure, I have girded my immune system with a litany of remedies, including the lipospheric grenade.
Take that, rhinovirus!
In January, my husband got so sick that he jammed tissues up both nostrils.
This was no ordinary rhinovirus—this was a full-on walrus-virus: the man blubbered around our house wearing tissue tusks.
I kicked him out of our bedroom—for losing his health and his sense of humor. Don't feel too sorry for him; in our house, the sick person gets the remote, and veto power on NetFlix.
While he was under the weather, I washed my hands nine times a day. I also served him entire heads of baked garlic and a concoction of mushed up ginger root, cayenne, and raw honey strained through cheesecloth.
Garlic requires no culinary defense, and its health benefits are touted by that bastion of mainstream science, the National Institute of Health (NIH). Take a look at this double-blind, placebo-controlled survey:
- Preventing the common cold with a garlic supplement: a double-blind, placebo-controlled survey. - P
Adv Ther. 2001 Jul-Aug;18(4):189-93. Clinical Trial; Comparative Study; Randomized Controlled Trial
Recipe # 1 - Idiot-Proof Baked Garlic
- Choose a head of garlic that's firm and bulbous. You'll need some oil, too. Splurge on the healthy stuff.
- Chop off the top of the teardrop shape garlic head with a sharp knife, so the 'meat' of the cloves is somewhat exposed, and the head sits flat on the bottom of your dish.
- Drizzle some oil on top of each exposed clove. Throw some herbs on there if you like.
- Put the head(s) in an ovenproof, covered dish that you've sprayed or wiped with oil (avocado oil is great--it's healthy and heat tolerant). Some people use aluminum foil, but that stuff is not healthy, and it's wasteful.
- Bake at 400 until the cloves brown (kinda like marshmallows) and puff out a bit. This will take about 30-40 minutes. Or, if you are baking something else (NOT cookies! No one likes a garlic gingersnap!), bake a head or two in your oven along with your meal. If you cook at 350, allow an hour or more for your garlic to bake.
- The cloves squeeze out nicely and they refrigerate well in a glass jar, submerged in your choice of healthy oil. You can eat them by themselves, spread on gluten-free crackers, or add them to another savory dish.
Recipe # 2 - Ginger/Cayenne/Honey Cold Repellent (aka The Liquid Fence)
- Fresh, firm ginger root (about the size of an adult thumb). Peel it with the edge of a sturdy spoon if you feel ambitious (or if you are using a blender or food processor). Usually I skip this. Someone in my family has a cold, and I'm in no mood to sweat the small stuff.
- About 3 T. raw, local honey (Do not feed to babies. Rare instances of botulism in infants).
- Cayenne. Organic (duh). At least a spritz, but if you can take a 1/4-1/2 teaspoon, it will have more kick.
- Mince the ginger root. I do this by hand, because I like to wield a knife. Besides, I like the smell and I hate to clean (and hear) food processors.
- Put the ginger root, honey and cayenne in a non-reactive, heat-resistant bowl (not copper). Add filtered, boiling hot water and let it steep for at least 1/2 hour.
- Strain it though cheesecloth. I have used old pantyhose, too, but be sure not to use pantyhose washed with fabric softener. I shouldn't have to remind you to use clean pantyhose, right?
- Drink up. Hot or cold. Sweeten as needed, dilute if necessary.
Here's the NIH Study on Ginger:
- Biological properties of 6-gingerol: a brief review. - PubMed - NCBI
Nat Prod Commun. 2014 Jul;9(7):1027-30. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't; Review
Sweet & Spicy
It's not just ginger that's good for you. Cayenne is high in Vitamin A, and it's well-documented that capsaicin helps break up mucous (ask any Jewish mother: it's the not-so-secret cold fighter in our chicken soup). Honey has antioxidant, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties, and local raw honey helps fight pollen-induced allergies, too.
The Walking Infected
At least my Abominable Kleenex Man had the decency to hole up (smelling like garlic and ginger) and let me nurse him back to health.
Some sick people participate in a weird ritual of martyrdom and tribal recruitment. Why are my neighbors hell-bent on making me sick? They are The Walking Infected.
“I’ve been sick for three days,” one of them told me, “I dragged myself out of bed with a fever, just to see you today.”
“Gee, thanks,” I said, disguising my recoil as a stretch.
NyQuil? No Way.
No way am I buying NyQuil. Putting that stuff in your bathroom is like hanging a sign around your neck: “Come and get me.”
I will launch more pre-emptive attacks—this time with echinacea, garlic, and zinc.
At the first sign of weakness in my flanks, I will down two disgusting packets of Vitamin C, twelve hours apart.
I will buy homeopathic remedies, I will wrap my chest in mustard-soaked linen. I will sit in the steamer until I sweat out five pounds of toxic water weight, but I will not buy the dreaded green fluid until I am so sick that the pharmacist takes two steps back at the very sight of me.
It's heartening to have this litany of healthy remedies at hand, because abandoning my holistic priorities for Proctor and Gamble would not just be a badge of shame; worse, my liver might never forgive me.