The cold, flu, and upper respiratory bugs have been persistent so far this season! Almost everyone in my immediate circle succumbed at one time or another during the month of December. And these were nasty bugs! Creeping crud, complete with sinusitis, tonsilitis, bronchitis, and probably a few other ‘itis’s I’m forgetting.
Everytime someone fell ill, I just knew it was going to get me next. But I managed to stave it off for most of the month of December. Each time I thought I was getting ill I would increase my daily nourishing herbal infusions and pay extra attention to what I was eating. I would also take my miracle cold defense remedy — fire cider – any time I felt the slightest sniffle or tickle in my throat, and ta-da!, within a few hours no more symptoms!
Before I tell the rest of the story, I’m sure you want to know more about this fire cider. I’ve seen a few different recipes out there for this, but what it essentially is is apple cider vinegar infused with a bunch of hot vegetables such as garlic, onion, horseradish root, ginger root, hot peppers, etc – all well known for their immune enhancing effects, and are good to add to the diet during the cold months; think chili and long cooked soups and stews.
To infuse the vinegar, you just chop or grate a bunch of these vegetables and fill a glass jar with them, pour apple cider vinegar over them, cap and let them steep for a few weeks, then strain and rebottle the vinegar. I keep my fire cider in the fridge and take a spoonful of the vinegar with a spoonful of honey mixed in water as needed.
I swear this stuff really works. Several times I began to sniffle and had that sore tickle in the back of my throat that told me a cold was trying to move in. I would then take the vinegar/honey and literally within a few hours all symptoms would be gone. Every time.
That is until later in the month, as holiday stress began to build up and I kept eating this cake, and that brownie, and cookies, and pumpkin rolls, and so many other delectable sweets that were so easy to grab. At that point even the fire cider couldn’t protect me, and I finally came down with a cold during the last days of December. This experience spoke volumes to me about what a big part stress and diet play in illness. No matter what good things you usually put in your body, or what remedies you use, if you are overstressed and eating too much sugar and other crap, you are vulnerable.
But what spoke even louder was what a good job my body did in handling this cold. I’ve never had an easier time being sick and had it linger for so short a period. I think that’s because it’s also been a long time since I’ve been as well-nourished and had such a strong immune system as I do now-a-days. Thanks to my usual nourishing herbal infusions, mostly whole foods diet, and nurturing herbal remedies for minor ailments! Read about some of my other experiences with colds and flu here and here and here.
Well, my cold started as a sore tickle at the back of my throat. That lasted for a few hours. Next I got some sniffles, also lasting for a short time, about a day all together, with some sneezing and a few nose blows. Then the cold progressed to a sore throat and neck glands with some general fatique and achiness, which lasted for a few hours one evening and was gone the next morning. Then I developed a scratchy something on my vocal cords that felt croupy. But a few good coughs cleared it all away. Finally, the bug moved into my sinuses, which made them mostly dry and irritated, with very little stuffiness. After a couple of days in the sinuses, the bug finally left me.
As you can see, I had the full blown progression of a nasty creeping crud cold that only lasted for a few days and had all the ferocity of a mouse instead of the usual lion. I call it my “semi-cold” of the season. The only remedies I used while it ran its course were rest, hot soups, and hot teas.
Some of the teas were more soothing and helpful than others. In the beginning, anything hot and steamy felt very soothing. When the cold progressed to sore neck glands, I had honeysuckle tea, since I had already experienced its rapid healing effect on sore throats earlier in the year. Last summer, when the honeysuckle was blooming I had made some honeysuckle sore throat syrup and frozen it for just such an occasion. I simply popped one of the ice cubes from the freezer into a mug, then poured hot water over it — instant honeysuckle tea.
Toward the end my sinuses became slightly stuffy when I slept, but otherwise were mostly just dry and irritated. At that time I found most teas just dried me out more and were not soothing at all. This was true of chamomile, red clover, red rasberry, and to a lesser extent, calendula. It was also true of the nourishing herbal infusion I was drinking at the time — red clover with burdock root. After drinking any of my usual teas or infusions, the back of my throat would become very dry and my sinuses would burn.
Many herbalists use the language of hot/cold, moist/dry to describe illness in the body and to know how to treat it. It is an energetic way of understanding the body and its processes. I’m just learning to use the terminology and understand how it applies. With the cold, dry sinuses I was experiencing, I finally got a good inkling of how to use this energetic system.
I saw that the teas I was using were mostly cooling and drying, which only aggravated my sinus symptoms. I realized I needed something warm and moistening to effectively sooth my condition. It was an ah-ha moment for me. Ginger, which I absolutely love, immediately popped into my head. It is very warming and also moistening, especially sweetened with honey (also moistening). This turned out to be exactly what I needed! Hot ginger tea with honey. I grated a small amount of ginger root (purchased from the grocery store), mixed in a spoonful of honey, poured boiling water over it, covered it for 10 minutes or so to let it steep, then sipped slowly and breathed deeply of its lovely, steamy fragrance. I felt immediate relief even after the first cup, which only got progressively better with each additional cup until finally all symptoms were gone.
So, I learned a lot with this cold. One, I felt entirely validated in my belief of the huge role that diet and stress play in immunity and illness, and two, I began to gain a real understanding of the language and application of energetics in herbalism. I can’t wait to explore these concepts in more detail!
Next, I want to talk about some herbs to help regulate insulin and blood sugars. Did you know that skin tags could be one of the first signs that you are insulin resistant and therefore prone to developing type II diabetes? More on that in my next post…