5 Home Remedies for Winter

Photo: womansday.com 
I love this time of year-the vibrant foliage colors, the crisp air & cooler temperatures, football games, bonfires and the opportunity to bake more (it helps keep the house warm and fills it with the most delicious scents!)

The one thing that is a challenge for some families this time of year is keeping kids healthy as they go back to school and are cooped up in tight quarters (classrooms) with no fresh air circulating. My daughter has told me that about half of her classmates are already sick with some sort of upper/lower respiratory infection, and we have not yet begun the heavier part of the cold and flu season. 

One thing that bothers me about this time of year, is the obsessive people chasing me down in pharmacies, malls and even the farmer's market to ask: "have you gotten your flu shot? Its free!" As if that isn't bad enough, when I politely reply "no thank you" they act shocked, appalled and speak loudly so all nearby can hear, (as if to shame me) "YOU HAVEN'T GOTTEN/ARE B NOT GETTING YOUR FLU SHOT?!" 

(to which I like to reply)


Now while I realize that for some the flu is no laughing matter, and can be dangerous, and they say that getting the shot does not give you the flu, I have experienced differently. For me, I have chosen to not get the shot, ever since the 1990's when a job required I get it and 10 days later I got the flu and missed 2 weeks of work (and have never gotten it again since, in spite of not having received the flu shot. Anecdotal evidence that I will swear by until I experience different.)

My grandmother (Philomena) grew up on a farm in Stowe, Pennsylvania, the oldest girl of 11 kids. She had several natural remedies for colds and flu, passed down to her from her mother and grandmother. The most common remedy, was that she used to make us kids eat scallions dipped in olive oil as a cold/flu remedy. I was never sure why it worked, but it did! (Maybe because we were so afraid of having to eat a plate of scallions - and of smelling like a scallion for a week-that we were 'scared well'!) 

Below are of my grandmother's best "Go To" Winter remedies, and some explanation as to why they work:

1- Scallions: (Spring Onions) - These grow abundantly on most people's front lawns. They contain anti-oxidants similar to those found in opnions and garlic, and have been deemed to be anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal, which is most likely why they were so effective in knocking out our childhood colds. In addition, they are rich in Vitamin A, K , B and a variety of minerals

Chop them up in salads, soups, stir fry or eat them raw, à la Grandmom- dipped in a mixture of 1/4 cup olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

2-Garlic: Garlic has been recognized for thousands of years for its medicinal properties as well as its culinary uses. My grandmother told stories of her brother who was a medic in WWI, who claimed to have dodged the horrific influenza pandemic of 1918 by keeping a clove of garlic tucked in his cheek at all times. This versatile root herb contains phyto-nutrients which have proven beneficial against coronary artery diseases, infections and cancers. Compounds found in garlic have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties. Garlic is one of the richest sources of potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, selenium and vitamin C, which is most likely why it protected my Uncle Paul from illness. So eat up! 

Its best used raw by slicing and letting sit for a few minutes. For a sore throat, place 2 sliced garlic cloves in a glass and add 1 tsp. salt. Fill some hot water. Gargle 3x day until symptoms improve. (If they don't improve after 3-4 days-get yourself to a doc!) 

To roast Garlic: 

Preheat oven to 375°. Take 2 whole heads of garlic and slice off a small portion of the bulb top so that individual bulbs are exposed. Place in a small ceramic dish and drizzle with 1/2 cup olive oil. Cover dish tightly with lid or foil. Place in oven and roast for 30-45 minutes, basting bulbs with oil half way through cooking. Bulbs will be semi-translucent and golden when done roasting. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely, uncovered. Remove individual bulbs by gently squeezing at the bottom, so they slide out of their skin. Use immediately mashed in butter (for garlic bread), potatoes, squash, soups or other dishes, or store in oil in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Strain skin out of remaining infused oil and place (oil) in a clean jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. This infused oil can be used for cooking or salad dressing. 

3-Honey:  Awareness of the healing qualities of honey date back to the ancient Greek and Roman times. Honey is a natural moisturizer, and has been shown to have antiseptic and antibacterial properties, which is why my grandmother used it as a cough/sore throat remedy. 1-2 tablespoons usually does the trick. If you take the honey with 500 mg of Vitamin C, it has been known to ward off a full blown cold. (Be aware that it is not recommended to give honey to children under the age of 3!) 

In modern science, honey has been applied in the field of chronic wound management, which reminds me of a personal story. When I was about 9 my dad was involved in an accident which resulted in him severing off the top portion of his third finger, as he was helping our neighbor move an upright freezer out of bilco doors. The appliance shifted and the 2x4's they were using slipped, catching his finger between the pavement and the wood. Instinctively he pulled his hand back, and when he did, the top part of his finger, including a piece of the bone, remained under the freezer. 

In the chaos, A nurse who lived across the street, (thankfully) retrieved my father's finger tip from under the freezer, wrapped it in a wet towel coated with honey, which she placed in a plastic bag and handed to my mother before we went to the hospital. Doctors were able to successfully re-attach this piece-and the surgeon remarked to my mother later that the nurse's quick thinking and swift action was the key to the success. The honey kept the piece hydrated and slowed bacterial growth, in spite of the traumatic injury. (Although my dad's finger looks a bit shorter than it should, he has full use of it to this day.)

4 - Lemons: Are the smallest among citrus fruits, yet contains more nutrients than other larger citrus fruits. Lemons are very low on the glycemic index and contain Citric acid, a natural preservative, which aids in smooth and efficient digestion, and actually helps prevent and dissolve kidney stones. Anti-inflammatory and rich in vitamin-C, A, B, minerals and antioxidants, adding lemons to the diet can help strengthen resistance against colds, flu and other infections. My grandmother always had lemons (and limes) artfully arranged in bowls. She used it liberally in cooking and explained to us kids that growing up on a farm, salt, vinegar and lemon juice was often used in preserving vegetables and other foods. Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice into a glass of water, or make an infusion of lemon water and keep in a in a pitcher in the refrigerator. 

Mix together 3-4 TBS olive oil, 1-2 TBS fresh lemon juice and a dash of salt and pepper for a simple & delicious dressing for salads and vegetables. 

For an excellent Cold Remedy: Juice 1/2 lemon into a mug and drop in the juiced rind (Be sure to clean the lemon well first using these tips.) Add hot or boiling water and steep for 3 minutes. Add 1 tsp of organic honey and stir. Breathing in the steam will help clear and moisten inflamed nasal passages and drinking this beverage 2-3 times a day will help ward off and lessen the severity of sinus, cold and flu infections.

5- Chicken Soup: My Grandmother's Chicken Soup would have to be my very favorite remedy. In recent years, a handful of scientific studies show that chicken soup really does have medicinal value. While scientists have not been able to pinpoint the exact key ingredient, they do agree that its the combination of ingredients that makes for a medicinal concoction. In addition, we know what science does not have to tell us: that no special ingredient can ever compare to a grandmother's love for helping us to feel better!

Further Reading:

The Science of Chicken Soup

The only 3 Chicken Soup Recipes you will Ever Need!

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