Why bother? The best prescription for a cold is to eat right, rest and drink plenty of fluids. But even better, we can prevent cold viruses from entering our bodies in the first place. Hand washing is the best way; next is stay away from people who are obviously sick. According to the Centers for Disease Control, people in the United States have 1 billion colds each year.
If you do get a cold, there are ways to handle the symptoms that don’t require a prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
Joan Wilen and Lydia Wilen are the authors of “Healing Remedies” (Ballantine Books, $16), and they recommend exactly what your mom prescribed when you were a child: chicken soup.
Or, hot Chinese mustard. Anything that makes your nose run will help drive the cold virus out of your body.
“Chicken soup really does help,” Joan Wilen said in a conference call with sister Lydia from New York City. “Every nationality has its claim to chicken soup. There’s Jewish penicillin, Russian penicillin, Chinese penicillin, and everybody has their own recipe for it.”
You can get extra benefits from a bowl of hot chicken soup with the addition of garlic. “Adding garlic, a fresh clove or two minced, to hot chicken soup just before you’re ready to sit down and eat it really does help,” Lydia Wilen said. Then sip a cup of green tea to take away garlic breath, she suggested.
Some stores sell a number of natural remedies that help reduce the ills of a cold, and employees and customers have favorite products that they count on for prevention.
Employee Matt Heil of Lexington’s Good Foods Cafe & Market loves “lemon ginger echinacea shot with an organic apple slice.” Crystal Stites uses Emergen-C & Wellness Formula tablets or Fizz by Source Naturals. Sheryl McCoy prefers Emergen-C and echinacea herbal hot tea with fresh organic lemon. Nick Easterling puts fresh organic lemon and echinacea drops in his ice water, and Nancy Patino uses plenty of 500 mg vitamin C chewables and anti-bacterial hand wash and gel.
“Needless to say, we have a very healthy and generally sick-free staff,” Good Foods outreach coordinator Joy Gordon said. She takes an elderberry extract that also supports the immune system.
Some families swear by homemade teas. The Wilens said their grandmother made a tea “the second someone in the family came down with a cold. The dreaded drink was called a ‘guggle-muggle.’
“When we started working on this book a number of years ago, we heard Edward Koch, the mayor of New York City at that time, on TV, and he had a cold and he talked about his family’s recipe for a guggle-muggle. We called him the next day at City Hall,” Jean Wilen said.
She said the Koch recipe is more palatable than her family’s recipe, so they included it in their book.
“In a saucepan, combine the juice of 1 grapefruit, 1 lemon, 1 orange (preferably a Temple orange, because of its taste), and 1 tablespoon honey. Stir while bringing it to a boil. Take it off the heat, pour it into a glass, then add at least 1 ounce of your favorite liquor.
(Brandy is Ed Koch’s.) As with most guggle-muggles, drink it down, then get under the covers, go to sleep and sweat it out. Next morning, no cold.”
“My family believes in sweating it out,” Lydia Wilen said.
She recommends sweating it out in a bath. Put 3 tablespoons grated ginger root _ it’s easy to grate if you store it in the freezer _ in the bath water, and add 4 tablespoons powdered ginger. Stir the bath water with a long wooden spoon. Get in the bath and soak for 10 to 15 minutes.
Let the ginger water cover your body in the tub. When you get out, dry your body with a rough towel. Put on warm sleeping clothes and cover your head with a towel or scarf. Get in bed under the covers and go to sleep. The ginger will make you sweat. If you get uncomfortably wet, change sleeping clothes and go back to bed.
The common cold generally involves a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, sore throat, cough and headache.
A sore throat is often the first sign that a cold is on the way. The Wilens’ first line of defense is a gargle. Add 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar to 1 cup warm water. Gargle a mouthful, spit it out, then swallow a mouthful. Keep this up until the liquid is all gone. An hour later, do it again.
Another remedy is to steep 3 tea bags, black or green, in a cup of just-boiled water. Leave them there until the water is as dark as it can get. While the water is still quite hot but bearable, gargle with the tea. Do not swallow any. Repeat every hour until you feel relief.
A cough is nature’s way of helping loosen and get rid of mucus that’s congesting your system. Instead of buying an expensive cough syrup, you can make your own. Combine the juice of 1 lemon, 1 cup honey and ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, then cook for 5 minutes over medium heat. Stir vigorously for a couple of minutes and bottle the mixture.
Take 1 teaspoon every 2 hours.
In an effort to relieve clogged nasal passages, many sufferers have turned to nasal saline irrigation, a therapy that uses a salt and water solution to flush out the nasal cavity. One of the most popular is the Neti pot, a ceramic pot that looks like a cross between a small teapot and Aladdin’s lamp.
According to WebMD.com, the basic explanation of how the Neti pot works is that it thins mucus to help flush it out of the nasal passages. Neti pots are available at many drugstores and health food stores, and they cost $10 to $20.
A less-expensive option is to gently inhale the vapors of freshly grated horseradish.
To relieve a headache, the Wilens suggest bringing a cup of apple cider vinegar to a slow boil, then put a towel over your head, bend over the pot at a safe distance, and inhale/exhale through your nose for about 10 minutes.
Many of the remedies in the Wilens’ books come from readers or viewers who see them on TV shows. “We’ve gotten wonderful feedback,” Lydia Wilen said.
Here are a few more:
– Have a runny nose? Begin by cutting the crust off a piece of bread. Turn your iron to “hot” – the wool or cotton setting. Iron the bread crust. When the crust begins to burn, lift the iron off the crust and carefully, very carefully, inhale the smoke through your nostrils for a couple of minutes. Repeat the procedure three times throughout the day.
– Get some sleep. Most of us know that staying well requires seven to eight hours of rest at night, which helps the body function at an optimum level. If you do catch something, you’ll recover faster.
– Eat foods rich in anti-oxidants. Whole-grain cereals, walnuts and artichokes, and foods with omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, will keep the body in top condition.
– Eat an apple. That apple a day that Mama always made you eat? Research shows that people who eat apples regularly have fewer colds.
This Chicken Soup Is for Medicinal Purposes Only
Chicken soup can be an excellent treatment for uncomplicated head colds and other viral respiratory infections for which antibiotics ordinarily are not helpful. This recipe, from Healing Remedies, is for chicken soup, the medicine, and is not to be eaten as one would eat a portion of soup. Dosage instructions are at the end.
The recipe was created by Dr. Irwin Ziment, professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and chief of medicine and director of respiratory therapy at Olive View Medical Center in Los Angeles.
DR. ZIMENT’S CHICKEN SOUP (THE MEDICINE)
1 quart homemade chicken broth, or low-fat, low sodium canned chicken broth
1 head garlic (about 15 cloves), peeled
5 parsley sprigs, minced
6 cilantro sprigs, minced
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed, or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon curry powder
Optional: hot red pepper flakes to taste, sliced carrots, a bay leaf or two
Place all ingredients in a pot without a lid. Bring to a boil, then simmer about 30 minutes. (If the soup is for your own use, carefully inhale the fumes during preparation as an additional decongesting treatment.)
Remove garlic cloves and herbs, and puree them with a little broth in a blender or food processor. Return the puree to the broth and stir. Serve hot.
Dose: Take 2 tablespoons of Dr. Ziment’s chicken soup at the beginning of a meal, one to three times a day. (If you think you want a little more than 2 tablespoons, fine, but do not exceed more than ½ cup at a time.)
CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
4 cups chicken stock, homemade or store-bought
¾ cup diced onion
¾ cup diced celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 ounces dried egg noodles, cooked to al dente
½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
Lemon halves, for serving
Bring stock to boil for 2 minutes over high heat in a large, non-reactive stockpot with lid on. Add onion, celery and garlic. Lower heat and simmer 2 minutes. Add noodles and cook 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and add herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with lemon halves and add squeeze of lemon juice if desired. Makes 4 ½ cups.
– From Food Network
MEXICAN CHICKEN SOUP
4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 ½ quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
28-ounce can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed
2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
¼ to ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional
6 6-inch fresh white corn tortillas
For serving: sliced avocado, sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese and tortilla chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken breasts, skin side up, on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When chicken is cool enough to handle, discard skin and bones, and shred meat. Cover and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add onions, celery and carrots, and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until onions start to brown. Add garlic, and cook for 30 seconds. Add chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper and cilantro, if using. Cut tortillas in half, then cut them crosswise into ½-inch strips and add to soup. Bring soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 25 minutes. Add shredded chicken, and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese and broken tortilla chips. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
– From Food Network
QUICK LEMON, ORZO AND CHICKEN SOUP
6 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill
½ cup uncooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
4 large eggs
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup shredded carrot
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
Bring broth and dill to a boil in a large saucepan. Add orzo. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until orzo is slightly tender. Remove from heat.
Place eggs and juice in a blender; process until smooth. Remove 1 cup broth from pan with a ladle, making sure to leave out orzo. With blender on, slowly add broth; process until smooth.
Add carrot, salt, pepper and chicken to saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, and cook 5 minutes or until chicken and orzo are done. Reduce heat to low. Slowly stir in egg mixture; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly (do not boil). Makes 4 servings.
– From Cooking Light
MEDITERRANEAN CHICKEN SOUP
3 ½ to 4-pound whole chicken
6 carrots, peeled
4 celery stalks
1 large yellow onion, quartered
2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
10-ounce box couscous
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Rinse chicken inside and out, and pat it dry with paper towels. Place chicken in a large pot. Cut 3 carrots and 2 celery stalks into 1-inch pieces. Cut onion in quarters. Add cut vegetables to the pot with salt, peppercorns and enough cold water to cover (about 8 cups). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, skimming any foam that rises to top, until chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Transfer chicken to bowl and let cool.
Strain broth, discarding vegetables. Return broth to pot. Thinly slice remaining carrots and celery. Add them to broth and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. While the soup simmers, cook couscous according to package directions. Add olives and parsley to couscous, and divide among bowls.
When chicken is cool enough to handle, shred meat and add it to soup. Stir in chickpeas.
Ladle the soup over couscous. Serve with lemon wedges. Makes 4 servings.
– From Real Simple
© 2009, Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.).
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.