Kitchen remedies to make you feel better
By Lauren Paulsen, Senior Columnist
It’s that time of year again: the flu season, the time when everyone ends up sick—yuck. Unfortunately, we can’t really avoid it. Each of us will end up sick at some point. It’s inevitable. That’s because everyone is stuffed inside and in close quarters during the cold parts of the year. There are certain things you can do though, besides the usual over-the-counter medicines to help your immune system fight the never-ending cold war. These things are really easy to do, and the ingredients are easily available in the kitchen.
For instance, garlic is well-known in the kitchen cupboard: it is often used in our cooking to enhance the flavour of a dish. Did you know that garlic is also antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial? It is a very good source of vitamin C, something that helps us fight the common cold. Therefore, eating several cloves on the onset of the first symptoms of the common cold reduces the time you are sick.
Having garlic in our food is very beneficial, but cooking it removes some of the aiding allicin compounds. For maximum effect, garlic should be consumed raw when one is ill. This will mean that all of the beneficial compounds are still intact. However, if you find eating a clove of raw garlic to be too much, there is another way to keep the enzymes more intact when cooking. After crushing or chopping your garlic, let it sit for some time before adding it to your dish. This will allow the enzymes to work better in your body.
Another very useful substance you can find in your kitchen is honey. It has over 600 compounds in it, and humans have been using honey for health benefits for thousands of years. More than five millennia ago, Egyptian medical compounds used honey; the ancient Greeks believed that consuming honey made one live longer; and in pre-ancient Egyptian times, honey was commonly used to treat wounds. Clearly, honey has a long history in medical practices.
I find honey most useful in tea. A spoonful a day, used as sweetener, is also most enjoyable. Just like garlic, honey is also antibacterial and antifungal because of an enzyme that bees add while making it. It is beneficial as a cough suppressor, particularly buckwheat honey, and it comforts a sore throat. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it good for stomachaches as well.
When choosing honey for its medicinal value, keep in mind that the darker it is, the better—darker honey has more antioxidants as compared to the lighter one. Why are there different tones to honey? It all depends on what the bees have been harvesting their nectar from. Buckwheat produces a darker honey than sage does. As Gene E. Robinson, the director of the University of Illinois bee research faculty, says, “Not all nectars are created equal, thus not all honeys are created equal.” Hence, choose your honey wisely.
Tea can be extremely useful when treating a virus. Full volumes have been written about the various benefits of different teas. The catechins in green tea have been shown to kill bacteria and inhibit viruses, while an infusion of specific herbs in a tisane (the word for herbal tea) can help treat various symptoms. Eucalyptus is the most well-known herb to help with the common cold, alleviating congestion and sore throats. It’s a healthy choice because it’s both antiviral and antibacterial. Echinacea is used to boost the immune system and limit how long you stay sick. Studies have shown us that this is partly because its intake increases the number of white blood cells in our body, allowing more fighters against the invading virus. Feverfew and peppermint relieve headaches; lemon balm aids an upset stomach; sage can provide relief for throat and mouth inflammations; and thyme is a strong antiseptic. There’s no end to helpful herbs that one can mix into tea to treat oneself
Since I just talked about tea, I should not forget to mention that drinking a lot of liquids will keep you hydrated and help you recover faster when you’re ill. I’ve found that drinking a lot of water throughout the day relieves my congestion when I have a cold. Specifically drinking hot liquids, like the above mentioned tea, helps to soothe the uncomfortably inflamed membranes that line your nose and throat.
Another useful ingredient found in the kitchen is ginger root. It has immense health benefits, and as such, has been used for at least 2,000 years. Like honey, it is antibacterial, antiviral, has anti-parasitic properties, and is a rich source of antioxidants. Its strong anti-inflammatory properties are known to reduce pain, and it is quite useful to relieve an upset stomach or nausea. My family uses ginger root in much of our cooking, and when one of us becomes ill, we often add it to tea.
Another wonderful root is astragalus root. Taking capsules of astragalus root at the onset of symptoms of illness will boost your immune system and help your body fight the viruses invading your body. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Astragalus root improves the rate of replication of immune cells called macrophages. Its unique polysaccharides reduce the amount of nitric oxide released from cells, thus limiting inflammation. It also activates other genes and pathways which further activate different immune cells.
If you are prone to colds, it may be useful to invest in a neti pot. A neti pot looks like a little teapot and is used to flush out your sinuses. It has been proven that the saline solution used in the neti pot can help increase the speed and improve the coordination of the cilia in your nasal and sinus cavities so that they can more effectively remove the irritants that cause the sinus problem—in this case, a virus. Thus, besides relieving congestion, it also helps reduce the virus count in your body. Instructions on how to use the neti pot come with it or can be found on the Internet.
Sleep is very important, though we sometimes overlook it when we are sick. When you have a virus, your body is at war, and it requires more rest than usual. Without rest, it cannot properly fight against the invaders. To help your body fight, get some rest.
A few more helpful tips that can help you from getting ill are: wash your hands regularly with soap for at least 15 seconds, avoid touching your face when out in public or when you are around other sick people, keep a healthy lifestyle, and eat healthy. All this will enable your immune system to better fight off the invaders. If you are sick, please make an effort to avoid making others sick. Cough into your elbow and sneeze into a Kleenex—or, better yet, take the day off and sleep at home. This will benefit both you and others.