January 23, 2006

Common Cold

I know what it looks like. No, I'm not actually trying to wedge as many Hawksley Workman song references into my writing as possible. It just looks like it. Really. Ahem. Onward:

Sailu tagged me for a different sort of meme: Natural Home Remedies for the Common Cold. Since colds are viral in nature, it will always take time for the body to fight off and kill the virus. Most remedies are about easing symptoms and shoring up your body's strength so that your immune system can do its job with maximum efficiency.

Preventive, natural, and cabinet-medicine has long been a pet interest of mine, so I'm pleased to contribute my family's time-honoured curative: Switchel.

Switchel is a vinegar-based drink that is served hot or cold, depending on the usage. I've most recently heard its origin ascribed to the West Indies, but most often I hear of it as a replenishing beverage served by Mennonite farmers to their field workers during the long harvest days. An early Gatorade, if you will, designed to quench thirst and restore electrolytes to folks labouring in the hot sun. It's entirely probable, I think, that if it does originate in the Islands it must have originally contained rum - a sort of hot-toddy sort of deal. Many of the original recipes contain molasses, although that fell by the wayside in our family.

The onset of a winter cold is often heralded by an itchy or tender throat, and at the first signs of one my mother would whip out the apple cider vinegar. Her recipe was fairly plain, consisting of water, apple cider vinegar, honey, and a pinch of ground gingerroot. I ditched the dried ginger for a few slices of fresh ginger, making it a sort of augmented ginger tea, I suppose, more than anything else. A couple of years ago I tried adding molasses back in, but found the results quite unpalatable. There are other variations, including cayenne pepper and a host of other herbal tweaks. I like to keep it simple enough that I don't have to measure much or fuss when I'm already feeling under-the-weather - in fact, I often measure this more in freehand "dollops" than anything else.

Switchel

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 - 3 slices of fresh ginger root, to taste (peel may be left on)
1 cup boiling water

Mix together and allow to stand (and cool!) for about five minutes. Sip until throat is soothed. Also pretty good chilled, particularly after physical exertion. This is fairly strong, as it is intended as medicine, but if you want to go cautiously, reduce the amounts of honey and vinegar to a teaspoon each. Because vinegar is fairly pungent, the vapours may affect othes adversely. I try not to inflict this on Palle, because he doesn't enjoy being in the same room with the smell of hot vinegar. He doesn't like hot lemon, either. I, however, find it comforting, so it's a good thing that we have a big house...

The honey is soothing, of course, and the vinegar helps clear the sinuses and cuts through the sensation of phlegminess that goes along with a head cold.

Now that I think about it, I'm a little surprised that she didn't feed us garlic tea, as garlic was her very favourite cure-all. She was quite pleased about the time that she had lost her sense of taste due to a head cold, and fixed a peanut butter (for protein) and crushed garlic (for medicine) sandwich for lunch. I don't think she ever had the chance to repeat it, but she is convinced that it spurred her back to health.

3 comments:

Templar said...

Gosh I have missed alot of posts, I gota do better about keeping up.
*smiles*

sailu said...

Dawna,imagine I am learning so much about home remedies for cold from different regions of the world..something new I learnt today..thanks for sharing.

Lera said...

That's again something new...we always get to learn more about these home remedies which are tried and tested from wonderful bloggers like you :)