Am stuck at home feeling “bah humbug.” This season’s cold, the one that makes you ache all over, curse at everyone and cough your brains out, has finally hit.
I don’t use cold medications and never get the flu shot; so I’m trying to remember all the voodoo I do for colds, but my brain is foggy. Echinacea and Vitamin C are my forever standbys, but I need to go to next gear.
Liquids like hot lemon with honey, herbal tea and chicken soup used to be my first line of defense for these annoying winter bugs. Being a health nut who fights taking traditional medicine, (I also fight family members who nag me about it) the natural route always made sense.
But when bronchitis forced me to the doctor last season, I had the great fortune to learn something new.
“What?” I challenged, as the doctor rattled off the usual advice for viruses--plenty of rest and hydration with cold liquids. I had already glazed over, not wanting to be there in the first place, when the words cold liquids caught my attention.
“What do you mean cold” I kind of demanded. “What about chicken soup, hot tea and all the other hot, warming stuff?”
“Too dehydrating” said the doc, and he continued (quite patiently, another surprise) to explain the recent medical view that hot liquids are actually dehydrating, and the wrong thing to do when you have a cold or virus. The importance of liquids still holds, but they should be cold or room temperature.
So, if liquids are the best and only thing I can do for myself (besides ten hours of sleep; miscellaneous naps) I want to make them count with immune boosting ingredients. In addition to drinking water, I continue to make herbal teas with fresh ingredients, preparing them in large quantities to sip all day.
For soups, I cook vegetables as lightly and quickly as possible, and without too much oil. This method has advantages including preservation of vitamin content and water content, and preservation of fresh taste at room temperature. It also absorbs quickly.
Juicing is great on all sides—fresh, cool and alive as long as you use unsprayed, organic fruits and vegetables.
Elderberry has caught my attention this season because of recent studies on its antioxidant properties, which are supposed to better than those of pomegranate or other dark, bright juices. The fact it was used in the past for respiratory illnesses was enough to send me searching, find Elderberry Life online, and order a case of their undiluted, no-sugar elderberry juice. It ain’t cheap, but neither are doctor bills. Over this winter I will drink two tablespoons a day, mixed in juice or water, to boost my immune system.
Below are a few recipes. If you can chop or slice, you can make yourself a potful of potent medicine that tastes good. If the recipes lean to the vegetarian side, it is accidental because I think meat and dairy have a place in health, with proteins and minerals boosting immunity. One of those important minerals is zinc, which I gulped down in tablet form; it occurs naturally in beef, pork, lamb, dark meat poultry, shellfish and dairy products.
Last important thing for me, is ease of preparation. Being a natural medicine freak, I’m somewhat willing to go through the effort of chopping. But when I’m sick, these remedies need to come together quickly with whatever I have in the house. I want those nutrients coursing through my veins as soon as possible. Some favorites:
Ginger tea for colds
- 2 green tea bags
- 2-3 inches of fresh ginger root, washed, peeled and chopped.
- 8-10 whole cloves
Boil water. In quart sized jar or teapot, pour two cups boiled water over tea bags and herbs, and steep for about an hour. Add two cups cold water and drink all day at room temperature. Note: Green tea high in antioxidants; ginger and cloves have antiviral properties.
Lemon and Honey drink for congestion relief
- 2 whole lemons, juiced
- ¼ cup honey (or to taste)
- 2 ½ cups water
To the lemon juice and honey, add ½ cup of boiling water. Stir vigorously to thin and blend the honey. Add additional two cups of room temperature water and drink throughout day. Notes: Citrus from lemons, oranges, grapefruit; and vegetables like peppers and leafy greens, are high in Vitamin C which has antihistamine properties.
Carrot, Apple, Ginger Juice – simple and great tasting
- 5 whole carrots – wash and chop coarsely
- 3 apples – quartered
- 3-inch piece of fresh ginger root, washed, peeled and coarsely chopped
Feed sections into your juicer, alternating between types. Drink throughout day. Notes: All ingredients have antiviral properties. You’ll thank me for this one.
Quick and Easy Shitake Mushroom Soup
- 1 each onion & celery rib; few cloves garlic and 3” piece of peeled ginger root
- 5 oz. fresh shitake mushrooms, wiped clean with damp cloth
- 1 envelope “Better than Bouillon” Chicken base
- 1 quart water
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- Optional: chopped green onions, chopped chives, chopped parsley or cilantro
Chop all vegetables. Sauté onion, garlic, ginger and celery in a bit of oil, for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté another five. Add envelope of chicken base and water. Cook for no more than 30 minutes. Add soy sauce at end. Serve with optional ingredients if using. Notes: onion, GARLIC, ginger and Shitake mushrooms are antiviral and immune boosting. Fermented soy is antiviral.
Side of Greens or Green and Bean Soup
- 1 or 2 oz. pancetta or salt pork
- 1 onion
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 1 Cubanel pepper + a hot pepper
- 1 head of greens thoroughly washed in several rinses of cold water. Choose among kale, Swiss chard, escarole etc.
- Salt & pepper
- 1 can kidney, pinto or cannellini beans, drained
Prepare and chop everything ahead, including greens, to cook quickly as in stir-fry.
In large skillet or pot, sauté pancetta in very little oil until browned. Add a bit more oil and sauté onion, garlic and peppers a few minutes. Add chopped greens and cook a short time until wilted. Finish with salt & pepper. For Soup: After adding greens to the pot, simply swirl veggies in pancetta-base mixture for a minute. Add 1-2 quarts of water and cook for twenty minutes. Add canned beans toward end of cooking time.
Meat or Veggie Chili
- 1 pound lean, ground beef or 1 can drained pinto beans
- 1 or 2 large onions
- 2 or 3 ribs celery
- 2 to 4 large bell peppers in assorted colors + 1 or 2 small hot peppers
- 1 large can of peeled tomatoes + equal amount of water
- 1 Tbsp. each cumin and chili powder (add more chili powder if necessary, or other varieties such as chipotle, smoked paprika etc.)
- 1 or 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 Tbsp. vinegar
Chop all vegetables.
In small amount of oil, cook the meat in a large skillet until browned. Stir often, drain of fat and transfer to large pot. Add bit more oil to skillet and sauté onions, celery and peppers until well browned; transfer to large pot. Add tomatoes, water and spices to large pot, break up tomatoes as well as you can, stir and cook, covered, for one hour. About 15 minutes before finish, add vinegar, stir and recover. Note: if making vegetarian chili, substitute one can pinto beans, drained, for the meat; begin sauté process with onions and continue. Add beans to chili in large pot, at same time as tomatoes. Chili, whether meat or vegetable, absolutely bursts with Vitamin C from the peppers and spices; zinc from the beef.
Okay, there’s such a thing as overkill. To be totally transparent, I ate Fritos along with my chili tonight.