I've been planning on writing this post for a while, since we're headed into the heart of cold and flu season. Now that I've actually succumbed to a cold myself (after a crazy-busy week last week that pushed me a little further than I wanted to go) it seems appropriate that I get around to sharing my favourite low-cost ways to ease discomfort and promote healing when you've got a bad case of the sniffles.
1. Steam inhalation
A steam inhalation helps to loosen congestion. To prepare one, *carefully* pour boiling water into a heat-proof glass or ceramic bowl. Add 3-5 drops of peppermint or eucalyptus essential oil (or use a combination of both). Place a towel over your head to form a tent and lean over the bowl (be careful not to get too close or you could scald yourself) Remain under the tent for 5-10 minutes, breathing as deeply as possible.
2. Peppermint tea
Not only is mint tea my favourite herbal tea, it's purported to be one of the best herbs for treating a cold. Not only that, if you grow your own, it's also a totally free remedy! Using fresh mint is ideal (mine is still happily growing away in my garden even after repeated frosts); dried will do if that's all you have available. To make fresh mint tea, place several good sized sprigs of mint in your teapot and add boiling water to fill it. Let steep about 10 minutes before pouring.
3. Honey and Thyme Cough Syrup
This homemade cough syrup is simple to prepare and I've found it to be very effective. Pour 1/2 cup of boiling water over 1 tbsp dried thyme. Cover and steep for 20 minutes. Strain into a small saucepan and add 1/4 cup honey. Heat gently until the honey dissolves completely. Cool. Store in a glass jar in the fridge. Take 1 tbsp as often as needed. (Note: honey should NOT be given to children under age one due to the risk of infant botulism).
4. The "Cold Sock Treatment"
A friend turned me onto this a while ago. I know it sounds totally weird, but I have to say that it worked amazingly well for me one night when I was brutally congested and decided to give it a shot.! I had an incredibly restful sleep and was about 95% less congested in the morning. Also, it wasn't nearly as unpleasant as I expected it to be (the thought of putting on cold, wet socks when I felt like crap was not especially appealing). All you need is a pair of cotton socks and a pair of wool socks. The complete instructions can be found here, and you can read more about the theory behind it here. It's recommended that you do this treatment three nights in a row for maximum effectiveness.
5. The Thymus Thump
This is an energy medicine technique that stimulates the immune system. It's very simple and can be repeated multiple times per day.
Acupressure can be used both to relieve cold symptoms and to help stimulate the immune system. You can find instructions for acupressure techniques for cold and flu symptoms here.
Sleep is the most obvious, and often the most overlooked natural remedy for illnesses. When you get sick, your body's trying to tell you something - it's time to rest! Do everything you can to get as much sleep as possible (that means napping during the day plus a good sleep at night). If you have young children, find someone to watch them for you for an hour or two while you rest. You'll likely get over your cold much faster.
Do you have a favourite, thrifty cold treatment that I haven't mentioned? Please share it with us in the comments!