A bottle of Robitussin Cough & Chest Congestion: $8.79
A box of Kleenex plus lotion: $3.19
A package of Sudafed 24-hour: $9.29
Downing a cup of coffee with pasted garlic and a pat of butter mixed in: Priceless
We’re in the midst of cold season, folks, and co-workers everywhere are hacking, sneezing, blowing and wheezing.
Chances are you’re gonna catch something, and what adult doesn’t wish Mom were there administering her never-fail home remedy to beat that cold or ease that fever?
Readers swear these remedies work – if you have the stomach to try them.
We ran their remedies by Dr. Denise Smith, who is in a family practice and has emergency room experience at St. Joseph Medical Group in Fort Wayne. She tells why some of this stuff works – when she knows.
Vick’s on your feet?
Have a cold? Rebecca Peterson, of Churubusco, says to rub Vick’s VapoRub on the bottom of your feet before donning a pair of socks.
Lois VonGunten, of Syracuse, suggests doing the same before going to bed. Now 72, she writes her mom used this when VonGunten was a child.
“You will not cough, and your cold and throat will be 100 percent better the next day,” she writes.
Smith has treated patients who swear by this remedy. Vicks works because of the camphor in it, which is a cough suppressant, Smith says. As for the feet? Though she wonders whether the extra sweat glands there might increase absorption, the cream helps a cold just as well on a sneezer’s chest as it does on her feet.
One warning: Camphor can be toxic for children, so she advises that VapoRub be used only on those 12 and older.
Mary Gomes, of Fort Wayne, calls this the “one and only Brazilian cold remedy,” perfect for when she was pregnant and not willing to take over-the-counter remedies: Smash a clove of garlic into paste using a mortar and pestle or knife handle. Put a cup of brewed coffee in a small pan. Add the garlic. Simmer. Turn off heat. Float a pat of butter in the coffee.
Pour into a cup, and tent a towel over your head, inhaling the vapors. After it’s cooled enough to drink but still hot, bottoms up, baby.
“This is also a test of courage,” Gomes writes. “It sounds terrible, but it is not as bad as it sounds, and it decongests.”
Well, maybe, Smith says.
Garlic is an immune system booster, often recommended to help stem cholesterol levels or cardiovascular disease. While the caffeine in the coffee might act like a diuretic and dry out a runny nose, she figures it only serves as a warm mixture; hot water would probably work just as well, she says.
And the butter?
“I have no idea what the butter does other than make it more palatable,” Smith says. “I would think just taking garlic pills would help if you don’t want to drink the garlic.”
Ginger is OK
This remedy is more of the preventive variety, says Cherie Somerville, of Fort Wayne: Want to guard against a urinary tract infection? Drink a mixture of equal parts lime juice and water and half a teaspoon of cream of tartar.
This works because most UTIs thrive in an alkaline environment, Smith says, and she figures Somerville’s remedy would work because the cream of tartar is an acidifier.
One common bacterium that causes a UTI is a form of E. coli, which comes from the bowel. Bacteria survive in an alkaline environment and the cream of tartar, harvested from inside a wine barrel, makes urine more acidic, as does the citric acid in a lime.
Somerville also shared a remedy for a queasy stomach: Mix some ginger with flat ginger ale, and drink.
Susan Langston, of Sherwood, Ohio, touted the benefits of ginger for upset bellies, too, whether it be gingersnap cookies, liquid drops or a little candy. She buys Ginger People Ginger Chews Original at the health food shop.
Ginger is often used to help motion sickness, women with morning sickness or chemotherapy patients who don’t respond to nausea drugs, Smith says.
“I can’t tell you what’s in the ginger that does it,” she says, but “most patients I know who’ve used it say it really works.”
To cure an earache, David Bird, of Columbia City, finds a thin washcloth and puts a pile of salt in it. Then he rubberbands the edges to make a salt pouch. He’ll soak the pouch in boiling water or steaming hot tap water, and once the sack has cooled enough that he can stand to touch it, he’ll hold it to his ear for a few hours, rewarming it if it cools.
The reason this likely works, Smith says, is because of the hot water. An old wives’ tale said to blow smoke in someone’s ear to fix an earache because the warmth sooths.
When an eardrum gets infected, Smith says, it tends to bulge because the infection is usually in the inner ear, behind the eardrum. The warmth eases that inflammation.
Dr. Tichenor’s mouthwash diluted with water will get rid of a sore throat, writes Celestine Wright, of Fort Wayne.
And cold sores. And mosquito bites. And cuts and bruises.
It helped ease her son’s swollen jaw and a boil beneath a friend’s arm.
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and Windex, anyone?
With a tagline like “Gargle. Wince. Repeat.,” one would almost expect Dr. Tichenor’s to be a cure-all. Apparently, Smith says, it’s the peppermint, which is likely not the manufactured variety, but the harvested kind. It’s strong enough that when you use it as mouthwash, you have to dilute it with five parts of water to one part mouthwash.
When Wright has a sore throat, she’ll gargle with it as strong as she can take it, using half wash and half water.
Wright suggests putting the straight stuff on a cotton ball and dabbing at cold sores, cuts or bruises, though Smith says Dr. Tichenor’s also makes a cream.
Wright has suggested the wash to her children for anything: “headache, toe ache, stomach ache. Dr. Tichenor’s is where it’s at.”