Health in the Kitchen

Winter is descending upon us. The nights are getting longer and darker, and colds and flu are sweeping into homes. As our moods grow gloomier, we seek warmth, comfort, and healing.

Fortunately, our homes contain many herbs, spices, and foods that can help fight against the unpleasant side effects of winter. So it seems just the right time to take a fresh look at all the powerful medicines we have in our homes that can make a difference in alleviating symptoms, and otherwise improve our health as we prepare to brave another Northeast Ohio winter.

Colds are all caused by viruses, and are tough to expel. Remedies are not cures, but they can help you handle the cold better. The top three home remedies for a cold are simple: drink water, eat well, and add herbs and spices.

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Eating well—fruits, vegetables, whole grains—as well as drinking water help reinforce the body’s health. Consuming certain spices and herbs may also provide relief.

Water exerts its power in two ways. As a mist, it soothes the airways irritated by colds. A great home remedy for a bad cold is to inhale warm water vapors from soup, tea, a vaporizer, or hot running water in the bathroom. Hot vapors soothe the raw linings of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, making coughs less violent, and breathing less torturous.

The second power of water comes from the fact that all of us are composed of more water than anything else. When you have a cold, you lose a lot of water. Drinking water has been advised for eons, but it remains a good path to feeling better.

Once you’re hydrated, it’s important to eat well. Food is an important source of comfort when your body is aching and sore from viral colds and flus. When it comes to foods, the old saying “some like it hot, some like it cold,” is important. That is, the top expert in your home for what foods are comforting is the person with the cold. Comfort foods change with social styles. Some time ago, the top pick would have been a warm porridge. Today, the go-tos are “super-foods,” such as avocados and lentils, and greens, such as kale and collard greens.

Herbs and spices are a well-known source of home-based healing, and here are a few great ones to ameliorate the discomforts of a cold:

Ginger tea. The aromatic ginger root can be found in most kitchens. Herbalists have proposed that ginger is helpful for a wide variety of ailments, but when it comes to the cold and flu, a tea infused with ginger root soothes a sore throat, relieves inflamed nostrils, and reduces the discomfort of coughing.

Honey. Bees transform nectar into a complex syrup of concentrated glucose and many other compounds that are known to soothe the throat and otherwise ease the discomfort of a sore throat and cough.

Peppermint oil. Peppermint and other mints contain the chemical menthol, which reduces the firing of the nerves that sense pain. Peppermint both cools and soothes—two great properties to take advantage of when your nose, throat, and chest feel like they are on fire.

Cumin. Many people have the experience of finding relief from their colds with a preparation of ground cumin infused in hot water. Specifically, people have reported that use of cumin decreases nasal congestion.

Black Pepper. Mild infusions of black pepper into teas or soups can clear the nasal passages and help relieve a wide range of the other cold-related symptoms.

Garlic. The allicin found in raw garlic is said to have antiviral, antibiotic, and antiseptic properties that can help shorten the duration of a cold or flu.

This winter, before you stock up your medicine cabinet, stock your refrigerator and pantry with foods that will boost your immunity and disposition. Be well.