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Feb. 2, 2012

Go beyond the counter with new cold remedies

by Peter McNally, Print Entertainment Editor
As we enter the icy heart of the winter months, Blazers continue to succumb to the perilous symptoms of the common cold. Although many head to the pharmacies to stock up on Ricola and NyQuil, there is a whole universe of alternative remedies that you won’t find at CVS.

The first place my quest for an alternative cure brought me was to a 110-year-old cookbook that belonged to my great-great great Aunt. The book offers a wide variety of vintage cures. For a cold, the text offers the following solution: boil two ounces of flax seeds in four quarts of water, strain, add two ounces of rock candy, a cup of honey, and the juice of three lemons. Boil again and drink hot. After a prolonged search for rock candy (Smithsonian museum gift shops carry a whole line of flavors), I began to brew. The finishing product was a yellowish green light syrup with a piercing lemon-honey smell. I poured myself a stiff cup of the piping hot concoction, plugged my nose, and in a few reluctant gulps, drank it down. The nice thing about the taste was that it made the smell seem not so bad. It bangs into your mouth with a pungent twang, with an aftertaste reminiscent of a liquefied citrus scented candle. After I drank my dosage, I felt moderately nauseous for about 12 hours.

The mixture, however, is not without its merits. Flax seeds have long been used to address a wide variety of sicknesses, including some cancers, and have properties that give your immune system a boost. However, the four times daily recommended dosage is a lot for one’s stomach to handle, and it may not be practical to brew up a batch every time you sniffle.

Although my first experience with the ancient cookbook was unsuccessful, I refused to give up on the familial artifact, so I picked out another remedy. This time, the book instructed me to dip a piece of flannel in boiling water, sprinkle it with kerosene, and lay it on my chest. Once I had destroyed a perfectly good flannel shirt, I gave the cloth a dunk in the boiling water and gave it a healthy splash of kerosene. I plastered the steaming sheet onto my chest and waited. The steam did provide some sinus relief, but the most noticeable feature of this treatment was the menthol-like fumes thrown off by the kerosene. Although the fumes were sort of soothing, I was, essentially huffing fuel, and determined that this was not the remedy for me.

I found my final remedy while perusing the expansive world of health blogs. My next experiment is commonly referred to as the “cold sock treatment.” This consists of soaking my feet in hot water for a while, drying them off, quickly putting on a pair of cold socks that have been soaked in ice water and then wearing them to bed. Although I do not usually take medical advice from people named "herbmonk," the treatment had some credible backing. According to many health care professionals, this treatment causes the blood to rush to your feet in order to warm them. The increase in circulation is supposed to improve congestion in your chest, while also warming you up and aiding your immune system. So before I went to bed, I poured my self a large bowl of boiling water and froze myself a fresh pair of socks. After sufficiently scalding my feet, I slid on my frigid socks and went to bed. While tucked into bed, I started to feel a distinct pulsing in my feet. I than started to feel waves of heat wash over me, and assumed that I was witnessing the miracle remedy promised to me. Visions of my blood coursing through my veins and vanquishing my cold filled my head. Eventually though, the heat was too much, the dampness got uncomfortable and I went to bed sockless and cureless.

Fighting off a cold can be incredibly frustrating and sometimes the usual remedies just don’t cut it. Although unconventional remedies may seem necessary in these times of desperation, it may be best to stick with a warm blanket, a box of tissues and a hot bowl of soup.



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