Joan Wilen and Lydia Wilen are folk-remedy experts and home tipsters based in New York City. They have spent decades collecting “cures from the cupboard” and are authors of several books, including Secret Food Cures.
Colds are miserable to have, and the pesky viruses behind them strike at the most inconvenient times. No one wants to be sick over the holidays or suffer a fever when the kids are home for summer vacation. Home remedies for colds and the flu may not be able to make the virus go away, but they can ease the symptoms and help you carry on.
The excerpt below provides easy home remedies for colds and other illnesses from Secret Food Cures by Joan Wilen and Lydia Wilen.
Having a cold or flu is nothing to sneeze at! The common cold can wipe you out, and the influenza virus—which is characterized by inflammation of the respiratory tract and fever, chills and muscular pains—can really knock you out.
If you’re feeling down for the count with a red, runny nose, chest congestion and that achy-all-over feeling, instead of making much achoo about nothing, keep reading for some simple hints to fight back.
• The first round of ammunition for fighting the cold war is chicken soup (also known as Jewish penicillin). Marvin A. Sackner, MD, retired medical director of the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida, proved that chicken soup can help cure a cold.
Using a bronchofiberscope and cineroentgenograms and measurements of mucus velocity, Dr. Sackner tested the effectiveness of hot chicken soup versus both hot and cold water. The results… Cold water lowered nasal clearance. Hot water improved it, but it was nothing compared with the improvement after hot chicken soup. Then, to negate the effects of the steam from the hot water and hot chicken soup, the fluids were sipped through straws from covered containers. Hot water had very little effect this way. But the hot chicken soup still had some benefits.
■ Recipe ■
Lillian Wilen’s Essential Chicken Soup
4 to 5 lbs chicken parts
3 carrots, scrubbed or peeled, cut in thirds.
2 parsnips, scrubbed, cut in thirds 2 celery stalks with leaves, cut in thirds.
1 large onion, cut in half.
1 green pepper, cut in half and cleaned out.
10 cups water.
1 to 2 tsp salt.
2 sprigs dill (optional), or 1 ⁄2 teaspoon dill seeds.
4 parsley sprigs.
4 cloves garlic, crushed.
Add the chicken, carrots, parsnips, celery, onion, green pepper, water, and salt to a big pot. Wrap the dill or dill seeds, parsley and garlic in cheesecloth and add that to the pot. Bring it to a boil, clean off the scum from the top of the soup, cover, and simmer for 21 ⁄2 to three hours. Remove the chicken and the vegetables. Refrigerate the soup overnight.
The next day, before heating the soup, remove the top layer of fat, skimming the surface with a spoon. Add the chicken and vegetables, heat and eat! Before it gets cold!
The respected Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, printed the following in its Health Letter…
“There is now evidence that our ancestors may have known more about how to treat sniffles than we do. And that should not be surprising. Indeed, scientific study of folk medicines and cures often has proved to be remarkably rewarding.
“Moses Maimonides, a 12th-century Jewish physician and philosopher, reported that chicken soup is an effective medication as well as a tasty food.
“A report published in Chest, a medical journal for chest specialists, indicates that hot chicken soup is more effective than other hot liquids in clearing mucus particles from the nose. The cause of this beneficial effect is still not fully understood, but the soup does seem to contain a substance that prompts clearing of nasal mucus. And removal of nasal secretions containing viruses and bacteria is an important part of our body’s defense against upper respiratory infections. The study gives scientific respectability to the long-standing contention that chicken soup might help relieve a head cold.
“Chicken soup—particularly the homemade variety—is a safe, effective treatment for many ‘self-limiting’ illnesses (those not requiring professional attention). It is inexpensive and widely available.”
“What does it all add up to? Specifically, this recommendation: Next time you come down with a head cold, try hot homemade chicken soup before heading for the pharmacy. We believe chicken soup can be an excellent treatment for uncomplicated head colds and other viral respiratory infections for which antibiotics ordinarily are not helpful. Soup is less expensive and, most significantly, it carries little, if any, risk of allergic reactions or other undesirable side effects.”
Irwin Ziment, MD, professor emeritus of clinical medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles, is also an authority on pulmonary drugs. Considering the research, experience, and expertise it took to earn his credentials, we believe that Dr. Ziment’s chicken soup recipe for colds, coughs and chest congestion should taken seriously and whenever you have a cold. (See recipe below.)
■ Recipe ■
Dr. Ziment’s Chicken Soup
1 quart homemade chicken broth, or 2 cans low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
1 garlic head—about 15 cloves, peeled.
5 parsley sprigs, minced.
6 cilantro sprigs, minced.
1 tsp lemon pepper.
1 tsp dried basil, crushed, or
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil.
1 tsp curry powder
Optional: Hot red pepper flakes to taste, sliced carrots, a bay leaf or two
Place all ingredients in a pot without a lid. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes. (If the soup is for your own personal use, carefully inhale the fumes during preparation as an additional decongesting treatment.) Remove the solid garlic cloves and herbs and, along with a little broth, purée them in a blender or food processor. Return the purée to the broth and stir. Serve hot.
Dose: Take two tablespoons of Dr. Ziment’s Chicken Soup at the beginning of a meal, one to three times a day. (If you feel you want a little more than two tablespoons, fine, but do not exceed more than 1⁄2 cup at a time.)
CAUTION: This chicken soup is a medicine and is not to be eaten as one would eat a portion of soup. Please follow the dosage instructions.
• In Russia, garlic is known as Russian penicillin. It has been reported that colds have actually disappeared within hours—a day at most—after taking garlic.
Keep a peeled clove of garlic in your mouth, between the cheek and teeth. Do not chew it. Occasionally, release a little garlic juice by digging your teeth into the clove. Replace the clove every three to four hours.
The allicin in garlic is an excellent mucus-thinner and bacteria-killer. It’s no wonder many cold remedies include garlic.
• If taking garlic by mouth is not for you, then peel and crush six cloves of garlic. Mix them into 1 ⁄2 cup of white lard or vegetable shortening. Spread the mush on the soles of your feet and cover them with a (preferably warmed) towel or flannel cloth. Put plastic wrap under your feet to protect bedding. Garlic is so powerful that even though it’s applied to one’s feet, it will be on one’s breath, too. Apply a fresh batch of the mixture every five hours until the cold is gone.
• Prepare tea by steeping equal parts of cinnamon, sage and bay leaves in hot water. Strain, and before drinking the tea, add one tablespoon of lemon juice. If necessary, sweeten with honey.
• Keep flushing out your system by drinking lots of nondairy liquids—unsweetened fruit juices, herbal tea and just plain water.
• When our friend, a Contessa from the Italian hills, has a cold, she makes a mug of very strong, regular tea and adds one tablespoon of honey, one tablespoon of cognac, one teaspoon of butter and 1 ⁄4 teaspoon of cinnamon. She drinks it as hot as she can and goes to bed between cotton sheets. If she wakes up during the night and is all sweaty, she changes her bedclothes and sheets and goes back to bed. By morning, she feels “molto bene!”
• People have been known to fake a cold just to take this remedy—combine four teaspoons of rum with the juice of one lemon and three teaspoons of honey. Then add it to a glass of hot water and drink it before going to bed.
• Mix 1 ⁄4 cup of apple cider vinegar with an equal amount of honey. This elixir is particularly effective for a cold with a sore throat.
Dose: Take one tablespoon six to eight times a day.
• Boil down 1 ⁄2 cup of sunflower seeds (without the shells, of course) in five cups of water until there’s about two cups of liquid left in the pot. Then stir in 1 ⁄4 cup of honey and 3 ⁄4 cup of gin. This potion is particularly good for chest colds.
Dose: Take two teaspoons three times a day at mealtimes.
•Take four teaspoons of prepared mustard and rub it on the chest. Take a (preferably white) towel and dip it in hot water, then wring it out and place it on top of the mustard already on the chest. As soon as the towel is cool, redip it in hot water, wring it out and put it back on the chest. Reapply the towel four or five times. After the last application of the towel, wash off the chest, dry thoroughly, bundle up and go to bed.
• To stimulate appropriate acupuncture points that can help relieve a cold, place an ice cube on the bottom of both big toes. Keep them in place with an elastic bandage or piece of cloth. Place feet in a basin, in two plastic shoe boxes or on plastic to avoid a mess from the melting ice. Do this procedure for no more than 20 minutes at a time…morning, noon and night.
• Zinc gluconate—available at health food stores and some pharmacies—works wonders for some people. It either nips the cold in the bud, considerably shortens the duration of the cold or lessens the severity of it.
For it to be effective, be sure to follow the dosage carefully: Adults, take two lozenges (23 mg each) at the outset and then one every two hours thereafter, but not more than 12 a day, and for no longer than two days.
Also, do not take them on an empty stomach. Even if you don’t feel like eating, consume half a fruit before you take a lozenge. Suck on the lozenge so that it comes in prolonged contact with your mouth and throat. Honeyflavored are the best—lemon are the pits.
Zinc gluconate also comes in 46 mg tablets. If you get them instead of the 23 mg, take one at the outset of your cold and one every four hours, not exceeding six a day, and not for longer than two days.
CAUTION: Some people get stomachaches from zinc. Also, high amounts of zinc may increase a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer. Consult your doctor before supplementing with
• Las Vegas–based herbalist Angela Harris says that the combination of echinacea and goldenseal is effective in either stopping a cold from blossoming, or cutting short the duration and minimizing the severity of a cold.
The secret is to take two droppers of the extract (available at health food stores) in a few ounces of water every hour for the first four hours of the day you feel a cold coming on. After that, take two droppers every four hours. Do not take echinacea for more than two weeks at a time. (You shouldn’t have to.)
• Another popular remedy for a head cold is to cut two thin-as-can-be strips of orange rind. Roll them up with the white spongy part (the pith) on the outside, and gently stick one in each nostril. Stay that way until your head cold is better, or you can’t stand the rind in your nostrils anymore—whichever comes first. Be sure to leave a bit of orange rind sticking out of your nose so you can dislodge it easily.
• The first of our five senses to develop is our sense of smell. Eventually, the average human nose can recognize 10,000 different odors—but not when we have a head cold. To clear your head and stop a runny nose, begin by cutting the crust off a piece of bread. Plug in your iron and put it on “hot”—wool or cotton setting. Carefully iron the bread crust. When it starts to burn, lift the iron off the crust and carefully inhale the smoke through your nostrils for two minutes. Repeat this procedure three times throughout the day. We’ve been told that the runny nose stops and the head cold clears up in a very short time—one or two days.
• The natural sulfur in broccoli and parsley is supposed to help us resist colds. Eat broccoli and/or parsley once a day.
• An apple a day…works! A university study showed that the students who ate apples regularly had fewer colds.
■ Recipe ■
Jade Green Broccoli
2 lbs broccoli (1 bunch)
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 ⁄2 cup water or vegetable stock
1 ⁄4 cup oil
1 ⁄8 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp sherry
Clean broccoli. Cut stems on a 1 ⁄8″ slant. Mix cornstarch, soy sauce and stock or water.
Set aside. Heat a wok or heavy skillet until it is very hot. Add oil, then salt. Turn heat to medium and add garlic. When golden brown, turn up heat and add broccoli. Stir-fry for three minutes. Add sherry and cover the pan quickly. Cook, covered, for two minutes. Add cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened.Source: RecipeGoldmine.com
• Before bedtime, take a ginger bath and sweat away your cold overnight. Put three tablespoons of grated ginger in a stocking and knot the stocking closed.
NOTE: It’s easier to grate frozen ginger than fresh ginger.
Throw the grated-ginger stocking into a hot bath, along with the contents of a twoounce container of powdered ginger. Stir the bathwater with a wooden spoon. Then, get in and soak for 10 to 15 minutes.
Once you’re out of the tub, dry yourself thoroughly, preferably with a rough towel. Put on warm sleep clothes and cover your head with a towel or woolen scarf, leaving just your face exposed. Get in bed under the covers and go to sleep. If you perspire enough to feel uncomfortably wet, change into dry sleepwear.
• Talking about “sweating it out,” a gem therapist told us that wearing a topaz activates body heat and, therefore, helps cure ailments that may benefit from increased perspiration.
The onion is also a popular natural remedy to relieve colds. Here are some ways in which the onion is used…
• Cut an onion in half and place one half on each side of your bed so you can inhale the scent as you sleep.
• Eat a whole onion before bedtime in order to break up the cold overnight.
• Dip a slice of raw onion in a glass of hot water. After a few seconds, remove the onion and, when the water cools, start sipping it. Continue to do so throughout the day.
• If you like your onions fried, take the hot fried onions, put them in a flannel or woolen cloth and bind them on your chest overnight.
• Put slices of raw onion on the soles of your feet, and hold the slices in place with woolen socks. Leave them that way overnight to draw out infection and fever.
NOTE: If you get colds often, your immune system may need a boost.
Before flu season starts (in early October), check with your doctor to see if you should get a flu shot. The flu can be deadly, and older people and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk. Then, if your doctor approves, try these remedies…
• The second you feel fluish, take one tablespoon of liquid lecithin (available at health food stores). Continue to take one tablespoon every eight hours for the next two days. Some naturalists believe that these large doses of lecithin may prevent the flu from flourishing.
• This formula was handed down from generation to generation by a family who tells of the many lives it saved in Stuttgart, Germany, during the 1918 flu pandemic. The family claims that this special elixir cleanses the harmful virus from the blood.
CAUTION: This remedy is only for people who do not have a problem with alcohol.
Peel and cut 1 ⁄2 pound of garlic into small pieces. Put the garlic and one quart of cognac (90 proof) in a dark brown bottle. Seal it airtight with paraffin wax or tape. During the day, keep the bottle in the sun or another light, warm place, like in the kitchen near the oven. At night, move the bottle to a dark, cool place.
After 14 days and nights, open the bottle and strain. Put the strained elixir back in the bottle. It is now ready to be used. The potency of this mixture is said to last one year, so label the bottle with the expiration date accordingly.
If you already have the flu, take 20 drops of the formula with a glass of water, one hour before each meal (three times a day), for five days.
To prevent the flu, take 10 to 15 drops with a glass of water, one hour before each meal, every day during the flu season. Also, be sure to wash your hands frequently and avoid crowds.
• The second you’ve been exposed to someone with the flu, try taking cinnamon oil. Dose: Take five drops of cinnamon oil in a tablespoon of water, three times a day.
• By drinking raw sauerkraut juice once a day, you should avoid getting the flu. (It’s also a good way to avoid constipation.)
• Move to the North Pole for the winter. None of the standard cold- and flu-causing microorganisms can survive there. The problem is, you might not be able to either
• Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “Whatever does not destroy me makes me strong.” That’s the way we felt about the drink our grandmother (Bubbie) made the second someone in our family came down with a cold.
■ Recipe ■
The Koch Family (for adults only) Guggle-Muggle
1 grapefruit, juiced.
1 lemon, juiced.
1 orange (preferably Temple), juiced.
1 Tbsp honey Juice the grapefruit, lemon, and orange.
Combine the juices and put in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the honey. Bring the mixture to a boil while stirring. After it has boiled, take the mixture off the stove, and let cool. Then pour it into a glass and add your favorite liquor* (brandy is Ed Koch’s). As with most guggle-muggles, drink it down, then get under the covers and go to sleep. Next morning, no cold! *Women who are pregnant or nursing should not consume alcohol.
The dreaded drink was called a guggle-muggle. We thought it was a cute name that Bubbie made up. Imagine our surprise when Ed Koch, during his last term in office as mayor of New York City, talked about an ancient cure—his family’s recipe for a guggle-muggle.
It seems that many Jewish families have their own guggle-muggle recipes—and some are more palatable than others. Our family’s is among the worst, but Mr. Koch’s is one of the best. As he told us, “It is not only medically superb, it is delicious!”
• Bind sliced onions or peeled garlic cloves to the bottoms of your feet. As we mentioned earlier, don’t be surprised if it gives you onion or garlic breath. And don’t be surprised if it brings down your temperature.
•Eat grapes (in season) throughout the day. Also, dilute pure grape juice and sip some of it throughout the day. Drink it at room temperature, never chilled.
• Boil four cups (one quart) of water with 1⁄2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Just before you drink each of these cups (four consumed throughout the day), add to each cup one teaspoon of honey and 1 ⁄4 cup of orange juice. Heat it up just a little and then drink it slowly.
WARNING: Do not give honey to infants/ children, diabetics or someone who is allergic to honey