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Cold and Flu Season: Assemble Your Arsenal!

These home remedies can thwart winter illnesses if you take them early. Or make them more bearable.

Ukrainian horseradish remedy

It's simple to prepare a jar of this awfully pungent stuff, and just let it live in your refrigerator. The first time, I had been complaining to my neighbor about being sick, and he generously gave me some of his. Soon after beginning to take it, I began to recover. I've used it several times since and each time it knocked out my oncoming illness. I prepare it ahead so that it has time to age. When I took it right after making, it was too strong and for me, caused light-headedness.

There are a lot of unsubstantiated claims on the health benefits of horseradish, and also some warnings about using it it large amounts. In my opinion, it would be difficult to consume large amounts of horseradish. We're talking about using very small amounts; a tablespoon's worth of juice 1 – 4 times a day until the cold/flu symptoms improve.

I use a strong blender like a VitaMix.

Fresh horseradish root can usually be found at Harris-Teeter grocery stores. Wash it, peel it and chop into small pieces. Grind or grate it coarsely (too fine a grind makes it too strong) with 1 cup of water and 1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice. Add a tablespoon of honey. (No matter how much honey you use, it's going to taste bad.)

Store in a jar in the fridge. When it's time to use it, put a tablespoonful in a square of cheesecloth or muslin. Squeeze out the juice and dilute it with water to about ½ cup. Discard the pulp. Don't take on an empty stomach. Two to four times a day, until the symptoms are gone.

Yin Chaio

The kinder, gentler option; Plum Flower Yin Chaio pills. An herbal supplement from China that also, if taken right away, has stopped colds for me. It's for sale at the Naturopathic Health Clinic. Also taken at the first signs of a cold – 12 little green tablets a day, spread throughout the day; or 4 tablets three times a day; 3 tablets four times a day.

With supplements coming from China, be aware that there is a possibility of contamination. Melissa assures me that Plum Flower comes from California and their products are CERTIFIED PURE. This isn't something to take everyday either, but only as needed.

Elderflower Syrup

It tastes delicious, and can be helpful. I like the Gaia brand; it's very thick and dark. Soothing on the throat. Store in the fridge after opening

Fisherman's Friend lozenges

I avoid sugar, especially at night, and don't want artificial sweeteners either. If, despite the remedies above, I do end up with a sore throat and stuffy nose, these dry brown lozenges soothe my throat and clear my head like nobody's business. I discovered them while living in the UK, but they're available here now in most drug stores.

Vicks Vapor Rub

I smear this old familiar under my stuffy nose and on my chest for those drippy nights. It's also apparently the treatment of choice for sinus infections, rather than antibiotics. Rubbed in at night, Vicks also helps with dry chapped hands. Be careful not to touch your eyes afterwards!

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