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Surviving Winter's Colds

We’ve had a reasonably healthy
winter here so far (knock on wood), but we’ve had a couple
things come through our house – the croup, a cold –
that have reminded me just how un-fun it is to be sick. With a
virus. That no pill can cure.

Impatient to help my babies feel better but reluctant to pump them
full of chemicals that may-or-may-not help their cough (really? Why
exactly does cough syrup need food coloring in it?), I started
looking around for more natural ways to help us all get through
those miserable, can’t-sleep winter nights.

Here’s what I found.

When Cora first came down with the croup,
I frantically turned to one of my favorite natural Mommy websites,
of the Home
for advice. Cora’s horrible barking cough
broke my heart, and I knew no supposedly
“child-friendly” OTC cough medicine would really help.
Stephanie at Keeper of the Home had an odd suggestion: a cut
up onion by the child’s bed at night time. I was dubious but
had nothing to lose. And you know what?

The darn thing works.

There’s a scientific explanation – something about the
chemicals that are released when an onion is cut (the same ones
that make you cry) – but all I know is that it. Works.
Really. Well. I’ve used it myself a few nights and can
breathe easier for sure. Yes, your husband might complain that your
bedroom smells like a burger factory at the end of the night, but
the smell dissipates over the day. Both girls swear by this one,
and will actually ask for an onion now. And listen, it
doesn’t have to be fancy: I throw mine down the chute of my
food processor and am done in ten seconds. Dump it in a bowl, set
it by your bed, and there you go.

A cut-up onion really helps with a cough.

Something else that works – a homemade vapor rub I found
courtesy of another favorite site, href="http://www.crunchybetty.com">Crunchy Betty. I
don’t like the stuff used in Vicks and so forth, but target="_blank"
only has essential oils, olive oil, and beeswax. I
made up a jar and keep it to rub on chests when the girls are
stuffy. This recipe takes FIVE MINUTES people – you can do
this. I promise.

Two notes: first, I increased the beeswax in the recipe from two
teaspoons to almost two tablespoons. You can start with the lesser
amount and then if it doesn’t set properly re-melt it and add
more beeswax if you want. Up to you.

Second note – eucalyptus oil is used in this recipe –
and used a lot around my house. Eucalyptus oil is awesome –
but also poisonous, especially to kids. Keep all essential oils out
of reach, and do NOT put eucalyptus oil on any child under age 2,
or any older child who might stick his finger on his chest and then
put it in his mouth! It’s great for clearing the sinuses
– in small doses, and NOT taken internally. ‘Nuff said.

If an earache or stuffiness are causing your kids trouble, some
steam time can help. Here’s advice from href="http://healthychild.org/">Healthy Child, Healthy
’s website:

Pour boiling water into a large glass bowl (do not use plastic).
Add two to three drops of eucalyptus and lavender essential oils.
Cover your head with a towel and breath in the steam to reach those
areas connecting your ears, nose, and throat. Be careful not to use
too much oil or too much heat.

As an alternative, you can put a few drops of each into your
child’s bath and let them breathe that while they play
(again, making sure you don’t have a kid who likes to drink
copious amounts of bath water!) Lavender is a natural antibiotic
and can help an ear infection heal up, and we all know how great
eucalyptus can be for opening up the sinuses.

My final trick for getting the girls through winter colds is some
homemade cough syrup. Before you roll your eyes, let me tell you:
it’s pretty easy, and something I can give them over and over
again without worrying what it’s doing to their system. The
girls actually beg for it. Now, I’ll be honest – I came
up with this recipe a couple years ago, and have since been
tinkering with it, adding a few herbs like rosehips and elderberry
to up the vitamin C factor, slippery elm to help out with the
cough. I don’t expect you all to run out and buy some obscure
herbs, and don’t want that to keep you from making your own
cough syrup, so here’s the original version – which, as
I said, the girls beg for:

Cough syrup:

1/4 c. honey (preferably raw and unfiltered, for those good natural

1/8 t. cayenne pepper

2 T. apple cider vinegar (preferably unfiltered)

juice of one lemon

1/4 c. cooked cherry juice (I stew cherries I froze over the summer
on the stove for the liquid; but feel free to use some pure, tart
cherry juice from your local natural grocer)

2 slices of ginger

Simmer everything on the stove to combine, for perhaps fifteen
minutes or so. Remove the slices of ginger and store in the fridge
for a couple of months. Give out one spoonful as needed for sore

One note for THIS recipe – don’t give honey to babies
under one year of age. But you know that, right?

As a general reminder, I have absolutely no medical or herbalist
degree whatsoever. Don’t take anything I say as the gospel on
this; follow your doctor’s advice, etc. etc. I’m just
sharing what works with me for all this stuff.

So these are my best tricks to get through the tough winter
sniffles and sneezes; does anyone else have anything they use


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