Tag Archives: alternative medicine

My favorite cough remedies

I had a wonderful trip last week. The day after Thanksgiving I flew down to Florida to visit my best friend and see Eddie Vedder perform solo. Originally this show was slated to happen in May but due to injury the tour was pushed back to October-December. The week was wonderful and restful, the show to knock off your socks (and his girls came on the stage during the show at different times, they are so cute!), and I got baby cuddles on a daily basis.

My new niece M. Isn’t she sweet? Just three months old now.

There is one drawback to these trips though: my sinuses. For all that traditional food has helped me clear up asthma and arthritis, two chronic conditions which have plagued me for a long time, my allergies remain. And with an extended period of allergy issues comes a lot of post-nasal drip coughing. Today has been bad, so I have been turning to my favorite home remedies for cough.

Have you taken a look at what is in your cough syrup and lozenges lately? Last year I did, because I needed a quick fix. Or so I thought. Then I looked at one of each item from known national brands. Both contained high fructose corn syrup. The same thing the Corn Refiners Association (the people who make it, not even the farmers growing corn) is trying to sell us on being just the same as table sugar. Never mind that is has been proven to cause more weight gain. There is also evidence to suggest that HFCS is linked with type 2 diabetes.

And this is in the stuff we’re supposed to take to heal us. Please. I cut out HFCS in 2004 and have never looked back. The last thing I want to do is ingest a medicine with it. That’s not going to help.

So I turn to my home remedies. The first one I got from one of my alternative medicine books years ago. It’s an ayurvedic remedy good for all types. The key to this remedy is in the freshly ground black pepper*. Don’t use already ground, as it is devoid of the oils which will heat up the body and clear the mucus.

The second is mullein leaf*. I discovered this one last year after dealing with another coughing fit. Just make into a tea and drink!

Ayurvedic cough remedy
Makes one dose

1 teaspoon honey or ghee/clarified butter
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I find that 12 peppercorns ground up makes the right amount)

Mortar and pestle, or another way to grind up peppercorns
Small bowl

1. Grind up peppercorns and put in bowl.

2. For a cough with a hoarse voice, use ghee. If the voice is not hoarse, use honey. Mix appropriate item in with the pepper.

3. Take on a full stomach. This remedy can be taken 3 times a day for 3-5 days.

1. You can make your own clarified butter at home. A quick search will reveal directions.
2. PLEASE do not use honey from major suppliers. For one, local honey will boost your immune system. For two, high fructose corn syrup is now used to stretch honey. Bees are also now being fed high fructose corn syrup instead of honey.

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Lust, John. The herb book. 1974.
Gottlieb, Bill. New choices in natural healing. 1995.

*Denotes affiliate link. If you click and buy something from Mountain Rose Herbs I will receive a small commission.

I’m sharing this post at Simple Lives Thursday, Thank Your Body Thursday, Fresh Bites Friday, Freaky Friday, Fight Back Friday, Small Footprint Friday, Homestead Barn Hop, Monday Mania, Make Your Own Monday, Traditional Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Party Wave Wednesday, and Sunday School!


As seen on the internet and weekend food plans December 23, 2011

Let me tell you what the best part of being done with my graduate work is.
It’s being able to read anything I want, whenever I want, without a cloud of obligation hanging over my head. For the last few years any time I would do something fun for myself, there was a little nagging voice reminding me of what I could or should be doing at that time instead. Maybe this is what causes so much of the stress for people in graduate studies. It’s not the workload itself, but the feeling that I should somehow work on it all the time.

So to celebrate, I am catching up on a lot of online reading and even adding new blogs to read. If you have anything related to real food or domesticity from an unconventional source, leave a comment!

A sampling of what I’ve been reading this week, and there are indeed many of them:

Just out this morning, Kelly presents up with the words of Chris Kerston from Chaffin Family Farms about why quality olive oil matters, and what you’re really going to find on the shelves in the supermarket.
Consider this if you think olive oil is a must have: it’s a food trend, and recent. Before the 1980s, the people most likely to have olive oil in their kitchen were people who were actually from the Mediterranean. People from Spain, Italy, Greece, etc. It was a part of their food culture, plain and simple. I’m not trying to discourage anyone from keeping olive oil in their kitchen, just trying to bring in some perspective. There’s a huge Italian population where I live still, so olive oil wasn’t all that strange to me.

Body Ecology presents very good tips for eating better during these holidays.

Something I love about being in the real food community is that I periodically learn of new methods of healing. Health, Home, and Happiness is the latest place where I’ve seen talk of using clay. Have any of you done this? I wonder if I should look into it for general knowledge.

It’s not uncommon for people to filter their water. Considering the amount of chemicals which end up in municipal supplies this is not a bad idea at all. (Incidentally, if you think bottled water will help in this, it won’t. Many are bottled from the same sources as peoples’ taps.) Food Renegade points out that unfiltered bathing water is also not good for you since things like chlorine can permeate the skin and kill off the good bacteria in the body.

Sasquatch and the Scientician is the brainchild of a friend of mine (she’s the Scientician), and the url should tell you everything. “We Will Eat It.” There is only one post so far, but when you start a blog of eating off with the world’s most notorious fruit, you’re in for something good.

Melissa over at Cellulite Investigation gives an update on her continuing personal work to detox from excessive fluoride. Her works is inspirational for anyone who’s trying to clear up chronic health issues.

Speaking of olive oil, Jill from Farm Food Blog has taken then plunge into making cured olives at home. If you’re an olive lover, this is a must read and certainly something to consider.

Last week I mentioned Nourishing Our Children’s post about chemicals in candles. This week AnnMarie lists some other options for candles which are much safer for your home environment.

My doppleganger, ButterBeliever, talks about an antioxidant local to her in Hawai’i.

I think Frugally Sustainable has morphed into one of my favorite blogs. Frugal, traditional foods and green living? That’s what I want! This week she has a tutorial for making horehound lozenges for coughs. Last month I had an allergy explosion (my one remaining chronic issue) which also led into a lot of coughing. One morning I got so fed up I decided to look for lozenges at the market by the bus stop. When I saw the ingredient list, I ran out fast. Soy and high fructose corn syrup. Are you KIDDING me? I want to feel BETTER!
I do have a homemade cough remedy I like to use, and picked up some slippery elm lozenges to help then. Next year I will be making my own lozenges too. You never know when you might need them.

Finally, Jessica from Delicious Obsessions posted one of the best videos I have seen in a long time. I know I want a dog someday. Now I think I want goats too.

Weekend food plans? Well, tomorrow night is Christmas, which means I need to be around the kitchen a lot preparing a variety of pork products. If I get a chance I will do photo documentation and share here next week. Whethere you celebrate Yule, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, or even nothing, I wish you a wonderful and peaceful weekend.

Stocking a medicine cabient

Normally I don’t believe in making “sorry to have gone quiet” posts, but I truly did intend to put up something last week. That is, until I got hit with a major allergic reaction on Monday evening. While I have dealt with allergy issues all my life, I had reactions I’d never experienced before. Thus my energies were focused on being able to breathe properly and getting better. I still don’t know what caused the reaction, and to be honest I’m not fretting over it too much.

How I prefer to convalesce when ill. Photo from The Commons.

My usual method for recovering from any sort of illness now tends along the lines of “alternative” medicine. Having spent my youth taking a wide range of antibiotics for sinus and throat infections, antihistamines for allergies (and having them lose their effectiveness from overuse), inhalers for asthma, and STILL having those problems plague me even with the drugs, I now prefer to treat the symptoms as much as possible. Plus my health has improved enough that I don’t really need those drugs anymore. I refuse to take antibiotics because I feel they are over-prescribed, leading to the various drug-resistant bugs now making the rounds around the country. My asthma bothers me so little, it’s not worth it for me to keep an inhaler anymore. It would be close to dead before I’d need to use it. The allergies have been mending slowly as my immune system becomes stronger, though sometimes I need help on that front.

Sometimes I still get sick, or react badly to something. I try to keep remedies around the house which treat the symptoms I am most likely to deal with. Since the household currently holds just two adults who tend to be in decent health, there’s not a huge collection. I thought it would be worth sharing, to give ideas of ways to help treat illnesses at home. As always, this is not a substitute for formal medical training. I’ve found these primarily through personal research and my own trial and error.

Alternative remedies
I start with these since it’s my first line of defense.
Activated charcoal–This should be a constant in any and every home. It binds with toxic substances and keeps the body from absorbing them. Used in hospitals and drug treatment centers for people who have overdosed. It can also be used effectively against food poisoning and lesser digestive issues.
Bromelain–made from the core of pineapples, a very effective anti-inflammatory. Strangely enough, I know I need it if I am feeling ill, thinking about it, and it’s the LAST thing I want to take. This is very effective when my knee or sinuses swell up.
Elderberry syrup–Something I’ve been taking this past week. A remedy with a long history, it has strong anti-viral properties. I know a few people who make their own. If only I had an elderberry bush in my neighborhood.
Neti–I’ve done a whole post on why I am a fan of the neti pot and have used it for over a decade. If you have sinus issues with any regularity and do not use one, I suggest you stop reading right now and GET ONE. You can also replicate the method with a paper cup. Don’t be squeamish either. The minor discomfort you may have from rinsing your nose will be trivial compared to how much quicker you will recover from sinus trouble.
Melatonin–A vitamin B6 supplement I use periodically during the year to aid with my sleep. It’s especially helpful for me in the winter, when I want to sleep more.
Oscillococcinum–A homeopathic flu remedy I came across some years ago. I’m not too familiar with homeopathy but very curious to learn more. In this case, I take it when I feel like I may be coming down with the flu. Usually I can either cut it off before it takes hold, or my days with symptoms are not many.
Incidentally, if you have any suggestions for learning homeopathy or might even be willing to give me some instruction, I will gladly accept it!
Burt’s Bees Res-Q Oinment–whenever I get a cut or a burn, this salve goes on there. I’d love to learn how to make my own someday.
Tea tree oil–Perfect for drying out acne or surface fungal infections.

I keep enough around that it merits its own section.
Chamomile–to help me relax and sleep
Calming–especially helpful when I feel stressed about school. This is a specific blend including kava kava. Despite my generally laid back demeanor, I don’t do the “relaxation” thing well.
Rose Hips–good source of vitamin C
Peppermint–good for digestion, and I recently learned that in China it was traditional for men to drink hot peppermint tea in the summer to help them cool off.
Moon cycle–There’s one day each month when I feel very thankful for this tea.
Mullein–I just discovered this herb in the past week. An expectorant.
Echinacea–for immune system support.

Allopathic remedies
When all else fails…
Mucinex–Another expectorant. It really does help, but I have to be coughing a LOT before I even remember its existence
Anti-histamines–About two times a year now (if that), I feel like I really need these.
Ibuprofin–Yes, sometimes I do hurt that much.

What are you medicine chest necessities?

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I’m sharing this post over at Real Food Wednesday, Fight Back Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Monday Mania, and Traditional Tuesday.

Building a real food and health library

This photo is part of The Commons, an awesome public domain collection of photography.

I love books. I suppose that makes sense. Whenever I have a few minutes of free time to fill, I’m usually reading. I work in a library. I’m almost done with my master’s degree in information and library science. And I also love buying books. While I may not always buy books when I go in to a bookstore, it’s nearly guaranteed I will find something I want on the shelves. So when I started shifting into a traditional food diet in 2009, I started looking for reading material in addition to Real food: what to eat and why and Nourishing Traditions. In the interim I have collected a lot of titles related to food, along with more books about healing and tending to the home. This collection is certain to grow too. As a matter of fact I have a copy of Renewing America’s Food Traditions en route.

Not all titles will include commentary from me, so any words you might want to share about these titles would be awesome.

Traditional food-specific books
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morrell–if there is a bible of traditional food, this is certainly it. Not just a collection of recipes but also a good course in real nutrition.
Politically Incorrect Nutrition by Michael Barbee–I’m hoping to read this soon.
The Real Food Revival by Sherri Brooks Vinton and Ann Clark Espuelos
The Schwarzbein Principle by Diana Schwarzbein and Nancy Deville
Traditional Foods are your Best Medicine by Ronald F. Schmid (maybe this should be in health?)
Full Moon Feast by Jessica Prentice
Frugavore by Arabella Forge–I promise to review this before summer!
The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates–there will be a post on this soon as I am transitioning into the diet.
Death by supermarket by Nancy Deville
The Whole Soy Story by Kaayla Daniel
Deep Nutrition by Catherine Shanahan and Luke Shanahan
The Lost Art of Real Cooking by Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger–This appeared as a suggestion on Amazon, and for such a cheap price I had to snatch it up right away. Can’t wait to dig in to this one!
The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith–Reading this, but I think I may start from the beginning again. Yes it’s that good. She’s fleshed out a lot more of the reasons I have for not distinguishing between eating plants and animals.
Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Mary Enig and Sally Fallon Morrell
Real Food: what to eat and why by Nina Planck–the reason why I started this path in the first place.

The Joy of Cooking (All new, all purpose edition) by Irma Rombauer–I want the 75th anniversary edition. My mother has an earlier edition, which includes a to DIE for pumpkin chiffon pie as well as recipes for PIGEON!
How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman–Between this, Joy of Cooking, and Nourishing Traditions, I can find a recipe for cooking almost any food item I find.
Cooking for Dummies by Bryan Miller and Marie Rama–One of these days I should read this. My personality is more of a baker type. I can’t just pick out ingredients and whip up something. I like detailed instructions.
The Garden of Eating by Rachel Albert-Matesz and Don Matesz–Heard about this from Our Natural Life podcast and had to grab it. Probably should be up in the traditional food section, since a lot of her material in here is based on Weston A. Price-related research.
Tender Grassfed Meat by Stanley Fishman–Another one for the TF section. If you’re making the move into grass-fed and pastured meat but can’t seem to cook it well, you NEED this book. Stanley’s blog of the same name is a great read too.
Solo Suppers by Joyce Goldstein–A lot of pasta but still some great ideas. Along with chicken livers!
Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert
Fast Food My Way by Jacques Pepin
More Fast Food My Way by Jacques Pepin–Ever need a quick food idea? Both of these books should be in your kitchen.
The Food Substitutions Bible by David Joachim–A Yule gift from this past season. Already has made its worth known by presenting me with a cream substitute on New Year’s. (Incidentally, that would be 3/4 cup whole milk and 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter.)

General Food Writing
The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten–Want to be a good food writer? Read this book. Yeah, he praised oleo in the 90s. But Salad the Silent Killer should be assigned to anyone and everyone who thinks a plant based diet is automatically better for you.
The Food of a Younger Land by Mark Kurlansky
The United States of Arugula by David Kamp
Food Security for the Faint of Heart by Robin Wheeler
The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan–The potato section was quite an eye-opener.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan–How many of you got started on this journey because of this book?
In Defense of Food: an Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan
Diet for a Hot Planet by Anna Lappe

Health and Healing books
The Herb Book by John Lust–I can’t wait to have time to study herbalism
Take Care of Yourself by Donald Vickery and James Fries
Our Bodies, Ourselves by the Boston Women’s Health Collective
The Fourfold Path to Healing by Thomas Cowan–the companion to Nourishing Traditions, and if I move to the San Francisco area I intend to become a patient of Dr. Cowan. I know how to get to his office already, thanks to a good fluke.
New Choices in Natural Healing from Prevention Magazine–THIS is my go-to book when I am not feeling well.
American Folk Medicine by Clarence Meyer
Prescriptions for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis Balch
A Woman’s Own Remedy Box by Amy Conway

Home economics
I am a domestic goddess at heart.
Make your place by Rayleigh Briggs
Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson
Country Wisdom Almanac by Storey
Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes–I read this in December. No, let me rephrase: I DEVOURED this book in December. In an ideal world I will someday be among the ranks.

The Virtual Library
Hokti’s Recipe Book of Creek Indian Foods–Traditional foodies will likely squeal at this one. The first recipe is for a corn drink which starts with the corn being soaked in ash water. For those who don’t know, this process breaks down antinutrients in the corn and makes it much more nutritious.
Feeding America, a collection of historical cookbooks. I think I want to start collecting these. If anyone knows where I might find them for a reasonable price, please share.

What books are on your real food and healing shelves? Is there anything here you love? Or loathe? Any titles you think EVERYONE needs to know about?

I’m sharing this post over at Real Food Wednesday, Fight Back Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, and Monday Mania.

The joy of neti

Ah, spring. The light returning, birds chirping outside your window, flowers and trees budding everywhere, your nose and eyes running nonstop from pollen and wondering if you’ll ever be able to breathe normally again…
I may be curing my animal allergies, but it seems I still haven’t quite licked the seasonal irritants.
Wait, isn’t this supposed to be a blog about food? Yes it is. But I also do have a passion for alternative healing techniques, and the traditional food community does also talk about healing with methods which are not prescribed by a doctor. So today I am going to share one of my favorite tools to keep my breathing smooth and chase away sinus trouble.


If you haven’t been exposed before, you’re possibly wondering what to do with this thing. It’s simple. You use it to pour salt water through your nose to clean it out.
Cringing yet? So was I, when I first got mine in the late 1990s. My mother had actually found it in a catalog and ordered it for me. I’ve had trouble with allergies, asthma and sinus infections since I was a little kid. I wasn’t sure what to make of this thing, or how water would make its way through my nose when I got extremely congested.
But I was also regularly suffering from sinus infections and a lot of allergies, so I decided to give it a try. Lo and behold, it worked!
Neti comes from yoga and auyrvedic medicine. As yoga is a tradition which focuses on breathing most of all, it makes sense to have remedies which would enable better breathing. It also has been in use for a very long time, so clearly it does something to help.
Since I’ve been using the neti over the years, I’ve noticed a definite improvement in my breathing. First, it was simply being able to breathe better during my bad allergy times. I would also use it when I felt the familiar tingle in my nose meaning a sinus infection was on the way. I started averting the infections!
Now I recommend this whenever I hear of someone having allergy issues. While the idea is not often met with enthusiasm, the people who do start using a neti have a lot less trouble with their nose.

You can do a nasal wash without a neti pot by using a paper cup folded to create a thin stream of water. Pots usually don’t run more than $20, so I would recommend picking one up if you want to try it.
My tips for effective use and also watch to look out for:
1. Blow your nose as thoroughly as you can before doing the rinse. It will help.
2. Keep handkerchiefs or a paper towel nearby. A tissue will not be effective enough to clean up the water.
3. Start with putting the nozzle of the neti to the nostril which is clearer. In my case, the right nostril is usually the one which gets clogged faster, so I put the nozzle to the left nostril and let the water run out the right one.
4. Some of the water may come out of your mouth. It’s OK. Let it happen. Some of the water may also run along your cheek. As you use the neti more, this will happen less, but I’d advise against doing the rinse when you already have on makeup.

How to use a neti pot:
1. Put about 1/4 teaspoon of salt in the pot. My directions stated to use sea salt for the additional minerals. I don’t use unrefined for this though. Ssssh. *winks*
2. Fill the pot with very warm water. Make it warmer than you think you will need, or it’ll hurt like brain freeze from drinking something very cold.
3. Put the neti pot to one nostril, learn your head to the side over the sink, and slowly let the water flow. It will take a few tries before you really get the hang of how to breathe through this.
4. Run about half of the water in the pot through one side. Then tip your face to the other side and pour through the other nostril until the water is gone.
5. Blow your nose again and see how well you can breathe.

I use my neti at least once a day (usually morning, sometimes night as well) when my traditional allergy seasons hit. I don’t know what I’d do without it.

This post is a part of Real Food Wednesday. Check out the main post for a carnival of blogs relating to real food.

New Choices in Natural Healing Rodale Books, 1997.
Do Neti pots really work? from WebMD
Neti (Hatha yoga) from Wikipedia