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20 November 2009

Winter Maladies

A bad cold wouldn't be so annoying if it weren't for the advice of our friends. ~Kin Hubbard

Winter's in Oregon are long and drawn out, damp, and cold. That's why I'm almost positive that we have the most alcoholics, the most bars with home brews per capita, the most overweight people, and the most home remedies for winter maladies that strike our sun-deprived souls. Depression strikes a lot. I mean who isn't depressed when you can't remember the last time you saw the sun. So we try to remedy our seasonal sadness by drinking with eachother in smokey bars. The velvety rich specials brews along with the greasy appetizers make the waist-lines expand. Often times we find ourselves rundown and laden with colds we'd worked so hard to avoid. 'Tis time to prepare for a battle. An herbal assault is waged against these winter micro-organisms.

Every person owns the patent for the secret to winter health. No two tonics are alike and probably differ widely outside of this lush green state of Oregon. However, there are two categories they all fall into: Prevent sickness and treat sickness. Basically we want to put off getting sick for as long as we can so we boost our immunity ahead of time, usually right after summer has left us and fall has just barely begun. We are northwesterners and we believe in our natives, thus we commence with tinctures of elderberry for strengthening our respiratory systems, western red cedar for increasing our white blood cells, oregon grape to purify our liver, and st johns wort to increase our happiness. Of course we include other non-natives like echinacea to increase resistance to viral invasion, goldenseal to ward off bacteria, and astragalus for deep and long immunity. We take in large amounts of vitamin C, eat extra kale and swiss chard, and exercise plenty. However, when we do succumb, we cannot wait to share our long lost family secrets to wellness or the latest trend which aids in decreasing the time we are convalescing.

If you are sick, I can supply you with not just the aforementioned therapies but I can let you in on some ancient secrets that will help ease your misery. If you're nose is plugged up, I know steam treatments and homeopathics that work well in draining cavities. If you have a cough I can ease it with coltsfoot and herbal cough remedies. If you crave a tincture that will make you sweat, sleep and feel good, if only temporarily, I will make you a whiskey-cayene hot toddy. I know two good ways to jump start your immune system - alternating hot and cold in the shower on your chest and going to bed with wet wool socks under dry cotton ones. Most of these are tried and true, by yours truly. However, there are a few that I have not had the opportunity to assess yet.

I always get a taste of my own medicine. If I am sick, all I want to do is lay under the covers and moan. The last thing I want to do is adhere to a wellness routine. Drink water? Forget it. I need a hamburger and salty fries because I can't taste anything with my plugged up nose. Sure I'll take my herbs and steam in the shower, that is, after I moan a while longer and try to sleep through my misery. But someone well-meaning soul will always ask me if I am following my own advice to get better. After which I will drag my sorry ass into the kitchen on a more regular basis to down my tinctures, swallow my hot toddies, then into the bathroom to submerge myself in hot steam.

This week I was completely laid out with an early winter cold. My husband being on the mend from the week before, probably thanks to my healthful advice, asked me if I was going to do the wet sock thing. The wet sock thing - oh you mean the thing that you wouldn't try when you were sick? Ah yes, but you did take my spoonfuls of cough syrup and chew the vitamin c and take shots of my herbal juice drinks. Ok, yes, I will take my own damn advice. I will wear the wet socks to bed. It seriously wasn't that bad. It was actually very soothing, relaxing and refreshing at the same time. And it was true, I woke up to completely dry socks. And I did feel a lot better.

I am back among the living now and I've just cracked open a winter ale to wash down my pizza as the weekend begins. It's forecasted to be cold and rainy for another 4 or 5 months. I'll be sure that tomorrow I remember to pick up that chinese herb my chiropractor told me about. He hasn't been sick in 3 years since taking it. And yes, I need to get a six-pack of that 100 proof holiday ale that is sold at only this time of year. Ah, I can see the crusade to achieve optimum winter health physically and mentally has begun, again.

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