Noxious Cold? Here’s What We’re Doing

Just before I headed to Northern Arizona for the Medicine of the People (formerly, Traditions in Western Herbalism) Conference, Nick returned from a visit to Florida with some kind of bug, more cold than flu, but with the achiness that often characterizes a flu. It’s an odd one, too, in that it sidesteps the usual scratchy throat-nasal congestion-then chest pattern. This one seems to go from slightly scratchy throat directly for the chest, with yellow sputum coming on fairly quickly as well as a deep, hacking cough. I had no idea how bad it was for Nick until I caught it myself.

I was able to get through the conference without too much bother about getting a cold. But it began coming on en route from Flagstaff to Phoenix and worsened on the return flight to Baltimore.

What I had suggested for Nick, in my absence, was the following:

The combination elderberry-sumac berry elixir that we usually begin making in October and take (in small amounts) through the winter (like everything else this year, all cycles seem to be running at least three to four weeks ahead of schedule);

Fresh yarrow leaves, infused for 10 minutes, to provide some pain relief; and

A respiratory tea (dried mullein leaves, rosemary, sage and hyssop, which I’ll write more about in future post).

While at the conference, I picked up some cool tinctures including Kings Road Apothecary’s Three Wild Sages as well as Peach Leaf & Wild Rose combo, and Humboldt Herbals’ Lunwort Lichen. Little did I know I’d be using them fairly soon! Because of a mildly scratchy throat and some mucus congestion, I began taking them on the return flight.

Upon returning home very early Tuesday, Nick and I drank a small glass of elder-sumac elixir. I was too wired to sleep and felt worse and worse. So, I made elderflower tea and added elderflower honey to it. That seemed to help calm me enough that I could sleep. Later that morning, I made a cold infusion of slippery elm for the mucilage and we had an infusion of yarrow and warm elder-sumac elixir. I took more of the tinctures, especially the lungwort lichen and three sages.

I had to work Tuesday evening and brought a thermal canister of hot water with lemon and honey with the tinctures added. Unfortunately, it was too hot to drink for most of the evening, so I waited until I got home to drink it in earnest.

Because I had a swollen inguinal lymph node—I have never had that before and usually don’t encounter swollen lymph nodes when I’m ill—I suggested that Nick and I both take an infusion of calendula, a mild lymphatic.

Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning was the worst. I did not feel like eating. We drank more of the elder-sumac blend, more yarrow infusion, took more of the tinctures. And for most of Wednesday, I drifted in and out of sleep. Sleep—if you can get it—is the best elixir!

By Wednesday evening, I still felt slightly throaty, but the muscle aches had passed. And this is the track that Nick and I both seem to be continuing on.

I’m planning to take rabbit tobacco for the cough (especially as I have to work again today, around many people, who will be trying enjoy food and coughing and food are just not a good combination) and plan to try some elecampane tincture that I made last fall to see whether that will help clear out the yellow mucus.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on what works best for me or Nick, but this feels like the kind of cold that could drag on for a few weeks, so the plants certainly seem to be helping decrease not only the length of time we’re experiencing the cold, but also the severity. Sometimes the best we can do is just go for what we have on hand. For those who are not herbalists, this could be fresh garlic, an infusion of thyme from the spice cabinet, ginger, and cinnamon.

Use this post only for informational purposes. None of this information is meant to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any conditions.

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