We’re still in the flu season, with winter’s chill stressing our immune systems. That doesn’t make it any easier to keep healthy. Flu season has a few weeks to run. Traditionally it ends by the end of March. But there is something you can do to protect yourself in the meantime Two things, really.
Wash your hands often. Germs lurk on doorknobs, in handshakes, on supermarket basket handles, and even in air you share with people who aren’t even sick—yet—but carry and exhale germs.
Spice your tea or coffee with cinnamon and/or cloves. Both of them are anti-bacterial and anti-viral. A spoonful of cinnamon wonderfully improves your morning oatmeal and rounds out the flavor of spaghetti sauce.
Last year, I gave you the recipe for my magic potion, the gargle or tea that has kept me free of colds and flu for several years. But I will put it in here again for the sake of readers who missed it. I keep a jar of this strong cinnamon and clove solution on my kitchen counter year around. I make about a cupful of strong solution and dole out a tablespoonful or two to dilute with boiled water for a tea or gargle when anyone in the family has a sore throat.
Anti-Bacterial magic Potion
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 ½ cups water
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce the heat. Simmer until the water turns brown. Cool. Store in tightly capped glass jar.
Do not substitute powdered cinnamon. Too often what you get is not real cinnamon but its paler, weaker cousin, cassia. You can only be truly sure you are using the spice with medicinal talent when you use a cinnamon stick.
Cloves can serve as topical anesthetics. Got a toothache? Swish a spoonful of the solution below around in your mouth. Or put a whole clove next to the ailing tooth. Your saliva will extract the clove’s numbing feature and kill any germs it comes in contact with.
All the spices and herbs we use in cooking contain concentrated nutrition that helps us keep healthy as well as adding flavor to our foods.
Ginger, for instance: Chinese cooks always put shreds or thin slices of fresh ginger root in their largely vegetable stir-fries. Ginger both adds flavor and aids digestion. Ginger is a mild painkiller, too. Feeling a little morning stiffness? Add 1/3 teaspoon of ginger powder to a cup of hot tea or hot lemonade. Stir in a few drops of raw honey. Then do your morning tai chi or qi gong slow-motion exercises. You’ll find yourself feeling relaxed, cheerful and more vigorous.
Here are some more tips on using herbs and seeds you use in your cooking for their medicinal values as well as for flavor. Clip the column and stick it inside the cover of your favorite cookbook.
BORAGE: An easy herb to grow in the garden or on a windowsill. The leaves go well in salads and pretty little blue blossoms are edible, too. They’ll decorate your salads, as will dandelion petals .Borage has been called the "herb of gladness", said since Elizabethan times to lift moods.
CAMOMILE: Also spelled Chamomile. Makes a pleasant, calming (no caffeine) tea that’s perfect after dinner or when you want the warmth and the liquid, but not the stimulation of black or even green tea. Camomile is also said to prevent nightmares. The ancient Greeks used it as a remedy for headaches.
CARAWAY: The secret ingredient in my Transylvanian stew, a delicious combo of beef, carrots, and onions. Also good with cabbage and in homemade applesauce. Just a pinch adds a delightful, mysterious flavor. Caraway prevents flatulence, so add it to any dish that otherwise would give you gas.
CHIVES: These winter-hardy alliums, related to onions, grow in clumps of hollow green spears. When allowed to achieve their natural life span they produce balls of delicate purple blossoms. Nice for edging a small raised garden, or on a windowsill. Snip a few chive spears over a salad or over a casserole after it comes out of the oven.
CORIANDER: Said to resemble the manna that nourished the fleeing Israelites in the desert. Used in dishes spiced with hot pepper, it gentles the effect. Good in dishes made with sausage and in soups and stews. Use as a powder, or whole seeds. If you grow it, add the leaves to soups. It doesn’t smell good in the garden, but when dried the leaves and seeds lose their smell.
DILL: Eases insomnia. Also comforts crying babies. Speeds healing. Counters irritation from over-spiced dishes. Chew a few dill seeds after a Tex-Mex meal.
GARLIC: Anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and useful against colds, bronchitis, and rheumatism. During the plagues of the 1300’s French monks who ate garlic are said to have nursed plague victims without catching the disease. British clerics, no garlic eaters, are said to have caught it and died. Garlic also repels insects and acts as a vermifuge (worm killer). If I put garlic cloves in the pockets of my woolen sweaters and coats will that prevent moth holes? Maybe. But will the garments smell like garlic? I may test this on an old garment.
GINGER: Aids digestion and helps clear stuffed-up sinuses. Try a few slices of ginger root in a mug of hot lemonade or tea. Sweeten with a spoonful of honey.
Ginger also aids cramps and quells nausea.
HORSERADISH: Stimulating. Clears the head, relieves hoarseness and coughs. Expels worms. Contains Vitamin C.
You can find my newest cookbook now at The Minglement. It’s titled Island Epicure’s Excellent Soups and Stews. You’ll find in it famous recipes like the French fish stew, Bouillabaise, as well as quick, satisfying soups made from ingredients you probably already have in your pantry or freezer.