Sunday, February 22, 2009

How to Fight Off a Cold

Last night, my throat felt a little sore, and I took a couple of zinc tablets and irrigated my sinuses. This morning when I woke up my throat was really sore, and I had the generally yucky feeling that goes with a cold. I used to get very, very sick with colds -- the initial viral infection would almost always be followed by a secondary bacterial infection. I'd be sick for at least two weeks.

For the last few years, I've been able to cut the process short by taking zinc tablets at the first sign of a cold and irrigating my sinuses every 3 or 4 hours with a neti pot, and eating citrus. Taking vitamin C tablets doesn't help, nor does frozen orange juice; it has to be fresh citrus.

This cold that started last night, though, was one virulent infection. For a while, I was sure it was going to lay me low. Still, it was worth trying to fight it. I added a 30 second gargle with Listerine to the routine, every time I used the neti pot, but I kept getting worse. About noon, I went out to the garden and dug up an echinacea root. I've added a photo of the very root at the top of this entry. Some research articles say the echinacea helps the immune system; others say it doesn't. One thing I can say for sure -- it works to ease sore throat pain. The inside of the root is brownish gray with dark brown rings. What I do is slice off little bits of the root and chew it, holding it in my mouth for a while. The taste isn't bad at all, a bit like a radish. At first, it makes the tongue feel prickly, then the prickles spread to the nasal sinuses and throat. Then the pain just goes away. It's similar to the way aloe vera leaves stop the pain of minor burns.

I've eaten a slice of echinacea root every couple of hours for about six hours. For a while, my throat felt better, but the rest of me kept feeling worse, but around 6:00 I started feeling better all over. I now feel almost normal, but I've continued the treatment. I'm a little worried that the virus will get the upper hand again during the night, since I won't be doing the treatment as often. But I feel so good, perhaps my immune system has things under control.

I suspect that the conflicting echinacea research may be due, at least in part, to the types of echinacea used. For example, most of the inexpensive echinacea you find at grocery stores consists of dried leaves. The good stuff is mostly in the roots; there isn't much of it in the leaves, especially, I'd think, after they've been dried. The dried leaves aren't of any use, except maybe as a placebo.


  1. Very interesting post! I never tried echinacea for sore throat. I use calendula that grows in my garden. Your post makes me want to read more about echinacea. Thanks!

  2. That was a great post on the value of fresh echinacea root.
    I am writing a chapter in my Herbal Remedies book about Echinacea. I have lots of tincture examples but none for fresh root. Could I use part of this blog in my book?
    Rachel Weaver

  3. I will be giving a hands-on class about Echinacea in the fall and will direct the class to your post. Also will be looking for the book on Herbal Remedies by Rachel Weaver. One can not have too many book on plants!

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