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I woke up this morning with a terrible sore throat, the kind that signals a week or more of misery as the first symptom of a common-but-nasty cold. But over the years I’ve found a handful of home remedies that are truly effective, at least for me. So this evening I’m feeling much better – not 100% but also not in the sorry state that sore throat was foreshadowing.

I hope this post finds you well. But if you’re experiencing the unfortunate early symptoms for a cold, I hope these home remedies will ease your suffering and speed your recovery as they did for me.

Oil of Oregano: My friend shared this with me last year – I’d never heard of it before but it’s amazing…and quite an experience. You can find it at grocery stores like Whole Foods or Metropolitan Market (a local chain here in the Seattle area). The one I have is Origanum vulgare in extra virgin olive oil standardized to 70% carvacrol. It comes in tiny bottles of .5 fluid ounces with a dropper top. Put 4 to 6 drops on your tongue and swallow, every 4 hours throughout the day. It burns. Do this in private as you will likely make some noises you won’t be proud of.

Echinacea & Licorice Tea: Most people, I think, have heard of Echinacea – it gives a short-term boost to the immune system, to be used at the very beginning of a cold and only for a couple days. I prefer to take mine as tea so I’m also getting lots of fluids. I mix it with licorice tea for the throat-coating effect and also because licorice is a natural sweetener. You can add a third bag of regular tea like Earl Grey for flavor. I make a big pot and drink all day.

Fenugreek Tea: Fenugreek seed is an ingredient in Indian cuisine like curry and can also be sprouted for salads, etc. It’s said to support lactation, relieve arthritis and increase libido. But my parents always gave it to me when I had a cough so to me it’s a respiratory savior. You can sometimes find it in teabags but I just put fenugreek seeds directly into boiling water and strain them out before drinking. I am prone to bronchial infections which inevitably require antibiotics, so I use this when a cold is threatening to settle in my chest as a preventative measure. It’s also helpful to suppress an existing cough, like the kind that can keep you up all night, when mixed with lemon juice and honey. Fair warning: you may smell like fenugreek for several days after drinking.

Exercise: If I can, I try to do a lighter version of my regular routine when I’m feeling under the weather – at least some cardio and stretching. The goal is to sweat and support the circulation of the lymphatic system, which doesn’t have anything like a heart pumping fluids around so requires body movement. Jumping on a trampoline is supposed to be especially effective for lymph flow.

Bourbon, Lemon and Honey: And finally, my very favorite cold remedy of all…booze. Starting sometime in the afternoon, I add a second glass right alongside my steady dose of herbal tea. That glass has the juice of one lemon, an equal part of bourbon, and a teaspoon or so of honey mixed in well. The trick is taking tiny little sips and letting them coat my throat (and only refilling once). This also supports my other favorite home remedy: a really good night sleep.

Of course it goes without saying that I’m not a doctor and none of these statements have been evaluated by the FDA. I would love to hear your success stories with home remedies. Please share and be healthy!

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