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half enough

Remedies for the common cold

I recently caught a winter cold. Although it’s never really winter in Southern California, there are occasionally rare days when the temperature can drop down to the low 40s. It could’ve been due to the drastic up-and-down weather patterns lately with daytime highs in the 80s and lows in the 40s. I must’ve let my guard down when I wasn’t looking.

It’s been six months since I was last afflicted with the inescapable common cold virus so I tend to forget how to take care of myself and recuperate properly. I don’t keep in mind that I shouldn’t go to work because there’s a high probability that my germs will spread. I also forget to rest. I’m used to staying up past midnight however tired I am. I also like to eat unhealthy foods like chili fries and Oreo cookies just to prove that I’m stronger than the cold germs.

This time I took my cold more seriously. First thing, I called my mom. She told me to rest and drink chicken soup. My coworkers told me the same thing. My friends gave me the same advice with an exception of a few who had some wild unappealing remedies that I feared trying. Whatever the advice and however many of the remedies I tried the cold still lasted eight days from start to finish.

The following is a compiled list from friends, family and me of food and exercise remedy recommendations that are supposedly the best things to eat/drink/do once you’ve been afflicted with the cold virus. Note that these foods, beverages and exercises do not prevent one from catching a cold; they are simply recommendations all based on experience from friends and family that ease the symptoms of the traditional cold.

The first four items are my favorite, in order. The items thereafter vary with remedies I like and don’t like.

1) Okayu, a hot porridge-like soup homemade by my mom. The only explanation I’ve gotten from my mother about how okayu is good for you is that “it’s good for you.” She usually puts in pieces of konbu (kelp) to give it some flavor.
2) Chicken broth with poached eggs, chopped green onions, small bits of carrots, cabbage, sometimes baby bok choy homemade by my mom. This soup medley comes in second because I like the texture of okayu better.
3) Hot chicken broth by itself. It does the trick in temporarily clearing my sinuses.
4) Ice cream. This is my recommendation. It soothes my sore throat especially after heavy coughing. I recommend having the ice cream on or after the third day of the cold or when taste buds are functioning again.
5) Oranges and orange juice. I don’t like eating oranges or drinking orange juice when I have a cold. The citric acids of the orange and orange juice bother my throat and stir up more phlegm.
6) Clam chowder. My recommendation. I’ll usually have one or two bowls of clam chowder after the second or third day of my cold because I’ll be tired of the chicken broth.
7) Exercise. My former boxing coach’s advice. “You can sweat if off,” he told me when I was 14. I believed him and I still take his advice. The colds don’t shake off any quicker, though, but running does clear my sinuses a bit.
8) Cranberry juice, not from concentrate. Friends and family recommendation. This is my second least favorite cold remedy next to orange juice. It tastes like a watered-down version of cough syrup.
9) Airborne. Coworkers and friends recommendation. Didn’t work for me. I didn’t particularly like the taste either. But it does have 1000 milligrams of Vitamin C so that makes my mind if not my body feel healthier.
10) Salt water. Doctor’s recommendation. Gargle, rinse. I don’t like it.

This list is pretty mild compared to some of the other outrageous remedies I’ve heard and read about. Native Americans use bee balm in hot water to alleviate colds. Cayenne pepper in water apparently knocks out the cold before it comes. The key is to drink this concoction at the first sign of a cold, i.e. sore throat. Hydrogen peroxide, ginger tea, elderberry extract, lemon water, salt water, onion tea, grapefruit seed extract, among others. I’ve tried about a third of these other remedies when I’ve been sick but don’t remember any of these or even the remedy recommendations I listed ever alleviating or shortening my cold.

One thing all of these foods and liquid concoctions do have in common is that none of them are deep fried in cooking oil. Maybe if we ate or drank these things all the time all year, we wouldn’t get sick. I wouldn’t bet all my cards on it, but I’d bet some.

© 2007 Victoria Kraus

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"Half Enough" is Victoria's first regular column series. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Discover Nikkei.