DIY cold remedies

Bryhanna Greenough is sick of being sick.

After three healthy winters, I’ve become a cold magnet. It’s been relentless. The runny nose of one infection turns into another sore throat and the cycle of snot and suffering repeats itself. I’ve rested, bobbed in a bath, chugged gallons of juice, and mega-dosed on Vitamin C to the point where my tongue is orange for days. There was a denial period where symptomatic support options were completely ignored. Then a new battle broke out, and I broke down and splurged on $25 bottle of hope in the form of Cold FX.

I did start getting better, s-l-o-w-l-y, but I want to believe my body is strong enough to get over this vile treachery without a trip to the doctor for antibiotics.

I just can’t stop a common cold from treating my body like a cheap hotel room.

As you probably all know, the common cold is a virus, and the experts say all you can do is treat the symptoms. And, unfortunately, nothing really seems to work that well. That said, it’s always interesting to learn what others do, and have done, in their desperate search for a little relief. A handful of Scopemakers called up their families for traditional home remedies for seasonal sickness and recalled memories of friends and neighbours helping them fight the common plague. If nothing else, it was a good excuse to finally get around to calling. As you can see I’ve lost all hope. But here you have it.

Chicken soup is the comfort food of the masses. It sells books, and, supposedly, cures colds too. It’s filled with all sorts of vitamins and it’s easy on the stomach when you don’t feel like eating very much. Editor Elling Lien’s mother Judy Lien remembers friends bringing soup by the house.

“It’s a wonderful gift for any family going through colds,” she says. And it’s true, a few spoonfuls of salty, brothy goodness lifts the mood and re-affirms life.

Cartoonist Tara Fleming puts a twist on the Vicks VapoRub standard by smearing it onto the bottom of a bowl, and then very carefully adding hot water. She makes a tent by draping a towel over her head, closes her eyes and inhales the steamy camphor, eucalyptus and menthol to relieve congestion.

“Though if you don’t close your eyes you may experience temporary blindness,” says Tara. “Hey, my grandparents weren’t doctors!”

(Vicks also warns against this because so many people have been burned in the process!)

Journalism intern Ross Mair has experienced some bizarre home remedies in his lifetime. His old neighbour on York Street claimed wrapping your left sock around the neck and securing it with a pin before bed would cure a sore throat. Luckily, he was too young to remember. These days he digs the hot water bag, “an instant cure-all for all things muscle related, and without the smell, hassle and burning of Tiger Balm,” he says.

This is off-topic, but Ross also has an incredible antidote for nasty tooth pain: Microwave a ceramic plate to burning hot, wrap it in a thick cloth and lay down pressing the sore side of your face into it. Bah! Who needs a dentist anyhow?

Goose grease is the cold remedy of choice for Sydney Blackmore’s family in Grand Falls-Windsor.

“Whenever a goose was prepared for a special family meal, the grease drippings were kept to be used as a decongestant,” says her mother about her grandfather’s Sidney Butler. The grease was applied to the chest to relieve congestion in the lungs, and a few drops of camphorated oil were also used in this way.

Black currants, those tasty little temptations growing on bushes in backyard everywhere, are also a traditional Newfoundland home remedy. Sydney’s family ate homemade black currant jam to ease the pain and swelling of a sore throat. Elling’s mother is also convinced of the benefits, claiming black currants are high in anti-oxidants. One year she canned her own black currant juice, the reinstated it by mixing it with some water and heat. She says you can also use frozen black currants to make juice by heating them with some water on the stove, then straining them.

Last but not least, I called my grandparents and ask them about their home remedies for colds. My grandpa says if you’re fairly healthy your body can fight it off. His words exactly, “suffer it out.” And if you can, don’t go to bed, because you’ll just feel worse. No rest for the wicked.

Illustration by Tara Fleming