As You Like It: Take 2 Garlic and Call Me in the Morning


Last night I woke up sniffling. Then I swallowed and felt my throat talk back to me. A cold — just what I needed right before Thanksgiving. There’s so much to do, so much to enjoy, so of course it’s the perfect time to cough and blow your nose continuously. I lay there trying to talk myself out of it. There have been times when I’ve ignored a cold and it actually left. But this was not going to be one of those times. That’s the problem with colds. Though they are all the same, they are also just different enough to be exasperating.

There are colds that come on so gradually that you barely notice them. There are colds that smack you silly so quickly that all you can do is try to cope with all the stuff that simultaneously emerges from the orifices in your head. There are colds that are gone in a few days and those that linger on for weeks. The ones where a hacking cough holds you hostage and others that steal your voice. A veritable rainbow of delights.

Because of these differences, no one remedy ever works consistently. Sometimes one thing succeeds and other times it makes no difference at all. It’s very disheartening. When I was growing up, my mom always plied me with tablespoons of honey and lemon and rivers of tea. I always hated the taste of pure honey so I dreaded those tablespoons. It was all I could do not to gag. She also made me gargle with warm saltwater, another amazingly nauseating remedy. But she made me chicken soup, which tasted wonderful, and rubbed Vicks Vapo rub on my chest so that I smelled like a eucalyptus plant. When I was older my dad would mix rum in hot milk for me and that was lovely. I may not have been cured, but I certainly was happy!

I had a yoga teacher who swore by her netti pot. It’s a small teapot-shaped container with a long narrow spout. You fill it with warm salt water then pour the solution up your nose to lubricate your sinuses. You can achieve similar results by swallowing water as someone tells you a funny story. We used to do this quite often during school lunch hours, when kids drank their milk. We’d wait for them to take a sip then say something hilarious and watch the kid lubricate his sinuses by blowing the milk out of his nostrils, whereupon we would all yell, “Through the nose!”

Of course, the best way to take care of a cold is to rest, but that’s never possible. You have to work, or take care of kids who probably have caught it from you so that you’re all one big sick, cranky family. When Lisa was a toddler we both caught bad colds. We were stuck in the house alone since none of our friends wanted to come near us and risk contagion. I tried to get her to play the game “Let’s-take-a-nap,” but she wasn’t having any of it.

The worst part was that even though my upstairs neighbor was also sick, she got to rest in solitary comfort, sipping tea and watching the soaps. She didn’t have to blow her nose while playing endless games of Chutes and Ladders. Plus her friends kept sending her flowers, which she never accepted because she was sleeping so the delivery guys would leave them with me. Every few hours I would trek upstairs to hand her yet another bouquet while she stood there dressed in gorgeous lingerie complaining that there was nothing good on TV. I had some very unkind thoughts about what I wanted to do with her flowers.

Nowadays when I’m blessed with a cold I follow my routine of swallowing decongestants, or as I call them, my little red wonder pills. At night I gulp down a cough suppressant and spray more chemicals up my nose to help me breathe. I’m a veritable cornucopia of cold remedies. I’ve also sucked on zinc lozenges, which makes my tongue feel like a troop of squirrels have done a conga on it, and drank gallons of Echinacea tea in an attempt to flush the germs out.

Last year my daughter Lisa swore by a natural method for getting rid of colds … raw garlic. You chop up two cloves, let it sit for 20 minutes, then mix it with a little liquid and swallow. I tried it a few months ago and it actually worked. I was ecstatic. So I tried it again another time but it didn’t work. This week when both Mariel and I were starting colds she talked me into trying it again.

So we did garlic shots, followed by a tomato juice chaser for me and ginger ale for her. I warned her that for the rest of the day her mouth would reek of garlic. But she also discovered that it was not a good idea to swallow garlic with a carbonated beverage — for the rest of the day she burped up raw garlic, an experience she never wants to repeat.

Yesterday, despite the garlic and Echinacea, I developed one of the worst colds that I’ve had in years. I’m back to my red pills and cough syrup. And if all else fails, rum and milk will go down a treat.

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avatar Posted by on Nov 21 2012. Filed under As You Like It, Featured Content, Opinion. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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