Albany (N.Y.) Times Union
As the calendar turns toward winter, we start to hear it: The sniffles from the person in the next cubicle. The dreaded middle-of-the-night coughs from a child. It's the cacophony of cold season, and we are headed into the throes of it.
Step away from the Sudafed.
While colds, flus, allergies and other seasonal ailments are bad news for us, the sounds that accompany them are as sweet to pharmaceutical companies and drugstores as coins clinking into a piggy bank. Last winter was one of the worst cold seasons in a decade, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Advertising Age reported it led to a 38 percent sales increase for Johnson & Johnson and a 9 percent increase for Procter & Gamble.
But many studies show conventional treatments are not as effective or have the same effectiveness rate as classic home remedies, and the overuse of them can actually lower effectiveness moving forward.
• Some home remedies have withstood the test of time. Reports from the Mayo Clinic have shown chicken soup relieves congestion, limits inflammation (due to inhibiting the movement of neutrophils, an immune system cell), and speeds up the movement of mucus in the body. Protective cilia, tiny hairlike structures in the nose that block germs and other contagions from entering the body, get a boost in function from chicken soup as well, according to Coping With Allergies and Asthma. There is no scientific data on the effectiveness of matzo ball versus noodles in chicken soup.
• A more adult cold cure-all is the hot toddy. The alcohol in a toddy can dilate blood vessels, helping mucus and white blood cells fight infection, and can also provide a mild sedative, making for a good night's sleep when slumber is elusive due to cold symptoms. Overdoing the alcohol, however, may disturb sleep.
A good base recipe for a toddy is ¼ cup whiskey, a squeeze of lemon, 1 tablespoon of honey and ½ cup boiling water or hot tea. Combine all ingredients in a mug and drink while still hot.
• Honey — as in the toddy or a soothing cup of tea — is full of antibacterial and antimicrobial properties and sulfur, which help to soothe sore throats and speed the get-well process. Raw honey is particularly rich in these ingredients.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises caregivers to avoid giving children younger than 2 years, and in some cases age 6, over-the-counter cold medicine. While there is some relief found in pharmaceutical treatments, the side effects that often come with relief (high blood pressure, dehydration, and more) are more harmful that the actual illness, deterring their use by adults and children alike.
Increased research and practice is leading people back into their pantries for all-natural solutions, and the popularity of the kitchen cabinet pharmacy rises with each cold and flu season.