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Natural flu fighters

Tea

What it does: replenishes fluids, relieves nasal congestion and breathing difficulties and may help fight viruses and bacteria.

How it works: The hot vapors help break up nasal decongestion and mucus. It also helps ease the pain of sore throats.

Tea contains phytochemicals and caffeine, which help open airways. Researchers worldwide have reported that black tea and, especially, green tea, help ward off the bacteria responsible for staph and gastrointestinal infections.

Enhancing the benefits: To boost the benefits of tea add honey, great for relieving a sore throat, and add lemon for an extra bit of vitamin C.

Curry powder

What it does: relieves bronchial and sinus congestion. It may also help kill cold and flu viruses.

How it works: Curry powder is a mixture of several spices, including chiles, mustard seed, cumin, ginger and turmeric, which all have powerful effects on cold and flu symptoms.

Turmeric contains curcumin, an antioxidant phytochemical that kills viruses and bacteria. The capsaicin in the chiles stimulate the mucus membranes to help clear congestion, and cumin's aldehydes help settle the stomach.

Enhancing the benefits: Indian and Thai cuisine are a good way to add curry to your diet. Cold and flu got you down? It's a good excuse to order takeout or open up a can of chicken soup and add curry powder.

Garlic

What it does: Dracula's scourge is ready to attack your chest congestion, stuffy nose and sore throat.

How it works: The sulfur compounds that give garlic its very distinctive odor and taste stimulate the mucus membranes in your respiratory system, breaking up congestion and bringing up mucus. Raw garlic is also loaded with phytochemicals that kill bacteria and viruses.

Researchers at Brigham Young University in 1992 reported that crushed garlic in oil killed rhinovirus type 2 (a common cause of the common cold), two forms of herpes and several other common viruses. Researchers worldwide have reported similar results when they used garlic extract against fungi, making garlic one of the best, if not the smelliest, studied natural remedies.

Enhancing the benefits: The more garlic, the better. Feel like having only tea and toast? Make it garlic toast. Want only soup? Make it garlic soup. Feeling better and thinking about having pizza? Crushed garlic will help your cold and add pizzaz to your pie.

Gingerroot

What it does: calms your cough, soothes your sore throat and helps fight viruses.

How it works: Gingerroot has long been a tradition in Chinese and Indian medicine for fighting coughs and colds. The chemical compounds in gingerroot, called sesquiterpenes, are active against rhinoviruses that cause most colds. Clinical studies in the United States, Britain and Denmark have proved gingerroot effective against nausea.

Enhancing the benefits: Brew a cup of ginger tea, available in bag form in grocery stores and specialty shops or add gingerroot to Asian and Thai food. For a quick hit, snack on crystallized ginger, available at natural food stores.

Horseradish

What it does: relieves bronchial and sinus congestion.

How it works: Horseradish is loaded with isothiocyanates, phytochemicals that stimulate the lung membranes and nasal passages to break up congestion.

Enhancing the benefits: Fresh horseradish will spice up your sinuses. Another sure bet: Wasabi, a Japanese horseradish, which is used as a condiment for sushi. In a pinch, jarred pickled horseradish will provide some relief.

Onions

What they do: relieve bronchial and sinus congestion.

How they work: The sulfur compounds in onions, called thiosulfinates, help reduce inflammation of the airways. Evidence also suggests that onions may help fight off secondary bacterial infections.

Researchers at Assiut University in Egypt reported in 1995 that onion oil was found highly effective against the same bacteria that causes pneumonia and strep throat.

Enhancing the benefits: Raw onions, which contain vitamin C, will be most beneficial, although sauted onions will also help ease your congestion. Pair fresh red onions in a salad with citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit for an added dose of vitamin C.

Source: http://www.phys.com.

Chicken Soup

(Sopa de Pollo)

1} quarts water

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon salt

\ teaspoon ground oregano

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon tomato sauce

1 malanga, peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes (see note)

1 carrot, chopped

[ teaspoon saffron

2 ounces extra curly vermicelli

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Lemon wedges for garnish

In a 3-quart pot, place water, chicken, garlic, salt, ground oregano, onion and tomato sauce. Cook over medium-low heat until chicken is tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove chicken from pot and bone it. Discard fat and skin. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces. Return chicken to the pot and add malanga (or sweet potato) and carrots. Cook over medium-low heat until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Using a potato masher or the back of a large spoon, partly mash vegetables in pot, making sure to leave some larger pieces. Add saffron and pasta. Cook until pasta is tender. Mix in the lemon juice just before serving. Serve lemon wedges on the side for each person to season to taste. Serves 6.

Note: Malanga is a nut-flavored root vegetable popular in the Caribbean. It is available in some area grocery stores and specialty shops. You can use a large sweet potato as a substitute for the malanga.

Minted Pink Grapefruit Sorbet

{ bunch fresh mint

4-6 ruby red or pink grapefruit

{ cup sugar or more to taste

16 whole cloves

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Wash and stem the mint. Reserve several whole leaves for garnish. Coarsely chop the rest.

Juice enough grapefruit to yield 4{ cups of juice. Collect the pulp from the juicer and add it to the juice. Combine 1 cup of the juice with the sugar, chopped mint and cloves in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally until the mint has wilted, 10-15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Strain the cooled liquid through a fine sieve into the reserved juice, pressing down with the back of a spoon to extract all the liquid. Stir in the lemon juice and vanilla.

Pour the mixture into 2 metal pie tins or 4 ice cube trays and freeze until hard. Before serving, let pie tins or ice cube trays sit at room temperature a few minutes to loosen up. If using pie tins, break sorbet into chunks. Process it in a food processor until it's smooth and light in color, 3 minutes. Serve with mint leaves. Makes 4 cups.

Source: adapted from "Tonics," by Robert A. Barnett (HarperCollins 1997.

Red Peppers Stuffed with Curried Vegetables

4 red bell peppers or large mild red chilies

5 cloves garlic, chopped

Salt

3 large potatoes, peeled and chopped

Spear of broccoli, diced

{ carrot, diced

6 tablespoons butter

{-1 fresh chili, chopped

{ teaspoon curry powder

\ teaspoon turmeric

\ teaspoon cumin

6 tablespoons yogurt

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roast the peppers whole, then peel and remove their seeds through a slit on one side of the pepper, leaving the stems intact, if possible. Sprinkle with about a third of the garlic and salt and set aside.

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until just tender; drain. Cook the broccoli for about 5 minutes in boiling water until tender and bright in color but still crisp; drain. Cook the carrot until tender and bright in color; drain.

Mash the potatoes and mix them with the butter, broccoli and carrot, the remaining garlic, chili, spices, half the yogurt, half the cilantro and salt to taste. Add more yogurt, if necessary, to achieve a spoonable consistency.

Stuff each pepper carefully so as not to tear the flesh. Arrange them in a shallow baking pan, cover tightly with foil and bake for about 15 minutes.

Serve hot, sprinkled with remaining cilantro. Makes 4 servings.

Source: "Peppers, Peppers, Peppers" by Marlena Spieler (Firefly Books, 1999).

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