Sunday, January 19, 2014

Coping with Seasonal Sore Throats with Herbs

I am not advocating self medication, but I wanted to share a few traditional recipes some of which are old and by old I mean hundreds of years.

One of my pastimes is to read old receipt books and historical herbals.  I have a great resource just around the corner, The Morton Arboretum.  They have a great library which focuses on botanical works.  From that library and a few others I have read several historical books about using herbs.

In the book the The American Frugal Housewife by Mrs. Child (first published in 1833) was a recipe for a poultice for the throat.  Growing up, my mother would smear my throat with Vicks Vaporub and wrap a towel around my neck, so this recipe struck me as immediately familiar.  I am thinking with the alcohol you got some of the same properties you get from inhaling the eucalyptus and mint in Vaporub. See below for my home made Vaporub recipe too!  And if you want an herbal tea for coughs, check out this previous blog post.

Mrs. Child’s Poultice
The pulp of a roasted apple, mixed with an ounce of tobacco, the whole wet with spirits of wine, or any other high spirits, spread on a linen rag, and bound upon the throat at any period of the disorder.

Horehound Lozenges
Horehound the herb has a long history of throat treatment.  It was detailed a book entitled Medical Botany by William Woodville, M.D., in 1790. And was mentioned as an ingredient in lozenges by Dr. Youman in his book A Dictionary of Everyday Wants from 1878. 

To make Horehound Lozenges: Put an ounce of horehound root powder in a bowl.  Slowly add honey, stirring constantly, until you have a thick paste.  Roll your paste into small balls.  Roll the balls in more horehound root powder.  Store in a tightly-closed tin. These will keep for up to ten years.

Drink a hot toddy

This is my husband’s favorite remedy for every winter ailment and illness.  He makes a tea, he will use a black tea or an herbal tea.  In one mug of brewed tea he squeezes in a lemon wedge, adds a tablespoon or more of honey and tops it off with a finger of whiskey or bourbon.

I think this may be a throwback to some family history as in the 1930s during prohibition; rye whiskey was sold as a medicinal liquor when made into something called Rock and Rye.  I found this recipe for a traditional Rock and Rye on the FingerlakesDistillery website

Rock and Rye
1 bottle McKenzie Rye
1 ounce dried cherries
1 orange peel
1 lemon peel
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
2 6-inch lengths of rock candy
1 tsp dried horehound

Combine the McKenzie rye, cherries, orange and lemon peels, cinnamon stick and one length of the candy in a bowl with a cover and let sit – at room temperature – for 3 days.

Add the cloves, other piece of candy, and the horehound wrapped in cheesecloth for two additional days. Use a strainer lined  with cheesecloth and pour into a jar or the empty McKenzie rye bottle.

Then get lots of rest.

Marcy’s Homemade Vicks substitute
10 drops peppermint essential oil
5 drops eucalyptus essential oil
2 drops tea tree oil
2 teaspoons almond oil

Combine these natural ingredients. This will be more concentrated than Vicks Vaporub (which was originally made with petroleum jelly). You can dip a cotton swab in it then dab it on chest, feet or outside the ears. Place the dipped swab in a plastic bag and bring it with you or keep by the sick bed.  One dipped swab will last all day.

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