Health Food

Autumn has finally arrived in New York, bringing cold weather and the cold season. I've been in bed off and on for a week, and I can't seem to shake the sniffling nose and scratchy throat that has afflicted so many others. If you're part of the sniveling, red-eyed lot, your appetite has probably decreased. But given the number of food cures surrounding the common cold, it made me wonder if the old maxim "starve a fever,feed a cold," was right after all.
Below are a few medicinal eats, recommended by health nuts everywhere (or, in one case, people who think it's funny to watch others eat raw garlic). Some worked, some didn't, some made me want to never eat anything in the onion family again. But if you’re sick as a dog, they’re worth a try. And please, as always, weigh in with more suggestions.

Chicken Soup
Not a new food cure on the scene, chicken soup has been recommended by grandmothers for ages as a remedy for the sniffles and sneezes. A dose of the warm broth is definitely soothing on the throat, but does it really do anything a cup of hot tea doesn't? According to a study reported on, scientists discovered that the combined ingredients in chicken soup were thought to stop neutrophil movement, the activity of white blood cells that releases cough and runny nose-causing mucous. While homemade soup is ideal taste-wise, the scientists concluded that most store bought varieties had the same helpful affect. Without a grandmother in sight, I popped open a can of Progresso Chicken Noodle Soup and let the chickeny goodness warm on the stove for homemade authenticity. The cold didn't leave permanently, but the soup soothed symptoms for the duration of the bowl, and I felt more lively afterwards.

Echinacea Tea
The debate over the usefulness of echinacea rages on between herbalists with nothing better to do, but my mother is a firm believer in the curative power of the flowering herbaceous plant. Forewarning: it's disgusting. In a liquid form, like Super Echinacea from Herb Pharm, drops are distilled in water and taken best like a shot, rivaling a glass of warm rail gin in taste. It's more effective this way, but I prefer the softer tea version that doesn't impart the grassy aftertaste. Organic Echinacea Plus Tea from Traditional Medicines makes a fine cuppa, but many kinds of echinacea tea are available in natural food stores. Cheers!

I adore garlic, so when I was told it possessed healing powers, I was psyched. Allicin, the same organic compound that gives garlic its zesty taste, is also considered a cold fighting component. Garlic supplements are available, but when I went to the local natural store to purchase some, an employee informed me that crushing whole garlic cloves in water was a better, faster acting cure. She was right! After choking down a small glass of garlic water, I was so disgusted that I forgot I even had a cold in the first place. Next time, I'm sticking with the pills.

Hot Toddy
Tired of punishing myself, I opted for a tasty cold cure that was introduced to me by an Irish friend. It's a drink called the Hot Toddy, and it's wonderful even if you're well. The origin of the Toddy is disputed, but whether it came from India, Ireland or Scotland, it was the most effective in curing my cold symptoms. My toddy was a simple combination of hot water, lemon, honey and Scotch whiskey, although some recipes use tea instead of plain hot water. What the makers of NyQuil discovered long ago is true: a small dose of alcohol can be of great help to cold sufferers. The throat soothing warmth of the hot water and honey, combined with the warm alcohol, had me happily dozing on the couch within minutes of finishing the cold cure cocktail. The recipe is below, for the ill and healthy alike.

Cold Sufferer’s Hot Toddy
1 1/2 ounces Whiskey, or more to taste if you like your drink a little stronger
1/2 ounce Honey
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice to taste
3 ounces hot water
Optional: cinnamon stick garnish

  • Boil water in a kettle, or warm in the microwave
  • Add whiskey, lemon juice and honey to taste. Garnish with a cinnamon stick, and enjoy (preferably sitting somewhere in your favorite comfy sweatshirt, within close proximity to kleenex).

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