When I was growing up, one of the more satisfying moments each month came with the arrival of the Reader's Digest. That publication gave our family hours of entertaining conversations — and practical ideas we integrated into our daily lives.
So, when I saw an on-sale copy of the Reader's Digest "1,801 Home Remedies: Trustworthy Treatments for Everyday Health Problems," I almost galloped toward its purchase.
I acknowledge bias, but the table of contents was a work of art. I could choose anything that posed a problem in the categories of "Everyday Ailments" or "Household Healers." There were solutions for hiccups (peanut butter) and an answer to snoring (gargle with peppermint mouthwash). There was even a "short course in snoring self-defense."
The section headings in this large, something-for-everyone book were threaded throughout with "Special Features." Who know what that might offer? Lots, it turned out. I spent a substantial amount of time on "feel-better baths."
There were fascinating, easy-to-use answers for any problem I could conjure up. I was mesmerized. I elected not to spend too much time on "anal itching" or "teeth grinding," although I acknowledge for some people those are definite issues. I chose to focus on "colds and flu" because after all, it's the season.
I'm familiar with the research-based solutions, so it was a test of sorts. Those Readers Digest folks passed. For colds, they encouraged the use of zinc lozenges and a zinc-based nasal spray. The success of the latter was appropriately attributed to a credible study done at the Cleveland Clinic.
The publication also discussed the role of vitamin C. It suggests taking it the very moment you feel a cold coming on, "500 milligrams four to six times a day" and "choose the kind with added bioflavonoid."
This book of remedies also talked fondly about one of my favorite approaches, "Jewish penicillin," i.e. chicken soup. I made a large pot for an ailing neighbor this weekend and she did seem to rally. The science behind all this says it keeps the person well hydrated as well as reducing inflammation. And they add, "Especially if it's made by someone you love."
The section on colds and flu also offered an imperative about flu vaccinations, or as they put it "get a shot at staying flu-free." I'm sure I don't need to remind you about getting one — but I will anyway.
To their credit, the Reader's Digest folks included a reference to the special importance of flu vaccinations for older adults with chronic diseases. Let's say you have a heart condition or diabetes; you already have challenges, you definitely don't want a raging case of the flu as an add-on. By the way, it takes at least two weeks for the flu vaccination to build immunity — so sooner is better.
These are stressful times, we need remedies. Let common sense prevail.
I wish I'd had the common sense not to drop my lovely new book into one of those "feel better baths." I'll let you know if a hair dryer, set on low, is a good remedy. At the moment, it looks fairly promising.
Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at email@example.com or call 776-7371, Ext. 210.