Monday, May 22, 2017

A Natural way to Deal with Cough and Sore Throat



HOW TO DEAL WITH A SORE THROAT AND COUGHING
USING NATURE’S MEDICINE CHEST

Nyerges is the author of Guide to Wild Foods , How to Survive Anywhere , and other books. For more information about Nyerges’ books, or the classes he teaches, contact him at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.

Photos: Top picture is Mallow. Bottom is Christopher looking at Mormon tea (by Rick Adams)

It seems that sore throats and coughs have afflicted people forever, whether resulting from the proximate causes of pollen, dust, woodsmoke, or from talking too much, or yelling, or even from  “catching” something from another person. 

Fortunately, there are quite a few natural remedies which help relieve the pain and discomfort of coughs and sore throats, and many of these have been used for at least centuries. 

Each of the plants described are commonly available in the wild, and typically can be purchased in the dried form in herb shops. 

MALLOW
The various mallows have been used to soothe a sore throat for centuries.  In fact, even the ancient Egyptians used one of the mallows for this purpose.

In the United States, the common mallow (Malva parviflora) is a widespread “weed” of vacant lots and fields.  It is sometimes referred to as poverty weed or cheeseweed.  In fact, the tender leaves of mallow are tasty in salads, added to soup, and can be cooked with other vegetables or like spinach.  They are high in vitamin C.

In Mexico, mallow leaves (known as malva) have long been chewed so that the slightly mucilaginous quality can soothe a sore throat.  Herbalists consider the mallow leaves an emollient and a demulcent.  Whether the leaves are eaten, or made into a tea, this plant helps to relieve inflammation, especially to the throat.

A related mallow, the marsh mallow (Althea officinalis), is also used for coughs and sore throats.  This plant has a long tap root that is boiled, and the resulting liquid is like egg whites. This is then whipped, and honey is added, and it is eaten as a very pleasant and very effective cough medicine.  Of course, marshmallows today are pure junk food, and no marshmallow manufacturers any more use extract of the marsh mallow plant.  Gelatin is today used in the manufacture of those fluffy white non-food objects.

HOREHOUND
The horehound (Marrubium vulgare) is a bitter mint, native to Europe, which has now naturalized throughout the entire United States. It is called marrubio in Mexico, where it also grows in the wild.  When you see it in the wild, it is an obvious mint, yet it lacks any strong aroma so typical of most mints.  However, you’ll see the square stem, the opposite leaves, and the wrinkled leaves on horehound which makes it easy to recognize.

Do any of you remember horehound candy?  This was a popular “old-fashioned” cough drop, made by boiling the horehound leaves, straining out the leaves, and adding sugar or honey to the liquid.  It is then cooked until it is thick enough to harden.  (Recipes for horehound candy can be found in most candy-making books).

Unfortunately, if you go to the store and buy horehound drops, it is very unlikely that they will contain any horehound extract at all.  With very few exceptions, all the horehound I have found in stores are nothing more than sugar with artificial flavors added.

Horehound is made into a tea, which is very bitter and unpleasant.  No one would ever drink it if it weren’t so effective.  Besides soothing a sore throat and a cough, horehound is an expectorant, which means it can help clear your throat when it is congested. 

To make horehound tea, I collect the young leaves in the spring.  They can be used fresh or dried.  I place about one teaspoon of the herb into my cup, pour boiling water over it, cover it, and let it sit until it is cool enough to drink.  The flavor?  Terrible!  Its bitterness must be experienced to understand.  So add honey and lemon juice to your horehound tea to make it more palatable.  The honey and lemon are also good for your sore throat. 

MULLEIN
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is another European native that has now naturalized throughout the entire United States.  It is particularly common in dry waste areas throughout the Southwest.  I can recall driving to the Grand Canyon once, and the dominant roadside plant was mullein.

Mullein leaves feel like flannel or chamois cloth.  The plant produces large basal leaves the first year, and then in the second year it sends up a seed spike that can reach up to four and five feet.  

To make a tea, use the first year leaves of mullein, and infuse them.  There is not much flavor, so I typically add mint to mullein tea.  Mullein acts like a mild sedative on the lungs, and it helps to relieve the roughness in the throat common with coughs and some fevers. 

Interestingly, mullein leaves have also been smoked to help relieve coughing and even mild asthma attacks.  I have tried this on a few occasions, and I felt quick relief. 

MORMON TEA
Throughout the Southwestern United States is found a stick-like plant called Mormon Tea (Ephedra sp.).  It is common in the California high deserts, in the Great Basin area, throughout Southern Colorado, and down into Texas.  It is often available at herb stores. 

The plant appears as a low shrub, with branched needle-like segments, with scales at the nodes. 

In China, a related member of the Ephedra genus is the source of the drug ephedrine, which is used as a decongestant and a bronchial dilator.  Though the wild U.S. species contain much less ephedrine, they are nevertheless useful in home remedies where there are breathing problems associated with coughs and colds.  Typically, the stems are brewed into a tea at low temperatures in a covered pot.  There is a mild but distinctive flavor and aroma that I like. 

I have made an evening tea from Mormon Tea while camping in the desert where there were no other beverage plants readily available. It has a pleasant flavor, and it is improved with just a touch of honey.

No doubt there are many, many other remedies for coughs and sore throats.  Included here were just a few of the common wild plants which are safe and easy to use. 

[Note:  None of the above should be construed to take the place of competent medical advise in a face-to-face setting.  Chronic coughing or chronic sore throat may be an indication of a more serious disorder.  Use your common sense, and consult a medical authority if you are experiencing any sort of chronic disorder.]

Monday, May 08, 2017

The Day Lulu Died [excerpt from "Til Death Do Us Part?"]



[an excerpt from “Til Death Do Us Part?”, a Kindle book, also available as a pdf from www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.]

I was startled awake by the loud crackling of thunder at 2:30 a.m.  I could see the bright flashes of light outside.  The storm was overhead.  I went outside into the darkness, and the sky would light up with the bright flash, and the thunder shook the house. It began to rain.  Mid-August and it’s raining.  To me, Lulu was saying goodbye, leaving us as she moved along in the spirit world.

Lulu died at 5 p.m. yesterday, August 14.  I saw her about five minutes after she died in Dolores’ arms.  Lulu, a purebred pitbull, was Dolores’ dog who lived with us for all of her ten years. Lulu was a gift from Dolores’ daughter, Barbara, and Dolores LOVED Lulu!

The day she arrived, the little feisty dog took charge of the other two pitbulls, even though she was tiny enough to fit in one hand.  Her tail had this zig-zag coloration like a lightning bolt, a good indication of her character.

Dogs are just like children. Their characters are silly, playful, jealous.  No two are alike.  Lulu loved attention and loved to be with us.  When she came into our home, Cassius and Ramona were with us, and all three would sleep together, and stare out the window in unison, all lined up in the same posture. It was quite a sight.

Something unusual began to occur with Lulu in the early part of 2005.  Though Lulu had a large bucket of water outside which was readily available for her to drink, she would wait until Dolores let her inside and then she would drink and drink and drink from the bowl of water kept inside for Baby.  Dolores thought that Lulu was trying to tell her something.  If Lulu was so thirsty, why not drink her available outside water?  There was nothing wrong with that water.  If Lulu was trying to communicate something to Dolores, what could that be?

At this time, when we were all out for a run with the dogs, Dolores noticed that Lulu seemed tired, unable to run as swiftly as usual.  Something was wrong.

At the animal doctor, Dolores learned that Lulu had both diabetes and cancer.  Thus began a new era with Lulu, which lasted about five months, where she was given special foods and some pills designed to strengthen her. 

She grew thinner and thinner, yet she loved being with us and going places.  She seemed aware that something was wrong with her body, but she attempted to continue as before. 

Gradually, in the last month, she stumbled when she walked.  We had to help her in and out of the house to use her bathroom.  In spite of her increasing inability, Lulu seemed happy, not in pain, and always determined to go out side to use the bathroom.  What a girl!

We took her to the farmer’s market and she loved being there with Dolores, seeing familiar friends, getting to walk in the open park. 

One day at the Glendale Farmers Market, someone saw how thin she was and assumed we mistreated her. They called an animal inspector out who interrogated me with great suspicion. When it was clear that we were giving Lulu exceptional care, the animal inspector tactfully suggested that it was not Lulu we were concerned about, but our own desire to be with her. The animal inspector suggested we put Lulu to sleep.  In fact, she intimated that she had the authority to remove Lulu from us and “relieve her pain” if she felt we were not handling thing properly.  Ugh! Both Dolores and I were shocked and angered that this is the quality of person (and thinking) that our tax dollars support.   We had no desire to kill off Lulu.  We could feel that Lulu wanted to be with us, that she felt great joy and comfort.  So we took her home in a hurry.

Lulu’s walk became more difficult, and she lost most of her sight in the last two weeks.  We could feel the cancerous growths on her stomach and underside.  We could feel that Lulu was often sad, but she would sleep all day now, though she would eat and drink and go to the bathroom once or twice.  She wagged her tail when I came in.

When I last saw her alive Saturday night, I hugged her and touched her, and told her as I always told her, that she needed to get some meat on her body.  I always encouraged her to get better, hoping, dreaming for a miracle that she would.

On Sunday, I called Dolores on my cell phone when I was out shopping.  Dolores had me talk to Lulu over the phone, and say hello to her.  Dolores said that Lulu made an effort to wag her tail when she heard my voice.

When I came back, I could see the sadness in Dolores’ face. Yes, you can go see Lulu, she told me. Lulu was covered in a towell.  Dolores explained how Lulu really perked up in the morning when Dolores sat with Lulu and began mentally reviewing pictures of their good times together.  Dolores said that she did it again after we talked on the phone, and Lulu died in her lap.

Suddenly, the life was gone from her. It was a dramatic change,” said Dolores

We sat there on Sunday with Lulu, still talking to her, feeling the emptiness of a good friend now gone. It was like the end of the world.  We wished Lulu would be with us longer, another day, another week. We petted her, hugged her, the poor little girl who was now skin and bones. 

There is an emptiness now where there once was Lulu.  It cannot be drowned away with drink or drugs or distractions.  It can only be acknowledged. 

The solution to the sadness and the emptiness was to honor her life, and then to  love the living even more, and to smile.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

"We're Going Wrong" -- Musical Memories


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12sYTdPkEYQ

“WE’RE GOING WRONG” by Cream

[Note: Check www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com for information about the classes and books by Nyerges]
Everyone from every culture has musical memories: a song that brings back the memory of a significant moment, the song you heard when you met your spouse, the song you heard while driving to the Grand Canyon that made you change the course of your life, the song you heard when your mother died, etc.

And when we call a song “classic,” we mean that the song is so good that it captured and epitomized our very thinking and feeling at that time. Though there is always the intellectual question: Did that particular song really capture my feeling, or did I merely embrace that song to allow it to represent a particular time? The answer is that we’ll never really know, especially if you’re not a song-writer.  For most of us, we simply know that the song embodies the memory of the time.

For me, when I was trying to figure out the meaning of life, and more particularly my life during the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, music was a big part of my mental world.  Sometimes the words and music inspired me.  Musicians such as Bob Dylan, Traffic, the Doors, Cream, and the Chamber’s Brothers were much a part of the network of ideas that I wove together to create my inner reality and my outer plan of action.

There was a feeling of change in the air, and the expectation of a new world, if we only were brave enough to make the inner and outer changes necessary.

My best friend Neil and I would talk about the world as we saw it, and the various particulars of what would happen as western civilization could no longer maintain itself, and how the vast infrastructure that so many depended upon would crumble all around us.  Somehow, we felt that we were above it all, as if we were on top of Mount Olympus looking down objectively at the doings of mortal humans, wondering and picturing how the collapse would occur. We had no doubts that another fall of the Roman Empire was slowly unfolding all around us.

We listened to the enigmatic words and mournful tune of  “We’re Going Wrong” by Cream, and discussed the many layers of meaning that were not found in the words.  Was it about someone personally going wrong, or was it about the fall of western civilization, and the very collapse of what some called “modern Babylon”?  We didn’t know, but that song was a sort of anthem to us.  We didn’t really know how grossly ignorant we were of the ways of the world, and the intricate network that kept churning out food for everyone’s table, and the profits that were earned all along the way. 

We knew really very little, but that song by Cream was one of our inspirations to begin studying ethno-botany, and the rich botanical and earth knowledge that our ancestors somewhat took for granted in the pre-electrical and pre-computer days.  We were short on details, but we felt that if we could just learn to feed ourselves – even just a little – from local resources, then we’d be on our way to becoming a part of the solution.  We didn’t know how electricity was created, stored, or transported, but we felt that if we could provide some of our daily needs without the use of electricity, then we believed that we’d relieve an over-burdened system at least a little, and we’d be on the road to being part of a solution.

We were just high school boys, interested in adventure, and girls, and wondering how we’d ever support ourselves.  Even then, we knew that an increasing population stresses all resources, and we did our best to educate ourselves on how to live better by using less. 

That was over 40 years ago. Life has continued, and for various reasons, some of the situations on earth have gotten better, but many have gotten worse.  Neil and I knew back then, as we know today, that they who do not learn from the lessons of their past are doomed to repeat them, as we were told by philosopher George Santayana. (Some of our school mates insisted that was a quote by Carlos Santana!).

We ruefully listened to the words of “We’re Going Wrong,” realizing that collectively we do not seem to learn from the past, because of our pride, our ego, or our belief that somehow we are better than all that, that we have overcome all that silly stuff from the past and therefore we are immune from the consequences of our actions. 

Neil and I never were soothsayers or psychics, but we knew that we could not go wrong if we pursued the best of the past, and the ways of our ancestors that were sustainable for millennia.