2013-02-22 / Columns


Soaking Up Sunshine; Other Home Remedies
by Leona Loller

I spent several hours, last Sunday, soaking up sunshine in front of the south-facing window in my bedroom. Both my bones and my mood needed the warmth and restoration provided by Old Sol. While reading my book, I kept moving my chair to take advantage of the heated rays streaming through the glass. Natural heat always soothes my arthritis better than the artificial kind and it’s no secret that sunlight relieves seasonal affective disorder (aka: winter blahs). I can’t deny that both my physical and mental health suffer when the temperatures dip and skies turn grey; so, I was happy to see the sun even if it didn’t help raise the outdoor thermometer much.

And, of course, thinking about that natural treatment nudged my thought process toward other home remedies that have stood the test of time. Just last week, Jody (Florida daughter) and I were discussing the benefits of vaporizing rub – the kind that contains menthol, camphor, and eucalyptus in a petroleum jelly base.

My grandmother used a variety called “Icemint” when I was a child. At the first sign of a cold, she greased us front and back and snuggled us into warm pajamas. A sore throat got similar treatment with a wool sock tied around our neck. I have to admit that treatment sure made it easier to breathe through a stuffy nose. I used this same therapy with my children and grandchildren; it’s still my go-to treatment for the common cold.

Both Jody and Kim have mentioned hearing that smearing the aromatic salve on the bottom of your feet and wearing warm socks will help a cough. Both have tried it and were pleased with the results. It wouldn’t hurt to try it if you have a cough you can’t suppress with medication.

That said, I feel it necessary to add this warning: If the patient has a high fever or the condition seems severe or hangs on longer than it should – or, if you have any doubts at all – consult a physician immediately! Flu, whooping cough, and pneumonia are just a few ailments that shouldn’t be treated without consulting a doctor.

Furthermore, it would be prudent to remember that some of our grandparents’ home remedies may have been hazardous to our health. My father-in-law was fond of giving his horses and his children a little “chew” of tobacco to prevent worms. I nearly had a conniption when he tried to give some to my little ones! And, I’ve mentioned, before, that we can no longer enjoy a cup of sassafras tea as a spring tonic because it has carcinogenic properties.

Nevertheless, some of those old folk “cures” actually worked and are recognized as useful, now. Clove oil really does help tooth pain and is a primary ingredient in most oral gels used for that purpose. It is also useful for getting rid of bad breath – as is parsley and mint. Doctors concede that feverfew may be an effective treatment for migraine headaches. The old-timers knew it all along.

A recent bout with the stomach flu sent me straight to the spice cabinet. A cup of sweetened tea, with a pinch of ginger, helped fight off the nausea for several hours at a time. If that hadn’t worked, I would have added a little cinnamon, as well. Some folk swear by peppermint tea for stomach ailments. Ginger works best for me; but, I believe in doing what works for you.

Cinnamon was used as a treatment for diarrhea long before it was used as a spice. It is also useful for treating heartburn and flatulence. More recently, it is getting quite a bit of press because it helps with the regulation of blood sugar in Type II diabetics. Many days, I begin with a cup of artificially sweetened tea to which I’ve added ½ t. cinnamon and ¼ t. powdered ginger (for help with my arthritis). It is a pleasant way to start the day and, I believe, it helps regulate my blood sugar and eases my joint pain.

When we had trouble sleeping, Grandma would brew a cup of catnip tea and add a little honey for sweetness. It worked then and modern herbalists like James A. Duke, Ph.D. recommend it (along with chamomile – another of Grandma’s favorites) for insomnia. Next time you can’t get to sleep, try a cup of either. You can buy chamomile tea in the grocery store; but, you’ll probably have to grow your own catnip. I can’t recommend trying the kind sold for cats as you don’t know what else might be in there.

Probably, the most famous home remedy of all is chicken soup and I have previously shared my favorite chicken soup recipe in this column. However, other chicken recipes can help you on your way to recovery, too. One of my favorites is Chicken Rice Casserole; it is relatively easy to put together if you’re still feeling ill and is easy to digest.

Begin with 1-2 cups of cooked chicken (left-over or precooked) and 2 cups of chicken broth. Add 1 can of cream of celery soup and ¼ c. dehydrated onion. Pour it all into a 3-4 qt. casserole dish and add a heaping cupful of rice (white or brown, whole grain). Add salt and pepper to taste and a sprinkle of dried parsley flakes. Bake at 3500 F. for 1 hour or until rice is tender (brown rice takes longer to cook). NOTE: I add 2 crushed chicken bouillon cubes to the broth for extra flavor.


Recently, one of my grandchildren challenged me to recite the Ten Commandments. I didn’t do too badly; thanks to having taught them in my Sunday School class, I remembered nine out of ten. Which one did I forget? I’m embarrassed to admit I forgot the fifth commandment. See how well you can do; then look them up in Exodus 20:2-17.

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It looks like Spring is almost ready to stick around. What activity are you looking forward to the most?