Tag Archives: self-reliance

How to Stop a Cold: The Nip-it Trick

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The flowers are extra, of course, but you might be able to enjoy them again if you have respiratory allergies.

The secret to never having another cold is to do this simple procedure as soon as you notice the first symptom.

You can be prepared by putting together a little “nip-it kit” in advance. No medications are needed. You will only need the following supplies:

One 3 oz. bottle
One fluid ounce of vodka (80 proof=40% alcohol)
Two ounces of filtered or distilled water
One plastic snack or sandwich bag
A dozen or so short cotton swabs

Fill the little bottle with the two liquids and put it in the plastic bag with a supply of Q-tips or other brand of swabs. This can be stored in a medicine cabinet, make-up drawer, glove box, purse, desk, gym bag or anywhere handy when needed.

Your first symptom of a cold might be sneezing, repeatedly clearing your throat or the sudden onset of sniffles. Take action immediately. Moisten a swab, gently run it up one nostril and sniff to coat the upper nostril and possibly get a hint of it in the back of the throat. There will not be enough liquid to allow inhaling it into the lungs. Then treat the other nostril.  Within minutes the symptoms will disappear.

Why not make extra kits for family and friends? You could mix a half-pint (one cup) of vodka with two cups of water and fill eight bottles. You could get creative and add a small drop of peppermint oil to the larger recipe to add a little scent and flavor.

Never substitute rubbing alcohol because it is made from propane.

A child-proof cap should be used, of course, if you have children.

The Nip-it Trick is also effective if you have respiratory allergies due to smoke, pollens or scents.  It can stop the reaction before you get congestion or a headache.

Enjoy!

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The Truth is in the Details–Stop Colds with Diluted Alcohol

You can stop a common cold as soon as you notice the first symptom.  This is the ultimate do-it-yourself project, because no one else can do it for you.  But first you must learn the details of how to do it, watch for minor symptoms, and be ready to take action as needed.

I am not a doctor or a scientist, so I can only tell you what works for me.  I rely on Google for background facts and invite you to do your own research if you want more supplemental information.  Since the method really does work for me, I would be remiss if I did not share this knowledge.

There is not a vaccine which can kill all 200 or more viruses which are at fault in causing what we call the common cold.  That is probably a good thing, because we have been inadvertently killing too many friendly microbes already, which causes other problems for our health.  There is no medication which can cure a cold either.  Medications attack symptoms not causes, and they can affect the whole body in negative ways.

Can drinking alcohol cure a cold?  No.  You cannot have enough alcohol in your bloodstream to kill a cold, without being dead.  That would sort of defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it?  Since colds do not live in the bloodstream, we can rule out any need to increase our blood alcohol level.

There have been some studies, however, which showed that moderate consumption of alcohol might reduce the incidence of colds.  A 1993 study at Carnegie Mellon found that moderate drinking reduced the frequency of colds, except for smokers, and a 2002 study in Spain found that red wine might be helpful, but other studies found no benefit.  There has been some speculation that perhaps the antioxidants in red wine might be more effective than the alcohol.  On the other hand, there is some evidence that alcohol aids the absorption of resveratrol.   But I think the positive results found in the two studies might have resulted from occasional coating of the throat with mild alcohol coincidentally at times when colds were just getting started.

Only ethyl alcohol (ethanol as in vodka and other alcoholic beverages) is safe for drinking.  I do not recommend drinking, but that is just my opinion.  Isopropyl alcohol, the rubbing alcohol which is used as a disinfectant, and methyl alcohol, which is used in antifreeze, should never be consumed.

Oddly enough, 70% ethanol is more effective at killing bacteria than 100% ethanol.  This has something to do with alcohol evaporating at room temperature and the higher concentration may evaporate too quickly to be effective.  That may also explain why rubbing alcohols are diluted to 70%.

The bacteria responsible for tetanus and botulism are said to be resistant to ethanol, while strep bacteria on a thermometer might be killed in as little as twenty seconds. But we have a lot to learn. Microbiologists say there are thousands of species of microbes which live in and on the human body, each with its own role in the overall scheme of things. Microbes are critical to our existence, so we must learn to get along.

Although bacteria and fungi can cause respiratory infections, the common cold is caused by viruses.  They are said to do little or no actual tissue damage.  The symptoms we experience result from an excessive response by our immune system.  Without knowing how to put a stop to colds, we have been fighting the symptoms with medications that affect the whole body.  Then our immune system may be weakened, allowing secondary infections like sinusitis or even pneumonia.

Alcohol cannot kill viruses because viruses are not alive—but it can inactivate them, some more easily than others.  Viruses can also be inactivated with bleach, acids and heat.

Some viruses such as polio can infect the gut because they are able to withstand acid and higher body temperature.  Cold-causing viruses live in the respiratory system where more moderate conditions exist. They thrive in thickened mucus, without which they cannot do their dirty deeds.  This is a big clue–get rid of congestion, and let your body’s natural secretions wash away the unfriendly microbes.

Viruses on skin or other surfaces can also be inactivated with alcohol, but those which stay inside nerves are believed not to expose themselves to this possibility.  I believe I discovered an exception to this, however, when I devised my remedy for stopping cold sores before they break out.

It is generally agreed that consumption of alcohol has a dehydrating effect on the body, which might make it more difficult to avoid colds or other respiratory infections.  However, I have found that topical applications of diluted alcohol do not seem to have a dehydrating effect on the mucus membranes of the throat, but serve more as a cleaning and wetting agent.

So let’s consider one of the first symptoms of a beginning cold–a sore throat. You can put a stop to it quickly by gargling with a mouthwash containing 14% alcohol.  Since mouthwashes contain other ingredients for fighting dental problems, along with artificial colors and flavors, and they even recommend calling a poison control center in the event you should swallow any, you might want to mix your own gargling solution.  Since the only active ingredient needed for stopping a sore throat is 14% ethyl alcohol, you can mix one part of 80-proof vodka with two parts of filtered water and you are good to go.

If you don’t like to gargle, you can use a little cotton swab and treat just the spots that are sore, while trying not to gag.  In this case you might want to store some diluted alcohol in a 3 oz. bottle for convenience. Or you can take the wimpy way out and use a little spray bottle to apply it.  The goal is not to sterilize your throat, but to inactivate the harmful viruses just enough to let your body stay in control.

This simple procedure has stopped every threatening sore throat for me since 2004.  I don’t know if the diluted alcohol simply inactivates enough viruses to stop their progress or if it is stopping the body’s histamine reaction, or both.  But for whatever reason, it has been 100% effective.

Although this is a reliable method for stopping a sore throat, the cold virus may decide to move into your nose, sinuses, ears,  or lungs anyway.  My book describes simple methods for quickly taking care of each of those contingencies.

Every time I am able to stop a cold before it gets started, I remember how I used to think that colds were inevitable, along with the required tissues, medications, secondary infections, expense, sick days and misery. I am also blessed to be free of headaches and allergies which I had since childhood.

Did someone say, “This is nothing new.  We have gargled with mouthwash to treat a sore throat for years—but it doesn’t work?”  As the old expression goes—the devil is in the details.  As a child, when being treated for a cold, the doctor would swab my sore throat with something.  I don’t know what it was, but it was brown, strong and nasty; and it seemed to help.  Then I got a chest cold or bronchitis or whatever anyway and would get a penicillin shot to help clear it up. As a teenager I was occasionally able to ward off a sore throat by swabbing it with strong mouthwash, but usually the congestion would settle in my head or lungs anyway. I had no confidence in the use of mouthwash.

The detail that is different here is that the first symptom of a cold must be treated immediately.  There is no time to get a doctor’s appointment or look for supplies after work. You can’t let bad guys move into your home and worry about how to get rid of them next week.

I never wash my hands unless they are dirty, but I don’t allow congestion to set in. I suspect that even if I did, I could probably stop a full-blown cold by using every tip in my book.  But it is so easy to stop the first sniffling, sneezing, coughing, sinus drip, earache, or raw feeling in the head or chest that I don’t want to let it develop into something worse.

I don’t think a drop of diluted alcohol on a swab is particularly dangerous, but I have no way of knowing if you are allergic to alcohol or if a cotton swab could be contaminated in some way. You are responsible for your own health and I expect you to use your own judgment.

Some people are successful in stopping colds by putting 3% hydrogen peroxide in each ear, or by using a neti pot for nasal irrigation.  I don’t enjoy nasal irrigation, so  I would only use that as a last resort.

I think we have the potential to stop allowing the common cold to be the reason for up to 40% of all doctor appointments.  We can free doctors to do more of the important work for which they were trained.

Good News about the Common Cold

This information can make you feel better in more ways than one.  I am finding it difficult to spread the word, however, because no one believes it can be true.  But I am determined to share the story that has changed my life.

Sorry, Guys--we are wise to your shenanigans and just won’t put up with it anymore!

Sorry, Guys–we are wise to your shenanigans and just won’t put up with it anymore!

Please tell everybody–we don’t need a cure for the common cold, because it can be stopped before it starts. I have been doing this successfully for more than eight years and I believe you can too. How?

1. Stop the triggers–any first symptom that you might be getting a cold.

2. Don’t allow congestion to set in, because it is the host for cold-causing microbes.

The first step is to gargle as soon as you get a sore throat. A mouthwash with about 14% alcohol can stop it quickly. You may agree with this but found, as I did, that the germs usually move into your nose, sinuses, ears or lungs anyway.

At that point we might turn to the usual cough drops, cough syrups, medications or various home remedies. Then when all else fails, we treat the resulting complications with antibiotics. This is all wrong.

Some people are successful at stopping colds and allergies with daily nasal irrigation. That is said to be effective, but I don’t find it to be an acceptable step to add to my daily routine.

“The Nip-it Trick” is a phrase I have coined for an effective cold-prevention technique that can be used when you notice the first symptom of a cold, such as sneezing, coughing, nasal congestion or sinus drip. You can actually make the symptoms disappear before they develop into a cold or a lingering allergy.

For full details on this simple and very inexpensive method for staying well, see How to Stop Colds, Allergies & More by Carole S. Ramke.

A Truth About the Common Cold

How do we know which germs to kill, when they look so much alike?

How do we know which germs to kill, when they look so much alike?

Before you hurry on by, here is the bottom line: The viruses that cause the common cold do not cause any real tissue damage.  They can only lodge and multiply in congestion that is caused by your body’s panicked reaction to their presence. If congestion is prevented or removed, they will be swept away by natural mucus secretions. What we perceive as an illness–known as the common cold–is caused by unnecessary congestion, sometimes to the extent that secondary infections are allowed to set in. Then damage might really begin.

If we can accept this knowledge and learn to block unnecessary histamine reactions, we can stop having colds for as long as we are able to perform routine hygiene tasks when needed. We can stop our obsession with germs. Germs don’t matter.  In fact, we need to be more concerned about protecting and hosting the many beneficial microbes that are critical to our survival.

I have easily stopped every cold that has tried to catch me since November of 2004.  Judging by the number of colds I managed to survive before that date and the number I have fended off since that time, I could actually be one of the world’s leading experts on how to stop the common cold.  I am joking, of course, but this is no joke.  Please go ahead and smile, however, because better times are on the horizon if you have been a slave to unnecessary misery and you are ready to take a new approach.

Bacteria Are Us–Part 3

Along with the growing interest in heirloom vegetables and free-range meats and eggs, there is an increasing appreciation for how our ancestors grew and prepared their foods. Now with more knowledge about the importance of probiotics, there is a revival of interest in fermentation of vegetables.

Equipment needed for fermenting vegetables

Equipment needed for fermenting vegetables

My southern grandmother gardened year-round and cooked many types of greens to serve with cornbread. She canned pepper and tomato relishes to use during the winter. My mid-western grandparents also grew lots of vegetables. They had a cellar to store root crops and cabbage for the longer and colder winters when the garden had been put to bed. Based on their ancestry, I am sure they made sauerkraut, but we have no surviving recipe. Perhaps it was so simple that no recipe was needed.

I was pleasantly surprised to find how easy it is to store a nice-sized cabbage in a quart jar. The only unusual tool pictured at left is a wooden stomper, which came with a food grinder. You will also need a large bowl, preferably glass, but stainless steel will do. A grater or slicer would be helpful also. The large white container in the center is my own invention and will be explained later.

If you have any paranoia about germs, please put that aside before you start. The first recipe I found said to sterilize the jar, then proceeded to describe how you should use a wide-mouth quart jar so you can use your hands to tightly compress the cabbage, forcing enough juice out of it to provide the brine. I decided to skip sterilization of the jar, since I cannot sterilize my hands. I had to assume that a process that has been used for thousands of years, and long before discovery of germs, did not really require sterilization of the containers.

The fact is that the bacteria which are naturally on the cabbage and on your skin provide the starter culture. You can add whey or other sources, but none are really required. Other than fresh cabbage, preferably organic, and a teaspoon of unrefined salt, no other ingredients are needed. I used Redmond Real Salt, which contains about 98% sodium chloride and 2% minerals. Extra minerals are beneficial for the microbes, especially if you have to add any filtered or distilled water which contain none. Although some do not require it, my recipe also called for a teaspoon of raw sugar. I used the natural sugar pictured because I had it on hand and it might also contain a bit of minerals.

Ingredients

Ingredients

I found that I could not compress the cabbage in the jar firmly enough by hand to cause juice to appear. So I resorted to the tamping stick which made it much easier. I did like using a wide mouth jar though, because it is easier to pack and also to get the sauerkraut out later.

Today I discovered a video that showed repeated tossing and squeezing of the thin-sliced vegetables in the bowl by hand, after sprinkling a teaspoon of salt over the top. It didn’t take long for a generous amount of liquid to appear, which was enough to cover the mixture when pressed into the jar.

My recipe said to add a little heated salt water if needed to bring the brine over the vegetables, leaving a half-inch of space at the top. Then it said to get out any air bubbles, put the lid on tightly, and put the jar in a container in the corner of the garage for six weeks. It warned that the lid could be tightened, but not loosened, and that there would be plenty of kraut odor. The container was to catch any liquid that might bubble out of the jar.

Since I didn’t have a garage and it was too cold outside for fermenting, I decided to keep the jar in the kitchen. Because of my concern that it might spew or otherwise become a nuisance, I fashioned a container from a plastic milk jug by cutting off the top with scissors, leaving the handle. The sealed jar fit into it perfectly, although it didn’t sit quite level. So I dropped the red plastic cap into the bottom to level the jar. No odor or other reaction was noticed, but after removing the jar from it’s temporary housing, there was a little residue in the bottom, showing that my effort was not wasted.

The beneficial bacteria thrive in a salty, anaerobic (without oxygen) environment and consume sugars. They overcome any bad microbes in the process. The resulting lactic acid culture is beneficial to our health.

The best surprise was that my sauerkraut is milder than any I have eaten. I have read that results may vary, even with the same ingredients, so I would need much more experience and experimentation to speak with any authority.

The most comforting advice was that we don’t have to worry about whether the fermented food is safe to eat. If any discoloration or froth appears on top, it can be dipped off and the rest should be fine. The smell will be noticeably offensive if it is not safe to eat. In that case it can be composted.

I am looking forward to making another batch with shredded carrots added and maybe a little garlic. I have read that onions are not recommended because they can get stronger and overcome all other flavors. I also want to try making my own whey for a starter culture. Most recipes I have seen lately list a much shorter ferment time than six weeks, so that would be nice also.

I may not find a recipe that everyone can agree on. But I would like to teach my grandchildren how to ferment their own vegetables. Since the health benefits are so great, everyone should know how to do it. This is one tradition that deserves to be preserved.

Bacteria Are Us–Part 1

Organic sauerkraut--a great source of probiotics

Organic sauerkraut–a great source of probiotics

This is an excerpt from my book, “How to Stop Colds, Allergies & More.”

In 2003 I was introduced to the Soil Food Web at a native plant conference. For most of my life, gardening organically just meant using compost and mulch, and avoiding poisons and chemicals. But here on a big screen was the whole story of what is going on beneath our feet—how a teaspoon of healthy soil is full of millions of microbes, including bacteria, fungi, and other critters that have a synergistic relationship with the plants and provide nutrients in exchange for the sugars that plants make through photosynthesis. Everything eats something else, not all nematodes are bad, microbes also live inside the plants, and so forth.

We have always been told that plants don’t know the difference between natural or synthetic fertilizers, as if that somehow justifies the lifeless soils across our country. For more information about real soil, see the Soil Biology Primer, available through the online store of the Soil and Water Conservation Service.

Well, guess what, folks? The same applies to us! Only about 10% of the cells in our body are of human origin. The rest are bacteria, fungi, and who knows what else. While they represent far less than 90% of our weight, the roles they play in our existence are still being discovered and may never be fully understood. I know this might be shocking, if you have not heard it before–but just ask any microbiologist.

The next question is, what have we been doing to the fungus among us, not to mention the bacteria? Well, let’s see. Antibiotics kill bacteria, not all bacteria are bad, and the details of our synergistic existence are still being discovered.

For example, H. pylori was linked with stomach ulcers; so it has been widely eradicated with antibiotics. Now we are learning that it also has beneficial uses, like assisting hormones in the stomach that tell us when we are full. Could that be a little clue to some of our obesity problems? It also is believed to have a role in preventing esophageal cancer, asthma, and other conditions.  H. pylori is just one of many hundreds of species of bacteria that live in our gastrointestinal tract, most of which have not yet been identified, not to mention the numerous microbes that occupy other parts of our bodies.

In studying the soil food web, I learned that trees and perennials like fungi-dominated soils, while vegetables, annuals, and grasses prefer more bacteria. What do antibiotics do for the balance of fungi and bacteria in our bodies? I just know that antibiotics can have a negative effect on our digestion and are not appropriate for most chronic sinus infections, as mentioned above.

According to several health newsletters which I have received recently, our metabolic pathways are a series of chemical reactions our bodies perform to stay alive. Since the role that microbes play in our metabolic pathways is still unfolding, we really don’t know how many species of microbes may be critical to our existence. We can expect to hear a lot more about new discoveries regarding invisible friends and foes.

We have become almost obsessed with sterilizing our floors, hands, and even babies. Now we are learning that some of the healthiest children have been inoculated through mother’s milk, gradual introduction to grass and soil, etc. It is time to realize that not all bacteria are bad, and some are even beneficial. Antibacterial products are not the answer for everything.

Part 2 will include comments on an article by Dr. Joseph Mercola about fermenting your own vegetables and Part 3 will contain my recipe for the above photo.

I would like to hear your comments about fermenting vegetables.