Saturday, December 10, 2016

Zero Waste and the Common Cold

I tend toward illness twice per year, when the weather changes from cold to hot in the Spring, and from hot to cold in the late Fall. This isn't a consistent pattern, I have skipped through a whole year or so without getting sick, but I definitely get at least one minor cold every year.

This year, my partner and I are experimenting with finding our pace with zero waste lifestyle. We're already hippy enough to be doing a lot toward that end, but we decided to step up our game and be more mindful about the waste we are generating.

In years past, when I had a cold I would run to the pharmacy and pick up a bunch of cold medication for relief. Not only have studies shown that these over the counter medicines don't do much for colds, but they are very wasteful. Tons of non-recyclable packaging goes into these products. I think their main point is to make you sleepy enough that all you want to do is nap! Which is a great practice for sick days, but there are better ways to handle it that don't tax your body as heavily.

I've had my little change-of-seasons cold for the last few days and it is transitioning out of my system faster than normal. I've been doing a LOT of things differently this time around, and I think the change has helped. So, I will share with you what I've been doing.

Here's how the cold cycle usually goes for me with OTC's:
Day 1 - itchy nose and throat
Day 2 - post nasal drip, clearing throat a lot, sneezing
Day 3 - nasal congestion, ears congested, and sore throat on one side
Day 4 - same, but on the other side
Day 5 - nose runs like a faucet, sneezing, throat pain is killer, coughing begins
Day 6 - nose clears up, but ears still congested, cough is worse, lung congestion
Day 7 - coughing up a storm!
Day 8-14 - recovery, all symptoms slowly disappear

That's a long time to wait for a cold to go away.

For this cold, I decided to avoid OTC's entirely. I went with completely zero waste solutions instead. Disclaimer: THERE IS NO ONE REMEDY THAT WORKS TO ALLEVIATE ALL OF YOUR SYMPTOMS ON ITS OWN. The strategy I employed this time was to attack the cold from every angle I could think of, relentlessly. I have been drinking 2 kinds of medicinal tea throughout the day (which I'll share later), I have been using one cloth hanky per day instead of tissues, I have been hydrating like it was summer in Tucson, I have taken daily baths, I have used a neti pot to irrigate my nose 2-4 times daily, I gargled with salt water, I ate nothing but nutrient rich food, I used copious amounts of vitamin C, I used raw honey instead of cough syrup, I have stayed off my feet as much as possible, and I practiced a whole day of silence to save my aching throat. I also used Chinese medicine for symptom relief in the form of tea pills and acupuncture. As you can see, I've been doing lots of things, and the combination of all of these things has sped up the cycle of this cold significantly. This cold is on its way out already, and it's only been 4 days! I anticipate being fully recovered by the end of the weekend. Which is good, because I have finals coming up.

Here's the breakdown for this run:
Day 1 - itchy nose and throat (treated with teas, vitamin C, and slippery elm lozenges)
Day 2 - post nasal drip, clearing throat a lot (neti pot & gargle, tea, lozenges, honey, rest)
Day 3 - nasal congestion and sore throat, cough begins (neti pot & gargle, tea, lozenges, honey, acupuncture, tea pills, rest, silence)
Day 4 - nose clears up (woah!), throat clears up (woah!), ears clear up (woah!), coughing is minimal and clearing (WOAH!) (tea, lozenges, honey, tea pills, neti pot & gargle, rest, partial silence)

So let's break it down a little further. 

Every day, I've been eating nutrient rich food, cutting down on sugar and junk. I've been resting as much as possible, I took baths to clean myself and relieve tension, and I've been hydrating my body. When you're sick, your body is trying to cleanse itself of the microbes or toxins that are causing the illness. Hydration, rest, and flooding the body with nutrients is the best way to help that process along. FYI, I used a home spun saline solution for the neti pot and gargle. This is 1/8 tsp. salt to 8oz. of water. And for the neti pot, only mix this solution with boiling water in the neti pot itself (this kills dangerous water-born microbes, no really, they can kill you). The following is the daily breakdown of the other remedies I used.

On Day 1, I drank 2 kinds of tea (recipes below), one for my symptoms and one for my immune system. I used 4,000mg of vitamin C; 1,000mg with each meal, 500mg upon waking, and going to sleep. I also used Thayers Slippery Elm Lozenges as needed throughout the day. I made sure I ate well, and rested a lot. 

Day 2, I began using my neti pot to irrigate my nasal passages and wash out any bacteria that might be hiding out there. Neti pots have been a game changer for me over the last year, they really do a lot to clear up nasal congestion, sneezing, and post nasal drip. When my throat started hurting, I gargled salt water to ease the pain, swallowed 1tsp. of raw honey to soothe it further, and used the slippery elm lozenges whenever I needed them. 

Day 3, I added silence to my treatment. I didn't talk for 12 hours. That helped the pain in my throat a ton, and kept me from coughing. That afternoon, I went and got acupuncture for my tendonitis (something I've been doing for months) and to relieve the cold symptoms. I also started using Jade Dragon Advanced Cold tea pills. These pills are a Chinese medicine formula called Yin Qiao Jie Du Wan, and they are to be taken when the cold has "advanced" into the lungs, resulting in a dry cough (symptoms are Wind/Heat).

Now, hang on just a minute... How is taking pills from plastic bottles zero waste, you say? Well, it isn't. There is a foil/plastic seal and a desiccant packet in each bottle that gets thrown away, but the bottle and lid can be recycled. Sidenote, I use the cotton stuffed in the bottles for fire starters when I'm camping.

Day 4, which is today, I'm continuing everything from the day before. I am speaking today, but being very mindful of when and why, and what I choose to say. My recovery has blown me away. I wasn't prepared to feel this good today! So, I'm basically going to continue doing what I've been doing until all traces of my symptoms are gone. Hopefully it takes less time than the other method does. It has already proven to be superior with how well it has dealt with my symptoms.

My conclusion is that practicing radical self-care when you are feeling under the weather is the key to a fast recovery. If everyone took the time off work to care for themselves when they were sick, they would be sick less and for less time. And wouldn't that be nice!

Now, as promised, here are the herbal tea blends I used to treat my symptoms. Your local herb store should have all the dry herbs in stock, hopefully in bulk.

Symptom Soothe Tea

1 part Mullein
1 part Tulsi
1 part Shredded Licorice Root
1 tsp. Honey (raw preferred)

Use 2 tsp. of tea mixture in a strainer, and steep in boiled water for at least 10 minutes in a tea cup for full potency. Take this throughout the day (at least 4 cups).

Ginger Burner Tea

Disclaimer: This tea is VERY SPICEY.

1-1.5 inches fresh ginger root, sliced thin
1 lemon
1 Tbsp. Honey (raw preferred)

Slice 1-1.5 inches of fresh ginger root thinly. Put 4 cups of water into a small pot, add the ginger, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer (just under boiling) for 30-45 min. If you have to add water to keep it simmering, that's okay! Reduce the mixture until you have 2 cups of liquid left. Strain out the ginger, add lemon juice and honey. Drink 1 cup now, and 1 cup later! Up to 4 cups per day. Want to boost this tea? Add 1 inch fresh turmeric root for pain relief or a pinch of cayenne for extra BURN (just kidding, it's an expectorant).

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