Garlic in the medicine cabinet

Okay, so maybe we don’t actually have a medicine cabinet in the yurt. Or rather we do but it is usually referred to as “the kitchen.”  This past week we were digging into it quite a bit to help fight off a winter bug that snuck into the yurt via the kindergarten petri dish.

We’ve been lucky this year and this is only the second bout of sick that we’ve dealt with this winter (quickly knocks on wood), and thankfully it has been the fever-cough-sniffle sort. I’m ready to cast spells to keep the flu out of this non-running water and no washing machine space…

The old standby kitchen-remedy for a sore throat here is:

Honey Water
1 cup of warm water mixed with:
1 tsp raw honey
Splash of Bragg’s raw apple cider vinegar

For a cough we move onto elderberry cough syrup.  It’s also a good reason to take this powerful elderberry antioxidant, so we all have some here and there when a cough is with any one of us.

Elderberry Cough Syrup
1/2 cup dried organic elderberries
4 whole cloves
4 half-inch cubes of fresh ginger
3 cups water
1/4 cup raw honey

Combine berries, cloves, ginger, and water in sauce pan.
Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.
Smash berries with a masher, strain liquid, let cool.
Stir in raw honey once liquid is cooled.
Lasts 2-3 months in refrigerator.

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But this week we needed to kick it up a notch from honey water and elderberries.  This week we brought out the wonder drug: garlic.  I’ve already expounded on the many reasons I love this plant.  Even if it didn’t taste so good in cooking, I would still grow it for it’s healing properties alone.

I first found out about the medicinal side of garlic when I had mastitis almost three years ago.  If you don’t know what that is, I hope you never have to find out.  The short of it is that it is an infection that my midwife described as “feeling like you just got hit by a train.”  It was a feverish, painful stupor of an illness that had me sicker and sorer than the worst flu I’ve known.  I recall saying I’d rather go through giving birth again than this.  My midwife told me I would likely have to take antibiotics to kick mastitis.  Aria was only a couple of months old and I was determined to see if there was another possibility that would not expose her to antibiotics so early.  I’d also had allergic reactions to antibiotics as a child and didn’t want to add that gamble into this if at all possible.

Dr. Google led me to many women who cured themselves using raw garlic as a natural antibiotic.  I was skeptical, but willing to try it.  I minced up two cloves of garlic and gagged it down with orange juice.  It burned and was awful.  I also took an echinacea tincture at the same time.   And thought how both of these had grown in my garden, garlic in the vegetable garden, echinacea’s purple flowers in the flower garden.

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Within a couple of days of this regimen, the garlic and echinacea had kicked that mastitis out.

Why?  Why go through this instead of antibiotics?  For one, garlic and echnicea will never have the side effects of antibiotics. Antibiotics strip out the good in your body along with the bad.  They fight off the illness, but with consequences to the body’s natural balance.   Garlic and echninacea are the opposite.  They kick out the illness while bolstering your body’s immune system, building it up to make it stronger for the next time you are faced with an illness.  There are no side effects.  Well, other than reeking of garlic.

I’m no doctor of course.  But I’ve seen it work firsthand.  So when Caden’s little cough turned to fever and big cough, I went to the kitchen for what he calls “Honey Over and Under Garlic.”

Honey Over and Under Garlic
Mince one clove garlic very fine.
Drizzle honey on a teaspoon.
Top honey with some of minced garlic.
Drizzle honey over top of minced garlic.
Swallow honey and garlic mixture, followed by swig of water.

Thankfully I’ve learned much since I first started using garlic as a remedy.  When a friend said she used raw garlic with her small children at the first sign of illness, I was in awe that she could get them to choke down that pungent raw garlic, assuming it looked something like when I had taken it.  Finally it dawned on me that delivery makes all the difference, in a modern Mary Poppins sort of way:

Just a spoonful of honey helps the medicine go down, in a most delightful way!

We all took garlic this way a few times that day (to fight it off for Caden and to ward it off for us), and presto he was back at school the next day.

But that wasn’t to be the end…  A couple of days later, the bit of lingering cough and sniffle mixed with a lot of time outside burning brush and making “lemonade” in the stream with snowballs as lemons…

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And the changing air pressure from an incoming blizzard (milder than the last one, thankfully) led to Caden up at midnight crying with an earache.  This was new to me.  He’s only had one earache three years earlier, and we had used antibiotics.  At that time I hadn’t learned anything about plant healing and just wanted my scream-crying boy to feel better as quickly as possible.  Not to mention I was days away from giving birth to his sister that time.

This time it was the middle of a Saturday night with no obvious options.  I wanted the scream-crying to stop as quickly as possible, for him to not have to go through this kind of pain.  I’d heard of garlic oil, and quickly googled to see if I could make some.  But the sources I found referenced letting it steep for 2 weeks before it was ready….  I didn’t have two weeks!  Eventually I found something that said even sticking a clove of garlic on the outer ear above the ear canal could be of help.  So I did it.  It seemed utterly silly.  But 15 minutes later his ear pressure released and he fell into an exhausted sleep.  Considering it was three hours after he’d started crying from the earache, there’s a good chance the garlic timing might have been a coincidence.

The next day, Sunday, that ear still felt well and good.

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BUT, the other ear started hurting later that morning….  Oy.  More scream-crying and off I went, in the blizzard, to see if I could get some already made garlic oil from the Blue Hill Co-op.  They were out.  But all was not lost as I grabbed some Hyland’s Earache Drops and a very helpful employee helped me with a garlic oil plan if that became necessary.  She said she always used infused oils as remedies, and did not need to wait two weeks.  Just drop the garlic in the oil and heat it up for a bit on the wood stove   The beneficial qualities would still make it into the oil.  Phew!

When I returned home I gave Caden the Hyland’s Earache Drops, and popped a garlic clove in his ear for good measure.  Perhaps a bit as a good luck charm.

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He fell into a short fitful sleep but awoke scream-crying again.  So that’s what they meant by the Hyland’s drops bringing “temporary relief…”

I then chopped a few cloves of garlic, put olive oil on top, and popped it onto the wood stove.

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After about 15 minutes I took some of the oil that had been steeping on the wood stove, ladled it into a spoon and let it cool to warm.  Then dropped 5 or so drops of it into Caden’s ear.  He kept that ear up to the ceiling with a warm wet washcloth over it as the sort of warm compress his Yaya said had worked for her children when they were little with earaches.  Yes, we had visitors during this…  Thankfully Caden’s Grampa and Yaya are just the sort of visitors you’d want to have when going through this…

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With garlic oil in ear and warm compress on top, Caden quickly fell asleep.  Not a restless sleep.  A deep sleep that lasted for two hours.  The kind of deep sleep that enables one to stay asleep even while being in a one-room yurt with four adults and one small noisy sister.

When he awoke, he was better.  Tired.  But no more earaches.

If I didn’t believe in garlic’s magic before, I certainly do now.  It is empowering because I always have garlic.  If I ever have a child who wakes with that earache pain again, I will immediately head to the kitchen for this medicine that is hiding in plain sight.

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It also makes me want to learn more remedies to pull from that “medicine cabinet.”  Given the raw honey component of many that we’ve stumbled upon so far, perhaps we should also be thinking about moving those honeybees up in the priority list!

10 thoughts on “Garlic in the medicine cabinet

  1. Ha ha! Don’t let my littles hear about the over and under garlic and honey – they might think I am torturing them by doing it raw 🙂 I just made popcorn and was thinking the same thing (no butter or salt), just popped corn… Maybe I am just thrifty 😉
    This is our second time with sickness this winter too despite garlic and such! Not bad considering the up and down temperatures, drafty house and wetness of the warm days outside playing! Here’s to hoping we have seen the last of kindy cooties!

    • Well that is just amazing that they will take it straight! 🙂 I’d say we’re lucky to have only a couple of rounds of sick with all that went through school this year. And yes, here’s to hoping that was the last!

  2. I was lucky to have grown up in a *very* Italian community. I LOVE garlic 🙂 I often eat raw cloves diced up with a good raw cheese. Delicious! 🙂 We also make broth and then when it has cooled to “warm” put a few ladles into the blender with a few cloves of raw garlic. We add some of the raw garlic rich broth to our bowls of soup. We rarely ever get sick!

    Your elderberry syrup recipe looks great. I will def bookmark that one!

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