It’s been a cold autumn in Melbourne so far and upper respiratory infections have started doing the rounds.
I usually recommend preparing a little natural remedies cabinet at this time of year so that when the virus season hits you’ll be well and truly ready and won’t have to resort to immune-suppressing, artificial-flavouring laden, over-the-counter medication.
I’m going to share with you what I consider to be the best natural remedy for colds. It’s called a garlic oxymel and it’s very easy to make. In fact, the ingredients are probably already sitting in your pantry/fridge.
If you have never heard the fancy word ‘oxymel’, it is a traditional preparation that mixes honey and vinegar with medicinal plants.
Historically honey was used both as a preservative and a flavouring agent to mask some of the stronger tasting herbs while vinegar acted as a preservative and as the solvent to which the herbs were added.
The advantage of preparing your own garlic oxymel is that it is very cheap and easy to make and it will last years in the cupboard as garlic is such a strong antibacterial agent.
This is such a great cold, cough and sore throat remedy that I recommend you always have a batch handy in your cupboard.
Garlic, the antibacterial super food
Garlic has been revered through the centuries for its health benefits.
Its medicinal properties were well known to the Egyptians as well as the Romans, though it tended to be a lower class food as the nobility disdained its unpleasant smell. During the Tudor-age plague in England it was even credited with life-saving properties.
Modern technology has enabled herbal manufacturers to analyse the amazing phytochemical composition of garlic confirming its undisputed antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and immune enhancing properties, making it an all-round winner winter remedy.
In addition, garlic has strong anticoagulant properties, making it a good herb for high blood pressure and cardiovascular health.
The prebiotic effect of garlic
Another amazing quality of garlic is that it’s very high in inulin, a type of fructan that beneficial gut bacteria such as Bifido and Lactobacilli like to consume. Up to 16% of a garlic clove is inulin, so when consuming garlic, you’re getting a great dose of both the anti-bacterial compounds and prebiotic effect at the same time.
How to prepare garlic
In order to get the most out of your garlic you have to consume it raw. Garlic’s superb antibacterial properties come from a sulfur compound called allicin, which is only created when garlic is freshly chopped or crushed.
The crushing releases the enzyme alliinase, which then produces allicin. Unfortunately alliinase is heat sensitive and is lost in the cooking process, so if you chop then fry your garlic straight away you won’t get any allicin and therefore no health benefits.
One trick to avoid losing the alliinase through heat is to chop up the garlic finely and letting it rest for ten minutes before cooking as this has been shown to be the time needed for alliinase to work its magic.
Another little known fact about garlic is that it is rich in minerals. As well as sulfur, mentioned above, it also contains calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and potassium.
- 10 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 3 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
- 1 heaped tsp fennel seeds (optional)
- 1 heaped tsp caraway seeds (optional)
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar (get a good quality one like Melrose brand)
- 1/3 cup Manuka honey. If you don’t have Manuka, a good quality raw (unheated) honey
- Gently warm the seeds (if using) in the vinegar without boiling for a few minutes.
- Place the garlic and ginger in a glass jar with a plastic lid. Do not use a metal lid as the vinegar will corrode it.
- Pour the vinegar and seeds into the jar. Replace the lid and shake to stir.
- Shake the mixture 1-2 daily for 1-2 weeks.
- After 2 weeks, strain all the herbs using a cheesecloth.
- Add the honey and mix well.
- Place in a clean jar and replace the lid. Add a label with date and name of preparation.
- Store in a dark cupboard until needed.
For colds, coughs, sore-throats and flu-like symptoms take:
Adults: 1 tsp every 1-3 hours depending on severity of symptoms.
Children: 1/2 tsp every 2 hours.