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Ade had planned to write this week’s post, and was looking forward to sharing his top gardening tips for February with you… until he came down with the flu. This is not the much-derided ‘man flu’ you understand, but proper, bonafide, can’t get out of bed, can’t eat, feeling sick, sore throat, congestion, sinus pain, achey, feverish flu. He’s not the kind of man who can lie in bed all day (not when there’s an allotment he’s always eager to tend to), so being bed-ridden for three days was entirely out of character for him. I’ve never seen him this poorly. Even he said he’s never been this ill before. I mean, look at him…

Obviously, being the feeder that I am, I’ve been keen to get some health-boosting foods into his system, but when he can barely stomach anything, and can be a bit of a fuss-pot with medicine anyway (not only does he keep away from shop-bought cold remedies, but eyes most of my homemade medicinal concoctions with wry suspicion!), trying to help him has been a challenge to say the least. Getting him to drink a simple hot honey and lemon drink took a Herculean effort on my part, and when I told him to sleep with some rounds of onions in his socks having just read an article about it… well.. I thought he was going to hurl his hot water bottle at me. If he doesn’t like the idea of something, he won’t do it, whereas I tend to give pretty much anything a go! So  I’ve had to be a little bit creative and hide healing ingredients in the food I’m giving him.

I managed to slip some turmeric and apple cider vinegar into the lemon and honey drink he reluctantly agreed to take, and when he requested a spoonful of pasta with pesto sauce on Friday night (the first proper meal he’d eaten in two days), I made sure I packed it full of raw garlic. The only thing he can manage at breakfast time is tinned peaches which are soft on his sore throat, so I’ve been drizzling them with the Elderberry Syrup I concocted last summer. While I could never persuade him to take a spoonful of the mixture  (it’s become quite bitter over time; I think the recipe needs some fine-tuning!), it is packed with the good stuff, so I’ve been steeping blueberries in the Elderberry Syrup along with a spoonful of Manuka honey and a pinch of allspice, before pouring the mix over the peaches, and he’s been gobbling it up. (Score!)

There are so many natural remedies for colds out there, and it’s sometimes a case of trial and error to find out what works best for you. Some people swear by Echinacea, but to be honest, I’ve never had much luck with it, although admittedly I’ve only tried supplements from the health shop, I’ve yet to experiment with the flowers we grow each year in the back garden.

Here are my top remedies for winter ills. You might have some of these growing in your veg patch, flourishing in your herb garden or growing wild in your local park, others you may find in your kitchen cupboard. I return to these remedies time and time again…

Onion, garlic and chillies
Yes, I know that’s three ingredients, but this combo really is the holy trinity as far as I’m concerned; my go-to cold fix. If I feel the faintest whisper of a chill, I immediately start cooking curries, soups, stews and chillies with these three homegrown ingredients and nine times out of ten, I’ll knock the cold on the head before it has a chance to fully develop. We always have a supply of these allotment-grown wonders stored in the kitchen throughout the winter, so there is always a homemade cold remedy on hand during the season of sniffles. Each ingredient is hugely beneficial in its own right, but together, they become an anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, vitamin C-packed, immune-boosting powerhouse.

Honey and Lemon
Simple but effective. Lemon for vitamin C, and honey for it’s soothing anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities, mixed with hot water to make a comforting drink. Augment with ginger, turmeric or apple cider vinegar for extra cold-busting goodness.

Turmeric
The wonder spice. I always make sure I have a bottle of this in my kitchen cupboard and add a pinch of it to all sorts of dishes, including my breakfast porridge! Among its plethora of health-boosting properties, it’s an excellent anti-inflammatory and decongestant.

Eucalyptus oil
Added to the bath, inhaled from a handkerchief or rubbed onto the chest with a carrier oil, this essential oil really helps clear blocked sinuses.

Apple Cider Vinegar
Among its numerous health benefits, ACV is a brilliant anti-viral. Add to salad dressings if you can’t handle a spoonful in hot water.

Elderberries
So highly regarded for its medicinal properties, the government of Panama used elderberries to treat the flu epidemic of 1995 – and it worked. Anti-bacterial and anti-viral, a spoonful of Elderberry syrup each day can really help keep winter infections away, and speed up the recovery of those already suffering.

Sage
A beautiful, medicinal herb that we have growing just outside our back door. Sage tea is surprisingly effective at soothing sore throats. Check out my recipe here.

There are so many other natural cold remedies. I’ve recently discovered the benefits of allspice so I’m experimenting with that at the moment, and the blackberry syrup I made a couple of years ago was a great remedy, and so delicious!

I’d love to hear what you use to tackle winter ills – what works best for you?