Battling Old Man Winter

setting the table
Brrrrr! Winter is here and so are some very common cold weather problems like dry skin and scalp.

This winter, instead of reaching for moisturizer, shampoo, or over-the-counter medicine, check out some things that you cook with. They may work just as well. And because you may already have them in your kitchen, you just saved money.

Sara Altshul O'Donnell from Prevention magazine and co-author of The Woman's Book of Healing Herbs, has some ideas to make you feel better when you're under the weather.

Most of us expect to get colds and the flu during the winter months. Even a sore throat or two. And when we do, many of us reach for ibuprophen or cold medicine. Although they do provide some relief, there may be something already in your kitchen that works just as well.

Some of the things you use to spice up your food can alleviate common winter problems. For instance, ginger root is an antiseptic. Even some of the oils you cook with can be used on your body.

Did you ever think to use Crisco on your skin? Probably not, but consider that it is recommended for extremely dry skin. If you want to break up chest congestion, add thyme to hot water. Here are the details:

  • Crisco for dry skin: If you have extremely dry skin, Crisco is the answer. Take a nice warm bath before bed and while your skin is still moist, slather your body with Crisco. Jump into bed wearing old pajamas that you don't mind getting greasy. When you wake up, you will feel soft and silky all over. This is also particularly good for sensitive skin, because Crisco has no additives; you won't get an allergic reaction.
  • Olive oil and lavender oil for dry scalp: Use ten drops of essential lavender oil to a cup of olive oil. (The amount really depends on the length of your hair. If you have short hair, use less.) Apply this mixture to damp hair and massage it in. Then cover it with a shower cap and a towel that has been moistened in hot water. Sit with the cap and towel as long as you want but at least 10-15 minutes. Shampoo at least twice to rinse it all out; otherwise, it will look greasy. Your hair will smell lovely. Keep in mind, though, that this treatment is for extremely dry scalp.
  • Dried rosemary and hot water for heavy dandruff: If you have heavy dandruff, add at least 2 tablespoons of dried rosemary to boiling water. You are basically making a strong tea. Let it steep for 20 minutes. Strain. Cool. (If you want, you can add a few drops of rosemary essential oil after it has cooled. This will make your hair smell very nice.) Use it as a hair rinse after you shampoo. You can either rinse it out after it has set for a few minutes, or you can let it stay in. This controls the overproduction of scalp oil. But if you are blond, don't use it because it will darken your hair. Use chamomile herb instead.
  • Horseradish for nasal congestion: Put a spoonful of horsradish on a saltine and chew on it. The vapors from the horseradish will go up your nose and clear it out. Because it is spicy, it will increase the secretions and let the mucus flow.
  • Thyme tea for a congested cough and sinus: Steep a couple of teaspoons of thyme into a covered cup of boiling water for ten minutes. The reason this is good is because it acts as an expectorant and clears out the mucus. It is also an antiseptic and clears out germs and eases bronchial spasm. There are a lot of things in here that are directed at easing the cough. If you have sinus problems, it dries nasal secretions.
  • Walking for winter blues: If you get the blues in the winter, it may be because your body is not responding well to getting less light. Even on a gray day, there is still plenty of natural light out there, so walk for 20 - 30 minutes a day. If this does not help, ask a physician about what else may be causing the problem.
  • Cornstarch and cayenne pepper for cold hands and feet: Mix one tablespoon of cornstarch and one tablespoon of ground red cayenne pepper and rub it onto the cold areas. This will make a topical irritant. It will bring blood to the surface and get circulation to those areas and make you feel warmer pretty quickly. But remember, don't touch your eyes or nose.
  • Tea for cold or flu: This tea will help you feel better when have a cold or the flu. Take an ounce of fresh ginger root, a broken cinammon stick, a teaspoon of coriander seeds, 3 cloves, a lemon slice, and a pint of water. Simmer this for up to 15 minutes. Strain it and drink a hot cup every couple of hours.

    This is a tasty tea, but it is also an anti-bacterial and has anti-viral properties and cleansers for symptoms. There is no proof that this kind of tea will help prevent a cold or flu, but it will help you feel better if you have one. And it may shorten the duration of the cold. Cloves are used to numb toothaches, and ginger is antiseptic.

    The Early Show's Dayle Haddon also suggests another moisturizing home remedy: use milk to treat itchy winter skin. Pour whole milk into a basin, soak a wash cloth and hold it to your skin for about five minutes.