Sick Day Science

Early last week, on the very day I posted about Celebrating Winter (in which I mentioned my kids rarely get sick) Brienne came down with the sniffles. I knew I was jinxing myself when I mentioned that. 

As far as school was concerned, the entire week was dedicated to our Chinese New Year celebration and getting ready for our weekend backpacking trip. I wasn't even hoping to crack open the math books or work on writing projects (pen pals letters) with everything else going on. But learning has a funny way of sneaking up on you no matter what the circumstances.

Brienne's sore throat gave me an excuse to try a recipe from my favorite herbal book and gave us a Monday morning of science together. 

Measuring, mixing, experimenting with taste. Discussion of plant properties, our immune system and an explanation from Celine about why steam rises.

Biology and chemistry were the subjects of the day. 

The rest of the week was dedicated to laying low indoors so the illness could resolve itself with nutrition and adequate rest.

We had a weekend of serious fun planned and we needed healthy kids. I packed store-bought herbal lozenges for our camping trip as I didn't have time to make those. All the chidren ended up with tickles in their throats and now this week there is a lot of nose blowing. But that's as bad as it got.

The herbal cough syrup was a hit, though I don't usually like giving my kids so much sweet in one day (the recipe is heavy on the raw honey which soothes sore throats and has antibacterial properties). We made three varieties - plain, orange and peppermint flavors. All taste delicious.

I can't say definitively in a double blind scientific study kind of way that using the cough syrup was better than not using the cough syrup. But it's a little something and sometimes that's all you need. 

On a related note, I recommend this quirky, stand up science comedy video with Dr. Ben Goldacre. There is a brief offensive part at the beginning but because he speaks so fast and he's British you barely catch it (in case you're watching with kiddos).

If you're told the cough syrup will make you feel good, it probably will. And if you're told it will make you feel terrible, can do that too.

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  • tara

    tara on Feb. 9, 2011, 12:24 p.m.

    Those darn sniffles! The syrup sounds interesting and I'm sure that honey was soothing to a sore throat. When I have a sore throat, I'll often just have a spoonful of honey straight up (I have a sweet tooth). I agree with you that rest seems to be the best thing to do.


  • Beetnik Mama

    Beetnik Mama on Feb. 9, 2011, 12:59 p.m.

    Oh, I'll be sure to check out that book. I trust your reviews on all things in that category!

    And I have to share a story that your post reminded me of. My 3-year old daughter had her first (let's hope only!) cold of the season a couple weeks ago. Her sniffeliest (I'm sure that's a word) morning, I could tell we'd all just be curled up on the sofa, so I told her she could wear her "fancy" nightgown all day instead of getting dressed. My words were, "How about if you wear your pretty nightgown today, because I'm sure that will help you feel better." And she eagerly agreed.

    Later that morning, my husband called, and when he asked my daughter how she was doing, she replied, "Oh, Papi, I'm still sick. My nightgown is not working!"



  • Jennifer S.

    Jennifer S. on Feb. 9, 2011, 5:48 p.m.

    I hope everyone feels better! I will definitely check out that book. We just started making our own elderberry syrup. My five year old loves it (because of the honey) and quickly encourages anyone with the sniffles to try some. Have you ever had a herb share through a CSA? There is one offered with ours, but I didn't choose it this year because I was concerned I wouldn't know what to do with much of it.


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 9, 2011, 5:57 p.m.

      We have a pick your own herb garden at our csa farm. I don't do much with culinary herbs other than the basics - flavoring food. I grow some backyard herbs for topical skin care and have written about at Easy Recommendations for the Home Herbalist.

      I am working on a post about where I ordered our herbs to make this syrup (& other herbal remedies) I use. 


  • Naomi Kilbreth

    Naomi Kilbreth on Feb. 10, 2011, 12:04 a.m.

    Glad you guys are feeling better now! We had the tickles and runny noses going around a couple weeks ago, and I had to be in good shape for a client coming over, so we were downing vitamins, elderberry syrup and yarrow tincture. The worst of my cold was over in 4 days, which really is a miracle because for some reason I always seem to hold on to them forever (maybe the dairy in my diet? lol) Anyway, I think herbal remedies are great to have around. By the way, any idea how long canned elderberry syrup will last once it's opened?


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 10, 2011, 3:16 a.m.

      I don't know much about canned elderberry syrup. I make our own vodka/glycerin tinctures and sometimes buy jars of elderberry juice concentrate (no sugar added, just juice) at Axis, which stay good in the fridge a long time. 


  • Tammie@Simple, Healthy, Tasty

    Tammie@Simple, Healthy, Tasty on Feb. 28, 2011, 8:41 p.m.

    It's that time of year isn't it! I think this is the FIRST year since I've had kids that at least someone wasn't sick in February. It's the last day my fingers are crossed and I'm knocking on wood! ;) I'm putting that book in my wish list I love being able to make home remedies! Makes me feel so self reliant! I sure love herbs! Hope everyone stays well both and your house and mine!!!!


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