So I had another nasty cold this weekend. Sore throat. Moving to stuffed up head. And on to coughing, headache, body aches, and the nose from Hell. Honestly, I was blowing my nose at least once a minute. During the worst part, several times a minute. Literally. And contrary to what that word has become these days, I do mean “literally” literally.
Resorting to Kleenex
By Sunday, I had gone through one and a half rolls of Seventh Generation recycled paper. This stuff is great. It’s got 80% recycled content and comes in a cardboard case with zero plastic packaging. (I get the Seventh Generation Bathroom Tissue from Amazon.com.)
The thing is? After one and a half rolls? Not so great for noses. Now let me say, I did consider cloth. And in normal circumstances or for seasonal allergies, I always use a cloth handkerchief. Several people on Facebook and Twitter recommended cut up baby diapers or old receiving blankets. But there are several reasons why those options wouldn’t work. 1) I don’t have kids, so I have no diapers or receiving blankets in this house. 2) More importantly, with the amount I was blowing and what was coming out (which I’ll refrain from describing), I doubt I’d have had enough diapers or blankets or bandanas or hankies or any of the other cloth options suggested. Seriously. It’s been very, very gross.
So I broke down and bought Kleenex. Soft, luxurious Kleenex. Kleenex that I haven’t bought in nearly three years. Kleenex from virgin trees. And the thing about all facial tissue is that in addition to the paper, they come with some plastic packaging. All of them. Even the groovy crunchy recycled kind.
If you’ve found a plastic-free brand, please let me know. I haven’t.
Neti pot to the rescue
But I have found something else that I think will help me use fewer of those tree-killing Kleenex tissues. I’m sure I’m the last person on earth to learn the beauty of this simple device: the neti pot. My friend Mark has had one for years. But I have a plastic nasal syringe I got from the doctor years and years ago, and I thought it would work just as well.
But once again, Twitter and Facebook came to the rescue. More people extolled the virtues of the neti pot than thought I should stick with what I already had (because generally the greenest purchase is no new purchase at all.) Check out the difference. What would you rather stick in your nose?
So I went to my local holistic pharmacy down the street (yeah, I live in an awesome neighborhood) and bought a ceramic neti pot. Packaging free. The only plastic was a tiny bag holding a sample of special salt you mix into the water so it doesn’t burn your face off when it goes in. (I learned about burning out my sinuses the hard way last time I was sick, shooting plain water up my nose with that plastic syringe. Do. Not. Use. Plain. Water. For the future, I will buy sea salt from the bulk bin at Whole Foods just for this purpose.)
For the last few people in the world who have not tried this device (like me) here are the instructions from SinusSupport.com:
Fill the neti pot just below its lip with warm water. Add heaping ½ teaspoon of sea salt and stir until it is thoroughly dissolved. Bend over the sink and turn your head to one side. Keeping the pot level, place the spout into the top nostril until it has a snug fit. Breathe through your mouth and slowly tip your head downward allowing the warm water to travel up through your sinuses and out the other nostril. You may need to adjust the angle of your head slightly in order to allow the water to flow out the other nostril. Use half the water and repeat on the other side. If you experience an uncomfortable sensation, adjust the level of salt. Sometimes too little salt can be as uncomfortable as too much salt. Once you’ve irrigated your sinuses, it is helpful to bend over at the waist (with the top of your head pointed towards the floor) and exhale out to release any trapped water.
If you’re like me and can’t visualize this procedure, here is a YouTube video demonstrating exactly how to do it. Or just look at this photo of me, red nose and all. Water goes in one nostril and flows out the other. You breathe through your mouth only. That part is important.
I know. I have no dignity whatsoever. But you know what they say a picture is worth. And OMG! The neti pot worked better than I could have imagined. Immediately afterward, I could smell and taste again. Which was lucky because yesterday being Pi Day, Michael had brought home the most delicious chocolate pecan pie ever from the Claremont Diner. And I could taste it!
The verdict on homemade cough syrup
The useful thing about this cold is that it gave me an opportunity to try out the homemade cough syrup recipe I posted in December.
Verdict? Feels good going down, but didn’t really suppress my cough for more than five minutes. I also tried plain honey. Not so effective for me, actually. The good thing about being so congested is that I couldn’t taste the stuff. Michael said it smelled awful. Next time, I think I’ll try some of the other remedies that readers left in comments on the cough syrup post. Slippery elm, for example. I can get herbs packaging-free in various places around here, like Lhasa Karnak herb shop in Berkeley.
Over all, not so much plastic used during this illness. Or crazy chemical-laden over the counter cold medicines. I feel a lot better today. Thanks to everyone on Twitter and Facebook who chimed in with advice. Love you guys!