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Sunday, 3 March 2013

Salt Inhalers & other funky stuff

So, currently on day 4 of the flu - also known as the just-shoot-me-now stage, or often the I-want-my-mom phase. Skype is a blessing; it means I can whine at my mother long distance and still get the love. 

There's a big, big difference between the flu and a cold. Colds make you feel miserable, and they aren't much fun. You sneeze a bit, and make disgusting noises on public transport, and everyone avoids you.

The flu is to the common cold what a siberian wolf is to a chihuahua. Trust me, I'll take the cold over the flu anytime. 

The problem is that there is no cure. Over the counter meds help to a point; my theory is that most of the time they knock you out so you don't notice how miserable you are. For all the claims of alleviating coughs and headaches, the short term relief you get is minimal. The only thing to do is ride it out, and if you're like me, the fact that you're off work due to illness is frustrating, painful, and guilt-inducing. 

I've yet to find a cough medicine I can really tolerate the taste of in the UK. My cousin swears by the evil green stuff that looks and tastes like it was hocked up by a demented alien. Blocking my nose when taking that stuff had no effect; the gag reflex was instantaneous. I'm not a fan of meds working because I'm too scared to hiccup right after taking it, and to be honest, it didn't do much for the cough. It's pointless knocking me out if I'm still coughing in my sleep, to the point that my ribs are sore.

A little bit of research yesterday pointed me toward the salt inhalers. It's pretty much rock salt in a tube, that you suck, and is supposed to help with all sorts of breathing issues. It couldn't be less effective that the cough mixture so far, so I gave it a shot.
I got a few little bottles into make facial serums with, so yesterday I grabbed one and poured a mixture of rock salt and Himalayan salt in. I doubt there's much difference in the effectiveness between the two, despite all the hoorah over regional salt on the official inhalers.  I grabbed the Himalayan stuff because it's bigger, I didn't need to fiddle with it for much longer, and I could shuffle back to bed faster. I added three drops of essential oil (I used lemon balm), shook it up, and inhaled from the bottle for the next ten minutes. 

Interesting thing is, it seems to have helped. I'm still coughing, but I no longer sound like I'm tried to choke a yeti. I've found grabbing the bottle and inhaling seems to taper the coughing fit off faster as well. I've also found sprinkling a mixture of lemon grass and peppermint oil over the pillow case seems to help with breathing when I'm lying down. Taking a bath involves those oils, as well as lavender, ginger, and 1 or 2 drops of rosemary. I've been dabbing the balm I made up for my joints on my little red nose, and surprisingly haven't had much flakiness. It's not as red or sore as it was either, so that's a bonus.

I'm posting the recipe for the balm here for anyone who wants to give it a try. Keep in mind I'm not a doctor, so this is not medically cleared. Also keep in mind that essential oils are not always safe if you're pregnant or breastfeeding, and I have no idea how safe this is for very young kids. Essential oils, like anything else, can cause reactions, so if you're unsure or allergic to anything in it, don't use it. Never use essential oils directly on the skin as these are pure oils and can cause painful burns; always use a carrier oil. 

Achy Breaky Balm


1 cup shea butter
1 tablespoon olive oil (you can also use any carrier oil here - cherry kernel or jojoba are both excellent in this balm)
1 teaspoon honey powder (you can use plain honey, but it can get sticky and tacky in the final product - be warned)
7 drops rosemary oil
3 drops lemon grass oil
3 drops ginger oil
3 drops rose otto oil (really good for the skin - I use this in pretty much every balm/body butter I make)
1 tablespoon mango butter (optional, but really softening. This balm gets solid.)
1/2 cup de-ionised water. (Tap water is more likely to contain impurities. If your local water is really hard, it will also impact the quality of the balm. If you use tap water, keep this in the fridge and use in about a week. Also, water is not necessary - you can make the balm without it, but the result will be very hard, and you'll need to literally scrape it out during cold weather. If you don't use the water, add another 1/3 cup of shea butter.)
Preservative - both honey and rosemary are natural preservatives. However, because I've added water I use Optiphen to preserve my balm. It's a ratio of between 1- 3 %, so not much at all. 


Place butters, honey powder (diluted in a little de-ionised water) and carrier oil in a double boiler to melt. I use a glass bowl over a pot. Make sure the butters have melted thoroughly; shea butter can turn grainy otherwise. I usually leave it on the heat for an additional 15 minutes to ensure that doesn't happen.

Remove from heat and add essential oils,  and beat well. I use a small electric hand-beater. You can whip it by hand, but you will feel it - it takes a bit of work that way. Then add the water, while beating further, and the optiphen. If you want to colour it, get some cosmetic safe  mica - these come in a pretty amazing array of colours, and most places that supply shea butter etc will have them. Food colouring is not advised; you'll end up staining your clothing, and possibly the kitchen ceiling if the beater gets excited.

You'll find it whips up into something that looks almost like royal icing. Do not eat the product. (It won't kill you, but it's not going to taste good.) Pour it, or scrape it if it's very thick, into the container you want to use. I sterilise my containers with the tablets used to sterilise baby bottles, but any very mild bleach disinfectant is fine. I've also found that the disposable icing bags are perfect for getting containers filled neatly.

Let it set, and use.

Clean up:

This part is, quite frankly, a bugger. You may have to wash your utensils repeatedly. I wash in soap, dunk in a bucket with mild bleach for a few hours, then rinse off with a mild vinegar solution. Then they get washed with soap again. Repeat as needed; if you left a lot of mix in the bowl, you will be washing for a long, long, looooooong time. So far, it's the only draw-back I've found to making these things.

It's brilliant for aching joints (and red, abused noses). The base butters and oils moisturise the skin. Honey, rosemary and ginger are all natural disinfectants and anti-inflammatories. Rose otto is another excellent skin conditioner, and lemon balm is a powerful anti-viral and anti-bacterial.  I have a friend who uses it every time she works in the garden, and swears by it. It makes a fairly mild scented balm that melts on contact with the skin and is easily absorbed.

Have fun and enjoy, and hopefully I'll have shaken this nasty bit of flu off by next week.