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Pertussis is one heck of a cough. It starts as a small, benign cough, maybe a little fever and then – wham. Long, powerful coughing spasms take over the rhythm of your day. Many people I know have it or have had it in recent years. Presently it is making its was through our town and early this month Sage, Lupine and I came down with it too. Good times. Quarantining ourselves, we haven't been out and about since early October (thus the scanty posts here) and we've focused most of our energy on resting and healing.
While this post is hopefully written for a select few of you, I trust it will be of service to some. Bookmark it, share it with your friends, and file it away in case whooping cough finds its way around your community any time soon. It's in our little town right now in a big way. As more people in my area (and elsewhere) have found themselves staring down pertussis I thought that a post collecting some good home remedies for whooping cough would be a blessings.
No whooping cough in your neighborhood? (Well, hooray for that!) Still, many of the remedies below are amazing for any cough, cold, flu, or bug that comes your way this season.
This is in now way a health consultation. Get on the phone to your doctor or health care provider if you suspect you have pertussis. If you test positive (the test is a simple nasal swab) you will likely be encouraged to take antibiotics and quarantine yourselves for five days. If you go antibiotic free you'll be in quarantine for most of a month (beginning after the last person starts coughing in your house). For us it has been a hassle but not a big deal. Pete is healthy and working. The kids and I are sick and staying home. It's a lot of coughing but I'd take this over the flu or pin-worms any day. (That being said, pertussis is especially dangerous for babies, the elderly, and anyone with a compromised immune system. We don't fit into those categories so it hasn't been horrific. Just icky.)
Here are some of the things we've done to ease our transition back to health.
Pine Needle Bergamot Syrup
When Lupine started coughing we had no idea it was whooping cough. Just a little cough during the day, nothing dramatic. She and I were on a hike with my sister at the cabin. She reached out and picked a handful of white pine needles and stuffed them into my pants pocket. "Mama, I want you to make me pine needle tea." We had never had pine needle tea before. We read once in a children's herbal book that you could drink pine needle tea, but I couldn't remember why. After we determined that it was pertussis I called and herbalist friend who's child had also contracted it around the same time. "The best remedy for whooping cough," she told me, "Is white pine needle tea."
What a shining lesson in trusting our intuition, spirit guides, or the voices of the plants. Pine needle tea and syrup has been my favorite remedy for whooping cough. We dilute the syrup in hot water and drink it throughout the day.
Begin by collecting some fresh white pine needles and/or bark. Take two large hand-fulls and add to a stainless cooking pot (approximately 1 C of needles if you could jam them into a measuring cup). Add 1/2 C of dried monarda (bee balm) flowers and leaves if you have any available. Cover with water, adding approximately 3- 4 C. Simmer until you have cooked the water down to a thick tea, about 2 cups. Strain and mix with equal parts honey. Store in the refrigerator and use as needed, by the teaspoon. Take as a cough syrup or dilute and use drink as tea.
A local herbalist/mama shared this recipe in our local newspaper a couple of years ago. (There is one type-o, where the article reads "4 hours" should say "4 days". Thanks D. for bringing the article to my attention.) We have been taking this throughout our illness and it seems to be a wonder tonic. This is a good one if you are exposed to someone with WC as well as just general immunity boosting throughout the season. A quick google of "garlic syrup" yields dozens of formulas, so pick one and go for it.
We are using this:
1 pound garlic, peeled and chopped
apple cider vinegar
Place chopped garlic in a quart jar and cover with 1/2 water and 1/2 apple cider vinegar to fill the jar. Infuse for four days (or more), shaking often.
Strain, pressing garlic to extract all the juices you can. Make a simple syrup of 1/2 water and 1/2 honey to total the volume of your garlic infusion. (If you have 2 C of garlic infusion, add a simple syrup made of 1 C water and 1 C honey. I pour 1 tsp of this in a small cup for the kids several times a day and take 1 tablespoon myself. This is a great remedy for cold and flu season and shouldn't be reserved just for whooping cough. Spread the garlic out on a cookie sheet in the freezer and use in your cooking.
Vitamin C saturation is one fairly common method of shortening the duration of whooping cough. I found suggestions for this online and it always led me to take sodium ascorbiate. I couldn't find that version of C without food coloring added, so we went for Ester-C. Each of us takes 5000 IU per day. To determine correct dosage you can follow the instructions here. We didn't exactly follow this method but it was close to what we did. To make pure vitamin C palatable for the kids I powder the capsules in my food processor, then blend with a dab of honey to make a paste.
Herbal Cough Syrup
This is a wonderful remedy for nighttime coughing episodes. Use equal parts elecampane and wild cherry bark, 1/4 C of each and 2 C water. Bring to a simmer, turn off, and steep for 10 minutes. Strain promptly and mix in 1/4 C of honey to make a thin syrup. (You can leave out the honey but elecampane is bitter, especially if you simmer it too long.) Dilute syrup with water and sip as needed, or drink undiluted by the teaspoon (kids) or tablespoon (adults).
I shared with you how we make it here. We're also enjoying some elderberry syrup this year, made using a recipe from here I think. (I love this book. The recipes are so simple and accessible. Ask for a copy for Christmas or Solstice if you have been wanting to learn more about plant medicine.)
Immunity Building Tincture
The kids and I made this in the spring and we're loving having it on hand right now. We combined echinacea root and flower, usnea (an immunity-building lichen), rishi (the shelf fungus pictured above), cinnamon, and ginger and covered with apple cider vinegar (enough to cover). It sat for 4 months, we strained it and now add a few drops to our water or tea each day. So good to have on hand, but it requires some mindful work in advance. If you don't have anything similar lying about (unlikely for many I expect), pick up a good quality echinacea tincture. That will do the trick, too. If you want to make a tincture now, you can buy all the herbs your local food coop doesn't carry from Rose Mountain Herbs.
Humidifier with Essential Oils
Every night I refill our humidifier and add LuSa Organics Breathe Deep Essential Oil to the essential oil cup or the water. So lovely, if I do say so myself. We've also used a healthy dose of LuSa Organics Chest Rub this month. I can't imagine not having this on hand but if you don't, straight eucalyptus essential oil will help as well in the humidifier and you can add a couple of drops to a balm of your choice and apply to chest and back.
There are a few remedies recommended for Whooping Cough. This site gives a good break-down of recommendations.
Rest, rest, rest.
Because you are healing. Your immune system is working. Your body is amazing. Give it time to rest. Nourishing food.
And when all else fails, brandy.
Okay. I'm kidding with that one. But do what you have to to get some sleep. Your nights will be disturbed by lots of coughing, so go to bed early and sleep as long as you can. (She writes through bleary sleepy eyes.)
Wellness blessings to all.