I am the first to admit it; I am a terrible patient. It doesn't seem to matter what my problem is, I just want the world to leave me alone so I can stay at home and die quietly (or at least be grumpy in peace). So it is with some annoyance I find myself in the full throws of my first head cold of the season.
Ever since I was a child, I've been a bit "funny" about going to the doctors. It's nothing personal against the profession, but I always get a bit anxious and anyway, most of the time you get better of your own accord, right? Well, yes, but these days I always try to help things along without resorting to popping pills.
My first port of call is usually echinacea in some form or other. Now, I did read that a group of scientists found that echinacea has no effect on the immune system, the theory being it was all down to the placebo effect, or the people just got better anyway. My first response was, were these the same scientists who proudly announced that it was physically impossible for the bumble bee to fly, despite the bumble bee itself putting up a pretty good defence? OK, maybe it was a different team, but my next thought was, if it is simply the placebo effect, does it really matter? If I get ill, take a herbal remedy, and within a day or so start to feel better, yes it could be coincidence; on the other hand, if I think the remedy will help, simply by worrying about my symptoms less I am reducing the amount of stress my body is under, which allows my immune system to work more efficiently, which means in a day or so I am starting to feel better. Either way, I'm feeling human again, and able to function as a full member of society again.
Similarly, I can remember a time, back when I was a child, when taking honey for medicinal purposes was frowned upon. "It's just sugar! The energy boost makes you feel like you're feeling better. Here, take some paracetamol, that's proper medicine." Yet my mum always suggested to us a cup of warm water with some honey and lemon, and of course now honey is seen as some sort of miracle aid for everything from fighting infection to healing wounds, reducing the pain and swelling of superficial burns and aiding tissue cell regeneration. It is also recognised as a good way of reducing the symptoms of hayfever, though it works best if you use a local honey so it's made from the pollen that you're sensitive to. See, our grandparents knew a thing or two.
Now, of course, there's a whole industry built up around herbal care. However, I always feel it's best to try to make at least one or two remedies yourself. There are plenty of books on the subject; a personal favourite is "Grow Your Own Drugs" by James Wong, though my mum has a fantastic book of country remedies through the ages. It's often really easy to do, fun, and at least you know where all the ingredients have come from.