Congested Chest Tonic Test: Cheers to the Hot Toddy


I've been ruminating a lot lately on how the gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas could have shrunk dramatically without visibly changing on the calendar. Normally, come December 1st  I'm itching to get out the ornaments, and festive feelings keep the energy levels up in spite of too many commitments. This year, though, the holiday season has felt exhausting and hectic, and I've felt borderline curmudgeonly... at best humdrum. On the bright side, I do know why, and I'm feeling pretty good about being able to fix it, now. Dave and I always say "health first" is our mantra. But sometimes the passion backfires, ironically. We'll take a limited view of what it means to be healthy, training a little too much through illness in the name of fitness, or stressing too much about when to fit it all in. There is a point where mind over matter doesn't match matter making its mind clear. Like, when you find yourself couch-bound with pneumonia for a month.

I didn't personally catch pneumonia this  season--I just carried the virus that ensured Dave caught it. My nemesis has been, as it always is, a stubbornly painful sinus infection. With both of us under the weather and stressed about it, it's been painfully clear how synonymous health can be with happiness, and how elusive a good mood can be without it.

The biggest issue, especially Dave, has been chest congestion. Whatever gunk has been lodged in there has been beyond uncomfortable, and we had to get it moving. Last week,  we trialed recipe after recipe for salubrious tonics friends shared. Though results varied, we couldn't really go wrong--the more fluid the merrier. Two items did stand out, however. One, a recipe that came all the way from Ghana, from Kira:

Cut the skin off one large pineapple and, in a big pot of water, boil said SKIN with lots of ginger root and a bunch of limes (we halved them and dumped them in, peel included). Boil for an hour or so, strain, and drink. 

I'm not sure why the pineapple skin, and I did add some pineapple juices to add a little sweetness to the tang and spiciness. The result definitely did open up the chest, though, and not in an unpleasant way. The taste was on the sharp side, but I love ginger and limes. I can't imagine a little honey would hurt, if you try it and find it has too much bite.

The other remedy, this one a clear favorite, was the traditional Scottish hot toddy. Preparation involves mixing a shot of rum or whisky (we used rum) with boiling water, sugar or honey. Popular addends are cinnamon, ginger, lemon, or tea in place of water.  Our favorite mix is simply this:

Coat the bottom of a mug with 1 tablespoon honey. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and a dash of ground cinnamon. Pour in a shot (we used 2 tablespoons) rum, and top up with 1 cup boiling water.

For a good guide, check out this Scottish pub owner's You Tube video. He uses whiskey, but I love the accent and the low-key demonstration, enough to overlook the spelling as  hot "totty".

It makes me laugh to think that our favorite means of adhering to "health first" lately has been born of a bottle of rum. Especially as I'm kind of a teetotaler; I can't actually metabolize alcohol, really. That said, this hot "tonic" relaxes and soothes the chest, and isn't the worst sleep aid in the world, either. And, it's been an interesting perspective on "health first". Because sometimes being healthy means letting go of agendas and self-expectations, or relaxing them, at least for a little while.



Wendy McMillanComment