Zero waste DIY: Combating the common cold

As I write this, Johanna is in her room, coughing her lungs out. Our house is small, so it’s no surprise I can hear her, but geez! She’s really projecting. It’s a miracle I haven’t completely lost my mind.

Motherhood. It’s pretty enchanting.

Anyway. To celebrate the first major cold of the season, I decided to attempt a couple of zero waste DIY projects. For Johanna AND for the good of the cause.

Assembling the ingredients.

Assembling the ingredients. I’m pretty proud of my repurposed salt spout, to be honest.

For my first trick, I went with a throat spray. And for my second, homemade lozenges.

Now, technically I’ve made the throat spray before. At the beginning of this year, I was attempting to burn through all of my sick days in a matter of weeks, not being able to shake a particularly bad cold. I was coughing so much I was pretty sure I’d broken my sternum. I’m not still not convinced I didn’t.

Anyway, I bought a 2 ounce bottle of organic throat spray for more than $10 that I managed to consume in a week. Looking at the ingredients list, I discovered it was just apple cider vinegar, honey, and some herbs.

I searched around the internets until I found something similar. The recipe used a lot of essential oils, none of which I owned, so I basically cut out everything that wasn’t water, apple cider vinegar or honey.

Which means my recipe was just:

  • 3/4 cup water (supposed to be purified, I used tap because our tap water is amazing. I did boil it first, though)
  • 2 tablespoons raw, organic apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons raw honey

… All heated up on my stovetop to melt the honey, and then put into my reused throat spray bottle. I had A LOT left over, so I put that into a jar and popped it in the refrigerator because I didn’t really know what else to do with it. Turns out it’ll keep up to six months like that.

It tasted like vinegar, but fun fact, organic vinegar isn’t nearly as terrible as regular vinegar. And it works surprisingly well.

Anyway, this time, knowing I’d be making it so I could report back, I added a fourth ingredient as called for in the recipe: 1 teaspoon sea salt. Although actually I cut that down by a lot. We’re not very salty in this family.

That's A LOT of throat spray.

That’s A LOT of throat spray.

Johanna was excited when I’d filled the bottle with this new concoction — she’s used it before, too — and set about spritzing the back of her throat like there was no tomorrow. She had a quizzical look on her face, and finally said, it tastes better with just the vinegar. Meaning: She doesn’t like how salty this new stuff is. I don’t, either. The moral of this story, friends, is that maybe you should just eschew the salt. It’s supposed to help reduce inflammation … but so is honey. And the vinegar is there to kill bacteria, loosen phlegm (mmm!), and basically just make you appreciate how great it is to be well and not have to taste that stuff.

Oh, and hey, if you don’t have a spray bottle, no biggie — just use it to gargle.

With this unsuccessful success under my belt (because I know it would have been just fine without the salt), I set about making lozenges. I had my doubts that this would work, but I like an impossible project. And, as we’ve established numerous times before, I am always optimistic about all the wrong things.

Armed with a recipe from the Zero Waste Home book, I combined a half of a cup of honey, a tablespoon of lemon juice (okay, fine, I didn’t have lemon so I used lime) and a tablespoon of “strong tea.” In this case, it’s some sort of cold remedy tea that’s as old as my last illness. Also: I don’t even like tea. Those were some incredibly desperate times.

I boiled that on high for four minutes, stirring constantly because it seemed like the thing to do. I was looking for something “amber in color,” although consistency wasn’t mentioned. Fingers crossed, I removed it from the heat to “cool until it can be handled.” Actually, I just stuck it in the fridge, and by the time I remembered it was in there, it seemed to be quite congealed.

Here’s where our story starts to get sketchy. I used a couple of spoons to make “balls,” rolling in powdered sugar as suggested (not zero waste for me, as I can only find it in plastic bags) to make the drops. Then I was supposed to store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container filled with more powdered sugar.

I didn’t get that far:



Not only were they impossible to “roll” into balls, those I did manage to make into some sort of lozenge-looking thing quickly “spread” on the plate and were impossible to remove:

Well, I tried.

Well, I tried.

On the upside, I got to feel righteous — I knew this wouldn’t work! — but then I had to actually deal with the mess I’d made. Boring.

I kind of hated to waste that half cup of honey, so I just scooped it into a jar and tossed it in the fridge. It’s all powdered sugary, but I figure it can be stirred into cups of tea … for whenever the next cold strikes. Or whenever Johanna decides to make a cup to combat THIS cold.

Well, anyway, it was still fun, and I’m not sorry I tried. In defense of Bea’s recipe, I don’t have a candy thermometer. I can only imagine that would help the situation — you know, get it to candy stage or whatever.

One further lesson learned: When Johanna asked if she could try a similar technique to make homemade lollipops, I immediately said no. 😉

Next up: I’m ignoring my own sore throat — I AM NOT GETTING SICK — and am instead focusing on some bottles I’d like to reuse.

8 Responses to Zero waste DIY: Combating the common cold

  1. My husband the high school teacher (germs! laryngitis!) swears by a teaspoon (tablespoon?) of lemon juice, a spoon of honey and a piece of candied ginger in hot water. He drinks this be the gallon when he’s coming down with something, and often fends it off. I make the kids sleep with a humidifier when they have a cough.

    Good luck, and feel better!

    • I LOVE candied ginger and I can get it bulk. Totally going to try this over the weekend.

      We have humidifiers for the girls, too. Johanna’s is working overtime!

  2. If you have a blender or food processor, you can make your own powdered sugar just from white sugar! Powdered sugar is just more finely ground white sugar. And if you only need a little, a mortar and pestle works as well. I don’t use powdered sugar very often so discovering this was perfect for me to have one fewer thing in my pantry.

    • I tried this once and it didn’t work, but I didn’t have very much in my food processor and I wasn’t very patient. I’m going to try this too!

  3. Agh so glad you also tried and failed with lozenges! I did too, also refuse to purchase a candy thermometer as it seems contrary to zero waste and I can’t see me really needing one. Ah Bea

    • This makes me feel better! I’m not getting a candy thermometer either. This is the first time I needed one in all of my 44 years. ‘Cause you don’t need one for chocolate. 😉

  4. I’ve found candy thermometers at estate sales or second hand. They’re useful for making fudge at Christmas, and I really used it when I started making yogurt. It kept me from scorching my culture.

  5. Pingback: Worth it vs. not so much | The Simple Year

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