My cough, sore throat, sneezing, and congestion began last September with a little strep infection. I went to see my primary care physician (who is wonderful, by the way, so call me if you need one) early in the process. She looked at me quizzically and asked me where I might have been exposed to a streptococcal infection, since I do not work with children. I do, however, work with adults who work with children. At any rate, the antibiotic took the strep out in a couple of days. Modern medicine is a wonder when combined with a caring, conscientious, thorough physician.
But the cough lingered. It even caused a disruption of domestic tranquility when I would cough at night, inflicting the sudden noise on my wife's sensitive hearing and scaring the cats from their sleeping perches. My cough overpowered the surround sound on the television. Something had to be done.
I tried the usual over-the-counter remedies, such as guaifenesin and dextromethorphan, designed to liquefy secretions and suppress the cough, respectively. You can pay extra for Mucinex or you can find these as generics, but they usually do the trick. They didn't.
Somewhere during all this suffering, I was at Wynn's pharmacy where I overheard that one of the pharmacists, Annette, administered a concoction of two essential oils to one of the other pharmacists with a chronic cough. The cough-afflicted pharmacist was an admitted skeptic of this approach. Nevertheless, he submitted to a regimen of essential oils. Desperation sometimes influences judgment or inspires change in philosophy like that.
Imagine his surprise when his cough resolved within a couple of days! Adding to the strength of the testimonial was the fact that it was the skeptic himself who told me this story. He told me the whole story with facial expression and a shrug that communicated his reluctant acceptance of truth.
Despite this, I continued to suffer in anything but silence with a chronic cough, sometimes audible from Orchard Hill. Diane wanted me to warn her before every cough, but sometimes that is not fully reasonable. Sometimes this life-saving reflex just comes on you, making you a victim as well. And the cats ran for their lives whenever I took a deep breath in anticipation of some kind of respiratory explosion.
And so it was in desperation in late December I went to the pharmacy. Annette was not there, but Melissa, a pharmacy assistant, knew all the particulars of the essential oil therapy. "I'm ready," I announced, and explained my situation between coughs. I was acquiescing. It was a little like walking the aisle at church to the approval of the congregation.
My instructions were to mix three drops of tea tree oil and two drops of eucalyptus oil in a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil. I was to rub the mixture into the bottom of a foot (where the skin is quite porous) twice daily. She also outfitted me with a small nebulizer so that I could put the same ratio of essential oils into the ambient air. She wrote the instructions down carefully and handed them to me.
"Will I need some lizard tails? Maybe some hair from a black cat? I have one at home," I quipped. My reference to witchcraft was made in humor, and thankfully received that way. I did tell Melissa that if this worked, she would read about this in The Grip.
It turns out that tea tree oil, also known as Melaleuca, has been used topically for skin infections. It has been shown to kill methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the so-called flesh eating bacterium. It is used with acne, athletes' foot, and other stubborn infections.
Eucalyptus oil has been used as an antiseptic, antibiotic, anti-spasmodic, and anti-inflammatory. Its specific use in respiratory ailments includes asthma, bronchitis, and non-bacterial sinusitis. It may also dilate blood vessels, which improves circulation of white blood cells to fight infection naturally. It has been known to alleviate the symptoms of tuberculosis and pneumonia with simply rubbing it on the chest and back.
I went home and followed the instructions. I measured a teaspoon of olive oil and added my two ingredients. Quickly, expecting something miraculous, I rubbed the concoction on the bottom of my foot. It was probably well absorbed because my foot was warm and sweaty. I set up the nebulizer and turned it on. The air was filled with aromatic relief. I built an impressive fire in the fireplace and sat back in my chair with some reinforced egg nog (it was Christmas season).
I consider myself an evidence-based practitioner, which means research guides my clinical decisions. This led me to the same skepticism the pharmacist mentioned above had just before he quit coughing. No doubt, this compounded my surprise when I, too, quit coughing by the next day.
My conclusions from this episode are (1) efficacy of a clinical approach is not affected by the length of its history; (2) natural trumps artificial in many, if not most cases; (3) one should stay very close to one's pharmacist.
So, here it is, Melissa. Thanks to my pharmacists, all of them, at Wynn's and beyond. You are invaluable.