A Cure for the Common Cold





Introduction: A Cure for the Common Cold

About: I am a paper engineer, writer, maker and chemist wannabe. In addition to pop-up cards I design and build furniture, lights, costumes or whatever I happen to need at the time. Lipstick, a mixing studio, all-p...

Growing up, my father, a pediatrician, almost never prescribed anything to us beyond plenty of fluid, perhaps an aspirin (nowadays it would be ibuprofen), a hot bath and bed. For soar throats he made us gargle salt water, and when we complained about that unpleasant treatment he administered a warm tablespoon with equal parts of honey, lemon juice and whiskey. It might not have had much physiological effect, but it always made us feel better. Taking action was empowering, and the whiskey just made it way cool, plus it tasted just disgusting enough to feel like medicine.

Years have gone by, and I've recently come up with something much better. OK, now is the time to confess that the title of this instructable is a bit of an exaggeration; this recipe won't actually cure the common cold (or the flu) but it will make you feel a whole lot better for a while. Don't eat these! They are bath melts, designed to dramatically enhance the natural relaxing power of hot water. Make them in anticipation of the bad days or whip up a batch for a sick acquaintance -- you will get a friend for life.

Step 1: Ingredients and Materials

1/3 cup baking soda
7 1/2 tsp citric acid
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 oz mango butter (approx 1/3 cup)
1/8 tsp peppermint essential oil
1/4 tsp eucalyptus essential oil
1/8 tsp lavender essential oil
Scented bath salts (optional -- scent the salt with the above essential oil)

Double boiler (or small metal pot which can sit in a larger pot of simmering water)
Ice cube tray or small candy molds

Glass jar with airtight seal or plastic ziplock bags.

Notes on ingredients:

Citric acid can be found in the kosher section of supermarkets under the name "sour salt." In Brooklyn, New York, Sahadi's on Atlantic Avenue carries for $4 a pound it but they call it "lemon salt." Apparently it can also be found at brewers supplies stores. I've also seen it in regular supermarkets (if you call Garden of Eden regular) with their other spices and even at a cake supply store (but it costs MUCH more when they sell it in those tiny spice jars). If all else fails, buy a large stash online and make borsh, bath bombs and dishwashing detergent as well as alka selzer. You'll find it at other places too, but this site carries it.

Mango butter is an oil which is solid at room temperature. It is extracted from mango pits. It is softer than cocoa butter and its smell is milder than either cocoa or shea butter. It also works better for bath melts like this one than either of those butters. Besides the smell issue cocoa is too hard, and shea, for some reason, always makes the citric acid and soda combination fizz up prematurely. Since mango butter is fairly expensive I thought I might be able to extract some butter from the mangos I eat -- and failed miserably. I tried dunking the seed (after removing the tough hull) in the bath and scratching it, I tried grinding it up and pressing it in a garlic press, but I only got a dirty bathtub and a dark brown bitter liquid, not the creamy pale yellow butter to be used in cosmetics. Apparently only 15% of the seed is butter, so I would need many more than the handful of seeds I used, and industrial means of extraction to get at it. I've never found it locally, but plenty of online suppliers (including the citric acid vendor above) will be happy to ship it to you wherever you live.

Essential oils can be found in health food stores (even though you are not supposed to eat them!), and there are many online sources too. Essential oils are very concentrated and they need to be handled with caution. Use in a well ventilated area or risk getting a headache. Always dilute with a carrier oil (otherwise known as regular oil, the type you cook with) before putting on your skin. Essential oils are volatile, and they will quickly loose their fragrance when they are heated. This is why they are always added to recipes after the mixture has cooled.

Step 2: Instructions

If you are using scented bath salt to decorate the melts, put about 1/2 tsp of the colored salt at the bottom of each cavity in your ice cube tray or candy mold.

Melt mango butter in a double boiler. Set aside to cool, but do not allow it to solidify (if you mix in the dry ingredients when the oil is too hot, it may fizz -- but obviously if the butter has solidified completely you won't be able to mix the ingredients together).

Combine dry ingredients and add them to melted butter. Mix in the essential oils.

Spoon into an ice cube tray -- about 1 1/2 tsp per cube.

If you sprinkled the bottom of your molds with salt, put in freezer for 30 minutes before popping out of the mold.

If you'd like to make balls rather than molded shapes, cool in fridge for 30 minutes and scoop out of mold with a small spoon. Form it into a ball with your hands. At this point you can roll them in colored scented bath salts, or just leave them as they are.

This will keep almost indefinitely in a sealed glass jar in the fridge, but make sure you label it properly!

Step 3: Take a Bath

Run a hot bath, as hot as you can stand it, with as much water as the tub can hold. When you're feeling rotten you just have to relax your water and energy conservation standards a bit... Dim the lights or even better, use candles. Put a large glass of selzer within easy reach, and lower yourself into the water. Drop one of these magical treats into the tub and watch it fizz as it melts... You can also rub it against your neck and chest as it's melting. Close your eyes.... Relax.... Don't you fell better already?

This recipe, along with many many others, is part of a book I'm working on called Make Anything, a handbook for saving money, living green and having fun with trash.

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    I find lavender great for relaxing myself, and there is also an oil called thieves, that was used around the time of a plague that thieves would use to protect them selves from getting the disease when they would loot bodies, and at one point their secret was found out. So Thieves is very good for protecting against viruses, and for getting over them.

    I would totally do that right now because i have a cold, but i'm allergic eucalyptus. Are there any different oils that could replace the eucalyptus oil?

    1 reply

    Eucalyptus is great for colds but you can just leave it out if you're allergic. If you'd like you can replace it with rosemary or thyme, which should be helpful too. Or tea tree oil, but personally I hate the smell so I wouldn't use it. I only saw this comment today, so I hope by now you don't have a cold anymore and don't need this (though you can make it in advance for next time, or as a gift).

    I really missed this one! When I move I am making this! I probably won't find the mango butter here and I don't shop online. I did not know citric acid was called sour salt! This is good to know. Thanks so much for sharing your hard work and do have a splendorous day!

    2 replies

    You might have some difficulty finding mango butter locally... even citric acid can be tricky to find, and usually super expensive if you're getting it from the spice rack. You can try using cocoa butter or shea butter instead of the mango butter (they are usually available in local stores) but I find them harder to use, for some reason the mixture tends to fizz more while you're making it (therefor it will fizz less when you're using it). Could have something to do with the melting temperature. You have a good day too, and hope you won't NEED these...

    Thanks! I hope I don't need them either. I am pretty sure I can find the ingredients when I move. If not there I am sure where my son lives he can find them for me. I love bath bombs!

    great tips...thanks so much. natural "cures" treat the whole person, not just the symptoms...the mind and body being relaxed and rested helps in the healing...so feeling better is a great start at getting better...love this thanks again.

    I pretty psyched about these. I'd like to try out the recipe sometime soon... thanks! :)

    It took me until the last step to figure out that these were for baths and not for eating... I think I need to skim less and read more. :D

    5 replies

    "It's not you, it's me"-- I need to improve the intro text to make it more obvious. Thanks for the feedback!

    What else would you do?

    When I first wrote the instructable it wasn't clear from the start that these were for melting in the tub -- so some people thought these were for eating. Now that I corrected my text I guess it's this comment thread which is confusing!

    Oh okay. Great Instructable!

    woah i was thinking they were for eating i was about to eat thease

    Wow! You are one good friend to share your time and skills to help people in your life get well-and now you shared it with this community. Right on. Thanks!

    1 reply

    Sharing with the community is the best part!

    Doesn't cheap baking Soda have aluminum in it. Doesn't aluminum end up in you brain an you get Alzheimer's. I know antiperspirants have aluminum in it and that's a no no. Not sure what the safest one is. Maybe its Bob's Red Mill.

    3 replies

    You are confusing baking soda and baking powder. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, and it never contains aluminum. As an aside, the whole aluminum/Alzheimer's connection was just a hypothesis posed during the 1960s, and it has been proven false since then. Here's just one link out of many articles you can find on the subject. Of course you will always find opposing views on the web, but if you stick to the "real" sites (medical associations as opposed to vendors or activists sites) you will find they are pretty much in agreement over this. But even if you still want to avoid aluminum compounds, you can go ahead and use this recipe. No aluminum here.

    Thanks belsey,
    I stand corrected.......on the soda powder thing, anyway.

    Thanks for clearing up that Aluminum/Alzheimer myth!