It’s my birthday, and I have a cold. It began as a subtle awareness that something different was happening; a little odd; not quite right. I was busy at the time — drafting a proposal, planting seeds and processing photographs — so the change was imperceptible at first and hard to identify. And then, like a gremlin sneaking around the corner, it showed itself in the light of day with a “Boo!” in the form of a tingling or burning sensation around the nose. And then, oh dear, the sore throat arrived, the kind that turns every swallow a conscious, painful, regrettable effort.

I’m not one to give up without a fight, so as soon as I realized that this cold was trying to grab me, I went on the offensive. I pushed the power button on the hot water teakettle and started brewing large batches of Echinacea and ginger tea. To each mugful I added a pinch of cayenne pepper and a teaspoon of honey.

Then I started making faces, like a lion. Now the Lion Pose is a posture, or asana, that’s well known in yoga circles, and that’s where I learned about it 40 years ago. When executed, it’s said to relieve stress, keep your eyes healthy, improve blood circulation to the face, and even reduce bad breath. Best of all, the Lion Pose helps prevent sore throat and sinus problems. More than once I’ve warded off a cold by drinking copious quantities of Echinacea and ginger tea and practicing the Lion Pose.

To execute the Lion Pose, it’s best done in the privacy of your home, lest someone think you’re mimicking a gargoyle. Kneel on the floor or sit on the couch. Keep your back nice and straight; no slouching. Then widen your palms by fanning out your fingers and rest them on your knees or your thighs.

Now for the dramatic part, which is fun and easy to follow, really: Drop your jaw and open your mouth as wide as possible. They stretch out your tongue and, if you can, curl its tip downward. Open your eyes wide, as if you just saw an apparition of your deceased grandmother, and focus your gaze toward the point between your eyebrows. Contract the muscles at the front of your throat and energize you hands by stretching and splaying your fingers further apart.

While holding this position, exhale slowly with a long--and loud--ahhhhh lion roar, then retract your tongue and relax your face and hands. See why I told you to do this at home?

I like to do the Lion Pose at the first hint of a cold, and continue through a cold if I’m not able to banish it. Which is what happened on my birthday.

Soon, the sinus pressure around my eyes began to build like a toothache, so I popped a couple aspirin and brought out the big guns: The Neti pot. If you’re one of the millions of Americans dealing with sinus problems (due to allergies, colds, whatever) then you know how miserable facial pain and clogged nasal passages can be. In recent years, people are turning to an increasingly popular therapy: irrigating their sinuses with a salt and water (saline) solution to flush out the nasal passages.

Enter the Neti pot, a ceramic or plastic pot that looks like a cross between a teapot and an Aladdin’s lamp. Before you squirm (or make a lion face) consider that nasal irrigation using the Neti pot (which is available in local stores) has been around for centuries. It’s just another example of we, in the civilized world, are finally getting around to embracing what others have known for a long time. As my sister-in-law says, “If you don’t do Neti, you’ll regretti.”

After all this, I as feeling some relief but couldn’t help wondering, “Am I missing something?” The thought “oregano tea” immediately sprang to mind.

I remembered that one of my Organic Gardening students, Nancy Castro, did a presentation about oregano tea last year as her final project. “Every time I got a sore throat, cough or the flu, my mother would made garlic tea which sounded worse than it actually tasted.

“The main ingredient is oregano, which is what makes it so powerful,” said Nancy. Oregano, which is one of the many herbs that grows well in Kodiak, is known to be a successful treatment for colds, sinus pressure and inflammation. “The tea has always brought positive results to myself and my family, as well as all the people my mom passed this recipe to.” Here is Nancy’s recipe for oregano tea:


1 cup water

A few slices of red onion

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon sweetener (honey, agave, or stevia) or to taste

A couple slices of fresh ginger (optional)

Bring water to a boil. To a glass container, add all ingredients, except lemon and sweetener. Pour in water, cover and let steep for about 20 minutes. Stir in lemon and pour into mug. “Take small sips and always drink it hot,” says Nancy, who admits that oregano tea might not give you the best smelling breath, but like her mother said, “If it doesn’t cure you it won’t hurt you either.”

Marion Owen’s 5-week organic gardening class at Kodiak College starts March 27. Register online: Connect with local gardeners on the Kodiak Growers or the Sustainable Kodiak Facebook page. Archived copies of Marion’s columns are posted at Contact Marion at

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