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There’s never really a good time to get sick, but I suppose the end of a vacation is as good a time as any.  After all, I usually get a cold once a year, especially if I’m in school, and it usually hits at the end of a stressful period, saddling me with a stuffy vacation on the couch.

This year I managed to get sick at the end of my break, which meant that I didn’t have to punch out two full exams (Physiology and Immunology) with a head full of fog like last year and I was also able to enjoy the majority of my vacation; stuffing my face with the family and then snowboarding it all off in Quebec for a week.


Thankfully, this time, my cold hit me after all the holiday festivities were over, which meant that I was granted the pleasure of sitting around the house in my pajamas reading a book from my Christmas stash (Bel Canto by Ann Patchett) and watching Disney movies on VHS.

Another plus is that a cold is a sign that your immune system is working so I also have the satisfaction of knowing that I haven’t been severely immunocompromised from four months of CCNM stress.

However, in the fog of my impending viral sinusitis, I started to reflect on my 3 semesters of naturopathic education. Practically every day we’re thrown tasty tidbits of healing, many of them directed at home care.  The problem of sifting through the volume of information we have is that it’s often hard to call upon when needed.  Another difficult factor to overcome is the issue of self-care.

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In my opinion, it’s much harder to make rational decisions about how to heal yourself than others.  After all, isn’t that why psychiatrists all need their own psychiatrist?  I often find that when I’m suffering from some kind of healing crisis – anything from a viral infection to a migraine – I can never conjure up an appropriate remedy to manage my symptoms and often feel like regressing back to my over-the-counter knowledge of Big Pharma for the solution.

Such was my dilemma with this cold.  What could I give myself? What did I have around the house that I wouldn’t have to go out and buy (after all, everyone and their grandparents knows about ColdFX)?

So, while sipping on my Feeling Revitalized tea from President’s Choice, which I’m surprised to say has astragalus root, ginger, and ginseng, I remembered a little healing gem from our first-year hydrotherapy class: wet socks.


Yes, that’s right, a wet, cold sock treatment is just what the naturopath orders for a head cold.  Before you do what my mom did and say “wet socks?” allow me to explain.


Hydrotherapy is largely about directing circulation to certain areas of the body through the application of hot and cold (usually in the form of water).  Simply put, hot increases blood flow to an area and cold does the opposite.  By applying cold to our feet while we sleep at night, we move blood away from our feet towards the upper body, increasing circulation there.

Then, to warm up the feet, our body increases overall circulation.  This increase in circulation helps to stimulate the immune system, clears sinuses and the upper respiratory tract, eases pain and helps sedate us, which provides a more restful night’s sleep.  And you thought only Advil Cold and Sinus could do that!


Here’s How To Do It

hydrotherapy, how to clear congestion

Materials Needed

  • one pair of thin socks (preferably made of a natural, breathable fiber like bamboo or cotton)
  • one pair of thick, wool socks


  1. Place the thin socks in icy, cold water and wring them out to prevent dripping.
  2. Put the thin, cold socks on your feet (the sensation of cold, wet socks on your feet is not the most pleasant in the world, but you can easily learn to suck it up when you experience the treatment benefits).
  3. Put the dry, wool socks over top of the cold, wet, thin socks.
  4. Then wear those socks while you sleep.

In my experience, the socks, which at first felt uncomfortable, began to give me a secure, grounding sensation.  I slept without congestion and was surprised with how fast my body warmed up my feet.  When I woke up eight hours later, the socks were completely dry.

During a typical night with a cold, I can get through an entire box of Kleenex.  Last night, thanks to my Sock Therapy, my Kleenex count was a solid one (that’s tissues, not boxes).  I slept soundly and peacefully and woke the next morning feeling energetic and ready to enjoy the last days of my vacation, cold or no cold!

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Contributor to The Hearty Soul.