Naturopathic old-timers consider that a cold or flu once a year is quite a good way to eliminate toxins from the body.
Certainly, there is a difference between the 'good' cold, where symptoms progress rapidly from sore throat to drippy nose, all over in a few days, and the 'bad' kind that persists and escalates to become bronchitis, sinusitis or even pneumonia. Though they are both viral infections, colds tend to be affairs of the upper respiratory tract, while a flu is felt all over the body, with muscular aches and pains and often fever. Cold symptoms are usually less severe and less persistent than flu. Treatment is similar for both conditions.
In many cases, a cold or flu is a signal from the body to let us know we need rest. Have you ever noticed that you tend to get a cold during or at the end of a stressful period? If we take heed of this eloquent request for a couple of days in bed, the cold will resolve itself easily and quickly, and resources of both mind and body will have time to recuperate. Unfortunately, most of us battle on with an arsenal of nasal sprays, decongestants, cough syrups and pills, refusing to take so much as an afternoon off.
I believe there is a 'window' of opportunity in which we can avoid getting a cold or flu. This window is literally hours long. Most of us know our own particular 'uh oh....I'm getting a cold' set of symptoms. They may include feeling a wave of fatigue, sneezing, tickling at the back of the throat. The moment you feel these signs is the time to act, wait a few hours and virus will have taken hold. If you are able to catch it in time, take large doses of natural remedies such as Echinacea, Andrographis and Vitamin C.
- Viruses abound in the air we breathe, yet not everybody catches a cold when it's doing the rounds. It is usually only when our immune system is already run down that we become vulnerable.
What To Do
- 'Feed a cold and starve a fever' is an old proverb that has been misinterpreted in the past to encourage eating voraciously during a cold and abstaining from food only during a fever. However, the saying originally meant: don't feed a cold, and you won't get a fever.
- Fasting, or eating very little during any short-term illness, is old wisdom and still valid. If we took our cue from the animal kingdom we would fast through the days of fever and flu, but, we've lost this intuitive response to illness. Appetite will return as soon as your body is ready to digest more solid sustenance. However, it is important to consume plenty of fluids.
- 'If you have a cold build a fire in your stomach', is a wise Chinese saying. Ginger, chilli, garlic and horseradish are all traditional 'warming' remedies which will speed you through a cold or flu.
- Soup is good but avoid those based on cream, cheese or milk. Make a broth from vegetable, fish, chicken or beef stock, add vegetables, onions, beans and garlic and you have a couple of days' worth of nourishing and healing food. Maimonides, a respected 12th century physician, recommended chicken soup for a cold. It's no surprise that Maimonides was Jewish, and was probably passing on his bubbe's (Bub-beh, Yiddish for grandmother) favourite recipe. Chilli hot soups such as the Thai favourite, tom yum, is also a good warming soup.
- Drink copious quantities of fluid... about three litres daily. Fluids, especially if they're hot and clear, help to mobilise the lymphatic system which carries white blood cells, and to thin out mucus, whichtends to become infected if it thickens up
- A magic brew is my (Hot Cold Tea).In your favourite teapot or plunger, combine the juice of one lemon and add half of the lemon rind, chopped up, half a stick of cinnamon, half a bunch of fresh thyme, 3cm of fresh ginger root grated, and two or three teaspoons of honey. Add boiling water and stand for 5 minutes.
- If you have nasturtiums growing in your garden, gather the leaves and a few flowers and add to a salad.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol swells the mucous lining of the nasal passages and bronchial tissue, exacerbating inflammation.
- Milk and milk products, especially milk and yellow cheese, usually increase mucus during a cold, so avoid them during this time.
- Avoid sugar. Studies have shown that within a few minutes of sugar consumption lymphocyte activity is reduced markedly. Lymphocytes are major players in the immune system. Sugar also tends to increase mucus. A little raw honey is better and soothes a sore throat.
Herbs and Supplements
- (See Sniffle)
The beauty of natural remedies as opposed to the often prescribed antibiotics is that they enhance the body's natural ability to fight the infection, building up your resistance to disease in the future.
- Drinking herbal tisanes containing Echinacea and ginger will help treat a cold and also can be taken as part of a prevention campaign.
- Vitamin C not only reduces the signs and symptoms of the common cold, but helps you to avoid them in the first place. Take 1 gram of vitamin C every two waking hours. If you develop flatulence or diarrhoea (the signs of overdoing vitamin C), reduce the dose to 250-500 mg two-hourly.
- Vitamin A plays an essential role in maintaining all mucous membrane surfaces such as the lungs and throat areas, which becomesore and inflamed during coughs and colds. Vitamin A also has been shown to stimulate and enhance numerous immune processes.
- Cod liver oil contains vitamin A; take one or two cod liver oil capsules daily throughout the flu season.
- Zinc and vitamin C lozenges soothe an inflamed throat, and boost immunity.
- Sucking on propolis lozenges is good if there is an infection of the tonsils or throat.
- The herb echinacea is one of the best herbs for stimulating immunity and treating the effects of a cold or flu. If you can take a dose the moment you feel symptoms of a cold, you might just keep it at bay. Otherwise, take echinacea throughout a cold to minimise symptoms.
- The herb Astragalus is a lovely herb to boost the immune system, take it with a combinatio of Echinacea, C and zinc in the pre-cold time or when you are under stress to prevent illness.
- Andrographis is 'the' herb to use in an acute infection. Brillian for reducing symptoms and if you get to it in time, may stop the progression of the virus.
- The homoeopathic remedy Allium cepa is very good for colds where there is a lot of clear, runny mucus.
- Garlic, either raw or in supplement form, helps the immune system and is excellent for clearing mucus from lungs, nose and sinuses.
- Yarrow and boneset are two herbs which are particularly good for the flu. They are diaphoretic, meaning they increase body temperature and encourage perspiration. Increasing body temperature during infection is a treatment that goes back hundreds of years. The principle behind the 'sweat it out' theory is that an increase in body temperature by a degree or two Celsius is thought to slow down the rate at which viruses replicate. Heat also revs up action in immune cells.
- Don't attempt your normal exercise program. A short walk in the sunshine or a couple of stretches is all that is necessary while you have a cold. Some people go for a jog on the 'sweat it out' theory already mentioned, but vigorous exercise is recommended only for the very early or very late stages. Remember, your body is trying its hardest to get you to rest; cancel the triathlon.
- A sauna or steam bath also increases body temperature but again is recommended only for the very early or fading stages of a cold, as it can be very draining. A few drops of eucalyptus oil in the steam bath, or thrown with some water on the hot sauna rocks will help clear nose and throat, and bring healing to the lungs. Have a sauna only if your body craves the heat, otherwise it will sap your strength. Wrap up warmly afterwards and hop straight into bed.
- Vicks Vaporub is a decongestant that holds a place of honour in most Australian cupboards, as it makes an excellent inhalation base. Place a blob of it in a basin of boiling hot water, inhale the vapours deeply and feel how much more easily you can breathe. Rub Vicks on your chest, back, under your nose and even the soles of the feet before bed.
- Strangely, a hot foot bath will take congestion away from the head. Dissolve two teaspoons of hot mustard or chilli powder in a little water, then add to a bucket or basin of tolerably hot water. Soak your feet in this for about 15 minutes, rinse well, put some woolly socks on, then go back to bed.
- Inverted postures, to which the yogis are so partial, improve immunity... probably by stimulating the thymus gland (located in the chest) and the lymphatic system. 'Inverted' means a position where the legs are higher than the heart... a very restorative posture. If you are in the throes of a cold, the only inverted posture you are likely to cope with is lying with your legs up the wall. To boost your immunity against colds and flu, practise the inverted postures regularly.
- An old Chinese proverb tells of colds that enter the body at the back of the neck, via the wind. Good advice: wear a scarf.
- The fastest way to turn a 'good' cold into a 'bad' one is to refuse to rest. Learn to accept that a cold is your body's way of telling you to slow down and rest in bed. Give yourself time to regenerate and contemplate. If you cannot completely surrender to the cold because of unavoidable responsibilities, then try to minimise your workload and ask for support.
At a glance
- Food to eat
- Hot clear soups, ginger, garlic, onions, nasturtiums and chilli.
- Food to avoid
- Milk, cheese, sugar.
- Remedies to begin
- Hot Cold Tea, vitamins A and C, zinc or propolis lozenges, garlic, echinacea. Mustard or chilli footbath.
- Keep warm, go home and go to bed. Have a sauna at beginning and end.
- Do you need time out? Have you been pushing too hard? Do you have some issue or situation that needs time to reflect on? For those who find it hard to show their feelings, a cold might be the body's way of letting out tears and unexpressed sadness.