Colds and flu, both viral infections often occur when too much going is on in our lives. Rest, relaxation and nourishment help us be more resistant. Viruses enter the body through the respiratory tract and attach to cells lining the nose, throat and bronchial tubes. Exposure to cold, damp, wind and rapid temperature change can make us more susceptible. Colds manifest slowly with cough, nasal congestion and sore throat, usually without fever. Flu comes on more suddenly with fever, sore muscles, fatigue and cough. Either can cause discomfort preventing sleep, leaving one exhausted. These ailments can last from a few days to about a week, but can progress into bronchitis, strep throat or asthma if not properly treated.
The sooner one takes action against infection, the easier to minimize it’s effects. We are most contagious twenty four hours before the symptoms manifest. When infected, stay home to rest and avoid infecting others.
Mucus production is an att to wash viruses out of cells and coughing clears the mucus and viruses out of the body. Fever causes the body to heat up and destroy infection.
Drinking lots of fruit juices can cause sugar overload and the acidity of orange and grapefruit juice may further irritate a sore throat. Diluted lemon in hot water or berry juices can help relieve fever. Minimize dairy and wheat products for a few days to curb mucus production. Foods beneficial during illness include miso-vegetable soup, applesauce with cinnamon and winter squash. These foods are easy to eat, when you need some nourishment, but have no appetite. Broccoli, cabbage, carrots, mustard greens, parsnips and turnips are antioxidant rich.
Many herbs help relieve colds and flu. Antiseptic herbs help inhibit microbial growth. Diaphoretic herbs promote sweating and the release of toxins. Expectorants facilitate the removal of phlegm. Febrifuges lower fever. Here are some important herbal allies.
When high fever is of concern, boneset ( Eupatorium perfoliatum ) is an important immune stimulant and one of the most effective herbs for due to its diaphoretic properties. It is extremely bitter so tincture or capsules is a good method of ingestion. Honeysuckle flowers( Lonicera japonica ) cool fever by stimulating perspiration and clearing infection. Yarrow leaf and flower ( Achillea millefolium ) reduces fever through diaphoresis and is antiseptic. Peppermint leaf ( Mentha piperita ) promotes sweating, has antiviral properties and is gentle enough for children.
When nausea accompanies an illness, ginger root ( Zingiber officinale ) warms chills, fights infection and alleviates stomach distress. Peppermint is also beneficial.
Soothing a sore throat can be aided by licorice root ( Glycyrrhiza glabra ) which soothes irritated mucus membranes and stimulates interferon production. Marshmallow root ( Althaea officinalis ) soothes inflamed mucus membranes including sore throat. Osha root ( Ligusticum porterii ) relieves respiratory congestion and improves immunity as well as helping sore throat pain.
Herbs can help fight infection by stimulating white blood cell production and by their direct antiseptic properties. Cayenne pepper ( Capsicum frutescens ) is rich in vitamin C, warms chills and improves congestion. Echinacea root ( Echinacea purpurea ) stimulates T cell, macrophage and interferon activity. Garlic ( Allium sativum ) dilates bronchioles improving congestion and chest colds and is considered an herbal antibiotic. Isatis root ( Isatis tinctoria ) is a powerful remedy for deep seated infection. It’s high polysaccharide content stimulates phagocytosis. Usnea lichen ( Usnea barbata ) acts as a wide spectrum herbal antibiotic. Myrrh resin( Commiphora myrrha ) increases white blood cell motility and facilitates mucus drainage.
Herbs can help relieve congestion. Sage leaf ( Salvia officinalis ) dries excessive mucus secretions thus improving colds, congestion, fever, flu, sore throat and tonsillitis. Thyme leaf ( Thymus vulgaris ) expels phlegm and relieves congestion. It is antiseptic and an immune stimulant.
Elderberry ( Sambucus nigra ) can minimize the duration of flu symptoms including catarrh, chills, headache and respiratory infection. In a double blind study done in Israel by Dr. Mumcuoglu in 1992 -1993, forty flu patients were tested, some getting elderberry syrup, the others a placebo. After twenty-four hours, those receiving the elderberry reported relief from fever, muscle pain and cough. After another day, 73 percent showed improvement and by the third day an amazing 90 percent felt relief of their maladies. Those receiving the placebo had only 16 percent show improvement with the rest of them taking a week before flu symptoms abated. Elderberry syrup is also delicious!
Chinese patent formulas can be effective in treating colds and flu. Yin Chiao is for the onset on infection with fever, sore muscles, chills, dry cough and sore throat. Gan Mao Ling is for cold and flu with symptoms of fever, sore throat, swollen glands and muscular stiffness.
Vitamin C stimulates antibody response. Regular use can prevent colds before they happen. Vitamin A and/ or beta carotene strengthen the mucus membranes making them more resistant to infection. Zinc, especially in the form of lozenges helps prevent viral replication in the throat by stimulating T-cell response. Propolis, a substance produced by bees from tree resins helps fight infection and can be sucked in lozenges.
Homeopathic remedies also help colds and flu. Consult with a homeopath or select the a remedy that most closely resembles symptoms. Two commonly successful remedies include:
- Allium cepa is the homeopathic remedy of choice for watery light sensitive eyes and raw nostrils. When accompanied by sneezing, thirst, headache, laryngitis and sore throat this can bring relief.
- Anas barbariae is a homeopathic remedy for the onset of flu symptoms, nasal discharge or congestion, chills, ear and frontal sinus pain. It is available in health food stores under the name of Oscillococcinum.
Soaking in a hot bath to which a cup of Epsom salts and 7 drops of essential oil of eucalyptus or ginger can promote sweating release of toxins. This can be done while sipping some diaphoretic herbs in the tub such as elder flower and ginger. Afterwards dress warm and rest.
An aromatherapy diffuser in a sick person’s home can prevent other household members from getting sick and clear the congested person’s sinuses. Essential oils to use include eucalyptus, juniper, lavender, marjoram, peppermint, pine, rosemary, sage and tea tree. Avoid excessive exercise, however walking can improve metabolism, open nasal passages and stimulate endorphin production. Rest after walking.
During recovery time, rent some funny movies. Laughter can help boost immunity. Take time to rest. Be grateful that your body is telling you to slow down and take better care of yourself.