Colds and Flu Season:
It is almost "that" time
of year again, and you might be wondering if you will fall victim to that
"nasty bug" that always seems to be going around. Colds and flu
are both caused by viruses and they are both spread in a similar fashion,
by contact with secretions of the nose and mouth of an infected person.
Infection may occur through a handshake with a person who has just sneezed,
or being in the " line of fire" of a sneeze. Sources of viral
particles are as numerous as the viruses themselves; there are over one
hundred known rhinovirus strains, causing forty percent of all colds. In
the workplace, a computer keyboard or telephone can be a source, posing
a strong case for frequent hand washing and disinfection of items that come
in contact with hands and mouths. Colds usually manifest with a sore and
scratchy throat, nasal congestion, and general malaise, which usually subsides
in a few days. In contrast, influenza, or the flu, usually begins with a
fever and malaise, and can develop into a more serious disease like pneumonia.
Exposure to cold and damp conditions doesn't in fact, cause colds and flu,
but can contribute to a weakened physical condition, which makes one more
susceptible to viral or bacterial attack. Stress in any form can also weaken
Arming Yourself With A Holistic Approach
by Eva Urbaniak, N.D.
To understand what happens in illness is to explore the phenomenal innate
intelligence of the human body system. First of all, symptoms are the
body's way of calling our attention to something and putting us on "alert".
Mucus in the nose is the body's way of trying to expel the invading organism
and protect the membranes from further attack. But there are numerous
over-the-counter drugs specifically designed to dry up that mucus, which
may temporarily relieve the symptom, but prolong the illness. Fever is
also a way that the body attempts to kill a virus. But in order for a
fever to do its work, the body must be given rest, fluids, and proper
The "proper medicine" should address the symptoms, but also
aid and strengthen the system. In the case of colds and flu, the appropriate
remedies are anti-catarrhals (catarrh is the inflammation that usually
accompanies mucus production in infectious processes), anti-microbials
(anti-microbials help the body in resisting and/or destroying pathogenic
micro-organisms), diaphoretics (diaphoretics promote sweating, helping
the skin eliminate waste from the body), and hydrotherapy and aromatherapy
in the form of inhalation and bathing. Demulcents (demulcents soothe and
protect inflamed tissues) are also very beneficial in helping soften mucus,
and expectorants to help the body rid itself of excess mucus.
The plant kingdom offers natural answers to all of man's ills. Herbs can
be eaten or used as teas, tinctures, extracts of varying potencies, capsules,
tablets, and in homeopathic form. One of the more beautiful aspects of
herbal medicine is that usually if there are any other actions associated
with an herb, they are beneficial to other systems in the body; in other
words, they offer positive side effects. A good example of this is CAYENNE
PEPPER. Cayenne most assuredly is a diaphoretic, but is also a tonic,
an antiseptic, a carminative (easing digestion and expelling gas), and
a rubefacient, or circulatory stimulant.
This quality of bringing greater blood flow to an area makes CAYENNE
a powerful decongestant and anti-catarrhal, especially when taken in liquid
and held in the mouth for a few seconds. Its essential oil has the ability
to penetrate through the soft palate into the nasal and sinus cavities
bringing rapid relief for congestion. Some other herbs helpful in colds
and flu that just happen to also be culinary herbs are GARLIC, GINGER,
and ROSEMARY. GARLIC is a natural anti-biotic, and anti-viral, hypotensive
(lowers blood pressure), anthelmintic (expels worms), anti-fungal and
diaphoretic, it is simply a miracle herbal food. In fact, probably the
only negative aspect of GARLIC is the lingering aroma, which seems to
come through the pores of the skin. GINGER has similar properties, but
can also relieve sore throats. ROSEMARY tea is carminative, aromatic,
anti-spasmodic, anti-depressive, antiseptic, rubefacient, and anthelmintic.
ROSEMARY can help in the depression and muscular pain of the flu.
An excellent herbal tea for colds consists of ELDER FLOWER, PEPPERMINT
and YARROW in equal parts. The tea should be drunk at least three times
per day and as hot as possible. Drinking herb teas assures adequate fluid
intake and is quite soothing. If fever is also present, BONESET can be
added to the tea. The name BONESET evolved for this herb, EUPATORIUM perfoliatum,
in the last century when it was used as a cure during a flu epidemic.
Settlers called it Breakbone Fever because of the severe muscular and
neurological pain which accompanied the flu.
ECHINACEA and GOLDENSEAL bear mentioning and already are quite well known
and popular immune system builders. GOLDENROD is also a wonderful combination
colds and flu remedy. Demulcents play an important role in soothing membranes
and softening mucus. Some popular demulcents are MARSHMALLOW, MULLEIN,
SLIPPERY ELM, and OATS. HYSSOP, ELECAMPANE, COLTSFOOT and LICORICE are
excellent expectorants. MULLEIN and MARSHMALLOW are both demulcents and
expectorants. If a nagging cough is present, WILD CHERRY BARK tincture
is an effective anti-tussive.
Inhalation therapy, breathing steam from a pot with eucalyptus oil can
be very helpful in relieving congestion. Hot sea salt baths with lavender
oil or oil of bergamot can be very relaxing and soothing.
A diet that is non-mucus producing is strongly recommended, which means
avoiding dairy products, meat, flour products, and sugar in all its forms.
One should eat whole grains and cereals, seeds, fresh vegetables and fruits,
and a lot of raw garlic. Vitamin supplementation, especially with vitamin
C ensures a speedy recovery. Sunlight and fresh air are also important
components of healthy living. If after trying any of the above mentioned
remedies, symptoms have not subsided, please visit your naturopathic physician
or health care professional.
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