Common Cold and Flu – Are You Ready for It?
Herbs, Nutrition, Homeopathy, and More!
by Dr. Ranvir Pahwa, PhD
Cold and flu (influenza)—two words we all know. For some, it becomes an issue of fear, but others do not care. The change of season brings a change in temperature and for some it provides a breeding ground of germs (bacteria and viruses). If one’s immunity is low, the germs win the fight. However, not all colds are bacterial or viral. There may be more secretion of phlegm in some people brought about by condensation in the environment and/or due to an incorrect diet that triggers congestion in the body.
In North America, cold and flu season lasts from November to March, and it results in tens of thousands of hospitalizations and many people die each year. Children have the highest influenza rates, and their contact spreads the flu infection to adults. Moreover, one must understand the differences and similarities between cold and influenza symptoms.
Cold: Fevers and headaches are rare; there are slight aches and pains, fatigue, and weakness is mild; stuffy nose, sneezing, and sore throat is common; may have some chest discomfort and a hacking cough. Additionally, sinus congestion and earaches may occur.
Flu: High fever (100º–102ºF/37.8º–38.8ºC) that lasts three to four days, headaches, body aches and pains are prominent; fatigue and weakness can last up to two to three weeks. Sometimes you may notice a stuffy nose, sneezing, and sore throat; chest discomfort is common and can become severe. However, with complications one may end up with bronchitis and/or pneumonia that can be life threatening.
There is more risk associated with elderly people, and they should be proactive in supporting their immune system by taking natural products. Prevention and early treatments are both available as natural medicine. For example:
Elderberry (sambucus) is an antiviral herb, often used for colds and flu. It destroys the viruses, reduces fevers; helpful in sinusitis, sore throat, and nasal catarrh. It enhances bronchial secretion.
Another well-known plant is echinacea, which possesses antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. It is used for colds and upper respiratory infections. It is an immunomodulator and stimulates white cell production, increases phagocytosis (eating away germs) by working through cell-mediated immunity activating T-lymphocytes, macrophages, and natural killer NK cells.
Astragalus is a Chinese herb that boosts immunity, stimulates natural killer cells, augments T-cell functions, and increases interferon production, which shortens the duration of colds. Additionally, golden seal herb is known as the “king of mucous membrane” as it tonifies mucous membranes. It is also antiviral and antibacterial, and is used for postnasal drip, sinusitis, and sore throat singly or in combination with echinacea.
Echinacea and golden seal give the immune system a boost and can be used as a throat spray or gargle.
Oregano oil, possessing antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, is useful for common colds. Moreover, clove oil, which also has antimicrobial properties, offers benefits through its numbing effect on the throat. Both oils can be used as a throat spray or as gargles.
Ayurvedic Herbs: In Ayurveda, commonly recommended herbs for colds and flu are turmeric, holy basil, licorice, black pepper, and ashwagandha. Turmeric is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. Its tea is used as gargle for a sore throat and can be administered orally (powder, pills, capsules, and tinctures) during infections. Additionally, holy basil, possessing antimicrobial and anti-fever action, is used in colds and flu. Gargles with boiled basil leaf water have a soothing effect on a sore throat. Licorice sooths mucous membranes and has antiviral properties.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that boosts immunity and has anti-fatigue action. In India, holy basil, licorice, black pepper, and ashwagandha are combined to make a tea for winter colds.
Nutrition: One must consider optimal nutrition during the cold and flu season. Research indicates that deficient vitamin D status is associated with an increased risk of respiratory viral infections. Vitamin D boosts the immune system. Zinc and vitamin C supplementation helps to shorten the duration of common cold symptoms. Adding probiotics (friendly bacteria) may help to lower the incidences of respiratory tract infections. Vitamin B complex can be taken to fight fatigue and boost energy.
Homeopathic Remedies: In homeopathy aconite, allium cepa, euphrasia, belladonna, eupatorium, baptisia, bryonia, rhus tox, and mercurius sol are commonly recommended remedies in colds and flu based on the symptoms. However, remedies like drosera, ipecacuannha, rumex, spongia, antimonium tartericum, corallium rubrum, hyoscyamus, and lachesis are useful for the relief of different kinds of coughs. One must consult a homeopath before administering homeopathic remedies. As symptoms change, the homeopathic remedy changes.
During travel, add to your bag, echinacea, golden seal, astragalus, and elderberry capsules and/or tinctures. In addition, do not forget a bottle of heat resistant probiotics. Ginger and peppermint are valuable during nausea, vomiting, and stomach flu as well as for indigestion, gas, and bloating.
Consult your health care practitioner if symptoms become worse and do not resolve quickly. Additionally, be careful with allergy-causing herbs like echinacea, black pepper, oregano, etc.
Relief of Symptoms
- Increase rest, sleep, and stop physical exercise.
- Eliminate all kinds of simple sugars, dairy, and alcohol as well as spices.
- Increase pure water intake to aid in detoxification and rehydration.
- Take nutritive foods to support immune system. Consuming rice and lentils, vegetable and chicken soups are beneficial. Eat sprouted and cooked grains and pulses. Additionally, consume steamed and soft vegetables.
- Drinking green tea is useful to boost the immune system. Gargling with green tea water sooths the throat.
Dr. Ranvir Pahwa, PhD, is a homeopath, Ayurveda practitioner, clinical herbalist, holistic nutritionist, and acupuncturist. He is a Doctor of Natural Medicine and has 35 years experience in human health. He has written several articles on various topics in natural medicine and has published three books: Ayurvedic Medicine—Top Ten Herbs; Healthy Cooking; and Home Remedies from India. He is the owner of RP’s Alternative Health Centre, 1130-8th St. E., Saskatoon. To contact him, phone 306-664-3873, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www.rpsalthealthcentre.com. Dr. Pahwa also teaches courses in nutrition, herbology, and Ayurveda. www.canadianinstitutenaturalhlthayu.com. Also, see the display ad on page 10 of the 20.5 January/February issue of the WHOLifE Journal.