Minimizing Those Colds and Flus over the Holiday Season
The common cold is usually an acute (short-term) viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. It usually starts with a runny nose, sore throat and a feeling of low energy or weakness. It may or may not have an accompanying cough that is usually dry or irritating.
Over the next 5 weeks we often over-eat many foods that we typically only have in small amounts. Offered in many social outings are chocolates, cookies, cakes, tarts, cheese, crackers and of course alcohol. Since we know sugar minimizes the ability of the immune system to function, it is best to keep these to small samples. Then, we can indulge in the many varieties without too much load on the system. Also, we know cow dairy is inflammatory and creates mucous, so, keeping that to small amounts and substituting with goat or sheep products is a good idea as well. It’s always wonderful if the offerings include roasted garlic, garlic spreads, garlic toast or garlic in the various dishes. Garlic is a great anti-bacterial/viral herb and helps to bolster the immune system. Therefore, you can balance out the others by having both in the offerings.
I often suggest folks increase their Vitamin C to bowel tolerance (as long as there are no kidney problems) at this time of year since over 21 studies has found that the duration and severity of colds are reduced by and average of 25-30 %. An average amount is 1-3 grams per day. Zinc has also been found to reduce colds- I often use zinc gluconate lozenges and have folks use up to 10 lozenges per day.
Another tool I use often is herbal preparations. Most of you have heard of using Echinacea to support the immune system and reduce the incidence of colds. It also helps speed the healing process during a cold. Preventatively, I recommend ½ tsp/day and with the onset of any symptoms, I recommend 1/2 tsp. every 2 hours. This often nips it in the bud that day. If the cold symptoms increase, I switch to Berberis (Oregon grape) mixed with Astragalus (Milk Vetch), Lomatium and Ligusticum. These all support the immune system, increase immune function, fight infections by mobilizing white blood cells and inhibit viruses and bacteria from reproducing.
Other herbs I use are Ulmus (Slippery Elm), Prunus (Wild Cherry Bark) and Althea (Marshmallow root) for soothing irritated throats that have that dry, hacking cough. There are also many blended herbal teas such as Throat Coat (Traditionals) that are great to drink throughout the day to sooth the throat. As an alternative to herbal teas are Slippery Elm lozenges to constantly bathe and soothe the irritated area.
Other herbs can be used to strengthen the immune system as well. I like to use Elderberry, since it grows all through this area and has been shown to inhibit the flu viruses. Hopefully most of you made an elderberry tincture for the season. I often add Amoracia (Horseradish) and Tussilago(Coltsfoot) to formulas since they are antibiotic and help to bring up phlegm. Myrrh is also good for this.
Hydrotherapy and physical treatments are also very effective at eliminating many accompanying symptoms. For a sinus infection that may go along with the cold, I use an alternating hot and cold to the sinuses with a salt water rinse. I also use mustard plasters for any cold that goes to the chest with an accompanying cough. This helps break up the phlegm so the person can expel it, thus preventing it from developing into pneumonia. Steam inhalation also moistens the respiratory passages. A few drops of tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil or thyme oil is anti-viral and bacterial.
The other thing to remember, the body increases its’ temperature to kill off the virus or bacteria. FEVER IS A GOOD THING. IT IS THE NATURAL RESPONSE OF THE BODY TO KILL OFF THE VIRUS OR BACTERIA. Forcing a fever down with a drug prolongs the symptoms and duration of the cold, since each time the fever is suppressed, the body tries to increase it again to kill off the bug. Therefore, it is important that the body is given the chance to raise the temperature to kill off the bacteria or virus. If a person tends to run a high fever (over 102 F), I have the person ready a bath at 102 F, so, if the temperature gets to that point, by getting in the bath, the temperature will stay at that level. Then it is high enough to kill off the virus effectively without running into the possibility of it going too high.
This should give you plenty of tools to make this holiday season an enjoyable one!