Natural remedies: colds & flu

The change of seasons means it's time to work on your encylopedic knowledge of colds and flu with natural remedy expert, Mim Beim.


We've pictured Mim Beim's book, Natural Remedies here with some of our favourite teas from Oovio and Pukka – however Beim has also just released her own range of teas. Check out the range at: www.beamingwithhealth.com.au

Credit: Gail Kendrick

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What are colds and flu's?
Colds and flu (influenza) are both viral infections. Head colds tend to be affairs of the upper respiratory tract (nose, throat and sinuses) and chest colds affect the lungs; Influenza or flu is felt all over the body with muscular aches and pains and often fever. Influenza is a much more serious condition than the common cold, although treatment is similar for both conditions.

Naturopathic old-timers consider that having a cold once every couple of years is an effective way to eliminate toxins from the body, or at least a good excuse to spend a day cuddled up in bed. Certainly, there is a difference between a ‘good’ cold, where symptoms progress rapidly from sore throat to drippy nose, all over in a few days, and the ‘bad’ kind that persists for weeks and escalates to something nasty like bronchitis or pneumonia.

Cold symptoms include:
• Stuffy nose.
• Sore throat.
• Sneezing.
• Cough.
• Sore chest.

Flus can be the same as for a cold as well as:
• Headache.
• Extreme exhaustion.
• Aches and pains in joints and muscles.
• Fever.

What causes it?
• Viruses abound in the air we breathe. There are over 200 varieties of virus that can cause a cold or flu.
• 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 is more likely to resolve itself easily and quickly. Unfortunately, many people battle on with an arsenal of nasal sprays, decongestants, cough syrups and pills, refusing to take so much as an afternoon off. Even with the best intentions, there are a few malevolent viruses to which even the healthiest person will succumb.
• Cold and flu season is often in the middle of winter. It’s due to the change of seasons when the weather is unpredictable that you are more likely to catch a cold.

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 is still valid. If we took our cue from the animal kingdom we would fast through the days of fever and flu. Sadly 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, cinnamon, chilli, garlic and horseradish are all traditional ‘warming’ remedies, which will speed you through a cold or flu.
• Drink copious quantities of fluid, which means about 3 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, which tends to become infected if it thickens up.
• Soup is a winner on several fronts. It provides warmth, fluid and easily digestable nourishment. 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, the 12th century Jewish physician, recommended chicken soup for a cold. He was probably passing on his bubbe’s (Bub-beh, Yiddish for grandmother) favourite recipe. Chilli hot soups, like the Thai favourite, tom yum, is also an excellent choice, and one you can order as a takeaway from your sick bed. Avoid soups based on cream, cheese or milk.
• Avoid sugar. Studies have shown that within a few minutes of sugar consumption lymphocyte activity is reduced markedly. Lymphocytes (white blood cells) are major players in the immune system. Sugar also tends to increase mucus. A little raw honey is better and soothes a sore throat.
• Nasturtiums are very good for coughs. If you have nasturtiums growing in your garden, gather the leaves and a few flowers and add to a salad.
• Garlic helps the immune system and is excellent for clearing mucus from lungs, nose and sinuses.
• 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, may increase mucus during a cold, so avoid them during this time.
• Increase eating foods that are high in vitamin C, including citrus, papaya, kiwifruit, strawberries, pineapple, guava, rockmelon, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and capsicum.

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