How to Treat Cold and Flu Naturally
By Carol Cesare, Naturopath, CCN, CH,CNP
We all know how it starts: first you get that funny tickle in the back of your throat and notice that your neck feels tender and achy…you wonder “do I have swollen lymph nodes?” Next you begin to feel a bit feverish and at the same time a bit chilled and start looking for a warm spot to rest. Maybe you feel hungrier than normal, or perhaps you have no appetite at all. Then it dawns on you, “Oh no…I think I am getting sick!”
You could be coming down with the common cold or worse, influenza and you just know that something is amiss with the usual order of your body. It’s that time again-germ season-it should be labeled a season just like the other 4 and you are in it!
The day progresses and you feel progressively worse. You start to sneeze and mucus fills your head, sinus cavities, and trickles down the back of your throat. Now your throat is really sore, raw and irritated. If you happen to look at the back of your throat you might find red, raised bumps that have started to multiply quickly. Yep, no doubt about it-you are sick. But could it be the flu?
If your symptoms came on quickly and are accompanied by a fever of 100°F or greater and you have terrible body aches and extreme fatigue in addition to all those cold symptoms, you probably have the flu. Interestingly, some of us run “cooler” than others and have a normal body temp below 98.6°F. If you are one of those cool runners, or have Hypothyroidism, a fever of 99°F is a fever for you, and absolutely counts as a symptom of the flu when all the other symptoms are present.
The good news is that you can treat cold and flu naturally, and these remedies can significantly reduce the severity of the symptoms and the duration of the illness too. Rather than simply mask the symptoms as so many pharmaceutical cold and flu treatments do, these natural remedies contain anti-viral and other healing properties that speed recovery. The trick with any anti-viral is to start taking it within the first 24 hours of feeling symptomatic and to keep at it. You’ll be glad you did!
Flu Symptoms and Cold Systems are Treatable with Home Remedies:
Anti-Viral/Immune System Booster:
Norm’s Farms Elderberry Extract: Take up to 2 teaspoons every 4 hours for the duration of the symptoms. If you catch the virus early enough (within the first 24 hours) before it has a chance to multiply you should feel remarkably better in 2 to 3 days. Elderberry has also been found to reduce the severity of symptoms too, which is always a good thing. Caution: Drink plenty of water, and if you experience diarrhea or stomach cramps, reduce the dosage to one teaspoon every 4 hours while awake.
Norms Farms Elderberry Wellness Syrup: Wellness Syrup contains one-third the anti-viral elderberry of the Extract, honey, analgesic cloves and anti-bacterial cinnamon. Because it contains less elderberry you can take more of it at a time, and many people find that 1 to 2 Tablespoons every 4 hours is very soothing to sore throats. The honey helps calm coughs, the cloves provide a natural anesthetic for sore throats, and cinnamon has gentle anti-bacterial properties. Try mixing 2 tablespoons of Wellness Syrup in 6 to 8 ounces of hot water for a soothing tea.
Treatment for Chest Congestion:
There are several natural herbs that have been found effective in the treatment of congestion:
Mullein has long been used in herbal medicine for the respiratory tract.
Lomatium Osha, also known as bear root was considered sacred by Native Americans who used the root for cold, cough and respiratory ailments.
The Ayurvedic Herb-Andrographis is used for a variety of ailments and may have useful applications for treating asthma and airway inflammation.
These herbs are all available in capsule form, and I recommend that you try one first and see how it works for you before trying another. Visit the natural remedies section of your local health food store or Whole Foods and follow the dosing instructions. Again, drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Treatment for a Stuffy Head:
Nettie Pot: What about that stuffy head? Keeping the sinus cavities open to avoid getting a sinus infection is a great idea. This is where a Nettie pot comes in very handy. Nettie pots can be purchased at your local health food store as well. Instructions for use come on the box and I recommend rinsing your nostrils and sinus cavity with a solution of warm filtered water, a pinch of Xylitol and a pinch of sea salt three times daily, making sure to blow gently as you give each nostril a thorough rinsing. Be sure to clean the Nettie Pot thoroughly after each use.
Nettle Leaf can be very helpful for clearing the sinuses, and breaking up the head congestion as well. Nettle Leaf comes in liquid extract capsules and as bottled liquid extract. Take up to six capsules per day, or conversely, the bottled liquid extract is usually dosed at 2 dropper-fulls mixed in warm water, up to six times per day. This herb also comes in dried capsule form, but you will need to take more of them to equal the potency of the liquid capsules.
Treatment for Body Aches and Fatigue:
Analgesics: White Willow Bark. White willow bark is a tree (salix alba) native to Europe and Asia. The name “white willow” comes from the color of the leaves, which are covered with fine white hairs.
White willow bark has been used since the time of the Ancient Egyptians to treat inflammation. Hippocrates, “the father of modern medicine” wrote about white willow’s uses in 5th century B.C. Scientists in Europe identified what was believed to be the active ingredient in white willow bark—a compound called salicin– in the early 1800s. They began to work on creating a synthetic compound because extracting salicin from herbs was considered to be expensive and time-consuming. The synthetic compound they developed was named salicylic acid. Bayer Pharmaceuticals eventually created an additional synthetic derivative of salicylic acid, called acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), which we know today as Aspirin. White willow bark supplements have the same side effects as Aspirin and people who should not take aspirin should not take White willow bark. Follow the instructions on the packaging for dosing carefully.
REST: Your body is fighting a virus and needs the opportunity to channel all its energy towards healing. Rest means rest! If you aren’t laying down, sleeping, reading, sleeping, watching TV and sleeping, you aren’t resting! Regardless of the pressures you may feel to show up at work or at home, remember that your healing is everyone’s healing. We don’t want to catch your cold or flu, and we want you to feel better too. You’ll be much more productive and helpful when you have healed.
About the Author: Carol Cesare is a Naturopath living in the Winston Salem area with over 11 years of experience helping people achieve and maintain health through natural medicines.