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The Common Cold, Influenza and SARS how to boost immunity and relieve symptoms.
As a subject for my 100th hub I thought what is it that has and will affect all of us at some time during our life.
The simple answer is the common cold (nasopharyngitis, rhinopharyngitis, acute coryza), the most widespread disease in the whole world and while not usually life-threatening can leave us feeling washed out and totally wretched.
The truth is that after decades of research, billions of pounds in investigation we are no closer to finding a cure than we were in the middle ages. The best we can achieve is to reduce the symptoms and if possible boost our immune system to avoid catching one in the first place.
Before we discuss what can be done to make us cope and feel better perhaps we should understand what the common cold is and how it affects the functioning of our body. The common cold, influenza and SARS are all viruses with a least 200 different strains each constantly mutating which means that conventional anti-viral drugs must change constantly also. This is almost impossible as the mutation takes place over a very short period of time and by the time it has been identified and a suitable vaccine produced it has moved on to another strain. Here is where alternative therapies may offer an advantage as they will kill a virus but do not stimulate the particular virus to mutate. We will look at this in more detail later.
Firstly conventional treatment – this mainly revolves around taking aspirin or paracetamol, wrapping up warm, going to bed and taking plenty of liquids. For congestion take a proprietary decongestant and if you have a cough take a cough mixture. All this will take about 10 days to 2 weeks to rid you of the cold. If you do nothing it will take about 10 days to 2 weeks to rid you of the cold !! All of this depends on you avoiding a chest or other infection which will need appropriate treatment.
Influenza is rather more serious and can be life threatening if you are weak, elderly or have a seriously compromised immune system. Here the first stage is to be sure you have had a vaccination against the latest known strain. This is very unlikely to be the strain you will catch but it will be sufficiently close to give your immune system a fighting chance. The flu, if you catch it, will hit very hard and suddenly – you will feel very ill indeed and will need some help to fight it off. Conventionally the treatment will be much the same as a cold, but you can run a serious fever which needs to be controlled with pain killers and simple cold flannels to the forehead. Limbs and muscles will feel weak and painful and you will have a sore throat and headache. Infections are a strong possibility and antibiotics will be needed. Ensure that you drink plenty of liquids. You should start to feel better after 6-8 days but it can take up to 3 weeks to recover fully. If you fit the criteria at the start of this paragraph or you are feeling progressively worse then your doctor should be called who may prescribe anti-virals.
SARS is a relatively rare condition first discovered in November 2002. Of the 8422 people worldwide who caught it, 916 died. It is now fully contained and apart from laboratory specimens the last case was reported in June 2003. For the purposes of this article I think we can ignore it.
Now whether we are proposing to use conventional medicine or alternative therapies, or a combination of both, we need to ensure our bodies are in tip top condition to resist any infection.
Diet – Our bodies are not going to be in good condition if we feed it high fat, high sugar junk food. We need to be sure we have a balanced diet including high omega-3 cold water oily fish, lean meat and chicken with plenty of vegetables and fruit. Immune boosting foods are Kiwi fruit (Chinese Gooseberry) which is higher in vitamin C than oranges, Chinese Cabbage – high in vitamin A and Avocado which is a balance of fats, carbohydrate, protein and vitamin E. Ensure you drink adequate amounts of liquid – it can be water, fruit/vegetable juice but not fizzy sugar loaded or so called diet drinks. Keep tea and coffee consumption to a reasonable level and the same applies to alcohol although a glass of wine or tot of your favourite spirit will be beneficial.
Vitamins and minerals – Always ensure your body has adequate amounts of both by taking a quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement. To boost your immune system to its optimum level then add at least 1000mg Vitamin C. During a cold, high doses, up to 10 grams per day have been found to shorten the duration. Take care though as high doses can cause stomach upsets.
I have found that if colds and flu are around then a daily dose of the herb Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) will very often enable you to avoid catching anything. It is a very beneficial herb offering good results in immune system stimulation and in supporting the heart following a cardiac attack.
OK let’s assume we have been unlucky enough to go down with a cold or flu.
Diet – The body is now in shock and the immune system will have to seek out and destroy the virus and boost the production of antibodies to fight any infection. Foods that are rich in vitamin B6 are tuna, salmon, bananas, carrots, lentils, wholegrain flour and sunflower seeds. The body needs greater levels of dietary zinc and seafood, crabmeat, eggs, turkey and pumpkin seed should be added. Appetite suffers when you are feeling unwell and perhaps a light chicken broth can be tolerated. This will help reduce mucus production and will help to overcome colds and flu.
If you are Jewish I don’t need to tell you what wonderful healing properties chicken soup has, I think it’s known as Jewish penicillin. Although I’m not Jewish my step-mother was, but she was an awful cook! I can, however give you a basic recipe which you can improve on:
Take a complete leftover chicken together with bones, skin and offal, bring to a simmer in a large pan and add carrot, onion, parsnip, 3 garlic cloves, celery, dill, bay leaves and peppercorns and simmer for 2 hours. Skim to remove any fat and sieve to remove the bones but return any meat to the pan, cover and simmer for another 2 hours.
Now let’s take a look at the various herbs that can help cope with the symptoms and bring about a speedy recovery.
Goldenseal is very effective but tastes vile and will stain your fingers bright yellow. I think it better to take Echinacea and Goldenseal as a combined supplement. Echinacea was first discovered by western medicine back in 1887 and its ability to enhance the immune system was realised in the 1930s. It works by increasing the activity of the white blood cells and improves the production of interferon. The combination of the two should only be taken when you actually have a cold or flu. Echinacea on its own can work to prevent a cold or flu and can be taken for up to 6/8 weeks if the infection is around.
Garlic the odourless version combines very well with Echinacea to produce a strong anti-infection remedy.
Maitake an immune boosting mushroom which stimulates the T-cells (the body’s own defence against viruses and cancer cells. (Just as an aside studies have resulted in a 99% shrinkage of tumours in just 14 days. Studies have also shown HIV patients can be helped by improving the T-cells which are normally destroyed by the HIV virus.) It also improves the liver function.
Cat’s Claw a South American herb which contains oxyindole alkaloids that will stimulate the immune system. (This also is anti-inflammatory and an anti-oxidant which makes it useful as wound healing.)
Aloe Vera acts as an immune enhancer and natural antiseptic. Drink a quarter of a glass morning and evening if colds or flu are around.
Grapefruit seed extract (Citricidal) this should only be taken when you are ill where it acts as an antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal.
Ginger works well as an antiviral but also help to relieve a painful throat and inflammation of the mucus membranes.
Liquorice used for colds and infections since Roman times it is an antiviral which stimulates the release of interferon. It works well for stubborn coughs and is a good anti-inflammatory.
Sage another old remedy used for sore throats and fevers. Take as a tea or tinctures.
Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) clinical trials show it reduces the risk of colds and flu, but also reduces the effect and duration if you do get one. The trials showed a recovery twice as fast, in some cases as short as 4 days.
Kawakawa a New Zealand herb used by the natives to treat bronchial problems. It is incorporated in the Kiwiherb range from www.NutriCentre.com
Elderberries can protect against coughs, colds and flu due to their high vitamin A and C.
Raspberries good source of folic acid with antiviral properties which will help against colds and flu.
Essential oils – these have the added bonus of protecting the rest of the family from colds and flu as well as helping the patient. They can also protect against secondary infections which are quite common when suffering. These can be sinusitis, ear infections and bronchitis. With colds and flu the most effective treatment method is inhalation and baths. The following can be used in a diffuser:
Eucalyptus, Ti-tree, Lavender, Niaouli, Rosemary, Pine and Peppermint.
Particularly good for sore throats is Thyme and for shivers, aching and headaches use Marjoram (which is also good in baths)
Instead of a diffuser the above two can be used in a steam inhaler together with antiviral oils Eucalyptus and Ti-tree, which will help clear nasal passages, sooth inflamed membranes and kill bacteria.
These oils at night may cause problems with sleep so I would suggest Lavender (which can sometimes cause dreaming) or Rose oil.
There is no medical evidence to show a connection between the state of mind and a reduction in the immune system. However, stress can reduce the ability of the body to cope with some outside influences and depression may cause the body to drop its guard.
© 2012 Peter Geekie