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A Naturopath’s Medicine Cabinet: Cold and Flu

A Naturopath’s Medicine Cabinet: Cold and Flu

Imagine this; it's about 8pm and your partner walks home from work. For the previous three weeks he has been coming home late from work every night, looking absolutely exhausted while he works tirelessly to reach his deadlines. This particular night his voice cracks as he says hello, making him clear his throat. "Are you getting sick?" you ask him. "Yes," he says, "there's something going around at work." Your heart sinks. You mentally cycle through all the things you have on for the next couple of weeks -- all the social events, work commitments, family commitments -- all the people who are counting on you to be there for them. Neither of you can afford to be sick! But now that he has it, it's only a matter of time before you get it as well!

Does this sound familiar?

During cold and flu season we can feel totally at the mercy of the virus, and at the mercy of the people around us. Workmates come to work even though they're sick, busy parents send their sick kids to school with our kids, people in public places aren't as diligent with their hand washing as we wish they would be. Getting sick really does seem inevitable!

That's the way it was for me, too. For many years, as soon as my partner got sick, I could count on being sick within a week or two. The scenario I described above happened to me at least three times a year. Once I started studying Naturopathy though, things changed. My overall health improved by implementing all the healthy habits I was learning about. But I also developed a few secret weapons that would banish my colds before they even really set in.

Introducing the stars of my cold prevention medicine cabinet...

Immune-stimulating herbal mix

This is the most potent weapon in my cold prevention kit. The mix contains antibacterial, antiviral and immune-stimulating herbs like Echinacea, Andrographis and Baptisia. When I feel like I might be getting sick, I take a few doses of this per day until I feel better, usually within a few days. One of the best things about this mix is it's tailored to my body and to the typical symptoms I get at the beginning of a cold, namely a sore throat and fatigue. To be frank, the mix tastes absolutely horrible, but I've actually grown to really love the taste because I know just how much better I will feel as a result! I stock up before winter but also keep some on hand year-round, just in case.

Melissa tea

Melissa, also known as lemon balm, is an antiviral herb that's also soothing to the gastrointestinal tract and the nervous system. When I feel like I'm getting sick, it's usually because I'm stressed, and when I'm stressed my gut goes a little out of wack. By drinking the tea, I'm not only addressing the virus in my system, but also the stress that might enable the virus to take hold. This tea has a pleasant, lemony flavour and gives me a feeling of wellness that flows right into my fingers and toes. I drink it a few times per day.

Herbal Throat Spray or Gargle

This is one of the best things for a sore throat. It contains soothing herbs and (sometimes) essential oils that have a local action to treat the symptoms of a sore throat. I use this a few times a day whenever my throat is sore.

Also included in my kit are the diet and lifestyle strategies I use to prevent a cold. These are just as vital to the cold prevention process as the herbal remedies:

  • I decrease my exercise to help my body conserve energy which it can then direct towards my immune function. I do some gentle yoga and 15-20 minutes of moderate paced walking instead of my usual exercise routine.

  • I drink a lot of warm water and herbal tea, ensuring that I'm hydrated without drinking cold liquids that can aggravate my sore throat.

  • I make sure I stick to fresh foods, focusing on cooked and warming foods like soups, stews, and casseroles with easy to digest protein like fish, chicken or eggs. I also add lots of herbs and spices to my food as these tend to be warming and immune-stimulating.

  • I avoid added sugar, processed and junk foods, and saturated fats as a matter of course, but I make sure to avoid them completely if I feel I'm getting sick.

  • I am diligent with my hand washing to prevent the spread of the infection.

  • Wherever possible I take time off work, both to rest and as a courtesy to my workmates.

  • I make sure I rest even if I can't take time off work -- I definitely cancel all non-vital social engagements for the next few days.

  • Chores and busywork can wait -- resting, for me, means lying in bed or on the couch, reading, meditating or watching TV.

How well does my prevention regime work? Well, a few weeks ago, my partner brought a bad cold home from work. I did end up succumbing somewhat to the virus -- I had a few days over a weekend of a blocked nose, mild sore throat and tiredness, but recovered fully after some rest. In contrast, my partner (who decided not to take anything for his cold and couldn't take time off work) had cold symptoms for two weeks and then developed a cough. The cough has lingered for several weeks and is only just resolving now that I've convinced him to at least take the herbal throat spray.

If you'd like to stop living in fear of catching a cold this season or would like to assemble your own cold and flu prevention kit, book in to see a Naturopath. We can create a herb mix and other treatments to suit your body and your individual needs!

Gauri Yardi


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