All posts tagged colds and flu

Natural Remedies to Beat Spring Colds and Flu

Just when you think you’ve successfully made it through cold and flu season without getting sick, you get hit with a virus.  Congestion, headache, cough, fatigue.  Yuck!  Although fall and winter months tend to be the most common times for cold and flu infections, we’re never truly immune to catching these irritating viruses.

As a naturopathic doctor, my aim with any treatment plan is to find an optimal balance of therapies to provide symptom relief and enhance the body’s innate immune function.  Here are some of my tried and true tools for colds and flu:

Sleep – Not sexy advice perhaps, but considering that your body does the majority of its healing as you sleep, prioritizing this activity when you’re feeling sick is incredibly important.  If napping isn’t an option, then get to bed early, aiming for at least eight hours of sleep per night.

Herbal teas – Many herbal teas contain a range of helpful compounds that can both support your immune system and help take the edge off of your symptoms.  Organic, single ingredient teas are best to maximize these benefits.  Some examples of teas I like for colds and flu:

  • Green tea – Although the mechanism behind how antioxidants support immune function is not completely established, they do seem to play an important supporting role and green tea is packed with antioxidants known as catechins.  Green tea also contains a mild form of caffeine which can help clear the brain fog common with colds/flu.
  • Mint tea – Full of volatile oils, when mint leaves are added to hot water these oils are released into the steam and become a gentle way to relieve sinus congestion (just breathe deeply over your steaming cup).  The same oil compounds also possess anti-viral activity, so this tea serves a dual benefit.

Netti Pot – These porcelain genie-in-a-bottle shaped pots may seem strange, but they can be a powerful tool to deliver medicine directly to congested, inflamed sinus tissue.  Here’s a link to a video demonstrating how to use a netti pot.  If you’re experiencing sinus congestion, try mixing two cups of lukewarm Goldenseal tea (Hydrastis canadensis) with 1 teaspoon sea salt.  The salt is anti-microbial and helps to decrease congestion and the Goldenseal is a full-spectrum anti-microbial herb with astringing properties to support immune function and tighten tissues. (Tip: The closer the temperature of the water is to the temperature inside your nose the more comfortable the treatment will be.)

Contrast hydrotherapy shower – Just like the heart pumps to move blood through our bodies, we can use contrasting hot and cold water to cause the vessels near the surface of our skin to expand and contract as well.  This technique further supports the action of the heart to move damaged cells and inflammation into the lymph system and out of the body and bring fresh blood with oxygen, nutrients and virus-fighting immune cells into our tissues.  Here’s how it works:

  • At the end of your shower, rapidly turn the water temperature down (it should be cold enough to take your breath away)
  • Slowly rotate your body under the flow of water to directly expose all of your skin to the cold temperature.  Lift each arm to expose the skin on either side of your chest and submerge your head as well.  Complete this process slowly over the course of 1-2 minutes.
  • Return the water to hot and repeat the process of exposing all of your skin to the water, again taking 1-2 minutes to complete the process
  • Repeat the hot and cold cycles as many times as you like, ending on a cold cycle
  • When you get out of the shower, dress warmly, trapping in the heat as your body re-heats itself

With any treatment, you should always talk to a licensed health professional about your symptoms and work together to develop a safe and appropriate treatment plan.

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Image by The Neti Pot