Infuse three slices of fresh ginger in a cup of boiling water for 10 minutes and drink. Drink a cup every three or four hours. Ginger has a warming, stimulating effect that brings on a therapeutic sweat. A recent study has shown it has a significant action against four different strains of bacteria that may cause secondary infection following colds or flu. Cinnamon, cloves and black pepper also have antibacterial properties.
A review of 16 trials (eight prevention trials and eight trials of treatment of upper respiratory tract infections) suggested that overall, echinacea does work as a treatment, but probably not as a preventive medicine. Take 10–15g per day at the first sign of a cold. Stop taking it when the cold has resolved; Echinacea should not be used as a continuous preventive medicine except when someone has constant colds. In this case, Echinacea can be used for between one and three months at a dosage of 1–3g per day.
A promising new cold cure from India is the plant Andrographis paniculata, which is used in Ayervedic and Chinese medicine. In one double-blind study, 208 people with upper-respiratory tract infections were given either andrographis or a placebo (an inactive substance). By the second day, the andrographis group had improvement in cold symptoms (runny nose and sore throat) compared to those given just a placebo. By the fourth day, there was a significant improvement in other symptoms such as cough, headaches, earache and fatigue too.
Put a few drops of Olbas oil, eucalyptus oil or some chamomile in a bowl, pour in boiling water and inhale the steam, covering your head with a towel.
Other Traditional Measures
Tea made by infusing elderflower and peppermint and adding 3–4 slices of ginger is effective for colds. Add yarrow if you have flu. Drink a teacupful every four hours. Alternatively, fresh hyssop tea is good for colds and flu. Add a teaspoonful of honey, especially manuka honey, to hot drinks. It has antibacterial properties and helps soothe sore throats.
Garlic, mustard and horseradish have important properties that help combat colds and flu. As well as using them in cooking, you can try the old-fashioned remedy of taking a mustard footbath. Make these in a plastic bowl big enough to fit both your feet by pouring in three litres of hot water and mixing in three tablespoons of English mustard powder.
Put your feet in the bowl for 10 minutes and cover your head with a towel while you do so to increase the heat in your head and sinuses. Do this morning and evening for the duration of your cold or flu symptoms.
Finally, tiger balm and olbas oil may help to ease congestion. Apply tiger balm to your chest and back, taking care not to get any in your eyes and washing your hands well afterwards. Alternatively, apply olbas oil to your temples and the back of your neck. Keep it away from your eyes.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners believe adverse climatic factors can breach the body’s defence system (called Wei Qi), causing colds and flu. In particular, wind is said to be “the initiator of 100 diseases”. Wind combines with other disease-causing factors, such as cold, heat and damp. Treatments aim to improve lung function, increasing the protection afforded by Wei Qi. Many treatments are said to “open the exterior” and produce a therapeutic sweat, which drives out the adverse climatic factors of wind, cold, heat or damp.
One simple general remedy is soya bean soup. This comprises stalks of green onion combined with prepared soya bean to which have been added perilla leaf, Quiang Huo, siler and schizonepeta. In more severe wind-cold patterns TCM doctors use stronger prescriptions, such as Schizonepeta-Ledebouriella Defeat Poison Powder.
If the pattern is wind-cold damp invasion, you will have a heavy feeling in the head and feel tired, possibly with nausea, loss of appetite, bloating and loose stools. In such cases a TCM doctor might prescribe Notopterygium Conquering Dampness Decoction.
Wind heat-cold/flu invasion is marked by feelings of cold and heat in which heat predominates. The person may have a blocked nose, a cough and a sore throat. The classical remedy is the famous Honeysuckle and Forsythia Powder available in pill form.
Invasion Of Dryness
Another common pattern is invasion of dryness (said to be a feature of autumn colds and flus). The usual prescription is a variation of the Mulberry Almond Decoction.
Such as Qi, Blood, Yin or Yang deficiency are treated with specific formulas. Two remedies from the woad family that have antiviral properties, Ban Lan Gen and Da Qing Ye, are often added to cold formulas.