During the winter months, up to 40% of the population can be affected by the flu, i.e. influenza virus. Unfortunately, the highest rates of infection are amongst children, the elderly and those with other chronic health conditions. It is important to understand that if the immune system is weak due to undernourishment, antibiotic use, respiratory congestion, allergies or even the lack of sleep a person is more vulnerable to infection. In my view, there is little reason to be concerned about the common cold or flu, if the immune system is strong and reliable immune supporting, antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiviral solutions available are at hand.
Ayurveda like other ancient healing sciences provides many natural remedies that effectively fight infections as well as strengthen immunity. In general terms, treatments include herbal formulas, food based supplements, dietary changes and lifestyle measures like resting more. This article is meant to provide you with the knowledge to naturally prevent and combat this type of seasonal viral infection.
Don't wait to start taking your supplements
The first signs of infection are often just an itchy or slightly sore throat. Within hours of noticing early symptoms of viral infection, the immune system has to be strengthened by giving it the nutrients it needs to work such as the following suggestion:
Vitamin C sources (citrus fruit like lemon juice in warm water or tea) Antimicrobial foods (like onions and garlic) Good sources of the oil soluble vitamins including E, A and D (such as cod liver oil, fish oil and wheat germ oil). Sunlight
Oil soluble vitamins can be most easily consumed naturally by taking cod liver oil daily with a main meal. As sunshine is the optimum source of vitamin D, when there is less sunlight our immune system is weakened, consequently we are more easily infected by viruses. Thus, people with the lowest vitamin D levels have significantly more colds or cases of the flu.
Vitamin D is an amazingly effective antimicrobial agent, producing over 200 different antimicrobial peptides in your body that kill bacteria, viruses and fungi. So regular supplementation of fish and cod liver oil will not only fight a cold or flu virus, but it can also prevent them from invading the body. So, you can take cod liver oil daily like grandma recommended and sailors have been doing for centuries. With high quality cod liver oil being high in vitamin D, E and A it goes a long way to effectively and economically improve your overall health and boost your immune system. (Personally, I do not recommend synthetic and isolated forms of vitamins especially D3, as no one knows the long-term side effects at this time and the active ingredient, Cholecalciferol, is an active ingredient in some rat poisons!).
As far as supplementation goes, Zinc would have to be the next most important supplement that you want to be taking to avoid infection. I read that about 10% of people in general and 90% of those who are ill with an infection have zinc deficiency. Keep in mind that the most common forms of zinc are synthetic, therefore, chemically-altered. This is often the case with most zinc lozenges, vitamins and syrups sold even in health food stores. Zinc, however, from food or a whole-food supplement has supporting nutritional cofactors and is easily absorbed without adverse side effects. Ask your health food store for a whole food-Zinc supplement.
Personally, I recommend nutritional nutritional yeast as an excellent natural source of zinc because it is easily absorbable and very nutritious. Nutritional yeast is fortified with B vitamins, iron and magnesium, and is very inexpensive. I often advise taking 1 to 3 tablespoons, depending on your body weight, of nutritional yeast 1 or 2 times daily with a glass of warm almond milk to naturally boost zinc and B vitamin levels.
Regarding your diet, the first thing you want to do when you feel yourself coming down with a cold or flu is to avoid ALL sugars and processed foods. Sugar is particularly damaging to your immune system which needs to be supported, not suppressed, in order to combat an infection. Basically, once you know you have an infection you want to reduce your diet to liquids until you recover and your appetite returns.
Change your diet immediately
The most powerful natural remedy which everyone should start immediately after the first signs of infection is a bowl of homemade soup with lots of garlic, onions, olive oil, ginger, thyme, oregano and lemon peels. If taken a few times a day, this combination will colds, flu and even norovirus. Garlic in particularly has long history of being a natural antibiotic, especially against infectious diseases like the flu. Large doses of raw garlic or even garlic tea can effectively fight off almost any infection including urinary tract infections and tooth infections in a matter of days.
Additionally, you should not consume dairy when you have a cold or nasal congestion, since dairy will create more congestion. Medicinal mushrooms, especially Reishi, Shiitake, and Maitake also are very powerful immune boosters. For respiratory infections, breathing in the smoke of sage and/or using eucalyptus oil in a humidifier is very effective.
Keep in mind, that if you are not getting enough restorative sleep, you'll be at increased risk for a hostile viral takeover. Your immune system is also the most effective when you're not sleep-deprived, so the more rested you are the quicker you'll recover.
It is essential for you to drink enough liquids so that your urine is clear or pale yellow. Besides, taking supplements and herbal formulas, you'll want to improve your sleep, and reduce stress as soon as you first feel yourself coming down with something. You can also start drinking ginger and cinnamon tea with half a lemon squeezed in it a few times a day to boost your immunity through the flu season.
My favorite home remedies
It is highly recommended at the first sign of a sore throat or infection that you:
Start gargling with salt water preferably with a few drops of an antimicrobial essential oil like tea tree oil Clean out the inner nostrils with salt water I would also take raw honey by the teaspoon especially if you have a dry cough Drink warm tulsi leaf tea all day
If you have nothing else, just gargle with salt water and take a few spoons of raw honey a few times a day. This simple home remedies will go a long way to soothe your throat, kill germs, and prevent the infection and congestion from getting worse. My favorite quick immune boosting home-remedy is ginger-cinnamon-licorice tea, with lots of honey and the juice of half a lemon three times a day with no solid foods
A Western tea blend made from a combination of elderflower, yarrow, echinacea, goldenseal, peppermint and ginger is very effective. Remember, to drink your tea hot and continuously throughout the day to combating a cold or flu.
Note that oregano oil is also very effective at killing infection particularly in the intestinal tract, but generally has to be taking in capsules with food due to its strength. I keep oregano oil capsules in stock, but only use them if my initial infection fighting efforts are not successful. My backup, however, has always been colloidal silver which can be taken 2 or 3 times a day as a sure way to kill an infection that is lingering.
Personally, I use olive leaf oil on daily during the flu season as ancient Egyptians and Mediterranean cultures used it for a variety of health-promoting uses and it is widely known as a natural, non-toxic immune system builder that taste good.
Turmeric is a mild antibiotic, but tastes nice. Try 1 teaspoon of fresh or 1/2 teaspoon of organic powdered turmeric added to a teaspoon of honey or a cup of hot [raw] milk helps to relieve headache, colds and throat infections. Cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, bishop's weed and holy basil/tulsi can also be used to fight the common cold.
Be prepared to fight infection
I recommend that you purchase some of these items in advance and not wait until you have a cold or an viral infection. If you want to be preventive, then continue a daily routine of taking cod liver oil, zinc supplements or brewers yeast while eating a healthy diet of whole foods with some extra garlic.
When you notice the first signs of infection, stop eating all solid foods, start taking regular doses of olive leaf oil and drink antimicrobial herbal teas. If the infection does not go away consume large amounts of garlic and take the oregano oil. If 5 to 7 days have passed and the infection is still winning the battle take colloidal silver five times a day as well. Don't forget to take a probiotic or eat some fermented foods daily to maintain healthy intestinal flora.
Remember, the reason you catch a cold or flu is because your immune system is impaired so be proactive and do what it takes to stay healthy!
"Health comes from the farm, not the pharmacy", Grandma.