It is that season and, frankly speaking, my family is battling through the nasty cold virus right as I type this. My nose was blocked for the past 24 hours and the eyes hurt, and my kids… well, they are a different story – why, with fever 39.
Since it is the hot topic for us right now, I want to share my take on holistic approach to treating a cold virus, but I have to warn you first.
If your symptoms do not improve or get worse over the next 2 to 3 days, contact your doctor. If your get any severe pain or start vomiting, contact your doctor or a local A&E. This is not a substitute for a medical evaluation and treatment.
Having said this, I want to add that these tips can still work in conjunction with your existing treatment or on its own for cold viruses that do not require any treatment. Just please do not underestimate the importance of medical evaluation and listen to how you feel.
The ways I list here may help your body fight the virus and improve your symptoms. They are natural and holistic and should simply do your body good.
Natural Ways to Fight a Cold Virus
Plenty of rest
When your body is going to an infection, whether viral or bacterial, rest must be your priority. Your body is working hard 24/7 to keep you healthy, and when the nasty illness happens it starts working extra hard to fight it off. If you try going in your usual rhythm, you are just putting an unnecessary strain on your heart, kidneys and other organs. The least it can do is diminish your body’s defense abilities. The worst? Create far worse complications, such as heart disease. So get in your comfy clothes and pick a movie, during which you can safely doze off.
Lots of Fluids
This is elementary, too, but worth mentioning. If you have a fever, your body may get dehydrated, so you need extra fluids to keep it hydrated. It will also help you cool down. Drinking water is one of the traditional ways to safely and gradually lower your body temperature.
Easy to Digest Foods
It may not look like there’s a lot of science behind eating soups during a bout of cold or flu, but the explanation is easy enough. Soups consist of broth and vegetables (and traditionally meat) that has been stewed for quite some time. It may not possess many vitamins at this point, but it is very easy to digest, mainly because the cell walls have been destroyed during the cooking. Digestion, just like exercise, takes a lot of energy – that is why we may often feel sleepy after eating a big meal. It also raises core temperature ever so slightly to metabolize the nutrients. Your body tends to prioritize its tasks and focus more on one than the other. Since your body is already fighting hard, why make it more difficult? Easy to digest foods will not make you feel heavy and extra tired and will let your body concentrate on its own battle. So enjoy that bowl of soup, or maybe some stewed veggies. Something warm and comfy. But don’t forget the fruit, too. It will boost your immune system with the awesome nutrients it has to offer!
Vitamins C and D, as well as the essential mineral Zinc are most active in keeping us healthy and fighting infections. While I don’t tell you to instantly rush to the pharmacy to buy supplements, it is a good idea to maximise the intake of these micronutrients through consuming more foods that are rich in them. If your throat feels OK, eat some oranges, add lemon to your tea. If strawberries are available where you are, they are an excellent source of vitamin C, and so are bell peppers.
Vitamin D is hard to get from products that are not from animal origin. It could be found in mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light, in fortified dairy alternatives, tofu and cereals. Same goes for Zinc. You can find Zinc in tofu, lentils, hemp seeds, fortified products, oatmeal and shiitake mushrooms.
Open the Windows
This may seem counterproductive, especially when you are feverish and feeling cold. In one way it may help you lower the body temperature – just make sure you don’t sit in the draft. Another reason opening the windows might be helpful is fresh air. When you stay indoors, all sick and miserable, your germs and CO2 overpopulate the room. There is little fresh air in the room for your lungs and blood, and even that is tainted with microbes. Opening windows will help to filter the air in the room and deliver the much needed oxygen to your body. If it is too cold, wrap up in a blanket or leave the room for a while. Try to air each room at least for 15 min each day, “in sickness and health”.
Drink Ginger and Lemon Tea
My husband swears by this tea. It brings the fever down and helps your body fight the infection. To make the tea, simply grate an inch of fresh ginger and steep in freshly boiled water for 10 to 15 minutes. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon. If you wish, add a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup, or whatever sweetener you use. Traditionally, this tea is made with honey. I am not a fan of honey, both for its taste and the animal origin. Cinnamon makes a tasty addition to this tea and boosts your immune even further. Warning: If you are on a blood-thinning medication (anticoagulants), consult with your doctor prior to drinking this tea as ginger is known to act as anticoagulant.
Peppermint Tea for Congestion
This is another great tea to drink when suffering from a cold. It may not chase your fever away, but it will help relieve nasal congestion, cough and chest congestion and also ease headaches. Mate is another great tea to drink when you have a cold.
Befriend Garlic and Onion
Did you know that both of these pungent vegetables are great at fighting germs? They possess anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. That means that they make a very healthy addition to your diet, especially in their fresh form. In Siberia, where I come from, it is a tradition to cut up an onion bulb and lay its halves or quarters in the rooms in winter, especially during the cold season to both prevent infections and help your body fight them. Another thing we used to do, but be forewarned – it’s only fit for the truest garlic lovers, was to rub a cut in half clove of garlic on a toast. The more you rub it, the more garlicky it becomes. It’s somewhat like garlic bread, but not buttery and garlic is more pungent and stingy because it’s fresh – so little goes a long way!
I can’t talk about oils enough. Essential oils are wonderful active substances that possess a range of various properties and benefits. Some oils energize, while others are calming. Some of them may relieve pain, while others kill microbes and bacteria. Diffusing oils during a cold virus is a good way to open up your sinuses to help you breathe as well as help fight the infection and boost your mood, which is usually in a miserable state when you are sick. The oils I use the most are sweet orange and lavender. Lavender is anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial, so it works well when you have snuffles. Orange is a good oil to use when you have cold or flu as its vapours are beneficial. Other oils good for cold and flu include Eucalyptus, Oregano, Lemon, Grapefruit, Frankincense, Sandalwood, Pine and Clary Sage.
Warning: Essential oils should not be used during pregnancy, or if you have high blood pressure, epilepsy or allergy to any of these oils. Some oils are irritating or even toxic when applied to skin, so to stay on the safe side, only diffuse them in a cool mist diffuser or add a few drops to a bowl of steaming hot water to evaporate. NEVER ingest the oils!
If you follow this carefully, the oils should be safe to use. But be sure to consult with your doctor or a local naturopath to ensure that these oils are OK for you.