Practitioners of alternative medicine have crusaded for a long time against the overuse of decongestant cold remedies. Their argument is that elevated temperatures and mucus production are the body’s own ways of dealing with the cold and should not be interfered with if they are not excessive. A cold is primarily a viral attack, and the body responds by producing immune system stimulants that are responsible for temperature and inflammation. This causes dilation of blood capillaries so that more blood, heat and antigens flow to the battle zone. Congestion occurs because of the swelling of the nasal passages and the increase in production of mucus.

A paper in the New England Journal of Medicine early this year validates the above position. The much-publicized study showed that those who take certain popular over-the-counter (OTC) cold remedies may be increasing their risk of death from brain hemorrhage. The US Food and Drug Administration consequently suggested that manufacturers withdraw all cold remedies and OTC diet and weight-loss medications containing phenylpropanolamine, a chemical that decreases nasal congestion and suppresses the appetite. Although the drug has been used for several years, its safety has always been in doubt. More than 100 cases of hemorrhage have been reported in women who used phenylpropanolamine, even in doses of just 75 milligrams! Luckily there are other alternatives to banish your winter sniffles.

Relief from Symptoms

To cleanse the system of accumulated toxins, observe a day’s fast when the first symptoms appear, then switch to a diet of alkaline fruits to neutralize the acidic condition of the body. Pineapple and grapefruit juice are particularly beneficial. Light food and fresh fruits may be consumed for the next three days.

Regular hip baths, steam facials, hot foot baths and hot packs for the chest and head are very beneficial and provide relief from symptoms. Add eucalyptus oil to the water for better results.

Research at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio revealed that people who took zinc lozenges reduced the length of their colds by 42 percent. This was not merely symptomatic relief, but a marked reduction in the duration of the cold.

Build Immunity

Rest as much as you can. Sleep bolsters immunity, and lack of sleep when the virus is in the air is one of the surest ways to contract a cold. Stress is another immune-compromising factor.

Of course everybody’s favourite remedy is vitamin C. Several studies show that taking mega-doses of vitamin C (1,200 mg) reduces the intensity and duration of cold symptoms. Lime is also effective, and the juice of half a lemon in a glass of water, taken several times a day with a dash of rock salt, helps too. The salinity of the brew helps ease the nasal passages, much in the same way that a gargle eases the throat.

Echinacea is perhaps the best known immunity-boosting herb. It also acts as a blood purifier and antibiotic, and has shown excellent clinical results for most infectious diseases.

Drink lots of sugar-free fluids to keep the membranes of the respiratory tract well hydrated. A dry tract invites organisms to settle. Water also improves white blood cell functioning by decreasing the concentration of solutes in the blood.

Help from the Kitchen

Ginger is an excellent remedy for coughs and colds. Cut it in small pieces and boil in a cup of water. Strain the infusion and add honey. Drink while hot.

Garlic soup is an age-old folk remedy for reducing the severity of the common cold. Garlic also has antiseptic and antispasmodic qualities.

Milk and milk products, refined foods, animal products, fried foods, and sweet and cold foods should be strictly avoided.

Severe flu headaches can be eased by applying the mild paste of mustard or nutmeg on the forehead.

Recommended vegetables juices are: carrot and spinach (two glasses in the ratio of 4:1), or carrot, beet and cucumber (two glasses in the ratio 1:1:1). Like vitamin C, the beta-carotene in carrots is also a potent immunity agent.

About the Author

Dr Shanti B. Rangwani, one of Indiaâ??s leading general practitioners, has authored more a dozen books, including the best-sellers Forever Young Forever Beautiful and Sparkling All-Day Energy. For a listing of her publications, visit: members.rediff.