We all have heard that ‘if you treat a cold it takes a week for cure and if you don’t you need seven days’! As the common cold is usually brought about by a viral infection, apparently there is no effective quick cure than waiting for the body to fight the virus naturally. Some may take ‘flu jabs’ with the hope of prevention and others simply resort to abundant supply of tissues. However, if the body’s immune system can be prepared or directed to deal with the common cold virus by using ayurvedic diet and lifestyle, you may well experience a cold free season. More than 50% of colds are caused by ‘rhinoviruses’ (nothing to do with rhinosaurus), which spread from person-to-person contact via contaminated secretions on fingers. Although, cold temperature itself or one’s nutritional status does not cause common cold, the worsening of the symptoms relate to excessive fatigue, emotional distress and tendency for allergies. Once a person comes in contact with rhinovirus, the virus can take 24 hours to 72 hours to produce symptoms. Burning sensation in the nose and throat, sneezing, runny nose, fatigue and feverish feeling are the commonly experienced symptoms of viral cold.
Seeking medical help
Common cold being a viral infection subsided by itself when one takes sufficient rest and maintains good hydration. If the symptoms become severe with the onset of fever, sore throat, server cough or painful and inflamed sinuses, these are indications that there is additional infection, often bacterial and the infection can travel further down to the chest causing complications. In these instances, medical help is important. When cold becomes chest infection, there is no point trying natural remedies alone or believing that ‘chicken soup’ will do the trick. However, if you have needed antibiotics for chest infections every cold season for over two or three cycles, it is a definite indication that you need to see an ayurvedic practitioner to support your immunity and to correct your digestion, which directly links to your immune strength.
WHAT IS COMMON COLD FROM AN AYURVEDIC PERSPECTIVE
Ayurveda maintains that as smoothly as your body can adapt to change of seasons, your immunity will remain strong enough to fight cold either before its onset or even after the infection. Although, cold is not caused by cold temperature or poor nutritional status, these two factors in fact create a perfect environment where the body’s immunity can be challenged. Ayurveda’s opinion is that, ‘stop blaming the virus and take responsibility to remain strong and healthy’. This is dependent on how well you can reduce Vata aggravating and Kapha accumulating food and lifestyle. Vata and Kapha are both sensitive to cold weather, cold food and cold water. Vata being ‘light, cold, dry and sensitive’ further becomes agitated by alcohol, excessive coffee, lack of rest, poor sleep, excessive travel, psychological stress, advanced ageing and poor nutrition. Kapha being ‘cold, heavy and damp’ accumulates in the gut and the respiratory system by eating fatty creamy cheesy food and cold foods, lack of exercise or other indulgences. A cold and damp gut is a perfect environment for toxic accumulation in the gut, which severely compromises one’s immunity. When you are stressed and tired, which aggravates Vata and there pre-exists a damp cold toxic gut, the two will trigger susceptibility to catch cold or will weaken body’s ability to fight cold. Therefore, the two simple ayurvedic tricks to prevent or fight cold are; maintain a toxin free gut to keep the Kapha in balance and to promote good nutrition and rest to keep the Vata happy.
HOW TO PREVENT COMMON COLD
Try and eat a variety of vegetables. Reduce the use of wheat and dairy, as their heavy qualities will pose a huge stress on the gut. Reduce the intake of alcohol as it can stress the gut. If you enjoy a glass of red wine with meals, that is perfectly fine as in fact red wine when drunk with meals improves immunity, keeps vata happy and kapha under control. Avoid sugars and sweets that dampen the gut, irritate the gut wall and trigger toxic overload in the gut. Make sure to maintain ‘sleep hygiene’, which means, go to bed and wake up at regular times and preferably get no less than seven hours of sleep. A well-rested person’s nervous system knows how best to react to an infection and to engage the right hormones and enzymes in supporting one’s immunity. Drink ginger tea twice or thrice daily to support good digestion and to provide antioxidants. Eat green and orange coloured vegetables rich in antioxidants. Use spices such as cayenne pepper, black pepper, long pepper, holy basil, ginger and turmeric in your cooking.
Ayurvedic remedies for cold
Whilst none of the remedies below work on their own, including more of these into your lifestyle during cold can greatly help faster recovery.
Add fresh ginger (a couple of slices), few pinches of cinnamon powder and cardamom powder, and tiny bit of honey in to boiled water. Fill this spiced water in to a thermos and sip the water from time to time through out the day. This will help in decongestion and keeps the digestion healthy, which is important from an ayurvedic point of view for developing respiratory immunity. Alternatively, sip warm water with ginger slices in it through out the day.
Make a mixture of fine powders of black pepper, cumin, fennel, coriander and turmeric in equal parts by volume and store the mixture in an airtight jar and sprinkle it on your food or cook your food with these spices. This will not only improve your digestion and absorption but also will provide high amounts of antioxidants needed to fight the cold.
South Indian soup recipe to keep your gut warm
1 tsp Pepper corns
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp dry coconut
1 tsp ghee 1 tsp Jaggery
6-8 curry leaves
1 cup milk
Himalayan rock salt to taste.
For seasoning: 1 tsp ghee and ½ tsp mustard seeds
Heat ghee in a pan. Fry pepper, cumin, coriander seeds till light brown color. Grind this to a smooth powder with dry coconut. In a sauce pan combine ground powder, jaggery, curry leaves and some water. Bring it to boil for 10 minutes. Add salt, milk and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Heat ghee in a pan, add seasonings when it starts to split, stir into the mixture. Serve hot with rice.
Improving respiratory immunity
Eat ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder mixed with honey, once or twice daily before meals. Turmeric is helpful in improving respiratory immunity and reduces inflammation.
Do steam inhalation by adding a drop of eucalyptus oil into boiled water in a wide mouthed pot and covering with a towel.
Gargle with salt water or diluted rapeseed oil (4 drops in water to reduce sore throat).
Of course, if you are not a vegetarian, chicken soup can be nourishing and warming during cold. If you can add a few spices such as turmeric, pepper and ginger to the soup, that will further enhance the benefits. Unnecessary medication during cold can reduce body’s ability to heal itself, especially in consecutive seasons. A bit of spice shopping, spending time in the kitchen cooking warm healthy food, paying attention to rest and drinking plenty of fluids can greatly help in preventing and managing cold. If you experience repeated incidences of cold, it is best to see a fully qualified ayurvedic practitioner. Visit the Ayurvedic Practitioners association, UK website www.apa.uk.com to find an ayurvedic practitioner.