The common cold: drippy nose, nagging cough, sore throat, clogged sinuses, and congestion. It's miserable, spreads quickly (person-to-person or through the air), affects people of all ages, and hits nearly any time of the year, but especially in the spring and fall. It's the most prevalent type of upper respiratory infection (URI) and is caused by a virus (rhinovirus).
SO, WHAT'S A PERSON TO DO?
If you get a cold, give your body the rest and support it needs and the infection will generally resolve within ten days. We all know there are myriad products that promise to reduce symptoms, from decongestants, cough suppressants, and pain relieving medicines. And we also know that relief is temporary and often comes with side effects. We suggest following a natural path to preventing and treating those pesky colds. You'll be happy you did.
THE NATURAL MEDICINE APPROACH
Start with an evaluation of your vitality, looking at factors that sustain a strong immune system. In doing this, your holistic physician will assess: diet and food allergies; nutrient deficiencies; hygiene and hand-washing habits; and physical activity. Lifestyle and environmental factors will also be considered, including personal relationships, ongoing stress, and exposure to allergens, mold, and toxins. Your doctor may also test breathing function, which can play a role in susceptibility to URI.
When you do come down with a cold, these natural approaches can support the healing process:
Rest and Replenish. Rest as much as possible as the body needs its resources for healing. Drink plenty of water or diluted vegetable/whole fruit juice, and herbal tea. Eat fresh fruit, vegetables, broth-based soups and protein. Avoid processed sugars, alcohol, and other foods which can depress immunity.
Essential Oils. Use oils in a chest rub or aromatherapy diffuser to reduce the intensity of coughs and congestions. Try peppermint, lemon, eucalyptus, lavender, clove and tea tree oils. Ask your physician for guidance, as some oils are not recommended for children; others should not be combined, and concentrated oils need to be diluted properly before use.
Massage. Helps reduce pain and inflammation and promotes relaxation, which is vital to the body's healing process. As long as you're not coughing and sneezing, visit a massage therapist for lymphatic drainage or Swedish massage. Self-massage techniques can help drain the ear-nose-throat canal (see the therapy article in this newsletter). Lymphatic drainage massages get your lymph moving and help move toxins out of your body.
Supplements. Research indicates vitamin C reduces the severity and duration of colds, but not the incidence. Similarly, properly prescribed Zinc supplements can reduce the frequency and intensity of colds; there is little evidence for the effectiveness of over-the-counter zinc lozenges. For symptom relief, try botanical medicines, such as ginger, elderberry, and Echinacea.
Humidify. If you live in an especially dry, warm climate, consider using a humidifier in your home. There is mixed evidence about how much humidification can help treat URI, but at the least, it may make breathing more comfortable.
Natural medicine offers a multitude of ways to personalize care, especially to support the prevention and treatment of URI. Speak with your holistic practitioner about what approaches are best for you.
Used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years, Fennel (foeniculum vulgare) improves digestion, supports detox, and treats symptoms associated with respiratory illness. While many varieties of fennel are cultivated today - all related to wild fennel, which is native to Mediterranean countries - the most widely used form is Sweet Fennel. Raw or cooked, appetizers to entrees, fennel's aromatic flavor makes it a wonderful addition to all types of cuisine.
You'll recognize fennel by its pale green bulb and sturdy stalks, topped by a spray of soft, feathery green leaves. From bulb to leaf to seed, all parts of fennel are edible. The plant contains antioxidants and a unique compound called anethole, which has been shown to reduce inflammation. Fennel also contains vitamin C, which supports a healthy immune system. The Vitamin C found in the bulb has antimicrobial properties, as well. A cup of raw sliced fennel provides fiber, potassium, and other nutrients.
Autumn and early spring are the best times for buying fennel. Look for bulbs that are clean and firm, free from spots and brittle strips. Both stalks and leaves should have a vibrant green color. Flowering buds indicate that the fennel is past maturity. Fresh fennel should be fragrant, with an aroma akin to licorice. When possible, choose organic produce. To preserve the vitamin content, keep fresh fennel in the crisper in your fridge for up to four days. It's a good practice to store fennel seeds in the fridge, too.
For centuries, traditional healers have used Royal Jelly to address a wide range of concerns - from muscle aches to infections - longevity to virility. Today, it's marketed as a nutritional supplement, health food, and a topical ingredient in cosmetics. The theory behind this widespread use stems from the purpose Royal Jelly (RJ) serves in nature. RJ is the exclusive sustenance of the queen honeybee. In fact, worker bees produce RJ solely to feed the queen and support her larger size, fertility, and longer lifespan (five to eight years, or 40 times longer than other bees). RJ is stored in reserve cells, with as much as a five to six month surplus - one queen alone could never eat all that 'royal milk!'
Royal Jelly has many nutritive and biologically active properties that account for its use in modern botanical medicine, as well as growing interest from the scientific community. Not only is it a rich source of B vitamins, it contains amino acids, sugars, fats, and flavonoids. Of all the compounds in RJ, flavonoids are the most biologically important. They work in the human body to reduce inflammation, fight bacteria, and prevent cell damage that can lead to disease. Flavonoids also contribute to cardiovascular and immune system health. Holistic doctors understand the range of clinical uses of RJ, some of which require more in-depth scientific investigation.
There are some precautions to heed with Royal Jelly: Children, pregnant or nursing women, and anyone who is allergic to bees should consult a physician before using RJ products.
Few herbs go by as many names as Osha Root (Ligusticum porteri). This traditional Native American medicinal plant is also known as Bear Root, Chuchupate, Indian Parsley, Wild Celery Root, and Colorado Cough Root. A member of the parsley family, it has been used to treat respiratory and digestive conditions for centuries.
Osha contains antiviral and antibacterial compounds that can relieve inflammation in the bronchial tubes. It helps alleviate symptoms such as sore throat, sinus congestion, and cough, and has been used to treat bronchitis, flu, and pneumonia. Take it as soon as your symptoms appear and when you are coughing and sneezing the most. That's when it seems to be the most effective. Prepare a tea from crushed and dried Osha Root or mix root extract with honey to make a cough syrup.
Osha grows in a limited region in the U.S. so it can be hard to find in typical grocery stores. Ask for it in specialty or natural foods grocers or look for it online from a source that specializes in the herb. If you're unsure about the source, don't buy it (or pick it in the wild), as Osha leaves resemble Hemlock, a poisonous plant.
Many factors determine the appropriate amount of Osha to take, including a person's age, weight, and symptoms. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take Osha root. Talk with your holistic healthcare professional before taking Osha Root.
It can hit anyone at any age - children and adults alike - and result in anything from mild discomfort to severe pain. We're talking about congestion, that miserable clogged headachy feeling due to upper respiratory illness, ear infection, or allergies. It's often due to inflammation and fluid in the Eustachian tube, a canal that connects the middle ear to the upper throat and the back of the nasal cavity.
THE EUSTACHIAN TUBE'S JOB IS TO:
- Balance pressure in the middle ear, keeping it equal with air pressure outside the body
- Protect the inner ear from nasal secretions
- Drain middle ear secretions into the area between the nasal cavity and upper throat.
When you experience congestion, a typical medical approach is to treat symptoms (e.g., with antibiotics, decongestants). A holistic approach includes natural medicines and Eustachian Tube Massage (ETM), which can alleviate congestion and the discomfort it causes by stretching the soft tissue that lines the tube. This helps reduce pressure and promotes release of fluid from the tube. You can perform ETM on yourself, or for a child.
HERE IS HOW:
- After washing your hands, use your index or middle finger to feel behind the ear lobe for a bony bump. With firm, steady pressure slide your finger down until it slips into a groove between the ear lobe and the jaw.
- Follow that groove down the neck with your finger, sliding down (with same steady pressure) until you reach the collar bone.
- For a child or small adult, it may help to tilt your head to the shoulder opposite the ear that you are massaging. (Ex: If massaging right side, tilt head to left shoulder)
- Repeat three to four times per side, about three times a day.
If symptoms are severe, ask your physician about the Modified Muncie Technique. This method involves massaging from inside the back of the mouth, and should be performed by a healthcare practitioner.
Eustachian Tube Massage from Medicine From Nature on Vimeo.
- Giudice, L., "Otitis Media" as cited in Pizzorno, J. E. Textbook of Natural Medicine. (2013) St. Louis, M.: Elsevier. (chapter 195), 1678-1684.
- Personal Communication: Eli Camp, N.D. 9 Jan 2017.
- Medline.com "Eustachian Tube Function and Anatomy." Accessed 10 Jan 2017.
- Channell, M., "Modified Muncie Technique: Osteopathic Manipulation for Eustachian Tube Dysfunction and Illustrative Report of Case." J. Amer Osteopathic Assoc., (May 2008) 108, 260-263. Accessed 4 January 2016.
- Cunsolo, E. et al., "Functional Anatomy of the Eustachian Tube." Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. (2010) Jan-Mar;23(1 Suppl):4-7. Accessed 10 Jan 2017.
- PubMed Resources for various Eustachian tube massage techniques, manual and using vibratory medical devices. Accessed 08 Jan 2017.
The information offered by this newsletter is presented for educational purposes. Nothing contained within should be construed as nor is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. This information should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider. Always consult with your physician or other qualified health care provider before embarking on a new treatment, diet or fitness program. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information contained within this newsletter.