Natural cures during cold and flu season
Five natural curesBefore continuing with this article, it must be stressed that the following is for general information only and is not intended in any way to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professionals if you have any concerns about your health—particularly during the flue season. These natural cures may not be applicable to everyone and could be detrimental to your overall health if not discussed with your physician as to possible interaction with any prescribed medication you may be taking.
Some of the time-honored natural cures that have been used for centuries to prevent colds and flu, reduce symptoms, or shorten the duration of colds and flu are showing promising results in research studies. There are a variety of herbs, supplements, and food remedies. Listed below are five that have received favorable results.
1. Kimchi, Sauerkraut, Kefir, and Yogurt
Kimchi (pronounced kim'-chee) is a Korean spicy fermented side dish that has been getting a lot of press since the BBC published a report by scientists in Seoul, Korea who found that 11 of 13 chickens infected with the avian flu started to recover after they were fed an extract of kimchi. It is important to note that there have been no published reports of its effect on people affected with the new strain of avian flu. The key ingredient is thought to be a natural organic acid called lactic acid, that's also found in sauerkraut, milk, yogurt, kefir (a yogurt-like effervescent beverage), meat, and beer. In fact recent reports also show sauerkraut being used to treat chickens.
Although research hasn't yet shown that fermented cabbage is active against the avian flu, there is research suggesting that lactic acid in other forms activates the immune system against influenza and cold viruses. Popular probiotic "friendly bacteria" supplements such as lactobacillus acidophilus produce lactic acid. A German study found that those who took a daily probiotic supplement had significantly less respiratory tract infections and people who caught the flu had had fewer symptoms and shorter fever duration.
Another one of the natural cures that has attracted a lot of attention is the berry extract from elderberry (Sambucus nigra) which contains more than one compound that's active against flu viruses. One of the many ways it works is by preventing the virus from attacking cells. A study found a 50% reduction in the severity and duration of symptoms in adults and children after taking an elderberry extract.
Health food stores carry elderberry juice, syrup, and capsules suitable for adults and kids. Only commercially prepared elderberry products made from the berry extract should be used, because the fresh leaves, flowers, bark, young buds, unripe berries, and roots contain cyanide and can result in cyanide poisoning. This is definitely not a do it yourself natural cure that you can prepare!
The herb ginseng, used in Asia for over 2000 years, made headlines recently after a double-blind placebo-controlled study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that a ginseng extract reduced the number of upper respiratory infections by 25% during a four month period. The treatment group took two 200 mg capsules of a ginseng extract every day for four months and reported reduced symptoms, duration of infections, and infection recurrence.
Although there are several types of ginseng, this study used North American ginseng Although North American ginseng isn't as stimulating as Asian ginseng, it can cause insomnia and worsen anxiety in some people, especially when it's combined with coffee or tea.
Who should not take it: Ginseng can have hormonal effects. Some studies suggest that ginseng can boost estrogen levels, so it should not be on the list of natural cures for women with breast cancer. Ginseng should also be avoided by people taking blood sugar medication or antidepressants known as MAO inhibitors, by children, people with high blood pressure, or by pregnant or nursing women.
Astragalus doesn't come with nearly as many warnings as ginseng. The dried root of astragalus is a popular ingredient in traditional Chinese herbal formulas. It's now used in the United States to strengthen the immune system and prevent colds and flu. Herbalists recommend it as an immune tonic for people who tend to catch colds frequently.
Preliminary research has shown astragalus can stimulate immune function in humans. It can be found in capsule form at health food stores or as a dried root in Chinese herbal shops and some health food stores. Because of its mild taste, the dried root can be added to soups. The dried root is light yellow and the size and shape of a tongue depressor. A typical daily dose is 9 to 15 g of the dried root, which equals about 3 to 4 slices. Traditionally in Asia, people took astragalus soup once a week throughout the winter. The dose is individual, and people with increased exposure or compromised immune systems may require more. Note: Herbalists do not recommend taking astragalus if you're already sick.
Another on the list of popular natural cures: A cup of hot ginger tea is not only invigorating , it is also a great cold fighter. Ginger contains compounds that have been found to be active against rhinoviruses, the most common group of cold viruses. Ginger is a diaphoretic, meaning it fights colds by gently raising body temperature and promoting perspiration. Note: Ginger is also a blood thinner. Talk to your doctor before taking it if you are taking blood thinners.