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Herbal Medicine


Avoiding The Common Cold with Herbs
by Dr. Ron Steriti

Cold and flu season is coming soon. It seems odd in a warmer climate to get a cold, but they happen. There are several theories of health that try to explain why we get colds and flu. This article covers a few of them and discusses natural methods for avoiding the common cold.

The germ theory states that there is a germ, typically an influenza virus, that we catch from other people, which causes the common cold. Linked with this is the concept of susceptibility. The germs seem to have a better chance of infecting us when we forget to wear a coat on a cold day, or when we have been working too hard and not getting enough sleep. It is well known that stress depresses the immune system, which is the bodies defense against disease.

Vitamin C is probably the most well known vitamin for preventing and treating colds and flu. Vitamin C increases macrophage activity (one of the cells of immune system), and has an anti-histamine effect which helps reduce the runny nose. Under stress most animals (except humans) make significant amounts of vitamin C from glucose. Therefore vitamin C is considered the stress vitamin.

Echinacea is the most well known herb for treating the common cold. It supports the immune system and increases the production and activity of white blood cells, lymphocytes and macrophages (cells of the immune system). Echinacea can be taken both to prevent a cold and to treat one. Many companies make echinacea glycerites which are suitable for children.

Garlic has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. Louis Pasteur confirmed its anti-bacterial action in 1858. Many people eat a clove of garlic a day to help support their cardiovascular system. Due to its heavy odor, many people prefer taking garlic capsules. The active part of garlic is allicin, which unfortunately is destroyed by cooking.

The story, however, doesn't end with the germ theory of disease. The important questions are: Why do some people not get colds? Why do some people catch a lot of colds? And, why do some people catch colds that last for months? According to the germ theory it is because some people have better immune systems, or because some people catch stronger germs. But suppose the problem isn't germs at all? What if the germs were a symptom of some deeper cause?

Opponents of the germ theory of disease argued that the internal milieu was more important than the germ. In other words, one should concentrate on keeping the body clean and in proper working order. They emphasized the importance of detoxification, and believed that mucous and runny noses were the bodies way of ridding itself of toxins. As this was a healing effort of the body, they believed it should not be suppressed with drugs like anti-histamines.

In today's post-industrial world there are hundreds of thousands of toxic chemicals commonly used. These include heavy metals such as lead found in lead pipes, mercury found in fillings and cadmium in smoke, as well as chemicals used to preserve foods, plastics for food containers, chemical fertilizers, herbicides for the lawns, and pesticides for ants and other household pests. The list is almost endless.

Proponents of detoxification recommend annual “Spring Cleaning” of the body. This is accomplished in several ways. Herbs used to treat the liver and colon are commonly used. These include milk thistle and dandelion for the liver and psyllium seed for fiber. In Ayurvedic medicine, the Triphala formula is used for internal cleansing.

Chinese Medicine has a different perspective. It focuses on balance. In one aspect it recommends balancing the four tastes: sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Most people prefer the sweet and salty tastes, and a few like sour things such as lemon water. Most people, however, avoid bitter tasting foods. Interestingly most of the healing herbs are bitter. So are many of the greens like Rapini, Swiss chard, and dandelion greens.

The Chinese people eat a vegetable called Bitter Melon, which looks similar to a cucumber, but tastes terrible (extremely bitter). It is an acquired taste, according to the clerk at the Chinese grocery store, but many Chinese people believe that eating one per month will keep them healthy (similar to “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”). Ayurvedic medicine has an herb called Neem (Azadiracta indica) which is touted as the most bitter plant known. Neem is commonly used in India, both as a healing herb, in hair shampoos, and in toothpaste.

Several different theories have been proposed for preventing and treating the common cold. These included well-known supplements like vitamin C, Echinacea and garlic. The role of detoxification in preventing disease was also discussed, as well as the Chinese theory of the four tastes. Hopefully this advice will help you avoid catching the common cold. If not, perhaps the best advice still is “get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluid”.

Nutritional Supplements

A commercial Wellness Formula contains a powerful combination of vitamins and herbs designed to support the body’s defense system when under physical stress. Many people take this while they are traveling by plane or ship. Ingredients: Vitamin A 5000 IU, Vitamin C 1084 mg, Zinc 23 mg, Selenium 25 mcg, Copper 300 mcg, Garlic 360 mg, Propolis 324 mg, Boneset 238 mg, Polygonum 200 mg, Echinacea 360 mg, Isatis 159 mg, Horehound 150 mg, Propolis 126 mg, Bioflavonoids 120 mg, Acacia Gum 92 mg, Astragalus 90 mg, Angelica 87 mg, Mullein 80 mg, Goldenseal 75 mg, Siberian Ginseng 66 mg, Hawthorn 55 mg, Oregon Grape 55 mg, Siberian Ginseng 54 mg, Pau D'Arco 36 mg, Cayenne 30 mg.

More Information:

Holisticonline.com Herbal Medicine Infocenter for more information about all the herbs mentioned in this article.

Allergies: Nothing to Sneeze At by Robin Hoogshagen, RPH
Strategies to manage the allergy season from a registered pharmacist.

Dr. Steriti graduated from the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, a four-year full-time accredited Naturopathic medical school. Dr. Steriti assists people to regain and maintain their health using herbs, homeopathy and nutrition to support their body’s natural healing abilities. He has a private practice in Naples, Florida and invites you to call him and discuss your health needs.

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