Colds, coughs, flu

cherriesEveryone’s got colds at the moment but there’s not much the doctor can do when you have a cold or flu,  because antibiotics won’t work for viruses. But there’s plenty you can do yourself.

  • Regular Vitamin C – especially as Montmorency cherries.
  • Echinacea daily – you can take it all winter.
  • Garlic – many people swear by garlic capsules, or if you can stomach it, plenty of raw garlic.
  • Blackcurrant – in various preparations.


COLDS Serious illnesses are not cured with complementary medicine, but symptoms can sometimes be managed with a healthy eating regime and use of therapies. We’re more likely to get colds when we’re run down, stressed and tired. They are most common between September and March with the peak time around Christmas (when you may be stressed and worn out). People still work when they have a cold, but rest and sleep are the best solution because the body heals itself when you sleep. Symptoms include:

  • sneezing
  • runny nose
  • blocked up nose
  • sore throat
  • earache
  • sinus pain
  • low grade fever
The way to avoid colds is to eat and sleep well, manage stress, exercise and take regular Vitamin C, zinc and Echinacea in winter. Once a cold is in full force the aim is to get over it as quickly as possible.
  • Keep taking Echinacea to boost the immune system and help to clear up the cold faster.
  • Chew grapefruit seeds or take the liquid extract, according to Suzanne Woodward, medical herbalist.
  • Steam inhalations help to clear stuffed up noses – put a few drops of eucalyptus, tea tree, or lavender oil in a bowl of boiling hot water and breathe in the vapours.
  • Try ginger root tea– one inch of peeled and chopped ginger boiled in water.
  • Cherry Active is made with Montmorency cherries and is absolutely packed with Vitamin C. It tastes nice and helps to keep you in top form.
A great combination is Yarrow, Peppermint and Elder, often prescribed by herbalists as a tea – Yarrow fights fever, Elderflower eases catarrh, and Peppermint cools and calms.

The other great soothers for colds:

  • Plenty of Vitamin C – nutritionists claim that 200 mg a day or more is safe when in need
  • Garlic boosts the immune system – take capsules or if you can bear it put it raw into soups and casseroles.

Cautious note: always check with your GP if taking prescribed medication BEFORE having herbal remedies as they may contraindicate the medicines.

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  • Antibiotics don’t work for viruses, such as colds and flu
  • Taking too many can lower the body’s defences when it needs to fight more serious infection

COUGHS Respiratory tract infections take up more of the GPs’ time than anything else, but while pneumonia and bronchitis can be serious some coughs linger after cold and flu symptoms have gone.Trudy Norris, herbalist and president of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists, suggests an infusion of thyme which is antiseptic, clears phlegm and fights chest infections . ‘Put a heaped tablespoonful of dried thyme into a litre of boiling water and fill a thermos flask. Add a teaspoonful of honey to the mixture to relieve irritation and keep near day or night.’ Just sipping a mixture of one teaspoonful of honey and warm water can prevent persistent coughing at night as well.

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Echinacea can be taken at the first signs of aches and pains (unless you are on medication in which case you should check for contraindications), as well as homeopathic remedies:

  • Gelsemium for aches and pains, rising temperature and constant aching;
  • Rhus Tox for aches and pains which get better when moving around;
  • Belladonna for sudden high fever, with or without sweating, cold hands and feet.

Boneset is an excellent herbal remedy for someone who has had flu for a couple of weeks, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better.

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  SORE THROATS: Antibiotics should only be offered for infections like tonsillitis but natural remedies can help to soothe the throat. If a sore throat seems to be signalling the start of a cold the homeopathic remedy Aconite can stop it progressing. Over recent years doctors have been advised to cut down on handing out antibiotics yet research shows that 44 per cent of people who see doctors when they have a cold are given a prescription for antibiotics. The downside of this is that when they get a serious illness they may be antibiotic-resistant (as we’ve seen with many hospital infections). Propolis is made by bees from natural ingredients to protect their hives from infection and invasion, and gargling with it soothes a sore throat. Gargling with a few drops of tea tree oil or a pinch of salt in a glass of warm water also eases the pain.

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Too many painkillers can suppress headaches and make them recur. The causes of a headache may be tension, hormonal imbalances, blocked sinuses, or back and neck problems. If headaches persist you should always consult a doctor, but if there is no serious problem you might find that a chiropractor or cranial osteopath can find the problem and ease the pain.

Trying to get rid of a headache can be really difficult, and one approach is to put strong smelling eucalyptus or camphor on the skin above the sinuses or on the forehead as so many headaches are caused by blocked sinuses. There are now several sticks available that make this easy to do, except you must be sure not to get it too near your eyes or they will pour.

Feverfew is the herbal answer to painkillers and Belladonna homeopathic remedy, is good for a throbbing headache, particularly in children.

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Often children with ear problems have repeated prescriptions for antibiotics which run down their immune systems. Homeopathy works well for glue ear and Pulsatilla is the most common remedy when there is lots of discharge. In cases of repeated ear infections a visit to a professional homeopath can be invaluable.

For adults earache can be cleared by putting a drop of lavender oil on a piece of cotton wool and placing it in the ear, but the vapours are quite strong and may not be recommended for children. For a desperate child you could try the old fashioned remedy of a baked onion, cut in half, wrapped in muslin and placed on the outside of the ear. Jenny Jones, herbalist, explains, ‘The vapours from the onion oils are antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, and they go into the ear and the heat of the warm onion is also soothing.’

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The National Institute of Medical Herbalists, 01392 426022, For a list of homeopaths contact: The Society of Homeopaths, 01604 621400,

Jenny Jones, Creative Health Centre, Leamington Spa, 01926 316500



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