Colds, coughs, flu

cherriesWill we get the usual colds and flu when everyone’s wearing masks, social distancing and not mixing in large crowds due to Covid-19?  It remains to be seen!  Here’s how you can  prevent them and stay healthy.

  • 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.
  • Vitamin D has come into its own lately because it has been suggested that people with low levels are more likely to suffer badly if they contract Covid-19.  Whether that’s proven or not there is no doubt that we need plenty of Vitamin D in the winter because we normally get it from exposure to the sun.


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.
  • Vitamin D has come into its own lately because it has been suggested that people with low levels are more likely to suffer badly if they contract Covid-19.  Whether that’s proven or not there is no doubt that we need plenty of Vitamin D in the winter because we normally get it from exposure to the sun.
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


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



Flu fighting tips

The flu vaccine has only worked for three per cent of recipients, so what can you do when you’ve got flu?

FluDavid Penwarden, Naturopath, Osteopath and Acupuncturist, gives his tips as to how to fight flu.

If the ongoing media coverage given to flu concerns you, give some thought to the measures that you can take to ensure that you are in the optimum health to be able to fight off any infection effectively.

Viral infection affects those who are run down, whether by financial, domestic or business worries, loss of sleep, poor diet or over indulgence in rich food and drink. We are most vulnerable at times when the body is struggling to adapt to sudden changes in temperature, such as in autumn or spring when virus that have lain dormant in the winter months then become activated by warmth.

We each become susceptible to infection for different reasons and it’s worth thinking back to times when you have become unwell in the past to recognise your own particular vulnerabilities so that you can take action to reduce your susceptibility.

Increase Resistance

The following supplements can help to increase your resistance to influenza virus:

Echinacea – 200mg daily. Take for 3 weeks then stop for a week before starting again.

Vitamin C – 1g daily increasing up to 4g daily should any cold or flu symptoms appear.

If you suffer from an upset stomach from high levels of Vitamin C reduce to a level that your body tolerates well.

Zinc – 15 mg daily . Zinc may prevent the virus from entering cells which it needs to do in order to multiply.

Selenium – 75mcg daily, increasing to 200 mcg daily at the first sign of symptoms. Selenium is thought to inhibit the ability of the influenza virus to mutate and also to replicate.

Vitamin E enhances the effectiveness of selenium and can accelerate recovery from influenza.

Elderberry can also be effective in preventing influenza viruses from entering cells from where it can replicate by inhibiting the enzyme that the virus produces to puncture cell membranes.

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Flu symptoms

The influenza viruses are inhaled and attach to the lining of the nose and sinuses. The body tries to expel the virus by producing mucus, but if it is unable to wash out the virus it moves further on to the throat and tonsils and you will experience the symptoms of fever, sore throat, headache, fatigue, muscle ache and shivering.


A nasal douche made with a cup of luke warm water and ½ teaspoon of salt can help the body to wash out the virus at the early stage.

Fever is the body’s defensive reaction which slows down the activity of the virus. At 38C most viral activity cannot take place and the growth of the virus is retarded.

Use cool packs – rather than cold – or flannels to reduce a high temperature to under 39 degrees C and keep the patient in a cool room. If in spite of these measures temperature rises to 40 degrees C, use homeopathic remedies, or if unavailable, paracetamol, to lower the temperature.

Massage neck and shoulders if this is comfortable, as it improves the blood flow to the temperature regulating centre in the brain.

Gently massage the throat area and any swollen lymph glands with 1 teaspoon of base oil mixed with 5 drops each of eucalyptus oil and camphor oil to relieve throat pain.

N.B. Homeopathic remedies do not work with eucalyptus, camphor or peppermint so don’t combine.

A cold compress to the throat increases the blood flow to the area promoting healing and reducing inflammation.

Rest as much as possible to allow the body to put all its resources into fighting the virus. Rest is also important in convalescence as the body needs energy to rectify the damage done by the disease. So return very slowly to normal activities even when the main symptoms are over to prevent any recurrence of symptoms.

David Penwarden can be contacted on 020 8642 6639

Overdosing on paracetamol

Echinacea 2Often viewed as harmless many cold and flu medicines contain paracetamol, and when taken with the tablets themselves can result in overdose. Some people don’t realise that many of the conventional products they take for colds and flu do contain paracetamol, and yet a combination of treatments can be fatal.

FACT: the maximum amount of paracetamol you should take over a 24 hour period is 4g or eight (standard) 500mg tablets.

The problem is when someone feels lousy they keep taking doses of pills or remedies, without thinking about whether or not they are taking too much. Always check the instructions on the packaging.

Apparently some people do not realise that many of the conventional products they take for colds and flu contain paracetamol. So a combination of treatments can be fatal. Recent research at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary looked at 663 patients who had liver damage caused by paracetamol. And 161 of them who had been taking it over a period of time, using both the drug itself and remedies that contain paracetamol for other ailments including colds and flu, had unintentionally overdosed.

And the result is often tragic with as many as two out of five of paracetamol overdose patients dying from the overdoses.

There are plenty of natural alternatives when you’ve got colds or flu. For instance, Echinacea has been found to be effective in treating colds and flu. A natural herb, Echinacea doesn’t contain paracetamol. Although it is necessary to consult with a doctor if you are taking medication of any kind, to be sure that it is safe to take a herbal remedy.

Supporting your immune system tips:

• Eat healthily, and include your five a day of fruit and veg, or more.
• Reduce or cut out sugar which competes with vitamin C.
• Reduce the amount of fatty food you consume.
• Avoid alcohol and give up smoking.
• Get a good night’s sleep every night.
• Relax, smile and laugh out loud at least 3 times a day.

You can buy Echinacea from our shop: go to Healthy Soul Shop/Herbal Remedies,   or you can get the new Echinacea Hot Drink to take when you start to feel the beginning of a cold.