As soon as it gets cold again outside, colds and flu start doing the rounds. These important household remedies and cures are worth knowing if you do catch something.
Patience is the only real aid when it comes to flu. There is no way to speed up recovery. However, various remedies from complementary medicine can help alleviate the symptoms. Colds are very much a different matter: applying the right household remedies can make them shorter.
Whether it is a flu or a cold, it is always important to drink enough. Opt for water, herbal tea or fruit juices. You should drink an extra litre of fluid for every degree your temperature exceeds normal body temperature. This will offset your loss of fluid.
Take it easy. Your body can only recover properly if it is gets enough of a break.
If you feel like a cold is coming, then sweating it out can work wonders. It improves the body's defences. Take a hot bath with a few drops of thyme oil and drink one or two cups of sweat-inducing tea (elder, linden blossom, camomile blossom or ginger). Afterwards, lie in bed and keep yourself covered. You should not try the sweating cure if you suffer from cardiovascular or circulatory problems.
In flu, the symptoms come on quite suddenly and include aching limbs, high fever and a headache. Flu last around seven days, during which time the sufferer is generally unable to leave bed. It usually takes another week or so to return to full health. Flu-like infections often begin with a runny nose and sore throat. They do not always involve fever and it takes much less time to feel better again. If you are not sure if you have flu or a flu-like infection, it is almost certainly not flu.
Remember: see a doctor if the symptoms of a cold or flu do not begin to improve after one week.
Cold calf compresses can help lower a fever. Soak two cloths in vinegar and water and place these around the calves. Wrap a terry towel around the compress and cover yourself with a blanket. Replace the compress when the inner towels have warmed up.
Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a litre of water. Use this to rinse out the nose, which helps get rid of viruses and bacteria in the nasal cavity.
Coughing is a natural reflex, by which the body tries to expel foreign matter out of its airways. A cold or flu generally begins with a dry tickly cough, which then becomes a productive wet cough after a certain amount of time.
For a dry cough, warm milk with honey or plantain and rosehip teas can reduce irritation. Cowslip, fennel, aniseed and thyme tea are better choices for wet coughs.
Camomile, sage and thyme teas all reduce inflammation, as does warm milk with honey. Herbal or honey lozenges also help a sore throat. They stimulate the salivary glands and so stop the throat from drying out.
The leaves contain saponins, which liquefy bronchial mucus. Ivy leaf extract widens the bronchi and this diminishes throat irritation. Ivy can be taken as a juice, drops or tablets.
Sage contains tannins that kill bacteria and it shields the mucous membranes in the mouth and throat. Warm sage tea is therefore great as a gargle. Lozenges can help with a sore throat.
Myrtle and cinol work as an expectorant and are antispasmodic. The essential oils in the plant also provide a cooling sensation. Eucalyptus can be administered via the skin or through inhalation – with oil baths or balms, for example.
The flowers and roots of cowslip can be consumed as tea. It stimulates the stomach and therefore causes the bronchi to produce fresh mucus, which can then be coughed up more easily.
The mucilage found in linden protects the throat and relieves throat irritation.
Tea and pastilles cover the inflamed mucosa with a kind of protecting layer, which alleviates tickly coughs.
Echinacea activates phagocytic white blood cells in the blood and tissue and therefore stimulates the immune system. This plant is also used to treat infection.
Thyme oil or tea has expectorant properties. It combats bacterial infections in the airways and reduces spasms in the case of tickly or hacking coughs.
Tip: combine various different herbal remedies to enhance the effect.
Oliver Bassler (naturopath with federal diploma TEN) has been working at Helsana since 2008. As an expert, he is responsible for the area of complementary medicine. He is committed to ensuring that customers can benefit from high quality services in complementary medicine.