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Ayurvedic remedies for cold and flu

January 23, 2010

There have been a lot of nasty bugs around already, but with all this snow, there may be more to come! Congestion and irritation of the respiratory tract are usually due to aggravated Kapha dosha (for example due to excess cold, damp, heavy foods). If food is not digested properly it will turn into ‘ama’ (undigested matter, toxins) which also increases Kapha, especially if it is deposited in the Kapha sites in the body (chest, lungs, head, neck and stomach).  Aggravated Vata and Pitta doshas can also play a role but treatment of respiratory congestion is usually focused on pacifying aggravated Kapha and clearing the body of ama through:

  1. Diet: Eat light, warm simple foods, such as soup, whilst resting (the office will cope without your for a day or two). Avoid congestive foods (dairy, sugar, fried foods, meat, wheat, bananas and yeast). Also avoid all cold food and drinks, and keep drinking hot water to stay hydrated. Fresh ginger tea is excellent as it increases circulation, promotes sweating and digests mucus, relieving congestion (Please do not combine ginger with aspirin as both act to thin the blood). With chronic mucous, fasting on ginger tea for 2-3 days gives speedy recovery. Fasting for one day with warm water and lemon juice can expel toxins.
  2. Lifestyle: Use a neti pot to help prevent colds, as well as hay fever in the Spring (See my web-site for more on this). Get plenty of rest and practice Bhastrika to help clear sinuses. Try a steam inhalation (lean head over a bowl of hot water with a towel over you). Add a couple of drops of Eucalyptus (which has antiviral properties), crushed ginger root, Clove or Olbas oil. Keep warm especially the head, chest and feet. Avoid day sleep if you can which only increases Kapha more.
  3. Ayurvedic herbs: The delicious Ayurvedic jam, Chywanaprash, can be taken daily to strengthen the lungs and boost the immune system (you can try it on toast for breakfast). It acts to rejuvenate all the body tissues, increasing strength and virility, as well as alleviating respiratory conditions. For recurrent/persistent colds, you may also want to try Trikatu made of ginger, black pepper and long pepper which dry up mucous and clear channels. It is traditionally taken with raw honey which aids this effect. It should not be taken if you are pregnant or suffering from the effects of aggravated Pitta dosha (eg: heartburn, hyperacidity, ulcers). Finally, Turmeric is a potent natural antibiotic and can be used all respiratory tract infections. Boil half a cup of water with 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, add a little milk then use as a gargle.
  4. Home remedies: Going by the wisdom of the Ayurvedic sage, Vagbhata, who wrote: “There is nothing (in the world) which is not a medicine”, you can make effective remedies using common kitchen ingredients. Try some of the following instead of the Lemsip and see how they work for you:
  • Mix 1 tsp each of ginger powder, turmeric and black pepper and take ½ tsp of this mixture with warm water or honey twice a day.
  • Mix ½ tbsp ginger, black pepper, cardamom, clove, cinnamon and turmeric. Ad 3tsps of raw sugar. Mix ½ or 1 tsp of this mixture with honey or warm water and take twice a day.
  • Mix ½ tsp fresh ginger juice with ½ tsp honey and take three times a day.
  • Soak 2 parts fresh ginger root, 3 parts cinnamon and a pinch of cardamom in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes. Add ½ tsp of honey once its cool down a little. Drink a glass of this tea several times a day.
  • Crush ¼ tsp fresh ginger root with 8 fresh basil leaves, 2 peppercorns, 2 cardamom seeds, 1 cup of water, ½ tsp turmeric powder, 2 cloves, & 5 mint leaves. Boil, filter, add 1 tsp honey. Drink 3 times a day.