Ayruveda, an ancient Indian healing practice, says that colds are an imbalance of one’s dosha. Basically, when your energy goes bonkers, you get a cold, which often happens in the autumn or winter seasons. These seasons increase the vata dosha, which is associated with the wind and colder weather. A cold caused by increase of vata usually has a dry cough, watery eyes, and runny nose . Practitioners believe that change from hot to cold weakens our digestive fire, or the agni, and leaves our bodies with excess toxins called ama. Increased ama makes us more susceptible to colds and flu.
Too much ama can also lead to an increase in kapha dosha, the dosha associated with cold and wet. This imbalance can make you feel sluggish and congested.
You can counteract these effects by keeping your body temperature up. When you get that feeling that a cold is coming on, schedule a hot stone massage or take a warm bath or shower which will fire up your digestion and help burn off the phlegm and mucous. You can also try taking ashwaganda, amalaki, or gotu kala. Ask a local TCM practitioner which would help you more.
If you don’t want to spend the next 6 months wrapped in a blanket with the tissues near by, here are some new ways to beat the sniffles. Ayruveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and naturopathy invite new ways to tackle a cold.
If you are too late and the cold is bringing you down fast, here are some ways that may help speed up the recovery. Cut down on your dairy intake as well as foods made with sugar and oils, both of which increase your kapha and your mucous. Make sure you get plenty of warming herbs like cinnamon, ginger, or basil, which soothe kapha and vata doshas. Drink lots of water and sip herbal tea. Try this recipe:
½ tsp tulsi pinch of ginger juice of 1 lemon honey to taste.
This mixture is made of pungent, dry, and sour, which reduces kapha and vata.
Naturopathy believes that the body can heal itself in time. To help fight colds and flu, it may blend conventional medicine with natural treatments.
To smash colds before they begin thriving, wash your hands often. Add more herbs to your diet to kick start the immune system. Try Echinacea, fresh garlic, ginger root, zinc, or shitake or seishi mushrooms. Extra sleep is always a good idea. And drinking at least half your body weight in water helps to flush out your systems.
If you are too late, many naturopaths will prescribe treatment based on your individual needs. Try a steam humidifier to help clean out the lungs. For a stuffy or runny nose, you can mix 1 part apple cider vinegar with three parts water and use as a nasal spray. You can also try putting on a pair of wet socks before bed. Cover them with a pair of dry wool socks and as you sleep, the body will move blood to your feet and away from your head, which can help relieve your congestion.
Traditional Chinese Medicine focuses on the flow of your life energy or your qi. Illness happens with one’s qi is blocked. Colds and flu happen with “wind” attacks, which affect your lungs. A wind cold will result in a common cold or body aches, nasal discharge, and headaches, and a wind heat will result in the flu or fever, thirst, sore throat, and colored nasal discharge.
Your first step is to build up a resistance. To strengthen your immune system, many herbalists will recommend Gejie Ta Bu Wan or bu Zhong Yi Qi Wan. See a local practitioner to see which prevention treatment is right for you.
If you already have the sniffles you can try acupuncture or self massage. There are several pressure points that can help:
1. The fleshy part between your right thumb and forefinger. Gently press the area with your other thumb for 1 minute. 2. Two finger widths up from your wrist is another pressure point. On the inside of the forearm, gently press for 1 minute. 3. The middle of the groove outside of each nostril; press each point for 1 minute.
You can also add hot lemon water to your daily diet. This will replace the lost fluid and give your system a mega dose of vitamin C.
Adapted from Natural Health magazine Oct 2008.