Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Coughs, colds and flu

Everybody at work has been afflicted with a really nasty cold virus.  Perhaps it is because the weather here is currently alternating between hot, cold and humid.  Whatever, I now have it!

So what does one do?  Of course, everyone at home will likely go down with it. Well, all that is except Michael, who never seems to catch anything.

So we gird up our loins and get the remedies out.  There are many herbs for colds and a quick search of the web will be most helpful, but I will stick to those I have used successfully with my friends, family and other suffering souls.

If you think colds are around you could take Yarrow (Achillea millefolium).  It is a wonderful, powerful herb and can sometimes stop a cold in its tracks. Among many other things it promotes sweating which helps your body get rid of the virus.  If you suspect you are brewing a cold, or it is important not to allow one to develop for yourself or a family member make a tea of Yarrow and have half a cup full every hour.  It can be a bit strong for some, so combine it with ginger and a little honey* to make it more palatable.  (*1tsp per pint not cupful. Sugar has been shown to compromise the immune system.  Some remedies are made more palatable with a touch of honey, so, if you need it, make sure it is the good stuff.)

Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) is also a wonderful herb and I have used it most successfully.  It is thought to be anti-microbial and antiviral and has been used for hundreds of years by the people of the Amazonian rain forests.    However, I have had a growing awareness of its potential for over harvesting and have stopped using it for colds.  (I still use it for other things though.)  However, if you have some use it. 

If you have the blighter though, go for something like my first choice of preference, elderberry, (Sambucus Nigra). Home-made elderberry syrup, in a little warm water with ginger, thyme and honey; you can’t beat it.  My old Gran used to call it a gift from the Elder Mother*  or the old Hag.  It tastes so good that to have it also help a cold is truly a bonus. I once found Mimz in the fridge helping herself to some syrup prepared for her brother, she didn’t think it was fair that he got to have it and she didn’t, as he was the one with the cold!  
(*There are many tales associated with the Elder Mother.  I will try to find some for you.)

So, how does it work?  Well, the ginger is warming and helps clean and clear the lymph glands, so that the body is able to act more efficiently under attack.  It also contains almost a dozen antiviral compounds and can be slightly sedative so it helps you to rest nature’s way.
The elderberry is high in vitamin c , and also contains vitamins a and b.  It helps shorten length of duration of the cold and helps in reducing the symptoms also, because elderberry helps in the production of cytokines, the immune function of the body under attack. Thyme (thymus) is so powerful an anti-septic that it was regularly used along with garlic in World War I.  It also helps the body expectorate or get rid of excess mucous. Therefore it is a herb considered to be a decongestant.
It is strong though. If you find it too strong to drink as a tea, you can make a hot, fragrant bath and your skin will absorb it.  If you make a tea with thyme you just need a few sprigs and pour hot water over it.  Put a saucer on the top to reduce the escape of the oils and when it has infused or steeped for about 5 minutes strain then sip slowly and feel that remedy work through your body.

I make a syrup with elderberries.  I take a good handful of dried berries or three of fresh, which have been stripped off their stalks as best you can.  A fork may be helpful with this. Pop them into a pan with about 2 tea cups of water, enough to cover the berries. Raise the heat slowly, and crush with a potato masher as the berries start to warm up.   Simmer gently for about 30minutes. The water turns a deep purple which does stain, so an apron is good if you are anything like me and mucky!  Strain the berries in a sieve, or muslin jelly bag, put the liquid back in the pan. Add one pound of good, organic LOCAL honey. Let it simmer a little.   That is your syrup.  Bottle it and when cool put it in the fridge.

Make a ginger tea by taking a piece of fresh ginger, grating it and pouring hot water over it in a cup, you could add your thyme at this point and put a saucer or small plate on top of the cup.  When it has steeped/brewed for about 5-10 minutes strain the herbs and then add 2 tablespoons of your syrup.  You will not believe how good it tastes and how good you feel when taking it.  You will develop a sweat, but that is productive and helpful.  You will feel relief quite quickly, and may even sleep for a while.  This remedy is good for children, but omit the thyme if giving to a pregnant lady, it can stimulate the uterus.

Just some added thoughts.

That terrible bunged up feeling one gets is from the mucous which the body produces.  This mucous is seen as BAD by many people, and so many attempts are made to unblock the nose with sprays etc,  and get rid of it or suppress it.  But!  Mucous is actually the good guy.  It is there as an emergency response of the body to flush the virus out of the body and it contains many anti-viral properties.  The trick is to keep it flowing, which is irritating but necessary.  Clear mucus is good but mucous that can’t move will become infected and turn colour.  Generally, dark yellow and green mucus 
can be signs of sinus infection, and light yellow mucus may be an indication that the air is too dry and causing an imbalance in the delicate membranes of the nose.  

If you are really bunged up use a netti pot or nasal spray bottle with a salt and water mix and snort it up.  Sounds gross but it works so well that it is now being marketed for the use of young babies.  Excess will quickly drain out of the nose without harm.  (A good pinch of real salt crystals in about a ¼ cup of water is about right.) Use freely with no side effects.   Or, you could use a traditional menthol and eucalyptus steam inhalation.

To keep the mucous running, drink lots of fluids.  Your body uses lots when fighting infections and you need to replace the water loss and keep mucus thin. Reduce dairy and gluten they are known to increase mucal secretion, which, let’s face it, when you have a cold enough is enough!

However tempting, try not to use over the counter products to suppress symptoms.  If you have a fever that is good!  Fever is there to kill the virus.   Generally, lowering fevers with aspirin or parcetamol increases the severity of symptoms and duration of infection.  It can also reduce your body’s ability to deal with further infections at a later date. 

You may have heard the old saying “Feed a cold and starve a fever”. 
If you have a fever don’t eat  
Your body is producing proteins which are fighting the virus, these are released by a mechanism triggered by the fever.  If you eat, you will also digest these valuable proteins.  Anyway, quite often, unless you have been trained to ignore your body, you will actually lose your appetite.  Your body will try to slow you down, making you sleepy and lethargic and you will feel like that until a drop in temperature signals to the body that you need to eat!

I had the great privilege of learning from Paul Bergner’s Vitalist Treatment of Acute Symptoms C.Ds.  See and this is what I learned…

990: Influenza can no longer replicate
1040: Gonococcus is negatively affected
1040: polio virus is reduced
1060: pneumonia dies (hydration is extremely important) 
1060: spirochetes die (syphilis and lyme’s)  

In the normal person a fever has to get extremely high before it will cause injury. Human cells start dying at 110o. The risk becomes worrisome when there is dehydration, leading to electrolyte imbalance and fever in those who are very young, very old or immunologically compromised.

I was taught as a young mum as many of you may have been, to give baby paracetamol syrup, to avert febrile fits.  As the years went by, I learned that febrile convulsions  are actually not that common, and good old elderberry syrup can help reset the fever  coping mechanism of the body in children who may be prone to temperature fits.  Here is what Paul Bergner says again…

Paul Bergner:
Febrile seizures in children are not correlated with the severity of the fever. The cause is generally unknown, and they affect 3-5% of children in the U.S. and about 15% in some countries. Giving antipyretic drugs* does not reduce the incidence of future seizures in children. Most disappear by age five. Most do not indicate a serious cerebral disease 
                                   *drugs which reduce fever.

Febrile convulsions occur in young children when there is a rapid increase in their body temperature. It affects up to 1 in 20 children between the ages of one and four but can affect children between six months and about five years old.
Children who are at risk may naturally have a lower resistance to febrile convulsion than others.  Children may inherit the tendency to suffer febrile convulsion from their parents.

·          If either parent suffered a febrile convulsion as a child, the risk of the child getting it rises 10 to 20 per cent.
·          If both parents and their child have at some point suffered a febrile convulsion, the risk of another child getting it rises 20 to 30 per cent.

Nevertheless, the child's susceptibility also depends on whether the child frequently gets infections. About 4 out of 10 children who have had febrile convulsions will get them again at some stage, although the risk differs greatly from child to child. The child's risk of febrile convulsion rises if:
·        they are genetically predisposed to it
·        they suffer frequent illnesses, which include high temperatures
·        the first attack of febrile convulsion was accompanied by a relatively low body temperature - below 39ºC.
·        The attack often begins with the child losing consciousness, and shortly afterwards the body, legs and arms go stiff.
·        The head is thrown backwards and the legs and arms begins to jerk.
·        The skin goes pale and may even turn blue briefly.
·        The attack ends after a few minutes and the shaking stops. The child goes limp, and then normal colour and consciousness slowly return.
·        Some children regain consciousness faster than others.

Do not intervene while the attack is taking place except in the circumstance outlined below.
Carefully turn the child's head to one side to prevent choking. In the past, it was common to place a stick in the child's mouth to prevent bites to the tongue or lips. This should never be attempted, as it may result in lasting damage to the teeth.
When the fit subsides, keep the child in the recovery position, ie lying on its side. If fits are prolonged or follow each other rapidly, call an ambulance.
The first time a child suffers febrile convulsions they should be admitted to hospital. If the child has suffered attacks on earlier occasions, hospitalisation is not always necessary. However, it is always important, for example, to determine whether the convulsions are only due to a harmless viral infection. For this reason, a doctor should always be consulted following an attack.

If anyone suffers a fit or seizure which lasts longer than 5 minutes call 999.   This does not happen too often thankfully but, don’t misunderstand, fevers can be serious for some and if there is ANY doubt at all call your G.P/Dr or 999.

So dear ones…. Last points.

Rest, relax all you can to give a chance to the immune system to recharge itself.
Your body needs attention. 
Do you need to look at building you immune system?
Are you working too hard?
Stressing out too much?

Take your remedy of choice.
Drink lots of fluids.
Reduce dairy and wheat intake.
Eat lightly or not at all if suffering a fever.

As for me… I am now drinking my elder berry and ginger remedy given to me by Mimz.   Lovely…..

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