The sudden onset of the common cold has the power to make life extremely unpleasant for its duration. It affects concentration levels, making you feel decidedly unwell. It also impacts sleep. Far from being one lingering virus, it is a combination of 200 viruses or more and this makes it difficult to build up resistance. Herbalist treatments can be useful when it comes to preventing the onset of colds and aiding the healing process.
Winter Colds Vs. Summer Colds
A winter cold and a summer cold are not the same, although the symptoms may be similar. Summer colds are often caused by the enterovirus rather than the winter rhinovirus and will have greater longevity. They sap strength, create congestion and cause aching joints but these viruses can be mistaken for hay fever. If mucus is clear or just a little discoloured, this is likely to be a cold. If the eyes are puffy or bloodshot, or the eyes, nose or throat are itchy, rather than dry, this may be an allergy. Colds are very contagious and are easily spread as droplets from coughs and sneezes disperse into the air.
Stress is also a contributing factor, as it impacts the function of the immune system. Other causes include changes to your routine, air travel or spending time abroad – as you come into contact with different viruses. These can all strain the immune system. Even exercising too much or too quickly can reduce immunity, as can using heated air conditioning in the winter and cool air conditioning in the summer. These cause the lining of the mouth and nose to dry - making the mucous lining less effective at trapping viruses before they enter the body.
When the common cold strikes, become an at-home herbalist and prepare some natural remedies to speed up healing and recovery time. There are many herbs and natural remedies that can be incredibly useful for improving health and wellbeing, some of which we’ll share with you now.
This herb has long been used to help treat infections and because its active ingredients include flavonoids, it has a beneficial effect on health. Research indicates that this herb has a positive effect on the immune system as it increases white blood cells vital to combatting infections. In addition to echinacea tincture or loose leaf echinacea tea, which can be readily purchased, if you have access to an echinacea purpurea plant, it is possible to steep your own herbalist tea.
Wash the roots, flowers and leaves and place in a cup. Boil water and allow it to sit for a minute before pouring eight ounces into the cup. Allow the tea to steep for up to 15 minutes. Strain the root, flowers and leaves prior to drinking.
If you don’t have access to echinacea purpurea, don’t worry. Take two teaspoons of dried echinacea root and boil it in 8 fluid ounces of water. While trying to eradicate the cold, take two or three servings per day to help give the immune system a boost.
Ginger root has long been known to have strong medicinal properties that help to alleviate nausea, but it is also excellent at aiding in recovery from the common cold. Grating or slicing ginger root and then seeping in boiling water until the aroma of ginger is apparent makes for a healing liquid that combats a dry, tickly or sore throat. Add a tablespoon of honey or lemon to the liquid and drink for a warm and soothing herbalist cold remedy.
Honey has an abundance of antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that can help to soothe irritated mucous membranes and suppress coughing whilst easing a sore throat. Note that children under the age of one should not have honey. Add a spoonful of honey to freshly squeezed lemon juice and enjoy over ice or add a little boiled water to the mixture and drink.
Steam Inhalation with Eucalyptus
An easy-to-make herbalist steam inhalation can be useful when you’re feeling congested. A bowl of boiling water with a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil can help open up the airwaves. To use, simply place a towel over your head, lean over the bowl of boiled water and eucalyptus essential oil, and breathe deeply. You can also add eucalyptus oil to a burner and breath in the freshness.
Congestion is an unpleasant side-effect to the common cold. You can make a saline spray or a salt-water rinse to reduce congestion in the nose.
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3 tsps iodide-free salt
Place the above in a container that is airtight. Add 1tsp of the mixture to approximately 8 ounces of boiled water that has been allowed to cool until it is lukewarm. Fill a syringe, lean over a basin and squirt the mixture into one nasal passage, keeping the other nostril closed. Let it drain before repeating on the other side. It is important to use boiled water that has cooled substantially or to use sterile or distilled water.
Home-Made Vapour Rub
A home-made, herbalist vapour rub can be wonderfully soothing when a cold develops. For many, a blocked nose and a congested head are the worst of symptoms, especially at night, as it makes it difficult to sleep. Making a natural vapour rub is not that difficult - just gather the following ingredients and follow the instructions below:
- ½ cup olive oil or almond oil
- 2 level tbsp beeswax pastilles
- 20 drops peppermint oil
- 20 drops eucalyptus oil
- 10 drops clove oil
- 10 drops rosemary oil
Use a double boiler and melt the beeswax with the olive or almond oil. Once this has melted, add the essential oils (don’t use the clove and rosemary oils if making for young children). Make sure these are pure essential oils, as these don’t contain chemicals. Reduce the essential oils by half. Mix well and then add to a glass jar or tin with a lid. Once cooled, this can be applied as needed and will help reduce congestion.
It can be fun as well as greatly beneficial to health to become your very own home herbalist. While herbalism is an exciting and complex system of healing, you can utilise many remedies at home and improve your life the natural way.