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suzana naturallifestyle 120The most sensitive and challenging times for our immune systems are the periods of the year when seasons change. Here in the northeastern part of the States we witness and endure harsh polar temperatures for a good portion of winter. Even the most robust and healthiest organisms have quite the task to keep up with climatic factors such as harsh wind chills, extremely dry air, and daunting cold. Yet spring is at our doors and, same as nature, our bodies are waking up to renew and shed off winter burdens. The immune system, exhausted from winter, has a hard time smoothly picking up a new budding flow of energy and many of us are getting respiratory infections such as cold, flu, sinus infections, and sometimes even bronchitis and pneumonia.

In theories of Chinese medicine viral and bacterial infections are described as a 'Wind attack'. Various climatic factors describe particular diagnosis, so wind can be cold in nature (viral infections) or hot (bacterial infections). Same as the wind in nature, colds and flu have sudden onset and relatively short duration of symptoms, but can be debilitating and cause complication if not addressed properly or if immune system is already compromised.

Ideally, a strong immune system can ward off any 'attack', but in today's world even very healthy individuals are taxed with stressful life styles, lack of sleep, unbalanced diet, and all of the unpredictability of life. We are all more or less affected.

So even if you followed the prescription for building up the immune system with vitamins, minerals, healthy Omega3 oils, warm and liquid food, fermented veggies, all kinds of superfoods health food markets have to offer, there is still a chance that you'll still end up with sniffles and sneezes, coughs and headaches, that cause you to be bound to rest and take better care of yourself. That 'wind invasion' can be perceived as a sign that the body is asking for time-out.  It is wise to respect those signals.

Here are some efficient strategies to cope with cold and flu and prevent possible complications, which I have used for years in my clinical practice and as a parent of two kids. Please consult your primary care physician about your condition first.

It is crucially important to start with all lines of defense on the very first onset of symptoms. This is the time when we start feeling tired, lethargic, throat might be itchy, slight headache is present, or we  sneeze and have slight chills. In that period we might be able to stop or weaken severity of symptoms and shorten duration of illness.

  1. Increase intake of Vitamin C
  2. Drink plenty of warm liquids such as ginger (Lat.Ziingiber officinalis), lemon balm ( Lat. Melissa officinalis), boneset ( Lat. Eupatorium perfoliatum),  or elder flower (Lat. Sambucus nigra) teas, seasoned with lemon juice and honey;
  3. Hydration in all forms is the most important part of managing colds and flu. Aside from fluid intake, be mindful of rinsing your nostrils with saline nasal mist. Pay attention to indoor moisture, especially when outside air is very dry and heating is on.
  4. Don't burden your digestive system with heavy foods and stay away from gluten rich products, dairy, meat, and  sweets of any form;
  5. Eat miso soup made of fresh miso paste seasoned with the white part of the scallion or light vegetable or chicken broths. Chicken broth is preferable if you feel chilled and there is no fever.
  6. You can take Echinacea (Lat. Echinacea purpurea) herbal extract for the first 2-3 days of the cold/flu every 4 hours in the amount directed from the producer.  Don't ever use Echinacea for longer period of time. It is, unfortunately, advertised and misused as long term 'immune booster'. Echinacea has antiviral and antibacterial properties in the times when infection is already present in the body. Allergic reactions have been reported.
  7. Start taking Black Elderberry syrup ( Lat. Sambucus nigra). Black elderberry has been used in traditional cultures to boost the immune system for centuries. It's typically found in North America and in Europe and contains a slew of antiviral properties. Science is finally catching up to this ancient cure, whose potency has been observed in recent studies. It will not necessarily prevent onset of cold or flu-like symptoms, but it shortens its duration and also prevents complications (lower respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia). I usually recommend preventative usage of Black elderberry syrup (from November till May) to individuals who suffer from asthma and have susceptibility to bronchitis and pneumonia.
  8. My most favorite and by far most efficient remedy to cope with cold and flu is the topical application of essential oil blends. The reason I'm putting them on the bottom of the list is that they are not readily available and you HAVE to be advised by qualified practitioner on how to dilute them properly for safe and efficient usage. Never use them undiluted!!! Blends of Eucalyptus radiata (Lat. Eukalyptus radiata), Ravintsara (Lat. Cinnamonum camphora), Tea Tree oil, and Lavender (Lat. Lavandula angustifolia) applied on the nape of the neck and chest area are an efficient antiviral and antibacterial reducer, prevent mucus build up, and moisten mucus membranes. For the specific symptoms Douglas Fir(Lat.Pseudotsuga menziesii), Thyme Linalool, or Pine (Lat. Pinus sylvestris) oils can be added to the blend or used as a separate blend. Essential oil blends need to be used frequently in order to be effective, every 4-6 hours. Application after quick hot shower is also advisable.
  9. Roots, flowers, branches, seeds, and barks have been used for centuries in different cultures to help with specific coughs and respiratory complaints. I would recommend to seek advice from qualified practitioners for herbal blends. Safe one to use and that is efficient for all types of cough is Coltsfoot (Lat. Tussilago Farfara), a beautiful yellow flower plant which will soon decorate our road banks as one of the first signs of spring.  Nature knows what to offer first!

Don't forget to rest, sleep, and take it easy for a few days!


Suzana Jelovecki, MS, Licensed Acupuncturist, is the owner of Roots and Branches Acupuncture and Nature Bound Woman
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