Getting the Best of Colds And Flu

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One thing nobody wants in common with anyone else is the common cold. Almost everybody knows from experience–sore throat, nose-blowing, sneezing and wheezing–what a cold is.

From a medical doctor’s viewpoint, a cold is one of many viral infections that affects the lining of the respiratory passages, the nose, throat, sinuses, bronchi and the lungs.

It is now thought by many authorities that colds are primarily spread by direct contact with viruses–usually by shaking hands or kissing an infected person or by touching contaminated surfaces such as doorknobs and subsequently rubbing your nose, eyes or mouth.

Contact with the cold virus doesn’t always mean you’ll become infected. If your diet is adequate, you’re well rested, and your immune system isn’t overstressed, you’ll probably resist getting most colds. And if you should become infected, your cold will probably be short-lived.

There’s no known cure for the common cold. Yet there are numerous simple, nontoxic, natural things you can do to help prevent a cold, or if you develop one, cure yourself in record time.

The foundation of a healthy immune system is good nutrition: eating a wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds, a moderate amount of vegetarian protein or lean meat, fish or poultry. Less than 30 percent of your total food calories should come from fat. Twenty percent or less is even better. It is important to eat a few or no refined carbohydrates—white flour and white sugar.

Other things I recommend to my patients to prevent colds are: 1) Get plenty of sleep; 2) Drink up to eight glasses of water daily; 3) Exercise regularly; 4) Wash hands before eating, if working in a crowded environment; 5) Breathe warm air for two or three minutes at night, if prone to colds.

How do you do the latter? Place a hair dryer on a warm setting and simply breathe in and out, heating your nasal mucosa. This increases your local immune response in the nasopharynx and helps kill the cold virus on contact. Be careful not to put the setting too hot, since you don’t want to burn your nose.

If your prevention methods fail, there are many safe and natural ways to make sure your cold ends as soon as possible.

First, take plenty of vitamin C. Most adults can tolerate 500 to 1,000 mg three times a day with no problems. If you have an acid stomach, find a vitamin C product that’s buffered—particularly with calcium, magnesium and potassium. These are minerals often deficient in most people’s diets.

Linus Pauling, Ph.D., discussed a control study performed by G. Rietzel and associates showing that schoolboys who took 1,000 mg a day of vitamin C reported a decrease of 45 percent in the number of colds and of 30 percent in the number of days of illness per cold.

Pauling mentions another study in which 500 test subjects received 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily, which was upped to 4,000 mg during days one to three of a cold. Results of this double-blind test showed that people who took vitamin C were confined indoors with cold symptoms 30 percent fewer days than others, and 40 percent of the vitamin C takers stayed entirely free of all types illness, including colds, than the placebo takers.

Additional studies published in recent literature show just as conclusive proof that vitamin C is an effective colds fighter. Other nutrients essential to helping battle the common cold and flu are vitamins A, B complex, E and the mineral zinc.

Vitamin A deficiency is known to cause a weakening of the immune system in human subjects, resulting in a decreased ability to fight off colds, because it cannot be efficiently converted to vitamin A in people with an underactive thyroid, a condition far more prevalent than most people think.

A deficiency of the vitamin B complex helps to undermine the immune system. A lack of vitamin E slows the manufacture of antibodies and the multiplication of white blood corpuscles, which destroy viruses and other enemy invaders. As little as 15 mg per day of zinc helps to bolster the immune system by strengthening the thymus gland. You should never take excessively large doses of zinc or any other mineral, because this could upset the delicate balance of other essential minerals.

Homeopathic remedies can also play an essential role in treating colds.

Echinacea can help the immune system ward off a cold. Goldenseal, propolis and aged garlic extract also are effective.

Traditionally aconite is a good remedy to take at the first signs of a cold characterized by much sneezing, nasal discharge, a red and inflamed throat and fever. Aconite is recommended only during the first 24 hours of a cold.

However, when taken at the first sneeze–particularly along with vitamin C–aconite is reputed to get rid of some colds overnight.

Ferrum phosphate 30X is helpful for a nonspecific cold in which the patient just doesn’t feel well. It also works best when taken at the first sign of cold symptoms.

For a cold that has progressed past the beginning stage, either arsenicum album or belladonna may be of value—arsenicum album if you feel cold and belladonna if you feel hot.

Other effective homeopathic remedies for a fully developed cold are hepar sulphuris, calcareum, pulsatilla (for colds that settle in the throat); allium cepa (homeopathic onion for colds whose symptoms are watery eyes and nose); bryonia alba for colds that settle in the chest; gelsemium for delayed onset colds, especially summer colds.

Causticum, mercurius and nux vomica are also helpful in certain types of colds. Although you can buy most of these remedies over the counter, it is advisable to consult with a practitioner knowledgeable about the precise use of the numerous individual homeopathic remedies.

Polypharmacy, the mixed remedy for a generic cold, can be taken without a homeopathic consultant by anyone who wants to add another dimension to his or her natural cold treatment.

Helpful in treating influenza are more homeopathic remedies: Gelsemium, bryonia, eupatorium perfoliatum, pyrogenium and rhus toxicodendron .

Herbs that can be bought over the counter also help to relieve the suffering from colds.

Echinacea tincture, taken at the first sign of a cold, can activate the immune system to help ward off the cold virus. Other effective OTC remedies are goldenseal, propolis, aged garlic extract and St. John’s wort (as a tincture).

Sophisticated herbal mixtures in capsule, tea and tincture forms taken along with the nutrients and homeopathic remedies can help turn the tide in even the worst cases of cold and flu.

If you have recurrent colds, a complete medical checkup to rule out commonly undetected causes of immune depletion such as hypothyroidism, thyroiditis, systemic candidiasis, food allergies, chronic sinusitis and a weakened adrenal gland.


Alexander, Dale. The Common Cold and Common Sense. West Hartford, Conn.:

Witkower Press, Inc., 1971.

Balch, James F., M.D., and Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Garden City Park, N.Y.: Avery Publishing Group, Inc., 1990.

The Doctor’s Book of Home Remedies. Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale Press, 1990.

Hemila, H. “Vitamin C and the Common Cold,” British journal of Nutrition 67:3-16, 1992.

Hobbs, Christopher. “Cultivate Health With Herbs,” Natural Health, September 1992. Personal communication with Linus Pauling, Ph.D., 1992.

Salaman, Maureen and Scheer, James F. Foods That Heal. Menlo Park, Calif.: Statford Publishing, 1989.

Weiner, Michael. The Complete Body of Homeopathy. Garden City Park, N.Y.: Avery Publishing Group, Inc., 1989.

Reprinted with permission of Better Nutrition for Today’s Living, December 1992.

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