Here is some advice that could very well have come from my grandma… “If you have the flu, go to bed”, is one of them – common sense, people, use common sense !
For years, common wisdom for a cold was to take a pill. But scan pharmacy shelves these days – not to mention bookstores – and the message is changing.
While over-the-counter cold and flu medications have lost favour in light of studies that show the only worthwhile ingredient is the painkiller, natural remedies are gaining ground.
In fact, around 20 per cent of Canadians – about 5.4 million – use alternative remedies and treatments, according to a recent Statistics Canada report.
“Consumers are becoming more wary and are thinking more cautiously about everything we put into our mouths,” says Toronto-area pharmacist Sherry Torkos, author of The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (Wiley).
“With over-the-counter medications, for example, they might mitigate symptoms, but there are side-effects for people with asthma, diabetes and heart disease, all of which are on the rise,” says Torkos. “Overall, along with an increase in people turning to natural alternatives, there are more questions being asked: Are there side-effects? Are there benefits? What are the risks?”
It’s a state of affairs that doesn’t surprise Michele Boisvert, a Montreal pharmacist and Canada’s first female homeopath who recently launched her book Healthy…Naturally: A Guide to Homeopathy. Boisvert says interest in natural therapies is increasing, particularly during the cold and flu season. “There are other ways to deal with those ailments that are safe and gentle,” she says.
For a cold
Wash your hands frequently.
A recent survey by the Health and Hygiene Council Canada found that 90 per cent of Canadians know hand-washing helps avoid contracting the flu or colds, but only 37 per cent of children and 44 per cent of adults soap up before eating. “Wash your hands, especially during winter when we spend more time inside with each other,” advises Boisvert. “Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth unless you have just washed. And think about the tissue you used to blow your nose. Put it in your pocket and you’ve stored 1,500 germs right there.”
Increase your allicin.
You might call it garlic- or onion-breath, but the active compound in those vegetables is both antibacterial and antifungal. Animal studies published since 1995 show that allicin does more than ward off the sniffles. It can reduce atherosclerosis, balance lipoprotein, lower blood pressure and act as an anti-inflammatory. Torkos recommends taking products like Kyolic regularly to support immune function.
Get lots of sleep.
“It seems simple, but when we’re tired, exhaustion impairs immune system function and makes us more vulnerable,” says Torkos, who suggests relaxing activities and avoiding caffeine or rigorous exercise before bedtime. If sleep still evades you, try melatonin, a hormone naturally secreted by the brain that affects diurnal rhythms. Otherwise, she recommends Bach Flower Rescue Sleep, a mild distillation of relaxant flower essences like Star of Bethlehem, rock rose, cherry plum and impatiens.
Echinacea or not?
Is echinacea good for treating a cold or not? Torkos says studies have shown mixed results in its impact on cold severity, but not all research examined the same strain.
“I would say the majority of evidence has shown that one type, echinacea purpura, is good, not for prevention, but to shorten the duration of the cold.” As with all natural remedies, however, she advises talking to your doctor first. Echinacea should not be taken by anyone with an autoimmune disorder.
Drink green tea.
Best known for its weight-busting ingredient, epigallocatechin galeate, green tea also offers an immune function boost and L-theanine, a relaxing amino acid that has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of colds and flu. According to a 2007 peer-reviewed study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, researchers from the University of Florida and Harvard Medical School administered a form of L-theanine called Immune Guard to 120 participants. After three months, cold and flu incidence dropped by 32 per cent and the need for medical attention decreased by 58 per cent.
For the flu:
Go to bed.
The bad news is that if you have the flu, it can lead to more serious illnesses like bronchitis and pneumonia. The good news is that it won’t last more than 48 hours. “The flu comes and goes in a short period of time,” says Torkos. “Really, the best thing is to get rest. If you have a high fever, aches and pains, take Tylenol or ibuprofen.”
“You may not feel like eating, but you must stay hydrated,” says Torkos. However, avoid alcohol, coffee and colas since they can make dehydration worse.
Take Homeocoksinum (9doses) Brand: Homeocan
or Oscillococcinum Bonus Pack (12 doses total) – 12 – Dose
As with many homeopathic remedies, the medical fraternity sees little value in taking a dilution of a Barbary duck’s liver and heart (otherwise known as Anas Barbariae Hepatis et Cordis Extractum) to fight a flu. Nevertheless, Oscillococcinum sells briskly in 50 countries during flu season and has been produced in France for 65 years. “If you catch it in the first eight hours, there’s an 80 to 90 per cent chance you won’t get the flu,” Boisvert says. “If you’ve passed that stage, you’ll still get it, but it’ll reduce the duration of the flu by half.”