Goodness, who out there does not have a cold or know someone with a cold right now?! While our weather is still on the fence about whether or not it’s autumn, the sinus and respiratory bugs have arrived. This newsletter focuses on tips to help you navigate the cold season now aggressively under way.
From at least as early as 200 BC, there is a long tradition in my medicine of treating acute, infectious conditions. This continues in modern day with innovations garnering the Nobel Prize for a Chinese doctor applying Chinese herbal medicine to Malaria treatment. Because patients arrive in my clinic commonly for pain, menstrual cramps, digestive issues, anxiety and depression, many only learn how treatment can help colds when they show up on my doorstep blowing and coughing.
- colds are abbreviated
- sinus, respiratory and ear infections resolved
- antibiotics avoided (and taken when appropriate)
- tools for prevention learned and applied.
Below is a lengthy list of home remedies. Some have nothing to do with East Asian medicine, or at least, I didn’t learn them during my studies, but they work. So, I’ll offer up the whole smorgasbord. I won’t take the time to variously attribute all gems in the list from modern medicine, to Chinese Medicine ancestor Zhang Zhong Jing (张仲景), to my own dear brother. No sauntering life musings in this issue. If you’re yearning for such content, please scroll through former newsletters posted here.
- Wash your hands, particularly if you’re around others with a cold.
- Sneeze into your wing (elbow) rather than your hand.
- If someone at home is sick (child, housemate, companion, parent), don’t eat that last morsel on his or her plate or other food they have touched.
- Restrain yourself from touching your eyes (contagions enter the body through delicate mucous membranes).
- Sneezing out of the blue? Sneezing is the body’s first defense actually trying to manually expel a contagion. Be on the alert. Increase fluids and rest.
- With the first vague sense of fever-chills, take one cup water, 2 slices ginger. Simmer for 10 minutes c0vered. Take off heat. Dissolve a bit of brown sugar and add the white of two scallions. Allow to steep for 5 minutes. Drink hot and go to bed.
- Host Defense Tincture and other Myco (Mushroom) Immune support.
- Cover the back of your neck with a scarf.
- Fever is the body’s first attempt to make our internal environment inhospitable to bugs. If your body is already trying, help it out. Bundle up and go to bed after eating a bit of simple food like rice porridge as well as the ginger tea above.
- Chicken soup gained the nickname Jewish Penicillin for good reason. Maybe we could just say natural penicillin. It’s deeply nourishing food.
- Boil 2-3 c water in a pot. Add 3 T unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar. Turn off the heat, place your head over the pot and inhale deeply approx. 20 times (caution not to burn yourself with the steam).
- For some patients with immune vulnerability, I’ve tailored Chinese herbal formulas for them to keep on hand in their medicine cabinet.
Sore Throat? Chest Tightness?
- Ginger tea. (2-3 slices fresh ginger boiled for 5 minutes). Note that fresh ginger is more detoxifying to the throat than dried ginger. Purchasing bagged ginger tea is evidently ‘dried’ and actually a bit over drying to the throat. You can always grate a bit of fresh ginger into a baggie if you’ll be away from home, add boiling water and steep for 10 minutes covered. Honey is more soothing to the throat than sugar.
- Good old fashioned salt water gargle (dissove 1/4-1/2 teaspoon in warm water and gargle).
- Place a single drop of tea tree oil on the tip of your middle finger, reach down and touch the tongue at the back of your throat, sweeping with the tea tree oil. Move your tongue around essentially massaging the tea tree oil around to coat the throat. Note, this one is not for the faint of heart.
- Cook pears like applesauce (include the skins.) Pears are very soothing and nourishing to the lungs and throat. Cut into pieces, add a bit of water and cook until they dissolve into compote. Sprinkle with cinnamon or allspice as desired. Note this is for a dry lung pattern rather than clogged sinuses.
- Licorice Tea (any brand, note this is licorice root not the yummy black candy).
- Gently scratch the upper back around the base of the neck for a minute or so a couple times a day (or invite someone to do this for you).
- Gently massage the chest in the area between the armpit, the collar bone and the breast for several minutes throughout the day.
- Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat Tea.
- Get out the neti pot, rinse 2x daily.
- Steam the head over boiling water with one drop tea tree or eucalyptus oil. Open your mouth if the throat is also sore, or the tonsils feel tender. It’s great if you have a boiling kettle to boil it full, add a bit to a pot, cover your head with a towel and then add a little more hot water as it cools. Do this for 10 minutes and blow out everything you can without exerting too much pressure. (note same caution to not burn yourself with the steam).
- Steam sauna (being respectful of your sauna mates).
- Nettle tea dries out the sinuses and fluid in the lungs. Available in bulk at many local grocery stores.
- Simmer Chicken broth with several slices of fresh ginger. This is an absolute phlegm buster.
- Review the Damp Foods article. I know it’s hard, but limit those foods we love in colder weather which turn our bodies into mucous machines.
- Hot compress on the face for blocked sinuses. Again, heat water, soak a face cloth, ring out and apply to face or behind the ears to promote circulation, opening, draining.
I wouldn’t suggest trying all at one time 🙂
As many of my patients have learned, a quick visit in clinic pays off by curbing colds and preventing things from going down hill. AND, it bears saying that sometimes…sometimes, the body is just begging for a bit of rest. Sometimes, it decides that we need to slow down and have a head gauzy with blocked sinuses for a couple days. If you have questions about any of the tips offered here or are wondering if a visit would be helpful, please do reach out by email or phone ~ 206.920.9929
with utmost care,