Colds and flu

Updated 04 June 2014

DIY flu fixes

Self-treatment, staying in bed and natural remedies.

Over the counter medication
Over-the-counter drugs treat symptoms of flu, but not the cause. It will not cure flu, but will relieve some symptoms. If the flu is not very severe, these, and vitamins and herbal remedies should be sufficient. These medications can make life a more bearable during your illness.

Self treatment: the natural way

  • Stay in bed for a few days. You will recover a lot sooner. Listen to your body and rest a while.
  • Don't exercise - it might strain your heart and lungs. Your body is fighting a viral war, so assist in the fight!
  • Drink lots of fluids - water, fresh fruit juice and vegetable juice or soup.
  • Dissolve eucalyptus or peppermint oil in boiling water and steam those sinuses. This will loosen the phlegm, while disinfecting the environment.
  • Other aromatherapy oils to try are lavender, grapefruit, rosemary and tea tree oil (put a few drops in a burner, or in the bath, or use in a carrier oil for a soothing back and shoulder massage).
  • Increase your intake of vitamin A to 10 000 IU's (3mg RE activity) a day and vitamin C to 1000-2000mg a day in divided dosages. Once you are feeling better, return to your normal maintenance level.
  • Studies have shown that Vitamin C may reduce the severity and duration of symptoms.
  • Use medicinal herbs. Herbs like garlic, Echinacea and golden seal act as natural "antibiotics" against viruses, bacteria and even fungi. They are also decongestants that dry the mucosal linings in a gentle way. They do not have side effects. They actually support the immune system.
  • Double-blind placebo controlled studies suggest that Echinacea purpurea not only shortens the duration of colds and flu while making it less severe, it also actually stops a cold that is just starting.
  • Andrographis seems to be a promising treatment for colds. It is a shrub found in India and throughout Asia. It is sometimes called Indian Echinacea because it has much the same benefits as Echinacea purpurea. Although it is not certain how Andrographis works for colds, some evidence suggests that it stimulates immunity.
  • Try zinc lozenges to soothe a sore throat and zinc nasal spray for a runny nose. Make tea with fresh or dried sage leaves simmered in boiling water, with a teaspoon of honey, for a sore throat. You can also gargle with sage tea.
  • What about chicken soup? It may soothe a sore throat, clear clogged passageways, and hydrate a thirsty body. A new study suggests that chicken soup may contain a number of substances with beneficial medicinal activity. A mild anti-inflammatory effect could be one mechanism by which the soup could result in the mitigation of symptomatic upper respiratory tract infections.

A recipe for colds, flu, thickened mucus and sinusitis
Mix together a pinch of ginger, cinnamon, mustard, cayenne pepper and tumeric with a fresh clove of garlic (optional), a little lemon juice and honey in hot water - it makes for a delightfully spicy drink. You might even add a tot of brandy. Add a pinch of sage and thyme if the mucus is yellow or green. Drink this regularly until you feel better.

From : Health & Happiness (Tafelberg Publishers 2000) and Choose Wellness! (Modern Publisher 2001) both written by Dr Arien van der Merwe.

These guidelines should not be seen as an attempt to replace medical advice. If natural remedies and supplements do not improve the condition within three days, if you are worried about anything, or if the condition gets worse and develops into sinusitis or bronchitis, consult your doctor at once. An acute asthma attack, croup, and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) are examples of diseases where Western medicine and technology can and should be utilised to best advantage to save lives.


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Ask the Expert

Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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