Recipe for health: rest, take herbs and vitamins |

Recipe for health: rest, take herbs and vitamins

The common cold, flu and bronchitis affect nearly everyone each winter and early spring. A deeper understanding of the immune system and some herbal and nutritional remedies can often both help prevent and treat these common conditions.

Colds and flu occur as part of the body’s response to stress. Stress can come in many forms.

While most people equate stress with emotional tension, stress also exists in the form of exposure to cold weather, a lack of sleep, exposure to toxins and the intake of foods that are difficult to digest.

Each of these factors decreases the effectiveness of the immune system. As the immune system becomes weaker, the first sign is usually the common cold or the flu.

When the body has become run down by stress, a person needs to rest. Most people won’t rest unless they are sick. Perhaps, this is why nature created the common cold. It forces us to rest. When we lose our appetite and don’t feel like eating, this gives the digestive system a rest and the body a chance to purify through the ancient practice of fasting.

In our largely dysfunctional society, rest is not valued. We often perceive those who take time off to rest as lazy, especially if they are not sick. While some may indeed be lazy, others may be wise. The wise rest and purify when they are run down before they get sick. By listening to their bodies, they may be preventing a host of health problems. While colds may be one of the first signs that the body is under too much stress, later signs can be much more serious.

When we do catch cold or come down with the flu, society suggests suppressing the symptoms with aspirin, decongestants and cough suppressants, so that we can get back to work as fast as possible. There are alternatives. How about rest?

While difficult for those addicted to productivity, it is essential. While resting, you can support your body to heal faster using natural remedies provided by nature and a couple of simple nutrients. As always, it is best to see a well – trained Herbalist or Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist when taking herbs. While most herbs are perfectly safe, some may have side effects if used inappropriately.

Echinacea is an herb used for centuries for alleviating colds and flu. It has both anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. In vitro studies show that it dramatically increases the activity of certain white blood cells whose job it is to destroy pathogens.

Not only does it stimulate the immune system to defeat the pathogen, it assists the body in reducing fevers. Echinacea taken at the onset of a cold or flu will shorten the duration of most upper respiratory infections.

Licorice Root is an herb used to ease coughs and correct weakness in the lungs. It is also a tonic protecting the lungs against repeated infections. Soothing to the bronchioles, it reduces the pain of coughing. Licorice may be safely taken for 1-2 months at common dosages. Licorice should be used carefully in those who have hypertension.

Horehound is an herb used similarly to licorice. It reduces coughs and softens phlegm. A moist, cool herb, it is soothing to the bronchioles and is commonly found in many herbal cough remedies.

Vitamin C, made famous by the late Linus Pauling, is the most famous vitamin recommended for people with colds and the flu. It has been found to have definite antihistaminic effect and there are some studies that show it reduces the duration and severity of colds.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant and one of its greatest benefits may be that it reduces the damaging effects of stress on the body. Common doses are 500 mg to 1 gram per day and as much as 5-10 grams when under great stress or when sick. Vitamin C may cause loose stools if too much is taken.

Zinc is a mineral that is highly touted for its ability to reduce the onset and duration of colds and flu. Studies have been mixed but are generally favorable.

Zinc has even been found to reduce to incidence of childhood pneumonia by 41 percent. Zinc dosages for adults should be approximately 15 mg when healthy and as much as 50 mg when ill. Zinc is not recommended for long-term use in high doses.

So, the next time you get sick; get well faster by supporting your body to heal itself!

Dr. Marc Halpern is founder and director of the California College of Ayurveda and Ayurveda Healthcare center in Grass Valley where students are trained to become Clinical Ayurvedic Specialists. Call him at 274-9100 or visit

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