What do you do if you come down with a scratchy sore throat, body aches, fullness in your sinuses or a runny nose?
If you act fast and treat the cold aggressively, you may stop that cold or flu in 6 to 48 hours and never let it take hold.
In this article I will discuss the Ayurvedic perspective on causes of colds, signs of your susceptibility, and some easy ways to safeguard your immunity.
In addition, you will learn some great tips to try in the event that you do come down with symptoms, plus a great homemade remedy that support the immune system to stop a cold in its tracks!
Levels of Susceptibility – Know the Signs
Here’s a rundown of how a cold takes hold, according to Ayurveda, and how it progresses:
1. The first level of susceptibility to the common cold and flu is stress and tension, which often cause tight neck and shoulder muscles that compromise cervical lymph drainage. The cervical lymph drains the head, neck and sinuses and provides immune support to fight potential infections in the upper respiratory tract.
2. The second level of susceptibility is when dry respiratory cilia cause a scratchy throat or irritated sinuses. The cervical lymph in the neck dries out and causes a sore throat. Dry mucus membranes produce reactive mucus and the nose runs.
3. The third level of susceptibility is when this reactive mucus overwhelms and congests the cilia and the cervical lymph.
• Bacteria or viruses may proliferate in the excess reactive mucus and cause infection.
• The sinuses can become congested and the lymph nodes may swell.
• The immune system concentrated in the lymph nodes is stuck in traffic and the cold or flu runs its course.
• At this point, we can get caught in a cycle where continued dryness causes continued reactive mucus production, which can lead to post nasal drip and a dry cough.
4. Post nasal drip can lead to congestion and potential infection of the bronchioles and the lungs, which becomes a more serious threat.
• Excessive post nasal drip bogs down the cilia in the lungs, causing a deep productive cough and possible infection of the lungs.
Addressing the Cause
Contrary to popular belief, the Ayurvedic view maintains that bacteria and viruses are not the true causes of a cold or flu, and that killing the bacteria or virus, while it may be necessary, will only offer symptomatic relief. When we are strong and healthy, we are unaffected by the germs that continually surround us. The infection doesn’t happen until after the third level of susceptibility, (above), when we have let stress, tension, and dryness compromise our immunity.
At the same time you are treating symptoms, identify and treat the cause of susceptibility so the infection does not reoccur. (But please note: I am not saying that antibiotics are not useful – they save lives. If the infection becomes chronic, please be safe and see your doctor.)
Don’t Dry Out
In the winter, temperatures drop and the air dries out. The further we go into winter, the drier the air becomes. Even the rain dries out and becomes snow. For ourselves, we further aggravate these dry conditions by pumping dry heat into our homes and offices to stay warm.
In the case of the common cold, this dryness has become overwhelming to the body. When we become excessively dry, the dryness extends to the mucus membranes in the sinuses and gut. The respiratory tract is lined with ciliated epithelium, skin covered with sweepers called cilia that house part of the immune system. These cilia, much like the villi of the gut, sweep toxins, bacteria and viruses through respiratory mucus membranes into the Mucus Associated Lymphatic Tissue, or MALT, where they are neutralized by the white-blood-cell-rich lymph nodes.
Nature’s prescription for all this dryness is the seasonal harvest. The winter harvest consists of high-fat, high-protein, insulating foods that antidote the harshness of winter. Think of squirrels eating nuts when the weather begins to cool. See my Winter Tips & Grocery List, which explains how to prevent systemic dehydration and other winter imbalances with seasonal foods.
Here’s a summary:
By minimizing stress and tension, eating from the winter grocery list, and soliciting the help of some ayurvedic herbs traditionally used during the cold season, you can:
• Lubricate and heal the respiratory mucus membranes.
• Increase circulation to the mucus membranes.
• Thin the mucus so the cilia and lymph can function.
• De-stagnate the lymphatic system that drains and protects the head and neck.
Three Ayurvedic Herbs to Kick Start Immunity
1. Trikatu – thins mucus, stimulates circulation to the respiratory tract and cervical lymph*.
2. Sitopladi – opens airways and heals and decongests mucus membranes of the sinuses, bronchioles and lungs(1)*.
3. Turmeric – thins mucus, moves lymph, boosts immunity and heals the mucus membranes*.
Additional Support for Colds and Flu*
If you do find yourself with the telltale signs of an oncoming cold, follow the below protocol for at least 3 days, even if symptoms disappear more quickly.
• Sip plain hot water every 10-15 minutes for three days while you take the Cold Cough (2 caps every 1-2 hours). Plain hot water will hydrate the mucus membranes and dilate and flush toxins. You can carry a thermos with you to stay hydrated.
• Apply warm ear oil twice a day for three days. Garlic mullein ear oil is the best, but this simple home remedy works fine*:
Bonus! Do-It-Yourself Ear Oil
• Put 1 oz of sesame or olive oil in a pan. Chop a small garlic clove and put it in the pan. Heat the oil and garlic until the water in the garlic starts to pop or boil off. Press the garlic with a fork to release any extra water. When all the water in the garlic is boiled off, let the mixture cool, strain out garlic pieces and funnel into a clean glass dropper bottle.
• Before use, heat the garlic oil to just above body temperature by holding the full dropper under hot water for a few moments. Fill both ear canals and cover with cotton balls. Do this twice a day for three days.
You can use ear oil preventively once a week during the fall and winter*. It is also beneficial before being exposed to excessive cold, wind, dryness, dust or pollen*.
1. J Ayub Med Coll Abbottabad. 2003 Apr-Jun;15(2):31-3
2. J. Nat. Prod., 1994, 57 (5), pp 658–662
3. International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences Review and Research, Volume 4, Issue 2, September – October 2010; Article 011
4. Rasyid A, Lelo A. The effect of curcumin and placebo on human gall-bladder function: an ultrasound study. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 1999;13:245-249.
5. Van Dau N, Ngoc Ham N, Huy Khac D, et al. The effects of a traditional drug, turmeric (Curcuma longa), and placebo on the healing of duodenal ulcer. Phytomedicine. 1998;5:29-34.
6. J Ethnopharm. 2007 Sep 25;113(3):479-86
7. Life Sci. 2007 Feb. 13;80(10):926-31