Michael van Straten’s
This week we are talking about colds and flu and how to boost your immunity
to help prevent a cold developing and what you can do to help alleviate the
symptoms if you are unlucky enough to succumb. Antibiotics are ineffective in
treating cold viruses but there are a number of herbal preparations that can
help to minimise the symptoms. Medic Herb Revitonil contains both
echinacea and liquorice and is a traditional herbal remedy used in colds and
upper respiratory tract infections in the nose and throat. Pelargonium is
another herb that has a long history of traditional use in treating coughs, colds
and sore throats.
Pelargonium is the traditional herbalist’s way of fighting off coughs and sore
throats. Because Medic Herb Pelargonium is a standardized herbal remedy,
you can be certain that you get the exact dose of the essential constituents of
the plant in every pill. At the first sign of symptoms start taking one tablet
three times a day for 10 days. This herb is not suitable during pregnancy or
breastfeeding unless on the specific advice of your doctor but it can be given
to children over 12 when it’s very valuable for youngsters with recurring chest
infections and tonsillitis.
Revitonil is a licensed herbal medicine from Medic Herb which is also
standardized. This mixture of echinacea, liquorice, eucalyptus, aniseed and
other essential oils is known to be one of the few plant extracts with antiviral
properties. The combination of Medic Herb Revitonil and Pelargonium is an
excellent choice for protection against these winter ailments, especially for
vulnerable groups like the elderly, the young, anyone with heart disease,
chronic lung problems, diabetes or a compromised immune system.
Eat plenty of citrus fruits and pure juices for vitamin C and bioflavonoids.
Spinach, chickpeas, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds and pilchards for zinc.
Shellfish, wholegrain cereals and brazil nuts for selenium. Onions and garlic
for their antibacterial effect. Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
Cut down on dairy products and caffeine.
Colds are caused by viruses which are caught from somebody else with a
cold. They don't come from getting wet feet, being out in the cold weather,
leaving home with wet hair or not wearing a vest. They are spread by droplet
infection and they are much more common in people who spend time on
public transport, or in overcrowded, underventilated and overheated buildings.
One sneeze will spread your infected droplets up to thirty feet, so if you get a
cold, stay at home. It's not as anti-social and you'll get better a lot sooner.
Americans spend one billion dollars a year on cold remedies, but none of
these, or the same medicines bought in the UK, treat the illness, they only
relieve the symptoms.
Simple natural remedies are best, as they have no side effects and won't
interfere with the body's own immune responses. Inhaling steam with
eucalyptus oil as a decongestant, rubbing a mixture of pine, eucalyptus and
neroli oils on the chest or using them in a vaporiser, will all help to keep nasal
passages clear. But food and drink are the quickest cure. Every two hours
take a glass of hot water, the juice of a lemon, a teaspoon of honey and a
quarter of a teaspoon of cinnamon. This soothes the throat and chest,
encourages sweating and prevents mucus becoming thick and sticky through
In over 40 years of research the British Common Cold Research Unit
suggested that zinc had the ability to shorten the duration of colds – their only
positive finding. Make sure you eat spinach, chickpeas, kidney beans,
pumpkin seeds and pilchards, which are all good sources. Selenium is
commonly deficient in average diets and this is known to improve natural
immunity. Get your daily requirements from shellfish, a handful of brazil nuts
Double Nobel prize winner, Linus Pauling, advocated large doses of vitamin C
for both prevention and cure of the common cold. Although there has never
been definitive scientific proof, the role of vitamin C is important in the healing
process and in the optimum performance of the body’s natural immune
system. Large quantities of citrus fruits and juices are an essential part of a
quick cure. But they should also be part of your regular disease prevention
Onions and garlic have been traditional cold cures around the world. Onion
soup in France and the East of England, whole bulbs of garlic in Eastern
Europe, these natural remedies are still used to this day. The antibacterial
effect of garlic has been well proven in many scientific studies, so add plenty
of both to your salads, soups or even sandwiches.
The UK Consumers' Association suggests that cold and flu medicines could
be a waste of money. Many of them contain ingredients which you might not
need and in any case would be better off without. Their advice, and mine –
hot lemon drinks with honey, simple inhalations, lots of rest and lots of water.
Symptoms Coughs can be short, dry and painful, or loose and productive.
They can come singly or in paroxysms of violent coughing.
Eat more raw fruit and vegetables for vitamin C and beta-carotenes; garlic,
onions, leeks, chives, thyme for their antibacterial effect; lemons and honey
for soothing properties;
Eat less dairy produce and salt.
A cough does not always indicate chest disease or infection. Dust,
atmospheric pollutants, smoke, chemical fumes or even a wrongly swallowed
piece of food, can trigger the cough reflex. The cough expels the irritant from
the lungs and so acts as their first line of defence.
A cough however is the most common of all respiratory symptoms and may
indicate the presence of asthma, a chest infection, chronic bronchitis, or any
chronic obstructive airways disease (COAD). Coughs are generally worse at
night or first thing in the morning, and can even be irritated by changes in
temperature or weather.
The traditional treatments of inhalation with essential oils, and drinking hot
water, honey and lemon do a great deal to soothe the discomfort. Reducing
salt intake also reduces the likelihood of fluid retention which can add to
chesty congestion and Naturopaths believe that reducing consumption of
dairy products lessens the amount of mucus produced by the body.
Lung tissue requires an abundance of betacarotene and vitamin A, all
infections benefit from an increase in vitamin C, and herbalists throughout the
Western world have traditionally relied on the antibacterial properties of garlic,
onions and leeks in the treatment of all chest infections. Thyme is a powerfully
antibacterial herb and should be used liberally in cooking and on salads. Five
drops of essential oil of thyme in 25ml of carrier oil, makes a soothing chest
Influenza is an acute viral infection which recurs throughout the population
every year. Approximately every three years flu reaches epidemic proportions
as new strains of virus appear, to which the general population has no
acquired immunity. Make sure your kitchen cupboard is always equipped with
the necessary remedies.
To help with the miserable symptoms of headache, temperature, aches and
pains and the dry cough that nearly always accompanies flu, use lots of lemon
juice, cinnamon, hot water and honey as a general soother.
Copious amounts of lime blossom tea will help lower your temperature and
relieve the aches and pains. Drink lots of pineapple juice for its healing
enzymes. Adding a generous pinch of cinnamon to all your hot drinks
increases their benefit.
The time to worry about nutrition and flu is before you get it so follow all the
tips for immune boosting in this factsheet.
If you’re unfortunate enough to catch flu - and most of us will from time to time
- go to bed, go directly to bed, do not pass go, do not collect £200. And stay in
bed for at least 48 hours. Do not go back to work, school or college for a
For the first 24 hours, take lots of fluids and eat grapes, berries, citrus fruits
and ripe pears only. In the second 24 hours, add cooked vegetables and
salad. On the third day, start eating bread, potatoes, rice, and pasta. By day
four you should be able to go back to your normal -and I hope healthy - diet.
The restricted food intake at the start of this plan will push up your white cell
count and, together with the vitamin C in the fruit, will give your immune
system a much needed boost.
Cold, wet compresses around the neck and on the front of the chest will help
make you much more comfortable while you have a high temperature.
During a bout of flu take 1g of vitamin C three times a day, 5,000 iu of vitamin
A and a high-strength B complex tablet. After a week reduce the dose to 1g of
vitamin C, 1,000 iu of vitamin A and continue the B complex. Keep taking
these supplements for at least three weeks.
Avoiding flu depends on the effectiveness of your body’s natural defences.
Keep them firing on all cylinders with all this information.
Flu is a serious illness and returning to your normal lifestyle too quickly is the
most common cause of secondary chest infections and possibly pneumonia.
Struggling on at work with raging flu is foolhardy and irresponsible towards
The very young, the elderly and anyone with asthma, chronic bronchitis or
other obstructive airways disease, heart disease, kidney problems, diabetes
or undergoing immuno-suppressant therapy is at great, possibly even fatal,
risk from flu. They should get medical help at once and avoid contact with any
Many of the symptoms of coughs, colds, flu and throat infections are the result
of local inflammation of delicate tissues. The more inflamed, the more they
hurt, and one of the most effective natural anti-inflammatories are the Omega-
3 essential fatty acids which you will find in MorEPA fish oil capsules –
MorEPA Mini for the under 12s – and Barleans Organic FortiFlax. You should
find most of the products in this factsheet in your local pharmacy, health store
or even supermarket.
For detailed information on Pelargonium and Revitonil call 01628 488487 or
visit www.medicherb.co.uk .
For Barleans and MorEPA call 08700 53 6000 or see
Michael van Straten
Health Journalist of the Year 2004