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 Herbal Medicine: Common Cold - (acute coryza) 
 
An acute, usually a febrile, viral infection of the respiratory tract, with inflammation in any or all airways, including the nose, paranasal sinuses, throat, larynx, and often the trachea and bronchi.

The common cold is a virus infection of the upper respiratory tract. There are many different strains of virus which can cause cold symptoms, and these are constantly mutating. While the mucous membranes of the nose and throat are inflamed as a result of the infection, they are far more vulnerable to attack by bacteria, and this can give rise to secondary infections, such as sinusitis, ear infections and bronchitis, which are more serious than the original cold. Because of this, antibiotic drugs, which destroy bacteria, cannot touch a cold virus.

There is no universally miraculous herbal cold cure!

However, Phytotherapy can do more than most therapies in treating and preventing this all too common problem. Through selecting herbs that fit the individuals' unique needs and addressing immune support, diet and life style the common cold presents us with no problem.

Actions indicated for the processes behind this disease :
Anti-microbials will help the immune system combat the viral infection and help avoid secondary infection
Anti-catarrhals will ease the symptomatic discomfort so characteristic of this problem. However, avoid trying to `dry up' the overproduction with herbal de-congestants for the reasons explored elsewhere.
Diaphoretics help with the symptoms of feverishness and support the body cope with the raised temperature.
Expectorants are called for in one of their varieties if there is the development of secondary problems in the lower respiratory system.
Lymphatics are indicated if there is any development of swollen glands or known history of such problems.
Etc. (by now you should know what this means!)

System Support:
In a short term acute infection there is usually no need to focus on system support, however, if there is a picture of recurrent colds then the use of tonic remedies is vital. Immune support is important, often with attention being given to the impact of stress in the individuals' life. If there is a tendency for the cold to develop into a cough and even bronchitis then pulmonaries are called for. If there is a history of heart disease, for example, supply cardiac tonics as a precaution. In this case Tilia would be the most appropriate as it is also a diaphoretic, although this would not replace the virtues of Crataegus.

Specific Remedies:
There are many regional and personal ideas about specific herbs for the common cold. These are often diaphoretic herbs including:
Capsicum spp. (Cayenne)
Allium spp. (Onion and Garlic)
Amoracia spp. (Horseradish)
Brassica spp. (Mustard)
Sambucus nigra (Elder)
Mentha piperita (Peppermint)
Achillea millefolium (Yarrow)
Tilia europaea (Linden)

Other favorite herbs include the well known antimicrobial plants:
Echinacea spp. (Echinacea)
Thymus vulgaris (Thyme)
Eucalyptus globus (Eucalyptus)
Allium spp. (Onion and Garlic)

One possible prescription:
Sambucus nigra
Mentha piperita
Achillea millefolium
equal parts of herb. Infuse 1-2 teaspoonfuls to a cup and drink hot often until the symptoms pass.

There are a number of essential oils which will help to diminish the discomfort of a cold as well as reducing the risk of secondary infections, as they are both antimicrobial and stimulate immune response. For the immediate relief of congestion, a steam inhalation with essential oil is often effective. Very hot steam, as hot as can be tolerated without actually burning the nose & throat, is, in itself, a hostile environment for viruses, and the addition of an antiviral oil increases the effectiveness of the steam. Lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Thyme & Ti-tree are all good oils to use. They will ease the congestion and also help to combat the infection which has caused it. For catarrh caused by pollen & other irritants, Lavender & Camomile are the best choice.

Steam Inhalation
A handful of Matricaria flowers placed in a bowl and boiling water poured over them. The vapor is inhaled by the patient who places a towel over the head to create a `tent', keeping the vapor trapped in. Thymus, Eucalyptus and Origanum are often used as well. For example :
Matricaria flowers
Thymus herb
Origanum herb
equal part to 50.0g
1 tablespoon to 0.5l of boiling water

Other plant oils that may prove beneficial include:
  • Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus)
  • Mentha piperita (Peppermint)
  • Pinus pumilio (Dwarf or White Pine)
  • Mentha arvensis var. piperascens (Asian Mint)
  • Benzoin
  • Citrus bergamia: Bergamot
  • Eucalyptus globulus: Eucalyptus
  • Lavandula officinalis: Lavender
  • Santalum album: Sandalwood
  • Ocimum basilicum: Basil
  • Citrus bergamia: Bergamot
  • Origanum marjorana: Marjoram
  • Commiphora mol-mol: Myrrh
  • Santalum album: Sandalwood
  • Thymus vulgaris: Thyme
  • Melaleuca spp.: Ti Tree

A steam inhalation with appropriate essential oils combines several beneficial effects. It clears the congested nasal passages and soothes the inflamed mucous membrane, at the same time the essential oil will kill many bacteria, and some of the oils, especially Eucalyptus and Melaleuca, have an inhibiting effect on the cold virus.

Use either of these two oils for inhalations in the earlier part of the day (possibly alternating with Rosemarinus and Mentha piperita), as they are mildly stimulating. At night, use inhalations of Lavandula or a bath with a few drops of the oil added. The oil diffused in the bedroom is helpful, especially if there is a cough.

Broader Context of Treatment:
There are many traditional cold remedies based on culinary ingredients. This highlights the fact that there is no real difference between medicinal and edible plant. Here is an example of such a treatment:

At the first signs of a chill or sore throat take the following common kitchen spices.
1 oz. fresh ginger, sliced,
1 stick of cinnamon, broken,
1 teaspoon coriander seeds,
3 cloves,
1 slice of lemon,
1 pt. water.

Decoct for l5 mins and then strain. Drink a cupful of this hot, every two hours. Sweeten with organic honey to taste.

To prevent and treat colds, include garlic, onions, watercress, and cayenne in the diet and take 1-3 g of Vitamin C daily. Diet plays a part in most cases of catarrh. Dairy products and wheat are known to promote excessive catarrh production in many people, and they should be excluded for a period by anybody who suffers catarrh frequently, to see whether any improvement is noticed. If so, they may have to be excluded permanently from the diet, or included in very small amounts only. Other people are sensitive to other foods, and may have to experiment to find out which these might be.
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 About The Author
David Hoffmann BSc (Hons), MNIMHWhilst working in conservation and lecturing in ecology and the eco-crisis for the University of Wales, David Hoffman became convinced that to heal the world, to embrace planetary wholeness and responsibility for it......more
 
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