So here we are in the midst of the cold and flu season. If you’re anything like us here in Boulder, CO, it is hard to go anywhere without people coughing and sneezing all around. Whether at work, school, or at home, it is likely you will eventually be exposed to some of these bugs as they migrate from one person to another. If you have kids or are in a kid-related field (teachers!), your exposure is amplified. Since isolation is neither logical nor desired, the best option for staying healthy this season is to use full awareness and combat a potential virus or bacteria before it takes over. In this article, I will be sharing my favorite Ayurvedic herbal remedies that I personally use and can vouch for first hand. So put away your cough syrups and antibiotics and give mother nature a shot!
These herbal remedies are perfect for prevention and can be used at the first sign of sickness (i.e. scratchy throat, malaise, body aches, etc.) or can also be used if you have a co-worker, friend, or loved one that you are in constant contact with while they’re sick. Remember, prevention is always much easier than full-fledged treatment!
If you happen to miss the first signs, however, these remedies are also very effective for treating everything from bacterial to viral infections (and everything in between). Before moving onto the good stuff, I just want to remind you of the most important factors for treating and preventing illness: Old-fashioned rest mixed with a very simple and bland diet. Without these two factors, herbs and even medications can only do so much, and it is likely that the sickness will drag on for much longer than needed.
So please remember:
- Rest as much as possible (sickness is often your body telling you to slow down)
- Eat very simple foods; your digestion is at an all-time low during sickness and overtaxing it with heavy foods will lead to increased sickness. Healthy options include oatmeal, kitchari (click here for recipe), homemade chicken soup, basmati rice, and chicken broth, etc. Avoid dairy, meat (broth is better!), ALL sugar except small amounts of honey, raw or cold foods, cold beverages, and all processed foods.
So, with these age-old tips in mind, let us now move onto the good stuff!
7 Ayurvedic Remedies for Fighting the Cold and Flu
1. The Clove Bud, nature’s cough drop.
If you have a persistent cough, you most likely will do anything to pacify it so you can go about your daily tasks. In fact, a cough is often the final stage of an illness as it can be caused by the irritation that is created while the throat is healing. One may feel better, yet the cough continues on and on. This remedy sounds too simple to be effective, but I can guarantee you it is like gold. I worked as a cashier throughout my schooling and I was able to bypass calling in sick many times with the help of these spicy buds. The fact is that they are expectorants (clear phlegm), both antiviral and antibacterial and also highly anti-inflammatory. With all of these factors together, this is the perfect remedy for calming any cough.
Directions: Take 3 whole clove buds and pop them into your mouth during a coughing spasm. Suck on them until they begin to fall apart and no longer have any flavor. Repeat as often as needed.
2. Turmeric, Salt and Cayenne Gargle for sore throat and swollen glands.
This not-so-tasty but oh-so-effective remedy is great for preventing a full-blown sore throat or swollen glands if you are able to catch the soreness in time. If not, it is also anti-inflammatory and surprisingly soothing when the soreness is at its worst. Once again, this remedy contains all of the necessary properties of being anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and expectorant. Allowing the mixture to penetrate for localized treatment is very powerful as well, and works best if the soreness is more superficial rather than deep down in the throat.
Directions: Mix 1/2 tsp. of turmeric, 1/4 tsp. of salt, and one pinch of cayenne pepper in 1 cup of warm water. Stir thoroughly. Use this as a gargle: Tilt your head back fully and gargle for 10-20 seconds (or longer) then spit out. It is recommended to let a small amount trickle down the throat to coat any deeper infectious areas. Repeat this 3 times in a row and perform every 6 hours or as needed for prevention or treatment of a sore throat or swollen glands.
3. Ginger Juice for nausea.
Although ginger is great for fighting infection, this remedy is specific for the nausea and dull appetite that often accompanies illness. If you are lucky enough to have a juicer, this is the most powerful way to extract the juice. However, if you do not have one, you can still utilize this remedy by creating a powerful and potent decoction (see directions below). Either way, this remedy is sure to penetrate through the dull heaviness that accumulates in the stomach, increase the digestive force, and clear out any toxins in the gut. As an added benefit, ginger is also great for fever—it is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and a powerful expectorant just to name a few.
Juicing method: Wash off 1/2 pound of ginger and chop it into pieces to fit through the juicer. Juice and store in an airtight glass jar. One half pound of ginger should make about 1/2 cup of juice). Mix 1 tsp. of this juice in 1/2 cup of warm water. Drink this every 3-4 hours during illness or as much as needed.
Decoction method: Wash 1/2 pound of ginger, chop, and peel (optional). Take the ginger and grate it into 4 cups of boiling water. Reduce the heat to simmer and cover, leaving a slight crack in the lid. Steep here for several hours until the liquid is boiled down (slowly) to 1 cup. Strain and store in an airtight jar. Take 1 Tbsp. mixed in 1/2 cup of warm water. Drink this every 3-4 hours during illness or as much as needed.
4. Tulsi, Turmeric and Ginger Tea for fever, cold, or flu.
This potent tea blend can be used to fight pretty much any illness: Fever, sore throat, cold, nausea, or a full-fledged flu. Whether bacterial or viral by nature, this infusion is quite effective for preventing an illness or treating an already manifested sickness. A few of its mighty health benefits include immune boosting, digestion-enhancing, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, expectorant, and febrifuge (reduces fever). I would suggest making a strong batch of this in the morning and drinking it consistently throughout the day.
Directions: Click here for the full recipe. Drink this tea at the first sign of sickness, 1-3 times daily. Once sick, drink a warm cup of this tea every 3-4 hours or as much as needed. Use the honey sparingly as viruses and bacteria thrive on sugar. So, a small amount of honey is beneficial for colds, etc., while too much will be harmful.
5. Ginger-Baking Soda Bath for flu, body aches, chills, and fever.
There is no better way to treat a sickness than to sweat out the toxins by taking a hot soak. This ginger blend will help to increase the sweating process further and is also highly beneficial for pacifying a fever. It relaxes the muscles and the mind and is great for any aches that often accompany the flu. It is equally beneficial for coughing as it relaxes the respiratory tract, which is often constricted and stressed during times of coughing spasms. Finally, adding some essential oils can help promote healing even further.
Directions: Fill the tub with moderately hot water. While filling, add 1/3 cup of ginger powder and 1/3 cup of baking soda; mix until fully dissolved. Relax in this ginger bath for at least 15 minutes or until you break a sweat. ***If there are respiratory issues, add eucalyptus, peppermint, and sweet orange essential oils (optional). If there is fever and flu, add tulsi, sweet orange, and rosemary essential oils (optional).
6. Mahasudarshana Churna, the Ayurvedic antibiotic.
If you are sick of resorting to antibiotics but need powerful relief, this traditional Ayurvedic formula is the answer. In fact, it not only fights bacterial infections but also treats viral, fungal, parasitical, and any other microbial infection. Although extremely bitter and not so pleasant to take, it is well worth it when you are feeling under the weather. This formula is a natural detoxifier that can be used for any flu, cold, sore throat, nausea, sinus infection, and fever. It is great for both Pitta and Kapha and is a powerful liver tonic. Just as with many of these other remedies, this formula is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, expectorant, and immune boosting by nature.
Directions: During sickness, take 1/2 tsp. in warm water every 3-4 hours. Once the symptoms have reduced, continue to take the same dosage but reduce to 2-3 times daily. Take continuously until 3 days after the final symptoms have ceased to prevent the illness returning.
7. Immaculate Immunity Tincture for cold, flu, and fever.
This is another bitter tonic, although this formula comes in a powerful herbal extracted tincture form and can be easier to take than the previous recommendation. This tincture has been formulated to treat any illness from bacterial to viral, whether cold, flu, fever, sore throat, nausea, or sinus infection. For times of extreme sickness, I actually will take both the Mahasudarshana Churna and the Immaculate Immunity tincture, in perfect antimicrobial harmony!
Directions: This formula works best when taken at the first onset of symptoms, before the illness manifests. At this time, take 3-5 dropper-fulls (one dropper equals one squeeze) every 3-5 hours for prevention. During the illness, increase the dosage to 5-7 dropper-fulls every 2-3 hours. Once the symptoms have decreased or subsided, it is recommended to continue taking 2-3 dropper-fulls, 3 times daily for 3-7 days to prevent any recurrence of the illness.
I hope these remedies find you and your family well. Remember that these remedies can be mixed and matched, as this synergy will only strengthen their effectiveness.