A “cold” (rhinovirus) is an imbalance of the air, space, water, and earth elements in the body. These elements are considered to be “cold” elements in Ayurveda, so the popular name of the virus makes good sense. The virus enters the sinuses and will thrive if they are dry.
The sinuses are a space in the body and excess air in the sinuses will dry them out. The mucous that builds up in the sinuses during a cold is a mixture of earth and water.
Healing a cold requires boosting immune response, bringing heat (fire element) into the body, preventing bacterial growth that leads to a sinus infection, and bringing moisture into the environment.
Colds often cause post-nasal drip, which leads to bronchitis. Mucous in the sinuses that is present during a cold is a wonderful place for bacteria to grow. It is important when treating a cold to prevent it from becoming a sinus infection or bronchitis.
This is the regimen I use to kick my colds, which I can typically get over in 2 days (or less). Although, full disclosure: I hardly ever get sick since I began my Ayurvedic life!
1. Stay home and rest!
2. Echinacea and Elderberry tea: Echinacea improves immune response. Elderberry has been clinically proven to have antiviral properties (it kills viruses). Always cover tea when steeping to prevent the loss of effective components in the steam. Drink 3 cups per day. Helpful hint: If an Echinacea tea doesn’t make your tongue tingle, it’s not effective. I recommend Traditional Medicinals or Pukka brands.
3. Ginger tea: Ginger works in the body through the same mechanisms as aspirin to provide pain relief and bring down inflammation. I drink 3 cups per day to ease pain in the sinuses during a cold. I recommend the Yogi brand Ginger tea because it is a medicinal blend that also contains herbs to benefit the lungs.
Note: Ginger thins the blood, so it should not be taken with other blood-thinning medications. Take Ginger at least 2 hours away from aspirin.
4. Heat and Humidify: Take warm showers to breathe the humid air. Place a humidifier in whatever room you are in most of the day, and add eucalyptus oil to the water. Eucalyptus has antibacterial properties and is healing to the sinuses and lungs.
5. Neti: If you're not too congested, use a neti pot to rinse the sinuses with saline 3 times per day. See my quick and easy recipe for saline here. Saltwater kills bacteria and heals the irritated mucous membranes in the sinuses.
6. Spicy food: I eat very spicy foods when I feel a cold coming on – red curry, green chilies, and soup with hot sauce. Spicy foods act as diaphoretics (sweat-inducers), which help to eliminate the virus from the body.
7. No dairy or sugar: Dairy increases congestion by boosting your body’s ability to make mucous. Sugar enhances bacterial growth.
8. Supplements: Eat 1-2 raw cloves of garlic per day while you are sick (cut them up and swallow the pieces like pills, preferably with some food), and take Goldenseal tincture to kill bacteria. I take Goldenseal 3 times per day at the dose recommended on the package. Although my symptoms are typically gone by the end of 2 days, I take my supplements for 7 days. I then take a probiotic supplement for another 7 days to replenish beneficial bacteria.
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