A change of every season requires a change in diet and lifestyle. Ayurveda prescribes a distinctive lifestyle and diet to both ward off and beat the common cold and cold systems. Using only natural ingredients, Ayurvedic medicine offers excellent treatment options like cold medicine and remedies.
Though you can catch a cold at any time of year, colds are more common during the winter months. This is because most cold-causing viruses thrive in low humidity.1
Common Cold Vs Flu: Which one is it?
Flu and common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses.
Colds develop gradually over a few days and are often milder than the flu. They usually get better in 7 to 10 days, although symptoms can last for up to 2 weeks.
Flu symptoms are of sudden onset and can be severe. They usually last 1 to 2 weeks. People with colds are more likely to have a runny nose, sniffles or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems such as pneumonia, bacterial infections or hospitalizations.
Let’s look at the symptoms of the common cold vs flu.
Cold symptoms will look like these.
- runny or stuffy nose
- a sore throat
- a cough
- a headache or body aches
- mild tiredness
Flu symptoms can include the following.
- dry, hacking cough
- moderate to high fever, although not everyone with the flu will run a fever
- a sore throat
- shaking chills
- severe muscle or body aches
- a headache
- stuffy and runny nose
- severe fatigue that may last up to two weeks
- nausea and vomiting (most common in children)
Use your symptoms as a guide to figure out which condition you have. If you think you might have the flu, see your doctor.
The Ayurvedic treatment of flu consists of pacifying the aggravated body energies, expelling excess mucus, restoring peripheral circulation, strengthening digestion and boosting immunity within the first 48 hours of symptoms.
How Colds And Flus Develop
According to Ayurveda, the flu results from an imbalance of Kapha and Vata dosha in the body. Cold develops when there is an excess of Kapha dosha or moist qualities in the body causing a stuffy nose, runny nose and sneezing. Excess Vata reduces the body’s heat or metabolic fire causing chills.
The Ayurvedic treatment of flu consists of pacifying the aggravated body energies, expelling excess mucus, restoring peripheral circulation, strengthening digestion and boosting immunity by restoring the aggravated dosha.
In Ayurveda, the common cold is called pratishyaya. In this condition, all the three doshas of your body are responsible.
Cold occurring due to Vata dosha is indicated by symptoms such as mucus discharge, a runny nose and dry cough. In case of cold because of Pitta dosha, a sore throat, blocked nose, and fever are indicated. People who get cold on account of Kapha dosha experience headache, heaviness in the head and thick mucus discharge.
READ MORE: How To Fight The Flu With Ayurveda
Ayurvedic Cold Medicine And Preventive Remedies
There are several Ayurvedic remedies for cold as well as Ayurvedic cold medicine.
The herbal remedies listed here are perfect for prevention and can be used at the first sign of sickness. If a scratchy throat, malaise or body aches has you feeling down, try one of these herbal remedies.
They 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 better and much easier than full-fledged treatment.
1. Dietary Changes
Fasting is recommended for a whole day after experiencing various symptoms of cold. Fasting will help you detoxify your body and eliminating the undigested mucus.
Choose a diet which consists of steamed and boiled vegetables, vegetable soups and stews. Stay away from food items which are difficult to digest, like oily, rich and spicy foods, milk, and other dairy products. Consume warm food to give relief to your cold symptoms.
2. Tulsi, Turmeric, Ginger, Clove Tea For Fever, Cold + Flu
This potent tea blend can be used to fight pretty much any illness including 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. It’s mighty health benefits include immune boosting, digestion-enhancing, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, expectorant, and febrifuge (reduces fever).
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. A small amount of honey is beneficial for colds.
This particular Ayurvedic tea recipe is exceptionally beneficial. It’s got immune boosting, digestion-enhancing, detoxifying, bug-killing, delicious goodness in one soothing cup. This tea is a great option in the cold weather, as all the herbs are heating by nature. It will help keep your blood flowing, as constriction and cold hands and feet become more common.
This recipe is also an amazing choice for the prevention or treatment of a cold, flu, infection or fever. During these times, it is best to drink 1 cup(200 ml) at least 3-4 times a day.
Doshic Effect: Reduces Vata, Reduces Kapha
Servings: 3 servings (about 1 cup -1.5 cups per serving)
Preparation Time: 10 minutes, including prep time
- 4 cups of pure water
- 2-3 cloves
- 2 Tbsp loose leaf tulsi tea or fresh tulsi leaves (preferred)
- 2-3 heaping tsp of fresh ginger, finely grated (substitute with 1 -2 tsp dry ginger if needed)
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- honey to taste
- 3-4 drops of lemon juice
Boil 4 cups of water in a saucepan on high heat. Once boiling, remove from heat. Add the clove, tulsi, grated ginger and turmeric. Stir. Let the herbs steep for 6-8 minutes.
Strain into a mug. Once the temperature has cooled a bit, add the honey to taste (1 teaspoon).
Honey should never be cooked or heated above 110 degrees as this process changes the molecular structure of the honey and makes it a toxic, unrecognizable substance to the body.
Sip slowly while you relax and enjoy this healing treat!
3. Ginger Honey & Lemon Cold Drop
Ginger is great for fighting infection. This particular remedy is specific for low appetite that often accompanies illness. It aids digestion and clears out any undigested matter in the gut. As an added benefit, ginger is also great for fever associated with flu—it is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and a powerful expectorant.
Take one teaspoon of fresh ginger juice and mix with one teaspoon of honey and a few drops of lemon juice. Lick this cold drop 3-4 times a day.
4. Clove, 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. In fact, cloves are expectorants (clear phlegm), antiviral, antibacterial and also highly anti-inflammatory. With all of these factors together, this is the perfect remedy for calming any cough.
To use clove for your cough, make a simple tea. Add one or two cloves to any herbal tea you are taking for your cold. If you have a sore throat, simply suck on a clove.
This remedy works well in seasonal colds and allergic colds as well.
5. Turmeric, Salt + Cayenne Gargle
This remedy is perfect for sore throats and swollen glands.
It is anti-inflammatory and surprisingly soothing when 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 one 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 areas of infection. Repeat this three times in a row and perform every six hours or as needed for prevention or treatment of a sore throat or swollen glands.
6. Salt Water Sponge Bath Or Sudation / Fomentation for flu, body aches, chills, and fever.
This remedy benefits the flu, body aches, chills and fever.
Sudation is not helpful for all types of flu. It is beneficial where the patient feels cold and chills. In this case sudation helps in reducing the intensity of fever.
Fomentation with hot bags on the back bone (vertebral column) in a downward direction reduces chills and fever. In case of fever with Vata dosha dominance, there is acute body ache. In such conditions, sudation with hot water bags is very beneficial. In cases of flu with acute onset of fever and cold, sudation helps a lot.
How To Prevent Cold + Flu
Prevention is always a better option. When the season changes, use these lifestyle recommendations to prevent cold and flu.
A cold climate rips the natural moisture and oiliness from the hair and skin. Have a regular oil massage at least twice a week during winter. Heat sesame oil and apply it all over the body before taking a bath. Also, winter may cause body aches. Oil massage relaxes the body and reduces pain.
In Assam in the northeast part of India, there is a daily evening ritual in winter to wash and massage the feet. A tub full of warm water with salt is used to first soak the feet. The feet are then wiped dry and a warm mustard oil massage follows. The lower legs and the soles of the feet are massage this way in every Assamese household in winter months.
When bathing in winter, take a bath in warm water rather than hot water. Hot water removes the moisture from the skin.
Regular practice of yoga and pranayama also helps prevent the onset of cold and flu.
Cold, Flu + The Mahabhutas
When considering the pancha mahabhutas or five elements of nature, the flu is the result of abnormal and excessive prithvi (earth) and ap (water) properties. This is an aggravation of Kapha dosha. These mahabhutas pervade each and every part of the body.
When prithvi (earth) and ap (water) obstruct the space (akash mahabhuta) in the body channels, the movement of vayu mahabhuta (air) is obstructed.
So the first principle of treatment is to create space, restore the movement of vayu mahabhuta and activate agni (fire element) for proper digestion of the aggravated Kapha doshas.
Start the treatment with fasting so that the abnormal doshas are digested. Fasting can be followed for 24 hours depending on the strength of the patient. Liquid gruels, warm soups, warm water and lime water with honey can be taken while fasting.2
Influenza — or the flu, as it’s better known — is an upper respiratory illness. Unlike the cold which can hit at any time of year, the flu is generally seasonal. Flu season usually runs from fall to spring, peaking during the winter months.
During flu season, you can catch the flu in the same way you’d pick up a cold: by coming into contact with droplets spread by an infected person.
You’re contagious starting one day before you get sick and up to 5 to 7 days after you show symptoms.
The seasonal flu is caused by the influenza A, B, and C viruses, with influenza A and B being the most common types. Active strains of the influenza virus vary from year to year. That’s why a new flu vaccine is developed each year.
Unlike the common cold, the flu can develop into a more serious condition such as pneumonia. This is especially true for:
- young children
- older adults
- pregnant women
- people with health conditions that weaken their immune system (asthma, heart disease or diabetes)
When To See A Doctor
If you’re at risk of complications from the flu, call your doctor when you first have symptoms. People at risk of serious complications include:
- people older than 50 years
- pregnant women
- children younger than 2 years
- those with weakened immune systems due to HIV, steroid treatment or chemotherapy
- people with chronic lung or heart conditions
- people with metabolic disorders such as diabetes, anemia or kidney disease
- people living in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes
See a doctor if you have signs of pneumonia, including:
- trouble breathing
- severe sore throat
- cough that produces green mucus
- high, persistent fever
- chest pain
Call a doctor right away if a child develops the following symptoms:
- trouble breathing
- extreme fatigue
- refusing to eat or drink
- trouble waking up or interacting
Scientific Studies On Remedies
Tulsi is perhaps one of the best examples of Ayurveda’s holistic lifestyle approach to health. Tulsi tastes hot and bitter and is said to penetrate the deep tissues, dry tissue secretions and normalize Kapha and Vata.
Daily consumption of tulsi is said to prevent disease, promote general health, wellbeing and longevity and assist in dealing with the stresses of daily life. Tulsi is also credited with giving luster to the complexion, sweetness to the voice and fostering beauty, intelligence, stamina and a calm emotional disposition.
In addition to these health-promoting properties, tulsi is recommended as a treatment for a range of conditions including anxiety, cough, asthma, diarrhea, fever, dysentery, arthritis, eye diseases, otalgia, indigestion, hiccups, vomiting, gastric, cardiac and genitourinary disorders, back pain, skin diseases, ringworm, insect, snake and scorpion bites and malaria.3
READ MORE: Can Ashwagandha And Tulsi Be Taken Together?
Curcumin showed anti-influenza activity against influenza viruses PR8, H1N1, and H6N1. The results showed more than 90% reduction in virus yield in cell culture using 30 μM of curcumin. The plaque reduction test elicited the approximate EC50 of 0.47 μM for curcumin against influenza viruses.
In H1N1 and also H6N1 subtypes, the inhibition of hemagglutinin interaction reflected the direct effect of curcumin on infectivity of viral particles and this has proved by time of drug addiction experiment. Additionally, unlike amantadine, viruses developed no resistance to curcumin. The methoxyl derivatives of curcumin also did not show noteworthy role in the haemagglutination.4
These results proved significant potential of curcumin for inhibition of influenza.
Fresh ginger is an appetizer, improves digestion and is an aphrodisiac. It is useful in Vata Kapha imbalances. Usually all herbs having a pungent taste increase Vata. Ginger and long pepper are the exception.
Ginger has a pungent taste, is heavy in digestion and has drying and penetrating properties. It has a madhura (sweet) after-taste and reduces pain. 6-gingerol, a dried ginger extract, and a dried gingerol-enriched extract were each reported to exhibit analgesic and potent anti-inflammatory effects.5
The essential oil extracted from the dried flower buds of clove, Eugenia caryophyllata, is used as a topical application to relieve pain and promote healing. The main constituents of the essential oil are phenylpropanoids such as carvacrol, thymol, eugenol and cinnamaldehyde.
The biological activity of Eugenia caryophyllata has been investigated on several microorganisms and parasites including pathogenic bacteria, Herpes simplex and hepatitis C viruses.
In addition to its antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-fungal and antiviral activity, clove essential oil possesses anti inflammatory, cytotoxic, insect repellent and anaesthetic properties. The short review addresses the chemical composition and biological effects of clove essential oil. It included new results from GC/MS analysis and a study of its antimicrobial activity against a large number of multi‐resistant Staphylococcus epidermidis isolated from dialysis biomaterials.6
The exact mechanism of the antimicrobial effect of honey remains obscure. Low pH, osmotic disruption of pathogens and the presence of bactericidal substances, collectively called inhibine may all play a part, in addition to antioxidant properties.
The antioxidant activity of honey is basically due to the presence of phenolic compounds and flavonoids, although the exact antioxidant action mechanism is unknown. Among the mechanisms proposed are free radical sequestrations, hydrogen donation, metallic ion chelation, or their acting as substrate for radicals such as superoxide and hydroxyl.
These biophenols may also interfere with propagation reaction, inhibiting the enzymatic systems involved in initiation reactions.7
2. Vaidya Atmaram waman Datarshastri, Panchabhautik Chikitsa Vol 1,Chikitsa sthana, Chapter 1 Jwara Chikitsa, Vaidyaraj Datar Panchabhautik Chikitsa and Samshodhan kendra, 2010.
4. Curcumin inhibits influenza virus infection and haemagglutination activity Da-Yuan Chen a , Jui-Hung Shien b , Laurence Tiley c , Shyan-Song Chiou a , Sheng-Yang Wang d , Tien-Jye Chang b , Ya-Jane Lee b,e, Kun-Wei Chan b , Wei-Li Hsu a,*.