The Organic Pharmacy: Healing Sore Throats, Colds and Flus Naturally
by Margo Marrone, B.Pharm., MA, L.Hom., MRPharmS

A cold is a viral infection in the upper respiratory tract caused by any one of 120 viruses known as rhinoviruses. Flu (infuenza) is also caused by a virus and has similar symptoms to a cold, but these tend to be more severe.

     Cold symptoms include headaches, a sore throat, a cough, a running or blocked nose, sinus pain, and tiredness. Flu usually has all of these symptoms and also eye ache, glandular swelling, and melancholy. It is important to treat the cold or flu virus, but it is also vital to strengthen the immune system against the infection.

RECOMMENDED HERBS: Take a combination of Astragalus, Cat's Claw, Thyme, Echinacea, Goldenseal, Elderberry, Lemon Balm, St. John's Wort, Plantain, and/or Olive Leaf at the first symptoms of a cold or the flu. Repeat this combination every one to two hours during the day, for at least two or three days. Reduce the frequency as symptoms improve.

ESSENTIAL SUPPLEMENTS

VITAMIN (ESTER) C Research shows that vitamin C helps to improve immunity by increasing the production of the virus-inhibitor interferon, as well as other immune cells. DOSAGE 500mg, four times a day. ZINC An antiviral and antioxidant, zinc is crucial for the proper function of immune cells. DOSAGE 15mg, twice a day. VITAMIN A By speeding the healing of the mucous membranes of the lungs and throat, vitamin A can help to combat catarrh and congestion. DOSAGE One 5,000iu capsule, daily. (Avoid vitamin A if you are pregnant.)

RECOMMENDED HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES

The symptoms of a cold or flu can change over the course of a week. Each stage needs its own remedy, so I have listed here the most appropriate remedies. I recommend a 30c or 200c potency every two hours for the first 12 to 24 hours, and then three times a day until you have recovered.

ABC (aconite, belladonna, chamomilla) is an excellent homeopathic combination both for adults and for children in the very first stages of infection.

COLD AND FLU MIXTURE (aconite, gelsemium, hepar sulph, pyrogen, eupatorium, anas barb) Take this mixture at the onset of cold symptoms, when you have aching, sore or heavy muscles; and at the beginning of a sore throat or fever.

SINUS AND CATARRH MIXTURE (pulsatilla, hepar sulph, merc sol, thuja, hydrastis, kali bich) is especially effective if you have green or yellow mucus, and during the latter stages of a cold or flu.

NUTRITIONAL ADVICE

Eat the foods that help to overcome a cough like oranges, garlic, ginger and lemon. In addition, eat nuts and seeds, which supply antioxidants and zinc. Avoid sugar, which inhibits immunity and dairy products which produce mucous.

SORE THROATS

Anything that irritates and inflames the lining of the throat can cause soreness, and a sore throat is usually the result of any one of several different conditions. An inflammation of the throat itself is called pharyngitis; an inflammation of the voice box is called laryngitis and an inflammation of the tonsils is called - yes, you guessed it! - tonsillitis. Most sore throats are the result of viral infections, usually as part of a cold or the flu and you can usually treat these quickly and easily at home. However, a small percentage of sore throats come from bacterial infections usually the streptococcus bacteria. The symptoms of streptococcal infection develop quickly and include a high fever with red, swollen tonsils and tender, sore lymph nodes at the sides of the throat. For children, especially, you should consult your doctor if you suspect a bacterial sore throat.

TREATMENT:

To give yourself the best chance of overcoming a sore throat quickly, treat it at the first signs of infection - as soon as you have that tender, crackling sensation that makes it uncomfortable to swallow. I have found the following remedy combinations to be extremely effective.

RECOMMENDED HERBS

Use the following herbal remedies either individually or in combination. The standard dosage is 15 drops of tincture (of each tincture, if you are combining remedies) in a little water or juice three times a day. Use this unless otherwise stated.

SAGE (Salvia officinalis) Wonderfully therapeutic, sage essential oil contains the compound salvene, which gives the oil both antibacterial and antiseptic actions. DOSAGE 10 drops tincture in a little water, three or four times a day. CALENDULA (Calendula officinalis) is a must-have for sore throats because of its strong antiseptic and antibacterial properties. It also helps to soothe pain and reduce fever and inflammation. Use the standard dosage.

PROPOLIS (Resina propoli) made by bees from tree sap, propolis is not strictly a herb, but medicinally it is used as such. Antiseptic, antibiotic, antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral, propolis is available as a tincture (take it at the standard dosage) and also as a ready-made throat spray. To use propolis as a gargle, add 5 ml (1 tsp) propolis tincture to 100 ml (3 1/2 fl oz) cooled, boiled water. DOSAGE Gargle up to three times a day until symptoms subside. Swallow the gargle. MYRRH (Commiphora myrrha) is another antiseptic and anti-inflammatory herb, making a soothing gargle for acute sore throats. Place 5 drops of myrrh tincture in 50 ml (1 1/2 fl oz) cooled, boiled water and stir. Gargle with the mixture up to six times a day (it will help if you swallow the gargle, too) until your symptoms subside, then reduce this to only three times a day until you have made a full recovery.

SUPPLEMENTARY HERBS

It's also important to boost the immune system against sore-throat infections, in which case you should use the following immune-friendly herbs at the standard dosage: Astragalus, Echinacea, Elderberry.

     Boost your intake of antivirals, antibacterials and antioxidants to help your body fight off the throat infection. Increase your dosages of the following supplements as indicated until symptoms subside: Vitamin (ester) C (500 mg, four times daily), Zinc (15 mg, twice daily)

RECOMMENDED HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES

Use the homeopathic remedies on the following page in combination as soon as your symptoms first appear. It will help to take all the remedies - even those that don't necessarily have an exact "match" for your symptoms. Use a 6c or 30c potency of each remedy, six times a day.

MERC SOL is absolutely the best homeopathic sore-throat remedy you will find, particularly when your sore throat is accompanied by bad breath, ulcers and/or bleeding gums.

HEPAR SULPH is ideal for the kind of sore throat that feels as though you have a fish-bone stuck in your throat.

PHYTOLACCA if your sore throat is particularly painful as you swallow and if it is accompanied by general aching in your limbs and your back, this remedy will prove particularly effective.

BELLADONNA is great if you have a dry, red sore throat that is accompanied by a fever.

KALI MUR is excellent for the form of ulcerated sore throat that results from gastric disturbances and when the glands around your throat are swollen.

NUTRITIONAL ADVICE

Always follow healthy-eating guidelines when beating any infection, including a sore throat. Certain foods are especially good to eat when you have a sore throat as they have particular immune-boosting or soothing properties (see below). Increase or add them to your diet as soon as your symptoms appear. In addition, avoid immune-depleting foods and drinks, such as junk food, alcohol, carbonated drinks and coffee. (Note: If you are a smoker, make this a time to quit. Smoking while you have a sore throat will irritate the mucous membranes in the linings of your lungs and throat making your symptoms much worse.)

FOODS TO EAT

Thyme and cinnamon will help to provide antiseptic properties, while ginger will provide a good anti-inflammatory. Increase your intake of potent immune-boosters, too garlic, shiitake mushrooms, oranges and other citrus fruits and all fresh fruits and vegetables (especially sweet potatoes, which are particularly high in antioxidants). And eat plenty of soothing home-made Chicken Soup which not only provides great comfort food, but also helps to fortify your immunity against the infection and soothe the respiratory tract. It may seem like an old wives' tale, but scientific research suggests that chicken soup really does help to heal the body as it fights a throat infection. The evidence shows that it works by preventing inflammation in the upper respiratory tract.

     CHICKEN SOUP INGREDIENTS: 1 x 2-3kg/5-6lb whole chicken (without giblets); 2 large onions chopped; 1 large sweet potato chopped; 2 parsnips, chopped; 6 large carrots chopped; 3 celery stalks chopped; 1 bunch parsley chopped; lemon wedges, to garnish; Salt and pepper to taste. Directions: Put the chicken in a large pot and cover it with cold water. Bring to a boil, then add the onions, sweet potato, parsnips and carrots. Boil for about 11/2 hours, topping up the water if necessary. Skim off the fat from the surface of the water, using a ladle and add the celery and parsley. Simmer the mixture for a further 45 minutes. Remove the chicken (which you can use for a separate meal), then use a handheld blender to whiz the vegetables and stock into a thick soup. Season with salt and pepper and serve with lemon wedges. Eat as often as you like! (Makes 4-6 servings.)

The Organic Pharmacy(r) (2009; Duncan Baird, distributed by Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.) is author Margo Marrone's one-stop, definitive resource on natural healing and will be available on barnesandnoble.com and at fine bookstores in March 2009. For more info, www.dbp.co.uk