Two naturopathic doctors, Michael Murray and Joseph Pizzorno, explain how natural therapies are used to treat common health conditions. In "The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine," they provide tips for living a healthy lifestyle and using supplements and botanical medicines. The doctors give examples of how holistic medicine can be effective, using information from scientific studies.
My wife is an M.D. trained in pharmaceutical medicine. She prescribes drugs every day, but also recommends medicinal herbs. In our medicine cabinet, we stock drugs and herbs, but we use more of the latter. When we catch colds, we prefer echinacea and andrographis (immune-boosting herbs proven to speed recovery), ginseng (ditto), licorice root (for sore throat), tea or coffee (caffeine helps relieve stuffed nose and chest congestion), eucalyptus lozenges (for cough), and pelargonium (if post-cold bronchitis develops).
Believe it or not, those annoying symptoms you're experiencing are part of the natural healing process -- evidence that the immune system is battling illness. For instance, a fever is your body's way of trying to kill viruses by creating a hotter-than-normal environment. Also, a fever's hot environment makes germ-killing proteins in your blood circulate more quickly and effectively. Thus, if you endure a moderate fever for a day or two, you may actually get well faster. Coughing is another productive symptom; it clears your breathing passages of thick mucus that can carry germs to your lungs and the rest of your body. Even that stuffy nose is best treated mildly or not at all. A decongestant, like Sudafed, restricts flow to the blood vessels in your nose and throat. But often you want the increase blood flow because it warms the infected area and helps secretions carry germs out of your body.
Acid reflux—which occurs when acids produced by your stomach make their way into the throat—is a common cause of a sore throat, Dr. Comer says. That means anything you do to stoke acid reflux could prolong or worsen a sore throat. For that reason, Dr. Comer recommends avoiding soda, fried foods, and citrus fruits like oranges and lemons. Also, skip food altogether for an hour before bed. Eating before you lie down can promote reflux and heartburn.
What you put into your body can have a big impact on your health. We now know the connection between poor diet and chronic health conditions. "Healing with Whole Foods" focuses on changing your diet with guidance from Chinese medicine. Learn about nutrient-dense greens, like spirulina and blue-green algae. The book also offers over 300 nutritious recipes.
While you may have heard that gargling with apple cider vinegar has a similar effect, you should probably steer clear of this tactic for now, says Dr. Comer. “There is little doubt that apple cider vinegar has antibacterial and possibly antifungal properties in lab studies, but whether or not this translates into helping viral or bacterial sore throats is unknown,” he explains. “Additionally, there are potential significant issues to extended use of vinegar with the tooth enamel—vinegar is acidic, and repeated use can damage tooth enamel.”
This helps in a few ways. When you lay flat on your back, it increases pressure on your neck and can exacerbate symptoms in your throat, Dr. Griffiths says. “Propping yourself up helps relieve the pressure and can make you feel better,” he says. If you’re struggling with acid reflux, elevating your head also can work with gravity to help keep your stomach acids where they belong—in your stomach.
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You put a salt and warm water mixture in something that looks like a little teapot. Then pour it through one nostril and let it drain out the other. You have to practice a little, but once you get the hang of it, it can ease allergy or cold symptoms and may even help you get rid of a cold quicker. Just make sure you use distilled or cooled boiled water and keep your neti pot clean.