The medical term for flu comes from the Italian phrase “Influenza di freddo” or the “the influence of cold”. Flu, however, is slightly distinct from the common cold. Colds usually develop slowly, whereas the flu strikes suddenly and hard. Caused by a virus which affects the upper respiratory tract, its symptoms include fever, headache, blocked or runny nose, aches and pains through the body and sneezing. A typical bout clears up within a week.
With the growing use of modern medicine, most people rely on antibiotics. But, the fact is that antibiotics don’t work against flu viruses unless there is a secondary bacterial infection. There are some medicines to provide relief from symptoms, but simple preparations at home can address minor complaints.
Categorised as complementary and alternative medicine therapies (CAM) to treat the common cold, some of these are traditional antidotes, others include nutritional and herbal supplements. Few have also been supported by scientific evidence. Common remedies include:
Kahdha: The grandmother’s recipe to cure cold and cough, Kadha is a mix of spices — cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, ginger, desi ghee and basil.
Honey with spices: Honey has anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and prebiotic properties. Other benefits that have been attributed to honey include anti-tumour, anti-mutagenic and anti-viral properties. Manuka honey, a special variety that comes from New Zealand, has been used in upper respiratory infections including chronic sinusitis, rhinitis and allergic symptoms. Honey can be used in combination with a variety of spices including nutmeg, black pepper, ginger, cloves and lemon.
Turmeric and Ghee in milk: Turmeric is believed to modulate the immune system has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Fenugreek seed decoction: Fenugreek helps asthma and sinus problems. Fenugreek decoction is known to ease soar throat and laryngitis. It can be combined with honey and lemon.
Garlic: Garlic is loaded with nearly 100 active chemical compounds including several potent antioxidants. The most important of these compounds is allcin, a sulfur compound. The antioxidant property of garlic also helps boost the immune system by increasing natural killer cells.
Tulsi Tea: Tulsi is known to fight bacterial, viral and fungal infections. It can be made into tea or as a decoction.
Barley water to treat fever: Barley or jau is believed to have a healing effect on the body.
Amla: Amla is an excellent source of vitamin C.
Joshanda: An unani concoction of seven herbs to ease cough, cold and bronchitus.
Chawanprash: An ayurvedic herbal concoction believed to boost immunity
Ginseng powder: It can be added to herbal teas as a restorative. A word of caution: Reported side effects include headache, gastrointestinal upset, anxiety, and insomnia.
Echinacea flowers and roots: These were used medically by first nations and Europeans to fight infections including common cold. A typical dose of echinacea is 0.75 to 1.5 mL of tincture per day.