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Colds, Cough and (Chest) Congestion

The common cold is an upper respiratory infection can be caused by over 200 different viruses and generally lasts 7-10 days.  The only thing that will get rid of a cold is letting it run its course, thought there are options that may lessen the duration or severity of cold symptoms.

*Some studies suggest that Echinacea may reduce the severity and duration of colds if taken in large amounts at the onset of symptoms.
*Try incorporating probiotics into your diet.  Some studies indicate that live lactobacillus cultures have been linked to less respiratory infections, including some forms of the common cold in both adults and children.
*Vitamins & minerals–both zinc and vitamin C have long been recommended for a cold.  Studies indicate that individuals deficient in zinc and/or vitamin C are more prone to infections and supplements of these can reduce the number and severity of infections.  Zinc, in lozenge form, may reduce the intensity of the symptoms associated with a cold, particularly a cough. Additionally nasal zinc gel (but not zinc nasal spray) and zinc lozenges seem to shorten the duration of a cold.  Conversely, while a few studies have indicated that vitamin C, taken in large does at the onset of a cold may lessen the severity and shorten the duration of a cold, literature reviews of vitamin C studies indicate that it more than likely has little to no effect in preventing or treating infection.
*Eucalyptus, is an expectorant that is useful in treating both chest and sinus congestion.  For chest congestion, in both adults and children, the topical application of Eucalyptus oil in a chest rub (either oil, or salve) can be of great benefit (as can steam inhalations).  Eucalyptus leaf tea can also be taken, as the leaf is believed to have additional antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.   To make an infusion from Eucalyptus leaf, take 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoonful per cup hot water and steep for 10 – 15 minutes.  Drink up to 3 cups a day.

Chest Rub

20 drops of Eucalyptus essential oil
15 drops of lavender essential oil
10 drops of Camphor
10 drops of Peppermint essential oil
1/2 cup carrier oil 

Mix together.  Rub on chest for congestion.  To make salve, add beeswax to melt until cooled mixture is at preferred consistency.

*Medicated lip balms such as Carmex or Blistex can be applied to the skin under the nose, as well as on, around and just inside the nostril to help relieve rawness from blowing the nose.  Additionally, as most are medicated with menthol, eucalyptus or some combination, which is also useful as an inhalant.  When using eucalyptus with children, it is recommended to choose gully gum eucalyptus.
*Marshmallow, particularly the root, and Slippery elm are both effective mucilage agents and help to relieve sore throat and ease coughs, especially if they are dry and unproductive.

~Marshmallow root (and valerian root) is most effectively made as a maceration (cold water infusion).  To prepare, pour 2 cups of cold water over 25 g (volume depends on consistency) of Marshmallow root and allow to sit, covered, overnight.

~To prepare Slippery Elm root, pour 2 cups boiling water over 4 grams (roughly 2 tablespoons) of powdered bark and then steeping 3 to 5 minutes.  Both of these you can used as a gargle, throat rinse or “tea” up to 3 times a day.

Garlic-Ginger Syrup with Slippery Elm and Marshmallow Root

Fresh ginger root
2 cloves garlic
Marshmallow root (this recipe assumes a shredded consistency…by weight it is about 12 g)
Powered Slippery elm bark
2 c honey

Peel and finely slice 2-3 thumb sized chunks of ginger and 2 cloves of garlic.  Cover with 2 cups honey and allow to “steep” overnight (you do not have to remove the garlic and ginger).  Simultaneously, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 tablespoon powdered slippery elm bark.  Allow to cool.  Once cooled, pour this mixture over 2-3 tablespoons marshmallow root.  Sit covered, overnight.  Separate the mucilage and combine with the honey.  Mix. Store in refrigerator.  Take 1-2 tablespoon 3-4 times a day to help with cough.

*Other herbs that are useful to combat colds and cold symptoms are licorice, peppermint (and other mint family members), garlic, and ginger.
*For more remedies, try http://www.mothernature.com/Library/Bookshelf/Books/47/33.cfm

Ear ache

Ear aches can be caused by ear infections, injury, allergies, sinus problems, colds, congestion, foreign objects, etc.  Otitis media is the infection of the middle ear; it is most often found in infants and children.  Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) is another common ear infection associated with water getting in the ears and not draining properly or contaminated water.  Both of these conditions can become serious bacterial infections that may require antibiotics, if you experience any persistent, extreme or chronic ear pain, or fever or see a medical professional for treatment.  If you have a ruptured or punctured ear drum, under no circumstances should you put any liquid into your ear.

*For ear aches caused by congestion, manually clearing your ears to re-establish the pressure equilibrium may be necessary.  Chewing gum, eating (chewing), pinching your nose shut while gently exhaling/blowing against your nose, or yawning can all help achieve this.  If you have an ear ache, or ear-clearing difficulties, avoid pressure changing activities like scuba diving or riding in an airplane.
*For acute pain, try blowing warm air from the lowest setting on your blow drier towards your ear from a distance of about 2 feet.  Additionally, a few drops of warm sweet oil (olive oil—which can include infused herbs, though I recommend the simmer method to infuse for this remedy) will help lessen pain, this will often also soften waxy build up enough to effectively clean the ears, if wax is one of the underlying causes for the pain.
*For Swimmer’s ear and Otitis media, there are several remedies that you can use to try to relieve pain and combat mild infection.  Ear drops containing calendula, mullein, St John’s wort and garlic in olive oil (all traditional herbal treatments for ear ache) have been shown in one study to be as effective as prescription ear drops.  Several commercial preparations exist on the market, or a simple infusion of calendula flowers, mullein flowers, St. John’s wort flowers and garlic in olive oil can be used.

Sinusitis and Nasal Congestion

*Drink lots of water.  This should help thin secretions and prevent dehydration.
*Steam inhalation is your friend.  Hot showers, tenting your head with a towel over a pan of steamy water, or a steam vaporizer (not a cool mist humidifier) are all easy ways to relieve sinus congestion.
*Add eucalyptus and/or menthol based essential oils and lavender and/or rosemary essential oils to the steam inhalation reduce the symptoms of nasal congestion.
*Irrigate your sinuses.  A bulb syringe, neti pot, or one of these bottles.  Use ¼ tsp salt and ¼ tsp baking soda or ¼ tsp salt for 8 oz of WARM distilled or filtered water.
*Try using these pressure points to relieve sinus congestion:

 

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