Unfortunately, cold and flu viruses spread easily, and even the strongest among us can succumb to infection. If you do get sick, natural medicines can help you recover faster by supporting your immune defences, and when taken long-term, can even reduce your risk of getting sick. Before we look into how they do this, let’s examine what happens when we get a viral infection.
What happens in an acute cold or flu?
Viruses such as influenza and the common cold enter through the nose and mouth, with the goal of multiplying and making your body their new home. These viruses can’t multiply without a human cell, so once they enter your body they immediately start infecting your cells, hijacking them and turning them into virus-replicating factories. They do this by injecting their genetic material into your cells, which both provides a blueprint for how to make more viral particles and forces your cells’ ‘machinery’ to create them. These brand new viral particles then exit the cell and seek out new cells within your body to infect, continuing the cycle of infection.
Fortunately, your body doesn’t just take this lying down. Instead, the infected cells signal danger to the body, stimulating the protective inflammatory response, which allows your immune system to fight back. It does this by sending white blood cells (WBCs) to the infected areas, which then lock on to viral particles and destroy them. Interestingly, rather than being caused by the virus itself, the symptoms that make you feel terrible, such as a sore throat, chills and aches, are actually a side effect of your immune system fighting off the virus. As you can see, the quicker and more effectively your immune system can get rid of the virus, the fewer days you will spend being sick, and the better you will feel.
Can taking natural medicines help me get better quickly?
The major advantage of natural medicines is they reduce uncomfortable cold and flu symptoms while also helping your immune system fight off viruses faster and more effectively. Taking natural medicines at the first sign of infection means fewer days spent feeling miserable, fewer days off work or school, and more time to enjoy the things you love! When taken on an ongoing basis, many nutrients and herbs can even reduce your risk of getting sick in the first place – good news for those of you who get sick regularly.
To help you feel better sooner, here are four-star players you can call on to support your immune system and get you feeling back to normal ASAP:
- Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata): A herb used in traditionally in Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine to treat respiratory diseases, fever and sore throat, research shows that andrographis reduces symptoms of the common cold and other URTIs., It does this by helping your WBCs destroy viral particles, fighting off infection.
- Zinc: When taken within 24 hours of the first symptoms of infection, zinc reduces the severity and duration of colds. By boosting the production and function of WBCs, 30 mg/day of zinc helps fight off colds and flu. If you get sick often, taking zinc daily for five months may reduce the occurrence of infection and sickness-related absences from work.
- Vitamin C: An important nutrient for the immune system, vitamin C reduces symptom severity and duration of the common cold by an average of 23%,, cutting the number of days spent feeling unwell by almost a quarter! This vitamin helps by enhancing the movement of WBCs, getting them where they need to go in order to fight the battle.
- Medicinal mushrooms: The combination of cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis), coriolus (Trametes versicolor), reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) and shiitake (Lenintula edodes) mushrooms reduces common cold symptoms by enhancing immune strength and function, preventing viruses from entering cells, stimulating WBC activity, and helping your immune system recognise and fight infection more effectively in the future.,,,
What else can I do to get better quickly?
Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to help yourself feel better and recover faster:
- Start your natural medicine regime as soon as you feel yourself getting sick – the quicker you get on top of the infection the better you will feel!
- Get plenty of rest and sleep, taking as much time away from work or school as necessary;
- Eat nourishing whole foods with plenty of vegetables and easily digested proteins, such as fish or eggs;
- Consume plenty of fluids such as water, herbal tea and homemade chicken and vegetable broth;
- Consume plenty of garlic (bonus points for raw!) and onion as they help boost immune function (Avoid if following FODMAP diet), and
- Try steam inhalations to reduce congestion.
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