Here is how to find the right herbal remedies for coughs and colds
January and February tend to be the worst months for coughs and sinus congestion.
Snot and phlegm (as unpleasant as they sound) are a key defence mechanism for fighting off infections.
Normally, the mucus we make in our airways is so thin we barely notice it. It keeps everything moist, protected and traps bacteria and particles of dust.
When we become ill though, the mucus changes, becoming rich in proteins that make it thick and stringy and full of white blood cells that give it a green-yellow colour.
These are signs that our immune system has switched on and we are fighting something off. Gross but necessary, mucus and phlegm are very beneficial but problems can occur when they are poorly managed and are produced to excess.
Many people I speak to in these months tell me that they’ve had chest infections or sinus infections for weeks, if not months.
Quite often, this is not the case. While it seems as though one continuous infection has been present all winter, it’s often multiple infections caught one after the other.
Antibiotics are very successful in treating bacterial infections, so if you have had antibiotics, especially multiple courses, but you are still coughing up or blowing mucus from your nose, you need to focus on management of the bodies mucus production rather than just the infection.
Constant coughing leaves us feeling run down and exhausted. It interrupts our sleep, the time when our immune system works at it’s best.
When mucus and coughing become really bad, we may need to take antibiotics, especially if we have a pre-existing lung condition could be worsened by damage done during infection.
While often necessary, antibiotics can take their toll on our bodies, affecting our balance of immune supporting bacteria.
This means that once we are in recovery from a respiratory infection, we may catch something else before the mucus has had time to clear up. Our weakened and depleted immune function, leaves us more prone to picking up something else.
So managing mucus is an integral part of reducing the length and severity of a cold.
Since the mucus is made by the body, not bacteria, antibiotics won’t treat it. This we need to do ourselves.
Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated is an important part of keeping the mucous thin and easy to clear.
In addition, herbs like ginger and chilli help to think it down while steam inhalation of peppermint and menthol open up the airways to enable it to move through.
While these techniques can make us more comfortable, to stop mucous being produced we need we need to tackle it at the source – the inflammation.
Inflamed mucus membranes make the body act like there is an infection present, even if there isn’t, meaning that the symptoms of your cold of chesty cough could last much longer that the infection itself.
Reducing inflammation in the airways helps to heal them faster, reducing recovery time and leaving you less prone to catching another infection while you’re still run down.
The main remedy I use for airway inflammation is Serrapeptase, an enzyme that digests mucus while also healing inflamed tissue.
This makes it an ideal remedy for use both while you have an infection (to ease symptoms) and also during recovery to prevent that congestion from making your cold linger.
Serrapeptase digests mucus from within so we don’t need to continuously cough it up, banishing wakefulness nights and sinus headaches, As the inflammation is brought down, our airways are less narrow, making breathing easier.
More importantly though, reducing inflammation reduces the production of mucus, breaking the cycle. If you feel like you’ve been congested for weeks or your just sick of the sight of snot, I’d recommend thinking outside the box this winter.
Manage the mucus, not just the infection and you should find that your cold are shorter, easier to manage and less likely to lead you to another one straight after.
For more information on managing mucus, contact Nicola at her clinic Health and Herbs, Pedder Street, Morecambe, on 01524 413733.