Ayurvedic ways to treat colds and flu
The first rule when you have cold, flu or fever, is to take plenty of rest and bundle yourself up with blankets.
The primary treatment for colds, flu and fever is fasting. During such illnesses, your appetite is usually low and this is a good indication that your body needs a rest from food. When digestive fire is low, even a small amount more your stomach, than it can cope with, will quickly produce more Ama – and that is the last thing you need.
Fasting will give your body the chance to detoxify the Ama and excess Doshas that have accumulated in your tissues. Ayurvedic fasting means light soups for each meal. A small amount of fruit is also suitable; though avoid heavy fruits, such as bananas and avocados. Avoid any fruits that are sour, apart from a little lemon or lime juice. Cooked fruits, such as stewed apples, are easier on the digestion than raw fruits.
To tea or not to tea
A Kapha person should take very little by mouth if they suffer from colds, flu or fever. Vata and Pitta people may find themselves dehydrated during these conditions. For them, a good tea to take will consist of equal proportions of ginger, basil, lemongrass and fennel. Steep the ingredients for ten minutes in hot water. Ginger and fennel burn Ama and ginger promotes your digestive fire. Lemongrass prevents fever and causes sweating. Basil is a decongestant and reduces fever.
Do not bathe during fever
Do not take a bath during these conditions. If you are suffering from fever, sponging with tepid water will reduce it, but postpone bathing until you recover. When you are over the worst of the illness, a shower will be fine.
What to eat when you are ill in bed
If you are ill enough to have to be in bed, avoid meat, as your digestive fire will be too low to cope with it. For the same reason, do not use oil either externally or by mouth. Once you start to recover, and your appetite improves, you can drink warm rice water drained from well-cooked rice. Rice water is highly nourishing, yet it is undemanding on your digestive fire.
As your appetite gets stronger start to eat soups and gradually return to normal diet. From then on your diet should be adjusted to balance whatever Doshas is still out of balance – Vata, Pitta or Kapha.
Vata bed-rest: For a Vata fever rest and warmth are most important – use plenty of blankets and keep the room warm. Even under the blankets a Vata person may shiver and feel cold.
Pitta bed-rest: For a person suffering from Pitta fever, a darkened room may help as light can bother them. A warm room is advised, but a Pitta person may throw off blankets and suffer more from fever symptoms than those who have either Vata or Kapha fevers. Because of this, light bedding is recommended. If there is very high fever, a sponge-down with tepid rosewater is useful. If there is no sensitivity to camphor, some camphor mixed with cool water can be applied on a cloth to the forehead.
Kapha bed-rest: For a Kapha fever, rest and heat are recommended. Food should be restricted and hot spices avoided. A valuable tea for Kapha fever consists of fennel, cumin and coriander in equal proportions. Steep the herbs in hot water for ten minutes and drink while still hot.
Early signs of colds and flu
Early signs of colds and flu are low appetite and feverishness. There is loss of interest and appetite for anything – the charm in life is somehow missing. You will feel exhausted and fatigued. There may be loss of taste for food.
- Dark colouration, frequent yawning and goose pimples may occur for Vata body types.
- Dizziness, hot flushes, burning sensations may occur, and the skin may appear flushed in Pitta body types.
- Pallor, chills, runny nose and loss of appetite, is often present in those who are predominantly Kapha.
- Be careful to eat good quality food and take good care of your digestion.
- Don’t eat too much at mealtimes and always leave your meal feeling satisfied but not completely full.
- Only eat when you feel truly hungry.
How to prevent colds and flu
Following these simple rules will help prevent Ama from forming and keep the Doshas from going out of balance.
A regular routine and a reasonably stress-free life will help keep your immune system on top form. Stressful activity, done in a hurry, is the worst thing for burning up your Ojas and compromising your immunity.
Strengthening your Ojas – the key to good health
To produce a good amount of Ojas, and strengthen your immunity on an on-going basis, try the following:
- Choose easy-to-digest, organic, foods.
- Including fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and light dairy products.
- Cook with immune-boosting spices – fennel, cumin, black pepper, turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, and ginger.
- Eat immune-boosting foods like apples, sweet, juicy fruits, pomegranate juice, leafy greens, whole grains, ghee and boiled organic milk.
- Gently cook your foods.
- Include a small amount of ghee in each meal.
- Take care of your digestion.
- Eat according to your nature and the season.