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Health and Beauty Articles

As the rain and wind batters the windows in early September I conclude that it’s time to batten down the hatches and get winter-ready a bit earlier this year! No sooner had we donned our sandals and t-shirts when the winter coats were summoned out of early retirement for another 8 months in action. Although it’s quite nice to think of nights by the fire with a good book and a mug of hot chocolate, it’s not so nice to think of days spent with tissues attached to our noses and Lemsips on a constant drip down our raspy throats (I am one such victim at the moment and feeling oh-so-sorry-for-myself!) Although it can be inevitable that we will succumb to the one of the 200 cold viruses that does the rounds on our islands, there are a few ways that we can put up a good fight against this habitual winter illness.

Herbal remedies

Echinacea is a very popular herb, particularly in relation to helping the treatment of colds and flu. Promoters are of the belief that it can help to encourage the immune system and in turn reduces the symptoms of colds, flu and other immune related illnesses.

Although the cold and Echinacea relationship is the subject of considerable debate among health professionals, they have leaned towards agreeing that this herbal remedy cuts the duration of a cold, if taken at the on-set of the virus.

I can only go by my own experiences of using this herbal remedy over the years, and I credit it to helping stave off colds throughout the winter. How have I come to this conclusion? Because there are some winters where I have used it, and some where I have not, and the later always sees me fighting off colds to no avail for a good chunk of the cold months. And I don’t think it’s a huge coincidence that I’m currently hugging a Lemsip drink after two weeks abroad without my usual supply of Echinacea!

It comes either in liquid form or a tablet – I’d suggest the tablet – unless you particularly like the taste of a plant in a bottle. The price of 60 tablets is roughly £10 and can be bought at most health shops.

Other effective natural remedies are:

Vitamin C – This helps to improve immunity by the production of the virus-inhibitor interferon.

Zinc – This anti-viral and antioxidant is crucial for the function of immune cells.

Vitamin A – This can help speed up the heeling process.

Eucalyptus – This reduces inflammation caused by the cold virus and can improve the immune system. Some put a few drops onto a tissue by their pillow at night, or drops can be used in a candle oil burner. This should be used with caution however as this powerful herb can have some harmful side effects so it is advised to see your doctor before using this herb.

Ear candles

Ear candling is a technique that dates back hundreds of years in places such as China, India and American Indian cultures. Initial intentions of the ear candle were to clear the mind and the senses, in order to make way for peaceful meditation. Now health benefits of the ear candle are vast: helping colds and sinus congestion are just a couple of symptoms that they can help.

The ear candle is inserted slightly into the ear canal, where a vacuum effect occurs – causing smoke to travel down and through the nasal passages, drawing up debris and toxins (including wax) into the top of the candle (which you can open after and see the results for yourself). I call this the ‘chimney effect’.

Ear candling is also a subject of debate among health professionals, and again, I can only go by my own experiences; I’ve been doing this technique on clients for around 4 years now and can only praise the practise. The best result that sticks in my mind was a lady who couldn’t hear out of one ear, and the other ear was going the same way. After several close-together appointments a significant amount of wax was dislodged, as well as some fluid – needless to say she could now hear a pin drop!

Candling should always be done by a professional – D.I.Y ear candling at home can be dangerous as the top end of the candle is alight during the procedure.


The main way the cold or flu virus spreads is through contact with an infected person, so thorough hygiene such as washing hands and door handles can prevent spreading the virus onto you and others. Asides from the obvious washing hands regularly, we can spread germs very quickly from hands to mouth. Biting nails, scratching your nose, touching your face – all of these things can trigger infections – so keep your hands at your sides where they were intended to be! When coughing cover the mouth with a tissue and wash hands immediately – up to 40,000 infected droplets could be spread into your surrounding environment otherwise. Also discard of any used tissues that are lurking on the bedside table or in your coat pocket! It’s also an idea to carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel with you incase washing your hands isn’t an option when you’re on the go.

Avoid contact with people where possible who have a cold or flu – this is of course easier said than done! But having separate bedrooms in the house could enable one person to be the carer and one the patient, instead of two patients and no carers! Don’t feel obliged to work if you are sick with the cold or have the flu, the best thing you can do is get better at home, instead of possibly infecting others in your work space and probably making your recovery time longer.

At home

Although it may not cure your cold, inhaling steam at home can offer temporary relief from nasal congestion. Place one spoon of Vicks vaporub into a large bowl of boiling water and place your head over the bowl while covering the back of the head with a towel. Inhale for a couple of minutes.

Stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables to help boost your immune system should any cold virus’s come your way – processed, fatty and sugary foods don’t provide any nutritional value for your body.

Stay hydrated by drinking roughly 2 litres of water a day – the immune system doesn’t function as effectively if it is dehydrated. It could also help flush out cold and flu germs from the throat to the stomach where they cannot survive. Hot water with lemon and honey can help ease congestion. Avoid alcohol, sugary drinks and caffeine as these will dehydrate the body more.

Smoking can also hinder your potential for a healthy winter season as smoke from cigarettes irritates airways which can lead to increased vulnerability to colds.

And for the oldest remedy of all – stay warm, rest up and speak to your granny nicely so she’ll bring you some chicken soup!


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