Winter Fit

Home is where your cool weather friend is for good health

Wearing warm clothesWinter is always reminiscent of crisp, fresh air, sometimes biting wind.

The common cold always rears its ugly head during winter months. It’s also one of the most stubborn illnesses that can drain away your strength and affect your energy levels. There are over 200 viruses that can cause the common cold. On an average, a healthy adult “succumbs” to two colds a year, but children are affected far more frequently since their immune systems are most vulnerable.

Modern medicine has long proclaimed its inability to treat cold. Until a century ago, some of the most effective medicines were plant-based. The use of plants for healing purposes has always been a fascinating part of evolution in human history. Arm yourself with herbal medicines and opt for natural cures that will prove to be long-lasting.

Here are some natural kitchen remedies that can surely help you fight even the worst forms of the cold virus. Relax, because there are no harmful hidden chemicals that can hurt your system!

Herb tea

Apart from being a fragrant option, herbal tea helps clear up headache and congestion. Be sure to have them piping hot. Home-made herbal teas are always best. Sticks of ginger, cinnamon, licorice, basil, and cloves revitalise you with every sip. Take 1-4 gm of any of these herbs in powdered form [four gm equals 2-3 teaspoon]. Add the herb to one cup of boiled water, stir, and let it absorb the goodness of nutrients fully before you drink. Add extra sugar only if you must, because sweetness may detract from the tangy taste of fresh herbs. There are other ways to take these powdered herbs. You can sprinkle them onto foods that you love, or mix them with honey.

Here is a recipe for the ever-popular ginger tea that offers a combination of herbs:

Add just under half teaspoon each of ginger powder, fennel seeds and cinnamon and a pinch of clove to one cup of hot water. Let the herbs steep for about 10 minutes. Strain the tea before drinking. Place in a thermos flask and take slow steady sips at regular intervals. Ginger juice in honey is also an excellent remedy for niggling cough.

Natural tonics

Tonics made in honey-base using ground pepper corns, turmeric and tulsi [holy basil] leaves are an excellent aid in combating cold. Pepper corns relieve tingling sensations and help settle and soothe sore throats. Tamarind pepper rasam, a South Indian speciality, has the same therapeutic properties. Both turmeric and tulsi have natural anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. In order to get rid of nasal and chest congestion, take 8-10 tulsi leaves, half-inch slice of crushed ginger and garlic, 3-4 black pepper corns and boil them in one cup of water. Add one tsp of honey and drink it warm: to ease a bad cough and congestion. A pinch of turmeric in warm milk also controls a runny nose.

C for vitality

Vitamin C has for long been an established remedy for staving off the common cold. However, the body cannot effectively absorb this from pills. If you need to get your dose of vitamin C through natural sources, stock up on fresh lime, oranges and gooseberry.

Lick it on

Garlic can help prevent colds and reduce symptoms because it contains a potent substance called allicin, which is released when cloves of garlic are chopped, crushed or chewed. Garlic and onion combinations can be very effective for winter affections. Use them in thin clear soups and as a basic ingredient to any meal. Garlic, with its natural anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, will help boost your immune system and reduce nasal congestion and inflammation. Herbalists today agree that raw is still the best way to take garlic to combat cold.

One popular home remedy is a drink made from crushed garlic cloves mixed with honey, or olive oil. You can also boil the concoction in milk. If you can’t stomach raw garlic, crushed garlic cloves, lightly stir-fried in olive oil, till they are a soft golden brown with a dash of salt, are a tasty option. Onion juice is naturally anti-inflammatory and will help relieve any irritation in the throat.

Zesty zinc

Found naturally in brown rice, oats, meat, tofu, cashew nuts and pumpkin seeds, this is often the wonder nutrient that can put you on the path to recovery. Zinc will not only give your immune system a boost, lab tests have shown that zinc has the property to interfere with the replication of cold viruses.

Herb inhaler

You can make a natural herbal potion for inhalation. This will not damage the delicate nasal skin nor will it prove strong enough to induce a headache. Mix a few drops of eucalyptus oil with wheat germ oil. Inhaling deeply and gently after rubbing it on the nose, chest and back will help clear the sensation of light-headedness. A tablespoon of ajwain [carum seeds] crushed in the palms and tied up in a thin handkerchief can be used for inhalation to relieve nasal blockages. This pack kept on the pillow while sleeping is just as effective.

Cumin water

Whenever you have a bad cold [when is a cold, good?!], you may notice that your digestion slows down and your appetite vanishes. However, it is during this time that your system requires more nutrients.

Jeera [cumin] water has been known to rapidly enhance digestion, paving the way for speedy recovery. Dissolve a handful of cumin seeds overnight in a flask of steaming water and take slow sips every few minutes. You can also add a dash of lime and honey to cumin water.

Wholesome porridge

The complex carbohydrates in oats porridge ensure that you sleep long and well. Sleep is another natural cure for cold. If oats porridge is too thick and heavy by itself, stir it into soups or flavour other foods.

As an alternative, you can try coconut milk porridge which is surprisingly light. Grate coconut and crush oil from it. Break whole grain rice and boil slowly over a flame. Add the coconut milk slowly and simmer with crushed garlic and salt to taste. This wholesome delight will revive you in no time!

Cold Relief

  1. Feed a cold, starve a fever? The origin of this saying is obsure; it is not backed by scientific evidence. But, doctors agree that consuming tasty food during this time will help your system regain its energy levels. If you eat your food piping hot, it will soothe sore throat and prevent infection from getting worse. Also, increase your intake of anti-oxidants with rich green and orange vegetables and fruits. Calorie dense fruit juices, however, aren’t a good option because of their high sugar content. Avoid a diet high in sugar because this can significantly impair the working of our white blood cells – soldiers of our immune system.
  2. Is ice-cream good for cold? You may have heard people proudly proclaim that after consuming ice-cream their cold just seems to vanish! Others warn you of ice-cream and exposure to cold weather. Which school of thought should you believe in? While cold weather and ice-cream do not cause cold per se – because, cold is caused by virus – it can aggravate the germs, enabling them to multiply as well as inflame your sinuses.

Stick to traditional methods. Keep warm and stay away from cold food that can make your throat worse.

Warm’s the Word

Keep yourself warm in winter by all means; and, maintain a positive attitude. The more positive you are, the better it is to build strong immunity.

You may also stock the following in your easy-to-reach home-care kit:

  • Ginger. One of the best natural remedies for relief from colds and flu, ginger has great anti-viral properties. It can be used to help soothe colds, coughs and joint pains.
  • Apples. High in vitamin C, apples contain anti-viral and anti-bacterial compounds. In the winter months they are delicious when they are served baked or stewed with cloves.
  • Licorice. Hot or warm licorice tea is a great drink that helps soothe wintry sore throats and coughs.

Drink to Beat Cold

  • Place two cups of good quality apple juice in a saucepan; add half tsp of grated fresh ginger
  • Add 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon powder [or, a whole cinnamon stick] and a pinch of clove powder, or three whole cloves
  • Simmer for five minutes
  • Strain and serve.

This delicious vitamin C-rich drink is quick and easy-to-prepare. What’s more, it contains a strong blend of helpful ingredients that lifts your spirits and boosts your immunity.

Kamala Thiagarajan
Kamala Thiagarajan is a Madurai-based journalist. Her writing interests encompass a host of genres including travel, health, entertainment and lifestyle. She is a full-time freelance journalist who works from her home in Madurai, South India. With ten years of experience in journalism, she has over four hundred articles in print in leading magazines across the globe. Her writing spans a variety of travel, health, entertainment and lifestyle features read by a diverse audience in over seven count


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