Ward Off More Than Vampires

Dear Health Conscious Reader,

You can’t turn on a TV or pick up a magazine or newspaper these days without seeing the latest, scary statistics about this season’s flu epidemic.

But what can you do about it?

Well, first, you can try to prevent getting sick in the first place. You can take advantage of something you probably already have in your own kitchen … garlic. Raw garlic has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties which provide both prevention and treatment of illness by killing many of the pathogens responsible for it.

Plus, a new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that eating garlic appears to boost our natural supply of hydrogen sulfide, which acts as an antioxidant and transmits cellular signals that relax blood vessels and increase blood flow. This process may be the reason a garlic-rich diet appears to protect against various cancers, including breast, prostate and colon cancer.

If you do happen to catch a cold or flu, you won’t find much help from over-the-counter drugs—even the FDA warns of the ineffectiveness and risks of these drugs, especially in children.1 So it’s only natural that people would try to find something else that will work.

The good news is there are some natural, home remedies that can provide significant relief.

Garlic is something I also recommend to help recharge your immune system. Brew a bedtime elixir of four mashed garlic cloves steeped in eight ounces of hot water and flavored with the juice of a lemon.2 To ward off garlic’s tendency to make your breath smell “garlicky,” eat some neutralizing fennel seeds, like those served at Indian restaurants.

For additional relief, it’s as easy as taking a quick trip to your local grocery store. Here are a few more things you can do to help ease cold and flu symptoms:

  • For nasal congestion: Go for a bowl of chicken soup. Since the 12th century, this soothing soup has been a staple cold remedy. Now scientists have put it to the test and discovered that it relieves colds in two ways: (1) it acts as an anti-inflammatory and, (2) it relieves nasal clog.3
  • For lung congestion: Rub castor oil or dry mustard (mixed with water to make a poultice) on your chest, cover with muslin or flannel, and lay a hot-water bottle on top to open up your airway and boost circulation in your lungs.4
  • For sore throat: Drink hot lemonade, made with real lemons, several slices of ginger root, and honey to taste.5 Herbal teas, such as slippery elm, cherry bark, or licorice (not anise) can also be soothing. You can also gargle with turmeric mixed in warm water to reduce inflammation in your throat.
  • For stomach ache: Drink chamomile tea, fresh ginger tea, or ginger ale (made with real ginger), to sooth an upset stomach. Ginger is also an antiviral and can help you recover from viral infections.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

  1. “Giving Medication to Children”, Consumer Updates, Food and Drug Administration, www.fda.gov
  2. Brad Jacobs, MD, MPH, Washington DC, quoted in “8 Essential Flu Fighters” Natural Health Solutions magazine, 1/01/08
  3. Charlotte Mathis, MD, “Cold Remedies: What Works, What Doesn’t, What Can’t Hurt”, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cold-remedies/ID00036
  4. Melanie Grimes, “Kitchen Wisdom: Alternative treatments for Common Ailments”, www.healthnews.com, 12/4/09
  5. Charlotte Mathis, MD, “Chicken Soup, Ginger Tea, and Other Soothing Recipes for Colds” http://www.webmd.com, 11/27/07