Health Tips

Warding off colds and flu

Media stories about an impending epidemic of ‘flu are an almost annual event. The scare-stories imply that vaccination is the only reliable preventative, but new vaccines are required for each new strain of ‘flu. In any case, vaccines are not a safe or satisfactory way to prevent ‘flu. They weaken the immune system leaving the individual more susceptible to new viral strains.

The logical and more scientific approach to infectious diseases is to build up your own health and resistance. The following ten-point plan can help you to ward off colds and ‘flu:

  1. Eat some fresh raw fruit and salads every day. Raw foods have a greater biological value and they are rich in protective nutrients.
  2. Avoid sugar. Taken regularly it depresses the immune system and disrupts the metabolism leading to fatigue.
  3. Reduce milk products. They are poorly digested and encourage mucous production.
  4. Eat garlic daily. Cloves are best but tablets made with freeze-dried garlic are convenient and effective (avoid odourless tablets or capsules which are not so beneficial). Garlic is a powerful anti-viral and antiseptic.
  5. Ensure that you get adequate sleep. Tiredness increases your susceptibility to infections.
  6. Learn to deal with stress. Use techniques of relaxation or meditation. Chronic stress weakens the immune system.
  7. Take moderate exercise regularly. It improves circulation and immunity but if done excessively and obsessively may depress the immune system.
  8. Daily cold showers or baths have been shown to reduce the susceptibility to colds and ‘flu in a trial of medical students.
  9. Echinacea herbal medicine increases non-specific resistance. The liquid form should be taken for two weeks followed by a two week break rather than continuously. Homoeopathic preventatives may also help to confer immunity.
  10. If you do get a cold, avoid the use of antibiotics, aspirin, paracetamol, and other medicaments for minor infections. They abort the body’s efforts to overcome the infection and may lead to chronic catarrh and other deep-seated conditions.

For more specific guidance on the natural ways to strengthen your immune system you should consult a qualified health care professional such as a naturopath, medical herbalist, or homoeopath.

Further information:

Naturopathic Medicine
More about naturopathy
Don’t Blame the Bugs !


In spite of the warnings that appear regularly about the dangers of overexposure to the sun, thousands of people, eager to acquire a tan, spoil their holiday by doing too much too soon. The problem is compounded by the increased intensity of the sun’s rays since the ozone layer has been depleted in recent years.

The following tips may minimise the risk of having to spend those precious early days of your holiday indoors because of a raw, red skin.

  • Rest only in the shade for the first few days. You will get plenty of filtered or reflected sunlight and also enough exposure when swimming or out and about. On the first few days of your holiday, stay out of the sun during the peak hours between 11 am and 3 pm.

  • Wear protective clothing (sunhat, loose T-shirt) and cover exposed areas with a good, high-factor suncream; factor 15 is ideal.

  • If you do burn, even slightly, apply cold water liberally or a compress of cold green tea. Infuse 6 bags of green tea in a litre of water, allow it to cool and keep it in the fridge for emergencies.

  • Aloe vera is a powerful anti-inflammatory. It is available as a gel which may also be used as a sunscreen (equivalent to factor 8)

  • Supplements of the anti-oxidant nutrients vitamin C (1gram daily) and vitamin E (600 IU daily) may help to protect against sunburn. Ensure that your diet contains plenty of fresh raw fruit and vegetables and avoid too much sunflower, safflower, or other omega-6 fatty acid-rich oils which are easily oxidised to toxic compounds by the action of sunlight on the skin.

  • Calendula cream may be applied to severely burned areas.

  • For severe sunburn take homoeopathic Cantharis tablets (6c or 12c potency) every hour, reducing frequency as pain diminishes.

Acute or chronic back pain

This simple hydrotherapy procedure will relieve pain or stiffness of the neck, shoulders, and back safely and effectively. It is a good first-aid measure for acute pain of recent onset but can also help with chronic, recurring back problems. You can do it at home or anywhere you have access to some towels and hot and cold water.

Fomentations and back pain

Hot and cold fomentations are the best way of relieving pain and stiffness. Follow the instructions for application of the fomentations carefully. Do not use substitutes such as hot water bottles, commercial thermal packs, or bags of frozen peas. Tap-hot and tap-cold water is sufficient and generally more effective.

How to apply the fomentations

You will require two hand towels

  1. Lie face downwards with hips over a pillow or in any comfortable position which allows access to your bare back or neck. (If there is nobody to apply the fomentations for you, you can sit at the wash basin and apply them to your own lower back or across the shoulders)

  2. Soak the first towel in water from the hot tap. Wring out well and fold to two or three layers and place it over the painful area of your back (it should the whole area on both sides). For maximum heat the operator should roll or fold the towel inwards to squeeze it out, then unroll the inner surface on to the skin. A dry towel can be placed on top. Keep the hot compress in place for three minutes.

  3. Replace the hot fomentation with the other hand towel which has been wrung out in cold water. This is kept in place for one minute.

  4. Repeat the sequence of damp hot for three minutes, damp cold for one minute for at least twenty minutes, or longer if in much pain.

Important note: Although your pain may be relieved it is essential to consult an osteopath or chiropractor to determine the cause of the problem and receive appropriate treatment to prevent further episodes. More about Osteopathy (link)

If you suffer from a heart condition or very high blood pressure, seek advice from a healthcare practitioner before using this procedure.

April 2004

Persistent coughs

The winter colds and flu have left many people with troublesome chesty coughs. Catarrh running back into the bronchial tubes can irritate and prove very difficult to clear.

The following recipe is a traditional remedy that helps to break up the phlegm and loosen a tight chesty cough.

  • Chop up half a raw onion finely and mix it with a dessertspoonful of honey.
  • Allow to stand for ten minutes then eat the mixture, chewing well.
  • Have a glass of cold water at hand as the volatile oils in the onion can be rather harsh on the mouth.


Chilblains (pernio) are red, itchy, or painful swellings that appear on the hands, feet, or ears during cold, damp weather. Spasm of small blood vessels in these areas encourages a local build up of inflammatory chemicals that damage cells beneath the skin surface.

You can improve the circulation to your hands and feet by alternating hot and cold baths each day. Fill two bowls with hot and cold water respectively then soak either the hands or the feet in them alternately. Soak in the hot for two minutes and the cold for one minute, and repeat this for fifteen minutes, finishing with the cold.

A supplement of natural vitamin E can also be helpful. Take two 100 international units capsules twice daily throughout the winter months.


Cooling off insomnia

At Kneippkur clinics (water treatment spas) in Germany the patients are encouraged to paddle through a tank of ice-cold water on their way to bed. This helps to induce better sleep.

If you have difficulty getting to sleep, spray or splash your legs and feet with cold water for two minutes, then dry them before getting into bed. The circulation will improve so your feet will feel comfortably warm.

Having a restless night? Make the effort of going to the bathroom to repeat the process. You’ll find it easier to drop off again.

Relief for a sore throat

Next time you feel a sore throat or swollen glands coming on, try this simple hydrotherapy measure.

Soak a man’s handkerchief in cold water, wring it out well, then wrap it around the throat folded lengthwise. Pin a small scarf around to hold it in place and keep it on overnight, if possible. It should have dried out by the morning and your throat and pharynx may be less inflamed. Repeat the treatment again the following night if necessary.

If you have persistent throat problems you should consult a qualified healthcare practitioner.

Dry skin

Dry, scaly skin, chicken skin (small bumps on the arms like a plucked chicken), or dandruff may be a sign of essential fatty acid deficiency. We need several types of fats in the right balance. To ensure you get more of the healthy fats, eat pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and oily fish. Take one dessertspoonful of flax seed oil a day and 400 IU of vitamin E to help balance it.

If you have persistent or severe skin problems consult a naturopath or other healthcare practitioner.

Painful knees

Swollen or painful knees can be due to injury or arthritis, but simple hydrotherapy may give some relief. The inflammation is often in ligaments and other soft tissues around the knee joint, which have a poor blood supply.

Wring out a man’s handkerchief in cold water, squeeze until damp, and wrap it around the joint. Hold it in place with a crepe bandage. Keep the compress on overnight when it will usually dry out. It is worth repeating the treatment for several nights at a time. Cold compresses relieve inflammation by promoting better circulation to the ligaments and tendons.

Arthritic knees can be relieved by acupuncture and osteopathic soft-tissue treatments available at our clinics.

Wasp Stings

If you are stung by a wasp, or other insect, slice a small raw onion in half and place the cut surface against the affected area. If possible, keep it on for several hours. If it's a bee sting, remove the barb first.

You can also take homoeopathic Ledum 6c. Dissolve one tablet under the tongue every hour for 3 or 4 doses then reduce to every three hours until the pain has diminished.

If the sting is in the mouth or throat seek immediate medical assistance.