Find yourself feeling achy, throat sore and coming down with something? It’s early spring here in San Francisco—the first wildflowers are in bloom, plum trees are blossoming and Chinese New Year is right around the corner. Early spring is a time when the Kapha Dosha is being pushed by Vata Dosha to awaken from its cold and still winter slumber and to get moving. When Kapha starts to increase we might notice a bit more mucus and heaviness in mind and body. Digestion may slow down. If we’re not getting enough rest, not eating well, and are generally run down we can become susceptible to the common cold.
An Ayurvedic approach to this would be to first address the cause. Adequate sleep and a good diet are the first defense against illness. But, if you’ve already caught a cold, here’s what to do….
At the slightest sign of achiness or that weird, “I’m coming down with something” feeling, reach for the turmeric. A turmeric gargle can really help —add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and ¼ teaspoon salt to 1 cup of hot boiled water; cool until you can comfortably gargle with the mixture and then gargle, trying to make sure that the mixture gets to the back of your throat where your tonsils are. This can be done several times a day.
Turmeric can also be mixed with raw, local honey—1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and 1 teaspoon of honey, mashed into a paste and then scooped up with a spoon and licked—to soothe your sore throat. This could be taken up to three times a day, but best in the early morning before 10 am and in the early evening. A great source of raw, local honey here in San Francisco is City Bees.
If your cold has become full-blown, you might try these remedies courtesy of Dr. Shekhar Annambhotla, one of my teachers.
Mix 1 part each dry ginger powder, cinnamon and amalaki (perhaps available at your health or herb store, Rainbow Grocery here in SF has it in their bulk herb section). Steep 1 teaspoon of this mixture in 1 cup of hot water for 10 minutes, strain and mix in 1 teaspoon of raw, local honey. Drink a cup several times a day.
To decongest: Mix 1 part turmeric, 1 part dry ginger, 3 parts cinnamon and a pinch of cardamom. Steep this mixture in 4-6 cups of hot water. Mix in 1 to 2 teaspoons of raw, local honey. Put in a thermos and sip throughout the day.
Herbal steams are also helpful to declog your sinuses—you can boil a pot of water and add some fresh ginger, rosemary, sage and/or eucalyptus. Cover the pot and let boil a few minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, set on a potholder and remove the cover keeping your face and hands well away from the pot. After the rush of steam has passed, put your face above the pot high enough so that you can inhale the steam without burning yourself. You’ll notice that this will help liquefy the mucus so have some tissue handy.
To aide your digestion you can also drink Dr. Lad’s digestive tea mix: mix 1 part cumin, 1 part coriander and 1 part fennel powder. Add 1 teaspoon of this mix to 1 cup of hot water and let steep for 10 minutes. It would also be good to avoid dairy products while you have a cold as they are Kaphagenic and to concentrate on eating warm and nourishing soups that feature the bitter, astringent and pungent tastes—this means adding some dark leafy greens and beans (if you can digest them) to your soup and including spices like black pepper, turmeric and ginger.
Spring can also be a time when allergies and sinusitis worsen. For the thorough Ayurvedic approach, check out this article by John Joseph Immel at Joyful Belly.