The common cold is a viral infectious disease of the upper respiratory tract. It is the most common disease affecting humans. The average adult gets 2-3 colds per year and the average child experiences 6-12.
Over 200 viruses are responsible for causing the common cold and out of them rhinoviruses (the chief infectious agents causing the common cold) are the most prolific. Coughing, runny nose, fever, sore throat, fatigue and sneezing are the symptoms of common cold. The common cold primarily affects the nose. It also affects the throat, sinuses and the eyes.
Symptoms of the common cold occur due to the battle between the immune system and the virus. Symptoms begin within 16 hours of exposure to the virus. It peaks within 2-4 days and recovers /resolves in 7- 10 days, but recovery sometimes takes longer. Coughing remains for about 18 days in adults and longer in children.
The common cold, when complicated, may give rise to pneumonia.
Secondary bacterial infections may cause sinus inflammation, sore throat and ear infections.
Common Cold and Eastern Medicine and Disharmony
Eastern medicine believes that when a disease is present in the body a pattern of disharmony occurs in the body.
Patterns and Symptoms of the Common Cold
The common cold has several patterns and the most common out of them are wind heat and wind cold.
- Common cold caused by wind heat
The symptoms of common cold caused by wind heat includes fever, chills, inability to get warm, nasal / sinus congestion with clear mucus, cough with clear mucus, stiff neck and shoulders, occipital (lower back of skull) headache, slower than normal pulse.
- Common cold caused by wind cold
The symptoms of common cold caused by wind cold include strong chills, inability to sweat, wheezing and stiff neck.
Eastern medicine says that the symptoms of the common cold / any disease vary from person to person according to his / her constitution.
Immunity and the Common Cold
Both western and eastern medicine believe that a person’s immunity affects him/her getting a cold, as not everyone exposed to cold pathogens (something that causes disease) gets it.
Eastern medicine believes that the immunity (Qi) is harmed by both external and internal factors. The external factors affecting the immunity are seasonal and climatic changes. And the internal factors affecting the immunity are emotions. (Anger, joy, sadness, grief, fear, fright.) It believes that when immunity is harmed the body becomes imbalanced and diseases occur. Immunity is also harmed by the lack of sleep and eating over refined and artificial food.
Treatment of the Common Cold
Both western and eastern medicine say that a disease, including the common cold, should be treated at the early stages, for better/quick recovery.
The cure consists of suppressing the symptoms to gain comfort and also increasing the immunity to help the body fight the virus.
Western medicine has no cure for the common cold. It provides medication to suppress the symptoms of the cold and lets the disease run its course.
Eastern medicine is said to have a cure by bringing yin and yang back to harmony. It cures the cold well in some cases.
But when eastern and western medicine are used together the efficacy increases greatly.
But proper care and advice should be taken before using them synergistically.
Differences Between Eastern and Western Healing
Eastern medicine uses herbs, various physiotherapeutic (inducing perspiration) methods, special dietary habits, behavioral habits, acupuncture, acupressure, and homeopathy to treat common cold.
And western medicine uses pain killers, antihistamines, and immunity boosters to treat a cold.
Combining Eastern and Western Healing Methods for Better Results
Eastern medicine uses Echinacea, golden seal, garlic, chaparral and Chinese astragalus root together to boost immunity. Echinacea shows antibacterial and antiviral activity. Golden seal inhibits a large variety of pathogenic microorganisms and also dries up the mucous membranes. Chaparral shows antimicrobial activity and sedates infections of respiratory and digestive tracts. Garlic has an antibacterial and antiviral effect, and astragalus strengthens immunity. And western medicine uses vitamin C, zinc to produce neutrophils, which fights infection and boosts immunity. When the above western and eastern medicines are combined together the effect is enhanced. When combined the duration and severely of the cold is reduced greatly.
BATTLING THE COUGH:
Eastern medicine uses herbs such ginger, garlic and mixtures like composition powder, herbal uprising, cinnamon twig tea, citrus tea to treat coughs. Western medicine uses cough drugs which has dextromethorphan. These stop coughing that interferes with sleep and talking. But they also allow some coughing to occur, since coughing is important in removing pathogens along with mucus. When the western and eastern treatments are used together the efficacy is greatly increased.
Decongestants containing pseudoephedrine are used in western medicine to clear and dry nasal passages. Even though this is very effective temporally, it can have dangerous side effects as increasing blood pressure and the heart beat rate. Therefore this is not suitable for patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases, thyroid and prostate problems. Eastern medicine uses herbs such as garlic and ginger. These reduce congestion by increasing circulation. When used together they beat congestion although the western decongestants should not be used for more than 3-5 days as it can have a rebound effect afterwards.
Siti paladi which is a group of ayurvedic (ancient medical healing) herbs containing cinnamon, cardamoms, pippli long pepper, bamboomanna along with brown sugar is used as an decongestant. It removes mucus and prevents congestion. This too can be used along with western medicine. This can be also used to prevent colds.
SUPPRESSING FEVER, ACHES AND PAINS:
Western medicine uses paracetamols (alternatives to aspirin), as well as aspirin etc., to reduce fevers, headaches and other aches and pains. Diaphoretics (producing or increasing perspiration) like elder flowers, yarrow, lemon balm, peppermint, and boneset are used to induce sweating. Ginger root, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, garlic etc are too used for this purpose. By sweating the heat / fever is removed and also pathogens are forced out of pores along with sweat. Using the two methods synergistically may yield good results. Do not use astragalus root during fevers as it dries off the body and may produce contradicting results.
Garlic is said to be good for treating ear infections.
Secondary bacterial infections are dealt with antibiotics and antibacterial herbs.
Preventing The Common Cold
Vitamin C, zinc, siti paladi, coriander helps in prevention or cutting the duration and severity of the common cold. Eastern medicine states that by using nasal wash or nasal sprays colds can be prevented. Washing hands, drinking plenty of boiled warm water, taking enough sleep and rest, avoiding stress, controlling your emotions, having regular bowel movements, obtaining good nutrition reduces the risks of catching the common cold.
Injections of anything for prevention are not effective as a wide range of viruses can cause the common cold.
Western and eastern medicine when used synergistically produce great results. But you should be careful when mixing and should always consult an expert.