Beat the flu this winter

The Italian word “influenza” means influence. This refers to the belief that people held over the influence of the sun, moon, planets, and stars on human affairs, including health and disease.

The English started using the word in the 1700s, and it has since become abbreviated to “flu”.

There are three types of influenza viruses – namely influenza A, influenza B, and influenza C. The most serious type is Influenza A because no one is immune to the ability of the virus to genetically shift into different forms. Influenza B involves a less severe infection and Influenza C causes mild infections in infants and young children and is asymptomatic in adults.

The cold and flu are both respiratory illnesses often used interchangeably when, in fact, they are different.

The common cold, which is also known as nasopharyngitis, acute viral rhinopharyngitis, and acute coryza, is a viral infectious disease of the upper respiratory system, caused primarily by rhinoviruses and coronaviruses.

The cold typically involves nasal symptoms such as the runny or blocked nose, minor throat irritation, sore throat, a feeling of blocked ears, sneezing, postnasal drip, headaches, mild fever, coughing and expectoration of mucus or nasal discharge, which is an indication that your immune system is fighting the infection.

Whereas influenza is a contagious respiratory tract infection caused by one of three influenza viruses, influenza A and B cause seasonal epidemics in people of all ages and can be attributed to the annual seasonal flu that affects people across the world.

The flu affects the whole body, including the entire respiratory system. It is characterised by symptoms of high fever, headache, joint and muscle pain, fatigue, exhaustion and loss of taste and smell.

In severe cases, there may be secondary bacterial infections in the sinus, throat, and ears, which can lead to bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, and strep throat, etc. During this period many South Africans battle the flu with conventional medication, but there are a number of herbal options that are well suited for treating the cold or flu and boosting your immunity.

Here are a few available options:

* Ginger root: When nausea accompanies an illness, ginger root (Zingiber officinale) fights infection and alleviates stomach distress. Ginger contains nearly a dozen antiviral compounds.

Scientists have isolated several chemicals (sesquiterpenes) in ginger that have specific effects against rhinoviruses. Some of these chemicals are extraordinarily effective in their anti-rhinovirus effects.

Other constituents in ginger, gingerols, and shogaols, help relieve cold symptoms because they reduce pain and fever, suppress coughing and have a mild sedative effect that encourages rest.

* Licorice root: This is an anti-viral and anti-inflammatory herb. It soothes the gastric mucosal membranes. The root cleanses the colon, increases the fluidity of mucous in the lungs and bronchial tubes and stimulates interferon production.

Glycyrrhizin undergoes a change in the liver to glycyrrhetinic acid. Both these compounds promote the activation of interferon, which is a naturally produced antiviral compound.

Licorice has an expectorant effect, which benefits people with asthma or chest colds with tight coughs or difficulty breathing. Due to the adverse reaction profile of licorice, many studies have been performed using the deglycyrrhizinated liquorice (DGL) extract, which is free of glycyrrhizin and has had no reported adverse effects.

* Himalayan Silver Fir: This is also known as Taalisa in Ayurveda. A common formulation used is Taalisadi Powder.

The powdered leaves, which appear like needles, were used by Acharya Charaka (the profounder of internal medicine in Ayurveda). A prescribed dose of the powder is usually taken internally to treat cough, digestive disorders, colic pain, and anaemia. The powdered leaves are given along with honey to treat cough, bronchial asthma, and hoarseness of voice.

* Born in Durban, Govender is registered with the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa to practise Ayurveda in the country. Her Ayurvedic practice is located in Pretoria East. For more information, visit

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