February is often referred to as cold season for all the obvious reasons.  Most people think of colds as bad and in need of immediate pharmaceutical attention.   Drugs are used to suppress the symptoms of a cold – which is to say, the drugs try to stop the runny nose, fatigue, frequent elimination through the bowels and urine, aches and pains, and fever.

Don’t do it.  Colds are the body’s way of cleaning house and forcing us to rest.  In a great many cases, they don’t need drugs to suppress the symptoms.  They just need us to cooperate with the body’s attempts to heal itself of toxins that have built up within the system.

Here’s an overview on the common cold and what you can do to support your body’s efforts at self-healing.


Any or all of the following symptoms may be present with a cold: nasal mucous discharge, blocked nasal passages, sore throat, cough, chills, fever, headache, joint aches, irritability, frequent urination, diarrhea, skin rash, swollen glands, and fatigue.


From Western Medicine

Orthodox medicine defines a cold as a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, causing inflammation of the mucous membranes that line the bronchial passages, throat, Eustachian tubes, and nose. The result is a mucous discharge from the nose, blocked or stuffed nasal passages, and, occasionally, headache and fever.

A cold is caused by any one of two hundred viruses, the most common being rhinoviruses and coronaviruses, which are usually airborne on droplets that have been coughed or sneezed by someone with a cold nearby.

From Traditional Medicine

All forms of traditional medicine view the common cold as the body’s attempt at internal cleansing and detoxification. The common cold eliminates accumulated waste from the cells, organs, and tissues.  These waste products, weaken the immune system and create the conditions for cold viruses to gain a foothold within the body and flourish.

Suppression of cold symptoms, which is routinely accomplished by pharmaceutical drugs, drives these waste products deeper into the body, creating greater stagnation and forming the basis for a more serious Illness later on. The symptoms of the common cold indicate the organs that are detoxifying. Cough and sore throat are the body’s way of eliminating mucous and waste from the lungs and large intestine.  When the large intestine is unable to fully eliminate (such as from chronic constipation), waste infiltrates the lymph system, causing swollen glands, sore throat, and cough. On the other hand, diarrhea occurs when the body is attempting to rapidly eliminate accumulated waste, a pathogen, or some other toxin.

Frequent urination suggests cleansing of the kidneys, bladder, and blood.  Fever is the body’s effort to create hostile conditions for bacteria or a virus that may live in the blood, tissues, liver, or spleen.  Sweating cleanses the tissue fluids, lymph, and blood, and takes the burden off the kidneys.

In short, a cold is an efficient, rapid form of internal cleansing.

General Recommendations:

First and above all else, rest.  Get into bed, stay warm, sleep, and allow your body to cleanse and heal itself.

Do not overeat when you have a cold.  This way you will avoid stressing your digestive tract and diverting needed energy to your body’s efforts at recovery.

Lighter foods are better than heavy ones.  Soups are easier on digestion, enhancing both assimilation of nutrients and elimination of waste.

Take warm salt and mineral baths. They improve circulation, open pores. cause sweating and elimination, increase relaxation, and improve sleep.  After the bath, dry the body thoroughlv and get into bed under plenty of warm blankets. Drink tea, and sweat, and keep warm.

For lung congestion. create a vaporizer by first boiling water.  After it boils, bring it to a simmer, add eucalyptus leaves, cloves, and pine needles.  Turn off flame.  Take the pot off the stove, place it on a tabletop, and hold your head over the vapors.  Drape a towel over your head, creating a tent-like effect, to capture arid hold the vapors within.  Breathe in and exhale deeply.

These are some good food choices when you are sick with a cold: 

Soupy vegetable broths that contain root vegetables, cabbage, leaks, greens, and shiitake mushrooms.

Miso soup with land and sea vegetables, including shiitake mushrooms and wakame..

Soupy grains, such as boiled brown rice, or millet, or barley.  Cook your grains with chopped vegetables, such as carrots, onions, and celery, and a small amount of freshly grated gingerroot.

Steamed or boiled leafy greens, including collard greens, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and watercress.

Cooked fruit (compote or baked apple).

Here are some medicinal teas:

Herbal teas, such as bancha, kukicha, chamomile, hibiscus (rich in vitamin C),  peppermint (very good for lungs), and slippery elm (very good for sore throats).

Umeshoban tea.   Place an umeboshi plum, or a teaspoon of the paste, at the bottom of a tea cup, pour bancha or kukicha tea over it, and add a drop of tamari or shoyu.  Mix and drink.

Ginger in hot tea (either freshly grated or in teabags), with brown rice syrup to induce sweating and elimination.

Please avoid:

Sugar, artificial ingredients, and refined flours

Dairy products

Red meat

Raw foods, except for small amounts of fruit

Cold foods and drinks

Foods rich in fat, especially animal fats

Fried foods

Highly acidic foods, such as spices, tomatoes, eggplant. coffee, and alcohol.

Cigarettes and other tobacco products

Some herbs that might be beneficial include:   

Echinacea, as tincture (15 to 30 drops, 2 or 3 times per day, for three days) in water.

Slippery elm as tea for sore throat, cough, lung congestion, nausea, and digestive disorders. Can be purchased as teabags or the dried herb can be boiled in water. Add a small amount of rice syrup and cinnamon for children.

Astragalus can be used as a vegetable (purchase in most Chinese food stores or by mail order). As a food, place it in soup and boil it along with vegetables. Add miso. As a tincture, 15 to 30 drops in water or apple juice. For children. 10 to 15 drops, once or twice a day.)  Astragalus strengthens the immune system, improves digestion, and promotes healing.

When you have a cold, the optimum advice is to eat well and rest.  Enjoy your break from the demands of the world.  You will emerge brighter, stronger, clearer, and more energized – all the benefits of the house cleaning that a cold provides.