Natural solution tips for treating minor winter ailments

Bumps, bruises, colds, coughs and sore throats are part of everyday life, especially if you have small children. For minor winter ailments there's often no need to visit the pharmacist. Stock your medicine cabinet with safe, natural solutions – you'll avoid potential side effects from synthetic ingredients, and save money, too.

Natural solution tips for treating minor winter ailments

1. Develop healthy habits

  • Take a daily garlic supplement
  • Stay warm
  • Get enough sleep
  • Cut down on smoking and alcohol
  • Avoid crowds

2. Help from herbs

  • Eucalyptus oil: Suck eucalyptus lozenges to clear your nasal passages and suppress coughing.
  • Garlic: Take a garlic supplement daily. It is said to reduce your risk of catching a cold by more than half.
  • Licorice: This relaxes bronchial spasms and loosens phlegm. Combined with other expectorants such as thyme and garlic, it is available in teas and tinctures. (Warning: too much licorice tea can raise your blood pressure.)
  • Marshmallow: Steep the herb marshmallow (Althea officinalis, not the confectionery) in hot water to release a gel-like substance that will soothe your throat.
  • Thyme: This herb has antiviral properties and may help to alleviate throat infections. Other useful herbs are elderflower (anti-catarrhal), plantain (soothes mucous membranes) and sage (mildly antibacterial). (Warning: Avoid thyme and sage if you are pregnant.)

3. Chilblain challenge

  • Don't toast your feet in front of a fire or add a direct source of heat to sore toes. It will make chilblains worse. Wear warm socks and move around to get your circulation going.
  • Drink a ginger and cinnamon tea to stimulate your circulation and possibly help prevent chilblains. Add 15 mL (three tsps.) grated fresh ginger and two cinnamon sticks to 500 mL (two cups) water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Strain. Drink a cup of this tea three times a day.
  • Give yourself a warming hand or footbath with the same mixture. This time, however, make four times the amount and add 225 g (1/2 lb.) Epsom salts.

4. Combat dryness

  • Drink about two L (eight cups) of water a day. The ability of your body's cells to retain moisture decreases as you get older, worsening any dry skin problem.
  • Try not to spend too long in hot showers and baths. Although it's tempting to do so in winter, hot water can dehydrate your skin. If you feel cold before you bathe, do some stretching or some other gentle exercise. The exertion will warm you up.
  • If you have central heating in your home, turn it down. Your skin tends to feel itchier when you're hot, so save both energy and your complexion by turning down the the thermostat a few degrees.
  • Use oatmeal as a soap substitute to soothe flaky, irritated skin characterized by 'winter itch'. Oatmeal is recommended by dermatologists and is safe, effective and inexpensive. Tie some oatmeal in a handkerchief, dunk it in water, then squeeze out the excess and use it as you would a normal face washer.
  • If you have an electric blanket on your bed, turn it off as soon as you go to bed. Leaving it on overnight will overheat you and you'll wake up feeling dehydrated.
  • To avoid dry or splitting nails, massage some nourishing oil into them. Mix together 10 mL(two tsp.) wheat germ oil, the contents of two vitamin E capsules and 10 drops lavender oil. Store the mixture in a small, dark-coloured glass bottle. Massage the oil into your nails and cuticles daily.
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