TBT Health Desk:
It’s that time of year again: Time for sore throats, sniffles and shivers.
We recently spoke with Dr. Woodson Merrell, M.D., Executive Director of the Beth Israel Medical Center’s Center for Health and Healing in New York City, who shared some great tips and tricks to avoid getting taken down by a cold or the flu this winter.
From cooking with spices to essential-oil inhalations, check out some not-so-common ways to kick a cold to the curb.
1. Try eucalyptus and menthol steam inhalations. It’s old-school, but grandma did it for a reason — it works. Eucalyptus and menthol inhalations work as an expectorant, decongestant and can even help kill the infection.
Heat up some water almost to a boil on the stove. Remove the pot and add a few drops of each essential oil. Put a towel over your head to create a tent effect, then lean over the pot to inhale the steam.
Can’t boil water? Put a few drops of the essential oils on a washcloth and place it on your shower floor; the hot water will create a soothing steam.
2. Cook with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial herbs and spices. You would be surprised at the number of medicinal remedies that are in your kitchen. Two examples: Garlic and turmeric.
Garlic has anti-microbial properties, while turmeric, a spice popular in Indian cuisine, Dr. Merrell called “the most powerful anti-inflammatory.” He suggests trying to incorporate them in your meals as much as possible.
3. Keep tea tree oil handy. You might know Melaleuca alternifolia by its more common name: tea tree oil. This plant native of Australia has been shown to act as an antiviral against influenza in a 2009 study.
Dr. Merrell recommends carrying around a small bottle of organic tea tree oil and taking a small inhalation when walking into crowded spaces like the subway or a bus.
4. Eat Manuka honey. Adding a little Manuka honey to your hot tea, smoothie, or even oatmeal, might help you fend of infections.
In recent research, microbiologist Elizabeth Harry of the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, found that “when tested against other honeys, Manuka honey was the most effective at inhibiting the growth of all the bacteria.”
5. Increase the humidity in your home. Research suggests that there might a reason why cold and flu season coincides with winter.
According to a 2009 study by Jeffrey Shaman, Ph.D., of Oregon State University in Corvallis, the influenza virus is more likely to survive in low humidity conditions, increasing its chances of infecting people.