Immunity in Winter

The run up to Christmas is here. But amongst the bright lights and Christmas cheer comes seasonal colds and flu. It is no secret that the key to good health is a strong and fully functioning immune system, so it is important to prepare your defences for the cold and flu season in order to stay healthy throughout the winter months. In this month’s column, three practitioners from Napiers the Herbalists give their advice on what to do to get the better of colds and flu.

Dee Atkinson MNIMH
Medical Herbalist

Ninety per cent of all colds and influenza are viral infections and as antibiotics are only effective against bacteria the flu jab only covers you against one of two strains of the flu virus.

Herbal medicine has a long tradition of treating colds and flu and can also be used as a way to boost your immune system and to try and help prevent a cold developing. Our immune system tackles most bacteria and viruses, it even deals on a daily basis with abnormal cells that could develop into a cancer. It is when our immune system is challenged that we start to find problems developing.

Cold weather, poor nutrition, too many late nights, too much alcohol, long term medication for other health problems all affect your immunity.

Vitamin C increases resistance to bacterial and viral infections.  Take a 1000mg a day as a preventative and if you think you might be coming down with something increase this to 1000mg every 2 hours over a 6 hour period.
Echinacea is a herb that has been show to increase your resistance to cold and flu. The root extract has specific anti viral activity against the flu virus, and it can be taken throughout the winter.

Garlic is one of my favourite winter herbs, and I simply use a clove of organic garlic, chopped up and mixed with some yogurt and swallowed as if it were a tablet. This is a great way of reducing mucus and catarrh and can almost stop a winter cold in its tracks.

One fantastic winter influenza mix dates back to the early 1900’s. Used by Dr Valnet, it has become a popular self help remedy in my practice.
Influenza Tea
½ stick cinnamon
8 cloves
1 tea spoon of rosemary herb
Juice of half a lemon
Honey to taste.
Simmer the cloves and cinnamon in a good cup of water for 3 to four minutes in a covered saucepan. Turn off the heat and add the rosemary. Allow to cool for a few minutes then add lemon and honey. Drink warm.

Alan Hunter Lic Ac MBAcC
Classical Five Element Acupuncturist

One of the ways we can take charge of our health and gain an understanding of the signs within us of health and illness is to have on-going traditional acupuncture treatment, but in particular, treatment at or near the change of the season. This works much in the same way as getting your car serviced in that it helps the body to run efficiently and prevents serious problems occurring.

Acupuncture seeks to address imbalances in the body’s Qi or vital energy.. It also has an underlying principle – a holistic approach to health that acknowledges the seasons of the year and the importance of living in tune with them to balance our health, both in body and mind.

With over 200 common cold viruses and 3 types of flu virus, it’s hard to avoid catching a bug. A seasonal session with an acupuncturist can help improve overall health by enhancing the body’s immune system to keep illness at bay. It can also provide a boost in energy levels, lifting mood and improving a person’s sense of wellbeing, allowing the body to function more effectively.

Acupuncture aims to improve overall wellbeing by identifying and treating the root cause of any problem, rather than specific systems. Addressing imbalances in the body will help return Qi to an optimum level, improving overall wellbeing of the mind and body and preventing further illness. By inserting fine needles into the channels of Qi energy an acupuncturist can clear any blockages that are impeding the flow of energy, stimulate the body’s own healing response and help restore its natural equilibrium.

Lisa Beveridge Bsc

Reflexology has been used as a preventative medicine for thousands of years. Its goal is to help the body to find its equilibrium. This is achieved by using various techniques and applying gentle pressure to the reflexes of either the hands or feet which represent an entire map of the body, thus facilitating the healing process.

 A major benefit of reflexology is improved circulation stimulating transportation of oxygen, nutrients and both red and white blood cells around the body. When the immune system becomes low illness may occur. Reflexology boosts the immune system helping to fight colds and flu, it can help to ease physical symptoms and speeds up the recovery process.

A full treatment is recommended although specific reflexes are targeted when dealing with colds or flu. The lymphatics, spleen and thymus are palpated to encourage lymph flow and white blood cell production. The lungs to aid breathing and the large intestines to rid the body of excess mucus. The adrenals when pressed release anti inflammatory properties whilst the liver eradicates toxins from the body. Particular attention would be paid to the sinus, head and ear reflexes to clear congestion and the neck and spine to alleviate stiffness. 

A tip to help you feel better when a cold or flu is coming on is to squeeze the webs between your fingers and toes.  

For more detailed information on what reflexology is, how it works and conditions it may help visit

Lisa is offering a half price introductory offer only £20 for one hour (usual price £40) at Napiers the Herbalist, 35 Hamilton Place Edinburgh – 0131-315-2130 Dee and Alan can be contacted there too.

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